Icons; MK – Looking Right Through

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Before he vanished from the scene in the late nineties Marc ‘MK’ Kinchen was the undisputed heavyweight remixing champion of the world (in those days the only serious rivals being Masters at Work). In case you´ve lived under a rock for the last two years, he´s recently made the biggest comeback in the history of house music. And this time he´s here to stay.

Growing up in Detroit in the eighties, a career in music was almost inevitable for the young Mark Kinchen. “Somehow I always knew that is what I wanted to do, even from an early age. I just knew. Back then I was totally into groups like Depeche Mode, the Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen and Ministry. I didn´t have much gear in the beginning, so I would save up and buy from friends or used gear at a local music shop. Once in a while someone would give me something that I could use. Even if it was just speakers.”

MK started his musical career in a group with ‘Trackmaster’ Lou Robinson and Terrence ‘TP’ Parker, but things really got moving when he started working for Kevin Saunderson, engineering on the Inner City records.

Chez Damier, who’s a good friend of mine, introduced us. He told me that I needed to meet Kevin and he was a great guy and he also had a great studio. We became good friends during this time.”

Spending loads of time polishing and perfecting classic records for Master Reese proved the perfect opportunity for Mark Kinchen to develop his own sound. A unique sound that was distinctly different from the traditional Detroit sound that dominated the city in the late eighties and early nineties and seemed to have more to do with the deephouse and garage sounds that were emerging in New York and New Jersey. Something MK wasn’t even aware of at the time.

“I just made tracks that I liked. I wasn’t trying to follow anyone in techno or house. I didn’t really know the Jersey sound.”

MK – Burning (Original Vibe Mix)

By the time Kinchen released part three of his classic trilogy with Alana (‘Burning’, ‘Always’ and ‘Love Changes‘) he’d become an enormously successful producer and one of the most sought after remixers in the world with his signature vocal cut up technique that was best exemplified by his hugely popular remix of the Nightcrawlers’ ‘Push the Feeling On’.

In 1996 however, when he was at the height of his powers, he decided to leave the game altogether and move to LA. “I wanted to be a serious R&B producer and writer as well as being a house remixer, but it also had a lot to do with being asked over and over to do something that sounded like ‘Push The Feeling On‘. I just couldn’t do it. It went against my gut feelings. I did not want to turn in samey sounding records and not be happy with myself and what I was producing. I always make music for me first and I’ve been lucky that people seem to like what I do most of the time. Of course the weather is pretty great in LA too. That didn’t hurt at all.”

MK BBC Radio1 Essential Mix

In LA Kinchen started working with a lot of big names in pop and R&B. “All in all it was a great experience. I actually worked with Quincy Jones and Will Smith. I learned a lot and grew a lot. It was a trip, but after a few years of doing it I realized it was even more political than the dance world and I started to miss house.” The feeling was mutual. MK eventually got back to making the music he loved and the house scene welcomed him back with open arms.

Sometimes when you step back from something you realize how much you love it and that is what happened to me with dance music and house specifically.

“Simon Dunmore from Defected called me and asked if I wanted to do a remix. That’s how it all started. I got sucked back in.”

After returning to the scene he immediately struck gold with a remix of Storm Queen’s ‘Look Right Through‘, conquering dancefloors worldwide and breaking into the mainstream once again. Times may have changed, but the MK approach still works. “The difference now is that I’m out DJing all the time, so I get an instant read on what people think. If they’re dancing and singing and holding up their camera lights I know without a doubt that I hit a chord. I loved Remix III and when I started playing it out I realized that everyone else seemed to really like it as well. I never changed my approach, but I am a much better technician and producer now. All those years with the pop and R&B people was like going for a masters degree. I worked with some of the top producers of the day, so now when I do a remix, I have more skill and ability to finesse the sounds that I want.”

Storm Queen – Look Right Through (MK Dub III)

After more than twenty years MK’s distinct take on deep vocal garage house seems more popular than ever and the maestro’s loving every minute of it. “I feel more connected now than I ever felt in the nineties, Back then I would finish a record, hand it over to my manager and only see it if it was in the charts, but now I get to play it, test it, change it and have fun with it. I have to admit that it’s quite fun to play Jodeci out now. I always loved that remix and now I get to see people react to it. It’s really dope.

Jodeci – Freakin You (MK Remix)

In the nineties I would have had to bring crates of vinyl on the road and learn a whole new skill DJing on vinyl, so I just wasn’t interested. I prefer to make music. Now, with technology being what it is I’m kind of bringing my studio on the road and I get to manipulate and play out and change things if I want to. It’s much more natural to DJ now for me than it would have been on vinyl. I know some people will think that this is blasphemy, but it’s true. I could never have competed with guys like Danny Tenaglia, Murk, Masters at Work, David Morales or Frankie Knuckles (RIP). They were the masters of vinyl. Speaking of vinyl: anyone who has colored vinyl or masters of my old remixes, send them. I would love to have them. I have most but I’m definitely missing a few.”

Lana Del Rey – West Coast (MK Remix)

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Rogier Oostlander

Rogier Oostlander is the former editor-in-chief of Bassic Groove Magazine, one of the first magazines worldwide dedicated to house music culture in the early nineties. He now works as a record dealer and copywriter in Haarlem, the Netherlands.