Talking Ten Years of Toolroom Records with Mark Knight

It's been ten plus years of all killers and no fillers for Toolroom Records, Mark Knight tells it how it is in our exclusive interview.
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It's been ten plus years of all killers and no fillers for Toolroom Records, Mark Knight tells it how it is in our exclusive interview.

With the tides always changing and genres rising and falling faster than the time it takes to draft a 140 character tweet, it's no easy thing to stay relevant in the dance music game. Artists and labels sometimes find it hard to be able to just stick around and even more than that, to thrive. To be able to do so, now that is a thing of beauty.

Toolroom Records recently celebrated their tenth anniversary. It's one of the more respected and established labels dominating dancefloors from Ibiza to around the world and back again. Head honcho Mark Knight is a top notch producer who is known to stick to his guns, never compromising on himself or his sound and he constantly churns out quality.

We were fortunate enough to share a delightful conversation with the Toolroom head honcho to discuss the longevity of the label, his distinct vision for growing his sound and what we can expect from him moving forwward. 

How are things going with Toolroom Records?

Amazing. In an age that's really predominantly dominated by the EDM, it's business as usual. Back to business as usual, really, for us. If you went back five, six years before EDM, that's how the Beatport top ten looked continually. We'd be number one every week and then, obviously, EDM exploded, so I think we've definitely seen the beginning of the end of EDM. It's nice to know that's finished and we're straight back to where we were. I couldn't be any happier with where we are right now.

I understand celebrated your ten years of Toolroom Records this year. Where do you see the label going in the next ten years?

We embarked on a big rebrand within the company. We got to ten years and it's been brilliant. We just thought, it's like any sports team. You get to a certain point in your team's career when you've had a squad of players for a long time and you need to freshen it up. What we tried to do is focus on finding a new roster, guys that hang on a proper pitch and really give them the blueprint we've mapped out with our own career in terms of how that's developed in the last ten years.

It's always been self managed within our own company, so we know how to really harmonize music releases in terms of a live setting and create a proper strategy. The future of the business for the next ten years is really, as I said, harmonizing our record label with our management company, so that all the acts we have involved with us really get the most out of everything that we do. We've really found an incredible new roster of our acts, like I say. It's almost like going back to the beginning again to a certain degree. It's that moment when you find a new act and you see them develop. I think the next ten years look like they've got great foundation.

Is there a Toolroom creative philosophy?

When we try to release records, our initial sort of manifesto, for want of a better word, was, are they "get out of jail card" records? Are you going to put that record on when you're playing in a set, things aren't going right and then turn the set around? That's always what we look to try and find when we set out. That was always the benchmark. These records have to be of a standard to turn your set around. Not just fillers, killers.

I think we're very much back to that. We're really on the song. Everything that we're releasing is in my set, absolutely everything. My set's now virtually completely dominated by Toolroom Records, which, ultimately it has to be right because if I'm not playing and championing it, then it can't be right. Yeah, we're really on a song where we want to be in terms of musically, but that's our manifesto. Are they "get out of jail card" records? If not, they're not for us.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring creatives?

I see too many kids now just flitting from one genre to another until they get a success. Really do something you love and do it consistently well until it works. One minute they're making an EDM record, next minute they're making a deep house record and they don't really exist in the same sentence. I find it hard to have that sort of utopian belief that everyone likes such a wide variety of music. You don't. You love what you love and you're very focused on that.

You don't have to do the same thing every time, but it's like making a drum and bass record one day and then making a folk record the next. If you're mad about folk, make folk records. If you're mad about tech house, make tech house records. Don't copy other people. What has worked for me is that I've never tried to be anything but Mark Knight. I've not tried to be Axwell. I've not tried to be Richie Hawtin. I've just tried to be me. I see too many kids copying other things and jumping around from style to style until they get a hit. That's not doing music from the heart. Do music from the heart and do it, as I say, do something that you genuinely love consistently until you get it really right and it'll take off. 

It's easy to see how doing what he loves plays into the success that Mark Knight has had over the years. He's a true tastemaker who knows how to release dance music of the highest quality. Toolroom always has a steady stream of tracks dropping, to stay up to date on what's current, check out their website, Soundcloud and Facebook.