"It’s going to be an epic event" - Mark Knight talks with Guestlist ahead of Toolroom's Studio 338 bender

House | Tuesday 3rd July 2018 | Arren

He’s a global superstar, head of one of dance music’s most successful record labels, Mark Knight is half way through one of his biggest years yet.

They don’t come much bigger than Mark Knight. The house and techno DJ has long been a firm favourite of dance music fans everywhere. His slick DJing style and flawless productions have ensured his position in the scene today. He’s also behind Toolroom, one of the world’s leading house and techno labels.

2018 is a huge year for Toolroom and Knight, as the independent label reaches the 15 year milestone. The label has been behind some of the biggest tunes to hit the clubs and festivals over the years, and it’s reach goes even deeper through the Toolroom Academy. Celebrating the milestone, Mark and the Toolroom team hae sorted a mammoth 15 shows across the world from L.A to Tokyo, Malta to Amsterdam. One of their biggest is here in London, over at Studio 338.

Such a landmark year, we jumped at the chance to have a quick chat with Mark Knight about the last 15 years.

Hey, how are you?
I’m fine thanks, first day back in the office after a few days of touring so looking forward to catching up with everyone and getting on tops of things.

What was your first thought this morning?
I wish I could sleep for just a little bit longer!

What’s got you motivated right now?
The Toolroom anniversary. The album’s been going down a storm and we’re well into the tour, with a load of great shows yet to come, so being in the middle of that is invigorating. I’m also producing more singles than I have for ages, and really feeling inspired in the studio, so it’s been a great year so far.

Awesome man, can’t wait to hear the results! You mentioned the anniversary, big year for you as Toolroom hits the 15 year milestone! Well done man, what’s been the most rewarding thing come out of the label for you?
Hitting 15 years and being in as good as position as we’ve ever been is an incredibly rewarding feeling. When I started Toolroom I just wanted to get music I made and liked out there, and share it with other people. Now we’re a successful company, helping other labels to release their music, with the Academy growing and past releases from some of the artists I admire most in the world. I’ve always been ambitious and wanted to achieve good things, but sometimes I have to take a step back just to take in everything we’ve achieved. It’s a great feeling to be where we are today.

Enjoy that feeling, well deserved after all these years! Despite how much you’ve achieved are there any goals you’re still are aiming for? Is there anything left for you to achieve?!
Absolutely: plenty more I want to do, both with the label and in terms of my own career. The Toolroom Academy is a huge part of that – it’s been growing steadily but has really exploded in popularity this year, so we definitely want that to be a big part of our future. And I’m still loving making music as I said before. There are a few collabs I’ve been trying to lock in for a while now, and labels other than Tooloroom I’d like to release on. And of course on the A&R front, we’re always looking for that next record or new artist that’s going to completely blow us away. I’m not one for resting on my laurels: watch this space!

What are the biggest differences from when Toolroom first started to how things are now?
So many things! But I guess the biggest difference is the way music is consumed now. When we started out we were still pressing vinyl and CDs. Downloads weren’t even really a part of our business, and streaming was a thing of science fiction! Now that’s where a huge part of our revenue comes from , so we’ve had to adapt to make sure we can thrive in a completely different musical landscape.

Back in 2014 Toolroom #RESET. What was the motivation behind that?
I think that we had, to a degree, become a victim of our own success. We’d grown into a much larger company than I’d ever really imagined: at one point we were employing around 35 people, which is pretty big for an independent dance label. We‘d fallen into a trap of searching for that next big, crossover record, rather than sticking to the original ethos of the label. By scaling back and going back to basics, we were able to start signing records we liked again, without the pressure of turning them into hits. We became more financially viable, which I think has given us the longevity we need to thrive in the future.

How are you finding things post #RESET in terms of the day to day of running Toolroom, what differences are there, if any?
There isn’t a huge amount of difference to be honest, we’re just more streamlined and can work on music we believe in without there being an ‘end goal’ for them.

If you could host a Toolroom party anywhere in the world, where would that be?
That was really the entire idea of the tour: to have 15 shows that are all going to be equally strong at places we really wanted to have a party. We could have done more shows, but we wanted to make sure that we could keep a level of quality and consistency across them all. Honestly though I think the tour was harder to pull together and co-ordinate than the album – it was a massively involved process, especially co-ordinating the announcement with al the different venues. If I had to pick one though, then the London show at Studio 338 is going to be pretty special. It’s a day and night party, which I think is the first time that’s been done there, so definitely get there if you can.

Toolroom Records' 15 year tour lands in London on 14th July at Studio 338 - Tickets

You mentioned the party at Studio 338, got anything special planned for that?
Sure do – apart from the exceptional line-up, we’ve got some live performances planned and a few more tricks up my sleeve. It’s going to be an epic event.

Toolroom is a global leader in what it does, are there any labels that share the same vision that you’re watching right now?
Defected have always run a very tight ship – they’ve released some fantastic records over the years and I have a lot of respect for them.

Do you think there are any big challenges facing the music industry at the moment, and if there are what is Toolroom doing to tackle them?
I think the biggest challenge is to stay ahead of the curve in terms of the changing musical landscape: to anticipate changes and be in a position where you can adapt the business accordingly, which is exactly what we’ve done with the Academy and our various label partnerships.

If you had to describe Toolroom is five words, what would they be?
Pure quality house and techno.

Is there a track that you feel sums up the Toolroom ethos?
I’d say ‘Downpipe’. It’s nearly 10 years old, and I still get asked to play it at pretty much every set. It has a great energy, it’s original, and it has longevity. Plus it’s named after a colour of paint… what more could you ask for?

What music/artists/labels helped you decided the Toolroom sound?
Every single one we’ve worked with over the years has contributed to the Toolroom sound. I think this is summed up best by looking at the tracklist for the Toolroom 15 album. It’s a rare thing that artists are happy to contribute a new, original tracks for a compilation, so the fact that we pulled 70 of them in from some of the artists I respect most in the world is something I’m really proud of.

Mark Knight
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