Mark Knight returns to his house music roots, and his most recent track “If It’s Love” goes back to basics with classic house music elements; something he feels has been compromised due to the industry’s fast-paced environment. “Writing songs that have a bit more depth [and] that are really focused on the fundamentals of songwriting: great hooks, great melodies and meaningful lyrics,” explains Knight when talking about the inspiration for his new release. Going back to his soulful roots, Mark Knight’s latest record that features stellar vocalists Laura Davie and The Melody Men gives the world an extra dose of feel-good vibes just what it needed as it grapples with COVID-19.
Knight admits that while touring has been put to a halt there is still much work keeping him busy. He also recognizes that touring is one area he’s consciously cut back during the past four years. He tries to only play gigs two weekends out of the month. “I’ve really cashed my chips in. […] To be honest, it’s something I’ve been looking to get out of touring anyway,” said Knight. “I’ve been on the road for 20 years straight and when you have a family there are other priorities that come up.” The British artist may be reducing events, but that doesn’t mean he plans on hanging up his headphones anytime soon. With less time on the road, he has more time to focus on other aspects of Toolroom Records, and this means making sure that classic house music gets passed down generations and passed down right.
You look at Beatport, and you see all these bootlegs of old records. What would we bootleg now? Nothing. There’s nothing in this time [and] space, or very few records, that you could do a bootleg of because there’s not the love and craft going into enough records right now. — Mark Knight on house music and its current state
Anyone who has listened to a Mark Knight track can identify it almost immediately as a Mark Knight track. Deep, rich vocals that create beautiful melodies layered over classic piano riffs that pump life into any house track. His music hits the soul. For nearly 20 years, Mark Knight and his label Toolroom Records have given the world some of the best house music records. A couple of recent favorites are Weiss’ “Feel My Needs” and CamelPhat’s “Right Here, Right Now” remix. Despite Toolroom Records’ efforts to maintain a certain level of quality in dance tracks, music production has become somewhat cookie-cutter making the industry pro question modern producers and the process itself. “Bang a track out, get some presence on Beatport, get more gigs…Where’s the depth? Where [are] the things that will signify this era in dance music?” For Knight, it’s about going back to house music basics with melodies, riffs and hooks to create timeless classics.
Dance music has become a victim of its own success I think. You inherited a lot of the pop model because it’s so lucrative. I’m not going to start naming names, but there are lots of people who are massive who are not making their own records. They’ve just got great Instagram personas. That’s what pop was and the idea of dance music was kind of the antithesis to that […]. —Mark Knight on current DJ expectations
You have a shelf life no matter who you are in music. You won’t be at the top of your game forever. It’s about finding a sound, and it’s the biggest compliment you could have as a brand when someone says ‘I’ve made a record and it sounds very Toolroom’ that’s brillant. […] Next thing is to find producers and new talent that understand that, believe in that and harness them and develop them. That gives you and the brand longevity. — Mark Knight discussing Toolroom Academy
Knight recognizes how important it is to keep the music alive. So much so he established Toolroom Academy to help keep the Toolroom signature sound alive. “Toolroom Academy in some ways follows the model of sport. Every professional sports team have an academy. Whether you’re in football, basketball, baseball, they have academies that feed into the club, and we’re obsessed with sport. We’re more really into sport than [we] are into music,” joked Knight. “That model works unbelievably well in sport why not do the same thing with Toolroom?” The academy’s professors are industry members that understand the game because they eat, live, breathe and sleep it.
You have to shut your eyes and envision how this plays out real-time, and always try to imagine that. You’ve done so many gigs you can preconceive the kind of reaction. [….] I tried to make a record that’s accessible to many…have that kind of hair in the back of head moment anytime whether you’re out on your bike, in the kitchen dancing around. Does it have those core elements, this one just did. — Mark Knight on “If It’s Love”
Without a doubt, COVID-19 is impacting everyone around the world. With heavy news though the music industry has acted quickly banning together to support communities suffering the most. If it’s not festival-like live streams like those of Beatport, Defected Records and Insomniac then it’s one-off charitable events like Plus1’s “Dance From Home” that are not only helping many get through weekends but are also raising money for charitable efforts.
Artists aren’t immune to its effects either. Mark Knight just like several artists during COVID-19’s quarantine is adapting to a new norm, one that hopefully is near its end. “It’s the kids who I really feel for though,” said Knight. “We can all exist and we understand the context. I feel for my son.” However, there’s opportunity in adversity. While the world may feel a little out of sync Mark Knight is bringing people together, safely of course. To celebrate “If It’s Love,” he encouraged people to share videos of themselves dancing to its beat. He spoke and the people listened. Videos from all over the world have hit Toolroom’s inbox. Spreading love and positive vibes through music. We’re here for it.
The world may be in lockdown but that doesn’t mean that the music has stopped. Get your Toolroom fix, and subscribe to Mark Knight’s weekly radio show for some of the freshest beats in dance music.