#95 - Mark Archer / Altern8
As far as rave legends go, you won’t find many higher up the list than Mark. As a founding member of Bizarre Inc, one half of Nexus 21 and Altern8, and a plethora of monikers such as DJ Nex, Trackman, and Slo Moshun…Mark is quite simply one of the most important and influential UK dance music producers of the last two decades. So of course we are absolutely delighted to have him on board the EPM Podcast.
Mark Archer started his production career in 1988 when along with Dean Meredith he formed hip hop/sample house group Rhythm Mode D, at the newly opened Blue Chip Studio's in his hometown of Stafford. They recorded a few 12” releases and an album for the studio's own label before branching out with different styles including acid house and techno amongst others. Archer was a founder member of Bizarre Inc. before starting up a new project under the name Nexus 21 who had a string of releases on renowned labels such as Network and R&S Records.
At the same time, Mark began a side project, which was to become one of the biggest names in rave history, Altern 8. Altern 8 crashed the UK charts in 1991 with ‘Infiltrate 202’ and ‘Activ-8 (come with me)’, two chaotic slices of hardcore, the latter reaching number 3. They were aided in their chart aspirations by the circulation of fictitious press stories concerning their alleged activities, which included promoting the decongestant Vicks Vapo Rub, which, it was claimed, heightened the effects of Ecstasy; and standing as local candidates for the 1993 General Election. Their live events were also designed as eye-catching performances, where the band donned RAF chemical warfare suits and dust masks. Additional vinyl outings included the ‘Overload EP’ (1990), ‘Frequency’ (10,000 copies of which were on sale for a single day only and written solely by Archer), and another top ten hit, ’Evapor 8’, followed by ’Hypnotic St8’. The LP ‘Full on Mask Hysteria’ reached number 10 in the LP charts.
Archer has gone on to record under many pseudonym’s such as DJ Nex, Xen Mantra as well as Trackman and even make Nu Skool Breaks for Rennie Pilgrem’s label TCR, under the pseudonym ‘Mr Nex’. Mark has continued to DJ throughout his career in various styles from jacking acid, classic techno, funk, hardcore, hip-hop, and of course his most notorious specialty genre, Old Skool Rave. Mark Archer is a resident at London’s I Love Acid, and also a regular guest at top music events such as Bangface, BLOC, Sonar Festival, Glastonbury, and many more…
Q&A with Mark Archer
1. How did you approach the mix? Was it a different process to how you would DJ in a club?
When I play in a club I know the tracks I have and have played them many, many times before so know them very well, so there’s little pre-planning involved and I either follow what the DJ has played before if that’s possible, or take it down and start again. This was a mix of tunes that were pretty new to me and only the running order was worked out beforehand, hopefully it’s worked out ok?
2. Would it be fair to say that breaks and bleeps are in your DNA?
Pretty much, yeah. Having been into electro and hip hop before house came along I was well into the breakbeat side of things and when Techno winged it’s way over I loved all the twiddly little noises going on so the northern bleep thing was just the icing on the cake. Nexus 21 kind of got put into that whole category even though our first album had little to do with it and Self Hypnosis wasn’t an attempt at making a bleepy tune, it just turned out like that.
3. Was music always part of your family life? Did your parents or any siblings have a musical influence?
The radio was always on in the house and luckily I wasn’t bombarded with loads of 60’s music but instead what was current in the 70’s and 80’s. My dad was a singer and percussionist in a local group and a family friend was the drummer so my brother and I were given random percussion instruments, snares and cymbals to play with. He got into stuff like Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk while I was listening to the early electro coming from the States so although I didn’t really get it at the time it did have an influence on me later on.
4. What were your first clubbing experiences like? Was there much of a club scene in Stafford in the early – mid 1980s?
It was the local Ritzy called Top Of The World in Stafford where I first went clubbing (if you could call it that) in 1984/5. They played chart music, then a bit of Indie (The Cult/Cure etc) and then would play some soul and funk stuff which was what I was into at the time. A far cry from the height of the rave era but fun times.
5. What influenced you at the time of starting Nexus 21? Did you have a very set idea on the sound before you started releasing the project?
One track pretty much started the whole idea of Nexus 21 off. Wiggin by Mayday was on an album I was bought for my 21st birthday and that was it, I wanted to make tracks like this and keep to this sound. Altern 8 came about by accident as we recorded nine tracks a year later in 1990 and they had wider influences than just Detroit techno, so we came up with another name to not water down what we had done as Nexus 21.
6. In 1991 things went stratospheric for you with Altern-8. Of all the craziness that happened over that year, what’s the one thing that sticks in your mind the most?
Probably the first ever Altern 8 gig at the Eclipse in Coventry (it was filmed for the Infiltrate 202 video). We were still treating it as a little side project and didn’t think it would last, the suits and masks were thought up just for that gig as we weren’t planning on doing any others, so for it to go as well as it did, it really stands out as a special moment in my career.
7. Last year you brought out the book ‘The Man Behind The Mask’, a reference to your days in Altern-8. Did writing the book make you look back on your history with a new perspective?
It made me realise how certain little things that happened made such a massive difference to my life, things that I’d never really thought about before. For instance, being bought an album for my 21st and starting Nexus 21 off the back of it, if I’d not been bought the album I could well be a butcher by now or something.
8. Do you feel that UK rave culture is held in the same esteem as Chicago House or Detroit Techno?
It has never been seen as cool like Techno or Chicago house and I doubt it ever will but it was never about ‘cool’, and despite being knocked by the music press for years, it has stood the test of time and my career is proof of that. I am lucky enough to get to play rave tracks to thousands of people all over the world and it is still relevant to the scene it was part of even now.
9. As a DJ, where is the balance between reading the crowd and playing what you want?
I take to gigs the music I like and I have never played a track I don’t like, so I am playing what I want but have scope to move within a set in case the crowd really likes a certain style I’m playing or similarly isn’t feeling a section then I can get out of it quickly.
10. What are your production plans for the rest of 2017?
Production wise I have slowed down over the last few years compared to how I used to be, I’ll be doing a few remixes, working on some new Trackman material and hopefully some new Altern 8 material with Josh (Posthuman) as well as planning a year long tour next year as it’ll be my 30th year in the game.
EPM Podcast 95 Tracklist – Mark Archer
1. West Norwood Cassette Library - Everytime You Touch Me (I Get Hype)
2. West Norwood Cassette Library - Theme To Street Knowledge
3. Billy Daniel Bunter & Sanxion - 93 Darkside
4. Figure Ground - Figure Ground 19
5. Luca Lozano - Come With Me
6. Voytek - All You Know
7. Figure Ground - Figure Ground 20
8. 2 Bad Mice - Snake Charmer
9. B.Traits - North Shore
10. Gasha Bakradze - Saysea Beat
11. The Brothers Grimm - Exodus (Lion Awakes) WNCL VIP
12. Igor Tipura - Dwams
13. JMX - Eastside
14. Billy Daniel Bunter & Sanxion - 90 Bleep & Bass (Southern Mix)
15. Ecotone - Arachnophobia