MK In The House!
Coming from Detroit, Michigan DJ and producer Marc Kinchen better know to you and me as MK ,was right in the thick of the embryonic House and Techno scene in the Motor City whilst still only a teenager. After learning the ropes from living legend Kevin Saunderson he quickly forged a reputation as one of the most respected House producers around with a series of crossover hits in the early 90’s including the underground smash ‘Burning’ featuring Alana. Since then MK has gone on to work with a host of names from across the musical spectrum from the likes of fellow House artists Hot Natured to pop stars like Lana Del Rey whilst retaining his underground edge. Striking a balance between the accessible and the underground is and always will be a difficult act but it’s one MK manages seamlessly and with that in mind we’ve wondered why it took him so long to compile a mix compilation. Thus when we heard he was helming the latest Defected compilation – Defected Presents MK In The House, we thought we’d catch up with Marc to get the low down on how he came to where he is, what he has planned for the future and accidentally bursting in on fans on the toilet…
If I could take you back to the beginning and ask you what first drew you to electronic music?
I started back in 88 and I was listening to a lot of alternative and new wave music; back in the 80’s so there was a lot of heavy synth stuff and that inspired me to learn how produce. I was listening to Depeche Mode/ New Order and started off making that sort of stuff but I was living in Detroit it had a pretty big House scene so I got into that and started working with Kevin Saunderson who pretty much showed me the ropes.
Kevin Saunderson? How did you two meet?
Well I was making a record with a friend of mine for a project called Separate Minds with 2 other guys and we made a record called ‘First Base’ it was like a Techno record and Kevin heard it and he put it on a compilation album after licensing it and introduced me to my first label KMS Records. Then I met Juan, Derrick May, Carl Craig…
When you met all those guys did you have any idea just how famous they’d become not just in Detroit but globally for the movement they were starting?
Well at that time, Kevin was huge, he’d had a successful album and ‘Good Life’ was a crossover record in the States, he was the first like House or Techno guy to have mainstream success so I knew was huge already. Derrick and Juan were massive at that point too and I was like 16 at the time so for me they were particularly big but I could already tell this was something special. People like Derrick, Juan and Kevin knew the type of influence they had so they just did their own thing and they didn’t have to follow anything else so it was an interesting time to be around. Guys like Carl was a bit different as I met Carl before he’d put out his first record so I didn’t know he’d be a successful, I knew he was talented but you can’t predict that sort of success.
Do you feel extra pressure coming from a place with such a heritage in regards to electronic music?
Ah no! Not at all. I don’t really consider myself in the same in the category as those guys as they were techno innovators whereas I don’t consider myself a techno producer! I’m doing something different and have been since we worked together way back.
How did you come to be known as MK. Obviously it’s your initials but were you always known by them?
I just needed a name to put my first record out under so picked my initials MK. To be honest I’m not really into the naming of tracks and mixes and that sort of stuff so I get my friends to name stuff and that’s why they have such a crazy variety of names!
You’ve become known for your collaborative work and have worked with many, many artists over the years. Was this something you always set out to do to keep your sound fresh or did it just happen naturally?
Yeah like back in then I mainly did remixes although I did work with Kevin on Masters At Work but now there is just so much new music that I really like and enjoy getting involved with artists I want to work with, it’s just really exciting!
In The early 90’s we saw you collaborate with Alana on a couple of numbers that were hugely popular. Rumors are swirling that you may revisit the partnership, I know a lot of people would be quite keen to see you two work together…
Yeah, I mean we’ve been talking about it but I’m kinda on the fence on whether or not we should do it as I do want to reinvent ‘Burning’ on anything but if it happens it happens but if doesn’t I’m fine with it but I agree it could be cool…
Is there anybody else we’ll be seeing you working with in the immediate future?
Yeah! Duke Dumont, Eats Everything and I’ll be doing a lot with Lee Foss and Jamie Jones amongst a few others.
And are these going to be remixes or new projects?
These are new projects. I have a new project with Lee Foss and Anabel wherein we met for a few tracks and then formed our own new group called Pleasure State who’ll be making a full album.
It’s crazy how that’s happening with people starting to make groups again in electronic music after seeing so many solo artists for so long.
It reminds me of the 80’s as that’s what happened then, when producers hooked up and it made it a lot more exciting when you’re going on tour for both you and the fans.
Do you think that working in a group adds something extra to live performance?
Definitely. I mean I DJ, it’s what I do and I still find it odd people come out to see that “I’m always like wouldn’t you rather see a group?” So I’m enjoying trying to make that happen.
Now you’ve worked with a lot of mainstream pop stars on records but you’ve never been tarred with the commercial brush and received the sort of criticism in say the same way David Guetta has. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know! That’s a big question! I think it’s because I still do cool underground records too to strike a balance and even the stuff I do with people like Pitbull it’s still what I want to do. Like I mean I’m prob the only go who worked with Pitbull who didn’t do an EDM type thing. So I guess it has been by maintaining a balance and still putting out more underground House records but then again I haven’t had the same pop success that David has either or become associated with a pop track that’s known for being particularly cheesy!
There are no videos of you pretending to mix either…
Haha. Well the stuff he was doing at the beginning was pretty cool but it got more and more commercial and that’s why I think he’s getting bashed a bit at the moment. Like if I was producing Rihanna, I would be like yeah lets come over to my side of music rather than produce something that necessarily fits the radio.
Cool, well lets talk about the new compilation you’ve put together for Defected. It’s the first compilation mix you’ve ever undertaken. What took you so long?
Honestly, I wasn’t asked! No one had approached me to do one so when Defected asked me I was didn’t even know what I was supposed to be doing! Then they went through what they were looking for and I was like yeah!
Do you feel like you got the chance to express yourself more as a DJ without having a crowd to try and read a vibe from?
A little bit. I mean because I can put songs on it that might not always work in a DJ set but I still think are good songs.
Now most people know you as a producer- I’m always interested to know what peoples set ups are for their productions so what are your favorite pieces of kit?
Well I’ve been producing forever and I like a lot of convenience. Like I know that alot of analogue equipment is becoming popular again and I have a few analogue pieces but I like to make sure that anything I do I can do on my laptop, I have 3 computers that all have the same setup, the same software, the same plug-ins etc. I mean I can use anything but I find that I use the Maschine quite a lot these days. So a Maschine and my laptop man. Although I’ve bought a Jupiter 6 and own a Moog Voyager and am thinking about buying a few other pieces but it’s funny because in the 90’s I had a full studio and it cost like 200k and nowadays I can get the exact same thing for a couple of grand digitally.
Do you think the rise of digital equipment is why we’re seeing such a globalised scene in electronic music with artists coming from across the world and not just North America and Europe?
Yeah, as now it’s a lot easier for an inexperienced producer to jump in and get some software with a laptop and have a track finished the next day. So now we just see so much more music coming from everywhere.
Could you tell us about the processes that you go through when creating new music?
It’s different every time. I try to inspire myself. Sometimes I’ll just go and listen to something completely different or maybe listen to a sample, lay down some chords and then start chopping the vocals and keep going to find something I like. Oh and I clean my studio before I start work! By the end of it looks like a tornado hit it so it starts off clean!
Obviously you get to tour a lot so can you tell us where are some of your favorite places to play?
So far… Japan was really fun and I liked it a lot and London. I play London a lot but I also like it here a lot!
Have you any interesting/bizarre stories to tell from your time touring?
Yeah well there is one I def can’t talk about! But another funny thing that happened when I was Manchester when I walked into the toilet on some guy not realizing he was in there as he was wiping his ass and he got up and was like “Hey!” then he saw it was me and was like “Hey MK! Cool man! I can’t believe you walked in on me having a shit! I you weren’t MK I’d been really pissed!” That shit was hilarious. That was one of the highlights for me. Also I like to go out and mix amongst the crowd at my shows and get to meet people.
Have you ever had any problems doing that?
No not really. Like sometimes I end up taking a lot of pictures with people like in Ireland I ended up taking like 80 photographs with groups of people so spent a while just chatting to people which was cool. One of my favorite things from that night was the club had made a special MK stamp of the MK logo I have tattooed on my hand so a few people wanted photos of their stamped hands next to my tattoo!
If you could play anywhere and with anyone who would you play with?
Hmm. Probably in New York and with… I’m not sure who I’d play so it really depends on what time I was in. So honestly I don’t know… Would it be a new guy or an old guy? I just can’t decide!
Will we be seeing you playing any festivals this summer?
Yeah, I’m playing a few Eastern Electric, Hideout, Isle Of Wight and Found amongst a few others.
Do you enjoy playing festivals? I imagine it must be quite different to playing in clubs?
Yeah, I mean I played Movement last year in Detroit but the best one last year that I played was definitely Eastern Electric as it was totally unexpected as I’d never played a festival outside of Detroit and I didn’t know what to expect. It was just crazy. The turnout was unreal and the tent was packed. So that was really, really fun. I’m really looking forward to playing there again this year.
We’ve heard about several new collaborative efforts and the new compilation. What else does the future have in store for MK?
We’re gonna see a new MK album and actually and me and Lee Foss have started a production company. Kinda like the Neptunes but for dance music and we’ll be working with people like Rihanna if they’re happy to work with our style. So we’ll be doing what we do but working with pop acts who want that real electronic sound. We don’t have anything formally booked yet but that’s something we’ll be doing- introducing a more underground element to their arsenal. Somebody like Cee Lo Green…
I can imagine that working really well with his soulful vocals. I saw him at wireless years ago and was amazed by the strength of his singing.
I know right! We spoke to his A+R people and we’d love to make that. I’d also love to do a film soundtrack if the opportunity presented itself. One of the goals I had when I started out in music was to score a soundtrack to a Sci-Fi Film like a Blade Runner type thing or a cool indie sci fi. That’d be cool.
Mk’s new compilation ‘Defected Presents MK In The House‘ is available now via Defected. Check out the sampler below or buy it here