US House music don Marc Kinchen, aka MK, has been producing hit tracks since the early 90’s. Hitting number 1 in the US dance charts in both 1993 and 1994 with ‘Always’ and ‘Love Changes’, high profile productions and remixes for the likes of Celine Dion and Pet Shop Boys swiftly followed. With strong influences from his Detroit roots and peers such as Kevin Saunderson, the MK resurgence over the last year has seen Marc tour the globe extensively, pushing his upbeat house sound to the frontier of the scene with strong releases on the likes of Hot Creations, Defected and KMS. Here, Marc catches up with MEOKO to talk technology, tunes and Detroit.
Hi Marc, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to speak with us…
Before we start, I should say I’ve attended some of your latest gigs in London and have become a big fan of your sound. Do you enjoy your London gigs as much as we do?
I have to say that coming to London has been an incredible highlight in my life, the fans have welcomed me with an openness and warmth that has made me feel very much at home. They are incredibly enthusiastic and that energy is kinetic!
Your latest venture ‘Defected – Mk In The House Mix’ is a proper straight up dance floor friendly house music mix. Does it represent the MK sound and philosophy of 2013?
I tried to make it the collection so it would be diverse and groove oriented and based around some of my favorite tunes. And yes, I would agree that it is definitely a good Snapshot of my sound and vibe in 2013…
Your first releases were on local Detroit labels. Back then the city was known mostly for the more techno outings of Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Robert Hood, Underground Resistance & Jeff Mills. You’ve proven that Detroit is not only about techno and that there was space for house music too. How would you define ‘Detroit Techno’ and ‘House’?
I think that can be a question that has many answers, it depends who you ask…
For me, the history and nature of Detroit is such that it has always been the home and spawning ground for many genres ranging from jazz, funk, blues and soul, R&B, as well as being the home of the soulful sounds of Motown which, ultimately led the way to the grittier sounds of rap and hip hop that became synonymous with the streets and 8 mile.
I don’t know that I could singlehandedly define the difference for everyone else; I could only define it as far as my sound goes. For me, it is a matter of pace, bpm, use of melodies, vocals, bass and groove. They can both be very underground and they can both be more mainstream; it’s all about perspective and what your perspective is. For me, like I said it’s the groove, the vibe, the bpm and the vocals, always the vocals.
Many people don’t realise you’ve been releasing music since 1989 with your first single ‘Somebody New’ on KMS records. There are so many sub-genres of house now from when you started out; music can be like fashion, it’s always reinventing with new beats, new sounds, new trends. Which producers are really impressing you with their work right now?
Totally, there are so many people out there that I think are great and fresh, obviously, I think Jamie Jones and Lee Foss are amazing, but there is also Eats Everything, Route 94, Maya Jane Coles, Shadowchild, Skream, Duke Dumont, Hot Since 82, Beckwith, Dantiez Saunderson, so many new great producers.
Being a vinyl DJ for many years what is your opinion on the laptop DJ trend that dominates the dance music industry lately? Is it ok that some DJ’s don’t know how to use turntables, and if so should he or she call him/her self a DJ?
I can’t really say that I have a strong opinion about vinyl since I really started DJing seriously about 4 or 5 years ago and it had already pretty much changed over to digital. I know vinyl people are passionate about this but for me it has been amazing all the things that hindered me from going out and DJing are now solved because I always wanted to have the elements of my studio with me so I could mix live. Well, I got what I wished for – I get to make the music live now spontaneously if I wish, how could it be better than that? It turns DJing into a live medium.
Detroit Techno and House Music in general was always meant to be underground. Music for the mind body and soul, offering to the club or festival goer more than a couple of hours of hard, mindless, presence on a dance floor. What’s your view on the so-called ‘Electronic Dance Music’ that dominates charts, clubs and festivals worldwide?
I see it as big business coming in and needing to tag and name it so it is more sellable.
Can we consider it as part of the Electronic Music scene or is it just Pop Music, plain and simple?
It is supposed to stand for Electronic Dance Music, which in many cases crosses over to Pop, I think people are focusing on the wrong thing, I think they are really disturbed by the hijacking and the forcing of big commercial interests on their sub culture that belonged to them and now suddenly giant brands are taking hold of it and rolling it into their ad campaigns.
EDM artists and DJ’s charge ridiculous amounts of money for their appearances and often behave like they’re rock stars or much worse. Do you think that that is the right attitude and mentality for a person calling him/her self a DJ, or music should always come first?
I think music and your fans always come first, but if a promoter is making millions on selling tickets for people to come see you, it is only fair that the artist, rockstar, dj or poet get a fair cut. I don’t find any moral value in being treated unfairly, while someone else makes bank.
Are you still a Detroit resident? If not would you ever consider returning there?
I love Detroit, my mother lives there and many members of my family are still there. I moved a while back and lived in Brooklyn, New Jersey and then landed in LA. There were many more musical opportunities in LA… there still are.
LA is like London for music, so much of the business of the industry is in both hubs, even more than NY now. The sound of Detroit definitely affected my sound, Kevin Saunderson was one of my mentors, so I am totally influenced by him but also by the alternative music I always loved. Depeche Mode, Ministry, New Order were always favorite artists in my book.
What does Detroit mean to you? A city that recently became bankrupt but still remains vibrant when it comes to top quality techno music.
It makes me totally sad to see how Detroit suffers every day. The bankruptcy is a result of years of corruption and neglect, that is a whole other conversation. We could go on for days talking about it, I hear there is a great resurgence in urban farming there….. no gmo’s. As for it’s continuing vibrancy in music….I have always found that the greatest art, music, culture comes from the ruins, so this could be a rebirth all over again. So in other words, Detroit might be hurting but the music will bring it back.
Touring the world relentlessly for almost 25 years, would you like to tell us some performance highlights of your career?
It’s funny, a lot of people think I have been touring for all these years, it is actually only in the last 27 months or so that I have really done any sort of touring. Prior to that, once in a while you might see me do a gig, otherwise, I was a studio rat.
Have there been any unforgettable moments?
People singing along with me in Dublin during my set a couple of weeks ago, and the crowd getting on their knees in Ibiza and meeting Laidback Luke and him getting on his knees when he heard that I was MK. (hardly anyone knew what I looked like)
Funniest part about that day is that I had been working in the studio with Afrojack and he only knew me as Marc Kinchen. When he saw Luke get on the ground, he said, “hey luke, what are you doing?” Luke said to Afrojack, “dude this is MK,”… Afrojack said what….”I didn’t know that…Marc Kinchen is MK, you mean the real MK? We had been working together for a couple of months already when that happened. I got a major giggle out of that!
MK in the Mix is still fresh, but production-wise, what can we expect from MK in the near future?
I am working on new songs with Shadowchild, Duke Dumont, Pleasure State (which is Anabel Englund and Lee Foss), remixing Haim, Sam Smith, and a few more bits and pieces. Some big things in the works.
Do you have any London gigs scheduled before the end of the year?
Well, I am doing the big NYE show with my friends at Defected at MOS.
By Chris Kordas