Markus Enochson’s Techno-Soul Permutations
Stockholm’s Markus Enochson is at the cutting edge of a new form of soul music that infuses classic soul with his techno- and electro-musical influences and impeccible production skills. Enochson has been an integral part of the house music culture in Sweden for years and his own productions like “I Am the Road” and “Feeling Fine” and collaborations with soul vocalist James Ingram and the Masters at Work (“Lean on Me”) established Enochson as a leading house music producer. Working within the underground house music scene, he has an impressive pedigree as a producer, remixer and a DJ and has a reputation for genre defying blends in his productions and DJ sets. Not one to rest on his laurels Enochson’s work has evolved and mutated over the years, from the classic, New York-inspired house of his first singles to the freer and more unrestrained elctronic-drenched compositions of today. Enochson is constantly hunting for new ways of introducing his version of soul. Today he lets his early rave and techno influences shine through, coupled with broken beats and R’n'B. This is a big jump and it was an awakening for Enochson when he realized he could escape from the pattern he was partly responsible for putting himself in.
With “Night Games” his full-length debut on sonar kollektiv, Enochson has created his own unique electro-soul sound. It was Louie Vega from Masters at Work who came up with the idea of an album a few years ago. Markus started off the work, but while doing it, he kept getting new ideas that he didn’t know what to do with. The pieces eventually fell into place resulting in an album of heavy electronics blended with deep soul, with strong influences from Detroit and 80s electronic underground dance. “Nite Games” is largely a reflection of what is happening today. It is a sort of soul-minimalism, distilled from his years of musical experience. Nite Games is house, techno, and broken beats woven together in a way that only Enochson can.
“Nite Games” is the first step in a new journey of experimentation and discarding tired music formulas. His recent work which is minimal yet soulful tech-house includes ‘No Only In Sweden/Chord song’ under the Two Guys & A Dog alias and a remix of Demetrius Price “No Holdin’ Back” on Sweden’s Raw Fusion label under his new alias Audiobuff. Enochson is also busy finalizing production of the full length debut of Cornelia. This is in addition to his busy schedule as a globe-trotting DJ and in-demand remixer.
Mundovibes was fortunate enough to catch up with the busy artist for this e-mail interview.
MUNDOVIBES: You were born in 1975, near the peak of the disco and soul eras. How strong an impact did this period have on you? What music do you remember hearing as a child that shaped you?
MARKUS ENOCHSON: At home I was brought up on more or less on a strict diet of soul music, mostly ballads. I remeber specifically at an early age being in awe of Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Thin Lizzy and many more. Since my father was involed in music for several of my early years there was a lot of music around, intruments to play and people playing and singing at home.
MV: Your uncle was very formative in your childhood exposure to music and electronics. Tell us about this.
MARKUS: My uncle had a synth and studio store for many years in Stockholm and I strongly remember my first visit to this store as a 5-year old and experiencing a synthesizer for the first time. I was truly amazed. This is one of my strongest childhood memories and I truly felt that I wanted to be around synthesizers for the rest of my life. Later on my uncle had this amazing home studio with more or less all the goodies you could imagine and I loved spending time in there when we were visiting them.
MV: We all know that Marvin Gaye lived in Sweden. Was soul music popular there?
MARKUS: Traditionally Sweden is a rock country and I imagine Marvin came cause of the women… although in Marvin’s days it could have been different.
MV: You come from a musical family, yet you pursued a different sort of musical career. What made you want to do things diffferentltly
MARKUS: I think any kid wants to form an identity in polarity of sorts towards your parents. In my way I started listing to synth, the early body music and techno as my “revolution” came about.
MV: When were you first introduced to techno and house music what were your impressions?
MARKUS: For me techno and house came to my attention in the early ’90s. I went to raves and had a few live experiences in those early raves. Cari Lekebush was in a way formentative in my musical schooling as he showed me some tricks (we’re form the same suburb) and he lent me his id so I could get in underage to parties.
MV: How did your musical career begin?
MARKUS: I did a maybe ten live gigs during the period 92-96 and organised a few parties. My first paid gig was in ’96 and I started travelling as a DJ the year before. Early on in 98-99 I had my first release (‘Follow Me’), a vocal house track and I ran with that style cause that was my first release.
MV: What was your first DJing experience?
MARKUS: More or less a disaster of sorts. I had to stand in for a friend who was double booked. I didn’t own turntabels and had just done the occasional mix for him while he was chatting some girl up. I remember that I was horrified and nothing went as I wanted it to. It got better after that.
MV: When did you realize that you wanted to produce dance music?
MARKUS: I realised early on that i wanted music to be a part of my life and dance music was not a term in those days. Eventually I was drawn towards it because my interest in music and technology so in a sense it came naturally. Muy soulful upbringing and interest for technology
MV: What were your first experiences producing music. Did it come easy?
MARKUS: I remember the first time I had a synth that could record something — again it was natural.
MV: You are well established as a DJ. What do your DJ sets encompass?
MARKUS: That’s a very tough question to answer right now. I try not to be linear these days, I’m tryin to not be held back by myself and my own ideas of what I think the audience might want and just go with the flow. I recently started DJing with Serato and its a godsend for me. I now find what track I want the moment I know what I want. Before with CDs I was lost by too many pages of CDs in the case. I still prefer vinyl and I bring what I have not recorded for a gig that I think I might play. This leads into the next question and this relefcts what I’m doing as a producer these days as well as a DJ.
MV: You have gone from producing classic-sounding house to a much more varied and more experimental sound with a number of influences. How and why has your music evolved?
MARKUS: I really started out DJing and producing techno. House was also a huge part from the get go and it was within house music I got my break. In a way you can say that I grew tired of house and all of its cliches and pastiches. I more or less did music oriented around the soulful NYC scene for close to ten years and I grew tired of it. When I started doing my album I realised early on that it was time for a change. No more live bass, no more rhodes, at least not for that album. In a way you can say that the album was the start of something that has continued into a series of 12″s and what also can become a new electronic oriented album. I’m more interested these days of exploring the combination of traditional song structures and electronic soundscapes as well as al lintrumental electronic tracks. Also I’m trying to develop other artists and working as a song writer and producer for others. I’d like to mention Cornelia Dahlgren, a Swedish gril I’m working with and we are close to finising her album.
MV: You have worked with Louis Vega and Kenny Dope of Masters at Work. How does it feel to be working with them and how did this happen?
MARKUS: I got to knew one of their bookers, Olli White in London, and we became friends. This led into the collaboration with James Ingram because he’s been wroking with my father alot so I was sort of a facillitator and a suggestor for the collab and also a co-writer for the song “Lean on Me”.
MV: Your full-length album “Night Games” is a mix of styles and of collaborators. Clearly, you wanted to mix things up.
MARKUS: I mentioned earlier that I felt that the traditional soulful scene was in a stand still, and alot of people are still standing. Other people realised this as well, for instance Louie (Vega) took to his roots and incorporated a lot of latin types of music into house and I turned to mine, hence I brought into my soul music a lot of electronica and early techno feel to it. I more or less wanted to do electronic music but with a soul sensibility. I felt that I was searching for something different rather than repeating some tried and tired formula. The collaborations came about in a very easy way. All of the people except James Ingram were living in Stockholm at the time and we are all friends so it was more of a collektive than anything else.
MV: How did the songs and collaborators on “Night Games” come together since you have so many sounds and voices.
MARKUS: Most of the songs are collaborations between me and the vocalist where I do the music and they do the lyrics. Sometimes we do the melody line tothether and at other occasions the vocalist does it all by themself. Musically I had a few tracks for all the different vocalists to choose from and I wrote them having the specific vocalist in mind. I had a clear idea of their vocal range and style from before since I worked with almost all of them earlier.
MV: Many of your songs such as “Endless Dance”, “Hear Me” and “Love is on the Way” and have an uplifting message. Do you want your music to lift people up?
MARKUS: I try to think positive even when the chips are down. So I guess it might shine through. “Hear Me” I wrote the English phrases and “Endless Dance” me and Jocelyn were very close with our minds and speaking alot of these issues at the time.
MV: ” Night Games” has a sound that is both soulful and techy. How do you balance between the machine and the soul?
MARKUS: I’m part machine
MV: What impact do you want your music to have on the listener?
MARKUS: If i could wish for something it would be that the listener would try to immerse themselves in the music
MV: What are the strongest “elements” to your music?
MARKUS: I mean, its really not me who should answer this, but if I have to say one thing that I strive for it’s in how to combine an electronic soundscape with traditional songwriting
MV: Your work with James Ingram is very soulful and solid. Tell us about working with him. Are you a fan of his?
MARKUS: I’m a huge fan and I grew up with his music. My father Lars and him have done a few collaborations. It would be very har d to do somtheing unsoulful with James cause he’s a very inspired and soulful man. In a way I’m blessed to have been part of his musical life and I’ve learned a great deal from him
MV: What is your approach to remixes? Do you totally reconstruct a song? What do you set out to do?
MARKUS: In my opinion a good remix is a remix that truly takes the track in a different direction and makes it into something completely new. Remixes today are more often than not shit, I haven’t heard a good remix on a R&B track in many many years. In a way I feel that the remixer should try to accomplish to make the song/track his/her own and then reproduce the song so it feels like an original.
MV: How would you describe the music you are producing now?
MARKUS: Experimental music. I was shackled by myself for so many years and I never want to be in that situation again. It’s almost like I wanna be changing the script every other production tese days.
MV: You have a strong interest in technology. How does this affect your music?
MARKUS: I’m constantly learning about new technology and old. So, in a way I never want to stand still. Even if it’s a mic techniquie for kick drums or the latest plug-in I want to be on top of things and during the years this has been my motto in studios. I never was afraid to ask in these situations.
MV: What are some of the irreplaceable tools you use to create your music?
MARKUS: Well, I have to list a few things. The didrick de geer micrphone. All of the vocals on the album, indeed all of the vocals I’ve recorded since I got this microphone have been done with this baby. It’s truly amazing, built by a more or less fanatic guy starting out with the capsule of the akg c12. Also, for drum i use the mpc 60 mk II most of the time. I use logic as a daw controling protools hd interface. Nils, my dog, is my constant companion in the studio
MV: What trends do you see on the horizon for dance music? What is inspiring you?
MARKUS: Dance music as well as all music has alot ahead in the terms of reorganizing the business structures to fit today’s community. Musically I think today are really inspiring times. In a way I imagine that house and techno has never been as close in 15 years or more. This is truly inspiring.
MV: You’ve been working with Chicago’s Still Music with “The two guys and a dog ep”. Tell us about this.
MARKUS: “two guys and a dog” are part of five guys and a dog which is a way of naming all of us working in our studio complex. We are doing different combinations and collaborations working under this guise. We also have a myspace site and are doing a few collaborative DJ sets and future releases and co-productions and possibly a label. There is a future two guys and a dog ep on miso music very soon.
Two Guys and a Dog ep (Still Music)
MV: What projects are you involved with now?
MARKUS: Well, finsihin g the album of Cornelia, a remix for tiger stripes, the awa track is a part of tronic jams ep 1 on deeply rooted, soon cpt beard is coming out on raw fusion and a secret bootleg track that i’m sure will make some impact;)