Friday, 27 December 2019 Marc Kinchen on the balancing act between underground vitality and mainstream success...
Marc Kinchen, also known as *MK*, is one of the household names in electronic music. A producer behind some of the biggest hits this decade, from ‘17’ to ‘Piece of Me’, somewhere along the line, you’ll have heard one of his songs.
This year has seen him relaunch his AREA10 record label, with the aim of launching the career of younger producers. A hit single with Sonny Fodera followed and ahead of his New Year’s Eve show at the O2 Academy Brixton, we catch up with the artist about his future endeavours and his journey to where he is now.
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MK grew up in Detroit, Michigan, a city now infamous for producing some of dance music’s most legendary figures. Coming through the industry in the early 1990s, he was introduced to Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Carl Craig, a moment that holds key significance in Mk’s career.
“They were the local heroes of Detroit and had already achieved international success. Having Kevin and the others take me in really opened a lot of opportunities for me.”
These notorious artists were the perfect mentor for the artist. Learning from established figures and having your own work judged from those that have made it, helped to build MK’s personal style, something he is now renowned for. His first big break came in 1992, with his release of ‘Burning’, and with it came the launch of his label, AREA10.
“I watched Kevin make the Inner City songs, and it helped inspire me cause I wanted to start my own project, making music without having to think about if it works for someone else’s record label, or have to change it for them, so that’s when and why I started AREA10 Records. People really liked it, and everything just started happening and falling into place after that.”
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The period in which MK was rising through the industry was a unique time for dance music, England had the famous ‘Rave’ years, mainland Europe had ‘Hardcore’, but what was it like in the US?
“There are a lot more of those similarities from then to how it is now; back then there were clubs that were specifically house and garage clubs, there were gay clubs and then there were more alternative kind of clubs that usually incorporated alternative, techno and even the rave scene in one way or another. Cities like Detroit, NY, Chicago had great clubs and the West Coast had more raves and good clubs. It was always a bit different in the States than it was in the UK, I think we were always just a little behind the UK.”
A career spanning over 20 years, these early details play a vital role to where MK is now. Perhaps the most commendable trait of the Artists is his ability to adapt and evolve. Many of his fans will know his musical style from 2013 onwards, when his remix of Storm Queen’s ‘Look Right Through’ went to number one in the UK charts.
His most recent release, ‘One Night’, a collaboration with close friend Sonny Fodera, once again gained acclaim across the industry. The song came from a long standing will to work together, “we always talked about making some tracks together, so when the right situation came about, we both said: hell yeah.”
Having made his name through his productions, a few years ago MK turned his hand towards curating events, under the AREA10 label name. “I thought it would be great to do parties with the people I like and music I love on the bill. The other great thing about it is that I get to help curate the stages and have been so happy to support new and upcoming talent and make a night of it. It’s a lot of work but it’s so worth it.”
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On New Years Eve, MK brings his AREA10 event to the O2 Academy Brixton, for a special party to bring in the new decade. Alongside MK, Disciples, Weiss and one of the labels most recent signings, Nightlapse all make appearances. “I like programming it, so it flows well with the right energy and music. But, as any of my DJ friends will tell you, there are a lot of moving parts.”
Hosting the event in such a venue shows how far the event series has come, and what stands out even more now, is that an event such as this doesn’t look out of place at the O2 Academy. In fact, dance events almost feel more suited to these larger venues, with endless production capabilities than clubs now.
What was, only a few years ago, still an underground movement has now blown into a worldwide phenomenon. A few months ago, MK headlined one of the opening events at the Mayfield Depot, the new home of the Warehouse Project in Manchester. A venue that has a capacity of 10,000.
We see this in London as well with The Drumshed’s, opening earlier this year, with the same capacity. Such venues resemble that of a concert or a festival, then a regular Friday night event. For MK, he feels as though it’s the industries natural expansion as tastes change over time.
“The comparison with Dance events and more traditional concerts rings true, but I think that for many fans, a rave, club experience or Electronic Dance Festival may be the only sort of live experience they have ever had. Things always tend to start underground and then getting successful or crossing over, that is just what happens when a lot of people like what you are doing.”
“It’s always been a struggle to stay underground and be popular at the same time. I mean you could be playing the same thing you did when people called you underground but when everyone starts liking the underground stuff you do, does that mean it’s not underground or good anymore?”
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2019 has been a big year for the artist, but as a measure to his work ethic, 2020 looks set to be even bigger. “I have two new singles just about ready to go. The first one is called ‘Desire’ and I really love it, hoping to see it come out January/Feb. I just finished a remix for Alicia Keyes, just waiting to hear if she likes it. My annual AREA10 Miami show is on. Also, I am so excited to have an AREA10 stage at Movement next year in my hometown, Detroit.”
“I am opening EDC with Diplo and have some other secret shows too. I have relaunched my AREA10 Label. We have releases out now by Anabel Englund and Jamie Jones, ‘Messin With Magic’, Nightlapse ‘Changed Minds’ and KC Lights releases are coming. I have collaborations coming with Green Velvet, Diplo, Weiss, Idris Elba, Lee Foss and Anabel too. It’s going to be a fun year!”
With such an action-packed year to come, it feels like MK is ticking off every box there is, in a career that know no boundaries. But with such success does there come more pressure to constantly do better?
“When it comes to music I don’t know if it’s high standards, but I do always put a lot of pressure on myself to be a better producer, to make better music, to produce better events and make better remixes. I have always believed that if you put your name on it, you need to own it as well. It’s funny I never feel like I have achieved everything, quite the opposite. There are so many things I want to do, I want to score and make music for films, I want to do something with video games, I have so many things on my list, I hope I can find the time to do them all.”
This air of humility that surrounds MK shows just how he has got so far in his career. By keeping his feet on the floor he’s constantly been able to outdo his work, making his music feel fresh and timeless. Now his work with AREA10 and helping to propel the careers of younger musicians forward, shows how he is one of the nice guys of this industry.
For now, at least, all eyes on Brixton Academy, it’ll be one hell of a ride; “We certainly have some surprises in store. It’s going to be a fun way to start a new decade, I want to make it feel intimate. See you there!”
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Words: *Jake Wright*
MK will play London's Brixton Academy on December 31st - ticket *LINK.*
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