By: Paul C. Bowman
Whether it be with eight-hour-long marathon sets of classic Chicago house, or his own signature brand of hip-hop infused, down-tempo Mushroom Jazz, Mark Farina has been captivating dance floors from one end of the earth to the other since the eighties. And although he’s called San Francisco home for the last 20-plus years, the Chicago native has never forgotten his musical roots and recently finished up a series of sold-out tour dates playing back-to-back-to-back sets with his former roommate, Derrick Carter, and their longtime friend DJ Sneak. During a bit of well-deserved downtime last week, Farina shared his thoughts with Grasshopper Underground on the future of house music, spinning in Las Vegas and the battle between DJ Sneak and deadmau5 heard ‘round the Twittersphere.
Grasshopper Underground: Good morning, Mark. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us. You get up awfully early for a guy who spins until dawn.
Farina: (Laughing) “Good morning. Yeah, my three-year-old and my dogs don’t much care how late I’m working. When they’re up, I’m up. I don’t mind it, though. I spend so much time on the road that I feel it’s important to get as much time in with my family as possible when I’m home.”
Grasshopper Underground: Your relationship with DJ Sneak and Derrick Carter dates back to the ‘80s. How was it touring with them over the summer?
Farina: “It was really cool. We just wrapped up the tour at Pacha in Ibiza, and we played a super-housey extended set. I’ve known those guys for so long that we can play together without really even giving any thought to who’s going to play what. We use two mixers and six CDJs for our setup and just take turns jumping on and off as we see fit. Between the three of us, we’ve got over 60 years of house music floating around in our heads, so it keeps things pretty interesting.”
Grasshopper Underground: Speaking of your buddy Sneak, his Twitter beef with deadmau5 got a lot of attention in the media over the last year, and he’s been pretty vocal with his opinions of the current crop of EDM stars. Has Sneak always been so outspoken where house music is concerned?
Farina: “Sneak is a very passionate guy, and I’ve never really known him to hold his tongue or not vocalize his opinions because he’s concerned that what he’s saying is going to be unpopular. He speaks from the heart, so what would have been said amongst a couple of DJs hanging around a record store and been no big deal ten or fifteen years ago gets blown into some huge thing nowadays. Things tend to escalate much faster in the days of social media.”
Grasshopper Underground: Who would win in a wrestling match between deadmau5 and Sneak?
Farina: (Laughing) “I’m definitely going to go with Sneak. He’s a pretty big guy who has a very commanding presence when he enters a room. Actually, now that I think about it, I’d like to have Sneak at my side if I was walking through any bad neighborhood on the planet. He doesn’t look like a guy the average person would want to mess with.”
Grasshopper Underground: You were treated with a bit of disrespect last year at Marquee in Vegas when the club’s management bowed to the whims of a bottle service patron and bumped you before your set even started. Did you ever get an apology from the club?
Farina: “You know, it was just one of those things where the club’s stand-in managers made kind of a knee-jerk reaction because they were concerned with making sure they hit their numbers. Las Vegas is a sink-or-swim kind of town for the people who work there and making sure the patrons are happy is always the main goal for them because their own livelihood depends on those people buying bottles and renting cabanas. As far as house music goes, Las Vegas has always been a really tough market because the majority of people who are at the clubs either want to hear the really commercial stuff, or they want to hear hip-hop. Playing in Vegas isn’t like playing in a city like Chicago or Detroit where the crowd wants to be taken on a journey with the music; they just want to hear all the big club-anthem kind of tracks. I’ve been back to Marquee since that incident and talked to the powers-that-be at the club, and they’ve been nicer to me on my subsequent visits.”
Grasshopper Underground: How do you feel the commercial EDM trend will affect house music five years down the road?
Farina: “It’s not really my thing, per se, but I don’t mind EDM. I think it’s a bridge for younger kids to find their way to real house music. These big festivals that are all over the U.S. now have very little representation of what I consider to be real house. Real house music will always last, and I think the last 30 years has proven that. It will ebb and flow, but the real heads aren’t going anywhere. There was a big gap for creating new fans of electronic music when the rave days ended in the ‘90s and all the kids started gravitating towards rock because it was what was most prevalent in mainstream culture. The EDM thing that’s going on now will fade out as the next big trend comes in, but when it does, there will be a whole new generation of house fans who looked for something with more substance when the kids wearing neon moved on to the next fad.”
Grasshopper Underground: You’ve played all over the planet in the last couple of months, how much do your sets vary from one city to the next?
Farina: “It really depends on which city I’m in and how much time I have to play. Like, Chicago is a purely house town where the crowd wants to hear a more jackin’ style, whereas if I play in Detroit I know the crowd has more acceptance to hip-hop and the down-tempo kind of stuff. If I’m playing at a club in Europe that’s open ‘til five in the morning like the one I was at in London last weekend, I have a lot more freedom to play with different tempos through the course of the night. The crowds in Europe are more open minded because the clubs stay open so much later, which is cool because then I don’t really have to think about packing everything into a 90 minute set. It gives me a better opportunity to read the crowd and take them somewhere.”
Grasshopper Underground: When can your fans expect a new Mushroom Jazz compilation?
Farina: “It’s actually in the works now. There were a couple of minor delays, so I’m thinking it should be out on Om Records in maybe January or February.”
Mark Farina – 10/19/13 – 9 PM- Grasshopper Underground- 22757 Woodward Ave., Ferndale – 248-298-0330
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