This past Friday, Boston was graced by the presence of I'm A House Gangster label boss DJ Sneak and Mushroom Jazz originator Mark Farina. These two House veterans, originally from Chicago, have over two decades of experience behind the decks and their skills are unparalleled. DJ Sneak has OG House lined with elements of latin flair, whereas Farina twists his style with some European acid jazz tunes. Having both on the same bill makes for one epic night in the dance and it was a pleasure to catch up with them before the show.
The two brought a serious crowd to Bijou Nightclub. I think it was the first time I have ever seen the club packed with such a diverse crowd. The night was filled with sick tunes and some serious dancing as DJ Sneak and Mark Farina went b2b for what could have been the best house music experience Boston has had in recent history.
In order to get a better idea for their musical vision, I got a chance to sit down with the two legends and ask them some questions:
How has House music changed in the last 20 years?
Carlos: That's a hard question...House music has always stayed the same, it's everything else that has changed. The industry has changed, the trends have changed.
Do you feel like it's changed for the better or have we lost something important?
C: It's hard to say, hard to explain....I am much more outspoken online...when I am interviewed, I don't know... I am shy!
What influences do you pull from as you progress over the years?
C: Just everyday life, man. We grow with what we love and everything that had to do with that. And make a career out of that and twenty years later, you're still here and you're like, okay! I still love this thing and it's all good.
Do you ever go back to playing on vinyl?
C: Yea, this summer I shopped a lot in Barcelona. I played four or five times there.
Do you prefer to play with vinyl?
C: I think when the set up is right, it's just as fun as playing with digital. Vinyl actually makes you want to mix, you have to wait for the breaks. You have to do things a certain way because a record is recorded that way, you can't just skip it...You just have to let the track play and then you have to wait for your break and then you gotta mix out and all that. It makes me more of a DJ. It makes it more challenging in a way. It took me a while to switch from records to a CD. Yeah, it's convenient to put a USB and just play, but sometimes you just want to relax and play records.
You were quoted in an interview saying, "If you have never touched vinyl, you are not a real DJ"! These are harsh words, do you actually believe them. Some DJs were raised in a generation that didn't have such accessibility to vinyl...
C: It's all there because vinyl is making a comeback. A lot of stores are popping up, a lot of rock n' roll people and indie rock, they press everything on vinyl. So it's available, you know what I mean? It's easier to be a jerk-off and download some crack program and download music and not pay for music and then six months later you are headlining a fucking festival and you know there is something wrong with the whole system.
And the quote that I did say, Mixmag actually took two different sentences and made that quote and put a picture. I had nothing to do with that. Like, I had no idea...I had seen it yesterday, and I was like, I did an interview a month ago and I read the whole thing and I found the sentence and they took one and one line and added them together and put a picture up and they just blew it up... because these past three weeks I have been quiet on social media because I have been working on music. You know what I mean? It's just like if I'm not doing it, now they wanna create the drama so they can get the drive to their stupid blogs.
I know it's a game and you have to give and take. In the end, it's all exposure, but sometimes it gets annoying.
What is in the future for Magnetic Recordings?
We had the funky rhythm remixes on Beatport, we used that to relaunch the label. We pretty much set up I'm A House Gangster, eight - ten releases ahead, so now we've moved to Magnetic and now I am starting to do the same. We want to get six-seven releases ahead.
Mark, after two decades, how do you keep your music fresh and current while maintaining that unique jazz element?
Mark: It's a routine of just finding new music that's got on since day one of the vinyl days. Like looking for new stuff, in this day and age there is just such a faster pace of the music and it comes and goes. A song will be around all week and then two weeks later you have moved on to something else. So, I am always looking for new stuff, you are always kinda keeping up with your buddies and friends that you have known for 20 years that have done music. Then you also have to keep your eye out for the new kid on the block so to speak. So it could be some 'joe shmoe' from the countryside of Macedonia or it could be some kid from suburban Philadelphia, you just never know where a good new track is so you gotta switch it up. There is just a lot more stuff to look through than you know.
When you used to work at a record store you would get a box in of this many releases and maybe three or five copies of each... that was it for a week. And now you can just sit there for hours and click through like promos that you know a lot of which to say the ones to keep on the smaller side of everything. Sometimes you are just as glad to not like something because then you don't waste your time downloading it.
Do you find that you can attract a younger crowd with every generation?
M: Well, it seems like it...Yea, I mean especially with a lot of these younger electronic kids now coming of age. I find that they are searching for different stuff. You know I also find that two will go to different towns and there's like a joke, 'Oh the babysitters are working tonight' because a lot of our house friends have kids now and like, for older people to come out they have to get the babysitter and then they come out like here's the old heads but then you attract a lot of kids, too.
Where do you pull most of the influences when you put together Mushroom Jazz mixtapes?
M: The Mushroom Jazz style comes from the east coast early nineties Hip-Hop style mixed with an early nineties English/French Acid Jazz sound. It's kinda those two melted together with a lot of instrumentals too. There's a lot of influence from the Hip-Hop stuff from NY, I play a lot of instrumental stuff. You gotta agree with vocals and I am not gonna play crazy vocals if it's like not my belief.
I used to listen to Strech and Balbido radio show from NY. I had friends that would send me cassettes from the show and I would be into that and I would also import records from the UK.
What's your favorite gear or piece of equipment to use?
M: At the club, I am still a fan of the CDJ 2000, it's a great piece. It's dependable. So many pieces will have a random problem like USB isn't loading or the link was not linking. I mean, I still love vinyl, but even when I am playing vinyl I hate it when there are skips, I hated skips 20 years ago, I hate skips now. If a turntable isn't working, I am pissed. I would play a whole set back in the day all vinyl and be like oh shit it skipped at that one part. At the end of the night, you still remember those four skips and especially with Chicago style blending you have skips usually happening during the mix.
Sometimes you buy the record and its brand new and you play and it has a skip. And you're like that's impossible I just bought this shit today, but it happens.
In your travels have you ever experienced part of the world that influenced your music more than others?
M: I think that every place I have been to influences me. I feel lucky that I get to go around and to see these microcosms of people's existence. We go to places and we usually know a couple people there, so we aren't like tourists, there's just somebody even if it's somebody we have met for the first time. Like a DJ will bring us to a restaurant or to get coffee. So it's kinda cool, you get to know people and not just show up at an airport with your tourist book and your app, like, 'Where do I go?'
I like to record shop in every place that I go. You always find something somewhere else, or you get to hear an opening DJ. They will always be playing something different. That's just music where you get cultural influences too.
What is the funniest story you two have with each other?
M: One time that comes to mind, remember when we were in Ibiza and they lost both our records? We had to drive to the airport and wait for our records to show up and we had this really big bong and were on this balcony.
C: Imagine we had to wait for our bags to come all the way from Canada to Ibiza and we didn't have any records or clothes, but we had weed and a bong.
M: I remember there was a balcony there and we were smoking weed on the balcony.
C: We were like, fuck it we will wait for our shit and we just got stoned.
M: You had the car rental, it was this tiny little thing ... Our record came in on the last flight they could before the set...It's the worst feeling when you are waiting at the belt and you don't see the crate there... just ending up being the last ones there.