Mark Henning is a true pioneer – and an undoubted purist when it comes to techno and its associated culture. He also boasts a very proud bond with the heavyweight imprint Soma, where he has just produced another fine installment for the Glaswegian outfit. With the Blackout EP having just dropped, we decided it a good time to catch up with the German producer, as he explained the ethos behind the EP, his production values and his upcoming show this weekend at Egg London for Night Train…
So…you’re back on Soma with the Blackout EP. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the track?
I usually work on tracks on and off for many weeks/months but this didn’t take me long. I was actually just playing around with my Cirklon hardware sequencer and I just happened to hook it up to my old bass station and voila, after about 15 minutes I came up with the main riff.
When writing music for an imprint like Soma, is the pressure on with it being such an iconic label?
Not any more than on any other release I work on. Once the label has told me that they want to put out the release I’m confident in the record.
It must be great to be part of one the leading techno labels, though?
Definitely, I’m really happy to be part of the Soma family. It’s always a pleasure to meet up with the guys and play at their parties at the Arches or T In The Park for example.
It’s reported that you only (and I’m using that term loosely) used a 909, Super Bass Station and and a Jupiter 6 synthersizer on the track. Is that true?
Sure. Aside from the sequencing (done with the Cirklon), a little FX and the vocal in Blackout, both tracks were written purely with those 3 bits of kit. Jack & Jill was actually a ‘1 take’ track. I recorded it twice and picked my favourite jam.
What do you like about those tools upon creating this track?
Well, it’s really about the immediacy of jamming with those pieces of gear…every parameter has its own knob – there’s no menu diving. It’s just me dancing in my studio turning knobs and programming sequences with actual physical buttons. In my eyes it’s techno in its purist form. I’d love to take this concept to the club as a live PA but it’s tricky…so many different pieces of gear to think about!
I see you did a special mix on the radio show. How was that? How did you pick the tracks?
It was fun. It’s on a techno tip as opposed to a mixture of mostly house and techno which I usually play out. I started off digging through my old techno records and went from there. I included some older tracks such as the Killa Bite record as well as some newer tunes.
Is it different than playing out? Did you organize the music or did you just go with the flow?
Not really. There is some pre-selection of tracks (into a playlist on my CDJs and some record digging), but then I just mix for a few hours. Sometimes it works first time, other times it takes me a little while to get it to flow as I want it to. I certainly don’t put it together piece by piece in Ableton as that would take all the magic away for me.
Obviously hardware is a bag factor for you, are you a fan of computer technology now? Or are you against how easy it is now to become a ‘producer’ in this day and age?
I’m a fan of both. Hardware is fun because of its tactile nature, but it doesn’t always necessarily sound better. All my fx are currently software based as I simply don’t have the room in my studio for going the hardware route. A good producer still needs a good ear and skills to put together good tracks on a laptop so I’m not really against the technology. I myself used only Fruityloops and a computer for the first 8 years of my music making. Also the invention of hardware controllers like Ableton Push and NI’s Maschine are blurring the lines between software and hardware. Both are very ‘hands on’.
Moving on to your gigs, we see you at Egg London soon. How does London figure in the modern dance culture for you?
I think that it will always be an important stop on any DJ’s travels. It’s nice to see the Egg is still holding its own over the years against the likes of Fabric.
What can we expect from your show?
A tidy selection of house and techno I hope. You’d better ask the punters once I’m done! A few new tracks I’m working on for sure.
What are your plans for 2014, any new music pipeline or special gigs we can look out for?
In March the 2nd release on my new label Swing will be out… another 2 tracks from myself. Also I’m hoping to launch a new side project at some point in the year. On the gigs front I’m going back to Australia for the 3rd time in February – looking forward to that!