True to the craft.
It’s the mantra that runs through the heart of everything Exit Records does, the mantra that is adopted by each and every producer who graces it with their music. But it’s an ethos perhaps taken on by Mark System more so than anyone else.
The sage selector is known and widely-respected deep in the underground for his quality over quantity approach, astutely crafted tracks and equally meticulously sculpted sets, which he builds in a way very few others manage to do.
His pure, methodical approach to drum & bass has been abundantly apparent throughout his entire career, but it was flaunted most clearly on his debut album, the superb Final Approach. It was arguably one of the best drum & bass LPs of 2015 and rightly cemented his position as one of the most gifted producers around.
With his quality over quantity approach, it’s perhaps not surprising that his output since then has been somewhat minimal – but that changed last week when he dropped the utterly stupendous Break Glass EP on Exit. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait.
Showcasing a grittier, more dancefloor-orientated side to his sound, it’s a release well worth checking out and a very worthy addition to his esteemed back catalogue.
We caught up with Mark to chat about the EP and to find out three things you almost definitely didn’t know about him…
Hi Mark, what’s the idea behind this EP?
The inspiration came from SP:MC. A few years ago he told me that any time he MCed for DBridge and felt the set might be getting a bit too experimental, he’d signal to him to play a Mark System tune. In an emergency they’d “break the glass”, so to speak, and play one of my tracks to get people’s attention back and straighten things up.
SP said I should call the album Break Glass for that reason but at that point I already had the Final Approach idea, so I saved the title for this EP. SP is also a talented graphic designer, so I asked him to take care of the artwork; the concept is very much his, I just wrote the music.
What’s the reaction been like so far?
It’s been really good, but then again people generally keep quiet if they don’t like something. All of the DJs I love and respect have been putting it in their sets which is great. I don’t expect everyone to like all of my music, I want it to appeal to a niche audience, to people who are into a certain sound. That’s one of the reasons I like releasing music on Exit.
You and Exit seem to match up well
Yeah we’ve always shared the same policy. I’ve always seen drum & bass music as a craft and it annoys me when a producer doesn’t treat something they’ve made as that, when it’s thrown together with no real purpose. Everything Exit stands for mirrors everything I stand for; nothing Exit releases sounds as if it’s been put together for the sake of writing a tune. All of us as artists take on that true to the craft ethos in the way we work. You can’t simply manufacture that kind of attitude.
Three things you didn’t know about Mark System
He moved to Ibiza in May as he suffers from S.A.D…
The Seasonal Affective Disorder I experience has a really detrimental impact on my productivity.
“I keep a monthly folder system on my studio computer and I’ve known for a long time that the winter month folders tend to have little new music in them. I really slow down from January onwards due to the climate in London. That’s partly why I’ve barely released anything since Final Approach. I moved to Ibiza in May to have sun all-year round, and because it’s an absolute Mecca for electronic music, of course… I’ve come here to be inspired, and hopefully it means I’ll be able to make more music as a result.”
He’s VERY particular about the way his tunes fade out…
“Beau Thomas, who masters all the music for Exit, will tell you that I have serious OCD when it comes to my mastering my music. I’ve put him through hell over the years because I’m really obsessed over how my tunes fade out. I get really particular about the way the silence plays out on pretty much every tune I’ve ever made! For example, Final Approach ends with an analogue synth fading into nothing and then there’s pretty much silence for a minute. I wanted it to fade out really organically; it’s definitely an element of OCD, even though I’m not that anal in real life… most of the time.
“I think it all started when I studied media for a year when I was younger and a guy came in to talk about mastering one day. He talked to us about fades and from that point on, my obsession with them has grown. I’m a bit like it with the end credits of a film, too. I don’t just jump up as soon as the film has finished, I’ll sit there and decompress for a bit, taking it all in.”
He’s going to release techno and house under a different alias soon…
“Currently, I actually write more house and techno than drum & bass. I tend to find that techno DJs spend time on storytelling in their sets, which I really like. I’m going to release some of the techno I’ve been making one day under the moniker ‘From’, but I’m not quite sure when just yet, I’m waiting for when the time’s right. All I’ll say for now is watch this space… I listen to a lot of Dixon and Innervisions’ output; I definitely think there are similarities between that label and Exit in their approach to music and art.
“The techno and house scene is absolutely vast. When I started exploring it, it made me realise how tiny drum & bass is in comparison, and that’s kind of its charm, it’s a really tight-knit community. House and techno is far more accessible whereas drum & bass takes a degree of trainspotting to understand what’s so special about it. You have to dig deep.”