Solardo Interview: It takes two

Solardo spoke to Becca Frankland about cracking the scene, putting family first and their most memorable gig to date ahead of their Parklife appearance in the summer.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 6th Feb 2017.
Originally published: 20th Sep 2016

Manchester natives Mark Richards and James Elliot only began making music together early last year. It's an epic achievement, considering the time scale, that the pair have since played elrow Barcelona, Sankeys Ibiza (to name just a few big ones) and released on some of the most established house and techno labels under their Solardo guise.

Unsurprising considering their swift success, both have backgrounds in electronic music. Mark was involved with the dubstep movement back in 2000 as MRK1 (Mark One), when the likes of Skream, Benga, Hatcha, Zed Bias, Oris Jay, Plastician and more were unknowingly creating and championing a new strain of electronic music before it was even given a genre title.

It was only when friend of 10 years James introduced Mark to mixes from the likes of Jamie Jones, Steve Lawler and Richy Ahmed that he took a shine to warmer side of dance. James, a dedicated raver with an unprecedented passion for house music continued to tell him more and more about his favoured genres, and the foundations of their musical relationship started to solidify. 

With Mark's production skills and James' house music knowledge, between them they figured out exactly what those on the dancefloor were craving, and the collaborative project began to take shape. By quite literally dedicating 8 months of their life to getting their creative approach just right, it wasn't long before industry greats started to take note. 

After a few months of tightening everything up, the duo made a track titled 'Slam Jam’, (listen above) which went on to be released on Steve Lawler's ViVA Music imprint. From there, the pair secured releases on Kerri Chandler's MadTech and Hector Couto's Roush label.

Now, with a Parklife appearance due in June this year, we've revisited our interview with the Hot Creations duo who at the time were prepping for Circus' 14th birthday on Saturday 24th September.

You guys only started making music together last year, and spent eight months slogging away in the studio. To spend that much time dedicated to it and to make such a bold move, you must have known you were onto something. What was that period like for you both?

It was all or nothing for us. We had to throw everything into to it and make sure that it worked. We didn’t think of the consequences of it not coming off and we had a positive mindset from the start. We’re great believers in the laws of attraction and positive thinking.

We never thought to ourselves, what if, or anything negative. We just believed that it could work. Mark has been producing for over 15 years and has been involved in the music scene for a long time, so it was just the case of coming up with the right formula and making it work. 

We would spend up to 17 hours in the studio everyday working on music and creating a large catalogue of tracks. We would keep going over tracks as we learnt more about the scene and tweaked them until we knew that they were right. I think we had around 60 tracks ready before we sent any out. Eventually people started to take notice and they all started to get signed. 

You've been thrust into it all pretty quickly, going from a select few dates earlier this year to an abundance of festival appearances which are now spilling into club gigs aplenty. Have you found it tricky adjusting both mentally and physically to the demand?

Mark: Not really, it's been really good fun. I was involved in the dubstep scene and have traveled a lot with that music, especially in the states so I knew what to expect. Not much sleep and a lot of travelling. It’s new to James so he’s just getting his head around it all. It can be really hard work, but if you just make the most out of down time and make sure you turn it on at gigs - it’s all good.

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It's a bit cringe throwing around the word 'hype', but it couldn't be more relevant in relation to you guys. It's not often you'll see artists breakthrough the way you have, especially after such a concentrated graft last year. Do you think that there's added pressure to deliver and keep that momentum when you know you're a hot topic at the moment?

Mark: Yeah for sure, but it’s just something that you knuckle down and deal with. We spend a lot more time on tracks now to make sure they are right before we do anything with them. When we started out we would get a track done a day, now we spend as long as what is needed to make sure we get it right. 

James: At shows we make sure we give it our all, even if we’re tired and ill we give it our everything. When people are spending money on tickets to come and see us we really appreciate it and want to make sure that they leave thinking that they have had the time of there lives. 

I noticed things really started to change after that video emerged of you guys playing B2B2B with Skream on Facebook, and now you've got the EP due out with him. I read that you've known Olli for over 15 years, has he been offering advice and supporting you guys since the get-go?

Mark: Olli and I go way back! We first met in the toilets of FWD at Plastic People when I was playing there. Olli was only 16 and was making some banging tunes that were just starting to come through.

After that we would often end up playing at the same gigs and parties all over the world. He also remixed of one of my earlier dubstep tracks called 'Plodder', which I released on my label back in the day, which smashed it for both of us. 

Once Olli moved into house and techno our paths didn’t cross as much as we were in different genres of music but we would still occasionally see each other. When we started making the Solardo music I started sending him tracks and he would give us advice - which has been priceless. And now we’re even managed by his old manager and we’re with his old agency. 

Am I right in saying you guys have your own young families? A lot of DJs who have spent their life gigging struggle to settle down, so having already done that part and then reaching this point, do you think it gives you a different outlook on the scene and how you should be approaching your work?

James: I’ve got two little girls who are my number one priority. So everything I do in music is to help set them up for the future. I like to spend as much time as possible with them during the week and try not to let my gigging effect our relationships - which I don’t feel that it does at all. They love the fact I work in music and think it's pretty cool I’m a DJ. 

You are really active on social media, and we can catch you doing live videos and Snapchats (like your takeover on our account this summer) quite regularly. Fans seem to love these platforms because they want to be there in the moment with you, how important do you think it is as an artist to get that element right these days?

Mark – We love to interact with our fans who usually end up being our friends in the end. I think people like to see what we get up to and the fact that we are just normal guys doing something that we love. Hopefully it inspires people to follow their dreams and work hard towards something that they want to do also. 

What were your early clubbing experiences in Manchester? How have you seen the city's scene change over the years? 

Mark: The first club I went to was the Hacienda when I was 15. I remember using my mum’s mascara to darker my facial hair to make it look like a mustache and goatee so I was able to get in. I also made fake ID out of leaflets that worked a treat. I remember getting in the club and shitting myself the whole time thinking I was going to get caught or beaten up. 

James: The club scene has exploded in Manchester, from there being lots of smaller events, to now loads of massive ones which people from all over the country travel to come to which is amazingly healthy for the whole music scene. People like Kaluki and The Warehouse Project have really helped form Manchester into one of the clubbing capitals of the world. 

You took over Hidden earlier this year for a Sessions party (watch above), the venue, quite like yourselves has had an epic year and has become a haven for ravers in the space of 12 months. As Manchester natives who have grown up there, what affect do you think Hidden has had on the city?

Hidden is an amazing venue that has added an underground edge to the nightlife scene in Manchester. They have had an amazing year and have some huge plans for next which will take thing up another level. The venue has just helped Manchester climb further up the rankings of best party city in the UK. 

We have to ask about Sea Sessions, everything from the concept to that teaser video has been cracking us up. How did the idea come about?

We thought it would be cool to do something different to everything else out there. We were approached about the whole concept of having a party on the boat so we thought we would give it a go. 

We did a trial run last week to see for ourselves what it’s like and we filmed a short film about it so people can learn more about what’ll be going on. We would have released it by now but we’ve had to edit it a couple of times as it was a bit too explicit in parts haha. I think it’s finished now and we should be releasing it very soon.

The whole trip is amazing though! The ship has 12 floors, three or four bars, a nightclub, a roof terrace bar, two cinemas, loads of shops, casino, arcades and three restaurants. 

You get on the ship at 4pm Friday afternoon from Newcastle and it sets sail at 5pm. You’ll have time to do a bit of shopping, go for dinner, drink in the bars and then at 10pm the club will open run through to around 4 or 5am. We’re putting a new sound system in there and taking out all of the seats and table to transform it into a rave. 

You then dock in Amsterdam at 9am where you’re taken by coach to Amsterdam Central where you can spend the day seeing the sites and cultural attractions for five hours. You then getting back to the ship and do it all again. It’s like a mini party holiday. We loved it!

Your release schedule is pretty staggering at the moment, and you're about to put an EP out on Hot Creations, it doesn't get much bigger than that. Have you been approached by a lot of other labels? How are you deciding what to run with at the moment?

Our EP on Hot Creations comes out on the 14th October which we can’t wait for. A release on Hot Creations was a target for us when we first started out and to find out Jamie Jones wanted to sign the EP was amazing. We’ve just signed another track to the label for a follow up EP and were currently in the process of finishing the B side for it. 

We’ve also got loads of offers from labels to release with them so we’re just working out what we want to do. To be honest it’s amazing as we have worked so hard for this and to now be in this position is all we ever wanted. 

Last up, what has been your favourite gig to date as Solardo and why?

We’ve had so many memorable gigs but I think our Paradise debut at elrow Barcelona was the one. We’ve never seen an atmosphere like it before and to have so much love from the Spanish market was great. We weren’t too sure if people would know us in Spain that much, but the queue to get into the room we were playing was insane.

Everyone was showing so much love it was overwhelming. Got to say a big shout to Nick Yates from Paradise and Kaluki, and also Victor from elrow for supporting and believing in us enough to book us on that show. 

You can catch Solardo at Parklife Festival in June. Tickets available below.

Check out other upcoming Solardo gigs. 

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