I have interviewed Mark aka Mashi several times and I think this was the first. It was a Q&A. He is one of the best musicians of our scene and should be treasured as such.
Mark de Clive Lowe Interview
Marc De Clive Lowe Interview by Huwston
Mark De Clive Lowe set the world on fire late last year when he released a four track EP of burning dancefloor satisfaction which heralded a new age in phuture soul-breaks and lifted the bar considerably for producers of a genre once known as Nu Jazz. Huwston jumps into the arising tide to find out why so long between the EP and album.
On the eve of the release of MdCL’s Tides Arising one question springs to mind. If the EP was such a runaway success, then why so long before unveiling the whole project to the world? Quickly assuring me that ‘business’ was the answer Mark discusses the logistics of shopping an independent release that the world may not have been commercially ready for.
‘It’s basically that my previously album was through Universal and we couldn’t agree on terms financially and stylistically, so I funded it myself. The Japan license with Columbia happened in a fifteen minute meeting – it was signed,’ he says with the degree of satisfaction you’d understand from gaining such a lucrative partnership. ‘Since then, I’ve been shopping it hard to get the ball rolling.’
Ending up with worldwide partners ABB Soul we find the album split almost fifty-fifty, equal parts on the mid tempo soul register, the other half being memorable club bangers. Was the split intentional?
‘Not really, I was just making the music for the album. Tempos are just colours to me. It was intentional that it went its own way.’
This seems like a much more musical approach to writing an album rather than just studio tinkerings (or tracks and tunes rather than songs) and indeed the results are complete and conclusive.
The album opens with the first four exposed tracks from the EP, a factor which slightly lets down fans wanting to get straight in to the new material but Mark assures, it was just how it came together sounding the best.
‘When I chose the sampler tracks those weren’t the ones I thought were the best. It was to be a snapshot of the album. ‘ In turn, he explains that those first four tracks are the best introduction to the eight pieces which follow on the long player. Therefore one could assume the album was more about reaching people other than the Djs who thrashed the first tastings in late 2004.
‘I can’t think of it in terms like that … now it’s out, it’s out, he says, discussing the usual process of releasing an album off your own back. ‘Indie labels put out the samplers then the album a few weeks later but the Tides Arising sampler was checked by a lot of heads worldwide so hopefully people would wait and it would be worth the wait.’
Worth the wait it has been but how does Mark feel knowing that Tides… has been available online in its entirety since before the four track sampler dropped?
‘I’m not sure how I feel about it. Like the first time I went on (internet file sharing site) Soulseek and saw quite number of copies of the album available to everyone. It’s like the events of history, they’re happening and there’s nothing I can do about it, I gotta deal with it. I would like to think that there’s a core of people who respect it enough and have a sort of ‘ghost dog code of honour’ who will buy the thing. In terms of the masses, if two million people bootleg the album, burn it, download it, whatever, most of the money they’re stealing isn’t mine. And if they all love it, people will come and check out the band wherever we play – music always starts live so in essence it goes back to that.’
It’s that sort of realism as an artist that is refreshing and resonates for the rest of the interview. Mark goes on to discuss how he’s trying to revive a 1970’s consciousness to what he’s doing, a trait sorely missing in a lot of today’s music. In discussing the album’s title he says:
‘The whole conscious thought process behind what the music means to me is encapsulated in that. Having the mentality and strength that a change is coming, kinda vibe. It’s like a seventies conscious lyric vibe that we could do more within the world. The lyrical vibe of the album – cos it’s a vocal album – it’s self empowering for you and for me. When I was listening to it when it was finished, purely on a lyrical tip – trying to be objective, of course – I was really like ‘yeah man there’s some good information here’.
These themes are captured more than adequately in the albums title tune and winners like Travelling Without Moving and State Of The Mental, then again, the sonics speak entirely differently of the inherent changes in Mark’s world.
‘Harmony and sonics are very underrated in the world. As far as being part of a new scene of technological advancement I would say that… less people try harder. Some people would listen to my record and say ‘it’s crazy’, not as in street vernacular but as in ‘it’s too mental’. Well, what would those people say if I played them some Ornette Coleman or Stravinsky? Basically it’s progressive beat culture. Whatever I make with music, my personality style comes through, in things like attention to detail and balances… Say (the balances) between organic and programmed musics. I’m reflecting the world I see around me.’
With such an accomplishment coming from the tips of his fingers and his ears, the comparisons to Herbie Hancock have been coming thick and fast.
‘Growing up as a jazz pianist, Herbie was one of two or three players who really inspired me, caught my ear, with a sound and style that really struck a chord within me,’ he says, though mentioning he’s never tried to emulate the man from Cantaloupe Island. ‘I really appreciate where he’s coming from, the same with people like Miles, Hendrix, George Duke, EW&F, Patrice Rushen, Creed Taylor, Jam & Lewis… plenty more!’ He continues, ‘The way I’ve developed my craft is more of a producer than a player, I think, although in the 70s Herbie certainly shaped the Headhunters sound. But if people want to make the comparison then I’m flattered.’
So take it from a man who was born in Japan, brought up in New Zealand and now calls London an adopted home: The world is a small place and a change is coming. This change is summed so nicely in Tides Arising; it’s that free spirit and need for embracing of consciousness and advancement that may just change your perception of all things soulful and Jazzy.
Tides Arising is out now through Antipodean / ABB Soul / Stomp.