Mark Pritchard Interview

First published in Wax Magazine
Established in 1993, originally as an outlet for the material of Danny Breaks though later picking up producers such as Dylan, Facs and Mark Pritchard’s Use Of Weapons project – Droppin Science has continued to operate at the fringe of drum & bass. The catalogue is interspersed with seminal drum & bass moments, whether Danny’s funk masterwork “The Bear” or more recently Mark Pritchard’s “Mojo Woman,” which moved the label away from its exploration of noise based mechanics to contrast an eased female vocalisations against piano phrasing and intricate live breaks. Over the last couple of years Danny has become an ever more elusive character, preferring to shy away from interviews and letting his music talk for him. Kingsley Marshall caught up with Mark Pritchard to talk about the label, the new direction through 1999 and the much-vaunted Vertigo project.

Mark Pritchard explains what he feels distinguishes the sound of Droppin’ Science. “Danny has always strived to use new and different breaks, and dug for those beats in the same way that hip-hop artists do. Because he’s into hip-hop, though its not obvious, his material has always had that vibe of attitude and a lo-fi funk.”

Although Mark has been recording drum & bass for some time, it has been a fairly recent move to focus on the genre. As he explains: “I’d recorded some material for Recoil records around 1992 with Dom Fripp who is now at Good Looking. Although that material was well received and had a lot of play I couldn’t give it the attention I would have like because of my commitments to other projects, particularly when the whole Global Communications project kicked off around 1993. My material has often been quite sporadic as the way I keep myself interested is through the challenge of doing something new, but I decided last year that I wanted to concentrate on drum & bass more.”

Though a fervent supporter of drum & bass, it frustrates Mark that few producers within the movement are pushing the boundaries. He elaborates: “What I used to really love about the scene a few years ago was the sheer volume of twelves from talented producers which came through each week, and those releases worked to inspire others to push what they’re doing. Over the last couple of years its gone a lot quieter and I’ve found that I really have to search hard to find material that I really like. Looking at the two step thing for example, although that techno sounding percussion works well in clubs I feel that people have become very lazy with there beats in that there is so much more that can with those rhythms.”

Continuing he says: “It’s frustrating to me as there is an endless supply of new beats, and though it may take a lot of effort to use a new break in the right way its worth putting in that extra time and detailed programming as otherwise it becomes boring. While there are people that I really rate like Dillinja and Krust, a lot of stuff that comes out is short of new ideas and could be a lot better in that the music is becoming very stale. Because of that I feel a certain pressure when I’m putting a drum & bass together in that I want to make music that WILL be played by drum & bass DJ’s. Though I’m aware of that I still try to ensure that I’m pushing the production, sound and arrangement to be something a bit different while continuing to use sounds and draw new inspiration. I think these artists should be striving to make music which can be played out a year later.”

Mark first hooked up with Danny in the closing months of 1996, “When drum & bass was getting the hype in the press a few years ago, I used to point people to Droppin’ Science. It was through an interview that someone had tracked him down and mentioned I’d checked him and wrote a piece on him. Originally I was trying to get hold of him to do a remix, I ended up speaking to him we were into some similar things and got on quite well and I asked him to do some material for my Universal Language imprint.”

After those releases came out, I’d sent him a DAT of “Mojo Woman” purely to see if he wanted to cut it. He called me and said he’d release it. “I wasn’t sure, as we stripped out a part of the track on the first mix although couldn’t take out to much of the music as it was an integral part. I tried to make the beats as hard as I could take them. I was quite chuffed, as a few people weren’t sure on the first listen though as people started playing it out it grew on them a little bit.”

“The flip to Mojo brought three hip-hop grooves to vinyl, Mark explains: “I played Danny some other material that I was working on around the same time, and we felt we could work these onto the flip. Though it wasn’t so well received in the UK, people are starting to pick up on those tracks in America – which is nice as that’s something I’m trying develop. Although I’m currently working instrumentals, I’m looking at working at getting some vocalists together at some point next year.”

“I’d been working on producing Kirsty Hawkshaw’s album, and we worked a mix together of one of the singles. Unfortunately Kirsty’s label is unsure about granting the track a full release it, though I’m trying to convince them to license it over to me. Despite that, and the fact that Danny had never really worked with anyone before, he was really into the way it worked out. I’d wanted to do some tracks with him for some time as I felt it would be quite an interesting meeting of minds as well as having a certain amount of knowledge sharing going on, so we both felt it would be cool to start a new project up.”

The much-vaunted Vertigo project, whose reputation is so far built on the 250-promo mail out of the Kirsty Hawkshaw mix, was born. Mark elaborates: “Although we are only in the opening stages we can both see this as a long term project. We finished a track a couple of weeks ago, which is on a similar vibe to what we did for Kirsty, on that soundtrack sort of vibe. We’ve done a slow track and we’ve started a piece using live bass that has more of a funk flavour. We’re looking at putting the first few twelves through Droppin’ Science and see how it goes through the year, building up the interest in an effort to get a deal on the album. Although it is looking to be quite a moody project, the album will be a mixture of drum & bass, hip-hop and some weird jazz type of stuff as well as having a few tracks which aren’t so heavy so we can play them out. We’re fortunate in that we both have similar set ups with the desk and sampler, so we are able to work in each others studios.”

About Kingsley Marshall

Kingsley Marshall is Head of Film at the CILECT accredited School of Film & Television based within Falmouth University in the UK. The subject area consists of 28 staff working with 300 undergraduates studying the Skillset accredited BA (Hons) Film degree, supplemented by a postgraduate community studying from MA level through to PhD. Kingsley’s research and practice primarily orientates around the use of sound (including music and effects) in cinema and television, and the production of short and micro-budget feature films. He executive produced Wilderness (Director: Justin John Doherty, 2017) which won 12 awards at 16 international film festivals since making its premiere at Cinequest. In 2018 he co-produced with Neil Fox the short HP Lovecraft adaptation Backwoods (Director: Ryan Mackfall, 2018), beginning its festival journey in 2019. Kingsley began work as composer on a film project with director Mark Jenkin and production company Early Day Films. The film completed principal photography in Autumn 2018, and is currently in post production. For over twenty years he has worked as a journalist, interviewing filmmakers, musicians, and designers for over 30 publications and broadcasters worldwide, written album sleeve notes and biographies for over 100 artists, and contributed to anthologies on hip hop and soul. He can be found on Twitter as @kingsleydc