On the Mark, in the house

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Legendary house DJ Mark Farina at Therapy

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: House DJ Mark Farina will perform at Therapy Cafe on July 10

The San Francisco-based DJ Mark Farina is a house scene legend. Boasting a career of more than 20 years, Farina has churned out countless releases on Om Records, as well as his own label, Great Lakes Audio. He is a pioneer who created and perfected the “Mushroom Jazz” style, laying acid jazz over a backdrop of hip-hop beats. Farina’s Mushroom Jazz album series, now in its seventh installment, chronicles the growth and evolution of this laid-back, downtempo genre.

Farina will perform Friday, July 10 as part of Therapy Cafe’s Volume: Deep House Fridays series. According to Michael Lacy, the Volume series’ creator and promoter, the goal of this series is to “give local and regional house music lovers, club-goers and nightlife enthusiasts opportunities to see world-class house music DJs and producers, right here in Dayton, Ohio, through an extraordinary club experience.” And this Friday’s performance certainly fits in Lacy’s mission.

I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Mark Farina by way of telephone from his home in San Francisco.

You tour an awful lot. How much of the year are you actually on tour?

Mark Farina: Generally, every weekend. I usually just do weekend trips, maybe three days. Usually, I’ll leave on a Friday and come back Sunday. Monday to Friday, in general, I’m usually at home in San Francisco.

What’s your favorite item to bring with you when you’re traveling?

MF: Of course I bring all my new promos. I also have this wireless speaker I travel with that I love. It’s like a little Sony Bluetooth speaker. It’s like the size of an egg carton. It’s pretty bumpin’. Just for hotel rooms, you know, like I don’t really wanna sit in a hotel room and listen to headphones. And the speakers on my computer don’t cut it. So I would say that’s my thing I love to travel with because when I get to the hotel, I just plug in music and do homework. That speaker is a good audio reference: I can hear the bass and I think it sounds really good, and I don’t have to sit there in a hotel with my headphones on.

What’s your hardware setup when you’re doing live shows? I’ve read you don’t spin vinyl anymore.

MF: I do sometimes. Recently, I did an all-vinyl six-hour set in LA. So it depends. Generally, I’ll stick to USBs and then CDJ2000. Mixer-wise, I like the Pioneer and the DJ-2000 mixer and there’s a new Rane MP2015 mixer I really like, but not a lot of clubs really have it. I have to bring my own from home if I want to use that.

Vinyl-wise, I still buy a lot of vinyl, and I have a whole vinyl set. Only specific places are really equipped to set up vinyl properly. A lot of times I’ll only do it if I’m playing for a DJ that is doing a party who plays vinyl themself, and I know the setup is proper—’cause it just takes a little extra effort to make sure tables aren’t feeding back or skipping. I’ve had a couple situations where they’ve said, “Bring vinyl. We want you to do a vinyl set,” and I start playing, and you get the bass vibration or like skipping or if it’s a wood floor in a club—that can pose problems, so there are a lot of technical aspects of making vinyl work.

Obviously, you’ve been a professional DJ for a really long time. In the ’90s, it was a completely different scene. How have things changed for you in the last 20-plus years of doing shows and making music?

MF: There’s way more subgenres these days. In the early ’90s, it was just house or techno or disco. Now, there are so many little sub-shoot-out-genres that things are called, then also the fact that when we were just starting playing house in the early ’90s-late ’80s, there wasn’t much “classic house.” You know, that IS classic house. So now 20 years later, the kids haven’t heard all these old tracks. It’s just kind of this new area of this thing called classic house coming into play, which is kind of cool, you know. Twenty-five years of house music is available to play out.

Now with digital music, there’s just a lot more out there. There’s stuff coming out every week. Just faster turnover. And there’s way more coming out than in the vinyl days.

I read that you don’t really plan too far ahead with a set, but in general, how do you decide what you’re going to do? 

MF: Yeah like you said, a lot of it’s on the fly. I’ll know that night whatever’s hot that week when I get in that I like—you know, new bits and bobs that come in. I like pushing new stuff. And I’m also digitizing old stuff as well every week. So classic stuff. You never know a room until you’re in a room, so sometimes different things work, some don’t. My general formula is bits and bobs mixed in with some old stuff.

What do you have for upcoming projects? Can we look forward to Mushroom Jazz 8 any time soon?

MF: That’s in the works for a late-fall/winter release, so I’m getting all the track lists together for that, you know getting the details together.

And then my house label, Great Lakes Audio, has various things going on there. Just had the Riki Inocente 12-inch release, this English guy. Then I got a Canadian album coming out, this guy Demuir. I’m really excited about a lot of his tracks. Then I got some of my own tracks coming out with this guy Homero Espinosa. Me and him did a lot of cuts together coming out on Molten Records in the next month. So I’m keeping busy on those releases.

Mark Farina will perform Friday, July 10 at Therapy Cafe, 452 E. Third St. as part of the Volume series. Titonton Duvante, Trevor Lamont, J Lettow and William Alexander are also on the bill. Admission is $20 at the door for patrons 18 and up. For more information, please visit djmarkfarina.net.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at josherlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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