Publication: Dance Music Authority Magazine

Article: Mark Grant Taking The Underground Above Ground

Author: Johnny Medley

Reference: Volume 5/Issue 4/ April 1997 / Page 96



If you truly love underground, soulful, house music mixed with passion, integrity and authority, then you will not find a more talented or engaging DJ than Chicago's Mark Grant. On the music scene for over 12 years now, Mark has created an ever-growing niche and reputation as a force to reckoned with as a gifted DJ, producer and remix artist. What I find most impressive about Mark as a DJ is the fact that his mixing style is totally musical. He is always looking for new ways to make the cuts he plays "breathe." And "breathe" really is the best way to sum up Mark's style. He makes the music come alive with subtle dynamic crescendos and decrescendos, which he creates by rapidly "fluttering" either the channel fader or the crossfader.


Fully schooled in the tenets of hot mixing, Mark does not merely rely on mechanical, formulaic approaches to facilitate his mixes. Rather, the impression that I always get when I hear him spin is that each blend between two songs provides a potential opportunity for the DJ to create a bit magic - to take the audience to the metaphysical level where pleasure reins supreme! I cannot overemphasize the fact that Mark's approach is completely musical. You will never find him simply mixing songs according to a BPM schematic. For him, it's all about the subtleties in the music and finding unique ways to make different songs complement one another.


Perhaps the first thing a person will notice if given the opportunity to watch Mark spin is that he literally uses every inch of his DI board to create the sonic bliss for which he is duly noted.


In his studio, Mark relies on one of my favorite pieces of equipment, the BIAMP SCM7600 DJ Club Mixer. With three bands of EQ on each side of the crossfader, he is afforded infinitely more control than the typical scenario, since he can now individually shape the sound of each record with astounding precision. Trust me, Mark takes full advantage of BLAMP's EQ to create captivating segues which are nothing short of awesome!


As I mentioned earlier, Mark Grant has quietly developed quite a reputation for himself as an extremely talented and versatile producer and remix artist. All one needs to do is take a look at his discography to get the idea - or, better yet, listen! Every project he has worked on possesses an enduring, "classic appeal," destined to withstand the test of time. His current project, Black Fibre "You Can Lift Me Up," (Sub-Urban Records) features the soulful Donna Blakely and Mark's stellar-as-usual production. This project is the shit! But so is his upcoming project on Cajual Records with Braxton Holmes and remixes of Glenn Underground's "House Music Will Never Die" and Cajmere's "Only 4 U," which is due out soon. And, his earlier stuff was, and still is, the shit: "The Groove EP" (Underground Construction), "Touch Me" (Cajual Records),"Gotta New Love" (Underground Construction) with Ralphie Rosario featuring Donna Blakely.

In the business for the long haul, Mark is poised to tackle the world, which is exactly what he has been doing of late. My girlfriend, Regina, and I recently had the opportunity to hang with Mark and his girlfriend Jany to just chill for a moment and talk about the crazy business of music...


DMA: I understand you just got back from Belgium, what was that like?


MG: Actually, it's not such a grand story. Johnny Fiasco hooked me up with some promoters, and they brought me over there for New Years Eve. It was very, very cold. Record-breaking cold. But the party was cool; it was my first time spinning out of the country.


DMA: How would you define your mixing style?


MG: I like to work the records if I feel it is called for. Sometimes its good to let a record play and do its thing. I like soulful underground music whether it's vocals, dubs, tracks or whatever. Live instrumentation always captures my ear and, also, drum patterns with a nice swing.


DMA: I'm glad you brought up the issue of live instrumentation, for that is something which really sets you apart from other DJs and producers out there. As far as DJ stage presence and music production is concerned, a live instrumentalist spreads out the focus visually and brings new sonic flavors to the aural mix. How did you come to start experimenting in that area?


MG: Well as far as DJing, at my Saturday residence, Mad Bar, a percussionist by the name of Leddie Garcia (from Poi Dog pondering) plays along with me. He plays congas, timbales - stuff I cannot even name (laughing). It's cool because me and Leddie vibe well together and his instruments accent my spinning rather than clash with it. I've had that happen when put in the same situation with drummers and singers. Also with Mel Hammond (engineer) working the board and hooking us up with phat effects, it gets very interesting.


DMA: What about live instrumentation in your music production?


MG: Unfortunately, I have not been able to use as much live instrumentation as I would like in my productions, but I have recently obtained the equipment to record live instrumentation-oriented projects. But in the near future there will be a lot more. I have tried to compensate by using my keyboards like they were live instruments. Like on the Black Fibre record, the whole record was me on the keyboard. I read some reviews where people thought there were live instruments. I wish they were, but it will happen soon.


DMA: On the popularity tip, it's obvious that your hard work and persistence is paying off in that you play at an Impressive four clubs in Chicago each week (Shelter, Red Dog's Boom Boom Room, Funky Buddah Lounge and Mad Bar). And, you're starting to travel spinning around the world, and your music productions are getting attention. What are your future plans?


MG: I definitely want to continue to branch out as far as spinning is concerned. I want to see other places, countries and people. But I am not in a terribly big rush, however. My main concern right now is to do very good and consistent music. That it first and foremost because the out-of-town spinning opportunities will come as a result of my consistency as an artist, producer and remixer. I want to expand my music and take it to the next level. I want to step up instead of steppin on...


I was amazed by how much Mark's studio had grown since the last time I was over ...the Akai MPC 3000 is still there ...I see he got another Mackie 1604 mixer ...another Panasonic DAT (3700 to compliment the 3800)...JV Orbit ... Protects ... Lexicon ... a new ADAT..more effects ...and so on ...but we can just let the pictures speak for themselves!. More importantly, however, Mark's work on Black Fibre "You Can Lift Me Up," clearly demonstrates that with the right equipment and, most importantly, a creative user, a "live" (acoustic) sound is definitely possible. Listen to the record for yourself; I think you'll be amazed!


And that'll bring this session to a close. Thanks to DMA. I have the opportunity to meet a lot of incredible people. Mark Grant is one of them. Check out his projects 'cause the man's definitely got skills!