If you're a fan of Mark Archer and Altern-8, you're going to love this...
This is the sound (and words)...of the man behind the mask.
In his own words learn about his inspirations and the stories behind his incredible contribution to the dance music scene.
Responsible for some of the best tracks that have ever come out of the UK. The word legend get’s used a lot, but Mark has produced some of the most well known tracks in dance music history in multiple genres, from acid house to techno and rave, and yet is still down to earth and all round top man.
I can’t think of another producer that has been so successful in so many different scenes, his all-consuming passion for music has lead to timeless classics that still stand the test of time today.
The driving force behind the early rave pioneers Altern-8 along with Chris Peat, his most successful project commercially - even managing to get in the UK charts and appearing on Top Of The Pops. Before Altern-8 there was the super influential Nexus 21, inspired by Detroit techno pioneers like Derrick May as well as Chicago House amongst others.
A real master of track arrangement and bass lines that still sound incredible, and a genius of sampling making stand out productions. Altern-8 were incredibly successful in the early nineties, wearing the famous gas masks with boiler suits which became so iconic.
The best known Altern-8 tracks included "Activ-8", "E Vapor 8", "Frequency", "Brutal-8-E", "Armageddon", "Move My Body", "Hypnotic St-8" and "Infiltrate 202”.
When the bass line from E Vapor 8 kicks in…boom.
Mark: "The bass line on E Vapor 8 was actually done on my RX17 drum machine, assigning the samples bass sound to different pads in the drum machine. The track started as a filler track for live sets called 'Say It Y'All'. It samples the sound of Divine Sounds Dollar Bill Dub Dub (49 seconds in)"
Some of the other dazzling array of pseudonyms he’s produced under include Trackman, DJ Nex, Xen Mantra and many more. Here’s Mark’s Boiler Room set which a lot of you might have seen but show’s his incredible talent, you will love this:
He still headlines events across the world, playing as Altern-8 as well as under his own name Mark Archer for DJ sets. Mark is a real polymath and a hero of the dance music scene, here's our exclusive interview - he reveals some things that have never been said before - some of the question are from our Facebook followers. Enjoy....
FUTURE PAST INTERVIEW: MARK ARCHER
Q: What were your main inspirations that made you want to start producing music?
The acid house coming out of Chicago in 1987 and the Techno coming from Detroit were the main reasons I wanted to start making my own tracks. Never once thought that I'd do anything that was any good as when I started I had no idea about production or what equipment was needed. Hooking up with Dean was the push in the right direction I needed and we had an immense amount of good luck at the start which helped us greatly.
Q: What tune do you wish you’d written? (Alex Taylor)
There's loads of tunes I wish i'd written but probably the main one is LFO by LFO, it was just at the pinnacle of that scene and set the standard for so many other groups to try and follow.
Q: As Nexus 21 was more acid house/techno influenced and successful in the underground, what was the main inspiration for creating Altern-8 and changing direction into rave?
Altern-8 wasn't a concious plan to do a side project. We had so much studio time given to us as sort of payment for tracks we'd had out on Blue Chip records, I was being influenced by much more than just the Detroit techno that was the main influence for Nexus 21 so the tracks we recorded still had that feeling to them but the label didn't want to put them out as Nexus 21. By the time we had recorded the follow up in 1991 the sound of Altern-8 had been decided and was more of a breakbeat rave sound than what we had recorded before.
Q: Did you ever imagine you’d get the chart success you achieved with Altern-8? What did that level of fame feel like, was the gas masks about hiding your face so that the music took centre stage?
I honestly never imagined my career would ever take off when I first started and after less than a year recording as Nexus 21 the label we were signed to and studio we used went into liquidation so I thought that was that. With Altern 8 being just a vehicle to get these 8 extra tracks out, chart success wasn't really something we were aiming for at all so when Infiltrate blew up on promo it all came as a bit of a shock.
"Oh no, not more bass!"
The masks came about because while Infiltrate was on promo, we were asked to do a live pa at the Eclipse, it wasn't something we'd even thought about doing as Altern 8 because we were still touring as Nexus 21. We had already played the Eclipse earlier in 1991 as Nexus 21 so didn't want to look exactly the same on stage when we did the Altern 8 gig, so that's when we got hold of the NBC suits and I made the masks.
Mark Archer wearing our Melted Smiley tee, available here.
Q: Why do you think the rave scene imploded so quickly?
Mainly because after years of media persecution and what amounted to a witch hunt by the government to try and stamp it all out, new laws came in that made it nearly impossible for raves to be put on which drove the whole seen into clubs.
Q: Which is the best track in your opinion that you made?
If it was an Altern 8 track it would either be Infiltrate 202 or Frequency.
If it's any track that i've recorded it would be Dream Plant. It's a track I recorded in around 1996 and was what I wanted to do in 1989 but I didn't have the production knowledge. It was released in 2007 on a label called DS93 (only 93 copies were ever pressed). It's being reissued soon on a label called ARTless from Berlin.
Q: With the return and resurgence of Altern 8, how is your solo work/career influenced? I know you play under both names, but would you prefer to DJ as Mark Archer or Altern-8? (Dan Rivers)
I only stopped playing under my own name when legal action was taken against me for using the name. Up until then i'd always played as Altern 8 and it caused a lot of problems not being able to use the name. No promoters wanted my name on a flyer so I lost loads of work and basically had to start my career from scratch. It's nice being able to play under either my own name or Altern 8 and i'll never get bored playing oldskool but playing under my own name gives me the chance to play a lot off different kinds of music, new and old.
Q: Ridiculous question, but I can't resist - did you ever meet Jimmy Saville when you were being featured on Top Of The Pops etc? I know he wasn’t the presenter then, but did you cross paths?
HAHAHAHA - I'm not that old! I don't think he was still presenting the show when we went on, it was all the new 90's presenters that had been brought in to keep the show relevant. Met a lot of famous people doing TOTP thought but i'm glad we never crossed paths with him.
Q: What music do you listen to now when not performing? Who are your favourite bands of any genre of all time?
I listen to a lot of 80's funk, soul and electro. All the streetsounds electro compilations and stuff like that. I get sent a lot of music digitally so also listen to new stuff but it all tends to be music with a retro sort of feel to it, like new acid house that sounds like old Chicago stuff or new breakbeat hardcore.
Q: Techno, Rave, House/Acid House - if you could only choose one, which would you choose as your favourite?
Probably Techno (the late 80's early 90's Detroit stuff though) as that's really what did it for me back then (acid house is a very close second). I pretty much loved everything from 1986 up to 1992 really, those were the best years for me.
"Derrick May - The Dance". You'll see quite a lot of artwork from Dave Little in this video, who we interviewed recently here.
Q: So many different influences in your music career, especially (and correct me if I’m wrong) Detroit and Chicago, did you ever visit those cities or NYC? (Question from Phil Gifford - another legend...)
Detroit was the main one, after hearing early tracks like The Dance and Nude Photo, that was it for me and luckily Network records sent us out to Detroit to work in the KMS studio's within a couple of months of signing with them (I couldn't get my hat on for the entire time I was there). We were also lucky enough to get a few gigs in NYC and played at the Limelight after Joey Beltram in 1991 but apart from a stop-over at an airport a few years ago, I've never been to Chicago and it's somewhere i'd love to visit.
Q: For someone who has had such incredible success and doesn’t just rest on his laurels like some, what’s left to achieve? What is your biggest ambition for the future?
To keep playing for as long as people will listen to me. Without anyone liking what you do, you haven't got a career at all so i'm going to keep plugging away at it. This years a special one as it's my 30th in the industry, it'll soon be 30 years for Altern 8 and i'd like to do something special that year and maybe record a Mark Archer artist album as it's something i've not done yet.
Q: You were super successful without ever selling out and still produce, why do you think so much of your music still sounds good today when so much of that era sounds dated (especially rave)?
Whenever I make tracks I just try to make the sort of thing that i'd love to hear when i'm in a club, I just think i've been incredibly lucky that other people have liked what I do, especially for this many years.
Q: Morbid but interesting question.. if you had about 10 minutes to live, which two songs (of any genre and doesn’t have to be dance music) would you choose, two songs that have meant more to you than any other of all time?
That's so difficult to choose (NOTE FROM THE EDITOR OF FUTURE PAST, I DELIBERATELY ASK THIS QUESTION THAT IS SUPER DIFFICULT AND MAKES YOU THINK!) just two tunes, with all the different kinds of stuff i'm into but if I had to it would Probably be 'Ain't Nobody' by Chaka Khan and 'The Way It Is' by Bruce Hornsby and The Range, it was my dads favourite tune and always reminds me of him.
Q: Which 5 tracks would you pick as your best not including Altern-8?
1. Nexus 21 - Self Hypnosis
2. Slo Moshun - Bells Of New York
3. DJ Nex - When I Come, I Come Ruff
4. Trackman - Wickety Wack
5. Mark Archer - Dream Plant (posted earlier in the page)
To read more about his incredible career, you can buy the biography of Mark Archer in his book “The Man Behind The Mask”
Also, check out Mark’s website to find out more at www.markarcher.co.uk
Thanks to Mark Archer for such a great interview, he clearly really thought about these questions and fascinating to hear the stories of his stellar career. I can’t see his career “E Vapor 8” ing soon, he’s way too talented.