ELECTRONIC dance music is not the kind of thing you would expect to see in Britain’s biggest selling newspaper The Sun unless it’s the likes of David Guetta teaming up with the hottest pop star of the day or Calvin Harris breaking up with his current girlfriend, but thanks to Mark Gwinnett the music genre has been comprehensively covered across the board for the last five years from the most commercial strains of House to the most underground forms of Techno and Drum and Bass gracing the pages of the infamous tabloid.
Interview by Oliver Broadbent
While the Clubz column Mark created and ran in print and online between 2012 to the end of 2016 is now a thing of the past Mark continues to interview DJs and electronic music artists for The Sun in print and for the online music section but also for his own website The Night Bazaar. He has been releasing music on his Cubism label for over ten years having founded the label with Tech House pioneer Tony Thomas back in 2007. He works closely with Saytek on the label who has successfully used the imprint he co-owns with Mark to help launch his career as one of the most respected live Techno artists coming out of the UK.
Mark produces music under the alias Lunacy Sound Division solely on Cubism and after a 12 month hiatus he has new music on the horizon in the form of collaboration with iconic London club, fabric’s resident Terry Francis. The new track is called Proper Gander and features spoken vocal samples from Terry and includes a remix from Terry himself. It’s due for release on Cubism this summer.
We caught up with Mark to find out more about his world of music and media madness.
What have you learned from the last 6 years of doing interviews with the very best global electronic music talent?
Well firstly, being cool ain’t cool is it? Being yourself is cool. Trying to be cool ain’t cool! (ED: Terry Francis’ vocal sample from the new single Proper Gander)
On a serious note I’ve seen that the best of the best all have this deep rooted passion for music and are among the most professional people I’ve ever met. You can’t fake this passion and if you don’t have it you won’t last long. It’s what has made this culture the most successful musical movement of our age and is why many of the greats are still rocking it round the world. Without the relentless passion these artists have the scene would not be as globally huge as it is. And now everyone wants to be a DJ of course.
The main thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the cream will mostly rise to the top. It’s great to see that happen with guys such as Tim Green, Reset Robot, Alan Fitzpatrick, Harvey McKay, Gorgon City, Barber and Saytek over the last decade to name only a few homegrown house and techno artists. I’ve seen first-hand how much hard work it has taken guys like this to get the true recognition they deserve and to become an ‘over-night success’. They are only now reaping the benefits of many years hard work after releasing a hell of a lot of quality music and a lot of perseverance. Sure there are fast track artists but these rarely create a lasting pedigree.
I’ve also seen a lot of incredible talent fall by the wayside in that time and give up which is a massive shame. But if you are going to carry the baton for the future of electronic dance music you have to not only be fucking good, you have to be well schooled in your craft and very patient to become an artist with longevity. Most certainly you have to hold on to the passion that drives you which can be hard in this industry at times. It remains to be seen if some of the new breed and one hit wonders have the staying power. Time will tell.
Who have been your favourite DJs to interview?
Without doubt Carl Cox. I’ve been a big fan since I first saw him play in ‘94 and I always will be. He never lets you down. It was a pleasure to discover that he is as lovely in real life as you might imagine he is from his persona behind the decks and he is an absolute professional. I’ve been lucky enough to interview him several times and always enjoy bumping into him when I can get out to places like Time Warp or Ibiza to see him in his element.
There are many others I could list but I one very memorable one to mention was a chat I had with Brandon Block and Alex P for around Space Ibiza’s final closing party that still makes me laugh. Those guys made history! I interviewed Brandon again recently which was great, he is such a lovely guy and the journey he has been on is such an inspiration to many people. Danny Rampling is also a very cool guy to chat to as you can imagine. But yeah, the legends I grew up with I suppose have been my favourites but I enjoy and learn from most of the chats I have.
Clubz at The Sun newspaper was a challenging experience for you. Tell us why you decided it had run its course after 4 years and why you started your own website The Night Bazaar last year.
Some artists view tabloid coverage politically for obvious reasons. There was also an understandable undertow of resentment towards the way the first raves and acid house explosion was covered by the media back then and some were incredulous that The Sun was featuring dance music in the way I did when Clubz appeared in 2012! I got a fair bit of flack for most of the four years I was doing Clubz! I was aware this might happen when I started Clubz but I have no regrets. I found myself with an amazing opportunity, pushed it through, went for it and am proud of what I achieved.
The politics didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things although some artists did get some flack too for speaking to The Sun but they stood up for themselves. You only need to see who we interviewed with Clubz over 5 years to see no one really cared for the politics apart from a few snobby artists who I won’t mention. Most of them were really happy with the exposure that I could offer them through Clubz.
The media sensationalism and scare mongering the UK press including The Sun heaped on Acid House and the early rave scene actually helped the scene grow in the early days and that period has now become part of rave folklore. That is how many of the legends I have spoken with see things too. We’ve come a long way over the last few decades. I saw Leftfield and Sven Vath in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London at Arcadia recently. The last time I saw them on the same line up was 22 years ago in a field in Oxford. That’s progress isn’t it?
Clubz was just a sideline for you wasn’t it alongside your day job at the paper and all the interviews you still do for The Sun are done in your own time too aren’t they?
Yes, I’m a senior member of the design team producing the features pages for the newspaper on a daily basis. I’ve learned to be relaxed about the whole music journalism thing over the last couple of years purely because it was burning me out alongside the day job. Ultimately the powers that be aren’t really that interested in dance music and I have always had to push and hustle for whatever I do to be included in print. I’ve not been able to convince them to let me do it as a full time job so decided to stop banging my head against that wall to make life more manageable. I’ve met many of my musical heroes through Clubz however and I’m grateful for that. I am also proud to have pushed so many talented up and coming artists alongside the greats. ‘Relax and have fun with it’ has become my motto these days but I’ll continue doing what I do in my own time and am still publishing interviews regularly online in video format and in the paper. It’s just not at a silly rate of 4 or 5 a week these days.
So why did you start The Night Bazaar?
Aside from continuing to provide a conduit for the underground music that’s closest to my heart, The Night Bazaar gives an opportunity to other writers passionate about the scene to speak to artists they love and hopefully open up opportunities for themselves through my access to them doing what I do. I am very passionate about the scene and the music and while mostly the bigger dance acts still get into The Sun through the interviews I do with them I still like speaking to and learning about underground talent. Some of the young writers who are doing stuff for me at the moment are students and are getting a lot out of publishing on The Night Bazaar.
The up and coming underground acts I discover personally can be found on my Night Bazaar archive. Sometimes one of them blows me away and then I put them on The Sun platform. The archive on The Night Bazaar Sessions on Mixcloud has also developed into an amazing source of music featuring both new and established names. It came in a no8 on the Mixcloud most listened to Magazines and Blogs for 2017 which was great.
There is a lot of classic Clubz stuff on The Night Bazaar like the interviews we did with Frankie Knuckles, Laurent Garnier, Sven Vath, Dubfire, the numerous chats with Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold, Pete Tong and many more. I wish all of the interviews we have done were on there but I lost a lot of Clubz stuff when The Sun upgraded their website to remove the paywall and they deleted a lot of the Clubz archive which I stupidly hadn’t backed up! In all we published about 400 chats with Clubz which is mental but shows how deep the rabbit hole goes with electronic music. The Night Bazaar is a lot more laid back but I still publish a healthy amount of content at The Sun and The Night Bazaar!
Tell us about Lunacy Sound Division and your label Cubism.
My back catalogue is up on the internet laid bare like a sprawling digital learning curve. I’ve been lucky enough to have been putting out music as Lunacy Sound Division for over a decade and while the earlier stuff was far more experimental l do look back on all of it with fond memories. I was making it up as I went along! There have been some absolute slamming tracks over the years that I’m proud of like Shroom Juice, Rhythm Alien, More Than Enough, Stranger Strings and Night Bazaar, the collaborations with Barber and Copy Paste Soul and my new EP with Terry Francis which sounds great among many others. All the music I have released as LSD have a place in my heart!
With Cubism in it’s 11th year now I’m content and proud with the music the label has released and what we are about to put out. We have always stayed true to our sound and what we believe in. Everyone on Cubism shares the same ethos and passion to get the music out there to people. The label merely covers it’s costs and continues to owe it’s existence to the passion myself, Saytek, Tony Thomas have put in over the years as much as the artists whose music we have released. I’m excited about the 2018 summer releases.
You are just about to release your first Lunacy Sound Division track since Stranger Strings a year ago on Cubism which was the 100th release on the label. It’s a track featuring fabric and tech house legend Terry Francis called Proper Gander which Terry has also remixed. Why such a long break and how did this come about with Terry?
I just got the bug again and had a year off from it all after our 100th release. Terry and I had met a number of times at amazing parties over the years and he has always been a legend in my eyes. I met him in a pub one night before he played at fabric. We were trying to organise an interview which still remains not organised, which reminds me Terry we need to talk! We had a bit of a chat but all we ended up with from that was a few recorded soundbites. So we have this sample in the track from Terry imparting a bit of advice to us about being cool. I caught up with him again after he played at a festival near to where I live and I asked him if I could do something with the samples and he agreed. Took 6 months but I eventually got round to it and Proper Gander was the result. Terry wanted to remix it which was inspirational for me, so much so I’ve got another bunch of tracks and remixes in progress so it helped me get my mojo back I guess.
How do you juggle the music side of your life with your main job at The Sun and family life?
With difficulty! I have an amazing family who back me up with everything I do and I make time for it all somehow doing my best to juggle my career and be as good a husband and daddy as I can be. My kids love to dance and I think I’m doing ok but you will have to ask Sarah, Estella, Jack and Keira on that one!
Your relationship with Saytek has been a big driving force for Cubism. As you mentioned he has gained some serious momentum over the last couple of years. How involved is he with the label now?
I’ve known Joseph for a long time now and if it wasn’t for him Cubism the label would not have made it to where we are now. He has been inspiring in the same way Tony Thomas and my good friends Barber, Deanoloco, Paul Johnson and Mike Healey have been on the Cubism journey.
For Saytek the label has always been a platform for him to develop and watching that happen over the last ten years has been amazing. I didn’t think it would take this long for him to get recognised as I was blown away the first time I ever met him at a rave in a cave in Medway all those years ago. I thought then, wow this guy has got what it takes! His sound has evolved massively since the early days and has fully matured now.
We have released so much Saytek music on Cubism and now to see him doing so well on Kevin Saunderson, Mr.C and Darren Emerson’s labels is amazing. The tipping point was in the summer of 2016 when Carl Cox championed his Machine Jams album on Cubism in his sets at his last summer at Space, Ibiza. Now Saytek is working with Carl on his new Awesome Soundwave label he has set up with Christopher Coe.
I’m very proud of Joseph. He’s my good friend ahead of anything else. He knows Cubism is here for him and we will release more music from him when he is ready this summer. Hopefully soon we will be going back to fabric in London for another Cubism party. The numerous gigs at fabric we have played together since 2012 have been amazing for us and the label. For me personally those gigs have been the pinnacle for Cubism.
So what’s next for you with your music and media work?
The Lunacy Sound Division track with Terry Francis is coming up of course but I’ve got some more new music on the horizon and will continue to work on that when I get some free time. I just finished a track which samples the classic film Aliens, using elements of James Horner’s classic anxiety inducing soundtrack coming later in the summer. My pal Subk0de is remixing that and we have an EP from him coming too on Cubism.
With regard to media, I am working on interviews all the time having just published interviews with Paul Oakenfold, Darius Syrossian, Brandon Block, Claptone, Dimitri From Paris and up coming with Boris Brejcha, Joeski and Mar-T plus exclusive mixes on The Night Bazaar Sessions with Stefan Braatz, Joeski, These Machines, Lunacy Sound Division and Saytek. There’s never a dull moment.
Lunacy Sound Division featuring Terry Francis – Proper Gander is out now on Traxsource ahead its general release later in August. Click here to buy: http://bit.ly/proper_trax
THE NIGHT BAZAAR – www.thenightbazaar.co.uk
LUNACY SOUND DIVISION ON CHOON – http://bit.ly/LSD_choon
CUBISM RECORDS RELEASES – http://bit.ly/CubismTrax
MARK GWINNETT (LUNACY SOUND DIVISION) DJ MIXES
The Night Bazaar Sessions Volume 39 – http://bit.ly/LSD_bazaar
Fabric podcast – https://soundcloud.com/fabric/mark-gwinnett-fabric-promo-mix
The Night Bazaar Sessions Volume 33 – http://bit.ly/mark_bazaar