“Ecstasy played a massive role in Dance Music history and it did more for the peace process in Northern Ireland than any politician ever did.” – Mark Craven

After being chosen by Mixmag to warm up for Techno idol Dave Clarke at the infamous Snowbombing festival in Austria, Mark has since become part of Snowbombing’s extended family and has been back to play last year in an Igloo warming up for Cassy and also represented them at the Rotterdam Street parade to crowd of over half a million.

“Mark Craven’s set leads us down a trippy, downright filthy mix of groovy minimal and techno. It is everything a DJ set should be- underground, forward thinking and technically perfect. With hints of Chicago house and Detroit techno, this lad proves he’s a proper talent waiting to be discovered. Life-affirming stuff.” (DJ MAG) ..

We spoke to the outspoken Irish DJ and promoter ahead of the very first KILtr Session party this Friday in Sydney

Hi Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with Decoded Magazine today, how are you?

I’m great thanks and a little nervous and excited about this interview though, but thank you for having me.

You are kicking off KILTR SESSIONS on July 7th at Bunk3r, though sadly a topic that has affected many in the Australian music industry, is the lock out laws, for our readers in Europe, can you talk us through the effect it has had on clubs and parties over the years, has the industry adapted and where do you see it heading?

Yes I’m really excited for our KILtR sessions launch party this week in such an amazing new venue the Bunk3r. I do wish we could stay open longer and give our guest longer sets but unfortunately we are restricted since the lock out laws have been enforced.

It all started a few year ago when some big wigs in the NSW Parliament crumbled under pressure to do something about the rise in Alcohol-fuelled violence in the city and the worrying trend of sucker punches that led to the death of Daniel Christie in Kings cross. This unprovoked attack happened around 9pm and they though by imposing a 1.30pm lock out and 3am last drinks on all venues around the city that it would solve the problem.

All venues apart from the Casino, Star city?
So the once Vibrant International City of Sydney now had a 1.30am lock out meaning you couldn’t enter a venue after this time and you couldn’t buy a drink after 3am. This had a major effect on the Sydney nigh life and so many people working in the hospitality industry lost income or even worse, their jobs. Venues had to close early as most couldn’t survive without the late nigh trade and it really hit venue owners, bartenders, doormen, waiters , chefs, promoters and DJs.

My beloved 3am-5am set time was no more.
Most people started spilling out of venues onto the streets at the same time around 3 am to try and get home but that is also the taxi change over time, so you can imagine the nightmare that was. The police and politicians try to boast that violence and serious incidents are down in areas around the city like kings X and say the lock out laws are working. This is only because the foot traffic is also down in these areas that used to be really busy at the weekends but they are now like ghost towns. The violence in surrounding areas such as Newtown has risen as human traffic has multiplied as they are outside the lock out restrictions. Violent incidents have also increased in Star City, which is exempt from the lock out laws.

So it hasn’t solved anything but merely just moved the problem elsewhere and at the same time ripping the soul out of Sydney’s nightlife. On the more positive side of things it brought everyone in the scene together and it’s still as strong as ever, people adapt.

Day, boat and Warehouse and random parties are thriving and everyone has united. We all come together at Keep Sydney Open Rally’s every few months to protest against these embarrassing lock out laws and my friend Kristen runs a great podcast series and brand, which sums up what we all want ‘Let the people dance’ Even Justin Timberlake couldn’t get into his own after party because it was after lock out? Hopefully if we all stick together somebody will see sense that everyone shouldn’t have to pay for the actions of a couple of dickheads acting the hard men and that the lock out laws aren’t the best solution to the problem.

I have never seen any trouble at any of the events I have played at or I have attended in the last 10 years. The majority of the people in our music scene are only out to have fun and Dance and they cause no harm to anyone but themselves.

For those that don’t know, you are an Irish native, living in Sydney, Australia. What made you make the move and how did you find the transition?

I grew up in Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland but I had been living in Liverpool for years before coming to Australia for a 3 month holiday. Like many of my friends who I have met over here the short term holiday at the start turned into an extended stay. I have family in Melbourne and I always wanted to visit Australia so the girlfriend and me came over via Thailand to do a bit of travelling. It’s a beautiful country and the lifestyle and weather are amazing. I don’t think a lot of the Aussies realise how lucky they are and the biggest mistake the Queen ever made was sending the convicts here? Silly move if you ask me.

The first few weeks I was here I found out that I won the IDJ Raw talent competition and I was a top pick in DJ mag the same month and this coming of the back of playing Snowbombing give me good momentum for getting gigs. My first booking was with Finley Tuned at beware the cat and after my first set they signed me to their agency. At the start I was doing well and I was playing gigs but not really breaking into the scene and I was struggling to keep the bookings up.

I then played a free techno party called TECHnique at the sly fox and became a resident and then things started to pick up again and this led to playing the Big day out. I had been mainly playing peak time Techno sets at TECHnique and similar parties and all the other promoters wouldn’t book me to play there gigs because they said I played too hard. I had been Pigeon holed. It took me a few years to get out of that pigeonhole and to convince people that I wasn’t just a one trick pony. I even though about changing my name as it was only associated with Techno but I love all genres of Electronic Dance music and I don’t like being labelled.

I eventually started getting more booking for house nights and day party’s and things really started picking up and the last few years have been my busiest yet and I get to play regularly at my favourite festivals like Return to Rio, Lost Paradise and Electric Gardens so things are good.

When did you first start paying serious attention to electronic music, and can you remember what track first sticks in your mind as being pivotal to you wanting to know more?

A friend’s cousin from London used to visit Ireland during the Summer and he brought some recordings from a pirate radio station and we used to play them until the tape snapped. The track that sticks out most from back them was ‘Dream Frequency- Feel so Real’ I’ll never forget that vocal and piano, its sent shivers down my spine, It still does.

For those that don’t know, you have had an interesting DJ career, from playing at Snowbombing, Big Day Out (Boiler Room) Circo Loco etc . How have you viewed the industry changes over the last decade or two, is there a bedrock of principles that simmer beneath, or have the rules completely changed?

A lot of music and brands are now mainstream and it attracts the sheeple and there are so many people in it for the wrong reasons. They are caught up in this VIP culture and it’s very pretentious and they are more concerned about their image and to be seen and look cool more than anything else.

When I started clubbing as a young fella in the 90s when the Rave scene was new and exciting and everyone was really into the music and there to dance and have fun and to escape from their normal lives for that one night! It was a lifestyle and not a trend and a truly amazing time. Whistles, glow sticks, white gloves and the smell of vicks and poppers and of course the music and not a mobile phone or camera in sight. Also we all knew who was playing and we didn’t need set times for the night, everyone seems obsessed with set times these days? Clubbers used to just let loose from they got to the club until the lights came on and there seemed to be more love in clubs back then too or maybe it was the choice of drugs?

Ecstasy played a massive role in Dance Music history and it did more for the peace process in Northern Ireland than any politician ever did. It broke down barriers and had Protestants and Catholics all dancing and having fun under the same roof and not giving a fuck! We could probably do with pumping it into the water supply in some parts of the world now and let it do its work. Luckily most of the events I play or attend have like-minded people all in it for the right reasons, it might not be the same as back in the 90’s but the principles are still the same.
Smile, Dance, be nice, Have fun, look after each other and don’t be a dick. It’s Passion not fashion!

Musically, who would you say has been a driving source of inspiration?

I would be torn between my heroes Sasha and Digweed, But I think Digweed probably edges it slightly for pure consistency and he was my first real music love. I still remember the first time I heard his Essential Mix in 1994, It was a beautiful sunny day in Ireland and everyone was around on the pier in great spirits drinking, smoking, dancing and jumping into the sea and generally having the craic. I remember laughing uncontrollably when my mate Che pissed on another mate’s head in the water below while he was doing a backstroke and basking in the rare Irish sun, it still makes me laugh.

All of this was happening to a brilliant soundtrack banging out of someone’s Vauxhall Nova with both doors open, I didn’t know who it was until I heard Pete Tongs voice over the music “You’re listening to the Essential mix on Radio one with John Digweed” I’ll never forget it and it’s still one of my favourite mixes to date and one of my fondest memories growing up, life changing. I’m still a massive Digweed fan and I was lucky enough to warm up for him last year thanks to Damian at T1000 events who made my dream a reality. It only took me 22 years from that day.

Although it has never left, Progressive House is making a sharp return to the scene once again, where do you see it in Australia?

For me it has never left, as I have always been a huge fan of the genre, but I have noticed it increasing in popularity again in clubs and it seems to be a hot topic at the moment. It’s a lot slower than what people will remember from when it was massive and I still play some classics each set, which need to be pitched way down to mix with what I’m playing but they still work. I think some DJs have been playing Progressive but it’s been labelled as Deep House or Techno by some genre Nazis, I have even heard it being called ‘Man Trance’ recently. I can see it really peaking this Summer with Sasha and Digweeds Resistance party in Ibiza and I think it’ll be a breath of fresh air to the Island where its over-saturated with Tech house.

There are some really good nights and Festivals pushing that sound down here and over the last few years we have had all the Progressive Heavy weights come to play, Hernan , Sasha , Digweed, Guy J, Dave Seaman ,Danny Howells to name a few. The next big one on the calendar for me is the Return to Rio Launch party next month with none other than Henry Siaz and Davi.

If you were to do a ‘back to mine’ style mix, what tracks or songs have musically had an impact on your life would definitely have to be included in your selection and why?

That’s a tricky one, so many brilliant songs to chose from. I have to say that the Dave Seaman ‘back to mine’ has to be the greatest in the series and when I first left Ireland this mix helped me threw a rough time, especially Sasha –Baja. So I would have to include Sasha – Baja for just being there in the good times and bad and making everything all right.

La Ritournelle – Sebastien Tellier is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard and it has so many good memories connected to it so it’s in 100%. It makes everything better. The song might not work on the same mix but ‘The Stone Roses – I wanna be adored’ would have to go on it. Not only because they are my favourite band but what a tune and what a lyric “I don’t have to sell my sole he’s already in me” which I often think about.

I also have to include my favourite song of all time ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers – You’ll never walk alone’. It’s my favourite football team Liverpool’s anthem and the song is very inspiring when times are tough. Another 2 of the greatest songs ever written that would I need to be include that shouldn’t really need an explanation are ‘Prince – Purple Rain’ and ‘David Bowie ‘Life on Mars?’ I could keep going but I know you haven’t got all night

You’ve put together a great mix for us, has the digital age made sourcing music more interesting?

Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. Yes I think we are in a really interesting time at the minute and we are really lucky to be able to source new music from our own homes. I can literally download a track from my mate who has uploaded it 5 minute before from the other side of the world, which is brilliant.

My first love was and always will be vinyl and I still love my days out record shopping and the excitement of getting them home to have a mix. They same as ordering vinyl online and waiting for the post man to arrive with them like its Xmas morning, but to me it’s not practical anymore.It much more fun mixing with records but even if I order online the waiting game is very stressful and some of the records don’t survive the journey, never mind the cost compared to downloading the same track as a WAV file online.

I will say that you take a lot more time and effort picking vinyl as digital music is so disposable these days and has a short shelf life. You literally have to keep one step ahead of the pack before it ends up in the beatport charts and then everyone is playing it. I will buy the record of a track that really means something to me and that I want to have it in physical form as it’s much more personal than digital. I never used to know the all the names of tracks and only recognised the tune from its record sleeve or label.

I think a lot of people today think that if you play Vinyl you are automatically a good DJ but I don’t think this is not true at all, I do respect that you are playing Vinyl but that’s it. I don’t look down my nose at anyone for playing a different genre or format than me and I think we should embrace the technology. I do think you are a lazy shite for using the sync button and that everyone starting out using whatever format should at least learn or want to learn the craft of beat matching with vinyl.

There is so much good music out there at our finger tips and that we can access it from home and it’s very exciting, I don’t care what genre you think the music should be in or what format you play your music on, Good music is Good music, enjoy it.

Lastly, any news you can share with us for 2017?

It’s hard to believe we are already half way threw 2017 already? As Winter is here I’m going into hibernation mode I am really focusing on finishing my productions for the rest of the year. I have been working on tracks for a while now and I work closely with my good friend and mentor Paul Nolan who owns Chapter 24 records, he’s a freak of nature. I will surface for the Return to Rio and KILtR Sessions party’s and pop my head back up In November for Return to Rio Festival.

Also myself, Grant Deane and Gary Agolini have our weekly radio show KILtR Sessions and we launch our monthly party this at the Bunk3r to host our favorite guests mixes from the show. We also have our podcast series PIGEON HOLED ready to go and have none other that the brilliant Mr C doing the first mix in the series. The idea of the podcast is for DJs to play music that they love but that wouldn’t normally be associated with and everyone we have asked so far are really keen on the idea.

Tracklisting

Intro – Alan Watts – illusion of Ego
Concluded (Michael & Levan and Stiven Rivic Remix) – Andre Sobota – Concluded (Remixes)
Between You and Me (Original Mix) – Robert R. Hardy – Coming Back to Life
Cala Falco (feat. Joy Wellboy) (JMII’s 2AM Dub) – DC Salas – Cala Falco
Andromeda (Nicholas Van Orton Remix) – Fernando Olaya – Andromeda (Remix Edition)
Lost in the Forest (Original Mix) – Sergei Spatz – Sergei Spatz Edition
Everlasting (Pad One Rmx) – Matteo Monero – Everlasting ( Remix Edition )
What About (Dimuth K Remix) – Omar El Gamal – Finish Line
Abnadoned Planet (RPO Original) – Rick Pier O’Neil – Abandoned Planet
Fat Analog (Stan Kolev Remix) – Iga Dep – Fat Analog
Phoenix (Original Mix) – Martin Roth, Marymoon – Ahead of Time
ACK (James Dexter Remix) – Mihai Popoviciu – Home Remixes, Pt. 1
Bimma (Original Mix) – Rampa – Hall Of Violence EP
Cumulus (Original Mix) – Martin Gazzo – Primitive Reflex
Last Dance (Original Mix) – Jeremy Olander, Cristoph Last Dance EP
More (Original Mix) – Kevin Yost – Don’t Give In
Voyager One (Original) – Alexander Silvennoinen – Voyager One
Hale Bopp (Der Dritte Raum Ison Adaption) – Der Dritte Raum – Hale Bopp
The Dawn (Dixon Remix) – Chloe (FR) – The Dawn
Surge (Original Mix) – Patrice Baumel – Speicher 89
Believed in You (LTN ‘Sunrise’ Dub Remix) – Noel Sanger, Mezo – Believed in You
Dark & Long – Dark Train Mix – Underworld

You can catch Mark Craven at KILtr Sessions presents at Sydney’s underground club Bunk3R this Friday

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About the author

For the last 20+ years, Damion has been an international touring DJ, promoter, touring agent, label owner, magazine editor and producer. He is currently the Group Editor and Managing Director of Decoded Magazine. Hear more at https://soundcloud.com/damionpell-1

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