A veteran in the scene since way back when, Mark XTC has always been one of unsung heroes of jungle and drum and bass music and with a vast array of music and experience under his wings, it’s about time we showcased just a small proportion of his roots. Jamie links up virtually to get the details.
Your releases with Serial Killaz seem to come out of nowhere, especially the original version ‘Take Me Away’. How did this all come about? It all seemed quiet on the production front then… BAM! Assuming you have known Tobie and Graham for a while?
When Simon (Exile) was my student I always said to him he had great musical knowledge and agreed that one day we would work together, that was before he got into drum and bass. He then got deeper and deeper into the scene so I called him and said it’s time we made something, I wanted to use some of my old influences and mash them up with the sound of now, which reminded me of the old Dope Dragon style tunes.
Tobie and Graham (Serial Killaz) are great. I’ve not known them personally until now really, but when you have common interests and a history I think we just sort of understand each other. Their goals are similar to mine, where we love good music, of multiple genres and if it’s got an old school twist, we are in
The original ‘New Skool’ EP was swiftly followed up with a second serving and more recently, a VIP offering plus the amazing tune ‘Pull Up’. Was it always your intention to draw from your hardcore roots with these tracks? It’s certainly an area that was left pretty much untouched for some time.
100%, this for me is where I came from, whether it’s a classic hip hop tune, a Detroit techno style tune or of course an old school rave type tune, most of the music we make has that old school twist. I have heard many tunes with old school samples in them now so for me it’s brilliant. ‘Pull Up’ is one of my favourites that we have made, just because it has that feel of a classic jungle tune fused with the sounds of now
People often talk about the death of happy hardcore, or at least are happy to offer their opinion on it! What’s your take on it? Did it really die a death or did it evolve into something else from 2018?
I have spoken to many people about this, especially the legends of that scene such as Slipmatt & Bunter, I think they may have fallen out of love with it, I don’t really know why? There are DJ’s such as Gammer, who for me is an outstanding DJ and can mix different genres together with his scratching adding a different dimension to the music.
I have also spoken to my students who still love it and they can not understand why so many people have shunned it. The music has evolved into different styles of hardcore, which some of the breakdowns sound like drum and bass, but the following is not as big as what it used to be
On the subject of evolution, how do you think your production style will evolve going forward? Will it be more of the same alongside Exile or are you keen to step back, way back into time?
Simon has a much harder, grittier edge than me when it comes to producing music, the ‘Pull Up’ tune and a few of the new tunes we have made will show that old school jungle vibe with a hint of the gritty sound of now. I don’t think I will ever lose that rave and classic jungle sound in any track i make. I come from a rave and hip hop background and want to get that across in the music. I love to make people dance, if that’s DJing or producing music it is my end goal
I mean, it’s about time we heard some brand new Mark XTC jungle isn’t it? Maybe even linking up with some of your friends in the scene? Ray Keith for example?
That’s a great idea, I might speak to Ray and tell him you said we have to make a tune together ha ha! There are a lot of plans to create a bunch of classic sounding tunes, which myself and Simon are already working on. To work with others is a must, working with Bou was also special, he has that lovely element of BASS just built into him, we have new music coming as well. I have also started to do a few projects with Liquid (Sweet Harmony) which will be again more jungle orientated, I would love to work with lots of people, working and linking with others can only help the industry and help us all in these troubling times
You’re a teacher as well as a producer. Tell us about that! How did this side of your work life start? Was it always your ambition in life to share knowledge and educate?
My old school report from when I was at secondary school states “Mark would like to become a teacher so he can spread his knowledge and help others” that’s from over 35 years ago and my ambitions have not changed. Maybe it’s something passed down to me by my Mum as she still always strives to help others and always has. Becoming a teacher was always one of my goals even before I started DJing
What does a typical Sir Mark XTC lesson sound like? What’s in store for all those keen music producers? Do you teach any other subjects?
Ha ha ha ‘Sir” the queen has not knighted me so it’s still just Mark! In my sequencing and music creation lessons it’s mainly about structure of songs, melodies and creating drums, studio lessons are about what microphones to use when recording and setting up the mixing desk etc whereas the DJ lessons can be about how to get into the industry as well as the obvious beat-matching/ scratching techniques. I used to teach Maths as well but haven’t done for a while now
Do you have any students who made it with their music? Any real success stories that spring to mind?
Of course Mr Simon Exile! He was a music performance student that wanted to gain more knowledge about Logic X. He is extremely musically gifted and I know he was going to make it in the music industry. Niki ‘Euphonique’ was one of the best jungle and drum and bass students anyone could ask for, so enthusiastic you just know she was going to be a success story. And then there is Amine (Bou), there’s not much to say about that young man apart for when I was his DJ tutor he passed everything with excellent grades, he wanted to make jump up and dance floor music, which now he is smashing!!
We talked earlier about happy hardcore but didn’t really touch on the roots of the scene. Here’s a selection of classics from the early era. Any memories attached to any? Give us your tune review of these in 2020 from a teaching perspective if you like!
The Untouchables – Don’t Be Afraid (Roachman Remix)
This tune reminds me of the Edge in Coventry, the amen tearout tunes which Tango, Doc Scott, Grooverider, Carl Cox, Slipmatt and Ratty plus many more made classics
Coolhand Flex – Lock Me Up
Wow, any Coolhand Flex tune just reminds me of chilling in De Underground Records with Randall
And one from a little bit further along the timeline
Mercurial – Feel The Energy
These are the tunes that changed a generation, this was just before the jungle and happy hardcore split, most tracks like this and SYkick ‘Terrorize’ and ‘The Slammer’ by DJ Red Alert were being played by everyone at raves such as Fantazia, Mythology, Obsession etc
Arrangement is still key, even to this day but do you find that this was far more complex and interesting back in the day? Every minute or so tracks twist and turn into different dimensions and styles. Was not really knowing what we were all doing, something that was such a huge positive back then?
Yes I still think arrangement and song structure is an essential part of music production, when I made the original ‘Take Me Away’ remix (XTC Come Hard mix) with the Mixfactory, I knew I wanted to start of the tune with my trademark scratching from back then into the big breakdown and come back in with the drums and bass. That’s something that I still try and implement now
arrangement and song structure is an essential part of music production
What would you class as a perfect arrangement? 16 bar intro into 64 bars or do you prefer to go deeper 32 bar intros and quicker turns after the drop?
It can depend on the song, we (myself and Simon Exile) have just finished a track which is quite nice for us, which starts off quite melodic and drops around the 33 bar mark. I have also made music in the past which doesn’t drop until the 64 bar mark. It is true most of the songs today can have short intros, straight into a big drop, so the DJ can do a double drop with the mix
What’s next in respect of your DJ sets considering everything that’s still going on? Any out of the box ideas on the horizon?
At the moment I am very lucky to be in a job that I love and can still educate and push people forward, I like many others, would love to be back on the road DJing all over the world. It feels like I have had my right arm cut off at times but we all have to stick together and keep striving for the hospitality industry to be taken seriously. I miss DJing in front of people so much I can not describe it. I want to create an album, not just drum and bass but all of my musical influences, this will be a massive project and will have to speak to many people to get them all on board
Label wise, what’s the plan for 2021? Are you starting any new projects? Can anyone submit music for consideration? That’s if you’re planning on releasing tunes under your brand!
I’m not really looking to start a label or anything like that but I do admire what King of the Rollers and Born on road have done. They have set up a collective, which works. Working together is key and if you all go in the same direction it works even better. I still have goals, to have a release on V, Metalheadz and Souped Up would be a great start to 2021
Finally – private tuition, is this an option for people looking at learning more about music from you?
If I had the time it’s something I would love to do as one to one tuition is brilliant, but with my home and family life as well as work it’s almost impossible, Simon and Amine are ,however doing one to one tuition for music production and I am lucky enough to be a part of an online DJ Mentoring service called MYDJHUB put together by Slipmatt, Terry Hooligan and myself where we try and cater for all aspects of DJ technology, directed at up and coming DJs as well as the more experienced
Big shouts to my Mum, my Wife, my girls, Fleck, Simon Exile, Bou, Tonn Piper, Wilf Prophecy, Trigga, all at Serial killaz, Tobie, Graham, Slip Back In Time crew, Unity In the Sun crew, MYDJHUB, TMC, Sappo and all the Manchester D&B family, Randal, Ray Keith, Andy C and all the south side D&B crew… Lets all keep pushing forward to the best of our abilities!
Want more from Mark XTC…
Get even more Mark XTC information in this video interview hosted by Jamie