Marc ‘MK’ Kinchen is an artist-producer who straddles boundaries as few others can. On the one hand, he’s revered by lovers of house and garage music worldwide. His classic 90s productions such as Burning, Always, K.E.L.S.E.Y’s Boy and 4th Measure Men’s For You remain floorfillers to this day, as do his 200-plus unmistakeable remixes for artists ranging from Bizarre Inc to Blondie, not least his mix of Nightcrawlers’ Push The Feeling On, which became one the biggest house crossover hits of the decade. He’s cited as an influence by countless leading producers – including, significantly, Todd ‘Godfather of UK Garage’ Edwards. This pre-eminent status is reflected in the fact that he’s the latest artist to be featured in Defected’s House Masters series.
Yet on the other hand, as a songwriter and producer, he’s also worked regularly with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Will Smith, Ne-Yo and Beyonce. No mean list of achievements for someone who started making music as a teenaged Depeche Mode fan in Detroit in the early 80s.
“I was into Skinny Puppy, Ministry… all that alternative/industrial electronic stuff,” says Marc of his early days. “And then through a girl I knew, I ended up in a band called Separate Minds with Terrence Parker and Lou Robinson. I didn’t really know anything about house and techno then, but I knew a lot more about how to use the equipment than they did!”
Separate Minds’ first EP, released in 1988, caught the ear of Kevin Saunderson and Marc, still in his teens, ended up working with him for two years, engineering on Inner City records and honing his studio craft. And then came Burning, which he recorded with local vocalist Alana. “Alana didn’t have the greatest voice,” says Marc, “but there was something about her, and we did that Burning vocal in one take. But that’s how I like to work. I don’t like to spend too much time getting things perfect – sometimes the mistakes sound better!”
The track was snapped up by Virgin in the US, and an album deal followed, which saw Marc moving to Brooklyn. With Always and For You further cementing his reputation, the remix offers started to flood in. Artists to get the MK treatment around this time included Bobby Brown, D’Influence, The Shamen, The B-52s, D:Ream, Moby, Pet Shop Boys and Bizarre Inc, to name but a few… yet it was a 1994 remix for then-unknown Scottish outfit Nightcrawlers that would see his star rise yet higher. Famously, his first mix of Push The Feeling On was rejected, so Marc – about to depart for a flight – quickly threw together another one. “I literally did that mix in about half an hour – on one monitor, because the other one had blown!” he laughs.
Despite its inauspicious birth, Push The Feeling On [The Dub Of Doom] would go on to be a huge hit worldwide. Marc says he was largely unaware, at the time, of just how successful it was – “back then there was no internet, and I didn’t DJ, so I wasn’t out in clubs all the time” – but the remix requests started coming in faster than ever. One in particular he jumped at was Celine Dion’s Misled: “I wanted to do a remix I could tell my mom about!” he says. “And I liked the idea of making a Celine Dion record work in a house club. The same with Freak’n U by Jodeci – the idea of making an R&B act have a smash house record appealed to me.”
But then things took a left turn. Tired of producing endless club mixes, Marc began to shop himself around as a songwriter and producer for hire… and after a chance meeting at the Motown offices, found himself working in the studio with Quincy Jones. Which is how Marc Kinchen became house music’s own Lord Lucan, seemingly vanishing from the scene as, for the next ten years, he worked exclusively in the pop and R&B fields.
From 2002 to 2006, Marc was an in-house producer with Will Smith, working on film and TV music. Eventually, feeling a desire to make records again, he struck out on his own once more – only to find the music industry landscape considerably altered. “But by this time, you had YouTube. I’d see my records on there, and all these comments, and I started to see how much love there still was for tracks I’d done 10, 15 years before.”
His decision to return to dance music was triggered by hearing Hotel Room Service by Pitbull. Noting the track’s hefty Nightcrawlers sample, Marc got in touch with the Cuban-American rapper and ended up producing club tracks for him. Through his work for Pitbull, Marc began to hook up with the likes of Laidback Luke and Afrojack and “really start getting back into the house thing. It seems like the classic house sound is getting really popular again, so now seems like the perfect time to come back to it.”
So for the past couple of years, the name MK has started cropping up on club flyers, as Marc commences a new stage of his career as a DJ – a role he previously shunned. And that’s not the end of the story. He’s still doing pop music, but Marc also has several house-related projects in the pipeline. His remix of Storm Queen’s Look Right Through is currently making waves in clubland, there’s some new material featuring Alana on its way, and he’s been working on some deep house tracks with Lee Foss and Jamie Jones. Along with his brother – house producer Scotti Deep – he’s also setting up a new label, Say Aah.
“At the moment we’re still just getting some music together,” says Marc of the label, “but yeah… this ‘House Masters’ compilation, this is only the beginning!”