Could you compare and contrast the scenes in SF and LA?
San Francisco still feels kind of like a town sort of speak and LA has always felt like a full on city. LA has a bigger area, larger population, a little more urban. It’s more of an urban city feel. There has always been a vibrant underground scene in LA, and same with San Francisco, but things are just a little more spread out in LA. It takes a while to get around in LA and wrap your head around how big it is and all the different spots. Doc Martin and Marquess Wyatt have been holding the deep house scene down in LA for a long time, and there are a lot of similarities in both scenes. But there’s also just more variety because the size and scope of LA is a lot bigger.
LA has always had a healthy underground scene mostly in the same era as SF started (early 90s). I always felt fortunate to go to LA back in the day. It just people have to work a little harder and travel a little farther to get to their shows but there’s also appreciation for it, lots of people down there like to party. There’s always a good connection between the SF and LA scenes.
Even now today, LA, on any given weekend, because there’s more clubs than SF, there’s always just a healthy scene of LA going on of locals and guests coming in to town. And for House music specifically, its always just been a great destination. And people have no problems driving like an hour or so across town to go to a proper underground event. Sometimes I found the size of SF is a lot smaller being only 6 miles across, and a lot of people don’t have cars like how everyone in LA has a car. People are a lot more mobile in LA.
It was more of openness to go farther. People didn’t have cars, you had to cab it. Even just getting to Oakland without a car would be a challenge and this was pre-uber and all that stuff. But LA there was no problem for someone to drive out to San Bernardino just to go out. I’ve had many great late nights in LA. It’s just a different culture and bigger pool of people. Although LA and SF have a lot in common, there are a lot of similarities across scenes in California.
Can you tell us about your experiences in Amsterdam? What was your first time to the city like? What are some of your favorite aspects of the city that are non-nightlife related?
Obviously being in to herbal culture for a long time, and before there was ever any concept of legal weed in the states; I was drawn to Amsterdam very early on. I also just had a love for Europe in general. Like when you’re in CA, like in LA and SF, things are only like a hundred years old roughly opposed to Europe where things are hundreds of years old, so just the sheer history of it.
And Amsterdam in particular, besides just the music, Amsterdam is such a beautiful city. The way it’s laid out. The first couple times I went as a tourist because it took a while for me as a DJ to get a gig. Because the music scene in Amsterdam in the 90s was a bit harder, even more techno-y kind of vibe. I wasn’t quite hard enough to play Amsterdam back then. Or even Holland for that matter.
For a while I would play a nearby city like Belgium and then just leave a couple days to go to Amsterdam just be a tourist. I’m trying to think of that old club in Amsterdam that doesn’t exist anymore. I want to say it’s called the rookery, one of the first cafes I went to in Amsterdam. And of course being a stoner at the time, it was just so wonderful to check that out. You know you get a menu? And now obviously compared with the way things are going with California, Oregon and Colorado etc., its hard to imagine when you had to get weed the old fashioned way — through a dealer friend. When you could order from a menu, and have coffee, because I was also a coffee person, was always great. And then you could just walk around and check out the things throughout the city like the museums there. I’ve always been lucky to get to Amsterdam.
It took a while to get any DJ gigs out there though. Even now, I haven’t played at ADE yet. Although I have seen the house community grow in Amsterdam although I’ve always gotten more love from places like Belgium and Paris. Played many more times in those area than Amsterdam. But I’ve always loved Amsterdam because I would just go there as a tourist any chance I could. So you know its just a great cultural town. Just a great place to visit.
No ADE for you this year?
I’ve tried to swing it for a few years and it just couldn’t make it happen unfortunately.
Somewhat generally, after all these years, how do you keep yourself motivated in touring and production? Was there ever a point where you felt your creative possibility became limited?
I’ve been lucky that musically there’s always been a lot of interesting stuff to tap into. There was a time when maybe traveling got old for some reason like I was traveling all time and I would be like oh I really don’t want be in the airport again, take my shoes for security, take out my liquids, and sit in the airport, delayed, end up in some dodgy hotel. Sometimes that can be a little wearing, obviously everybody likes to be home with their family. I mean obviously when I was younger I didn’t mind going anywhere, i embraced traveling anywhere, just to check it out. But there was a period when you know you’ve been doing for about 30 years, and you’re like I can stay in this rundown hotel for a night or something. But musically it’s never been a problem. I’ve always had music to share and a desire to play music.
Producing is another thing where sometimes in life like I have a son who’s 6 now. So we take on some other duties like parenting and maybe now I have the time to devote to production as I used to since it can be time consuming. Obviously when you’re single with no kids, its a different world. And with fatherhood, you have to plan out your time accordingly. I used to just stay up Monday to Friday if I’m out gigging or working on tracks till about 3 am without a problem. But when you get older you have to get up every day at 7 am and have take the kids to school and that whole thing. You can’t be as free at night as you used to. So that limits some time but I still have the same fun making tracks. I just find budgeting time as you get older with other responsibilities can be an issue. I’ve never been really a laptop producer so I can’t really write music on the road like some other producers can. I’m still more of an outboard gear person so I can’t really take the studio on the plane and mess with stuff. That luxury really has come with technology where people can work on tracks on the go. But I haven’t really gotten to that technological grade yet where I can work Ableton on the plane; I’m not that proficient with Ableton. I just still like my drum machines and MPC and different gear that I put together.
You could say that’s a constraint of finding time for production. So generally I’m still grateful to sit down any place, there are so many great spots in the world and cities, it’s always a luxury to check out these diff places and I’m honored, especially when you like a city and you go there. Before, in my 20s and my early 30s, I had no problems with spending like 2 weeks in Europe. I can’t really do that anymore but I still do appreciate the viewing places and now in terms of music, things have changed. We used to hang out at the record store all day and get your goods. And now it’s kind of transferred to you’re on your laptop and you’re doing searches by yourself. Going through emails, looking for promos, shopping online for stuff. The way you get music has changed. The way I do it is still the same, I’m still just looking for good new stuff from obviously friends and you got to look out for the unknown Joe Shmoe that you’ve never heard that’s making dope tracks. You got to find it digitally and now there’s even more music to sift through than the crates of vinyl.
There was never even a thing such as classic house. I know I can go through old goodies that don’t exist.
In short, the music part has never been the problem but the traveling could get tiresome.
What’s your plan for the rest of 2016? Any downtime planned?
That’s a good question. No, not much downtime planned. That’s always the goal now, is to plan downtime. Its fortunate that I get to go away and DJ all these different places but I find going away on just a holiday can be rare, so that is a focus of this year. Just trying to find good downtime where I’m not working somewhere. You know, bring the family and do a bit of family traveling which just takes a bit of planning. Like the DJ travel comes naturally, but planning downtime can be trickier. Lot of good stuff happening in 2016 though. Great lakes audio is happening.
I just had to move. So I’m getting my studio together. I have some different collaborations planned. So I think 2016 will be a good year musically.
I think family travel is an important aspect and definitely needs some work.
Hear you on that. Alright, Mark, I appreciate your time brotha!