We grab MK for an in-depth chat about being lured back into dance music by Jamie Jones and Lee Foss, the future of retro house and why he only wants to listen to talk radio after a day in the studio.
Marc Kinchen has been on our interview hit list since the moment we launched Attack. This is a producer whose first releases over twenty years ago helped define the sound of house music as we now know it. Those same tracks – the likes of ‘Burning’, ‘Always’, ‘Love Changes’ and his ubiquitous remixes of the Nightcrawlers’ ‘Push The Feeling On’ and the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ – have become so ingrained in the canon of house music that they’re still played to this day.
You could easily argue that MK’s early 90s production style is currently more in vogue than ever. Having been lured out of self-imposed exile by Jamie Jones, Lee Foss and their Hot Creations crew, Marc finds himself back in a house scene where his influence is inescapable – from the likes of underground heroes Bicep and Huxley right up to the top of the charts with Disclosure and Duke Dumont.
MK destroys the cliche of the producer who lives and breathes dance music. He openly admits that he gave up on house in 1996, when he moved to LA to work for Will Smith and produce pop hits for the likes of Rihanna, Jay-Z, Pitbull and Snoop Dogg. Finally, a decade and a half later, he’s come home.
We managed to catch Marc at his London hotel between DJ gigs in Milan and Manchester for a chat about what modern producers can learn from his 90s production techniques, the new approach he took for his contribution to Defected’s In The House mix series, and why Hot Creations booked him to DJ at their party without realising that he didn’t actually know how to DJ.
Attack: So you were pretty much off the radar for over a decade as far as house music was concerned. For those who don’t know the story can fill us in?
Marc Kinchen: Around ’96 the scene started to slow down in New York a little bit. The sound started to change and what labels wanted from me started getting boring. I was dealing with a lot of major label remixes. They knew that this Nightcrawlers record I did was huge and they wanted every mix to kind of feel like that. If I turned in something that I thought was dope, they’d say, ‘Well it doesn’t sound like Nightcrawlers, though.’ I started getting a lot of that. I wanted to be this big Quincy Jones type of producer anyway, so I figured I should step away from dance and try to do more mainstream stuff. I wanted to be that producer who everybody goes to and pays $80,000 a track. Doing house music wasn’t going to get me there, as far as what I thought back then. I didn’t know how big dance music was going to be.
I decided to focus on writing songs and doing tracks that would bring in money forever. I ended up hooking up with Jay Brown, who’s with Jay-Z right now. Jay managed me for a couple of years and got me on all the right projects. That’s how I ended up working with Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and a bunch of big artists straight away. But then, you know, the grass is always greener on the other side. So once I got to the other side I’m like, ‘Ohhh, this isn’t that fun!’ When the dance thing started coming back in my direction, the time was right. The sound started getting back to where I could jump back in and at least try to fit in. That’s kind of where it turned.
“I wanted to be that producer who everybody goes to and pays $80,000 a track.”
It’s funny that you talk about fitting in because the kind of sound that you were doing back in ’96 has come back around all over again. It must feel kind of like coming back home for you?
Yeah, it’s weird. I don’t know what was being played after I left but when I came back the sound was my thing. So it’s almost like I’ve been stuck in a tomb for a while. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK. This is cool. This is just where I left off. I can still use my old equipment!’
You didn’t keep up with house while you were working on other stuff?
Not at all. It’s funny because a couple of years ago Jamie Jones and Lee Foss dug me up. They obviously knew who I was and they assumed that I was kind of just hanging around. They asked me to DJ at a Hot Creations party with them. This was in 2010, I think. I had no idea who they were. My manager, Marcy, told me they were really cool and that I should do it. That was kind of my foot back into it from the 90s. It feels like I’ve been in a coma.
So it just felt right straight away?
It took me a good year just to kind of get the rust off and start to be current with what’s being played again, production-wise. After that first year I felt right at home.
And you’ve worked quite a lot with the Hot Creations guys over the last couple of years?
It’s been really good. After I did that party with them they told me they had a new single coming out called ‘Forward Motion’ and they wanted me to remix it. I don’t think I listened to the stems for like four or five months. Like I said, when they asked me I didn’t even know who they were. So then by the time the summer came around, the song came out. I was even playing the song. Then I looked back at my stems and I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is the song they wanted me to remix. This is a really cool song!’ Because the original’s so great I wanted to do a mix which did the original justice. From that point we built a relationship. Lee lives in LA and London so I spend a lot of time with Lee in LA, then whenever I come to London I hang out with Jamie and we work on music.
“Jamie Jones and Lee Foss asked me to DJ at a Hot Creations party. I had no idea who they were.”
So you’ve worked on the Hot Natured album too?
I just go to Jamie’s and Lee’s and work on music without knowing what it’s for. It’s potentially for the Hot Natured album but I don’t know what I did that’s on there. I know I have songs with them. Lee and I work a lot together. I think we’ve done about four projects together. We worked on the EP with Anabel Englund, then we decided to start a group called Pleasure State, which is the three of us. We’re excited about that one. We all have our input. Anabel’s a great vocalist. Lee is actually really focussing on the lyrics. I’m more the production guy, and Lee puts his input in.
Is it easy to share those roles in the studio or do you find that you want to take over and do things your way?
With certain other people it may be hard to do but with Lee I respect him so much. If he says, ‘MK, maybe you should change that patch to this sound?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ We never ever bump heads.
Do you feel like you’re learning from him too?
Yeah, because he’s been DJing so long. I’ve been in the pop world so I know that side and Lee knows the dance side really, really well.