A DJ/Producer in high demand, Mark Farina, managed to find a moment to break away and share with us some of his experiences and thoughts.
DJ Michelle Mai
on Tue May 3, 2005
Talk about the countless hours spent either on the way to hear him play, dancing to his music, and/or listening to his CDs at home or in my car.
This man has simultaneously helped open minds to new music and bodies burn calories on the dance floor. World renowned beat-head, Mark Farina, is among most of the highly demanded DJs and producers around on the electronic music scene, performing hundreds of gigs a year and packing every venue he plays. Mark graciously found a moment to break away and share with us some of his experiences and
"I was a soccer player. I thought I was going to take that route." Ha! Famous last words.
Traveling the world as a DJ since the early 90's Mark has developed two unique styles of music, both of which have been highly acclaimed. First and foremost, there's the deep, funky, "umphy" (that he so perfectly coins it) house music, recognized on practically every dancefloor on the planet. Then, there's the unique downtempo sound he created and called "Mushroom Jazz." Set to be released in March of 2005, Mushroom Jazz 5 is not surprisingly getting fantastic reviews by critics and music lovers all around. Beginning with the success of 1996's first installment of the Mushroom Jazz series, Farina has been able to attract a worldwide religious following to the sound and the man behind it. A man inspired by all different styles of music and the ability to creatively bring them together for people of all walks to enjoy. "I was into the Cure, Smiths, The The, Ministry, Depeche Mode. I was also into a lot of punk stuff early on. Early U2, Yellow, Kraftwerk. The Police were a big influence. Neil Perk. I was a big Rush fan too."
It was early on in his DJ career that Mark began fusing ideas for his unique vision of after-party music. "I used to go to NY back then and hear DJs play hip-hop and downtempo and felt like I could do that too. The early De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest stuff, and music along those lines inspired me because it wasn't being played in a lot of places. And when people would play downtempo, they wouldn't really mix it. Mushroom Jazz style is a housey mixing style applied to downtempo. I wanted something more mixed and crazy. I just decided to play something a little different and it turned into a mixed tape."
Little did Mark know, his instinctual innovative synthesis of mixing
styles and music would become so popular amongst music connoisseurs.
Quickly gaining ground as a fixture at various loft-parties and lounge
style B rooms allowed Farina to begin his legacy as the mind behind
Mushroom Jazz. Taking his cue from early Talking Loud and various other acid jazz labels, and artists from Young Disciples and Galliano to
underground hip-hop geniuses, Mark nurtured and cultivated this new
Like many of the up-and-coming DJs around the world, Mark's roots stem from the hard work and dedication common in the quest to share their passion with others. "I played trumpet for many years. Then I played drums in a cover band throughout high school. Eventually we started using a drum machine and were one of the only bands that didn't have a drummer. We went futuristic."
True to his music and communal efforts to create quality parties with good beats and good people, Mark as well as other well-known house music masters put on a number of smaller shows for friends and music lovers to gather and enjoy. "Derek (Carter), Gemini and myself use to do stuff together?all DJs had their own parties and crews in Chicago. We'd call them ?loft parties' and they'd be like $5 to get in and there'd be a keg of beer there. Each weekend it would be someone else's loft. They'd just push all their furniture aside and throw a party."
While times have changed and the methods have somewhat
evolved, Farina understands better than anyone the upward climb towards the professional DJ circuit. While mentioning how back in the day, you'd have to submit your mixtapes, rent/bring your own equipment and try out for the club gigs, he recognizes how competitive it is for today's up and comers. His suggestions include recording live sets, making regular demos as well as distributing them to everyone including other djs. "Ultimately, it's probably going to be another dj who is going to recommend you to a gig." Mark also recommends music
production, "If you can also get a good track out here and there like
the kind of music you like playing?that would be really good. It's
definitely harder if you don't have tracks."
With years of production under Farina's belt he still
favors creating music with synthesizers, drum machines and outboard
gear. After working in many studios, he finds creativity takes
precedence over the gear. It's the abundance of gear and software out
these days that sometimes brings producers to overproduce a track. "I
find for me the best stuff is on the simpler side. Just don't over do
it, sometimes you can ruin stuff." It's tracks by artists like
Greenskeepers, East Coast Boogiemen, Lawnchair Generals, Joey Youngman,
J.T. Donaldson, Olivier Desmet, Jason Hodges, Bobby Bounce, Tony Hewitt
and Vibezelect that are tickling his turntables these days.
Constantly traveling to spread his music manifesto
since the early ?90s, Mark has seen and experienced many different
cultures and their local music scenes. His popularity has taken him to
destinations the world over, but there are a select few that he
mentioned as happening spots outside the U.S. The ones that couldn't
help but immediately roll of his tongue were Canada ("They've got a
really strong club scene, I've always found it healthy up there"),
Belgium ("That's actually one of my favorite countries. They've had
such a good electronic history"), New Zealand and Australia, the U.K.
("of course they have a healthy house scene"), and, with their
energetic response, Japan ("They were really into California and
Chicago house and they're not really knowledgeable on it so it's
We got to talk a bit about how the following behind
house music has seemed to plateau since the earlier party days and he
gave me a few reasons, from his travelers' point of view, why he
thought this might be. "I would say part of it is that it's harder for
all ages to have access to electronica, especially in America." He
pointed out how other countries have a lot more younger kids into house
music due to the absence of a 21 year old age limit at the quality
parties that they have going on. Farina also recognized the evolution
and pattern of music trends happening globally as well, noting that he
sees some kids are getting back into rock again while also recognizing
the electronic music subgenres are increasing with the wealth of
knowledge of music accessible to the public.
In short, for those who have followed Farina over the
course of his highly successful career, you might have noticed how it
was his natural talent combined with hours of hard work and dedication
which got him recognized in the national house community. Although it
is not just those qualities that took him to the next level of his
success, as one of the most humble artists I know out there, it is no
question that Farina's mature music mentality and down-to-earth
appreciation for all different rhythms have helped lift him to his much
deserved global superstar status.
All hail the ambassador.
Check out Mushroom Jazz 5, an Om Records release due
out March 22.
Originally published in WAV Magazine - Progressive Music Art Politics Culture. Photo credit: Eric Coleman.