Following the release of If It’s Love earlier this year, Mark Knight follows up with another vocally-charged anthem-in-the-making ‘Tonight,’ which features the UK’s Chenai and US mainstay Mr. V.
While If It’s Love was a record with its roots very much in the classic house sounds of the 90s, Tonight takes inspiration from the brisk, looping, filtered house music of the early 00s, with Chenai’s urgent, soaring vocals beautifully juxtaposed with Mr. V’s trademark NYC drawl.
Listen to ‘Tonight’ Ft. Chenai and Mr. V on Spotify!
Like Mark, house music veteran Mr. V fondly remembers a time when the music was built heavily on traditional song structures and lots of heart and soul. DJs played whatever it took to get the party going and the music was never predictable, and it is with this spirit and enthusiasm that the NYC artist approaches his feature on Tonight.
Tell us about that first track that put you on the map in the electronic scene and the journey since. How did you get started?
I had been messing around making beats for years on samplers and an Atari back in the day releasing things on some small labels and getting distribution deals on records but my first real break came when I met Dave Lee aka Joey Negro, who we used to book at a lot for a night I was resident at called Independence at the then Hanover Grand in London in the late 90’s. Over time we became good mates and It got to the point where Dave and I shared a studio. I was fortunate enough to pick up some invaluable productions skills from both Dave and his engineer Kevin. With this new found knowledge as you can imagine my music got way better and I began to gain traction straight away. I then signed to Dave’s Z Records and things began to grow not only as a producer but as a DJ. After Dave moved out of our studio in Shoreditch I inherited his studio for a bit. This was in a time when Shoreditch definitely wasn’t trendy! But after weekly break-ins and rent prices going up it was time for a change. I decided to sell my house, my car and pretty much everything I owned and moved back to my mum’s. I ploughed every penny I had in to building my own studio. In a brick shed out side their house, where previously we stored the lawn mover, power tools etc Hence the name ‘Toolroom Records’ and the rest is history…
Tell us about your latest project Tonight on Toolroom?
Tonight is the next in a series of singles I’ve been working on that are putting songs and vocals back at the forefront of house music. When I first got into house it was the records with original songs that really appealed to me, and stayed with me long after the night had ended. Vocal house music was definitely my first love in terms of dance music, and although its something I’ve done throughout my career, I really wanted to make a concerted effort to put out a run of releases that would stand the test of time, and having amazing vocalists and original songs was a key part of that.
What single night out has been the most memorable for you as a DJ and producer?
I mean that’s an incredibly hard thing to do, to pick out just one. There have been so many that have meant so much over the years, for lots of different reasons. I guess if I had to pick just one it would be the Essential Mix live from Space. That club is widely acknowledged to be one of the best and most influential that ever existed: it’s somewhere I played many times, but knowing my set was being broadcast around the world was a pretty special feeling.
Tell us something we wouldn’t normally find out about you.
I won a big national Lego building competition as a kid with a broken arm (I may have got the sympathy vote!)
Give us the name of one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you listen to it?
Cloud 9 – Do You Want Me Baby. Without doubt my favourite house record of all time. Those chords on the intro get me every single time – it just reminds me of everything I love about the scene and that golden era of house music of 94-95. It’s absolutely perfect and I could listen to it every day. Goosebumps
Why do you think that original vocals like those on Tonight and your previous single If It’s Love are sorely lacking in the modern scene.
I think it’s a few things really. For one, working with singers and songwriters can be a lot more of an involved – and expressive – process than working on an instrumental track by yourself. Vocals need to be properly recorded, and edited which means a studio, and often the most productive way of working means that everyone needs to be in the same place at the same time, rather than sending ideas back and forth, which again isn’t possible for some people. It also takes a skill and understanding of music to work with vocals. I’m not saying it’s easy to make an amazing instrumental club track at all, but for vocals you need certain skill in the studio that some people don’t have plus a very specific vision of what you want to achieve. So it tests your ability as a producer to guide artists to a point you are happy with…
But perhaps the biggest reason is that in some quarters, vocals have really fallen out of fashion. You could easily go to a big club night in Ibiza or wherever and not hear a single proper vocal track in the last few years, which would have been completely unheard of 20 years ago. It’s difficult to say which came first: did the appetite for vocals simply die out, or was there just more music created that was without vocals? I’d probably say it’s the latter, as judging from crowd reaction at the time or the tracks that people really remember and play for years afterwards, 9 out of 10 times it’s got a vocal in it.
How do you get a track started? Tell us a bit about your production process. How long does it take you to complete a track on average and do you ever get writer’s block?
It varies massively. Sometimes I can get the basic idea and structure of a track down in just a few hours, other times it can take months or even years to completely finish a record from initial conception to completion. For example Downpipe took myself and Dean Rameriz a year to get right! Fortunately I have never suffered from writers block. I soak up so much inspiration all the time I am never found lacking.
The relationship between the audience and the DJ is crucial, and yet it seems to be a fragile one – how do you see the balance between giving the crowd what they want and treating them to something new?
It’s a fine balance for sure, and something I’m always thinking about when I’m Djing. It’s also why I much prefer playing extended sets – four, five, six hours or more – as it gives you way more flexibility in what you can play. If you’re booked for an hour or two to play a headline slot, you’ve really only got a limited time to experiment, as you want to give the crowd what they came for, meaning a slightly less risqué approach. With extended sets, you can play way riskier stuff and take people down little rabbit holes, with the knowledge that if you do start to lose them you’ve got plenty of time to bring it back.
Mark Knight’s musical history is entrenched is soul and hip-hop. Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, every evening was spent by the radio listening the shows of Froggy, Greg Edwards and a very young Pete Tong, either taping music or writing titles down from the likes of The BB&Q and Leroy Burgess through to the mind- blowing productions of DJ Eddie F.
It was then through the education and vision of DJs like Paul Trouble Anderson, Bobby & Steve and Tony Humphries that Mark started to make the connection from the Swing Beat craze at the time, towards the Soulful House sound that was coming through, and thus a love affair began that has remained with him throughout his career.
Tonight is the latest release marking a new musical direction for Mark Knight that began with If It’s Love and will continue throughout 2020.
Mark Knight – ‘Tonight’ Ft. Chenai and Mr. V is OUT NOW! via Toolroom