Mark Farina: “In another life, I would live in Australia”

It’s fitting that Mark Farina is bringing his bag of jacking house, hip hop and other gems to Australia for the first weekend of summer. Having proven himself here tour after tour, year after year, the storied DJ is just the guy to declare the party season officially open. With his son put to bed (“he’s crashed out on the baby-cam”), Farina checks in with inthemix for a too-short 15 minutes.

How often are you doing the Mushroom Jazz parties at the moment?

Mushroom Jazz is only a quarterly at the moment. The house-y stuff is more regular, but we’ve just restarted Mushroom Jazz in a limited and special format. It’s generally more changes in tempo than a house night. Whereas house would 125 BPMs, Mushroom Jazz is more around 100, 105. Some hip hop, some disco; the main difference is the tempo. I won’t really play any house-y stuff as well. I’ll keep it much slower. That still leaves the options quite open. I have guests too. It’s not me all night.

Do you remember back to when you first put a Mushroom Jazz mixtape together?

Yeah, of course. The first one was back in the early ‘90s. I used to work at a record store called Grammophone in Chicago, which if people know the history, was one of the best vinyl shops there. I worked with Derrick Carter, DJ Heather, Sneak, JDub and so on; pretty much all the employees were DJs. This was ‘90, ‘91. We all sold our mixtapes at the counter, this was pre-MP3 and pre-mix-CD. Then if you sold ten tapes, that would equal a hundred dollars in vinyl credit. That was quite valuable; it was a good trade-off.

Being with a lot of house DJs in the store, I opted for something different, which was at the time Mushroom Jazz 1 on cassette. It had the East Coast hip hop style, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, etcetera, along with acid jazz from labels like Talkin’ Loud. So I sold this downtempo tape, it turned out to be a good pre-party and after-party soundtrack.

Who were some of the DJs you were going to see then in Chicago?

One of my best buddies of cause was Derrick Carter. There was Spencer Kincy aka Gemini and others. We just hung out together all the time. We would do intertwining nights. A DJ would more often than not play the whole night, from nine till four am. The first parties I did in Chicago were illegal underground loft parties. Derrick had been spinning longer than I had at the time. He had more experience, so he was quite the early mentor and buddy. If you didn’t have an all-night club gig, you would do these parties in lofts along Milwaukee Avenue.

It’d be five dollars to get in, there’d be a keg of beer and sometimes we’d hire an off-duty police officer to do the door. If the police came by, he could be like, “This one’s OK.” Chicago cops are serious. You can’t throw an underground party without paying someone off.

In the early ‘90s, everything was all house in Chicago, but now things are spreading to different genres there, more European techno DJs and dubstep, among other things. It’s not just ‘Chicago house’. But I find when I play there, certain heads come out and I can play a certain deepness there. The crowd will understand jacking and deep old and new things. It’s inherited house history almost. Portland or Phoenix or Kansas City it would be a different understanding. You know in Chicago you can drop a vinyl-only track from ‘88 and there’ll be a few people who’ll know exactly when that release is from.

Vegas for example has always been a hard house town to crack into. And obviously it’s a strange place. You’ve got this ever-changing visiting crowd, then there’s a whole local scene.

We’re looking forward to having you back to kick off summer.

I love Australia, I’ve been coming for a good 15 years; I’m honoured to be a part of this Harbourlife line-up. Phil Smart was the first guy who brought me there many moons ago, and I’m just in love with Australia. In another life, I would live there. People really understand the music.

Friday 30 Nov – Discotheque at Garage Bar, Adelaide

Saturday 1 Dec – Harbourlife

Saturday 1 Dec – The Mercat, Melbourne

Sunday 2 Dec – Sets on the Beach, Perth