We recently caught up with the living legend Mark Kinchen aka MK, a top tier pioneer of New York house music who’s recently stepped back into the house world both in terms of production and, for the first time in his long career, as a DJ. We talked about everything from his relationship with Kevin Saunderson to his time spent working with Quincy Jones…
Let’s start at the beginning, at what point did it become clear to you that you had a future making music?
I started making music when I was 14 years old, it was never about if i could make a living doing it, it was the fact that I loved making music. Wether I made money or not , that had nothing to do with me doing what I do.
I know you were involved early on in your career with Kevin Saunderson, are you still in touch and do you have much contact with people in the Detroit music scene generally?
I still stay in touch with Kevin, there was a period where we weren’t in contact – for no reason, we were just doing different things, but I’ve been speaking to him a lot this past year – ever since Defected put out the MK House Masters comp. Simon Dunmore actually connected me and Kevin back up again and that’s when I ended up doing the remix for Kevin for Future and Kevin and I have been talking about doing a new project together, which’ll happen very soon. As far as other people in Detroit, I still stay in touch with Carl Craig, Carl probably more than any of them. Maybe beacuse we came out of Detroit in the same period – I was Kevin’s guy and Carl was Derrick (May)’s guy, we were their protege’s, so Carl and I always had something in common.
How do you feel about music today, the business and the nature of creating /sharing music has changed a lot since you first became involved – do you feel positive for the future?
Part of the reason I got into music at an early age was because of the technology of it. When synthesizers and drum machines came out I was intrigued. So, of course, with new technologies, the industry’s going to change a bit. However it changes I’m ok with – wether it’s file sharing or the way the music was created I have no problem with whatsoever, as far as I’m concerned I’ll figure out a way to adapt and make it work to my advantage.
You’re probably most famous for your dubs, although sonically and stylistically they are a world away from Jamaican dub – do you nevertheless feel some connection to that history or do you feel all you have in common with that particular music is the name?
The reason I started calling my remixes dubs is because I started remixing songs and doing versions where I wouldn’t use all the vocals, just bits and pieces. I think Mike Dunn had a record out which he labelled a dub, using just one vocal sample and I thought it was really dope. Ever since then, I used ‘Dub’ whenever I did a remix where I didn’t use all the vocal, just using small pieces of the vocal. It had nothing to do with Jamaican dub though, although I do love Jamaican dub, that’s not where I got the name.
Coming up to the present day, you’ve recently started DJing – something you never really used to do, what caused the change of heart and how are you finding it?
I never really got into DJIng in the beginning, only because I loved producing way more. I felt like I was getting really good at producing so I thought ‘OK, do you wanna play records or make records?’ so at the time I chose to make records. I also thought that DJing would take away from my production time although I knew that if I was to DJ it would make my production better as I’d be able to see what gets the crowd off. But a few years ago I thought about getting back into house music and I thought ‘this time I will DJ’. I’m actually glad I did because I have way more ideas for production and as far as I’m concerned my best work is still ahead of me.
You recently hooked up with Jamie Jones and Lee Foss, how did that come about and what are you doing together in the future?
I met Jamie Jones and Lee Foss a few years ago, they actually asked me to DJ at a Hot Creations party in Miami. This was right when I was thinking about getting back into House music so I actually had my brother Scotti Deep come and DJ that party with me. Then, a couple of months later, Lee reached out to me and asked me to remix the next single, which happened to be Forward Motion. From that point, I started to become close friends with Lee and Jamie and they also happened to my favourite DJs and Producers at the time, so the next step was to start making music together. I worked on a few Hot Natured tracks with them, and Lee and I have a new song out. Also, don’t be surprised if you see a new MK record coming out on Hot Creations soon!
You started up Say Aah records with your brother Scotti Deep. What’s the remit for the label and what involvement will you personally have in it?
Say Aah is my brother Scott’s label. I was going to be part of it with him but I’ve been Djing heavily right now and have a stack of remixes waiting to be remixed! I don’t have time to be involved right now, maybe at a later date I’ll get involved, but as of right now, it’s Scott’s label.
While on sabbatical from the house scene, you’ve spent time working with Quincy Jones. How did that come about and what would you say you’ve learnt from a man who has done so much to shape modern music production?
I met Quincy Jones through my manager at the time, Jay Brown. I actually learned more about life from Quincy than anything else, he spent a lot of time talking to me about other things, not so much about music. One of the things in particular was the fact that he regretted spending so much time on music and not so much time with his family, which was really interesting to hear that, coming from Quincy Jones! But one cool thing I did learn in the studio with him: we were in the studio working on a project and he had the engineer put the synthesizer in the vocal booth, then connected small speakers to the synthesizer and then mic’d the speakers, and then ran that line through a bunch of tube compressors. I thought that was really cool.
Your 90s productions did a lot to shape the sound of UK garage, something which has now become deeply embedded in so much british electronic music. Were you aware of your influence on this scene at the time?
During the 90s I really didn’t know what kind of influence I had on people, remeber there wasn’t really internet in the 90s and I didn’t DJ so the only thing I could go by was what people were telling me and sometimes I didn’t know if people were just trying to make me smaile or what. But now, thanks to youtube, I do know!
Do you have any particular musical ambitions which are as yet unfulfilled?
When I was younger I had a lot of ambitions, a lot of them I’ve actually fulfilled. But it didn’t really change the way I felt, so I decided just to make music for the reasons I got into it when I was 14 and that was just for the love of music and because it made me happy. So that’s how I go about it now – ‘whatever it is, is what it is’.
With over two hundred remixes under your belt along with so many more of your own productions, what are the particular tracks that stand out as your own personal favourites?
My favourite remixes are usually the most recent ones I’ve done. Right now the Lana Del Ray – Blue Jeans mix is one of my favourites. The record I did with Lee Foss is a great record too that I’m excited about and of course Storm Queen, still, is one of my favourite mixes. But, you know, it’s going to change every like two months.
Finally, please define yourself in ten words?
I’m very humble. I think i’m unique. And I’m always tryna make a better dub.