MARK FARINA: "It blended 90’s East Coast hip-hop with U.K. acid
Mark takes time out of busy schedule to talk about his career and early years transitioning from Chicago to San Francisco
EV: Growing up in Chicago you were
around the breeding ground for the birth of many house genres.
What influenced you to pursue the funky, deep underground sound?
MF: In Chicago at that time, there weren’t
as many subgenres as exist today. It was just
“house”, that could be anything from a vocal track, to a dub, to
a drum track, etc. Anything roughly 125 BPM with a 4/4 kick drum.
EV: One of your most notable accomplishments
is the creation of the Mushroom Jazz genre, mix series and club nights.
For the newcomers, how did Mushroom Jazz evolve and how did you derive
MF: It started as a mixtape in Chicago
around 1990. It blended 90’s East Coast hip-hop with U.K. acid
jazz. Started playing that style out at a club called
“Shelter” in Chicago in a “B” room of the club with sofas and
not much of a dancefloor. Turned into a weekly gig on Monday’s
in SF, then all over.
EV: From our understanding, you have two
distinct dj set styles, mushroom jazz, and another. What do you call
the second set style, and what inspired it?
MF: Funky, deep, dubby, Chicago jackin’
house, inspired by Chicago, then SF, then all over.
EV: You play a large amount of shows
each year all around the world. Do you prefer being out on the
road or in your stomping grounds in San Francisco?
MF: Enjoy both. Sometimes traveling
too much has its disadvantages. Getting stuck in airports, etc.
But I’m greatful to see different places and play different cities.
EV: Who gave you your first dj gig?
MF: Terry Martin in 1986.
EV: What was the venue?
MF: Medusa’s in Chicago, on Sheffield
EV: What was the most enduring memory
of that gig?
MF: The party, packed, me terrified.
Terry, who was the dj at the club that introduced me to blending and
mixing, was sick of my comments and told me to get on the decks and
EV: How different were the music
scenes when you moved from the midwest to California?
MF: Chicago had just
“house” music, whereas SF had many genres - tribal, acid jazz, hip-hop,
funky breaks, and techno. Chicago club nights at that time were
more weekend-based and SF parties happened every night of the week.
EV: What artists are you listening
MF: J.T. Dondaldson, Giano, 1200 Warriors,
Dj Sneak, Uneaq, Phil Weeks, Miles Meada
EV: What's been your best and worst
experiences when deejaying?
MF: Worst: A fight breaking out during
my set while I was playing an acid track called
“I’ve Lost Control” by Sleazy D.
Best: Opening for Kraftwerk at Coachella
was exciting, but each city has a favorite gig.
EV: You released Mushroom Jazz
6 in 2008, what can we expect to see from you in 2009?
MF: Possibly a volume 7. More digital
releases on my Great Lakes Audio label. Tour dates in U.K., Europe,
Japan, Australia and North and South America.
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Exclusive Tickets Giveaway to Mark Farina's show at Tribal Funk's 15 Year Anniversary at Mezzanine in San Francisco Saturday November 29, 2008
Interview: Mark Farina & Mushroom Jazz 6
Since 1989, Mark Farina has been Jetsetting the globe performing at hundreds of shows a year, often DJing both of his preferred styles—Downtempo & House in two different rooms at the same club. At other events, he’s been known to play extended sets that stretch over eight hours. In his House sets, Mark is known for his uniquely effortless journeys on the Jazzy side of Chicago House, mixed up San Francisco style.
This wandering record minstrel has played to incredible crowds all over the globe while consistently drawing in new fans to his style of chunky, funky, rhythms and deep underground House. Mark plays upwards of 200 shows to over one million (1,000,000) club goers per year and has been voted as one of the top DJs in the world by URB, MUZIK and BPM Magazine.
When Farina first started staying from his passion for the purist forms of House into what grew into one of his trademark styles, Mushroom Jazz, he was playing the main room in a club in Chicago and got demoted to the B–room after playing too many Martin Luther King Jr. samples. Mark experimented with a deeper style, dropping De La Soul, disco classics and other stuff that wasn’t being played in the main room. However, in 1992, Mark found a welcome place for his collection of Downtempo tunes accompanied by a small run of mix tapes entitled "Mushroom Jazz".
Originally launched as a cassette series, the Mushroom Jazz tapes grew from the first Chicago run of 50 copies each and then eventually up to 500 copies as each of the following volumes became highly sought after and a prized possession.
Then in 1992, Mark Farina, along with Patty Ryan, created the now legendary weekly Mushroom Jazz club night in San Francisco. Every Monday night the crowd slowly germinated – from 100 for the first few months to 600–700 two years later. As time passed, Farina and Patty put their energies into another project, the first Mushroom Jazz interactive CD–ROM for Om Records. After a three year run, where the club had established a fanatical, cult–like following for Farina and the Mushroom Jazz sound, the club closed its doors and transformed into a CD series and accompanying tours.
2008 marks the year of the release of Mushroom Jazz 6 where Mark blends tracks by friends and other favorites of his and even has one of his own self-produced tracks. In an exclusive Eventvibe interview, I got a chance to catch up with Mark to discuss Mushroom Jazz 6 and his plans for the rest of 2008.Sobo: Was there a theme to Mushroom Jazz 6 that you were trying to get across to listeners?
Farina: Yeah, pretty much it is a simple theme that has carried across all the Mushroom Jazz albums—Downtempo, Dubby, HipHop vibes. The only difference I see in Mushroom Jazz 6 is that the other have been dancefloor friendly and this one is more about people listening to it at home, or on headphones, or in their car on a road trip. Sobo: When other artists do compilations, they seem to put a lot of their own production or remixes on the album, and I only saw one of yours. How come there were not more of your own tracks?
Farina: It’s not really a conscious thing it just sorta works out that way. I think the most I have ever had on any one compilation are two songs, and even when I play out at clubs I play everyone else’s tracks and I might only play a couple of my own songs then too. Sobo: With so much music available for phone and iPods do you find yourself programming your music any differently than in the past?
Farina: No not really. I feel like I program based on how and what I am playing and the volumes in the past reflected what I played. When I DJ I am mostly playing at clubs that book me to play House whereas when Mushroom Jazz 1 & 2 came out I was playing out at clubs and venues and playing downtempo and loungie beat.Sobo: How long did you work on Mushroom Jazz 6?
Farina: Picking the tunes was 2 months. Mixing took 2 weeks because I still mix live on turntables as opposed to a lot of other DJs on their compilations mix everything in a computer. I’m kinda old school that way but it allows me to do things like play with effects on the mixer like chunky and funky basslines which seemed to be a theme on this version.Sobo: Are you working on the next one yet? How many more do you want to do?
Farina: I’m astonished that this series has gotten this far since there doesn’t seem to be that many places that play this kind of music, but the response to Mushroom Jazz 6 has been so great that it looks like we are going to keep on going. We are even thinking about getting other DJ friends as the featured DJ but for now it’s just an ideas we are kicking around.Sobo: How do you go about the song selection process? Do you have the songs in your head or do you start from scratch where you start by digging and then see what happens?
Farina: I generally start from scratch from every project. So I work backwards based on when the album is slated to come out. And since I have been playing for so long I have met so many more and new people to get music from it has become easier for me to call up someone and ask for music that has been unreleased. On this project it was super-easy for me because being on Om Records allowed me to tap my pals on the label like J-Boogie and Colossus for a couple of songs each, and then just hit up people I know like Kero One, Uneaq and Rubberoom.Sobo: Have you ever run into any difficulty trying to get licenses for the songs you really want to be on the album?
Farina: Not really. Luckily for me the team at Om Records always does a great job for in helping me. Unless there is a track that has not cleared their samples themselves then that really is the only time there is any problem.Sobo: Is there going to be a tour for Mushroom Jazz or are you trying to get bookings that will allow you to play a Mushroom Jazz format?
Farina; Yes I’m trying to do that but what I’m finding that venues that book me that have a Downtempo/HipHop room in addition to a house room are allowing me to play an early Mushroom Jazz set and then later in the main room play House. There are not that many venues that can accommodate just a Mushroom Jazz set so I’m having to be creative.Sobo: What are the cities that really get the Mushroom Jazz sound more than others?
Farina: Atlanta has a great scene and I have played there for 10 years. Seattle, LA, Edmonton, NY. And oddly enough Chicago doesn’t seem to have a big Downtempo scene and I love to play House there so I find it hard to do Mushroom Jazz there unless I’m playing a smaller venue. The college towns that have a good Electronica scene work well for Mushroom Jazz.Sobo: What is going on with your label Great Lakes? What are the projects coming up?
Farina: It has been on hiatus since I have been making the move from vinyl to digital but I’m ready to release some stuff for Beatport.com, Stompy.com and other sites that will primarily be for DJs. The digital boom has been great for my music getting around the world like in Brazil they always had a hard time getting vinyl and other music but now they have access to almost everything.Sobo: How would you describe your status as a Producer? Are you at the level you want to be?
Farina: Derrick Carter is a prime example of how I want to be as a producer. He incorporates his analog equipment into digital production. So I’m going to take some tutoring and keep learning things. I want to increase my keyboard skills!Sobo: Tell us what your plans are for the rest of 2008 and the first part of 2009?
Farina: I’m touring all the way through New Year and concurrently working on an EP or something for Winter Music Conference in Miami March 2009.