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Festival Chat: Mark Fanciulli at The Social Festival

Stephen Hunt October 21, 2017
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As far as creative output goes, Mark Fanciulli is one of the busiest producers currently working the UK circuit. 2017 has seen him release a sackful of material, not to mention an enviable list of studio partners. His tour diary is equally as impressive, with appearances in Canada and Asia scheduled for the Fall. And he still finds time to work behind the scenes at The Social Festival, which is where we managed to sit down with him moments before he was whisked off to undertake his North American tour – including a Birthday set scheduled in the Panther Room at New York’s infamous Output. Talking his label, his relationship with brother Nic, collaborators and, of course, The Social festival itself.

You’ve just finished opening-up The Barn arena. How was it out there?

It was great! Obviously, fabric were hosting, so it was great to work with them. They brought a fantastic Pioneer sound system with them. The acoustics were unreal. It added a lot of character to the room. I played a bit earlier than usual, so I got to dig a little deeper with some records.

I’m very lucky with this festival because I get see all my friends. People I grew up with. I’m planning on spending some time at The Stables arena, definitely. I’ve not seen Black Coffee yet. Though obviously, I’ve heard a lot. So I’m looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about! Though the forecast is looking a bit hit-and-miss, I think that outdoor setting is perfect.

So, here we are 5 Years of The Social – quite an achievement. If you could pick any highlight from the past five years, what would it be?

The one which really sticks out to me was our very first year, back in 2013. You know every year – all the times I’ve played – it’s always been exciting. But at the first one everything felt fresh. You know whenever you do something for the first time, it has that edge that can’t be replicated the second and third time you do it. It was something which was needed – something completely new. And I think the guys did a really good job of pulling it off.

And has The Social achieved everything it set out to achieve during the last five years?

I think so, yeah. Definitely. The brand that Nic and his team have put together. The town itself is where I grew-up. We’ve always been very lucky. You look at it on paper and think “oh, it’s just an average town. There’s not going to be many kids into electronic music. Far less the underground stuff”. But it’s always had a very healthy scene. And combined with people coming from London and the home counties, it’s always a great turnout.

Another good thing about the festival for me, is how each arena has been uniquely tailored. The fabric arena is more techno-orientated. When you visit The Stables it’s more house-y. The main room itself is just spectacular. So we have a good variation. It’s gonna be a great day.

Just looking at the calibre of artists who’ve played at The Social since it begun – Carl Cox several times, Seth, Richie, Carola, Sven, Loco Dice, Luciano, Jamie Jones… the list goes on. These are the A League. Is there anybody else left to book?

One artist, in particular, I would have to say is Ricardo Villalobos. He needs no introduction. I think he’d be perfect. With what we’ve done in managing to curate, in my opinion, an unrivalled line-up over the past five years across both the summer and winter editions. But in terms of artists who haven’t yet played, I think Ricardo is an act who’d work very well. And somebody who would pull a crowd.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed! So what does the future hold for The Social festival?

I believe there’s plans to continue the brand extension into overseas territories. When the Mexican & Columbian editions took place back in March of this year they were incredible. We spent an entire weekend out there. They were amazing – some of the best gigs I’ve ever played. I can’t think of any good reason why we wouldn’t want to do them again.

I went to Mexico on the Friday. The Barn arena was set-up inside a multi-storey carpark in Mexico City.

Wow.

It just felt like an illegal rave from the early 90s – it was amazing! I’d been to Mexico about a dozen times previously, but this topped them all. It was overwhelming! But in a good way. Then Columbia was equally as good. It was inside a big aircraft-like hangar, which was great. And then even the after hours took place on a smaller hangar at a nearby airfield. So it was an all-round perfect weekend. I imagine we’ll do more, for sure.

From one labour of love to another, how’s things going with your label?

Really, really good, thank you. We’ve only been going since May last year, and it’s been fantastic. We’ve had a monthly radio show since the start of summer. We’ve invited my inspirations, my friends – all-in-all some really heavyweight guys do it. Guys like Carlo Lio, Nexus 21, Truncate, Slam. And we’ve even managed to throw our first event, too, at The Waiting Rooms in Stoke Newington with Boxia. We wanted to do an intimate party, and I think we succeeded. It’s only got a capacity of about 100. It was a reflection of the label really. The name ‘Between 2 Points’ is house to techno. It reflects what I play, what I make. It sounded like that on the night. And this runs through our releases.

How do you approach making tracks for your own label? Does it differ from making music for other people?

I think I’ve got a lot more freedom with what I do. I’m always myself, but I think I can be a lot more experimental with stuff on Between 2 Points. I can do what I want to do. It’s still a reflection of me. I wouldn’t just release anything for the sake of it. But it untaps another part of your creative process.

Has running your own label been a learning curve? Or have you found it an easy transition?

You know what, it’s actually been very easy. I’ve had experience running labels for a long time. I’ve been looking after Saved for years. That was my learning curve. So I transferred my skills from there. So it’s felt quite natural for me. Combined with a really good team – I’ve got a great distributor, great management – it couldn’t have gone better, really.

You and Nic have both been very successful in the industry, but you’ve taken very different paths. How is your relationship? Is there a degree of competitiveness? Do you talk to each other about ideas?

He’s very supportive. If I need advice, then he’s happy to give his opinion. And when he’s in the studio and creating something, he’ll ask what I think. We’re totally honest with each other. You know, he’s my brother. I look up to him. He’ll say if he thinks something is cool. Or suggest making some changes. You know, it’s constructive criticism.

And you’ve listened to his album we assume?

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I’m very proud of him. He’s happy with it. He’s a real workaholic. He always puts 110% in. I’m happy that he’s finished it, as I know how much effort he’s poured in. Even now, looking back I think “fuckin’ ‘ell, you’ve done a lot” Just thinking of the tracklisting. He’s done this, he’s done that. So I’m looking forward to it getting a full release. (‘My Heart’ by Nic Fanciulli is out now on My Heart)

We can’t wait to hear it! Carrying on the theme of relationships, you’re a producer who’s well known for a string of studio partnerships. Some of our favourite tracks of the year have been your and Huxley’s EPs on Moda Black. How did this hook-up come about?

I first met Huxley a few years ago. At the time, a mutual friend was managing us both. So we got introduced and encouraged to start working together. I was already a fan of his music, so it sounded like a great idea to me. I get on really well with him. And I always find our studio time productive. In our first session we got nearly 2 records finished. And since then we’ve been just as productive.

We’ve also played together B2B when he launched his label No Idea’s Original over a year ago now. So it’s been a positive relationship. When we sent out the first EP, Jaymo and Andy George were interested. I’d first met them a few years ago when I played one of their Off Sonar parties. They’re a nice pair of lads doing well for themselves. So demo got sent to them first time around. And they picked it up.

Is that quite typical?

Yeah. You meet artists at gigs and they become friends. Getting in the studio together is a natural progression from there. Another example: myself and Secondcity, we met a few years ago, at The Social actually! He said “look, we should get in the studio together”. I said “Okay, let’s do it!” So we did. We put our track ‘Everybody’ out as a free download last winter, and then we had an EP out together on Stereo Recordings in March. So yeah, you get to know somebody in the industry, and it naturally unfolds from that point.

Secondcity in the mix

Another collaboration which has been huge for you has been your studio partnership with Rob Cockerton. It’s been well-documented that Rob was a mentor to you and your brother when you were breaking into the industry. Has that dynamic changed – are you teaching him things nowadays?

From an early age he’s always been an influence. Having somebody who’s such a close friend – and who knows you so well – inside the studio is fantastic. I remember him and my brother used to take me record shopping in London when I was a teenager. Around 2000/2001. Having these two men I looked up to introducing me to music, taking me to these records stores. I was very fortunate.

We spoke earlier in the year, and decided we should get in the studio together. Because we have such a great friendship – and because of Rob’s unparalleled knowledge of music, it just all fell into place. We can be totally honest with each other, saying “yes” or “no”. He’s got all this knowledge. And he’s still teaching me ‘til this day. Even in that studio environment.

And you’ve just got a new release out on Saved with Zoo Brazil. We know a handful of his tracks from Saved, but otherwise he’s not somebody who’s really been on our radar. What can you tell us about him?

He’s been an artist I’ve been aware of for a long time. Where I look after Saved, I was handling one of his releases as label manager. And he was a real joy to work with. He was very professional. And we had a laugh. He’s been Grammy-nominated. He’s very, very talented. He approached me, and asked if we fancied hooking-up in the studio. I was like “100%!” So that’s how our relationship started.

I’ve had three separate trips to Sweden in the past year. He’s got this incredible studio in Stockholm. It’s absolutely amazing! He’s accumulated some amazing equipment. Some very old keyboards. And he’s taught me a lot in the studio – he’s been a great influence. Without wanting to come across arrogant, I believe the material we’ve made together is the best I’ve ever produced.

But not only that, he’s been a calming influence on me. I’ve probably been guilty of being too meticulous or anal in the past. But he works with a lot of outboard and a lot of audio. I’m now trying to apply those principles when I’m working in my studio. With him, the work just flows, you know? We get on very well.

The final time I went there was August. I spent a few days there. Straight in the studio – we must have got 5 or 6 records done. Joris Voorn has picked a couple of them up for Green. And he even wants to remix one. And some of those others are the ones you can find on the latest release. We just wanna carry on what we’ve been doing. We’ve got more music in the pipeline. Probably, like, an album’s worth of material.

We’ve even started DJing together. We did a gig together in Stockholm in late June/early July. There’s a venue there called Slakthuset which is located in a more industrial part of the city. It’s a really cool venue, actually. Because it’s industrial, they’ve got no sound restrictions. Zoo’s studio is nearby in the complex. Adam Beyer and Jesper Dahlbäck have theirs close-by too. It’s the perfect location. It was our first time playing together. But it was a really good crowd, and where it was summer it was still light at 3am in the morning, which was a bit surreal, but cool. So we plan to do more.

And the name?

Test Tone is a name that I came up with, but we both agreed on. From the beginning we agreed we wanted to work under an alias. We want people to know who is behind the project, but we wanted to give the project its own identity. I floated the name. We checked to see if had been used before, and it hadn’t really.

We both still want our solo careers, but this is a project we’d like to pursue more and see where it goes.

And does the studio process differ, depending on who you’re working with?

Yeah. It can do. I think some more than others. The one I noticed most drastically for myself is that I always tended to use quite a lot of equipment inside the box. I used a lot of computer-programmed soft synths. But after I went to visit Zoo Brazil for the first time, he had this array of amazing hardware. And we didn’t tend to move the audio around too much. So it had almost this live feel to it. He has this relaxed approach, which I think is audible on our productions. It still sounds great. Better!

‘Concord’ by Test Tone is out now on Saved Records and available from all good download stores.

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