Mark August sounds off to LWE
What was your first techno/house record? What made you buy it?
That was Leftism by Leftfield. I was a typical grunge-kid at the time: Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Helmet, NIN, Pearl Jam; I had also long hair in a ponytail and was wearing yellow Doc Martens. Somehow Underworld made it in our friends’ group as acceptable electronical music, in contrast with the happy-hardcore shit everybody around us liked on the countryside here. Leftfield was the next step to getting more into that.
When and how did you start producing? How did it feel to get deals with labels like Connaisseur and Innervisions?
It started out as a little hobby about 8 years ago. I inherited some money from my grandmother and it was burning in my pocket. I was 22 at the time, had just come into contact with partying to good house music and was very blown away by stuff some new-made friends showed me, like Theo Parrish and Carl Craig. That same group of friends advised me to invest in some musical equipment (instead of blowing it all on snowboarding holidays), which would hold its value for a few years and be a smart way of having a small adventure. So I went for it and bought an Atari, Akai sampler and a Yamaha synth. I was such a noob! I had a hard time understanding that MIDI messages weren’t actual audio. But it was the first thing I did in my life that grabbed me and didn’t let go. I was playing for nights in a row ‘till 6 in the morning trying to grasp the process. I don’t think I ever encountered a creative process so rewarding as dancing to your own home-cooked ideas.
The whole step from hobbyism to going public has been a great adventure so far. I released my first EP with Mezzotinto last year April and it has been a raging storm ever since. The step to bigger labels came very naturally, which also surprised me, but of course felt very satisfying and ensuring. Myspace has helped me make contacts easily. I dropped a friendly mail to Frank from Innervisions, which led to the re-release of “Warm” and Alex from Connaisseur messaged me to say he was digging my stuff. I am very anti-social at normal networking possibilities like parties or whatever, but Myspace bridged that gap for me. I feel compelled to tell all the young producers out there that the “mountain” of releasing a track on a label seems so much bigger then it really is. If you make stuff you really believe in, all it takes is getting it out there and keep believing in it, even with some critics you might get. I know out of experience that there is so much beautiful music sitting on hard drives in little bedrooms, waiting for the creator to have the guts and take the plunge. Do it!
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Everything I listen is an influence, but the most influential to me as a producer would be Carl Craig. Not really original, I know, but his interpretation of electronic music has never gotten boring in the last 10-15 years. It was his track “Desire” as 69 that blew my mind so tremendously and helped me decide to go with my friends’ advice (I actually shed a tear hearing that for the first time).
What gear do you use to compose your music?
It all depends where my intuition carries me at that certain moment, as I have loads of software and hardware at my disposal to choose from. I love to sit behind boxes full of real-time knobs and the thought processes that go with them. It fits me more then solely pushing a mouse button or assigning knobs on a controller. I love every piece in my studio, but the Monomachine, Spectralis and Evolver are the ones I grab the most. On the software side: for me, Ableton is THE biggest musical invention of the last 10 years. It’s the perfect solution for people like me who don’t like to think too much and work from the gut.
What is your profession besides musician?
Only music at the moment. At first I combined it with all sorts of jobs, but I feel if you want to be something, you actually have to BE it in order to make it happen. Since I took that financial risk I feel it was a good decision, as inspiration is flowing heavily and the buzz around me is increasing daily. I barely make ends meet at the moment, but I’m living the life I want to with full belief that in the near future this will turn into a liveable income.
What is Amsterdam’s electronic scene like? How do you think living in Amsterdam has affected your producing?
The scene is actually very diverse and good, to the point I can experience all the names out there who matter to me. On the other hand, the scene is so constantly fed with quality that Amsterdam has one of the most spoiled crowds I ever encountered. It’s hard to get noticed as a local when there are big names hitting town every week. It’s a bit different when you are making banging, floor-filling minimal I guess, but as I tend to be a bit deep sometimes, I actually got noticed first by other countries and labels like Innervisions than promoters in my own country.
When DJing, what are some of your guaranteed dance floor-fillers?
This is a hard question to answer; so much depends on the vibe and place. One of my all time favourites and one that still gets asked after is a track by Autorepeat from 1995 called “Needle Damage.” Minimalistic funk before the word was even associated with any electronic music. And I still love to drop “Beau Mot Plage” by Isolée when the sun is out. Of the more contemporary stuff, Efdemin’s “Acid Bells” and Chaim, “It Never Ends.”
Tell me what your most ideal DJing or live P.A. would be like. (type of club, type of crowd, type of drugs, etc.)
Ideally? Let’s imagine a quality 2-3 day festival in a beautiful forest surrounding where I play live the second day at a smaller, open air podium with awesome sound near the water. Great warm sunny weather would be nice. People are already worn out from the first night and a lot more relaxed and open-minded to the deeper, spacier side of things. The majority will have dropped their first E of the day and are ready to be taken on a journey.
What is one of your favorite trends from 2007? What about one of your least favorite?
Beatport is great in many ways, but less great in that it narrows down a lot of electronic music to hit or DJ-tool material. The majority of users only check charts; and a lot of very special and sometimes even better music doesn’t get enough attention or noticed at all and will die out, as no label wants to take risks anymore. My favourite I’ve noticed is there seems to be more room and open-mindedness to more intelligent, detailed, subtle music, and then I mean in clubs (although it’s overpowered by more easily satisfying or banging stuff. My answers contradict each other a bit, but sales and possibilities are two different things.
What have you been listening to lately?
The group Various Production and other dubstep stuff. I caught the dubstep virus when I was at a festival in Holland. Tremendous deep energy and awesome vibes in that tent the whole night, which definitely was a breath of fresh air to me. And I remembered again that dancing at 60-70 bpm with possibility to doubling it, is really nice, and welcome diversity to the steady 120-130 house beat I live in. Besides the daily four-to-the-floor stuff, stuff from my big jazz collection, the band Magic Numbers, and Steve Reich and Philip Glass, which grabbed me again for the millionth time this summer.
What can we expect from you during the rest of 2007 and beyond? Will we ever see you in America?
Expect more funky deepness! I have tracks and remixes coming up on labels like Perspectiv, Poker Flat, Curle, Morrisaudiocitysport, Connaisseur, Mule electronic, Syncrophone and some exciting other projects in the pipeline. I’m here to stay and push on in making my view of dance music in many different forms. I hope this will bring me high enough in the ranks that America will wanting me for live or DJing gigs. If it were up to me, I’d already been playing there. I’m very much looking forward to visiting your country for the first time. I dare say in the near future it will happen.
Mark August was also kind enough to offer me a mix he performed in July on a Dutch radio show. As he said above, the man likes to go deep and here’s proof: an exemplary survey of today’s expansion of the genre interspersed with classic slabs. Enjoy.
Theo Parrish, “Over Yo Head”
Efdemin, “Stately Yes”
Sid Le Rock, “Naked” (DJ Koze remix)
Tiefschwarz, “Blow” (Radio Slave remix)
Minz, “Chinese Drip”
Sarah Goldfarb, “DJ Is Not a Machine”
Funkstörung, “Something For Your Mind”
Naughty, “World of a Woman”
Simon Flower, “Send In the Clowns”
Martin Landsky, “Let Me Dance”
Mark August, “Just Like That”
Chaim, “It Never Ends”
Tiger Stripes, “Hooked”
Autorepeat, “Needle Damage”
Andy Stott, “Unknown Exception”
Raz Ohara, “Whitmey Na”