Something From Nothing: DJ Nu-Mark

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The fact that I have the ability to create something from nothing with my words will never cease to amaze me. One of my writing goals for 2013 is to land at least one interview per month with a person (or people) whose creative work I enjoy or appreciate or am otherwise inspired by. January’s second interview is with DJ Nu-Mark, who you may have read about here. He's also one sixth of Jurassic 5, who will be reuniting at Coachella in April. DJ Nu-Mark's newest album, 'Broken Sunlight', has been on repeat on all my devices for weeks now. I figured it was a long shot, but I felt inspired enough after hearing the music to try contacting him and, well, this email Q & A is what I got out of it. Hopefully you’ll be inspired too.

Q: You started DJing at age 13 - did you play any instruments or have any involvement in music before that? 

A: Yeah, I dabbled with the drums at age 7 but got serious around 11 or 12. I used to mimic my favorite drum patterns from hard rock songs.  When Hip Hop came along it sort of stole the rugged big drum sound I was used to listening to and I was quickly looking at urban music for my source of percussive fuel. 

Q: When did you know this is what you would do with your life? Have you experienced doubt about “making it” since you got into the business? If so, how do you respond to it? 

A: I guess I figured that music was the only thing I cared about when I dropped out of x-ray school 3 months before graduation.  I was 26 at that time.  As soon as I dropped out of school, Jurassic 5 took off and I quickly realized that living my dream was more important then using my "fallback" plan as a life plan.  There have always been and always will be doubts about making a career from art due to so much competition and zero guarantees promised to you in this biz.  I simply try to stay resilient and create as much product as possible.  I want to live my life doing something I truly enjoy.

Q: You seem to have found a good way to keep folks interested in what you’re up to - releasing 2 songs at a time leading up to the completion and release of your latest LP. Overall, do you think that recent changes in the music industry and the way people purchase music is a good thing or a bad thing? Why?  

A: Thank you!  I think the biggest problem as it relates to record sales these days is the profit margin or lack of.  Early in my career people were paying $12-$20 for an LP.  Today, people want a specific song for 99 cents or for free.  That said mp3's are sold in massive amounts thanks to Itunes, Amazon etc... If the profit margin were larger it wouldn't really be much of an issue.....ummm except for the file trading part.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that it would have saved the entertainment industry a ton of headaches if the major labels would have embraced Napster instead of shattering it into thousands of mini Napsters. 

Q: How do you think experiencing music as a 13-year-old kid now is different from when you were a 13-year-old kid?

A: Well, I can easily say that the element of mystery has vanished from today's music industry due to the internet.  You can see how everything is made, what it's made with and who made it at the click of a button.  As a kid, I was constantly confused about how they got such a big sounding bass drum and what machine they used to create it.  This wasn't common knowledge until I met Hip Hop producers that owned an 808.  Sequencing was really confusing to a 13-year-old drummer and I needed to know more about it.  DJ'ing was from another planet....what was the square thing in the middle with the knobs and why aren't the records scratched from all that scratching.  I was very lucky to witness the birth of Beatboxing (totally cool and yet puzzling), DJ'ing, Mc'ing and Breaking.  All of these things took a lot of research to learn and especially master.  These days YouTube provides everything a kid needs to get started. 

Q: How is DJing different now from when you were a 13-year-old kid?

A: You can buy a laptop and have every song you'll ever need to rock parties for the next year.  All you really need to do is trade mp3's etc...That said, the crowds on the dance floors are not stupid.  They know a good DJ from a wack one in a heartbeat.  Back in the day it took hours upon hours of diggin for records that you researched from other DJ's, Radio, Mix Tapes etc...Carrying records to house parties over and over again really weeded out people who said they wanted to be a DJ but didn't want to work for it.  There weren't nearly as many DJ's back in the day because it took a lot of work especially for those of us that brought our own sound systems (speakers included).  However, what I like about DJing today is that you can really dream up any mix in the world and get away with it.....that's pretty cool! 

Q: Your bio says Broken Sunlight is about persevering through tough times, including the break-up of a long-term relationship. A couple of the tracks seem to be about expressing frustration with women behaving badly - was crafting them therapeutic in some way? 

A: Yeah, I make my best music when I have something to express.  I think most artists do.  As it relates to pain, it's always good to channel it in art.  As a child when I went through problems with my stepfather, I would beat the shit out of the drums and it made me a better musician.  I guess I work better in pain than in happiness.  It made this album special.

Q: Tell me about the collaboration with Aloe Blacc and Charles Bradley. How did that song come into existence?

A: Originally the song just featured Charles Bradley but I wanted another person's perspective on the topic of love and Charles references another man in the picture of this love triangle so I figured Aloe was a perfect fit.  This was the last song completed for the album and it almost didn't make it.  Glad it all worked out! 

Q: I especially dig ‘Tropicalifornia’ and ‘Oya’ Indebure’ - they remind me a bit of ‘Canto De Ossanha’. What is appealing to you about those Latin sounds?

A: Latin music is so intriguing to me. The percussive patterns change so drastically between styles...I just can't get enough of this genre.  There's so much for me to learn still and it's one of the very few genres where you can get away with no vocals and tell a story with just the instruments.  I'm down with that. 

Q: How would you say your creative process on this album was different and/or the same as your previous work?

A: This album features artists I wanted to work with before I I made a short list of artists I must collaborate with and it simply came together.  My approach to the beat making process wasn't drastically different from past projects with the exception of working on some new technology.  Other than that I let the music guide me to the guest's kind of a rule of mine. 

Q: What would you say is your favorite thing about your job?

A: That it's not a job.  It just feels good to express myself in different ways.  Whether I'm producing or DJ'ing I'm sharing my thoughts with people without having to run my mouth.  I'm into the actions speak louder than words thing, so music really brings that quote to life for me. 

Q: What does your touring schedule look like for 2013? Will you be playing a lot of solo shows?

A: I'll be doing a bunch of one off DJ and Toy Set performances along with a reunion run with Jurassic 5. 

Q: What can you tell me about Jurassic 5 reuniting for Coachella? Any other shows/new music planned? 

A: We have a few shows lined up with some major festivals and I believe that will be the plan for 2013.  Coachella will be the jump off show, rightfully so since we are a LA based group.  Hopefully we can make it to Europe and play for the place that embraced us on a commercial level first! 

Thanks for having me.  Please visit my site to check the new album "Broken Sunlight"