Back to the basics: Mark Knight opens up on the rebranding of Toolroom
In a time when every other artist seems to be molding to the mainstream, Mark Knight and crew are doing the exact opposite. After ten years behind the wheel of Toolroom Records, Knight has turned his original passion project into arguably the strongest house music imprint on the planet. Now, however, it’s time for a change.
After celebrating its ten year anniversary in 2013, Toolroom has launched the #RESET campaign. The goal of the endeavor can be summed up in four words: back to the basics — quality house music without all the bells and whistles.
To help elucidate the exciting reinvention of the label, we recently picked Mark Knight’s brain on what the new Toolroom is all about.
Separated by eight hours of time, I catch Mark after a spell in Ibiza, when he’s finally found some time at home to hang with his family, roam the farm, and catch up on emails. His demeanor is friendly, yet his speech is marked with the kind of resolve you’d expect from a man who’s spent his life building up an empire.
“What makes now the right time for the rebranding of Toolroom?” I asked.
“Retrospectively looking back at the last ten years, we really felt we were at a pivotal time not just with the business but where the music was as well,” he said. “The scene had become so polarized – people into really underground music or really commercial music, and we were neither…. We felt we had to do something new, something different. Every business has to reinvigorate itself. We felt the best thing was to focus in on what we are really passionate about and what we love.”
Toolroom’s ability to walk the line between finely crafted underground cuts and groovier widespread appeal is what has shot them into the limelight of the house music world. As the label continued to grow, however, Mark admits that things began to get a bit out of his comfort zone.
“One thing we were guilty of from the sheer size of the business was maybe shifting the musical space: broadening our musical parameters to accommodate the size of the business. Sometimes we did records that were perhaps just outside of what we felt comfortable with… We were going from a Dusky record to a Dannic record the next week, and we were like, ‘it’s too much; it’s too confusing.’”
Therein lies the thesis of #RESET: Reorienting the focus of Toolroom to music the label believes in. To accomplish such a mission, Mark opted to create a new line of Toolroom talent.
“We felt it was time to start again and create a new artist roster that really reflected what we wanted to say musically and what we were comfortable with. It took us about a year to find the talent that we really thought had potential and to work on a new image and create a new musical manifesto — something that is going to be our guidelines for the next ten years.”
Having already tapped Weiss, Adrian Hour, Amtrac, Tough Love and more, the next generation of Toolroom is shaping up to be a who’s who of underrated house music producers. Mark’s criteria for choosing them was straight and to the point.
“Level of ability first and foremost. Instantly when you listen to a record from an artist, you know if they’ve got it.” Speaking on the new class of Toolroom, Mark went on. “It feels very embryonic… They’re young, they’re keen, and they’re good guys to work with.”
With the new breed of Toolroom artists selected and cylinders already firing, I asked Mark what his game plan is.
“I think next year is very much about the live element of what we do. We’re setting up some amazing residencies and putting on some big shows at festivals. That is our next focus – not only putting out peoples’ records but giving the artists opportunities to play great debuts around the world. Our next strategy is creating a live strategy. 2015 is looking incredible really.”
In the meantime, Toolroom has just inaugurated their new brand by releasing a massive 60-track compilation entitled Toolroom Live. It’s the first in a series of albums that will highlight the new sound of Toolroom and it’s available on Beatport now.