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Seven and seven is: DJ Mark Seven talks vinyl, Stockholm and his labels

Mark Dale catches up with DJ Mark Seven prior to his date at Hustle in Liverpool's The Magnet to talk about his labels Parkway and Parkwest, life in Stockholm and his love for records.

Becca Frankland

Date published: 23rd Jun 2015

Originally from Bracknell, Berkshire, DJ Mark Seven has been based in Stockholm since the 1990s. Having witnessed the birth of house music in some of London's most formative nightclubs he developed an obsession with house music that saw no boundaries.

Tracing the music back to its roots in disco, Mark became a collector of every era of house music and a vinyl enthusiast whose knowledge is second to none.

He has put this knowledge to good use. Firstly, he set up an online music store, Jus Wax and via international trips and much crate digging, sourced rare and out of print vinyl to sell to a cabal of dance music fans that includes some of the best known names on Europe's underground DJ circuit.

With a collector's fervour and an ambition to sound as individual as possible when DJing, Mark has saved some of the best vinyl he's found for his own sets. He is particularly enamoured with the period of dance music innovation that occurred between the end of extravagant disco - when that genre became stipped down and started using drum machines - and the dawn of Chicago house music. 

This period, which takes in proto house, some Italo disco, street soul, early New Jersey and New York garage and some soulful, electronic disco, informs the record label, Parkway (listen to the Mastermix below), which Mark runs and has released music on for just over a decade now. It has, in more recent times, been joined by sister label Parkwest, in which Mark expresses his love for more uptempo, contemporary house music.

His online DJ mixes are obsessed over by DJs throughout Europe and he is namechecked by the likes of Hunee, Gerd Janson, Moonboots, Todd Terje, Prins Thomas. He has also released one compilation in the Originals series on Claremont 56 and two official 3 x CD mixes in "A Salute To The Men Of Vauxhall" and "Salute 2 – Reach Out & Touch Your Dream"

We caught up with him prior to his debut appearance in Liverpool at The Magnet for a Hustle's free before 1am event.
 

 

Mark Seven: Re:Loved - PARKWAY Mastermix Vol 1 by The Ransom Note on Mixcloud

 


Why did you move to Stockholm? Are the reasons you moved there still relevant? Are they what keeps you there, especially considering the high price of beer?

Well, the time was just right for a move. I came out here to check it out and just found a whole bunch of disco records and I ended up staying. My reasons changed over the years. I have a family here now, so that's what keeps me here and happy. 

What's the city like to live in and hang out in, both during daylight hours and after dark?

That depends what you're looking for. It's a beautiful place in the summer, lots of water and it's clean, but the winter can be a long haul. With nightlife, there's really not too much competition in clubs here, just lots of bars with music.

One or two clubs in the city host stuff I'd be into, but mostly it's the big room, sponsored stuff. It's much more a bar culture and the government has done what it can to keep it that way.

Explain to those who have not heard one or either of your labels what the difference is between Parkway and Parkwest. What releases do you have forthcoming on both?

Parkway was my first born! That label's a return to the kind of sounds that first got me into this whole thing, that post disco/boogie sound. Then came Parkwest which was an outlet for the house side of what I'm into. We've just had the tenth release across both labels, 'The Feeling' (below), that got some great support and sold out.

So next up, I think we have a new Apartment 4/4 on Parkwest and a collaboration between Parkway Rhythm & Boyd Jarvis that we actually started some years back.

Is your online music store still as much of a concern as it used to be? Can you explain the reasons why you are at whatever point you're at with it?

It's still going strong, but of course the online business has changed quite a bit. Discogs has made a profound impact in the way people deal records so, like everyone, I've shifted a lot of business to there. 

What are the advantages of running an online store compared to running a physical shop?

A wider reach with lower outlay.

What styles of music do you collect both for the dancefloor and for home listening?

For the dancefloor it's deeper disco stuff, raw house music and everything in between. Fusion bits, leftfield electronics, afro. So at home it's whatever's not covered above. 

Who are your top five music producers of all time and why?

I really struggle with top fives and that's because my needs change all the time, but to throw some names out there, Larry Heard, the Mizell brothers, Greg Carmichael, John Rocca, Boyd Jarvis, Kerri Chandler. Is that five!? 

Are there any groups or artists you're completely obsessed with, who you would buy a bootleg live album of on sight, regardless of the sound quality? If there is, what is it about them that makes you such a nut?

Not really obsessed with, no. Not with any one artist, although there's a few that mean a lot to me personally. I mean, when it comes to labels then I kind of kept everything on the labels I really like. I've gotlike a 100+ Trax records, same with Salsoul and Prelude. 

You're obsessed with old music. Me too! Why then did you decide to create two labels that issue new, contemporary music? Why not set up a reissue label or a re-edit label?

Well firstly, there's no need for more of either of those. There's people doing the re-issue thing as well as it can be done. PPU, that kind of thing is great. Mostly I'm kind of cynical about the re-issue thing cos I get the impression it's more about making a buck of someone else's work in hard times than any thing else.

I'm also that kind of freak that finds it hard to play a track once it's on general sale and everyone's got their own copy. So anyway, I just wanted to add something to the pile, something of me. You know like in that documentary when DJ Shadow talks about how anyone releasing music is just adding to the pile? There's a lil' bit of me in there too! 

What is it about that period of music between early 80s disco and the start of Chicago house that you like so much? There weren't so many options back then in terms of equipment and sounds. It was limited. So why's today's music not a better, more exciting period?

Oh, I'm not saying it isn't exciting right now too, there's some fantastic records out there today. but it's never been a case of more is better for me - more equipment, more sounds, more level... that's not what makes it happen.

Wasn't that period of electronics coming into dance music, in disco, street soul, protohouse, Italo- whatever, the death knell for grandiose productions of the disco era, stuff like MFSB, Salsoul etc? How can you champion a musical period that destroyed something so beautiful, Godammit?

For me, some of the greatest music ever made is simple. A simple idea, chord change, melody. Look at dub reggae, the drum, the bass, rhythm guitar, fx amazing! I love that slick disco stuff, I've got 1000's of twelves full of it, but disco as a format needed a little life injecting into it and the post disco sound has a raw energy and grit that I love.

It's still got the soul in there, but it didn't need a full orchestra and expensive studio time to let it out.

What are your favourite record labels?

So all time, I guess it's Easystreet, Apexton, maybe the holy Chicago trinity, DJ international / Underground / Trax. I love the Cajual stuff too. Times Are Ruff released some bangers in the last year or so. NDATL (recent release above) is always on point. 

More music is available for young people to hear now than ever before. Are they missing out in any way in having so much available to them so easily? Do you think people approach and engage with music in the same way you would have done if you had had such tools and avenues open to you when you were just starting off?

If there's a negative side to it, I'd say it's that so much turnover can often result in tunes having a shorter life. You could raise a case for saying that when you had to work harder to get music, that meant you appreciated it more and when music only exists digitally, does it ever really exist!? But that's a minefield and we don't have time for all I could say about that.

Does a vinyl record matter at all to a club audience it's being played to or is the format the music's presented in only a concern of those who have access to the DJ booth?

There's a whole other side to that question for me. I play better with vinyl, that's personal to me. The difference might be almost intangible but it's there for me. I feel it.

I wouldn't presume to answer for the whole club audience, but I know there's something valuable for me in seeing a DJ handle a physical medium, in knowing that he or she has taken the time to track down a copy of this thing and play it for me. I just react and connect more to the physical, it's more human to me.

Where are your favourite places to DJ?

Dance Tunnel was fantastic recently and London generally has always been great to come home to. Manchester has given me some incredible nights. Japan was off the scale. I'm in Croatia again soon and that's amazing too. Wherever the love is. 

Who are your favourite DJs that are currently spinning?

I'm a big fan of someone that can give me some personality when they play. I love Theo Parrish, I love watching Hunee, some of the Chicago and Detroit heads like Sadar Bahaar or Rahaan. There's loads I haven't seen live but would love too, like Beautiful Swimmers and Floating Points. 

If you could go back in time to the dancefloor of one club in history, which would it be, who would be DJing and why is this your choice?

If i had to pick one, then I guess it's Ron Hardy at the Music Box. There's just so much mythology around the energy of that place that I'd love to see it for myself. 

When you work in and with music a lot, it's normal for your ears to get tired. When that happens, how do you relax? 

Relax? Man, I got a five year old at home. What's relax? 

You're playing at Hustle at The Magnet in Liverpool soon. It's a relatively intimate, dark, basement club. Are those the best sorts of clubs to play in? Many of its previous guests have been house DJs. I've seen great sets by Derrick Carter and Kenny Dope there this year. If you're being booked for a club that usually has house DJs on, does that affect how you approach the gig, or do you always turn up and do your thing, representing your true sound?

House IS my true sound. I mean, from disco up, it's all house to me! Personally, I think house means more than a 4/4 kick drum. I'd say Larry Levan is house, the Ball scene is house, Ashford & Simpson is house. It's the whole thing.

What does Liverpool mean to you, musically or otherwise?

It means, "Thomas charging through the midfield.....it's up for grabs now!" Haha, no actually the first thing that I think of is the people. I've met some wonderful folks from that part of the world, warm and funny as.

Sadly, Ornette Coleman passed away on the day I put these questions to you. Are you a fan? If so, how did you encounter his music and can you tell us about any particular pieces that have affected you?

I've never have been a big collector of jazz so I wouldn't really be the man to ask. I've come across LP's as I've been around. "Change of the Century" is the one I remembered. 

You've said many times in the past that you were a fan of The Police (the musical group, not the bizzies). Me too! Do you think Sting needed a slap back then too, or do you think he turned into a bit of a jerk because of the fame they achieved? Have you seen the Stewart Copeland film Everyone Stares? It's great! Do you think it's easy to be a fan of someone's music even if you think their opinions, lifestyle or politics outside the music suck?

I said that!? Well, I've certainly been inspired in the past by some of the stuff around the "Voices Inside My Head" period. It's just got this well produced, tropical glamour to it. It's the 80s. I'm sure Sting could be a prick back then too. I saw that documentary and Stewart certainly gave that impression.

Lots of young guys these days have beards. Do you think it's slightly annoying for long time beard wearers to have all these youngsters come and jump on the beard scene they've been digging for time?

"Yeah, these nu-jack beard fakers need to step off!!" I'm about 12, 14 years in now, so I'm thinking of retiring it before I forget how I look. 

How would you advise someone who is not sure whether to come and check you out DJing because they feel unqualified, having not even heard Mark Six?

Hey, you're qualified, justified and 100% bonefide! Come say hello.

You can see Mark Seven at The Magnet for free (before 1am) for Hustle and The People's Balearic Disco on Saturday 27th June.