Interview with Flashpoint & Tripoli hard house heavyweight: Marc Johnson
Reported by K8-e
Submitted 23-01-08 18:14
If you love hard house Marc Johnson is a name that will need no introduction. Not only has he produced in excess of 80 tracks (including remixes) but he runs the hugely successful harder edged label Flashpoint Records, is currently breathing new life into the legendary Tripoli Trax and is one third of the promotion team behind the capitals most excellent hard house night: Insekt. Just how much more is there to this hard house whiz?
Marc started DJing at the tender age of 18, spinning hardcore in the early 90s. He turned to hard house at the end of the century when he felt hardcore had 'lost its balls' and hasn't looked back. Now, as it's been two years since Marc's last solo HF interview I thought it was time we put this contender back in the ring.
Marc welcome back to HF! Did you get anything nice for Christmas?!
I did thanks, Santa got me a nice PS3 with Smackdown vs Raw as well as Fifa 08, gonna leave him more then a mince pie next year.
It's always good to be kind to Santa! Youíve been DJing 15 years this year and you were originally a hardcore DJ! What inspired you to get into music and DJing and what was the first tune you ever bought?
Cor, makes me feel old when you look at it like that.
I got into dance music when some of my mates took me down the Lazerdrome in Peckham which at the time was a wicked hardcore club (before the jungle / happy hardcore split).
I wanted to get decks and a mixer and got them the week after I went to my first World Dance because that blew me away and I really wanted to have a go at it. The first tune was Acen Ė Close Your Eyes on Production House which I bought while still at school and had to listen to it on my crap stack system.
Production wise youíve been making tunes since 1999. Your MySpace says you have 80+ releases and remixes out and due out on a number of labels including Elasticman, Energy UK, Spinball, Vicious Circle, Recharge, Toolbox and of course your own labels. Youíve worked with some of the industries finest Dave Parkinson, Dom Sweeten, Nick Sentience, Dave Owens and DMF to name but a few. I'm gonna ask you a hard question now!! What are your top 5 favourite Marc Johnson tunes?
Ugh nightmare! Iíd have to say:
01.OD404 - Block Party (My RMX)
02.OD404 - Biofilter (mine and Dynamic Interventions RMX)
03.Myself and Defective Audio Ė Something Ugly
04.Myself and Defective Audio Ė Hyperscum
What new material have you got in the pipeline we can look forward to?
I was up at Domís this week and weíve done one called Hyperscum which I got big hopes for as itís f*ckin' crazy. A remix for Adam Mís Oktane label called Showbuziness which is quite cool and a remix of a Tom Parr tune called You Make Me. Those are the three latest ones that Iím buzzing about.
But thereís loads to come this year with 15 releases in total on Spinball, Tripoli Trax, Flashpoint, Oktane, Concrete, Infectious, Unity, Tonka, Fireball and of course yours & Tom (Parr)'s Atomik Reaction all done and dusted.
Fantastic! Check out Marc's Myspace for some clips!
In 2003 you set up Flashpoint with Jupe and have formed one of the strongest and most consistent harder edged labels in our scene today. With over 27 vinyl releases from numerous different artists when you look back did you think youíd come this far and what have been your proudest moments for the label?
Not really, we only started the label as a one off for the Real Deal but when that went well we decided to roll on with it.
I think the proudest moment for me is the fact that we are still doing the bloody thing as things have been steadily declining for a few years now and itís really hard to survive at the moment.
With Flashpoint Digital youíve created an avenue for more producers to get the Flashpoint seal of approval but get their work out more quickly to the masses. The digital revolution has brought with it positives and negatives for the scene, whatís your take and how do you feel the digital arm has worked for FP two years since you launched the label?
Itís definitely had its plus points. If you look at people like Dave Owens and Frank Farrell, where even though the bulk of their early stuff was digitally based, their material was getting out there and that helped build a following for them, both have gone on to do well from it.
The obvious downside is that the market is flooded with a lot of sh*t as anyone can start up a digital label, spend a few hours on a lacklustre track and then get it uploaded and out in the open.
Iím completely 50/50 on it if Iím honest, for all the good thereís been plenty of bad out of it.
With regards to the label itís worked quite well for us as some of the tracks have the potential for remixing like Madison Groove, which is getting a massive remix this year by the master blaster - but youíll have to wait and see who that is.
Amongst the slew of new labels starting last year one of the best announcements for many was that Tripoli was to make a comeback! A lot of people are excited to see this imprint back in the game so take us through a bit of Tripoli history and your involvement back from your A&R days to how youíve come to be at the helm in 2008?
I got involved a few years ago after Steve Hill moved back to a warmer climate and completely out of the blue the owners asked me to take over as A&R for the label as they liked what we were doing with Flashpoint. The label was put on hold a couple of years later as Pure Groove decided to move away from Dance Music. The label was always an outlet for the shop, so the label had no purpose if the shop wasnít going down that route.
I always hoped that it would come back if Iím honest, so I just waited for the right moment and mailed Tarik asking if heíd be interested in letting me take it over from top to bottom. He called me up to arrange a meeting and once we sorted out some of the finer points so that everyone was happy it was re-born.
Chris Comben who is part of Insekt has come in on the project with me and we are running the label together.
Where do you see Tripoli headed this year and how would you define the sound you are pushing for the label for those who havenít heard the recent releases?
The labels going to be doing pretty much the same thing itís been doing for the past 117 releases, good quality versatile hard house.
Itís never been a predominantly funky, hard or uplifting label, itís always released all thatís good about the genre. If you look through the complete back catalogue (which is up on the Tripoli MySpace page) then youíll see that itís been a versatile label and will continue to be so.
I doubt weíll please everyone all the time but then weíre not trying to, as long as Chris and I believe in the tracks then the proof will be in the pudding.
Not content with the labels youíve delved into the world of compilation CDs. The Flashpoint Industrial Strength 2 CD has hardly left my CD player since it came out and you also mixed a triple set hard house CD my friend found in Tesco of all places (Hard House Sessions I believe). Tell me a bit about both of these projects?
The Industrial Strength CDs were just a extension of the label really, itís something we always wanted to do and got to a point where we thought we had enough quality tracks to attempt it, the second one was a little bit more hard work as we wanted it more upfront so a lot of the tracks got made especially for it and then released on vinyl later on.
The Sessions CD was something I got involved with through Pure Groove. Andy Lewis used to run Locked On and worked for a big record company (after leaving) that did various compilation CDs for various genres, Tarik gave him my number as he wanted to do a hard house CD and he called me up. Since then he gave me a triple CD called Xclusive Hard House to mix (which came out last year) which was pretty cool. Now in total I have mixed 5 compilations (well mixed 4 as one was just compiled) which I am really proud of. Although it feels weird showing my mum that Iíve got a CD out on Play.com or Amazon.
Most will know that you are part of the Insekt team (with James Nardi and Chris Comben) putting on high quality hard nights in the capital. As a team youíve always been clear Insekt is about putting the people who make the music in the spotlight. However with the recent addition of MDA & Spherical and Olly Perris to the next Insekt line up (@ The Scala, 2nd Feb) some may say this is a move away from the purist hard house policy you have been known for?
MDA, Spherical and Olly Perris have all been added to the line up to help freshen things up not to move away. The line up is still what weíve always aimed for but after 3 years of doing this and booking the same DJs on rotation we canít get away from the fact that itís starting to get stale and something needed to happen to keep us excited and motivated. After all if we couldnít get excited about our own event then how would we expect anyone else to?
All those lads fit the Insekt bill, theyíve all been producing big tracks over the years and they produce quality tracks too, they may be a tad lighter then usual but how many times can you go to the well before it becomes dry?
A slight variation (within reason) to the night will work well we think, the core of the February night with myself, James, Justin, Dom, Chris and Jon BW is still vintage Insekt.
Iím personally quite excited about it! What else I have I got to look forward to Insekt wise in 2008?
Weíve pencilled down the line ups for the rest of the year and I have to say that we are all excited by them, they all have a perfect balance and look completely fresh to the past 3 years, youíll see a few new faces who are working hard for the scene and have not played at INSEKT before along with a few faces that youíd never expect to see on the night, as well as a few familiar ones.
I had the pleasure if catching you at Hostile last week in Cardiff and it was proper badness! Where else can we catch you play over the next few months?
Iíll be at the Hard Dance Awards in Feb (at the Plug in Sheffiield) which should be quite cool, got Polysexual at Air (Birmingham), Resistance in the Midlands (Lincoln) who are doing a joint event with Storm and Sundissential which looks like itíll be a biggie. I've just got a couple of new residencies at Hi-Oktane (Leeds) and Hostile (Cardiff) and Iíve also got another date booked in for Storm (Leicester) which is always exciting. I'm also playing in Ireland with the now retiring Justin Bourne which is gonna be cracking fun as weíll give him a proper send off there with the mad Irish mob that we know, I hope heís gonna be ready, haha!
You mentioned Dave Owens and Frank Farrell who have gone on to becomes firm favourites in the hard house scene, so who are the Marc Johnson ďones to watchĒ in 2008?
Tim Stokes, Adam M, Pierce Rooney, Dave Curtis, Chris Comben and Tom Parr - all of them have been making the right moves with regards to tracks and I think all of them will explode this year. More than that theyíve been improving all the time, so I think those lads will step up even more this year.
I think itís fair to say weíve had a bit of lull in the hard dance scene for the past few years but on the plus side there seems to be a raft of new labels and new nights starting. Where have you taken your inspiration from during the tougher times and do you think 2008 will see a resurgence?
Iíd like to think there will be a resurgence in 2008, there are definitely a few new quality labels adding to the cause which can only be a good thing, we can all look at the hardcore scene and how that turned around so as long as there enough passionate people still working then thereís no reason why it canít turn around in our scene.
If it does pick up again then itíll only happen from overspill from the hardcore scene in my opinion and they will only latch onto this scene if the music is exciting enough to grab them. Dull, slow, lifeless hard house is not going to grab someone that is used to 180 BPM vocal hardcore (saying that fast, poor quality, mindless drivel wonít do it either!). So I hope the music this year reflects this as itís our only chance of grabbing them and converting them.
People into electro, house or indie music will not get into hard house (as it is) as there is too much snobbery involved, people into scouse house and hardcore are more likely to fall into this scene - well thatís my take on it.
On New Year you reprised your role as a hardcore DJ with a classics set at the mighty Storm. How did it go down and what classics did you play?
That was a lot of fun, I was sh*tting it before as Glazby and Maddox were on playing house and the room was bubbling, I expected to play my first track and for it to drop like a lead balloon but it went the other way and the room filled up and the set seemed to go down well.
It was brilliant playing those old tracks again as love them all.
Whatís on your iPod at the moment? Are you a secret Spice Girls fan?
Donít mind the Spice Girls but prefer Girls Aloud, got the new album the other day and itís on the iPod and getting a good bashing, "Call the Shots" is amazing!
I'm a secret "Call the Shots" fan too! Anything else you want to plug Ė nowís the time?
Yup, the new Flashpoint site is all but ready: www.flashpointrecords.co.uk If you are quick and get on there now itís like porn heaven as the spambot protection isn't working properly yet. Grab it while you can (I am)!
Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately for some!) since we went to press the Flashpoint site has cleaned up its act and gone live properly and should now be porn free. Big thanks to Marc for the interview, a thoroughly lovely guy doing a hell of a lot for hard house.
Photos copyright Marc Johnson not to be reproduced without permission.
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The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.
| From: karl davis on 23rd Jan 2008 19:21.26|
top stuff mj, wkd dj/producer and top bloke
From: Demonix on 24th Jan 2008 08:16.12
MJ is da man!! [;-) quality producer, wkd DJ and a decent down to earth diamond geezer.. all the best for 2008
From: carl nicholson on 24th Jan 2008 12:20.35
Top Top Bloke!",
From: George-E on 24th Jan 2008 12:54.20
1st of all, good to see that Marc's still indeed very tidy on that hair style, haha! Most prob. one of the most determined, passionate never-enders that I have come a-x in my life and all the better for it as he is doing what he always said he will do. Well done Marc, I personally will be watching him closely in the future. All the best for 08.
From: dave curtis on 24th Jan 2008 13:24.01
good stuff marc and k8-e!
thanks for the mention ;o)
From: Coops on 24th Jan 2008 17:02.01
MJ is a legend.
From: Digital Kid on 24th Jan 2008 22:12.06
From: Nick Rockliffe on 25th Jan 2008 13:29.50
good stuff, noticed you now have your own digital shop i remeber you mentioning in an HF thread some time back.
Good to see things going from strength to strength for Flash Point. Well deserved.
From: GMReq on 25th Jan 2008 16:50.14
Nice straight-up feature that cuts down to business without any of the usual poncey sycophantic dross. Lovely in content and context.
From: TheDon on 26th Jan 2008 21:53.19
All good MJ
From: Mr Parr on 26th Jan 2008 22:43.57
Good Read and thanks 4 the mention m8
From: James Nardi on 27th Jan 2008 18:53.21
Well done matey.
From: Claire99 on 29th Jan 2008 16:30.56
A real down to earth Guy! wicked producer/dj
A great Read Mark keep up the good work
From: pierce on 30th Jan 2008 17:36.15
Topman , Savage DJ & Producer ,, 1 of a kind ... and thanks a mill for teh mention .. it's much appreciated .. Pierce
From: Steve Gillen on 30th Jan 2008 19:12.34
top work fella
From: mattpickup on 30th Jan 2008 21:36.25
wicked stuff matey good darts !!!!!!!!!!
From: onthebass on 31st Jan 2008 22:36.28
Top work Marc. I still recall seeing both you and George-E play at one of the first nights out I had in London. Endorphin @ the Fridge i think LOL. Keep living the dream
From: Marc Johnson on 1st Feb 2008 08:53.42
Onthebass that was a while back, it was at Mass
From: John Nutter on 4th Feb 2008 18:59.18
Great interview by great interviewer with the most quality bloke in the scene and the best, most dynamic all rounder in the business. TOP!!!!