We recently caught up with Mark Kloud to discuss his latest EP on Ronin Ordinance, how he started out, his production set up and what it means to get support from Om Unit and Doc Scott. You can also stream the full length version of the track “Dwarf Nova” from the release below.
I read that you got into jungle during the mid-nineties and started collecting around 1998. What was it about the sound that drew you in and what kind of releases did you begin buying?
Yes, in the mid-nineties I was getting into electronic music, listening to a lot of stuff on Ninja Tune. Then I heard Atari Teenage Riot and loved the breaks, the speed but the vocals got to be a bit much for me. So when I heard Drum and Bass for the first time it was exactly what I had been wanting with the higher tempos, deep bass and breaks. Around that time I was attending underground raves. Most of which consisted of House and Techno with the occasional party having Drum and Bass in a small, dark room. I was drawn into the sound and atmosphere.
The first record I bought was Roni Size “Brown Paper Bag”. I was already familiar with the “New Forms” album as I had it on CD. I mainly wanted it for the Photek remix, knowing his work from “Modus Operandi”. Shortly after I was picking releases from Renegade Hardware, Hardleaders, Moving Shadow, Smokers Inc., Suburban Base Records and Metalheadz. I was buying a range of styles but mainly wanting Jungle from 95-96 and Techstep from 97-98.
I’m always intrigued to know more about how the drum and bass community evolved in the United States during those early years. You managed to turn collecting into a DJ career, what was the scene like back then and what kind of places did you play?
When I started DJing I was attending school in NYC at the School of Visual Arts in 1998. New York was the place to be if you were into Drum and Bass in North America. Two record shops, Breakbeat Science and Liquid Sky helped that movement. Not only as places that sold releases from around the world but also evolving into labels releasing their own unique sounds for the region. Breakbeat Science, ran by DJ DB, DJ Dara and the Shooter, was the first strictly Drum and Bass record store in the U.S. It was a few blocks from my school so I was there weekly, spending far too much money. The scene in NYC was much different than Buffalo, many more options on events to go to, and the bigger names. I got to see Goldie, Fabio and Grooverider, Total Science and Mampi Swift to name a few.
I don’t know if I’d say during my time DJing was a career. It was more of a hobby, passionate about the music. Venues would vary, in New York City they were small bars, clubs, and house parties. I was just starting, so places hosting open turntable nights were perfect for me at the time. I had played a couple of weekly nights too, in small, underground basements. In Buffalo I had played in several types of venues, typical bars and clubs to convention centers.
I guess College Radio was the equivalent of online stations now, what was it like hosting these?
Hosting the Drum and Bass show in NYC at college was nothing special. It was an AM transmission, so the reach was minimal. I did it with my friend Dan, he was the one that taught me the basics to DJing. We met my first week at school. He’s from Philadelphia and had already been playing Drum and Bass for a couple of years. I wouldn’t have been surprised if no one had listened besides our friends. But when I would come home for holidays to Buffalo there was a show on The Buffalo State college radio strictly for Drum and Bass. Underground FM was the name of the show and one of the first outlets for me hearing the sound prior to going to NYC. It was a crew of 4-5 guys pushing the sound in the area. The station and show had a good following so I would occasionally be a guest there.
It’s great that you can broadcast directly from your house nowadays but it must of made it a bit more exciting turning up somewhere with a bunch of records to play?
Sure, playing a web show in my basement within a few minutes and clicks is much easier. But there is something special about making that slim selection of records to fit in your bag to lug on your journey to the station. Things have changed drastically since when I had started 20 years ago – damn this year marks 20 years DJing, crazy!
You’ve played alongside Adam F, J Majik, Stakka & Skynet, DJ Trace and Mickey Finn. Can you please tell us what it’s like playing alongside these some of these icons?
The crazy thing about playing with all those guys was that it was all in one event (minus Mickey Finn) in Buffalo around 2002 . I was co-running the event called British Invasion. Since I wasn’t just DJing, I was also working, I didn’t have much time as I had wanted to chat with all those guys. They’re legends though, I was obsessed with Adam F “Circles” LP, J.Majik’s “Your Sound”, “Arabian Nights” and “Repertoire” are all classics! I remember that they were all very nice. I think they were all excited in a way to play to a different scene and culture than what they were use to. I think they were also excited to be in the U.S. Especially since Buffalo is near Niagara Falls which is a big tourist site. I think I talked to Trace the most, more about his personal life rather than a musician, which can be more meaningful of a conversation than anything else.
I played with Mickey Finn around that time in Rochester NY. It was a bit different for me to play that show. I was playing more of a harder, darker style at the time and Mickey was into Jump-Up. The majority of the people there were into that sound too. I feel like in the late 90s styles started to become more diverse and segregated.
Anyone particularly stand out as a highlight?
I had opened for a few people over the years, not just Drum and Bass artists but also a lot of Hip-Hop and Downtempo artists as I played those styles for a period of time. A stand out was Amon Tobin. He didn’t get to play in the U.S. much at the time. The reason he stands out wasn’t because of his set but being able to talk to him for hours after the show. He wasn’t just interested in speaking about himself and what he was doing. He was interested in others. I had opened for him as part of a live performance with a drummer and vocalist so he was interested in our set-up and influences.
A lot of this happened during your time in New York City whilst you were studying at The School of Visual Art. What were you studying?
I was there for two years studying illustration. Soon after I realised I wanted to take up Graphic Design. I had always been more of a fine artist but started gravitating towards print design and experimental digital art.
I’ve talked to a few artists who also produce, Blame and Fybe:One included. Why do you think there is such a strong connection between these two art forms?
They’re both forms of art yet so different for me. By doing both it’s allowing me to express myself in different mediums which makes for a healthy balance. As a graphic designer and art director I’m not always being creative – the jobs can entail some tedious, mindless work which is fine but during those times it allows me to be creative with music and vice versa. If I’m either struggling with music or have some down time, I’ll start some creative, personal art to balance things. Of course it’s not always as simple as that. There have been times where I can’t do either. As I get older and have less time to work on things I’ve learned to refine some processes to make transitioning into both mediums a bit easier. The best thing I’ve implemented as a part of my process over the past few years is when I feel an overflow of creativity coming on I’ll start projects without the intent of finishing them. Starting a sketch, for both music or art, to return to at any time whether it be months or even years later.
You run two labels, Ground Mass and Air Mass, that both have a strong graphic direction. Do you design all the artwork?
Yes I do. When I started doing graphic work I was doing a lot of music related jobs – flyers, posters, and cover art. I wanted to show range in my portfolio so I focused on getting other work and stopped doing a lot of the music related stuff. Over time I missed it, so when thinking of starting Ground Mass it was a perfect chance for me to get back into doing art for music.
What’s the difference between the two labels?
Ground Mass was based on the 160-170 uptempo sounds. Influences ranging from Jungle, Drum and Bass, and Footwork.
Air Mass is focused on more experimental type sounds. It’s not as BPM or genre specific as Ground Mass, it leans towards Ambient, Autonomic, Downtempo and Techno influences.
You’re clearly a creative guy, when did you begin producing?
It was around 2004. At the time I was getting bored with Drum and Bass, I wasn’t inspired with what was coming out and I didn’t think it was progressing like it once had. This is when I started to get more into Underground Hip-Hop both from the States and Europe as well as Downtempo. So, my early production was in that sound space, really just experimenting. Since that time I had messed around with making some Drum and Bass but it wasn’t until around 2012 that I made more of a push into the uptempo styles.
Can you tell us how your set up has changed over the years?
Early on it was a lot of sampling. I had built a decent record collection. Not just Electronic music but Jazz, Classical, Rock, etc. I would go crate digging strictly for sampling records. I used a Roland MC 307, Boss SP 303 and Korg Kaoss Pad for both DJ sets and production. It hasn’t changed drastically. I still do a lot of sampling. If anything I’ve probably just became more experimental with equipment, using guitar pedals, tape decks to create tape loops, a reel to reel player along with some experimental stand alone applications.
What’s currently in your studio?
Not too much – Arturia Keylab 49, Roland Juno 106, Boss GT-5 Effects Processor and an Akai 4000 DS Reel to Reel.
You’ve had a string of releases on labels including Nord and Phyla Digital. Could you pick five highlights from your back catalogue that you’re most proud of?
My releases with Nord for sure
Mark Kloud – Last Light EP
Mark Kloud – Arctic Summer EP
Mark Kloud – Arctic Winter EP
Mark Kloud – Daggers Ep (Terra Null Recordings)
Yushan – Cataclysmic Variable (Air Mass)
How did you hook up with Ronin Ordinance and how did this release come about?
Ben and I have been connected for years. I believe through mutual friends on Facebook and Soundcloud. We had been in talks about a release for a while. I had been sitting on “Dwarf Nova” for a little bit and “Stub” is fairly newer and thought they fit well together so sent them over to him. The Yushan track is fairly new, I believe Ben had wanted to put that on a Various Artist compilation but that didn’t pan out so we decided to put it on the single.
What’s the deal with the Yushan track?
Yushan is an alias I started a couple of years ago. Yushan means Jade Mountain in Chinese. I’m half Chinese and my first daughter’s name is Jade so that’s the background on the name. I was making some minimal and deep 170 bpm tunes with techno influences along with some experimental and ambient tracks. Instead of putting them out under the Mark Kloud name I wanted to separate the two.
What I love about the two Mark Kloud tracks on this release is the balance between old and new. There’s a strong “retro” influence but they aren’t carbon copies of tracks you would have heard in the nineties. Can you tell us about the production?
I’m glad that connection is being heard. In a way I think a lot of my tracks are an ode to those early years for me. The mid to late 90’s Jungle / Drum and Bass has been a great influence on me. Even if you go back to some of those releases now, the B-sides or labels that weren’t as big – you’ll find a lot of timeless music. Although some of the breakbeats have been used a lot over the years I think combining them with different percussive patterns, like influences from Footwork, puts a new spin on things.
Over the years you’ve received support by the likes of Om Unit and Doc Scott. How does this make you feel?
It was around 2013 when I first heard Om Unit’s Footwork edits of classic Jungle tracks. Just before that time I was sampling some of my favorite Jungle records and trying some things out at 140 bpm and 170+ BPM. At the same time I was also told by a friend to check out Chicago Juke and Footwork. So hearing the Philip D. Kick edits made me think to try my hand at it. I made a series of edits and posted them on Soundcloud. Shortly after Om Unit hit me up on there and asked me to send them over, saying I was one of the first he heard taking on the Footwork Jungle style other than him and Machinedrum. But even before this I knew of Om Unit’s music. That experience opened my eyes to the possibility of getting my tracks out to more than just my small group of friends. He has also been a big supporter of Ground Mass. The main goal for that label is to expose lesser known artists to more people. I think it has worked – For example having releases from Crypticz, J(ay).A.D and Graphs who all went and had releases on Om Unit’s label Cosmic Bridge.
Also having the legend, Doc Scott, play a tune of mine on his Future Beats radio show was amazing. Just sitting on my couch, headphones on, working on graphic design listening to the latest Future Beats – you don’t expect to hear your tune, at least I didn’t. I was very grateful.
It’s not always the big names that mean everything though. I’m grateful to all my fans, followers and listeners – no matter what their status in the community. As long as others appreciate my art, it gives me meaning and makes me want to continue.
What are you currently working on?
I’m actually working on some Ambient and Sound Design for a short film, which is really exciting. Other than that I have a decent about of Yushan material near complete – which I’m not sure what I’m going to do with yet.
Where can people find out more?
https://soundcloud.com/markkloud and https://www.facebook.com/markkloudmusic
For Graphic Design:
Anything you’d like to mention?
Many thanks to my supporters around the globe. Truly means a lot to me. Most importantly thanks to my wife Laura and my kids – Jade, Ava and Ethan!