Interview / Mark E – By The Insider

Back in the heyday of the forum, every fresh release from Mark E was big news. Be it on Phil South’s Golf Channel, Gerd Janson`s Running Back, Under The Shade`s Jiscomusic off-shoot, or Mark`s own imprint Merc. He was also a stalwart of Brooklyn`s Spectral Sound. Mark`s edits of Janet Jackson and Womack & Womack in particular were huge, and his style copped / copied by tons of folks. 

I have to admit that since the demise of that chat room, and its sorely missed mad, shared, enthusiasm, Mark has sort of fallen off my radar – save some amazing recent-ish reworks, for example his radical makeover of Madonna’s Vogue. Mr. E has, however, been busy, diligently delivering 12s for labels such as Studio Barnhus, Public Release, Needwant, Futureboogie, ESP Institute, and most recently, 18437 Records… and, of course, DJing.

Mark now has 6 tracks signed to Delusions Of Grandeur. Not necessarily peak-time bangers, but most definitely cool, mediative, movers for your afters. Classy, funky, groovy, understated, syncopated gear. With high hats and cymbals tapping, and just a touch of jazz piano. Where congas flirt with squelchy fusion b-lines and Fender Rhodes flurries, and rhythms are built from live sounding latin and boogie loops. Where synths soar, and more conventional  keys come on like metallic vibes, muted brass, and flute. These are deep dance-floor dives, the sort that`ll almost certainly find favour with sophisticated souls, such as Theo Parrish. 

Here The Insider finds out just what Mark`s been up to. 

Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider. 

Thanks for talking to us Mark, we appreciate your time.

The pleasure is all mine.

Where are you today and what are you up to?

I’m at home In Oxford, but just about to travel with my two daughters to the Moseley Folk Festival in Birmingham for the day.

Where are you from originally?

I’m from Wolverhampton. I went to university in Birmingham, where I stayed for about 15 years before relocating to oxford about 9 years ago.

Tell us a little about where you grew up?

I grew up in Codsall just outside Wolves. I had a pretty nice upbringing with my older brother, making life-long friends around our little cul-de-sac  – skateboarding, BMXing and playing football. Looking back, it was a great place to grow up and I have fond memories of the time there. A lot of my friends still live there,  and it’s good to go back.

When did you start tinkering with music? Did you DJ first?

Yes. I was buying records first, from Ruby Red Records in Wolves mostly, not to DJ just for the love of the music, then DJing came naturally later. Then, it must’ve been around 1993, 94, I got a copy of Cool Edit Pro and Fruityloops.

Where were the places you first played?

My first gig was at a club in Wolves called SLAM, a lovely little basement. It held about 50 people. Then later with my mates Rhod and Daneby we would put our own nights on around Wolves in various clubs and bars.

Who were the DJs and artists back then who gave you inspiration?

I recall that we were all really into John Kelly. There was a club in Wolves called Cleos, which I never went to as I was too young, but he had a big following in the town from playing there. From what I can gather it was like Wolves’ version of Quadrant Park in Liverpool. So, I had these tapes of John, which I would listen back to over and over, and then later when I was old enough, we would try and go and see him whenever he played in the area. But really my true inspiration was my mates and their record collections.

What were the clubs you went to back in your early clubbing days?

SLAM, Stump Juice, Picassos, Ricohs, First Base, Light Bar, all in Wolverhampton, and occasionally we`d venture into Birmingham for Snobs, The Institute, or the Steering Wheel, then later to Que club for Atomic Jam.

When was the moment that you decided to produce?

It was just a gradual process of learning about the software and equipment. It wasn’t until a lot later after I left Uni that I felt I was onto something, like confident enough to send this to people, in around 2005.

What was your first release / production? 

It was an edit of Baby I’m Scared of you by Womack & Womack.

Your productions have often been understated. Is that a reflection of you personally?

Most definitely. I’ve never thought of it in that way, but yeah, I guess that does come through doesn’t it. I am more interested in the subtleties in music, the whole journey as opposed to the big drops.

You’ve released on a ton of great labels. Golf Channel for example, a particular fave of mine. What was the release? What ever happened to Golf Channel and Phil South?

That was RnB Drunkie, my third release, which was just after Beatdown on Running Back. I haven’t had contact with Phil in along time since the end of Golf Channel. I’d say, yeah that was a great time, and Golf Channel was amazing for quite a while, all props to Phil. I have to say a big Thankyou to Rob J too for linking me with Phil and Gerd Janson back then.

Is that Rob Johnson the Brummie? He’s a proper digger that lad. I know him well. 

Yes the very same.  Rob`s an old mate from years ago.

When did you start your own E-Versions imprint? Did you start out with a particular musical vision? Who are some of the artists you have had on the label?

Eversions was actually just an extension of MERC. It was never really meant to be a separate label. I just loved an edit or two, so it seemed logical to start putting them out myself. On the label I’ve been lucky enough to have Mark Seven, Chicago Dam and Quaid all contribute amazing music.

What’s happening with the label these days? 

Its still there, ready to be awakened at a moment’s notice.

I remember seeing you play at a party with Toby Tobias – fellow Delusions Of Grandeur label family. Are you quite selective about the parties you play? Do you play out much these days?

I haven’t played out for a while now, but I’m still buying music. With Toby, really? I wonder where that was? The Waiting Room? Toby is a top guy. I haven’t seen him in ages either, but it`s always a pleasure when we get together. Out of all those people during those years, Toby and I always had a like-minded spirit I thought. We shared a romantic weekend away together in Croatia I recall.

What happened with Quarry Hollow? Are you still working with Stuart Hobbs?

Yes, we are actually. Quarry Hollow has morphed into something new. The music is recorded, it just needs to manifest itself somehow. We have a new name, and new vision, but finding the time, for both of us, is proving hard. There will be something. Check out LEISURE COMPLEX on instagram!

Do you still work under your Project E moniker ever? 

No, never. That was an interesting little avenue which could’ve become a live show, but it never quite got there.

Delusions of Grandeur seems like the perfect fit for you. How did you hook up with Tom & Jamie initially?

Well, I’ve always been a fan of Jamie, and have plenty of music of his, and from his labels, but I always felt like they would never really look at me for some reason – punching above me weight, etc. But I noticed that he was playing a remix that I`d done of Arno E Mathieu, on Compost, so I just reached out to thank him for the play, and the conversation just continued and here we are.

Can you talk a little about your new E.P., Leaning into The Light?

The whole E.P. emerged from going back to a load of recordings from the Project E days. Funnily enough, there was a lot of audio and a lot of midi recorded then, so the time during the pandemic allowed me to get stuck into it all really. Also, I’d say, this, and my last release with Tooli on 18437, were done without the pressures of being a gigging DJ. The pandemic made me re-evaluate that as a career, and I’m all the better for it in terms of creativity. I mean I feel like I’m just having fun again with music, without the pressures of that world, and I honestly think the music sounds fresh because of it.

You did the cover art for the new E.P., right? Is this something you have started to dabble in, or have you always been a whizz at art and design?

I’ve always loved drawing and painting, but I never really have the time these days. I was pretty good at school, but again the pandemic allowed the time to satisfy some of those artistic urges. My day job involves lots of technical drawing, so I think the geometry shows, and I think it suits the music somehow.

As someone that’s been in and around the underground scene for some time, who do you think is making great music right now?

I’m really into Specter, and the whole Tetrode sound, they can do no wrong in my eyes. Also I always love what Linkwood puts out. Everything Apron puts out always raises an eyebrow too.

What else are you working on the moment that you can share? Any hot disco cuts the pipeline? 

Nothing that I can share right now, but I feel like I’m sat on a ton of music that just needs to be finished. Realistically, it will be next year now, but I’ll keep you updated.

Mark E Leaning Into The Light

Mark E`s Leaning Into The Light E.P. is out now, on Delusions Of Grandeur.

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