Mark Farina - How I DJ
Originally from Chicago and now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mark Farina developed his musical tastes in Chicago listening to house music on the radio. Around ’88, while record shopping at Imports, Etc., he met Derrick Carter and a friendship began. “I just ended up there between classes, I ended up buying his picks. He steered me toward the cutting edge House producers of the time.”
Since 1989, Mark Farina has been traveling the globe performing at literally hundreds of shows a year, sometimes DJing both of his preferred styles in two different rooms at the same party. At other events, he’s been known to play extended sets that lasted over eight hours. In his House sets, Mark is known for his uniquely effortless journeys on the jazzy side of Chicago House, mixed up San Fran style. Production wise Mark has countless releases on labels like Om Records, Robsoul, Transport, Farris Wheel, Coyote Cuts as well as his own label Great Lakes Audio.
Are you more of a DJ or Producer — or one in the same?
I’m both, DJ and producer but I spend more time DJing than producing these days since becoming a father.
Describe what makes a good DJ.
Understanding the vibe of a room and controlling your dance floor.
When did you know you wanted to DJ/Produce?
After hearing myself the first time playing on 1200’s doing a blend, and getting a mix in beat I knew thats what I wanted to do. With production, first time listening to some beats and a track that I had made after it was almost finished. I knew there was such a cool feeling, I wanted to do that again.
Who to you is “The DJ’s DJ”?
To me the DJ’s DJ would be Derrick Carter. I’ve never seen a dj who has come out to hear him that’s had a bad time. And for me he’s always doing something different, creative, and playing some crazy tracks you don’t have. So, you know… he’s the man.
Do you use a laptop?
I only use a laptop to organize promos and stuff in iTunes, otherwise that’s it.
Any DJ Controllers?
No I don’t use any DJ controllers. Although I have been using Traktor on my iPad for practicing mixing on planes, trains, hotel rooms, etc.
Any special, unique, crazy things on your rider?
No, nothing too crazy or special. Just wood fire oven pizzas with six different kinds of mushrooms before each set… just kidding.
Describe your main and preferred DJ set-up.
Pioneer DJM-2000, (1) Pioneer DJM-900 NEXUS, (1) Pioneer DJM-1000 NEXUS, (2) CDJ-2000
Do you Sync? What’s your view on this?
For live performance I would never would use sync and I don’t think I really approve of such a thing live. I mean, I think it’s OK if you’re a proven DJ that can mix and what not and you maybe want to experiment for a minute and sync, that might be OK. I think live, using sync is not really cool you know. I cant use a sync at all when I play. I do use CDJ-2000’s but I do not use Rekord Box, the Pioneer Rekord Box features, so you have to use that in order to have a sync option when you’re playing CDJ’s… but yeah, sync is uncool.
Read the crowd or just pound it out?
I’m always into reading the crowd you know. You try a couple different sounds, see where it’s going and see whats working that day. I’ve never been one to just pound it out, thats not my thing. You just bring some good tunes. You never know where you’re going to start until it’s time to play and figure out what people are into that particular night.
Big festivals or intimate clubs? Why?
I like both. Festivals are great because you can get a lot of new people in one atmosphere. You’ll get some house heads and you’ll get some people from other sub-genres of electronica that might be checking you out for the first time and get to hear your sound. You can be on a bigger sound system. You’re outside generally for a festival which is always great. Then intimate clubs are great as well because you can kind of get a little personal with people. You can shake hands, you can smile, you can make eye contact. You can kind of see how people are grooving to a particular track and take it from there. A few great people in a small room is a great vibe. It’s nice, you can feel like you’re playing in someone’s house in a nice intimate club. Both are good.
Ever miss the vinyl days?
Yeah I do miss the vinyl days of course. There were so many elements that went with vinyl that were great and are kind of missed these days. Just start off where you would get your music back then. Just hanging out at a record store with your friends, getting tunes was a great past time. Just hanging out all day looking for stuff. The sound of vinyl, putting a record on, the large artwork, cover and sleeve. Just manipulating the vinyl was great. Also knowing that there was limited copies of things. If there was only 10 or 15 copies that came into the shop, you know theres only 10 or 15 people that got that tune on any given week. Where now in the digital days you never really know how many copies could exist. So yeah, the vinyl days be it as nostalgic as they may be now are missed.
Use WAV or MP3 while Djing — WHY? Is there a difference?
I prefer WAV’s whenever possible. Obviously they sound better, they’ve got a little richer sound. Any chance to have the best sound you can, no matter what club system you’re using it’s just great to have the best audio file you can use.
Any Tips for aspiring DJs/Producers?
For DJ’s, record yourself whenever possible. Listen to your mixes, record your sets, give them out to friends. Soundcloud is a great tool to get your mixes out there. Any feedback is good, especially if you don’t have any club gigs at the moment. You gotta get your mixes out there and try to get some feedback. Also, this goes hand in hand with DJing, make tracks. Making tracks is a great help, it’s always been that way since the vinyl days. It’s great help to get your name out there to other DJ’s. Find the labels whose sound you really like, make tracks accordingly for those labels. If you got certain labels you’re into then you might want to make tracks with those sounds. Reach out to DJ’s on the labels that you like, send them tunes. Just getting yourself out there in this day and age, you can do that in many ways. Make mixes, record them, get them out and make tracks.
How do you combat the “Everyone is a DJ” mentality?
Of course everybody is a Dj in their own little world, their car, their bedroom, wherever. Working at a club is a different thing. Besides picking the song you gotta know how to control volumes, levels, EQ. So definitely its an acquired talent like any other trade. The more practice and time you spend doing it, the homework you do, the more hours you put into your work it shows in the long run. It doesn’t really phase me to anything , you just do your homework and try and let it show at the club.
Mark Farina latest label release ‘Freaky Behaviour – Sunshine Therapy EP’ out on Traxsource.