20 Questions With MK: The Producer Defends Vocal House, 'All We're Trying to Do Is Make Something Great'

MK
Neil Favila

MK

Mark Kinchen has been under the spell of house music since the late '80s, when the producer followed his interest in music to the burgeoning electronic scene then happening in his hometown of Detroit.

It was this function of being in the right place at the right time, with the right taste, that he witnessed dance world pioneers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson forging the electronic genre and where he picked up a love of house music that would fuel his career for the following three decades.

MK's latest release is "2am," a piano-heavy house heater featuring vocals by Carla Monroe, who also delivered the lyrics on the producer's still soaring 2018 single "17." The new single is out on Ultra and MK's own AREA10 imprint. Since quarantine, the producer has also kept busy -- without really leaving his house in California -- by settling into his studio and performing on myriad dance world livestreams.

Here, the producer talks about those early days in Detroit, the house music renaissance of the moment and more.

1. Where are you in the world right now and what's the setting like?

I am honestly thrilled to say I am at home in California, looking at my computer screen and my keyboards in my cozy studio.

2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourselves, and what was the medium? 

Kiss, Alive II, on vinyl.

3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think of what you do for a living now?

My dad owned a clothing store in Detroit, and my mom was a stay at home mom taking care of us kids. After the clothing store, my dad worked as a car salesman. Sadly, my mom passed a few years ago. They both told me, and my dad still tells me, how proud the both of them are of my personal and professional accomplishments.

4. What was the first song you ever made?

Hmmm. I started making songs when I was around 14. I don’t remember what the very first one was called, but I can tell you that the first one I made and released was called “First Bass.”

5. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into dance music, what would you give them?

Prince, 1999. Yes, I’m serious.

6. What’s the first thing you bought for yourself when you started making money as a DJ?

A new house, a studio and an SSL.

7. What’s the last song you listened to?

“Baby Shark”

8. What’s one song you wish you had produced?

I can honestly say I never said to myself, “ I wish I produced that.” Instead I say, “I’m gonna produce a song like that.”

9. What do you make of house music's current renaissance?

I love that so many people from all over the world are enjoying the soul and the deep sounds that come through in house. It’s all about feeling it. Music is such an important force in life, at least in mine, and my friends' lives. It’s amazing to see it grow. It’s such a good feeling.

10. What’s distinctive about the place you grew up, and how did it shape you?

I grew up in and around Detroit and by the time I was a teenager, I was hanging at the KMS studios with Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, and the likes of Derrick May, Carl Craig and UR (Underground Resistance). It was completely surreal. It shaped me, because I was taken under their wings and the lessons they gave willingly shaped me up till even today.

11. What's the first dance music show that really blew your mind?

Probably was at an early rave or electronic show in Detroit. Trying to remember if it was Inner City, Moby, Mr. Fingers, Depeche Mode or Frankie Knuckles. Probably all of them.

12. You posted on Instagram last December about how you've got a lot of thoughts on the criticism producers get for making vocal house. What are some of those thoughts?

The reason I wrote that is because I was basically defending Camelphat. They tweeted that they we getting hate for producing vocal house songs, but my thought was basically when we go in the studio to make a song with vocals, all we are trying to do is make something great. It's like people got mad because “Cola” or “Panic Room” did so well.

13. What is the first thing you do when you get back to your hotel room after a show?

It depends on what part of the world I am in. Sometimes I pack if I have an early flight, or call my friends if they are awake on the other side of the planet.

14. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happening in the crowd during one of your sets?

Girls dancing on their boyfriends shoulders throwing their tops off in the air. Anything else, I take the fifth.

15. What's your favorite city in which to play?

Totally unfair question. I take the fifth or stick to a safe answer like Detroit. Everyone knows I love the UK, Ireland, Canada, Ibiza, Australia and so many more. Yes, I know they are countries but this question is like asking someone which of their kids do they like best.

16. You've played a bunch of livestreams since the start of quarantine. What are your top tips for livestreaming like a pro?

To be honest, I’m still getting used to it. I’m not sure if any of us DJs have nailed it yet. We all really enjoy the atmosphere of playing in a crowded rooms.

17. What's the most exciting element of the current dance scene?

For me, that house music is finally really finding a home in the States. Also, I am seeing so much fresh new talent out of the UK and Germany Ireland, Spain, and everyone is so collaborative. It really feels like we are a little tight community.

18.How do you balance your career with being a father?

It takes a lot of planning and scheduling so I can go back and forth as much as possible.

19. What are some of your pre-performance rituals?

I always try to get to the venue at least an hour early. I need to catch a vibe of the room

20. One piece of advice you'd give to your younger self?

Do what you love and don’t panic everything will work out just fine

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