The Yak gets all “housey” with Grammy nominee, second highest-selling Beatport artist and label boss of Toolroom, Mark Knight as he arrives in Bali to put “integral house” back onto the island stage at W Bali on the 28th of February – Don’t miss it!
Mark from a boy to being inducted into Radio 1’s Hall of Fame – can you briefly tell us about your journey.
To be honest in the early days I didn’t get house music. I didn’t get it, and then I discovered Garage, not UK Garage but soulful American garage, the house music coming around from NY, that kinda thing, and that was the real start of my love affair with dance music. I had obviously been out to raves and other gigs with rave music and all that and it was cool, I kinda got the experience but it didn’t grow outside of actually being at the event. Everything for me has always been very soulful, and even now, even when I’m doing things that are quite techno, I like to think there’s an underpinning of soul in there, for that’s really what I’m about.
My first ever gig was at a pub in Maidstone on a Tuesday night. It was dead, with less than 10 people in there. It was barely a gig but it did teach me you need to know your music well if you want to play in public, especially after I let one track run out completely before putting the next one on. My first ‘proper’ gig was at The Arches in Suffolk Street, London. I remember that the sound system was so loud I had to completely change how I played. That would have been around ’96 I think. Shortly after that I became a resident at Ministry of Sound… and now 20 years later, here we are!
Ibiza is one of your stomping grounds, how have you seen it change over the years? The good and the bad.
The single biggest change has been the increasing cost: it’s now getting prohibitively expensive, which in turn is giving rise to alternative destinations like Bulgaria, Croatia and plenty of others. I just hope it doesn’t get to the point where it completely isolates itself from the core clubbing community that made it such a special place to visit. And I think we’re getting to that point: it’s right on the cusp of simply being impossible for a lot of people to consider for a visit. But Ibiza has a rich history of reinventing itself, so I’m hopeful that things will work themselves out.
You play quite a bit with Carl Cox who loves coming to Bali… any plans for a gig together here in the future?
Nothing planned, but you never know!
Did you know Suara means sound in Indonesian. What is Suara to you?
I didn’t, but you learn something every day. To me, Suara is a great label whose records I regularly play, but I will be using that bit of new knowledge from now on.
Tell us a bit about your label Toolroom Records and how it came about.
Toolroom has been quite a journey, and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved as a label. I initially set it up as an outlet for my own music, but also in order to be able to champion music and artists I loved and wanted to share with the world. We’ve released some amazing music, and I’ve personally had the chance to work with some exceptionally talented artists, so yes, it’s been everything I wanted it to be. I think that Toolroom’s success has been down to its consistency. We only sign records that we think have legs, and that people remember. Hopefully every record we’ve released is someone’s favourite.
Balancing work with play and family – what are the main challenges?
It’s really tough: they are both things that require a bit time commitment, so to be honest the only way of dealing with it is to learn how to function on very little sleep!
Producing, releasing your own tracks and global gigs – any secrets to how you manage your time? How many weeks do you usually spend on the road – I see it’s Canada for you end of March?
I try to only play a couple of weekends a year now, but that’s been tricky to stick to, especially in the summer. And this year it will be especially tough as we have a new residency in Ibiza at Eden every Sunday, so I’ll be spending a fair amount of time there.
Your top artists on Toolroom are?
Illyus & Barreintos, Wheats, Maxine Garman, Friend Within.
You are most excited about seeing which Toolroom artist’s career develop?
Probably Wheats as he’s such a young but talented producer whos come up though the Toolroom Academy, so it’s been incredible to see people’s reaction to his music and how he continues to grow with every release. He’s just finished an absolute banger with Alan Fitzpatrick that’s out soon, so keep your ear out for tat.
Up and coming for you in 2019?
Huge focus on Toolroom events. We have residencies at Studio 338 in London and Eden in Ibiza that are huge milestones for us, then on the production side I’m just going to keep putting records out as I love being in the studio.
Your iconic Eighty Six track – was this a nod to the year House was born?
Of course! Although to be honest it’s a bit of a debate as to when ‘house’ was really born, that’s just what we went with.
Lastly – Tell us what you think of Bali and will you be back?
It’s getting better and better, every time I play the crowd seems more knowledgeable and into the music. There’s a real local scene of DJs and music lovers, and then you get the holiday/tourist crowd who are always up for a party: it’s a very hedonistic environment. And of course it’s a paradise, which helps! So of course I’ll be back.
Mark, thanks for your time and you’ll see us on the dance floor!!