Mark Knight has just released his newest single; ‘If It’s Love’ together with Laura Davie and The Melody Men through his own Toolroom imprint. We talked with the industry legend about all things house music, the current state of his life, Toolroom and the Academy, favourite places to play and holiday and more! Check out his latest track at the bottom of the interview!
Hey Mark! I take it you’re at home like the rest of us? How are you finding the isolation?
Interesting to say the least! It’s a huge shift: usually I would be in and out of the door at home, I’m always on the go whether that’s for gigs or taking my son to play football or heading into the office, so to be facing the next few months completely cut off from all that is definitely going to be a new thing for me. To be honest though at the moment I’m really enjoying spending some more time at home… but ask me again come July!
You’ve just released your brand new single together with Laura Davie and The Melody Men – what was it like working with them and where did the inspiration come from for the production?
With ‘If It’s Love’ I really wanted to produce a record that had the fundamental assets of a good song production: melody, hooks, meaningful lyrics and a great arrangement, an art I feel is being lost right now in house music. So the challenge was to make a big, soulful, vocal house record – the kind that I fell in love with in the mid-90’s – but do it in such a way that would translate in the here and now. I also wanted to make a record that I could actually play at any point in one of my headline sets, as well as working in my soulful sets. And to say that working with Laura Davie from the House Gospel Choir and the Melody Men Dy, Amy and Lou was a dream could be the understatement of the year.
Songs that are played in peak time sets rarely seem to feature full, original vocals these days. Why did you want to make a record that fits into that category?
I feel like producers – and I’ve definitely been guilty of this in the past – can sometimes fall into a trap of making music as a means to an end. You want to make something fairly quickly to keep the release cycle ticking over, to get something charting and that you can play in your sets. It can sometimes become a bit of a treadmill. But now that there are no gigs for the foreseeable future, we have a real opportunity to do something different. I feel like if you’re capable of making something that will stand the test of time, you have a duty to do so. If you listen to a Marshal Jefferson or Ten City record from 30 years ago, they weren’t making those records just so they could bang them out in a club – there’s so much musicality in them, which is why they still get played today. Now that the treadmill has temporarily stopped, wouldn’t it be great if we could create a moment that in 10, 20 years people looked back on as a golden age of production.
With a new decade just kicking off, what was the biggest record for you in the past 10 years, whether that’s one of your own songs or a release on your label Toolroom?
It really depends on how you measure the metric of a ‘big’ record. I’d say in the last 10 years the record I’ve played the most is In The Pocket – definitely not the best-seller or necessarily the one that people would expect, but it’s been a huge record for me for the last decade.
Toolroom has grown to become one of the largest house imprints as well as one of the most influential labels since it’s inception in 2003. What differs on your objectives with the label since you started it?
I think now it’s about not just planning for the future, but trying to guide the future. Initially we were striving for an identity, and we’ve definitely had that for a good few years now. Now it’s about shaping the industry into how we think it should look. That’s definitely a big aim of the Academy: to create a new generation of producers that in turn will help cement the longevity of the label.
In 2015 you launched the Toolroom Academy, and continue to deliver some great courses from big players, if someone is just hearing about them now which course would you recommend they start with?
It really depends on what level you’re at, but one of my favourites is the Creativity Unlocked course. I think this really helps push people to do things they didn’t think they were capable of, whether you’ve been producing for a few weeks or a few decades.
You’ve had the chance to play all over the globe. Which cities do you feel have the greatest appreciation for house music in 2020?
I think that picking out specific cities is too small as the scene is so global. And to be honest everywhere I play I feel a lot of love for what I’m doing, but one place in particular that stands out at the moment is the US. Because the crowd there is – in general – a bit newer to house and techno than throughout Europe – there’s a massive amount of open-mindedness. People I’ve spoken to have said they’re seeing me one week, Armin van Buuren the week after and then Luciano the next. There’s not so much of the “I’m into this style of music and that’s it” that you can get in some scenes.
Speaking of your travels, what’s one unforgettable country/location that is a must holiday destination you’ve discovered over the years?
For us as a family it’s Dubai: the weather is perfect, there’s so much going on, and it’s pretty easy to get to, which is quite a big thing when you do as much travelling as I do. It’s our happy place for sure.
With a keen ear for what’s next, can you share with us a couple of rising talents that you think we should be keeping a keen eye on for the future?
Maxinne – she’s outstanding, she’s doing her own thing and not following trends, a 100% original in a space of her own. I really admire and respect that and know she’s got a big future. Also there’s an Australian guy called Alex Preston, who makes brilliant disco and funky, soulful house… if the word ‘funky’ isn’t still taboo!