MARK NICHOLAS O

Mark Old lives in Newcastle and would be recognized on the underground for running the Ringrose Recordings label which showcases all his own weirdly vortex beautiful and honest interpretations. The most noticeable release would be Ringrose 001 Low End Theory Pt 1 which has a rough round the edges tapestry to it, garage shuffle & crunchy strong basslines which got rinsed by the likes of Zip & Ricardo Villalobos. Mark takes noticeable and distinguished influences from various musical genres and his immediate surroundings having lived in various location which you will discover from the extensive, open, honest and frank interview below. 

Mark has an instant & tangible warmness and sincerity to his music, its fairly obvious from the get go Mark world is music and all you can feel and see I the music is Mark. His own label releases under different guises increase and value and this is an true testament to his craft and artwork. Mark plays various instruments and loves to share space, time, energy to collaborate with other musicians.

We most certainly learnt new things with every exchange and we grew even closer and respected his outlook and output and the mix provided is an 2hr solid excursion with Mark performing live and then also playing some records in the latter part flexing through the Ringrose back catalogue. Keep it Ringrose deep and enjoy this sublime and sequential unraveling of the wonderful world of Mark Nicholas O ladies and gents. 

K / D: Where was you born and raised? how was your youth and growing up? what are your early recollections or introductions into music? how was family life when you was younger, any musical influences from family?

Mark Old: I was born in Newcastle and lived there most of my youth before living in Denmark for 2 years of my life. My youth was working class and happy. My dad died when I was 16 and my mum when I was 21, so from then on I pretty much only had my nan close in my family but this has never been an issue perhaps it makes you grow up quickly.

K / D: What are your early recollections or introductions into music?

Mark Old: Soul, jazz disco and funk some light electro rock and gospel music, mostly from my dads record collection, once I started to buy records I bought Spandau Ballet and Tangerine Dream, also learning classical piano and organ.

K / D: How was family life when you were younger, any musical influences from family?

Mark Old: My dad played music quite a lot of the time he had quite a few records I still play and use myself from the Manchester soul scene early soul, disco and funk even some electro rock and experimental rock influenced me. Dad preferred jazz and my mum disco so some of that must have captivated my ears through my childhood. I used to play scratched records in a box I made with a pretend handle and then I progressed into having a record player intact, even one that played 75rpm jazz. Dad also used to cut music using a tape splice Bell & Howell and this was my first introduction to editing music on a 4 track reel to reel, a very old method and that certainly introduced me into phased sounds. Musically I learned to play initially the organ and also a bit the guitar which quite a few of my family could play in various degrees, at one point in my musical life I was quite into rehearsing and performing pieces of music but as I got more and more into digital production I think I have certainly turned my mind more to composition rather than performance, although maybe not for ever. I have gone from djing to playing instruments to editing and sequencing and producing music, all using a different skill in terms of music. My first computer production sounded like drum step computer music when i was a schoolboy on my uncles BBC computer, before moving to Cubase on Atari and then to various flavours of Cakewalk and Mixcraft on pc’s. also when I left school I got a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine this was my first understanding of drums and drum patterns, i have also learned the bass guitar something i recommend to most serious producers / composers in terms of understanding one of the fundamentals of rhythm and style and how to add that significantly to music, this is something i do want to improve in the future in terms of live performance. A lot of my family play guitar and a lot better than me, quite a few old members like my grandfather played other traditional instruments such as bagpipes and my dad also dj’d and collected rare vinyl and radio equipment capable of listening to shows throughout the world so it also must have had an impact on this. Also because my parents also were extremely artistic my mother made clay pots and dad made pictures sculptures and furniture out of wood I suppose it also very much set my mind to be creative and artistic.

K / D: Your youth seemed very rich in character, experiences & music, what music scenes influenced you or was you part of including bands singers, labels etc?

Mark Old: Initially my influence is from disco early house electro and funk as well as jazz, for djing that too and for playing instruments it was electro sounding beats and breaks and keys originally i then moved mostly into underground garage / house / techno Detroit NYC and Chicago but still also played some UK but only “underground” listened to d&b and d&b jazz crossover just as much and made this although from a dj point of view only really the underground house/garage/techno scene. In terms of playing production although initially electro none of that was ever saved so the first track was a collaboration with others and this then ended up with the first actual release i made entirely myself played and produced alone was Low End Theory Part One. I have produced from reggae to jazz to house/techno/garage d&b and I also have made 2 CD of an alternative rock band me on keys / drum programming and two mates on guitar.

K / D: How long have you lived in the UK, Manchester, how do you find it there being an artist, any interesting highlights or lowlight stories to share?

Mark Old: I have lived in the UK most of my life apart from 2 years in Denmark 4 months in Desio in Italy. Being an artist I feel is better than most things from a creative point of view in that I can often make something that I enjoy hence I come into a strange category of people who have never owned a tv but like anything unless your super famous life is always a struggle in general.

K / D: Can you tell us a bit more about Ringrose and also your own release Low End Theory which caused alot of attention especially on Discogs.

Mark Old: Yes mate in fact I was still thinking of any more things for your last one but its often difficulty to answer right off the spot, the story’s not really funny either, but The Calico Vibe track on The Low End Theory was named after the street I lived in Salford because it was there that I first loaded that vocal into the sampler and changed it and kind of created the beginnings of that track before I did it in the studio. Ringrose Recordings has so far released 10 pressings, Ring001 Low End Theory Pt1, Ring002 Belizbeha Inhibitions, Ring003 All Nite Long Erggie Hall, Ring004 Pelnty Luv Reggie Hall, Ring005 La Papa, Ring006 Rete Urbana, Ring007 Militants Of Funk, Ring008 Jazz Freeform, Ring009 Dirty South, Ring010 Funk Ep. All the vinyls are produced by me, under various aliases and some are collaboration with other friends. The Low End Theory EP I made at my friends studio in hull and it was the first EP I played programmed and sequenced entirely my self. I had a few meetings for distribution and the first company Global Dance in London signed me and all my pressings were distributed through that group. After it stopped distributing records my work was released on 15 CD’s on Vitaminic / Peoplesound. Eventually all these went down and I kept making music and distributing among friends. I noticed a few events that people were playing my music over the last 3 years in more popularity in the USA, NYC, LA, Chicago and also in Europe, Paris and Berlin, after a video by dj Zip and later Villalobos as well as mixes from Nicolas Lutz and others, my popularity has now risen. Also I set up a Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/ringroserecords and can also be found on Deep south sounds and Mixcloud as mark.old6.

K / D: can you explain the idea behind having different aliases? how would you describe your sound? and why Ringrose as a label name?

Mark Old: On Discogs the track was promoted and initially all interest and contacts to me came from here but I released some re-pressed vinyls with two new tracks included which had been getting some interest from dj’s in the USA from the demo CD’s I had made for the SSW1 event. I have used initially different aliases because I produced various different underground styles in those days it seemed more cool to have a different name for a different style that changed through the years, the Ringrose name is the symbol on ring002 label.

K / D: There is a rough raw edge to your sound, and definitely some garage and of course subtle deep house keys, what is in your studio and some key influences musically and inspirations non musically?.

Mark Old: Musical influences early funk soul and jazz from my parents early electro rock like Tangerene Dream synth rock like Keith Emerson and then house and garage music e.g. Tony Humphries, Kerri chandler, Roy Davis Jnr, the Chicago and Detroit techno/house scenes including Larry Levan then other forms of garage uk garage and other scenes, but just as equally drum and bass and reggae influence from the d&b scene and Speed Club London after that French, German Japanese Brazilian, African and other music from the world.

Mark Old: The concept of my music was always to create original and different sounds therefore I dont use one method or technique entirely each peice I see as a different art so some are made in samplers some on instruments some played some programmed some using samples and some various combinations, the sequences arrange from full musical midi to cut up distorted and changed sampler sound so there has never been one single studio or set of instruments or programs used, some are all hardware others all software and others combinations I think this helps to keep the musical texture changing and varying and always breaking different ground some people strive to sound like someone I also try & think I try to sound original perhaps sometimes taking the hint of the fashionable sound to that music.

Mark Old: The studio I made Low End Theory in comprised of lots of instruments and a large Allen & Heath desk, some of the instruments I particularly like are the Korgs, Moogs 303, 707 but then using analog pedals like Wah Wah low pass filters and EQ variations i have an Moog, an Nord Lead, an Vermona, an Crumar Roadrunner 2 and a couple Yamaha keyboards as well as various outboard pedals and effects, vocoders parametric EQ’s, wah pedals tube pedals etc.. I use both h/w and s/w drum machines, but I can just as equally generate music from tones or sit detuning sounds and reversing parts of notes and vocals in samplers, so I have no real preference, for sequencing I used cakewalk studio pro I have all the instruments the sonar sequencer and grid sampler, on the laptop im using Acoustica Mixcraft 6 and Beatcraft for mixing and linking to vsts in a virtual way although ive only been using this maybe 8 months i also play a bit bass guitar and ive got a Bass and Marshall amp. I’ve owned various other instruments but often sell them after ive made a few tracks on them as I cant afford a great big studio in space.

Mark Old: as well as music im also making a few videos again which is kind of an extension to the 200 projects of visual arts on my websites militants-of-funk.tripod.com and rose2000.4t.com with my art work and photos in video with my music. If you are interested this is instructions of how to look at the old websites realising some people liked the old visual arts pages i started working out what you needed to view them you need java and this needs to be set to a low priority to allow you to run it.

Mark Old: Also as a dj my influence came originally from watching people like LL Cool J and then my friend Randy Dread moved to Newcastle and introduced house music to club Africa, from there my influence came from my friend Collin Patterson playing at street rave and later both Collin have an residency at arena from there all three have been involved with me and the low end theory nights when they ran and the music i produce later im inspired by all the people who like my music and i get a chance to listen to their directions. Production wise ive collaborated with re-mixes with Reggie Hall and urgent music and Belizbeha in the USA, ive worked with many other friends in between and im currently working on various collaboration projects with Dave Livense in Belfast under the name of Rebel Von Platz as well as other stuff ive jammed with Michael Bustard, Tom Faulkner and Chris Muth over the last couple of months.

K / D: How do you approach making different styles of music and also the videos you make?

Mark Old: Influences from information or reading came from some producer books such as computer music although more so on listening to sounds from various gear than following step by step a technique, i can only remember ever doing this with my vocoder to get it working with the keyboard, but much more so from scores of music my favourite magazine being the us publication bass player which discusses rhythms and common chords in various players styles and i often look at someone’s ideas and re-improvise, just as equally other music books for particular instruments i found useful in composing or improving the compositional mind, learning the keyboard and other instruments also were a very important influence and as to making the sound original and creating sound using pedals people like Keith Emerson and Alvin Lee of Cricklewood Green gave me the initial ideas of experimentation with original analog sound. In approaching various styles of music i need to be in that particular mood to make it, the way i want anyway so often i produce what comes out so sometimes i make 3 other tracks first before i make the style im being asked for, but often i also put mind into that mood by listening to others on that style, listening to beats and chords and trying to come up with variations or layouts in my head but then often i also just play something and work from that.

I also made a couple of videos ive compiled still pictures of artists whom ive re-mixed and combined this in my own artwork using Vegasobe vid has 250 still images animated and given effects its combining what I did as a vj for about a year with my music and art in a way similar to the rose2000 and militants-of-funk websites with exploration of visual arts I might be able to wire you one of the vids at some point but its big and i asked the artist permission as the still although entirely my art originated from the artist and so far they didnt reply me so im not sure if it will be allowed to be put up or not, its also very big so its hard for me to upload it, anyway it was an interesting project to do these 2 vids again showing another capability.

Also I do occasionally read a score of music like an earth wind and fire track im looking particular at the timing of music rather than the chords as thats the piece and often were working with other tones and sounds but yes the drum rhythms and note durations in pieces sometimes works too.

Also with the video production I spent some time doing visual effects at friends gigs so that was part of the idea to make some more visuals like this then use Vegas to sequence these frames, I also do some photography so im basically merging some of this work with the many sounds I have done, I have had a project in my mind for nearly 8-9 years now of exhibiting art and music of mine in video and projector and sequenced by switching off and on lights around the exhibition I think a lot of the content is there I just need to be able to find a free venue to host it and complete its original concept, the idea is then to get money from donations to the exhibition and give say 1/2 to charity.

K / D: Finally, the mix is long extended, has lots of influences a very raw sound, can you describe this, the equipment you used ands some of the tracks presented?

Mark Old: One of the tracks the one with the breakbeat is a track by Fave Mono its a fluorescent 7″ from Glasgow and when I searched Discogs for my friend on Saturday I cant find it listed. With respect to the equipment im using a grid sampler running on my pc its part of Cakewalk grid and its coupled to Kinetic Beat Maker, im sampling vinly tracks then mixing the 4 and 8 bar samples that ive put in time with each other and other instruments or beats im playing in the first hour, im also running live a beatbox which is Acoustica Beatcraft and mixing it in with the sampler mixing from Cakewalk in the second hour im entirely on vinyls mostly from my own label and all produced by me.

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