You want the funk? Farina’s in da house
Interview by Rob Chadwick
Mark a massive welcome to DMCWORLD. Well, it’s safe to say you’re one of the best artists to speak about the disposable outcome on modern music these days and how it can soon be forgotten. What is your opinion on the current situation?
Yes, music currently cycles through so quickly. Reverting back to vinyl days from twenty years ago, little records definitely had a longer shelf life than digital formatted releases do now. It’s pretty crazy, some tracks have a shelf life of a couple of weeks and so many things get lost in the shuffle of the digital world it’s hard to keep track. Even now amongst my peers, you’ll have friends that are playing the same genre but are playing completely different tracks to myself, guys that are into deep jacky funky house, and you’re all playing different stuff because there’s so many different things to choose from. There’s just so much new music that comes through every week – it’s at hyper-speed so to speak – it was just such a different thing when ten records would come into a record store, only ten copies of a new Lil’ Louis or Masters at Work, and you knew all the people that had them. Now it’s very different and things come and they go quick. And now there’s also twenty years plus of older house music to tap into. That wasn’t always the case, there obviously wasn’t tonnes of house classics twenty years ago.
I saw in an interview a while back you said when you were in the record shops that folk used to queue up around the block to buy records, you think we will ever see those days again?
Yeah. I mean queuing up around the block for records, I don’t think that’s going to happen any more. People do queue up but I think there in different parts of the world for these certain new records – I do like the exclusivity of some releases people do where it’s a vinyl only thing. I just feel like the whole record store community that used to go on is a bit lost in the shuffle these days. People wait in their own lines digitally in their own home ordering stuff separately to get it. A lot of cities don’t have a meeting place where people get their stuff anymore, not like back in day when we used to have a record store here in San Francisco, there was a few in Chicago – there were several where we as a community would all be there waiting for those new cuts every week.
I heard there was a bit of a drought in terms of vinyl stockists and distribution companies in the US, does this seem to have been resolved now?
I think vinyl can be hard to get anywhere and like I said in the States the way we get records has changed a lot. A lot of people I know in San Francisco do their own personal orders either via Juno or Downtown. Through our own record store here there’s some people we just do orders through or you place your own orders in advance as opposed to getting things that are coming out that are available to the general public. There’s just a bit more knowledge whereas back in the day there were only a couple of people that’d look at the vinyl order sheets and see what’s coming in for the next week. Now you can kind of do that research by yourself online if you know which artists put out vinyl only selections. A lot of places do vinyl ordering direct with certain cuts that they know are a vinyl only release. So I think there’s still a drought. Almost anywhere it’s still hard to get stuff, there’s just a bigger pool of people getting these records, it’s become more of a global information network to find out what these new tracks are. I don’t know if the network here is resolved in the States but there is a shortage of vinyl and there are more DJs all over the place buying a fewer number of records that are available.
And right now, are there artists that your quite vocal about that cut the mustard in the old school?
Of course there are a lot of great artists around – new and old – and I’m wondering if you’re asking if there are new artists that do great with old school stuff or is it old school artists? I find there are new and old artists that are doing great stuff, there’s a lot of old heads that have been around forever like my buddies Derrick Carter, Ralph Lawson, Chez Damier, JT Donaldson, Lance Desardi, Louis Vega, Kenny Dope – they’re all still putting out great stuff. But then there’s also a new school, a young crop of kids that are doing a lot of great stuff too – Aback and Demure are both guys I like. There are a lot of artists that have only come about in the last 4 years or so that are doing a lot of old school sounding tracks that keep to me that old school vibe going. There’s quite a bit of both, obviously mixed in with a lot of junk, but there’s a lot of new artists to me carrying to me what that true underground flag is – underground house, bumpin’, you know? Keeping it alive. Then there’s names you can depend on, names I’ve depended on for years to bring the funk.
Hailing from Leeds myself, we all came to know the old school with the likes of Back to Basics, do you have any fond memories of the club 23 years on?
Yeah Leeds holds a great place in my heart for house music. It was probably the first place in all of the UK that opened itself to having me play there and bringing me back – between Ralph Lawson and Dave Beer first having faith in me to bring the funk to Leeds. Leeds reminded me of that time where, similar to Chicago, there was a lot of people that bought records and knew what music was out. They weren’t necessarily concerned with playing out as a club DJ, they were bedroom DJs but they knew all the cuts. It was just such great music town. I remember being nervous my first time playing for Basics. A guy named Tristan da Cunha supported me doing shows. It’s hard to remember all the spaces it’s been in but it was always just a mecca for proper house heads in the same way I think of Chicago. Leeds always had a good record store community, places where you could buy vinyl and hang out, always a good network of underground house people. Still to this day it’s a great place to be and I’m honoured to have being playing there for so long.
Same goes for the Pacha brand, I know you have had an affiliation with the brand for a while now, it’s testament to the club in Ibiza that they have been able to stick with the times right and push forward?
Yes. I mean Pacha has been a relevant brand name for a very long time now – it’s gone global. They’ve done a great thing. I consider myself to having always held the flag of underground house, I’ve had a similar vibe since day one. Pacha is a different breed where they have to adapt to different new sub-genres that are created every year, and yet they’ve managed to stay relevant with all these different manifestations of house, minimal or whatever. Each year Pacha’s already at the forefront of pushing great sounds in that market; keeping their room full, keeping their club fresh and keeping their mix of DJs on point to please a lot of different ears. They set the standard for a lot of global sounds all over the place.
You’ll be performing at the festival in May also, are you a fan of the festival season as opposed to the club culture in Europe?
Yes. Festivals and clubs are very different things and i do enjoy them both. Obviously festivals there’s generally a larger audience and a larger crowd to play for which sometimes means a bigger sound system and a different environment. I also like clubs where you’re a little more intimate with your fans. You’re face-to-face and just beyond the decks is generally where your dance crowd starts. I like both. Another thing I like about a festival is that you’ll get people coming from different genres or different DJs checking out other DJs. Someone who’s maybe seen my name but hasn’t heard me before so will come check it out and vice versa. A festival is a great grounds to hear other talent that you may not have already heard live. Also being outdoors adds its own nuance. It’s a great thing. But then I also like a dark sweaty club with just a strobe light and booming system – that’s always great as well.
And Ibiza, will we see you there this season?
Yeah I’ll be in Ibiza this season. I’ll be doing a Monday at DC10. ’ll also be doing a downtempo night for George Nightmares on Wax, for his Wax the Jam thing – a little downtempo Sunday night thing. Just the one visit planned at the moment but honoured to be there even for one. It’s always good being on the island. Hoping to fit in a little sunset set at Café Mambo – always in the picture. Looking forward to coming back and spending a week there, hanging out with Sneak and getting some BBQ, sitting by the pool – not to be missed.
Another question on everyone’s mind, will there be another Mushroom Jazz compilation?
Yes another mushroom jazz is in the works for late 2015/early 2016. Just getting the tracklist together and figuring the best angle to put it out. But it’s going to be a similar vibe to the others in the series – funky, dubby, New Yorky underground hip-hop with that jazzy flare – got some great stuff lined up for it. Also looking like it’s going to be out with Soul Republic headphones who I’m really looking forward to working with.
And finally what else can we expect from Mark Farina leading into the summer?
The summer’s gearing up to be quite a busy one. Aside from the Mushroom Jazz in the works, I have tour dates planned up until September at the moment – England, around Europe, Japan – a variety of places around my usual north American stuff. My label Great Lakes Audio has got some great things coming out – an album from Demure and an album from Lil’ Rob. I also have my own 12” coming out on Doing Work with remixes from Jason Hodges,1200 warriors and Demure to name just a few. Gonna be a busy summer – looking forward to it!
For all things Farina…http://www.djmarkfarina.net/