The north east of England perhaps isn’t the first place you’d think of as a hotbed of house and techno.
Growing up in South Shields, Mark Jenkyns fondly remembers his days spent on what he called “the roughest, but best estate ever. There were houses on both sides and huge open spaces for playing footy. At the bottom there was a massive Salvation Army that we used to climb about on and hoped we’d get chased.”
It’s a mischievous streak which carries through his own productions. His records span across the dance music spectrum, although he recognises his reputation for making the sort of tech-house tunes which are synonymous with his favourite island, Ibiza. “I suppose my tunes generally float between house and techno, but I wouldn’t want to be thought of as just a tech-house DJ. It’s not my main angle.”
Having graduated from the play parks to the nightclubs, Mark then split his time between regular nights out in South Shields and occasional trips through to either Newcastle or Sunderland. But it would take a little while longer before his interest in dance music first piqued. “In Sunderland you had Annabel’s and Chambers, which were both quite well known. But the clubs weren’t like what they are now. They were more like the tunes you’d hear on Galaxy Radio.” As ever, it was the Gay quarter of Newcastle’s city centre nightlife which was ahead of the curve on dance music. “Newcastle had a big gay scene, which was a really good laugh. There was no discrimination. A lot of the gay nights in Newcastle had more of a rave feel to them. Digital was the big gay club at one point. It was mental compared to what it is now.”
Gay clubs are synonymous with house music. Yet it’s interesting how often these conversations turn to a genre of music not often heard in Europe’s superclubs; happy hardcore. “House music will be around forever. But if I hear rave tunes from that era it takes me right back. I used to head through to Spennymoor when I was about 14 with my mates. All squeezed into a Fiesta Turbo to go to this mad rave. All 140bpm music. It was quite euphoric and there was always an MC to take you through the night.” Mark speaks passionately about those days.” The lyrics and the words of the songs would stick with you. Then we’d go digging in the days after to find what we’d heard at the weekend.” This was a time long before Shazam and the Identification of Music Group, and as with many DJs from this small corner of England, those formative years spent listening to hardcore tunes helped shape their taste and identity today. Mark mentions a couple of other popular DJs from the area who would be interested in throwing a happy hardcore party in Newcastle. We’ll wait to see what happens with that one.
It was trips to Ibiza which made Mark the performer he is today, but it was a trip to Ayia Napa which changed everything. “All the lads went to Ayia Napa and all the girls went to Ibiza. The tune of our holiday was Stardust, “Music Sounds Better with You”. After that it was always Ibiza though. We were caught between going to trance nights and some of the bars which played funky house, and then to Space which played more tribal tunes.” It was Mark’s first season in Ibiza which allowed him to spread his wings. Taking in every genre the island had to offer, Mark lists Clive Henry, Damian Lazarus and Tania Vulcano as some of the artists which left an impression during those early years.
Mark met Jamie Jones in 2003, which would eventually lead to him releasing his music on Hot Creations. “if ever there was a chance to play, Jamie would be there. He would drive round the island to get a soundsystem just to play at people’s houses. It was people like him and Danny Lopez and Andy G from Bora Bora. Real homegrown DJs, not quite like the superstars. It was the local DJs who caught my attention, because they were usually playing round my gaff!”
Having bought a pair of decks and started making tunes, Mark describes some of the teething problems he first faced. “I bought logic but didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I thought it didn’t work because I couldn’t get a sound out of it. It turned out I didn’t have a keyboard plugged in”, he says with a laugh. Everyone has got to start somewhere. Having moved to London to live with Jamie Jones and switched to Ableton, Mark’s career started to take off. Having left behind rewarding work on the oil rigs, he was soon finishing tracks and sending them out to get feedback. His early releases landed under “Jenkyns” before he started to make an impression with tunes under his full name. “There was a track I released called Wondering with Dean Tyler. I released on Hotwaves, Hotwaves again and then Hot Creations. Then I made “Mash Appeal” which went into the Top 30 of the indie chart. Catz N Dogz then played it in their Boiler Room. Things really started to take off.”
With things progressing quickly, records being released across labels and the diary filling up with gigs, Mark describes how his initial nerves led to him “taking his foot off the gas”. But maybe this was no bad thing. “I was getting lost in the sort of music I was trying to make. Without realising, I was following a trend".
His recent collaboration with Mizbee, “Sires”, has perhaps been his biggest success to date, having gone to number one in the Beatport chart. Mizbee is one of Mark’s favourite producers to work alongside and more may be yet to come. Another track may well be on the way, “one which is a bit deeper, and uses a lot of chords. I absolutely love it. It’s my favourite track of mine. We’ll see what happens with that one.”
Having held down residencies at some of Europe’s biggest house promotions and released a roster of club-ready bangers, it’s obvious Mark has a lot to offer. “I like house, I like techno but I also like some deeper stuff too. Stuff you can lie back and listen to, but that still has a bit of a beat behind it.” Mark suggests that we might see some of these ideas in the form of an album, but with a touring schedule that takes him across Europe and into South America and Australia before the summer has even begun, it’s a matter of finding the time. He’s a versatile DJ, which is reflected in the variety of venues he plays in and parties he plays for. From warming up Printworks and The Warehouse Project to co-headlining up and coming parties in Newcastle like Resonate. Warm up slots for the industry’s big names are always appreciated, but there’s nothing like intimate gigs for raucous crowds, which is where Mark does much of his best work.
A personal favourite gig of his, and this writer’s, was an impromptu Shindig at Cosmic Ballroom. The roof had literally blown off Warehouse 34 due to some inclement weather, so another venue was found at short notice. “Me, Steve and Guti went back to back all night. Steve put on his Twitter asking if anyone fancied a house party. Kids were sending us pictures of the soundsystems in their house. But then someone suggested Cosmic and that we all play together all night. They let me start with the first tune and it just went from there. It was one of the best gigs of my life. And then we got to do it all again at Shindig.”
It’s nights like that which keep the north-east’s reputation growing. With performers like Mark taking the sounds of the area across the continent, then Richy Ahmed, Patrick Topping and the like will have some serious company. You can see Mark across dimly lit basements and enormous warehouses before his summer tour kicks in.
Photo courtesy of Mark Jenkyns
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