Feature: Meat Katie interview

2008-11-14

Feature: Meat Katie interview Meat Katie has been at the summit of the breaks and tech house scene now for over a decade.
His first major release was the big beat project, â??Ceasefireâ??, which secured him an album deal on Wall of Sound way back in 1995.
Now heading up the LOT49 label, Meat Katie, aka Mark Pember and his fellow tech house cohorts, are in the process of building up a massive repertoire of dancefloor artillery for your listening pleasure.

What was your major inspiration for getting into music?
Besides not wanting to get a a proper job? Things didnâ??t go so well for me in my childhood years. I wont bore you with it, but music was the great escape for me (to a certain extent it still is). I simply loved music. My first introduction to music was via hip-hop. I was a graffiti artist and had no ambitions to be a DJ - I was into art.
I started to collect funk and rare groove looking for the loops in the hip-hop tracks I loved so much and had sampled. I slowly got drawn to the tracks themselves and taught myself how to play bass guitar. The next thing I knew I joined a band and that was the real start to my life in music.


Tell us more about your skater punk past and your relationship with Kill City Records?
Oddly enough I didnâ??t know anyone that liked 70â??s funk and acid house!  Most of my friends were into straight edge punk, so I joined a three-piece skate punk band called Sandladder and that led to my first record deal - we got signed to Kill City Records.
We only recorded a couple of singles as our thing was playing live. I toured heavily in that band. It was proper â??in the vanâ?? style. I really enjoyed my time doing that and although it was rewarding, the intense nature of being in a band like that ultimately lead to us splitting up.


What was the turning point at which you went over to electronic music?
A friend of mine, Jason Oâ??Brian (who now records as the Dub Pistols), bought an Akai 1000 sampler and Cubase and we experimented with sampling and building grooves, filling in the gaps with bits we would play and beefing out the drums with electronic kicks and snares. I had a huge collection of funk, soul, jazz and blues by this time so we immediately had all these breaks and material we could sample but doing our own thing with it.
We had become the whole band and didnâ??t need a full line-up which was great. A friend of mine Derrick Dahlarge joined us and we started a project called Ceasefire. This was the early days of big beat and we were lucky enough to get signed to Wall of Sound (I think we were their 7th or 8th release). I did that for a while and then I started Meat Katie as a solo project and signed to Kingsize records, who I stayed with for 10 years and recorded three artist albums for.


What happened to your first label, Whole 9 Yards? And how does Lot49 differ from this?
It was a case of getting into bed with the wrong person. We ran the label successfully for four years, then my partner decided to relocate to Sweden. I offered to buy his share of the label but I was told point blank, â??itâ??s not for sale,â? so it left me in an awkward position: Do I carry on doing 100% of the work for 50% of the label, or do I let go of it?
I decided it was not going to work, and we agreed to leave it in limbo (where it still currently resides).  Shortly after that, Intergroove (a UK distribution company) approached me about doing my own thing, so I started LOT49.  I rarely make the right choices, but letting go of Whole9 Yards when I did relieved me of a huge burden and allowed me to crack on with my own career which, to be honest, had really suffered while I was running the label. 
LOT49 has become the label I wanted Whole9 Yards to be - we have a great roster of some of my favourite artists. Dylan Rhymes also being a co-owner means we will always have two artists whatever happens!


Do you manage to balance label operations with being musically creative, or have you found yourself locked down in bureaucracy?
I have found it harder recently. As Lot49 has grown as a label, I find myself giving it more attention. You can easily get bogged down with paperwork if youâ??re not careful, but we have a guy called Fidz who is a great label manager now. He is fully aware that I need to be releasing music too, to keep my own career moving forward, so he takes most of the weight, to be honest.
The A&R side of things I canâ??t let go of though. Myself and Marvin (Dylan Rhymes) make those decisions on a daily basis. Itâ??s about having the right people involved who can help make those things a reality and meet the deadlines - team work!


The Meat Katie sound has moved from being based around breaks to having a big techno sound. Whatâ??s influencing you at the moment and what do you think has changed in your approach to music?
I think DJing a lot has helped me craft my sound recently. I still enjoy good breaks, but if I have to be honest, there is not a lot of new blood coming through (that appeals to me). Itâ??s the hybrid of techno/breaks that is getting me excited right now. I like the idea of big dirty basslines, broken beats and heavy percussion carrying the drive and momentum of techno, but more subtle than breakbeat, but more guts than minimal...obviously!


The whole tech funk sound is very UK-centric. Its sounds are UK influenced and its producers are UK based. When touring, how does this translate with foreign crowds?
Good question. Iâ??ve never really considered it a UK thing to be honest, itâ??s always been more a case of like minded producer/DJs who make music that sits on the techno/electro/breakbeat fence. I still do not view it as a sub genre.
It has travelled really well for me but I think that is due to the amount of music I have released. Having a record label that represents that sound has helped to no end, too. A string of mix compilations has laid out what Iâ??m about as a DJ. The days of people turning up and saying, â??This is not breakbeat,â? are well and truly over.
It has always been a misconception that Iâ??m a straight up breaks DJ. Iâ??m just a DJ who plays some breaks (sometimes).


Rumour has it you have a strong following in China. How did this come about?
Asia in general has always surprised me with its unconditional support for my sound. I started playing Queens in Hong Kong many years ago, where there was a serious underground scene, and it just spread from there, really. Doing a compilation for Bedrock established me, and having a Fabric comp to follow up certainly didnâ??t hurt, and more recently the â??Sessionsâ?? compilation for Ministry has opened even more doors.
I suppose Iâ??ve been in the right place at the right time. It helps having a good network of clubs to play from Shanghai to Taipei, plus our product is distributed by High Note who are one of the largest distributors in the region. They have been key in promoting me and the label (when Iâ??m not doing compilations).


So what can we expect from Meat Katie in the future?
Iâ??m just finishing a mix compilation for the Chinese club Babyface, not sure when that will be out though. On the production side I have an EP With Dylan Rhymes and another EP with Kid Blue - both of which Iâ??m road testing at the moment.
Myself and Kid Blue contributed a track for our Double AA series (volume four) called â??Indian Queensâ?? and Iâ??ve started a new project with called Dustbowl, which is more techno based. We are releasing the first three track EP on Lot49 and then a follow up on U&A early next year.

In fact, Iâ??ve been working hard with Shack (Elite Force) recently. We have two singles in the pipeline for his U&A label, both breakbeat tracks â??St Petersburgâ?? and Dark & Deepâ??, I think these will be out in December. I have also done another collaboration with Dopamine called â??Nectahhâ?? which will feature on his debut single for us, besides that Iâ??m stock piling solo ideas for my next artist album but itâ??s early days with regards to thatâ?? Oh yeah, I DJ a bit too.

Source: beatportal.com