Keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe keeps pushing things forward
10 records that influence his sound.
by Korby Benoit
Musicians who venture into new frontiers of sound are often the ones who inspire future generations. Born in New Zealand, residing now in Los Angeles after stints in Japan and the United Kingdom, Mark de Clive-Lowe is a virtuoso producer, DJ, and keyboardist whose works meld elements of jazz, classical, hip-hop, and electronic music. The musician has been on his grind for over a decade, releasing a ton of music since 1997, including a couple albums on Tru Thoughts, as well as his latest LP, Church, which was funded via Kickstarter and features a sound that is loaded with various musical references. The album is also named after the club event he puts on regularly in L.A. (and other cities); he also tours the globe with his show REMIX:LIVE. If you’ve ever attended a Mark de Clive-Lowe show, you’d know that he performs with an arsenal of musical gadgetry alongside esteemed musical guests like Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, creating incredible live remixes on the fly. He also recently worked with drummer Harvey Mason on his stellar jazz-funk album Chameleon. I spoke with Mark to better understand his musical origins and to discuss ten records that left a deep impression on him.
How did you develop your sound?
In my early teens, I stopped my classical piano lessons and started delving into the piano in my own way. Then in high school in about 1989 or ’90, one of my friends walked to me in school and put his headphones on me, and it was the first Guy album, and that totally turned me out. That was me throughout high school, New Jack Swing and Native Tongues. With the hip-hop, I was definitely gravitating towards that jazzier side of it. I didn’t really make the connection at the time, but it was a whole different kind of music for me. So I started to get my first drum machines and keyboards and trying to make music to play in between all of that without really knowing what I was doing.
How did the other electronic genres begin to influence you?
I grew up really aspiring to be a straightahead acoustic jazz piano player in New York. For the longest, that was the dream, and then it was probably jungle that derailed that. I heard this music and it seemed so organic yet so electronic. And then when I went to the U.K. in the late ’90s, I got heavily involved in that underground scene. I was hearing all these things, and I hadn’t played jazz for ten years, and I hadn’t touched a grand piano in ten years. I basically was a complete Judas to piano. It wasn’t until I came to L.A. that [I] decided to reconnect with those elements, being primarily jazz and piano…after a decade of being entrenched in MPCs, samplers, and the hyper evolution of the U.K. underground club scene. Then I came back to the piano and I heard all this other stuff in my head as well. I wanted to have acoustic music, but I also wanted to have a little electronic music. So there was a real desire to have everything at once, basically.
What made you choose these ten albums?
They represent different times for me and different landmarks in time. And they all represent different kinds of fusion as well. I’m a huge fan of finding that blend between different things. There’s always been an interest in different flavors. Maybe it had to do with growing up in New Zealand where, at the time, we didn’t have a super-strong cultural identity as a modern society, so I wasn’t attached to any genre.
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