photo credit: Ashley Anderson
When I first met him, he was fashionably late. We would be meeting in a barbershop in Queens, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. With a residency at China 1 and Le Souk, I knew that he had skills, but I had no idea what was in store for personality. Fortunately for me, Mark LaRush was able to put talent and an interesting background into one very handsome and poised package.
Mark was nice enough to take time from his insanely busy schedule to meet with me a few months back to talk about his upcoming projects, his early introduction to music, and his secret love for electronica. Always willing to open the minds of his audience, DJ Mark LaRush makes commercial DJs look good. In an era with more mainstream DJs spiraling downward into track-jumping after the first few bars of played out pop songs and rehashed hip hop, Mark challenges the average clubgoer by easing them into deeper music and making them love it before they leave the premises.
So without much further ado, take a moment to step into the mind of a very focused man with a musical vision that can appeal to just about everyone and find out What’s Good? with one of New York’s finest, DJ and producer Mark LaRush:
It seems, at least via facebook, that it’s always “Mark LaRush here, Mark LaRush there.” It makes me wonder whether or not you have a clone! Can you tell the readers a bit about all of your residencies?
I’m a resident Monday night at Le Souk Harem. It’s at a different place now, but it’s the same party, same promoter, just a different location. I’m also at Flute Gramercy on Thursdays. It’s a really nice, upscale, lounge. Fridays and Saturdays, I’m at China 1. That’s by far one of the hottest spots. I love that residency! It gave me more opportunities. They gave me the green light to DJ how I wanted and really let me show my skills. From that, a lot of other people wanted to work with me.
All of the residencies are really different. When I play a venue, I don’t always do the same thing. As a DJ, I wonder how people can use things like Serato and mp3s and just spin one genre. They gave you that so you could be better! So I spin everything. Every venue is different.
Considering you have so many residencies, how do you keep things from being repetitive?
Well, a lot of times, you repeat. But eventually, YOU get tired of repeating, so you just start working on new things. You don’t want everyone to be tired of you. I get tired of myself first! [laughs] That’s when my sets change up. This is how I look at it: if you listen to me spin every week, you probably won’t hear a difference because you come every week. But if you come a month or two months apart, you’ll hear the change. That’s pretty much how it works.
Would you say that each crowd likes a different type of music?
Le Souk typically wants me to spin house music. I have no problem with that; it’s cool. China 1 is more hip hop, but I still spin house, R&B. . . I mash it up real good, you know? The reason I spin a lot of house and mashup stuff is because I like spinning for open-minded people. For example, if you have a crowd that just likes hip hop and that’s it, it can turn into a crowd you don’t want. You want a crowd that’s nice, that’s buying drinks, that’s have a good time. So by spinning old school disco and mashing everything up, it shows what kind of people you have in there. If you just spin hip hop and they don’t want to hear old school disco, that’s the crowd you don’t really want. Music says a lot; you’d be surprised.
By me spinning that way, it creates a positive energy.
When you refer to “old school disco,” or “old school,” period, who comes to mind for you?
Prince! Um, what?!? [laughs] I’m a Prince fanatic. Michael Jackson . . . Madonna . . . there are so many.
What about the house and/or electronica you spin at places like Le Souk? Who are some artists that frequently show up in your sets?
Right now, David Guetta. I spin mainly mainstream stuff, but I’m into more underground acts as well. I went to Kiss & Fly the other day, and the house music there was amazing. The music there was sick, and I’m trying to go more in that direction with my music. I’ve been listening to A LOT of house recently!
Beyond visiting other venues, what are some things you do to research new music and what is the creative process like for you when you’re putting together a set?
I find one song that I really like, and I create my sets around it, making a build up to that particular song. Recently, as funny as this might sound, I used “Party in the USA” [by Miley Cyrus]. It was actually a hip hop set—a really fun hip hop set. I had a Biggie remix to complement the song. It had the same beat, so it went perfectly. I got the fellas hyped and I got the ladies hyped all at the same time.
Nice. You mentioned Serato, but do you use other equipment and/or programs as well?
Serato is the main thing I use in the clubs, but when I’m practicing, sometimes I don’t even use Serato, I just use my records. I still have records in the house. I’m actually a real DJ! [laughs] I still have vinyl, so sometimes, when I feel like it, I’m just at home playing my records—without Serato!
That’s what makes you good, if you ask me. You could watch the screen all you want, but…That’s the thing with a lot of new DJs that are coming up. They don’t know anything about NOT watching the screen. When their laptop crashes, that’s all they have. I could just go home and get my records! [laughs] I still have my Technics 1210s. With CDs . . . I like those too, but the turntables are more comfortable for me—I can’t do the CDs. I like to feel the record, you know?
I am just getting into Ableton because I am make my own music now. I also use Reason, which I use to make mashups. I’m working on projects with other artists right now, so I have to get into Ableton Live. That’s a must. It’s fun, though. It’s like a videogame, if you ask me!
What got you into DJing? Was it a specific song or genre that really inspired you or something deeper?
I really think it was my background. My family likes to party and dance. I always like to watch people dance. My being West Indian, I like to dance! I have rhythm, and I like listening to music—all types of music! That’s pretty much how it started and how I became a DJ . . .
Check back here for part two soon!
– Retail DJ