By Sarah FergusonStone Breaker is a fitting title for this record of raw darkroom house, with pounding sounds fluid enough to figuratively break through walls. Hailing from Birmingham ― a major UK city located in the West Midlands ― Mark E was signed to release his debut artist album on Spectral Sound after impressing label head Matthew Dear with his remix of Dear's "Little People (Black City)." Wielding hard sounds with honesty, Stone Breaker comes forth as another example in 2011 (alongside artists like Wolf + Lamb and Soul Clap) of the bar being raised for contemporary house. Carefully fine-tuned original material paves the way beyond the predictable, while banged-out, unique beats are juxtaposed with in-focus audio warmth. Opening track "Archway" propels forward with smashing, crunch-y beats and hope-fuelled synth lines before "Black Country Saga" (referring to the formerly industrialized area to the North and West of Birmingham) communicates one uplifting, forward-moving riff over a slow, textured drumbeat. "Belvide Beat" accentuates a bass guitar backbone to support robotic vocals before dipping into some acid house. And with soulful vocals and the catchiest hook, "The Day" closes Stone Breaker like a refreshing gust of air blowing through this artist's newly revealed opening in the stonewall.
Can you talk about the dance music community in Birmingham and your place within? The current situation in Birmingham is far better than it was five years ago. There is a lot of new blood coming through and promoters putting on shows, which in the past was unheard of. But this isn't just a Birmingham phenomenon ― the whole of the UK saw a decline in clubbing at that time. The closure of Electric Chair in Manchester, for instance, was testament to that. But now I think house is seeing resurgence once again. My place within the Birmingham scene is small, I would say. I live here and I love living here. I like that I can delve into London for a weekend of gigs and come back and withdraw from that whole big London thing; I think it keeps me less obtainable. But in terms of me having an impact musically, it's quite small. I can travel to Japan and fill eleven in Tokyo, but locally no one is aware of what I do. Some are, of course, and I think it's getting better due to these new guys actually taking notice now.
Why the decision to synthesize a record of all-original material? How do you feel the sounds on Stone Breaker differ from what else is out there? Well, isn't that what an artist wishes to achieve: to create original music? I guess you are referring to the edits ― they are a closed chapter now. I really want to push new areas musically and be recognized more for the original productions than the edits.
Can you comment on your relationship with Ghostly International and Spectral Sound and the influence they've had on your work? The relationship started when I was asked to remix Matthew Dear. From there on I kept in contact with them by sending my music to them and eventually the album was born from that. I think this union has also coincided with my change in direction musically from the disco/soul feel of my older productions to a harder, deeper edge to both my DJing and production. For me, it's always been deep house from the beginning. Maybe the edits were a diversion and now I'm coming back to what I loved firstly about house music. Yeah, I think that's probably right. What is the story behind the title? It's a good describing term for the music: rough, raw, hard-edged and uncompromising. Plus, there is a reference to the place where I grew up.
Who would be your dream artist or producer to work with and in what context? Prince. I'd get him in and just let him rip on everything for an afternoon. Then I'd take it and do my thing. (Spectral Sound)