Though the glamour bubble of the DJ superstar
traveling lifestyle has been popped (if
you still think its fun, you have not
thought of five gigs in five days with
four layovers in three countries now have
you?), that doesn't mean those hard
working, record box toting world traversing
music mixers are slowing down any. At
least, not if you use the gauge of some
DJs tour schedules. Someone hand me a
Dramamine please! Just looking at all
that country hopping could give anyone
a bout of motion sickness... Unless you
have your handy laptop or CD walkman loaded
with the latest offering from one of the
masters of club surfing and frequent flyer
miles, Mark Farina's first full artist
album, "Air Farina."
He does touch down in his home town of
San Francisco long enough to record this
mezmerizing mix of his two main signature
styles, Chicagoesque House and Mushroom
Jazz groove, and also to answer his phone
and a few questions for this Raves.com
Jennifer Warner: Your
first artist album that's coming
out, "Air Farina." At first
I was going to ask you why you were calling
it that, and then I went to your website
and saw your tour schedule... You log
so much plane time and like non-stop for
months! Don't you get exhausted?
Mark Farina: I've been doing
it for so long, so I'm just accustomed
to it. I've always been this busy
with tours, always going somewhere since
like 94-ish, 95.
What do you do on the plane to keep
I listen to CDs a lot. I don't tend
to bring my computer, I use it more as
down time. Read newspapers and magazines,
I don't read lots of books but I
like newspapers and magazines. Watch the
movie if I haven't seen it. When
you're in the air you'll allow
yourself to watch things you wouldn't
watch otherwise. I'm into traveling
lighter lately, I used to take my laptop
but with the heightened security you have
to pull it out and turn it on, which kind
of annoyed me. Its easier to not bring
it, and I can sleep pretty well on planes
Do you travel with someone usually?
Occasionally. I travel with my girlfriend
sometimes, if I'm going somewhere
interesting where I'm staying for
a couple of days. Like I just went to
Belgium and London and she came with me.
But you know when its a more rigorous
schedule I'm pretty much solo, like
one city one night, another city the next
night. Those aren't really fun for
a guest. Sometimes I'll bring a friend,
like one of my buddies that doesn't
really travel so much, they can be entertained
by it. But sometimes they aren't
always built for it either, it sounds
a little more glamorous but the reality
of all that travel time if you're
not accustomed to it a little exhausting.
So speaking of your website, I had
so much fun going to it, its such a fantastic
concept the whole flight theme. Did you
come up with that idea?
Yeah well we were searching for directions
to go with the website and I've always
been into travel stuff and the sort of
"Catch Me If You Can" can of
retro airline stuff as well, just looking
at airplanes as a kid. I had some samples...
I figured since I traveled so much I could
tap into some resources that I had. The
guys that did the website did a really
amazing job, they came over here for a
while and took sound samples and I showed
them different images of where I wanted
to go. They definitely put it all into
action extremely well, made it more...
Cooler than I ever could have imagined
Did you come up with the whole Flight
They made all those but I kind of wanted
to go with that theme. I collect those
card that you get in airplanes, the safety
instruction cards from different ones.
I always liked the flatness, the look
of them, the basic stylistic theme that
they have. And they made their own interpretation
And in your In Flight Entertainment
part you have almost 300 photos each assigned
a seat. Did you take all of those?
Myself and my girlfriend, Heather, we've
been chronicling with those, she's
good with inputting them. Trying to make
it interesting. Some sites have like the
same ten photos for a year. We wanted
to make a point to keep adding stuff,
new ones and older ones as we find them,
and we encourage people to send ones in
too if they were there. firstname.lastname@example.org
if you have any from any
Do you answer questions yourself on
your message board, the Passenger Forum?
Sometimes... I don't always read
chat stuff, I get a little self conscious...
I get a little uncomfortable reading about
myself... I tend to shy away from them
but if they're like track ID questions
or people looking for music my friends
will see those and ask me about it so
they get answered. I tend to be on the
lighter side of internet use, I find.
I look at a couple things online and that's
it. Like the Weather Channel or look for
some sneakers that I can't find anywhere
So let's get back to your album
here. If you were describing it to someone
who'd never heard it, what would
you say to them?
Hmmm.... I'd tell them I made it
to sort of represent the combination of
electronic and real instrument sounds.
To show people who don't go clubbing
what club music can be like, I used different
sample bits from different geographic
regions, to give it a little international
feel. Some of it a Chicago "SF"
house-y sort of sound, and some acid track
influence in there. And then I represented
a Mushroom Jazz style of mine which is
a little downtempo style, a little hip
hop-ish. Not just one tempo, there's
some different tempos. You know people
who aren't versed in electronic music
who don't know the different genres
might think that its all the same but
I've mixed it up.
You've got those two different
styles that you're most known for,
so that makes sense that they would be
represented on your album.
And then I'd say I tried to put
some fluidity in there, make it interesting
for just listening at home. Not like some
dance albums that are just like full 8
minute songs that start and stop, with
a lot of DJ bits in there that are made
just for the DJs that might not be entertaining
for listening. So I tried to do a mix
CD feel to it so you can listen to it
the whole way through.
You worked with a couple of different
people, like Kaskade, Sean Hayes, People
Under The Stairs. How did you decide who
to work with those particular people?
There are so many people nowadays who's
stuff I like. I just wanted to incorporate
a couple of my influences if I could,
and it just so happened when I was doing
production that different people were
around at different times. When you want
to do an album you can't always work with
everyone who you want, cause sometimes
people are busy unfortunately or in other
parts of the world. It was really fun
collaborating. Like Sean Hayes I met him,
he's a friend of my neighbor's, more in
sort of a lounge-ish, acoustic live scene
that goes on here. I definitely wanted
a more non-electronic feel vocalist, sometime
a little different than diva pop vocal
thing. His music, his vocal style is really
unique. And working with Kasade, Ryan
Raddon, I've always liked his stuff, its
lucky that he's affiliated with OM [Records]
and lives in San Francisco too, so I could
get a hold of him. We've collaborated
on a couple of little ideas in the past,
some bootlegs, I thought our styles meeting
would be very cool because he's definitely
more smoother I find than some of my stuff,
I tend to be a little more gritty. Lance
Desarti is another old buddy of mine,
he's part of the Dallas deep house collation
that's since kind of moved on, like him
and J.T. Donaldson, Jim Shoemaker, kind
of old school deep house following. He
lives in Chicago now, he's a buddy of
mine and I just loved his production over
the past couple of years on his own. He's
been playing in San Francisco a bit and
just worked out that he could come here
in the studio in one of his pass overs
here, hence the name "Leaving San
Francisco" because he had to take
off in two days.
Wow you did all of that in just two
You have a studio in your house?
Yeah down in the basement. I live in
the south side of San Francisco, and in
my studio there's a view of the whole
city, which is nice.
That sounds amazing. So people were
coming in to work with you, you weren't
traveling to work with people anywhere?
Pretty much. People Under The Stairs
couldn't come in, but they gave me
an a cappella, that they'd been working
on pertaining to travel-related stuff,
so that was that one. Kaskade we started
here and put it on a laptop and brought
it to a bigger digital studio. Everything
was just recorded in the basement.
Do you have any unusual stories that
happened while you were recording the
Hmmm, that's a good question....
Well just with the whole Shawn thing,
I've never really... It was new for
me to engineer my own vocal booth. And
luckily Shure gave me a microphone, and
everything came together it worked out
in one take. That was a lucky day. I thought
maybe it would take multiple takes, I
don't know if you've ever watched
like Making The Band but they're
in there for hours and hours recording
little vocal bits, so I was thinking we'd
be in here forever. But he's so professional
too, so that helped. But I was really
surprized to get it in just one take.
So which is the first single?
The first one will be "To Do"
and there will be a Derrick Carter mix
and Kasade did a remix, and an extended
album version, cause the orginal album
version is kinda short, its just a couple
of minutes long, so we made that longer.
Derricks' is very BHQ style, Derrick
You guys are friends from way back,
We were old roommates in Chicago in the
early 90s. Had a loft called Red Nail
together. He's still one of my oldest
influences. I definitely picked up many
DJ tricks from him, and production. We
recorded on KMS together, Kevin Saunderson's
label, back in 87, 88, ambient house days.
When were you making these tracks,
did you burn copies of them and test them
Yeah periodic ones I would test each
week, some of them I would change, go
re-EQ them something like that. That's
definitely fun with the advent of CD technology,
just make one and test it out on different
systems that weekend. As oppposed to making
up an acetate back in the day for like
$75. Or we would play stuff off of pitch
cassette, which was definitely not the
best sound quality.
Pitch cassette? I haven't heard
of that, what's that?
It was an old Chicago/New York thing.
Just like a cassette player with pitch,
so you could play anything. That's
how you could test a track. Not the most
impressive sound with the hiss off the
Well that's interesting considering
how your Mushroom Jazz series got its
start off cassette, it was a mixtape series
and then it got you into doing a club
Yeah it all spawned from the cassettes.
Gramaphone Records in Chicago, pretty
much every Chicago DJ, Derrick Carter,
myself, DJ Heather, Ralphie Rosario, Sneak,
Mile Maieta just to name a few, all worked
there and everybody would sell mixtapes
every week there, all the employees, just
sort of a way to get records. Many Chicago
people that have got like a plethora of
Do you still have copies of them?
Yeah I have all the orginals.
You going to re-release any of them?
We might do that someday, through Tweakin.com
we'll sell old mixtapes through
Tweakin. Cause a lot of people, even if
you have those tapes they played them
so much they wore out or got stolen. I
think even now mixtapes last a little
longer than CDs.
They don't scratch at least!
Speaking of Mushroom Jazz, would you ever
do another club night again?
Yeah, I still do periodic stuff in other
cities. I don't know if I would do
a weekly, cause a weekly is tough. If
I had the right venue, if I opened my
Would you open it in San Francisco?
Yeah cause I live here right now, and
I think San Francisco is in need of a
new venue. Its unfortunate to travel and
see some global top class clubs if you
don't get to see what's out
there, you can't see how the bar
has been raised in other cities. I play
some late night sets where I'll mix
house with Mushroom Jazz sets, and I know
certain cities or parties that are into
more tempo changes than others. That could
be part of Mushroom Jazz 5 for the spring
Would you play 8 hours like you've
been know to do?
Yeah that's usually when I combine
both, I play house for two hours then
slow it down and then speed it up again.
What is it about playing that long
that you enjoy?
Usually if I don't play somewhere
for a while and I know people are coming
out to hear it and are up for it, if I
travel for a certain distance I like to
play for longer, as long as the equipment
is good. There's a lot of good music
and I like to get the chance to play it.
Some cities are hampered by their hours
restrictions, so they just can't
get that long, some people can't
even get 8 hours of clubbing. People generally
appreciate longer sets.
Well that's going to be it for
this interview, you've been great,
thank you so much! Is there anything else
you'd like to say to the Raves.com
audience before we go?
The album is out now, hopefully it will
put some fun back into traveling!
We think it does! Check out Air Farina
out now on Om Records.
-- written by Jennifer Warner