Shortly after Mark Farina befriended Derrick Carter in 1988 at a record store in Chicago, his passion for house music, and sharing it with the world, exploded. He experimented with a deeper style, dropping hip hop, disco classics and other stuff that wasn’t being played in the main rooms of nightclubs in his sets. While exploring his love for the purist forms of house music, Mark developed his trademark style: mushroom jazz – acid jazz infused with the west coast’s jazzy, organic productions.
Fans embraced Mark’s downtempo style so much that he started a weekly Mushroom Jazz club night in San Francisco with Patty Ryan. In three short years, the club established a fanatical, cult-like following and, when the doors closed, Farina continued the tradition by releasing a collectible series of Mushroom Jazz CDs on OM Records.
We are delighted to have Mark playing for us at our 25th Anniversary event, and so to set the mood for his performance in May, we invited him to put together an exclusive guest mix for our monthly podcast series. Gavin Kendrick from the Southport Weekender crew called him up to find out more about the Mushroom Jazz sound, and he kindly offered one lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy his new Mushroom Jazz CD plus a pair of Sol Republic headphones!
To enter, simply answer the following question:
How many Mushroom Jazz compilations have been released in the series?
Correct answers should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 23rd April.
The winner will be notified shortly afterwards and prizes will be posted directly to you.
Mark is also offering another competition for somebody to design his Facebook timeline artwork – find out more on the Dope Den website here.
In 2010, you made LA your second home. Where are you based now?
In San Fran. I kept my place here the whole time but I had an apartment in LA for a couple of years.
How does the place where you live influence the music you make?
I live right by the ocean, so I can see the open water from my house which inspires me a lot. I enjoy being in nature and having my studio in my back yard. There is no proper winter here so I can enjoy it all year round. The element of being outside all of the time is wonderful. Also, I travel. Every weekend I’m away somewhere so my settings do change. That’s one reason I enjoy coming back to nature in San Francisco so much, as opposed to living in Chicago. There is forest there but it’s not too hilly, and there’s no ocean. Lake Michigan is fine but it’s no ocean. Geographically there are different musical influences you pick up on too.
What places that you’ve traveled to recently have inspired you?
I was in Tokyo recently, that always inspires me to get new music. I get to play a long set and the crowd there is very uplifting and reciprocating. I love the city. Vancouver I like, another example of a city that’s close to nature. That’s even closer than San Francisco – the mountains are only twenty minutes away from downtown Vancouver. I like that mixed element of nature and urban. New York of course is always inspiring. Every time I play in Manhattan it’s wonderful, the city has its own special vibe. Hawaii is another place I went to recently. I’m an ocean person and the warm water there is much nicer. Hawaii is actually closer than New York for me and it’s nice to play on a few islands. Then on the off time I like to be by the beach.
I’ve noticed your SoundCloud account is brimming with vintage mixes .
How far back does your personal archive go?
Gee it goes back to when I started. I managed to keep a good amount of stuff from day one, when I first started out in the mixtape era. That would have been the late 80s. That’s when I got my first set up where I could record a set. I had makeshift stuff before that.
I had a couple of drawers full of tapes, as I was always pretty diligent about it. I’d redub the cassettes I made. I’d put the master in a special area, then dub off copies of copies. I managed to keep a good amount. They are taking a bit of time to digitise. I used to be into 100 minute tapes. A lot of people did 90s but I went for the 100 minute ones so I could give people some bonus minutes! I’ve always been into recording at home.
Then there was the whole CD phase. I’d make mixes to give to friends over the years. A lot of my mixes were trackmarked. There is a decade of mixes that are all split into individual tracks. I used to track point them while mixing for each tune, but with things like SoundCoud and filesharing, it’s easier to send the whole mix. I’m enjoying SoundCloud, the concept. Especially having so many mixes to post as opposed to spending days sitting there dubbing twenty cassettes on after another. All you could do was double-speed them. Now I can post something and have thirty listens in an hour. Thirty cassettes was an all day affair, and then you’ve got to give them out. I like the instant mix posting gratification!
I love the crackle of vinyl throughout the early mixes, have you started digitising your record collection?
Yeah that’s an ongoing process, but I still enjoy just getting them out and playing them. I kept all my vinyl. A lot of DJs have sold them because they were running out of space, but I was into keeping all my records. I’d like to have someone come and work through them all but I haven’t got to that level yet!
Was your Mushroom Jazz series inspired by psilocybin?
Erm, well yeah I’d have to say that there were elements involved in such creations, back in the day!
Can you recount any particularly memorable bemushroomed experiences?
In the late 80s, I’d go to Grateful Dead shows with a couple of friends of mine. No offense to the dead, but we weren’t going for the Grateful Dead’s music so to speak. We were going to experience the vibe and explore other things. There’s a place called Deer Valley or Deer Creek in Indiana which is about a five or six hour drive from Chicago. It was a new venue and people were really excited to see the Dead at this place. My friends and I didn’t really care whether we got into the show or not, but we had tickets. People were freaking out asking to trade tickets, so we decided to trade our tickets for an arm length bud – like the length of your full arm – and a bag of shrooms. That was for two tickets! It was huge. Insane! The biggest bud we’d ever seen. We ended up sitting in the car, enjoying our trading spoils and listening to our own music on the stereo. We didn’t feel bad missing the show, we were listening to house music! When I heard the term acid jazz, it sounded so abrasive. We went for a more organic approach and mushroom jazz was equally compatible and a little softer.
I understand you are a keen gardener, have you tried growing your own mushrooms?
Well mushrooms do grow in my yard, but I haven’t grown them myself! For some reason the climate where I’m at brings big mushrooms in my yard, I don’t know what they are so I haven’t eaten them. I almost picked up a little kit for kids at the gardening supply store yesterday, they’d be due in May. There are at least five different kinds growing in my yard.
That must be a sign!
The Mushroom Jazz series was partly influenced by music from the UK, are there any current UK scenes or producers that have caught your attention?
It’s hard to know where stuff is from these days, and I don’t make the time to figure that out like I used to. That’s a good question! I like a lot of mid-tempo stuff, 110bpm stuff. James Finlay, Panda One, Nicholas, Dave Allison, Daniel Lucas. Good Japanese stuff on Jazzy Sport. I find I’ve got to dig more than I had to in the 90s for that mushroom jazz sound. There are so many sub-genres now and the whole hip hop thing is very different. Now is a great time though because the WMC promos are flowing in.
Why did you decide to self-release MJ7 after such a long time with OM Records?
I always wanted to try doing it on my own, to see if I could run a label. It seemed like a good time with the way digital was shaping up. I must admit, it was a lot of work, but that was the only reason. I thought I’d give it a shot.
Are you planning to release any more projects on Mushroom Jazz Recordings?
Yeah hopefully. I want it to be a downtempo label that puts out other people’s stuff as well as my own. But with being a father now, everything’s taking longer than I thought so I haven’t been able to tackle the new album just yet. I’m still hoping to work with OM on future projects too.
What is your favourite hip hop album?
A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders. Or any Slum Village or Gangstarr – No More Mr Nice Guy.
What is your favourite jazz album?
That’s a tough call! Anything by Lonnie Liston Smith!
1. Corduroy Mavericks – Stay [Promo]
2. John Pridgen – We Once Had [Promo]
3. Joss Moog – Untitled [Robsoul]
4. Freaky Behaviour – Big Sally’s Beef Jerk Gumbo [Promo]
5. Will Jax – These Words [10 Inch Dog]
6. TVCH – House Laws [Promo]
7. Jam Funk – Off The Ground [Slick Music]
8. Kid Enigma – Zumba Class [Promo]
9. Phil Weeks – Pipe Cleaner [Promo]
10. Giano – Lesson In Time [Coyote Cuts]
11. Eric Sutter & Jeremy Poling – Something [Promo]
12. Flapjackers – Pick Up The Pieces [Promo]
13. 1200 Warriors -Walking Through The Darkness [1200 Trax]