Q&A with Circus Paradise Festival founder Mark James

Unquestionably one of the Australian dance music industry’s most recognisable and iconic pioneering figures.Mark James has been regarded by his peers world wide as a creator and innovator for the dance electronic music since its conception. Mark is founder and creator of Future Entertainment Australia’s and if not one of the worlds most successful event companies, in its day attracting up 800,000 dance festival goes a year and not forgetting the countless club nights, labels and basically everything that is dance music Mark has done or been involved with.

Having pioneered and revolutionised the Australia market with brands like Two Tribes ,Summadayze and Future Music Festival, he is also responsible for staging some of Australia’s first dance events back in the 80s & 90’s with the likes of Sasha, Carl Cox,Moby, all appearing at Marks events well before they were the household names we know & love today. As a DJ Mark himself has played along side nearly every big name DJ in the world including Digweed , Armin, Tiesto, Oakenfold, PVD, Hawtin the legendary Tony Di Vit who remixed one of Marks & Carl Cox’s tracks Eternal by Eternal that went to NO 2 Nationally in the UK Charts only the start for his chart success both Australia and Europe, not to mention the huge list huge of DJs he’s played alongside promoted, toured and recorded with are best in electronic music world has to offer.

In 2010 he was voted by Ministry Of Sound magazine Australia’s most powerful person in Dance Music Industry he has since been voted 28 most powerful promoter in the world. In 2012 he moved away from Future Entertainment to take a well earned break. Going back to the Future Mark bravely introduced and partnered some of the most respected club brands in the world and toured them to the Aussie & NZ shores , iconic brands including Gatecrasher, Godskitchen, Renaissance ,Cream , Armin Only, Slinky, Global Underground, MOS, Trade, Pacha and many more. Mark was also a Pioneer Ambassador for 10 years has maintained a massive career as a DJ/producer achieving world wide hits since 1992 as Eternal the first release featuring Carl Cox.

I got to drag Mark away for a quick Q&A ahead of this weekends Circus Paradise Festival, located at Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast.

Hi Mark thank you for taking time our of your busy schedule to talk to us today. You are now based on the Gold Coast, between the beaches and bars, how are you? with only a few weeks until Circus Paradise, you must be busy, how is the planning coming along?

I’m well and really enjoying the life style on the beautiful Gold Coast , the festival Its coming along really well we’ve had great support for the local community and regulatory bodies and we’re looking forward to staging a great festival for this region .

Let’s jump straight into a topic that is the talk of Sydney and Australia of late. It is not secret that the NSW Government and Police have been leaning on music festivals and venues, how have you found the differences in your experience across Australia with the QLD Govt and Police in working together?

It goes without saying that NSW has had a very hard time of late, we all will be very interested to see what these new licensing regulations are come March 1st. The QLD Govt, council and Police have been really supportive and helpful in regards to our festival, it’s been a while for an event of this kind to be staged on the Gold Coast and we’re looking forward to a safe enjoyable experience for all.

Onto the topic of Circus Paradise, I’m curious about logistics, a forgotten side of running a festival, can you walk us through what is required to host an event in the Southport Parklands, what is the planning involved, what work is required with councils and so forth?

Its all starts by ticking the boxes with council and parks its not easy finding a venue that suits festival needs such as sound requirements, production and infrastructure access and public transport. Broadwater Parklands is such a great spot and the council have been so supportive , I guess my background with staging large events such as Summafieldayze helped as well with the Police as they know we are all about health and safety first and foremost.

With such an amazing, diverse and large line up, walk us through the process of curating the artists, the logistics of flying them out, the set times, what do you do to keep the stress levels down?

It’s such a great line up, with a boutique festival you have to be careful of costs while trying to keeping your ticket price reasonable, logistics are really and straight forward you book an artist they fly in fly out, there are always going to be some hi-cups along the way like other festivals blocking acts, possible no shows or cancellations for what ever reason but so far so good .

You have been an industry leading promoter now for over 2 decades, what has been some stand out moments for yourself?

There’s been many I think going back to the Melbourne Docklands parties will always have a special place in my heart we achieved such great things in those days, a real stand out was the year 1999/ 2000 NYE we had 20,000 at the docks and the next day at Sidney Myer Music Bowl 30,000 for Summadayze, I remember just standing on stage during the day on Jan 1st 2000 looking out at a sea of people going off bringing in the new millennium it was amazing.

Promoting is a notorious hard game, even more so in Australia, what advice would you give to any aspiring promoter?

Yep you got that right Australia is famous for our tall poppy syndrome people love the underdog on the way up everyone’s your friend and full of support until you get to the top then they try and drag you back down its the Aussie way. My advise is simple stick to your guns don’t compromise your talent and you know best its your gig never forget that, don’t step above your means if you have reservations don’t do it 9 times out of 10 it will fail if your not 100% confident.

Watch your budget and stick to it, do the best you can with what you have and always strive for quality within your means there’s no cutting corners in this business and most of all try and enjoy yourself and keep your head above water this business is one of the most stressful in the world, best of luck.

Is there any plans to expand in the future, can we expect anything new this year?

Look I’m not out to break any records I just want to put on great boutique festival for this region with quality acts and music and production within safe environment then if all goes well lets see where that takes us in the future with more shows .

Something that sometimes gets over looked, but you are also a DJ and promoter, producer, having worked with the likes of Carl Cox, Pee Wee Ferris to being championed by John Digweed and Danny Howells. How did you find the transition from wearing the hat of a promoter to being a DJ at your events?

I juggled the both really well for a long time but there’s a point in your life in this business where you have to make hard decisions, it got to a stage where I became a very big DJ /producer and the business Future was growing so fast and become the monster that it was, you only have so many hours in the day and it came to point for a few reasons including health and personal relationships where I had to choose between the two careers, so back in those days DJing took a back pedal to concentrate on the festival business. I’m still not sure if I made the right decision, that’s the thing about this job you always think you could have done it differently your never satisfied….lol

You have a new single out soon with the legendary house music vocalist, Inya Day, how did that come about?

I’m so excited about this track and to be back doing what I love the most writing music. I’ve been working hard on productions for some time now with a few releases out at present under Mark James and my techno project MJM ,
I had been working a new track that had a sample vocal, I presented it to the label and Ash Gay said to me this is great but I reckon we should find a singer, lets flick it over to Inaya Day and see what she thinks. She liked the demo, wrote and recorded the vocal in the US sent them back and I finished the track. It comes with some awesome remixes from 3 of my favourite Aussie producers Joylon Petch , Modern Citizens & Marcus Knight all these guys are on fire at present

With so many years under your belt, what has been the funniest moment during your DJ career?

There’s been so many, not funny at the time but Ill always remember the night at Mansion Club in Melbourne we had a Renaissance night with John Digweed its was a full house even Bono & U2 were there I had just finished warming up for John the place was heaving I’ve walked down the stairs and noticed that the roof of the second floor under-the dance floor was moving up and down all of sudden the massive chandelier that hung in the roof above the foyer dropped and crashed to the floor into a thousand pieces luckily no one was under it at the time. That’s what you call rocking the dance floor hard!

Thank you for your time, one last question, is there one act you are looking forward to?

I really love what Charlotte De Witte does, she is such a fresh talent and really knows her stuff, such a nice person as well, looking forward to seeing her again come Sun March 10th.

Limited tickets are still available for this weekend’s Circus Paradise Festival – http://bit.ly/2zpm6Vi

About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.