Hailing from Glasgow, Mark Sherry is a leading pioneer of tech trance with a repertoire of labels and projects on his plate. We sat down before his set at Trance Unity in Montreal and talked about the gig, extended sets, everything he’s working on, and how he got started mastering music for others.
You’ve got a little injury going on…
■ I feel like such an old man tonight. Once the adrenaline kicks in I’ll be okay but I gotta make sure I don’t move my neck too much. I’ll be walking like a robot.
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Now boarded for Montreal! Unfortunately I’ve got a trapped nerve in my neck and it’s giving me a lot of pain and discomfort in my neck, left shoulder, arm and hand, so I won’t be able to jump around as much as I usually do during my set. I’m meant to be resting but I really couldn’t miss this gig, so I really need all of you to give me your energy on the dancefloor to keep me going! See you all soon 😎❤️ #tranceunity2020 #circusafterhours #outburstrecords #techburstrecords @circus.montreal @monkeybuzinezzmtl
So why didn’t you cancel the gig? You’ve played here before.
■ Montreal is a special place, you can’t ever cancel a gig in Montreal. It’s one of the highlights of the year. I was saying to the guys earlier that Trance Unity has been going for six years now and it’s like the club version of Luminosity, except in Montreal. It’s got the same family vibe Luminosity has but it’s in a nightclub. You’ve got lots of people traveling from all over the world to come to Trance Unity and you get to see all your favorite DJs and it’s a really broad spectrum of styles of DJs. I just stood and watched JOOF (John 00 Fleming) for the last hour and what he’s doing is incredible. Normally I watch Ferry [Corsten] but I’ve seen him a million times and tonight, because I’m playing after JOOF, I want to see what he’s playing. I’ve never seen him properly DJ before; if anything, he’s been on early or I’ve been on late, so it’s good to catch up tonight. The lineups are always amazing in Montreal, especially Trance Unity. You’re guaranteed to see all your favorites in one night and I’ve said it a million times in interviews that Circus is one of the best clubs in the world — not just the production and the club itself, but the people who come here are so amazing. They go nuts and they just want to dance the whole night. I played here a few months ago and I played a 10-hour open-to-close set and people stayed until the end. It’s an amazing club.
How do you prepare for a 10 hour set?
■ I get sent a lot of music on a weekly basis. If I get a really good progressive track, I’ll put it in the progressive folder and if I get a good techno track, I’ll put it in the techno folder. I kind of build up my sets as I go along, so even if I don’t get the chance to play progressive stuff, I know that when it comes to an open-to-close, I’ve got this folder of new progressive stuff so I prepare as I go along each week and that also helps with my radio show. I’ve got a good habit of preparing tracks on a weekly basis so I’m always prepared for anything. With my USBs tonight, I can play for 35 hours nonstop. I’m not one of these EDM guys that comes up for an hour’s worth of music.
How about mentally? How do you stay awake?
■ The adrenaline, absolutely. Tonight, like any time I come to Montreal, is like being in the Twilight Zone because at home in Scotland it’s 6am so when I come here, a 24-hour day becomes 30 hours long. When you start DJ’ing the adrenaline keeps you awake, once the energy starts flowing you get energy from the crowd and you just feel pumped up for it.
And you were just in Taipei?
■ I was there two weeks ago. People go crazy over there.
How do you compare it to other places? I was there last year and everything felt so foreign.
■ It’s untapped, the energy’s untapped. It’s really like what’s going on now in Canada, like they were going crazy for the whole night. I played an individual two-hour set and one of my best friends, David Forbes, was on for two hours and in the end we went b2b for two hours and the club was packed and people were going crazy the whole six hours we were on from start to finish. It’s really good over there, Thailand as well. Vietnam, Tokyo, and all these places in Asia have a really good scene.
You’re inspiring me to go back! Anyway, tell me about the techno you started producing as Mark Sherry.
■ Mauro Picotto got me into techno. Mauro came out and we started making a lot of good music in ’97, ’98, so I kind of started following what he was doing. In my opinion he was one of the pioneers of tech trance, it was like big melodic breaks but when it kicked in it was like almost back to techno and then in 2001, 2002 he started playing a lot of techno in his trance sets and I was totally like… he was my idol. I was loving the fact he was mixing up techno with trance so he was definitely one of the main guys who got me into techno back in the day and since then I’ve played techno in my sets but it wasn’t until maybe 2012, 2013 I started thinking I want to make some techno because I’ve always been a trance producer, that’s what people know me as. I wanted to try and expand my database of music and experiment in the studio and try different things so I started making techno in 2012, 2013 and then in 2015 I launched my own techno label, Techburst Records. So I’ve got Outburst Records for trance, Outburst Twilight for darker tech trance, and Techburst for techno. I’ve always loved [techno] and I’ve always played it but, it wasn’t until maybe 2014 I really started releasing it and signing guys and making it myself.
Do you notice a big crossover between the techno and trance fans?
■ I think for most trance events in the UK and Europe, if you’re booked to DJ, I would play trance. I wouldn’t normally play techno. But when I come to Canada — I do gigs over here in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal — I know the people love techno so it’s amazing for me because I get the chance to play both. Tonight, I know this is called Trance Unity, but I put a post on the event page asking what people want to hear from me and everyone said [techno] is cool, which is great.
Wow, that’s great.
■ It’s amazing for me. I started a new techno project with David Forbes as well, called Thick As Thieves. That’s kind of a b2b thing we do. This year there’s a lot of new stuff coming under that name and it’s gonna be on my Techburst techno label.
Would you say that’s your biggest project for 2020?
■ I wouldn’t say it’s my biggest. We’ve been producing as Thick As Thieves for two years now and we are really pushing it a lot more than the past, but trance is still my priority and that’s what I’m known for so that’s always going to be the biggest thing I push. Techno for me is like an itch; when you’ve got an itch on your back you have to scratch it. Maybe in a month I’ll spend a few weeks making trance and I’ll start to get an itch in my back and I’ll have to make techno for a week.
You’re also mastering for people now. How did that start happening? Were people asking you to master their music?
■ I’ve done mastering for years and years but it wasn’t until maybe about six or seven years ago that I started getting requests from people. I saw people talking in groups looking for mastering engineers, so I started following people to see who was getting recommended and I heard what some of those engineers were doing and I was like, “That’s terrible,” and I knew I could do a much better job. I started advertising it and then it took off from there. Now I’ve got guys coming to me who have been using me for five, six, seven years now and they always come to me. I’ve built up a good clientele.
That’s so smart.
■ It’s not just trance. As well, I’ve done tropical house, drum n’ bass, techno, commercial stuff, ambient. So it’s not just trance I do mastering for, it’s any type of music.
You’re so well rounded. What are you most excited for this year?
■ This year there are a few gigs I can’t say for now, but I’m really excited for Luminosity because I’m playing three sets. I’m playing the main stage on the Thursday night, and a Gentech set with my good friend scot project on the Sunday, and then an afterparty as Mark Sherry and scot project is playing as well. It’s gonna be a good one.