Releasing the tension with Mark Picchiotti

On uplifting melodies and remixes that trump whole albums

DJ and producer from the heart, Mark Picchiotti

I’ve been a long-term fan of Mark Picchiotti since I became hooked on his remixes of AM:PM tunes in the mid-1990s. In the days before you could listen to a thirty second snippet on Traxsource or Beatport spending £5 or so per twelve-inch was always something of a gamble in the absence of a listening station, but his remixes were as close to a home banker as you could get.

Wind forward twenty five or so years, and he’s still at it so I thought I’d finally find out what makes him tick.

Good to speak to you! Tell me, where do those euphoric sounds I’ve been chasing come from?

I think it comes from just a general sense of who I am. If I experience something that brings me joy I want to let others know about it but I don’t preach about it, I just say hey, here’s what my experience looked like and maybe if you want to try it you’ll get the same result. And when I’m writing songs and when I’m working with music I’m not musically trained so I play by ear and when I’m working out chords and things like that I’m looking for that emotion because music is about tension and release, especially pop music, and so when I’m writing I want to give you that release. Music, for me, can really change my mood. I used to teach at university and I used to teach my students that you’re going going to learn how to make music but more importantly you’re going to learn how to make people feel. So it’s really about me feeling an emotion and putting it out to the universe and if I feel good about it I know other people will. The record production is really a vehicle for me to serve my purpose on the planet. [This is true of] DJing even more so, because with a set of mine, you’re not necessarily going to hear the songs that you know, but you will hear songs that will make you feel a certain way.

I struggled to pick a collaboration to talk about so I’ll ask you: which of them do you remember the most fondly?

Well the one that stands out the most is The Absolute There Will Come a Day, simply because for one, the record just simply changed my career in 1995. Suzanne Palmer was the singer and I’d been working with her doing some commercial work. She’s got this amazing voice. She’s this little Polish girl who sings like she’s a church lady! So I’d just been getting into writing songs and producing as I’d been remixing and I just asked her, I said “hey, would you fancy singing on our dance track?” And she said “well, I’m not really a dance artist, but sure,” because I was paying her. I brought in Craig Snider who was my keyboard player at the time and said “hey, you wanna collaborate on this?” It was such an organic thing and I recorded it up in the attic of my home on a $90 Shure microphone and when I was done with it I just knew I had something special and it was different and unique. That evolved into getting signed to Tribal and doing the dubs and it’s still being played today. It’s in Grand Theft Auto 5!

One collaboration I have to ask you about as it still gets a wild reaction now is your remix of Kele Le Roc’s “My Love” – what’s the story?

[Laughs for some time] Ohhh, yep, yep yep! That record, oh my god Martin. I’d been doing some work for Polydor, I think that was her label, and I’d just finished working with Lighthouse Family [for whom] I’d remixed Raincloud. I’d spent time in Newcastle and they were so pleased with me and the label was really hot on me and they said “we’ve got this artist and she’s R&B but we want you to flip the script on it.” And if you hear the original it’s this nice, ninety six beats-per-minute R&B song and because she didn’t sing with a lot of vibrato the timestretch was good so you didn’t hear the flutter and the crazy chipmunk stuff. I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody about the hook in that song. I was big in those days, like everyone was, sampling disco records but my thing was I would take a record, sample it and then recreate it and add to it. So there’s the [sings], that little line in there, that’s actually from a record called Shine on Silver Moon by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr and it’s a rarer record and I just loved that hook. So I sampled the hook in there and arranged more strings and horns that weren’t there for the main hook, you hear it on the chorus, and then the verse I brought in my bass player, I brought in my keyboard player to add some extra keys on that. I was doing four remixes a month at that time so it was just the next, the next the next, and I was in London sitting in the office with Colin Barlow who at that time was the head of the label, and Kele Le Roc got brought up. For whatever reason, the album they didn’t feel was going to work, or they did release it and they didn’t get response, but for whatever reason they shelved it. But one of the reasons they felt comfortable shelving it was that my production of that song had done so well on the compilations that they had recouped well over the £250,000 advance they had given for the album. I’m glad you picked that record because that is one of my top five records that I’ve ever done, for me.

So moving to now, what can we expect to see from you then?

So about four years ago Defected licensed a bunch of Mark Picchiotti back catalogue, so last year we saw Pump The Boogie came out on Glitterbox and this year, I signed and produced a band called Jersey Street out of Liverpool in 2000 and originally I sent it to Defected and they passed and about two years later they came back and picked it up, and that came out on vinyl a couple of months ago. I was hammering them for a digital release and finally that’s going to come out on Big Love, Seamus Haji’s label, which is a Defected label. I’m doing a deal with Groove Culture for my next Javi Star single called Beautiful High. I have a new Absolute [record] with Suzanne Palmer and my buddy Craig [and] I was just in Chicago three weeks ago recording that. I have a collaboration with JKriv and Lisa Millett that I’m just finishing up right now and I have a second Lisa Millett record that’s just me and her. I have a new artist but I’m not going to say who she is because I don’t want anybody stealing her from me! But it’s a collaboration with PerQX out of Sweden. He hit me up to do a collaboration and I brought in this singer — it’s going to blow the roof off! Now, you see I didn’t say that about any of the other records and the other records are good but this is going to blow the roof off. I believe it’s a game changer. I’ve never been this prolific with my music in my entire career and I’m really excited about it.

Thanks so much it’s been so great to chat to you!

Thanks for listening to me yapping!

Published by Martin

Geek, DJ, runner, family man.