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August 23 , 2019
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Interview with DJ Mark Allen after his last visit to Israel

So... giving up a promising career in a court of law for psychedelic music? Any Jewish mother would have been thoroughly shocked and outraged! What have you got to say for yourself?

Erm, who said anything about 'promising'? HeHe. I don't regret studying law and the two years spent with a London law firm was a really useful experience. However, by the end of my training, I had been to India twice and been inspired by many other lifestyles. Travelling gives you the headspace to work out your priorities, away from the rat race and expected norms. In my case, I decided, while on a 4 month mountain bike ride across the Himalayas, that DJing, promoting parties and studio production were going to make me happier than being a corporate lawyer. I didn't know I would succeed, but I felt too passionate about it to do anything else.

Did the career change prove itself right?

I'm a lot poorer, financially, but a lot happier than I would have been !

What's your musical background before discovering trance? How do you feel that background is showing in your music writing and DJing?

I had no formal music training as I came to producing as a DJ/Dance floor 'consultant' with Mindfield. Everything I know about music has been learnt by being in the studio and some extra studying. My full time writing partner in Quirk, Tim Healey has background of playing guitar and singing in bands. I think the eclectic and Quirky nature of our music is a result of very wide range of other influences, both past and current.

What kind of music you used to listen to before you discovered trance? Do you listen only to electronic music nowadays or you bang your head to Bach and Jonny Rotten every now and than also?

At the party I went to in Brighton on Saturday, we played 'pass the box'. The box was one of those cute 7" singles cases full of New Wave and Punk singles from 1978. It was very emotional. Unless I am DJing or checking music in my studio, I don't usually listen to trance. This keeps the experience of playing out new tracks fresh and exciting for me. What I listen to, depends which room I am in, in my house:
Kitchen: Radio 4 (thinking person's music-free and advert-free station. This is where I learn about gardening tips and pension plans.
Bathroom: Radio 5 live (talking person's music-free and advert-free station. This is where I hear what other people think about the world.
Living Room: Assorted CDs ranging from chilled and dubby to commercial artist albums. Yunno: Madonna, Lou Read, The Mad Scientist, Morcheeba
Bed Room: Very ambient CDs, from Whale noises to Philip Glass, via Eric Satie and the entire works of Brian Eno. The Car: Commercial dance and pop stations, to learn what normal people listen to.

What do you like more- writing music or DJing? Where do you feel the most reward? Or is it the combination of both- DJing your own tracks?

I couldn't imagine doing one without the other. Yes, seeing a good reaction to a track I have made myself is very rewarding. I feel very lucky to be in the position to road test most tracks before we commit to a final mix.

How did you enjoy your last week in Israel? What did you feel about the parties and the people?

I had a great time. It was a very busy schedule with 5 different events. I enjoyed each event for different reasons. You know about the amazing desert party, which was my first experience of this kind. It was real pleasure to be outside in the rugged countryside, playing to such a nice, relaxed crowd. I also played at 3 indoor raves in Tel Aviv, which were all well attended by enthusiastic party people. My favourite one of these was the day party in the Harbour on Saturday. This had a really good crowd and the sound was just right. I also played at the biggest small club in Tel Aviv: The Dynamo Dvash, which was good fun as usual in a much more cozy and intense way.

You must have been to Israel quite a lot of times (how many?), do you feel any change here in trance music and spirit?

Oh, I have lost count of the number of times I have been there, probably 20 or more. Like everywhere else, the sound of trance and people's perception of it is constantly evolving. Artists like Maskalin, BLT, Infected Mushroom and Morax are helping to take the sound forward, by combining that BIG Israeli production with more unusual sounds and grooves. In Israel, trance is popular with a much bigger proportion of your population than in the UK, so I feel the spirit of it more strongly than anywhere else in the world.

Is there a change worldwide? Do you like it, if there is?

Production-wise, there has never been a more exciting time. The technology available now gives us awesome power of sound manipulation and control, for a fraction of the cost, only several years ago. This is good and bad. It's good because there is no longer any excuse for bad production and people anywhere in the world have access to small but perfectly adequate studios. It's bad because anyone with $1000 to spare can start imitating their favourite techno band. This had lead to a lot of 'generic' music that simply copies a time-honoured formula. It's bad enough when established artists do it (I won't mention any names) but a bad copy of the same old sounds is not at all interesting for me. That said, people have to start somewhere, to get the confidence to find their own sound.

You have quite a long and fruitful relationship with Krembo, how did it start?

Zoo-B from Krembo has been a good personal friend of mine since he first brought me out to Israel, over 5 years ago. Mutual trust and respect keeps us in regular contact for all sorts of musical projects.

You've just released a new CD in Krembo - can you tell me a bit about it? How did it come to be? Why the nostalgic feel to it?

The new CD 'Inventive Steps' is retrospective for me, which summarizes my musical output from the last century! It includes two previously unreleased tracks: A '99 remix of Cognitive Dissidents, from Quirk and a previously unreleased Mindfield track, which I edited and remastered to fit the mix. The earlier tracks are included for the new generation of party people who will have missed them first time around. In places like Tokyo, I am playing to a completely new crowd compared to 3 or 4 years ago.

A question I ask all trance veterans- why do you think trance is so big here in Israel?

Many reasons: It's such a young country, I think it's natural that the young people are drawn to something very progressive and underground. That applies to producers and DJs as much as party goers. Young Israelis themselves have built the scene from within the country and made it part of their culture. Most other countries have a hugely corporate rock'n'roll industry, which dominates the media and keeps dance music relatively underground. Also the Goa connection cannot be ignored. Many people get turned on to electronic music there, although nowadays it's more likely to happen in Israel, where there are more high quality events.

Any recommendations to good new music and new names to follow in the world of trance?

In Israel, keep an eye on Yuli (BLT) and Morax. Elsewhere, Simon Posford is still innovating in a way that tweaks me. I particularly like the Shpongle remix of DMT.

Where did you spend the millennium change? Didn't you feel like being in Goa?

I had a great holiday, but a disastrous party at New Year in Bali. Incompetence, combined with lots of bad luck created an over-priced, under-attended fiasco. Goa is bit too 'sceney' for me now. I have had some of the best experiences in my life there, but I know I could not improve on that if I went there again. I spend so much of my time listening to, playing and making music, I usually want a rest from that, if I'm on holiday.

Do you still go to a party to just dance, or is it a completely different experience after you've been DJing in hundreds of parties and writing the music yourself?

The opportunities are rare, but when it happens, it's great. Parties I have had a darn good wiggle at recently: The Solipse festival (Particularly to Boris Blenn and Tsuyoshi), Solstice party in Japan (To Tristan and Paul Jackson), last year's BOOM (to Frank E's fantastic set), Tim Healey (at a local night in Brighton).

What does the future holds for Mark Allen and Quirk, I mean the planning part, of course? Some ambientish stuff maybe?

Tim and I continue to work well together and have been building up a collection of new tracks to unleash on an unsuspecting World. We just need to find the World first. When I am away from the studio for more than a few days, Tim does other projects, under the name 'Electric Tease'. He has been coming up with some great stuff, a lot which I DJ with. We shall do a few more mellow tracks in the near future. We certainly don't want only bangin' toons on our next album.

Why Quirk?

If I can refer you to the Oxford English dictionary:

quirk // n.

1 a peculiarity of behaviour.

2 a trick of fate; a freak.

3 a flourish in writing.

quirkish adj.

quirky adj. (quirkier, quirkiest).

quirkily adv.

quirkiness n.
{16th c.: origin unknown}

When do we hear you next time, here in Israel?

I'll be back before you've finished reading this! Actually, the 18th of April, for Passover, I believe.
Keep it Quirky!

Well… big thanks to Mark- more on Mark Allen & Quirk here: http://www.quirk.org

 Interview by Shahar
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