Celebratory house and techno.
It's possible that Mark Hawkins has several different groups of fans. If you were buying tough, jacking techno in the early-to-mid 2000s, you might have picked up his 12-inches for the iconic Dutch label Djax-Up-Beats, among others. Hawkins explored techno's extremities, with grinding, fast-paced tracks that folded in influences from ghetto house. More recently, you may have enjoyed Hawkins' dusky releases as Juxta Position. It hasn't been his most prolific alias, with three releases since 2013, but the music has made an impact, particularly Juxta Position Vol.1, which came out on DVS1's Mistress Recordings. You might even know him as ###, a pseudonym he used in the late '00s for a couple of minimal outings.
Then, of course, there's Marquis Hawkes, the name he's best know for. This is Hawkins' outlet for interpreting classic house blueprints—in a string of releases since 2012, he's tipped his hat to the sounds of Chicago, New York and New Jersey. Respected labels like Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Clone, Aus Music and Crème Organization have signed his tracks, and Social Housing, his recent album, was the result of his ongoing relationship with fabric's in-house label Houndstooth. (The album also reopened a debate surrounding appropriation, which Hawkins comments on below.) It featured some of the brightest and most celebratory music of Hawkins' career, an approach that worked nicely for the transition to the album format.
It's this mood that colours Hawkins' RA podcast. RA.532 has its dark spots, but for the most part it's a mix to throw open the windows to on a hot summer day, with tracks by Romanthony, Floorplan, Moodymann and Hawkins himself all featuring.
What have you been up to recently?
Playing pretty much every weekend, working on music whenever I feel the inspiration, which is quite often, and in the middle of all of that activity, trying to make as much time as possible to look after my family.
How and where was the mix recorded?
There were a few things which I wanted to include in this mix that were pretty exclusive at the time of recording, which meant I really needed to create this mix on CDJs. I don't own any, so I decided to hire a pair to complete the mix, and also just to have around for a few days to get more acquainted with some of the more complex features, like looping and hot cues.
I have to say, it was quite an eye opener as to the possibilities of this technology, to get past basically using them in the same way as a vinyl turntable. I thought it was going to take me a few attempts, but I managed to nail it on the very first, no edits required. It was recorded in my studio in Berlin Marzahn.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I wanted to create a mix which was quite representative of how I sound when I'm playing out, particularly at the larger events I play at, but also to be a great listen when you are at home with friends before going out, getting ready and getting psyched for the night ahead.
You said that Social Housing, the title of your first album as Marquis Hawkes, referenced your living environment in Berlin. Did this theme or idea inform the overall tone of the record, which, for the most part, was pretty joyous?
Should an area of social housing not be a source of joy? The music came before the name, but you cannot escape your surroundings influencing your work. The particular area where I live has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Berlin, which in turn has one of the highest unemployment rates in the whole of Germany. But the social problems here are nothing compared to the shit I experienced squatting in Brixton in the early '90s, nearly getting stabbed and the like, or living in Hackney in the early 2000s, when people were having guns pulled on them at the cashpoint. But I think that is more the result of the German government's social policy than anything else. It's not perfect, but as much as the lifts often stink of piss and sometimes break down, at least I can walk down the street without fear of getting jumped. So yeah, I think the joyous nature of the album was a reflection of the positives of where I live, rather than the negatives, although, there are also some more melancholic moments on there which reflect a little of the negative stuff also.
The album also reignited the discussion surrounding identity and appropriation that had surfaced through your music a while back. Is there an overall statement you'd like to make on the subject?
I think it's amazing the assumptions that people can make, when they have never met me and don't know anything about me. And I think also some of the more derogatory discussion which came about was trying to judge everyone in the world by US cultural standards, completely oblivious to the fact that the whole world isn't the same as the US culturally. Furthermore, I would argue that it's a shocking example of cultural stereotyping which made the assumption that "Marquis Hawkes" was a specifically African-American name. I'm sure that there are some black folks out there who share my given name as well as my artist name.
All in all, I think it just goes to show the latent racism that exists, in people who do not even realise that anything they are saying is racist, who think those kind of cultural stereotypes are real. Furthermore, in believing those kind of cultural stereotypes, they reinforce them—that black people can only have certain names, for example. And that is surely more a form of oppression than anything I've ever done. Perhaps the title of the first record [Cabrini Green] was ignorant of the reaction it was going to provoke, but I just wanted to give a nod to Chicago, given that I was influenced by that city's sound, and had been supporting Dance Mania and other tracky labels like that, and actually playing those records out in the late '90s right through the 2000s when that kind of sound was being largely ignored.
Above all else, we never thought that the first records would sell more than 300 copies. The idea that the whole thing was planned as some kind of marketing ploy, like a master plan to get really big, I mean, it's just laughable, and anybody who really thinks that is a realistic proposition really has no clue at all about how these things work. It's a case of a select few adding two and two and coming up with 23. I covered my face originally because I had previously released over 30 records under my real name, and I really needed to get rid of the preconceptions people had about what I did, as my style had really changed, otherwise even pressing 300 records would have been throwing money away.
I have to credit some of those people making those accusations though, for promo which you just can't buy. I've had numerous people come up to me and say that they only heard of me due to that shit going down, and that they checked the music out and liked it. The best comment I read about the whole thing was some guy who wrote, "I'm a black person and I like this music, can you tell me what to think please," and that just about summed it up for me, really: it's terribly patronising for "educated" white people to start turning round and deciding what should and shouldn't be offensive to black people—again, it's subconscious racism rearing its ugly head once more.
What are you up to next?
I've prepared a new EP for Aus, which will come in the autumn. I'm trying to get tracks together for new records for Clone and DABJ, and naturally, for Houndstooth. As ever, the touring rolls on.