ITAM Exclusive Interview with Mark Knight
Revealing the mind of the man behind Toolroom Records
Mark Knight needs no introduction. Not only is his name respected throughout the industry, but it’s also one of the most sought after around the world. He is one of the leading pioneers in dance music culture and has proven it with his resume of incredible accomplishments.
Celebrating their 10th year and the success of being the biggest selling label on Beatport, Toolroom Records is one of the most dominating labels in the industry with a roster filled with the creme-de-la-créme of artists such as Deadmau5, Dirty South, Funkagenda, Michael Woods and Pete Tong, these are just a handful of the 65+ talented artists they have signed.
Not only is Toolroom Records one of the most premiere labels in the business, but they have gained unrivaled success for throwing some of the most superior club events globally, from Ministry of Sound London, Pacha New York, to becoming a major event in festivals such as SW4 London, Global Gathering UK, and Dance Valley Netherlands.
Mark created a staple in the dance music industry with Toolroom Records and he is also a wildly talented producer, creating tracks that have echoed on dance floors around the world. With productions such as “Man With the Red Face,” “Downpipe,” and “Devil Walking,” Mark clearly proves his ability to create a fresh sound that touches party-goers souls. He is globally recognized for throwing down seven hour sets as he headlines festivals around the world. He was also nominated in 2010 for his work on the Black Eyed Peas’ multi-platinum album ‘The End,’ received an IDMA nomination for his Toolroom Knights weekly radio show, and obtained an illustrious award from Beatport for his single “Good Times.”
We had the utmost honor of interviewing Mark before his sold-out show at Lure in Hollywood. Not only was he incredibly insightful with his answers, but was one of the most humble and kind-hearted individuals either of us have ever had the pleasure of interviewing.
Check out INTO THE AM’s exclusive interview with the Mark Knight:
ITAM: Do you have an instant connection to the music when you first hear artists you are thinking about signing?
MK: Well yeah, it’s like anybody who goes into a record store back in the day. You go into the record store and you listen to an album and after five seconds you know if its good or not. You can feel it. Like anything in music it’s a feeling isn’t it? No matter what level of involvement you have with music you know if something works for you, don’t you? Coming back to Toolroom, after that point you then look at it from a broader perspective: what sort of artist are they? Are they an established artist? Where are they located? Because unfortunately, music is not all of it but rather a percentage when signing an artist. The amount of sales rely on the artist’s profile, their reception to the audience and so on because it is very difficult to break in an artist these days. Obviously you need to understand their fundamentals in music but then you gotta look at where they are within the industry and we make a decision based on that. But in the end you really just get that feeling about certain artists. If you hear a record on the radio you know very quickly whether you like it or not and whether or not you are going to change the channel.
ITAM: Going off of that, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins in a recent interview said that artist development is dead. Do you agree with that or do you believe that it is still possible with the evolving music industry?
MK: Oh it’s absolutely still possible today. You have to actually. It just takes times. The common misconception is we get these overnight superstars like reality tv shows. This year for us at Toolroom artist development is very relevant in our plans. We are 10 years old this year. Initially it was all about artist development- finding people and helping them grow. This is now a very significant time for us to get back to that idea as we move forward. And it’s not only about the fundamentals of their music, things like personability come into play. You are the pied piper as a DJ so you need to be.
ITAM: Toolroom Records found a lot of success in a relatively short amount of time. Did the rapid success ever seem overwhelming?
MK: We have had a fairly structured approach so we have been able to man the ship. So its never felt drowning its felt more structured and filled with annual objectives to allow us to continue to move forward. In the next 10 years we want to expand but also like we said we want to go back to basics with the artists so that we can remain in the same spot we are 10 years from now.
ITAM:What’s been your best ToolRoom Knights experience?
MK: I think Brixton. It was a real moment for us. It wasn’t a club show it was a concert. So to sell that many tickets spoke volumes to how we were doing.
ITAM: If you could play a back-to-back set with any artist, dead or alive, at a Toolroom Knights installment who would it be and why?
MK: I would love to go back with Louis Vega. He’s just a real hero of mine. He’s pretty cool guy.
ITAM: On January 13th, you were tweeting off the tarmac
@djmarkknight Now all off the plane... Come on LAN sort your shiz out!
@djmarkknight Delayed....Please let me make the connection in Sao Paulo ;-(
@djmarkknight Come on LAN your taking the piss now...
@djmarkknight Well... I made the connection by ten minutes so happy day. Next stop Blighty!... Is it snowing yet ?
ITAM: Clearly life on the road is stressful to say the least, how do you deal with the constant variables that are thrown at you jet-setting from one destination to the next?
MK:Well you know that’s what we are getting paid for. Anybody can rock a packed club when everything is going your way. That’s fairly easy. We are getting paid to travel and never sleep. I’ve tried to keep relaxed about it over time since you can’t do anything about it. It’s tough obviously at the same time because you can’t do anything about it when people are waiting for you.
ITAM: What do you think the two hardest things are about being a DJ?
MK: Two things- traveling and trying to balance a family life. It’s so hard to maintain that second part. I try to spend as much time with my family as I can. I’ll take Tuesdays off just to spend time with them and especially my son. He’s only 18 months. Hopefully he will look up to me and think I’ve done something cool. As much I love DJ’ing I would drop it all at any point that my son or my family needs me. My priority right now is to support them and give him good opportunities in life.
ITAM: Your productions seem to be both either dark, ominous and groovy or uplifting and funky, where do these works collide?
MK: When you go to the studio you have a visual plan really. The most important part is the idea. People say to me, ‘Can you give me advice on producing?’ and I can only respond with, ‘Have a good *&$#%^ idea’ because its central. I often try to think about where it would be positioned: Is it at a festival? A Club? A warm up set style record? Extensively you want a whole canvas of music so you can ideally do say a 12 hour set no problem. Being able to go through a journey of different sounds. The idea of DJ’ing is going through those different feelings, emotions and sounds and when at what point in the night you would play it.
ITAM: Mark, are you ready for a speed round?
MK: Of course!
ITAM: Manchester United or Arsenal?
MK: Man U
ITAM: Coffee or Tea?
MK: Tea 100%
ITAM: Fish & Chips or Sheppards Pie?
MK: Sheppards Pie
ITAM: Football or Cricket?
ITAM: Favorite Beer
ITAM: Thank you so much Mark for taking the time for this interview.
MK: Thank you!
It's often said to leave fantasies alive when you're hopeful to meet your icon. Mark Knight not only lived up to his expectations as a musical genius, but he blew us away with his grounded and humble nature. And as celebriality enters the EDM world it is truly refreshing to see someone as large (or larger than life really) as Mark Knight understand his roots. This industry deserves more individuals like the man behind Toolroom.
Words by Conor Systrom and Chantal Govashiri