Mark Gwinnett is one of the unsung heroes of the dance music scene in the UK, operating in the shadows, sharing music and offering a platform to up and coming artists, positioning them alongside the very best DJs and producers in the world in The Sun newspaper and The Sun online, his unique website www.thenightbazaar.co.uk and working alongside critically acclaimed live techno artist Saytek, on their renowned Cubism label.
Cubism is marking the 15th anniversary of the label this year with a string of three EPs called 5X3 volumes 1,2 and 3 each with 5 tracks featuring protagonists from the label including music from Mark under his Lunacy Sound Division alias, co-founder and tech house legend and pioneer Tony Thomas, JP Chronic, Sam Ball, Boston George, Focus Puller and many more.
The label is also preparing to release a compilation, FI5X3EN featuring 23 tracks from the last 5 years and following the acclaimed 5IVE and T3N albums the label releases with each half decade milestone. Mark has mixed the album together for us ahead of the release of the unmixed version this December and you can listen to it exclusively here in this in depth and exclusive chat Dan Prince had with him recently…
Mark, a huge welcome to DMCWORLD… where in the world are you today?
Thanks for inviting me. I’m currently in my office in Maidstone, Kent so not so glamourous, with a mountain of graphic design work in front of me before the weekend gets going.
Best piece of new music you have heard recently?
That’s a hard one as I receive so much electronic music sent straight to my inbox alongside my constant digital crate digging. It’s impossible to just choose one piece of music. Some really current stand out artists and tracks off the top of my head I can list are Ron Feller’s Kutelo, Petar Dundov’s epic Opus I, loads of Pig&Dan tracks, Marc Romboy’s new solo stuff on Awesome Soundwave and with Timo Maas, lots of music from Paul Loraine’s Rhythm Cult and Robert Babicz’s new long player is a wonder…. There’s so much though! Saytek’s conveyor belt of music which I am lucky to hear hot off the press is a constant joy also.
I share a lot of great new music on my monthly Mixcloud show on The Night Bazaar www.mixcloud.com/thenightbazaar Each month I drop in the mix a snapshot of favourite new music I’ve discovered alongside the occasional more seasoned gem or two from my collection.
A really exciting time for you right now thanks to the label’s 15th Anniversary, celebrated with the release of the album CUBISM FI5X3EN – a brilliant compilation that demonstrates perfectly how vital the label is in the underground house and techno scene. Talk us through the album and how you compiled it…
Yes I’ve just completed compiling and mixing the FI5X3EN album. It features highlights from the last 5 years of the label and follows in the same vain as the 5IVE and T3N albums we’ve released to mark each 5 year milestone. The exclusive mix of the album here which you are kindly hosting for us here will be released unmixed in the autumn for DJs.
I was pleasantly surprised how well FI5X3EN turned out, not in terms of the quality of the music as obviously I know all the music on the label very well and am proud of it, but in terms of the quantity of music I had to choose from the last five years. It didn’t feel like we were as prolific with the label as we have been in the past. But then the last five years have been a bit of a weird time right? There are a lot of lockdown tracks in there.
Compiling these albums is quite a straight forward process as I approach them with the two hour mix in mind which ensures there is a flow to the order of the tracks selected from the back catalogue. Cubism releases a wide variety of music from deep, dark and moody house to high energy and up tempo twisted techno. We have a broad palette. As always, big respect to the close pool of incredible talented friends who allow us to showcase their music on the label and glad they are getting a second time to shine on this album.
As well as the 15th Anniversary, it’s also the 20 Years of your Cubism partner, Saytek performing live. What a journey. Proudest moments so far?
Yes, I am very proud of my friend Joseph. I met him at a rave in a cave, warming up for him in Kent over 15 years ago which was about the same time I first set about Cubism with my pal and mentor Tony Thomas. Joseph came on board soon after that when Tony took a back seat to concentrate on his myriad of other labels. It was obvious to me that night in the caves that Saytek was going to be huge one day, so to see him doing so well now isn’t a surprise to me but it does make me very happy to see his meteoric, overnight success!
We celebrated Saytek’s 20th anniversary at the end of May with a show in Reading. Joseph asked me to warm up for him on the decks before his special two hour live show for what was a homecoming for him as much as a celebration of his two decades doing what he does. It’s always an honour to play before him and it was an awesome party. You can listen to the recording of my set here: https://www.mixcloud.com/thenightbazaar/mark-gwinnett-the-night-bazaar-music-show-june-2023/
Proudest moments with Joseph include playing fabric with him numerous times and watching Carl Cox and so many other pioneers of electronic dance music realise that he is a vital live techno artist of our times. And obviously I’m very proud of our Cubism label which we continue to nurture together. Saytek’s 303 Jams EP will follow the new Cubism 5X3 Volume 1 EP which is out now.
Next up from Cubism is 3 EP releases with 5 brand new singles on each. Some of your friends and collaborators are featured here, what stands out for you?
I love all the tracks. These EPs are still a work in progress. The first one is out now with tracks from Tony Thomas, Lunacy Sound Division, JP Chronic, Subk0de and Boston George.
The 5X3 EPs each feature five new and exclusive tracks involving close friends of the label, Tony Thomas, Boston George, The Sultans Of Sick, Focus Puller, Subk0de, Sam Ball, JP Chronic, AndThen, Brothers Ruin, Sinful Biz, Barber and me under my Lunacy Sound Division alias. It’s a family affair!
The second EP is almost finished. We have planned the tracks for the third EP but not produced them yet but I can tell you I am doing more than one collaboration for the EP and I’m excited about working with a few long time friends over the coming months to make this music. We are aiming to release in December with Volume 2 following over the next few months.
Another project you are responsible for is The Night Bazaar, an enormous website showcasing the hundreds of chats you have had with many of the world’s biggest electronic music stars. You have interviewed everyone from Tongy to Coxy – who have been your favourites to speak to, who really opened up and dropped the mask for a bit…
The last 11 plus years interviewing DJs for The Sun and sharing the music I love on that huge, infamous platform has been a joy. Without going into the politics of it, I will just say that I’m proud to share this music on a weekly basis to such a big audience and support the scene. It’s enabled me to meet many of my musical heroes but also indulge my passion alongside my day job as a Senior Graphic Designer.
The Night Bazaar website grew from my work at the paper and has taken on a bit of a life of its own and the staggering volume of content is something I’m really proud of. It’s quite an archive! www.thenightbazaar.co.uk
Like I said, I’ve met many of the best DJs in the world, but I have to say Carl Cox and Sven Vath really stand out for me, not just because they have always been on top of favourite DJs list for the last three decades, but because they both are just really lovely guys as well as the icons that they are. Getting to know them a little on a personal level through my work has been a pleasure and something I will always be grateful for. Certainly the younger tech house, instaDJs could learn a thing or two from them!
The first club and DJ that really helped you fall in love with our scene…
Well that wold be a club called Luxor in Leicester where I went to University I think as well as Atomics in my home town of Maidstone. We had an incredible scene in Maidstone which has sadly faded into history now. But that’s where my head was really turned and then the next few years of my early rave career was spent driving all over the country to free parties in the middle of nowhere, festivals like Tribal Gathering and Homelands to the super clubs of the 90s such as Cream in Liverpool, Ministry Of Sound, fabric or Turnmills among many others. And then discovering Ibiza in the late 90s! What a magical time that was. I’d say Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Nick Warren, Carl Cox, Sven Vath, Laurent Garnier might give you an idea what I was having thrown at me back then along with Leftfield, Underworld, Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk.
When/how did a career in music start to form in your mind – what were the first steps?
My brother was in a band when I was a teenager and I was always super jealous because I wanted to be involved but couldn’t play an instrument or sing. I have always been and still am a massive rock and indie fan. But when I went to university in Leicester, things changed for me, dance music was a revelation and learning to DJ in the mid 90s gave me the opportunity to express myself with music for the first time and once I got good enough and had a big enough repertoire of vinyl, perform to a crowd.
Then in the early 00s technology gave me the opportunity to make music. None of what has happened next was ever really planned though, it just happened organically around what I was doing with work and my hobby I guess and all these years I’ve just rolled with it. I remain as passionate about music today as I did when it was all new back in those halcyon days and will continue to roll with it for as long as I am. I try to stay away from all the bollocks in the industry for my own sanity. Dance music is definitely a shit industry to navigate, there are so many bell ends but luckily I am able to keep them at arms length and the guys I choose to work with are all amazing, real people who I respect.
What was the dream back then?
The dream was just to have a great time. It still is. I don’t have an agenda or angle I’m trying to push and if the music gets stale in any way I take a break from it and come back when I am feeling fresher. Music for me should always be something that excites and inspires.
I’m lucky to be able to balance my involvement and passion for it with my work at The Sun. The graphic design work is actually what pays the bills, not me waffling on about dance music. Whenever the ride comes to and end with my media work around music, I will be able to look back at this great archive I’ve built, but for now I am motivated to continue growing it on a weekly basis and I still enjoy getting a buzz out of people discovering new music from the work I do.
One of your major positions is covering dance music for The Sun… a title that can either love or hate us. You thankfully provide major coverage for us, what’s it like writing for such a massive publication – are there any restrictions?
I’ve talked about this a number of times over the years and have grown a thick skin as a result, because I’ve often taken abuse online for daring to position decent dance music in The Sun, or even just because I work there which let’s face it is pretty pathetic, but we know what trolls can be like. Now, I don’t really care if some people don’t like what I have done and continue to do having learned to ignore the haters.
The artists we feature week in week tells you everything you need to know. It’s a popular Friday feature. I know the history of The Sun and Acid House very well. I actually take the piss out of it a bit with some of the artwork I create for The Night Bazaar for those paying attention.
Speaking of artwork, designing pages and spreads for the newspaper on a daily basis is never boring and knowing it will be seen everyday by millions is a graphic designer’s dream really.
In terms of restrictions with the music, no there aren’t any. I personally choose the artists that feature in the newspaper every Friday. I try and keep a good balance in terms of diversity across the spectrum of electronic music. Of course that means leaving my underground house and techno head out of the decision making process sometimes. As always you have to dig deep to find the best stuff. Featuring up and coming underground artists alongside the biggest commercial artists in the world on this platform can only be a positive thing for the scene and I really do believe that.
Earlier this year you released an album under Lunacy Sound Division – talk us through this project…
Yes, this came out in the spring with little fanfare on Cubism. It’s a project I had been working on since lockdown. My kids inspired it really as they wanted to stream my music but it was a pain to find it in one place so the 20 track album was a solution. The long player contains my personal highlights from the last decade of making music as Lunacy Sound Division plus a few new tracks that I made exclusively for the album. A lot of the tracks have received huge support in the past and recently. As a body of work I’m satisfied it’s out there for people to discover and for my kids to stream on Spotify!
What is your opinion on the worldwide electronic scene right now – are we in a healthy position, some music genres and major cities are finding it tough, whilst others are flourishing…
It seems to be flourishing as an industry but commercialism and all the flashy nonsense is out of hand. The money is there though and plenty of people seem to love all that so who’s it hurting really. If you don’t like something nobody is making you listen to it. Move on. It’s not for me, you know what I mean? I’ve not got time to get all cross about it! I was even more shocked than usual just how ridiculous it has got in Ibiza now, it’s so expensive and I can’t see how that can continue. Eventually they will drive people away. I was on holiday with the family so not a clubbing holiday but fortunately I was lucky to attend Sven Vath’s Catharsis party at Las Dalias which felt very much like the Ibiza of old. The price of the evening and night ticket was only €40 too which was a breath of fresh air.
I think younger audiences / ravers seem to be more concerned about how they look on social media too, and let’s not talk about the bloody phones in the air bollocks. Most of the parties I’ve been to this year have no photographic evidence (apart from Time Warp) of even happening and I can tell you they were amazing and we were all living in the moment, too busy having fun to even think about pouting at our phones and that’s how it should be.
I’ve actually this year started a no-nonsense party like that called The Night Bastards at Social Chill in Maidstone. It’s inspired from disco sits at Watergate in Berlin. It’s just red lights, great music and cocktails. None of any of the future bastard DJs that will be joining us at these regular parties will be announced either. It’s about the unexpected over the course of 6 hours.
It’s great to be DJing regularly still and I love these kind of sleazy, naughty red light vibe we create at Social Chill. There aren’t enough cool places left in Maidstone to do this kind of thing in. I’m sure that could well be a problem up and down the UK. There are definitely enough DJs who want to be heard but that are offering an alternative vibe and aren’t copying everyone else. We need venues like Social Chill where emerging artists are given a chance to perform.
I saw a meme on social media the other day that a bunch of top flight DJs have a WhatsApp group where they chat about who not to support by playing their music if they are a threat. Hope that’s not true. I really do. But who knows these days!
And finally, it’s your birthday and you have a blank cheque to book your dream birthday line up. Who is on it, DJ and live…?
Easy. Sven Vath, Carl Cox, Saytek (Live) and me! I’d do that gig for free.