Final touches at Red Bull Studios New York

Final touches at Red Bull Studios New York

Talking about those personal connections with the performers, it sounds as though the album was largely recorded as live?

Yeah, that was important. When I do the club night and we do the live sets they’re all live – if I just press play on Ableton or Maschine, nothing happens. It’s all about programming things on the fly, in the moment, and creating things as they happen – I love that spontaneity. I guess that’s bringing the jazz mentality into the way I play electronic music, so when it came to recording the album it was the same thing: we’d have the compositional structure and probably not much of a game plan once we got past the introduction. I’d be programming the beats as we were recording, then sampling the horn players or my piano or the vocalist. It was very much a live process. I wanted to have an electronic aesthetic but also a very organic and live aspect, so the question was how to meet that in the middle. There was a little bit of post-production, mainly because if I’d left everything at full length we’d have never got it onto one album, but I really tried to retain as much of that live integrity as I could. When people come and see the live show, that’s how it happens live.

It really comes across in the timing. It’s got that human feel to it, which usually doesn’t come across in rigidly quantised electronic music.

Oh, for real. You listen to Kraftwerk and there’s nothing acoustic there but it definitely sounds human to me. I think it’s essential to have that humanity within the electronics. It’s almost a sci-fi thing: are we controlling them or are they controlling us? I think it’s really important that you hear the person through the machine.

Why do you think people always feel the need to point out your musical skills? ‘Mark de Clive-Lowe, the producer who’s also a really talented piano player…’

Kraftwerk's music definitely sounds human to me. I think it’s essential to have that humanity within the electronics.

[Laughing] Is that a rhetorical question?

No, I’m curious to hear your take on it.

Honestly, it’s because a lot of people who make electronic music aren’t musicians in the traditional sense of the word. Or they’re doing it as a reaction against their musicianship. I’ve definitely been there. Where I am right now is definitely full circle having gone through that process and re-embraced the piano on a more musical level – traditional form and function – but I’m a huge advocate for people being able to play their instruments. If the computer’s fixing everything you play and you make some amazing piece of music, then one night you’re at your friend’s house and all they have is some beat-up piano and they’re like, ‘Man, play that tune!’ and you’re like, ‘Where’s the MIDI?’ it’s sad.

Take an artist or an illustrator who works on a computer, I guarantee they’ll pick up a pencil and paper and still be able to draw. For me these things should be more normal. I know for a fact through my own process that for any artist who wants to evolve beyond their wildest dreams it’s about learning about music on a traditional level.

What was your own reaction against your musicianship?

When I moved to London in 1998 I became a complete Judas to the piano and to jazz music. If I was hired for a session and the producer wanted piano on the track I wouldn’t allow it. If someone called me up to play a trio gig I’d refuse. I was running away from the instrument that I grew up playing and the idiom that I passionately followed when I was younger. It was a conscious desire to deconstruct the learned musician – I wanted to create on a more instinctual and visceral level rather than from an educated point of view. I wanted to unlearn the rules so that I could react to something and do something because it felt good rather than the rules said it would work.

DJing actually helped me with that as well. You can have two different tracks in the mix, creating this whole other sound, and yet sometimes if you look at them theoretically maybe they shouldn’t work together. That whole idea really excited me. I guess it was a matter of turning my back on one thing in order to be open to another. Then I was seeing people from Lemon D and Dillinja to IG Culture, Bugz In The Attic, DJ Spinna making this amazing music using samples and drum machines and they weren’t trained musicians. That blew my mind. At the same time you had all these music students regurgitating the past without pushing it forward, so to me it was kind of obvious what I had to do.

I became a complete Judas to the piano and jazz. If a producer wanted piano on a track I wouldn’t allow it. If someone called me up to play a trio gig I’d refuse.

So it was really a long process of finding your feet as an artist?

Yeah, absolutely. It was about accepting what I grew up doing and how I evolved as a producer, then bringing that all back into one picture together.

How do you look back on those broken beat days now?

Before it became a genre it was just an ethos. It was the same spirit that I love in A Tribe Called Quest, Quincy Jones, Parliament-Funkadelic, D’Angelo, Marvin Gaye, whatever. To me there’s a thread which runs through all that music, and that’s what it had. That’s what I want to retain more than anything. There’s a track on the album called ‘Brukstep’ which is definitely a head nod to that kind of time.

Those who know know that it affected and influenced and inspired so much other music. There’s a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have today, from most bass music to Calvin Harris. It wouldn’t exist today without that music. I don’t think the wider listener knows – and they don’t need to know – but I know that and it’s amazing to have been part of a community which contributed on such a fundamental level to the progress of music in that way.


CHURCH is out now on CD and digital, with a vinyl release to follow this month. Find Mark on MdCL.tvFacebook, Twitter and SoundCloud.

4th July, 2014


  • @MdCL

    Honestly….will you be stuck forever in that Broken-Beat-Jazz-Chords-With-Rhodes-Soul thing ? Like, really ? I mean i really appreciated your music in like the 90s or whenever that was again when BB had its moment and that was cool but what about the fact it’s 2014 ? What about broadening your horizons ? Are you fooling yourself into thinking you ARE in fact developing as an artist ? Sorry, but just listening to these 2 minutes of the “now or Never” trailer makes me feel uncomfortable because it sounds like as if neo soul and jazz house were still the shit.You know, like pretending nothing new has happend in the music world in the last decade.Someone got to let you know that the Rhodes retro cult is long gone.Please.Listen to some new music.

  • @Frank wtf are you on about…. I like his music right now in 2014. As a matter of fact Frank name some new music that is so much better. Im pretty sure your gonna get some backlash as soon as you point us at what ever music its is that you feel is so much more 2014. …… and if you say dubstep Im going to rofl.

  • come on Frank, your trolling bro

  • – Jesse Boykins III
    – Toro y moi
    – Blood Orange
    – The Internet
    – Soulection (basically thier whole roster)
    – Junge (the band, not the genre)
    – Dam Funk (70s-ish but in a modern way)
    – Freddie Joachim
    – Esta
    – Machinedrum
    – JMSN
    – Phazz
    – Jai Paul
    – Sango
    – Roughsoul

    Just from the top of my head.Of course you might not like all or any of them, but it’s just to show you can be soul/funk/r&b influenced and still have a unique sound that doesn’t sound dated or or like stuck a decade ago.

    It’s all good though, to each their own.I was just disappointed MdCL doesn’t seem to be interest to develop his sound any further.Was even at his last concert in Hamburg (Mojo Club) but that was the first time it hit me because i couldn’t believe he was doing the same thing he did 10 years ago.

  • That’s “Jungle” of course, not “Junge”.

  • @Frank – interesting ideas and def a little OTT. funny tho, almost every one of those artists you list considers MdCL to be a creative leader. he’s also doing a lot of different things – from soulful house to acoustic live band stuff and plenty more. just found this – who else does full live production on the fly ?? improvised soundtrack sickness

  • @JK

    In all honesty i compiled that list not only to backup my claims (sort of) but also to provide some inspiration to MdCL should he ever come across this post (who knows).

    My point:

    I do acknowledge and respect his skills as a piano player as well as his undeniable abilities as a live performer especially with his unique way of building up a whole track live with the MPC, Maschine and whatnot.I always thought that was unique and i don’t deny that.


    The problem lies exactly herein, the focus on the performance / production aspect.What i mean by that is that sure it’s interesting to see how things are built up, no matter the MPC or the acoustic live band way.But that’s still just the box or the way you got there, but not the CONTENT.

    The content is the MUSIC itself.You can’t substitute content with form.In other words, the music should come first, be the main focus and how you got there (through intersting things like live looping or a band or wahtever) should be a secondary matter.

    Of what use is skilled jugglery with technical equipment (or piano ivories for that matter) if the music itself is just mediocre ? In the end, if the music isn’t that great, all jugglery doesn’t count.

    Same problem i see with Jeremy Ellis: His NI Maschine product demos are nice flashings of his skills as a finger drummer but they tell you zilch about the actual product and his own music really is just average.Sure, you can respect him for his finger drumming, but nice technical skills doesn’t automatically equal to great music.It’s just ONE way (of many other potential ways) to get there but makes no sense if the end result (the music) doesn’t live up to your technical skills.

    Uhm,,,rant over.


  • @Frank – that’s more of a reasonable reply than your first post – now we’re getting into conversation. i see what you’re getting at but i disagree that he uses the form to substitute the content. checking out the new album and i’m just not hearing your criticism –

    – on Sketch for Miguel i hear a composer’s crafting. on Distractions i hear so much content AND form. loving that 🙂 oh yeah, and on Hollow i hear that rhodes you have such a problem with. but man, is it so beautiful and perfect in that context.

    btw, going back to your artist list – dam funk and MdCL have collaborated – on DF’s stone’s throw album. and as for DF, he’s strictly 80s, not 70s as you noted.

    personally, i’d recommend checking out MdCL with his live band 🙂 i can’t speak for the gig you said you saw but i know what i’ve seen and there’s so much music and content going on it’s mind bending


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