Interview: Mark Pritchard
Date: May 2000
Location: Imperial Gardens, Camberwell, London, UK
Words / interview: Des Berry
2010: Setting the scene
The one thing I remember most about this one was being invited to go to the pub over the road after the interview. Simon Smugg said come over when your done. He introduced me to Tom Middleton who said hello. In my nervous state I replied “yes! I thought I recognised your voice.”
Mark is now based in Sydney, Australia recording under the guise Harmonic 313.
Back to May 2000…
Running down the Camberwell New Road, in the pouring rain, I was starting to think if I was really that lucky to be on the way to interview Mark Pritchard, his first with a magazine for around 2 years. Having been told to come with plenty of verbal ammo as his answers are mainly yes or no, my soaking clothes did not add well to my state of mind.
The Imperial Gardens is an odd venue, more like a squat from the outside and even more so when you step inside. On the night in question, a Zilgan drums event was taking place. On my arrival I found both the Jedi’s, Tom and Mark soundchecking with Simon Smugg and one of the many drummers that would be bashing the skins tonight.
For someone who does not like interviews, Mark was relaxed, good natured and more down to earth then others in the scene.
“I’m looking forward to tonight. Its a sponsored drum event. We don’t re-hearse, we jam and see what happens. Its good fun. I add funny keyboard sounds over it, Danny Breaks adds scratching and Tom, some keyboard lines.”
For many, Mark Pritchard’s name will be more familiar from the remix of Jedi partner Tom Middleton’s Cosmos project from last summer. The tune “Summer In Space” was an Ibiza success, ending up with airplay on 1FM. But Marks history goes further back to the early 90’s with his work under Reload and Global Communication. At the moment though, further remix call to arms have resulted in work for Leftfield, Underworld, The Orb and just recently KRS-One.
“I’m real happy with the new KRS mix. When they first played the original to me I thought I’d do a straight hip hop mix, but they wanted a more contemporary sound. So I said I’ll do a drum ‘n’ bass mix, but at the same time remix A Tribe Called Quest track. I’ve done that with The Creators, but thats not coming out for a while.”
In the past Mark has remixed the likes of Garbage, the Aphex Twin, Chapterhouse and most famously Depeche Mode. The result of which was Mr Lucas uncovering the use of the Jedi name.
“I don’t want to do many more remixes, but with the KRS one I wanted to avoid that hip hop vocals over drum ‘n’ bass sound. So I chose a track that had more of a spoken word vocal to it. I then chopped it up so it fitted with the vibe. Its got live bass on it and the guy from Portishead playing a guitar over it. A lot of people haven’t got their heads round it. It sounds like a fast funk tune, but its been getting plays from Hype and Zinc. The Orb mix is more like a dark techno house track, but thats the last time I do a straight 4 to the floor house tune.”
Surprising, when his partner Tom is going more house with the success of Cosmos.
“Tom has moved to London and we don’t work together so much anymore. We could have signed to Island Blue as the Jedi Knights, but it had got to the point where Tom wanted to do his thing and he’d been DJ’ing out a lot more. We we’re working and getting further away from each other over the years, so we thought you do your thing and I’ll do mine and maybe in a few years we’ll get together for another Global album.”
Originally meeting in the early 90’s, Mark and Tom have recorded under many pseudonyms and for many labels including Clear, Guerrilla, Dedicated, R&S and Warp. So how and where did the love affair with music begin?
“I left school and I was going to clubs particularly this one in Bournemouth where the DJ’s North & South were playing Chicago house, early original trance and Carl Craig things. I heard that stuff and I thought fucking hell, I’d never heard anything like it. That was it. I bought a sampler and drum machine, making techno and Detroit sounding stuff, putting it out on my own label. I met Tom while I was DJ’ing in Taunton and then we started making more ambient tracks”
At the same time Mark was training to be a chef. Like many of us involved with things we enjoy out of work the decision to jack it in to concentrate on the music is a hard one.
“It was a dream really. I did some stuff with mates from Yeovil. We took it to Warp and they wouldn’t even see us, then we went on to Basic in Leeds and they wanted it and it was like fuckin’ hell we’ve got a deal.”
Around the same time Mark was involved in a project that will always haunt him. “I always used to do interviews and I ‘d wait for them to bring it up”.
Well we’ve all got skeletons in the closet. I’ll admit I worked for the label who put out the track “A Trip to Trumpton” that cashed in on that Toytown rave that Mark was a part of.
“It saved me that track. Basically we borrowed some money off a mates dad to press up some white labels and stuck this extra track on it too make sure we got our moneys worth out of it. No one was interested in it, we were selling a few copies here and there and then this shop in Southampton brought the rest and before we knew it, it went top 10.”
The tune in question was “Roobarb and Custard” by Shaft, that went top 10 back in late ’91. And it was Mark that brought the subject up this time.
“The result was that I was able to buy better equipment and not have to go back to work. Theres that dilemma where your working and you haven’t got enough time to do the music, or your knackered from work and you can’t be bothered or theres the risk that you leave your work to pursue the music and it does not come off.”
After that the remix work started to come in and the Global Communication work took off. The risk paid off and from those early days of messing about with samplers and drum machines, Mark is now working with Crispin Mills (ex- Kula Shaker) on his solo project.
“He (Crispin) wanted to do an album with session musicians, but with ones that would come in and feel a part of it all and maybe even eventually go on to do it live.”
So how did the eastern vibes of Kula Shaker get to together with the west country work of Mark?
“Crispin got recommended Andy the drummer and then he recommended a friend of ours to do bass and then me to come in to do programming and to give it an overall vibe and direction.”
Its hard to imagine what the result will be like. Crispin’s first dabble into dance orientated music was the collaboration on “Narayan” a track on the ’97 Prodigy LP “Fat Of The Land”. But with the current project including Phil Brown as engineer the vibe is strictly 70’s. Browns work on Led Zeppelins “Stairway To Heaven” and the Talk Talk albums is evidence to the direction of the LP.
Mark describes the sound as “very natural sounding. I’m adding mini-moog and older synth sounds. The style ranges from 70’s rock, to psychedelic trippy vibes. Theres no drum programming on it. Andy’s laying down live drums and we are recording it in really old way mastering it all direct from tape with no digital equipment added. Its a very old school method, but at the same time it sounds very contemporary.”
Its hard to imagine someone with Marks more ambient and experimental background working with another from a more commercial rock background.
“No I’ve always been into guitar music. Growing up I listened to a lot of bands like Sonic Youth, Led Zeppelin, My Bloody Valentine, some of the Steve Albini stuff and especially The Smiths. I was really into the melodies of Johnny Marr and compared to a lot of bands in the 80’s they did have an edge.”
With all this work on others LP’s and remix work here and there are we ever going to see any Pritchard solo material? The current situation at Universal means a bit of a wait but what can we expect?
“I wanted to do an LP of straight hip hop, with MC’s but that might come out later then the thing for Island Blue. You can expect some tracks with MC’s on it, a few instrumentals, some tracks with live musicians and a few up tempo tracks. A bit of everything really. I’m also about to release some stuff on the Droppin Science label.”
Hip hop? MCs? Not something you’d expect from the previous work.
“I’m getting into a lot of other types of music. A lot of stuff I was playing in clubs while DJ’ing was depressing me. It got to the point where I didn’t like what was happening with house and techno. So I ended up playing a mixture off everything and that would spin people out. You go out and play some good music and people would say “what are you playing that stuff for, play some house or techno”, and the trouble is we’ve done so much over the years that people turn up expecting one particular thing and I’m not gonna play ambient stuff in a dance club environment. Over the last few years I’ve been playing more hip hop and funk because its more inspiring and hip hop is the only music thats getting me excited. Drum ‘n’ bass still is but not so much.”
Early excursions into drum ‘n’ bass resulted in a one off on the Good Looking label.
“I’d been doing stuff on my own label, but that Good Looking thing came from a track we did on Warp. Bukem liked it so we did another remix of it, but we never followed it up because of all the other stuff we were up to at the time. Its only since I hooked up with Danny Breaks that I’ve done this stuff for Droppin’ Science. Its more musical then other drum ‘n’ bass and I wanted to do something that was different.”
Fans of the Jedi Knights and the earlier stuff will be kept happy by the soon to be released “Jedi Selector” LP. Its essentially a greatest hits thing containing old tracks and some unreleased work
“A lot of our earlier work never came out on CD and some of it is hard to track down these days and what is, goes for high prices. It would be quite nice to get a lot of the earlier stuff out again as we originally did real limited pressings.”
As ever Mark seems to be working on a hundred ideas and projects at once. The Crispin project may go live later in the year and tonight’s drum event may also hit the road, possibly at the Big Chill in August. With another soundcheck needed we wind things up and head for the pub across the road. No more talking, just play that music.
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 03.02 July / August 2000
Mark Pritchard on MySpace