I made a long distance call to the UK at lunchtime last Friday to have a little back and forth with Mark Knight, creative and business head behind one of the world’s most successful Dance music labels, Toolroom Records. Mark and his Tech House goodness, brings his dance floor beat wielding tunes and that undeniable love for party culture to SA at the end of this month for what is set to be a phenomenal tour. Good tunes freaking guaranteed! He tells us about his approach to whipping out quality music, EDM in America and how he got to work with the Black Eyed Peas.
You are a Tech House/ House revolutionary and you have managed to change the perception of the genre with, and especially since, the inception of your own globally successful label, Toolroom Records. What is the main ethos behind this label?
Initially it was an outlet for my own music. I had released on so many other labels I thought I could do it better myself. We attracted artists we wanted to be associated with, we wanted to marry business and quality music. We do our best to remain transparent, down to earth and honest and I think this is what excites people about us. It’s not rocket science really, we just keep at it and remain real.
The great quality of your work stands out exceptionally, this is evidently thanks to the passion and energy that filters so beautifully out of the music you produce. I read somewhere that you have a personal vision for House music in the 21st Century. Have you reached any of your 21st Century objectives you put together when developing Toolroom records in 2004?
Our main objective was to just to keep the emphasis on good music and maintain that in the 21st century. We try to think of every release we put out as a good track, we do this versus the quantity game. We don’t just receive records and put them out, we give the artists feedback and guide them. There is a way of being commercial, which means a broader spectrum of people will have access to your music, without then also sounding commercial. This is a fine line to walk, but this is what we do. We’re not super underground or super commercial. We have to pick the right records that reflects the quality we represent and that will also produce sales.
You are well known for your love of marathon 7-8 hour sets. What are some of your personal performance secrets that keeps you energised while playing, keeping the crowd still feeling you after the fourth hour, the music intriguing and having the dance floor bumping up until the seventh hour?
The longer set gives you the opportunity to express yourself musically. To make it through a long set you have to be totally immersed in the music and experience, totally enjoying the party with the people. That means for me, having a couple of beers too. Your energy translates into your performance and the crowd can feel that. You have to know your craft and how to work a crowd. It’s about connecting to the party and understanding that you can’t go full speed from the start to finish, you have to know your rhythm. If you can’t do that, you probably can’t DJ.
As a DJ you have held some impressive residencies over the years namely Amnesia, Ibiza ’08, Pacha NYC ’09 and Space, Ibiza last year. Naturally any DJ loves playing in Ibiza the global party central for Dance music. I’m curious about your New York experience. How differently did you perceive the American perception and appreciation of Dance music compared to Europe while you were there?
Right now, Dance music is so big in America. It could probably be one of the Dance capitals of the world, which is very different to about three years ago. The Dance scene is invigorated and so massive there. And they are American, they like getting excited about everything and love being over the top which is great! So can you imagine a crowded dance floor of them just loving the music, all that energy, it’s amazing.
Was it during this time in New York that lead to you working with the Black Eyed Peas on the ‘The E.N.D’ album?
Not at all funnily enough. I never actually got to sit in studio with them as it often goes in this industry, especially with remixes. You could work with someone and have never met them yet. I’m good friends with David Guetta and he was working with them on the ‘The E.N.D’ album. I had three tracks that he asked for, they listened to them. Will from the Black Eyed Peas liked one of them and I ended up working on ‘Rock That Body’.
What is your take on the modern trend of the lines between Dance music and so many other popular genres like Jazz, Reggae and Pop for example being blurred? Do you think it is positive for the growth of Dance as a genre or do you think it may work away at the authenticity of it?
That is a double edged sword. It introduces the kids and a lot of other people to EDM who other wise would probably not have been into it before, which is great. This helps with the life span of the genre and this has made Dance music more commercialised on a broader scale. A lot of people could start at the more commercial end of appreciating Dance music and then go on to refine their tastes, moving onto different sounds that appeal to them. But like I said, it is a double edged sword. It can be both great and not so great.
You’ve headlined at a few of the world’s bucket list festivals namely Global Gathering UK just last year too, Dance Valley Netherlands and SW4 London. From your experience, what are some of the key things that bring about the best energy and atmosphere at a festival, making it great?
Definitely the people with the right mind sets and attitudes. People coming with the intention to have a great party and they do. One hundred percent. Pretty production set up also helps but the mind set of the party goer is key.
Your annual schedule is jam packed and from the looks of it you are a non stop kind of guy. Do you ever rest?
Unfortunately I don’t take holidays. If this is your career you have to live it, [laughs] it takes over my life completely. My son is nine months and sometimes I will take my family along on tour with me but it’s not really a holiday because I’m working.
SA Tour Dates