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Beats Per Minute: Mark Knight reveals the tracks in his setlist
The Toolroom label boss and admired selector/producer shares the tracks which form his current setlist and chats about the current state of dance music in 2021
Last updated: 13th Sep 2021
Grammy-nominated producer, esteemed DJ and co-founder of Toolroom Records, Mark Knight recently took the time out of his increasingly busy schedule to talk to us about a matter of subjects close to his heart whilst also sharing the tracks you're likely to hear live in his sets this year.
Discover his selections in our second Beats Per Minute playlist takeover and check out the full interview below, in which he speaks openly about the state of current dance music, becoming once again reaccustomed to restriction-free life as a DJ and his latest, disco-funk inspired LP - Untold Business.
What are the earliest and most formative records you remember listening to as a child?
"If I had to pull three out right now that really stick in my memory; Michael Jackson’s Off The Way, Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police - which is actually one I hadn’t thought about for a long time, I found it digging through records for samples the other day, and then a little later, Alexander O’Neal’s Hearsay, which is an album I still listen to on a weekly basis. All of these had a huge impact on me when I was first getting into music and still do to this day."
What led you to fall in love with house music in the ’90s?
"Before I’d heard a house record I was all about soul and hip hop. I wasn’t even that keen on house music when I first heard it, I just found it a bit stiff and soulless, to be honest. It was only when I started being exposed to some of the US guys – Blaze, Ten City, MAW etc - on shows by the incredible and hugely missed Paul Trouble Anderson that I really started to get it. But from then on I was totally hooked."
Do you think that dance music is becoming more and more commercialised and is it harder to stand out from the crowd now than it ever has been?
"I do, and I think it’s down to a few different factors. I think people’s attention spans have gotten shorter, which means you have less time to make an impression so a lot of people end up going down obvious routes with their music, and people are afraid to take risks. I also think that streaming services and radio – which are all usually after super-punchy, short edits of music that have a specific formula – have ended up funnelling music in that direction. You need to get your music heard on those platforms if you want to get it to the most amount of people, so you can fall into a trap of producing things as a means to an end, rather than being truly free and creative.
What is it that makes dance music so powerful in your opinion?
"The feeling you get from dance music is primal, and some of that power is definitely lost if you’re not experiencing it in a club or festival, which is where it’s designed to be heard. I think more than other genres dance music needs to be experienced by all the senses: you need to not only hear it but feel it, smell it – everything that goes with the experience. When all those elements combine, there is no feeling like it."
Untold Business includes some high profile vocal collaborations. How did you go about choosing so many different voices to feature on the album?
"As a producer, your job is to assemble the right cast of collaborators around the idea you have and make sure it’s executed as you imagined it. You start with the idea, and the hard part is getting the right team together. If you’ve done your job properly it should all come together from there. Obviously, everyone brings their own unique flavour or vibe to a project, and that’s what makes it exciting and unique."
What do you want people to feel when they’re listening to Untold Business? What’s the intended vibe?
The album is designed to be the warm-up to a night out, not even really the main event. Not be too over facing and basically put you in the best mood possible, whether that’s the precursor to a night out or just a listening experience in itself. It felt so good to be able to flex a slightly different set of muscles with this, and show people that I’m not only about the 2 am peak time bangers. I love challenging myself musically and this was definitely one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on."
You’ve been getting back behind the ones and two’s at events around the UK since restrictions lifted… How best can you describe that feeling of being back in front of live audiences again?
"I mean, it’s incredible to be back but it has been challenging in a way I didn’t expect. Previously we were all on this hamster wheel of performing, producing, rinsing and repeating, so you’re just constantly tweaking what you’re doing without necessarily the time or headspace to think about it too intellectually. Now, after this huge break, it’s been interesting to see where crowds are at, what kind of vibe they’re after, and how you as a performer react to it. The gigs I’ve had so far have been fantastic though, and have reminded me why I wanted to do this in the first place all those years ago."
Your acclaimed record label, Toolroom Records has introduced us to some fantastic talents over the years, the likes of recent Toolroom addition, singer-songwriter, Camden Cox. Are there any other artists you’d love to add to the roster or collaborate with?
"That list is never-ending. I’d say though that the best and most exciting talent is the one you don’t know about yet. With Toolroom, we do these writing camps and from the last one, we worked with artists like singer-songwriter, Tasty Lopez, The Melody Men and Laura Davis, all of whom have gone on to be super busy with releases pretty much every week. We’re running another one soon and I expect we’ll unearth a whole load more talent there. That’s something I never, ever get bored of."
Finally, we asked you to curate a playlist featuring records we can expect to hear in your sets throughout the remainder of the year - as part of our brand new playlist feature - Beats Per Minute. If you had to choose one record and one record only to play on repeat for the next month from that playlist, which one would it be and why?
"I’d go with Hotswing – 'Like A Melody', released via Too many Rules. I am a big fan of what Javi Bora has done with this label. Anything that channels 80’s disco and funk - I'm all over it. I like the fact it’s got enough energy to play moving into peak time but enough soul to work if you are warming up or playing a longer set. This will stick around in my sets for a while."
Find tickets for Mark Knights upcoming live dates by clicking or tapping - here.