Nostalgia and knowledge run through Paul Mack’s mixes as he brings the spirit of the golden era of electronic music to FRISKY with Music for Astronauts. Playing an important part of the revolutionary UK scene of the ’90s, his collaboration with Mark Mitchell as Human Movement led to releases on iconic labels like Whoop!, Bedrock, Renaissance, and Kinetic and appearances on classic compilations including Gatecrasher, Ministry of Sound, Cream Anthems, Trance Nation, and Trance Euphoria. Working together in the Sanctuary studio on the island of Jersey, the duo was often joined by fellow UK producers who were falling under the electronic music spell and driving the burgeoning scene such as Stuart King, Ian Ossia, Deepsky, Jimmy Van M, and more.
Keeping his passion and momentum going over the years, Paul Mack has played at a variety of venues around the world, finding himself in the USA, Czech Republic, France, Poland, Slovakia, Austria & the UK. His music has traveled even further with radio mixes and productions heard across the globe as he continues to push his own sound into the future.
Now he finds himself with a new home alongside old friends, joining the FRISKY family with the launch of his show Music for Astronauts. Tune in and find yourself journeying among the stars with your experienced space music guide, Paul Mack.
I’d love to start in the past – I have a fascination and appreciation for the way the scene evolved in the UK during the ’90s, can you share your first experiences with electronic music and what it felt like to be a part of it at that time?
An old friend of mine had a tape cassette called Acid Trax which he used to play in his car when we were going surfing. The howling 303’s and drum machines sounded like music from another planet – I had never heard anything like that and was hooked instantly! A Jersey DJ legend called Biko Bangs ran a house night on a Wednesday in our local club and that was where I first heard music like Wood Allen ‘Airport 89’ and Unique 3’s ‘The Theme’. I was 18 at the time and knew right then that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Sanctuary sounds like an apt name for a place where like-minded artists could create underground music that was unlike anything before. Would you give us some background on the studio setup and what a usual “day / night in the Sanctuary” was like?
Sanctuary was the brainchild of my friend and longtime collaborator Marc Mitchell. I was getting more and more into electronic music but had no idea that one of the best producers of his era had a studio right here in our little island of Jersey. Marc was already producing for people like Eric Powell (Bush Records) and I was just blown away with what he was doing at the time. Fortunately we hit it off and had some success in the 90’s and 00’s as Human Movement, with tracks being signed to labels such as Renaissance, Bedrock, Whoop! and many others. A typical day would involve picking Marc up in the morning and heading to the studio, which was set in the solid granite walls of an imposing castle called Fort Regent that overlooked the whole of St. Helier. We would down several cups of tea waiting for the Akai S2800 sampler to load and then Marc would inevitably have to retune some of the old analog synths that had lost a semitone mysteriously overnight! Once everything was loaded and ship-shape it would be intense work until 10 pm in the evening. This would sometimes go on for many weeks just to complete one tune! Other regular visitors to the studio were Stuart King (who, alongside Marc, was one half of progressive pioneers Sunday Club), Renaissance legend Ian Ossia, Deepsky, Jimmy Van M, Scott Bond, Richard Schiessl (Yum Yum) and many others.
How do you feel now that the production process is much less of a… production? Do you think the ease of use for creating music is beneficial or detrimental to creativity?
Good question! Being able to save a project in your DAW and know that it will be exactly as you left it is obviously an improvement on where we were in the 90’s! And having the ability to work on several projects at the same time is great whereas back in the day the same track would be loaded onto the desk for weeks, if not months so you could not work on anything else significantly in the meantime. Apps like Reason Studios (as it is called now) were game changers and allow aspiring young producers to learn how sampling, synthesis, modulation, mastering etc. worked without having to shell out tens of thousands of pounds on studio equipment.
What would you say are the biggest evolutions your music has taken over the decades, and what has always remained the same?
My music has definitely softened around the edges from the techno and acid house I used to play in the early 90’s (probably comes with age!) but I like to think there is still always a solid kick drum and a whip cracking snare present.
When it comes to producing and DJing, what are the qualities / aspects that are the most important for you to create or share with your music?
I have always favoured long, smooth mixes and music that takes the listener on a journey. I am a bit of a perfectionist and take great pride in every single mix. I hope that comes through in my dj sets!
What do you love about the music industry today, and what do you wish were different?
Being marooned on an island, especially in the times before social media, meant that we were often detached from the music industry at large. We never really had managers or agents so we just used our instincts – if it felt right we did it otherwise it just wouldn’t happen! I guess it is still like that today, to be honest.
What are you most proud of in your music career?
Well, I turned 50 this year and I am DJ’ing more now than I ever have so that’s got to be a good thing! Signing our track ‘Love Has Come Again’ to Renaissance was a highlight. Brothers In Rhythm and Angel Moraes (RIP) remixed the track and both Angel and Dave Seaman DJ’d for us at the launch party which was pretty special.
What are your goals with Music for Astronauts? What are you looking forward to about the show?
Music For Astronauts was a concept I came up with for a show on our local internet radio a few months back. When Frisky offered me a monthly show I thought it would be great to continue that series. As the name implies, it will be journey music with a cosmic twist. The best in space age progressive house and melodic techno!
You can only listen to 5 records for the rest of your life – what would they be?
- Dousk – Anagram (an absolute masterclass of an album by the Greek maestro)
- Sasha – Involver2 (the man like and Charlie May get close to perfection with the concept remix album)
- Kruder & Dorfmeister – The K&D Sessions (just gets better with age)
- Nick Warren – Back To Mine (chilled out heaven from Mr Warren)
- Fat Freddy’s Drop – Based On A True Story (just a cracking album from start to finish)
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Outside of music I am a keen surfer and swimmer and the rest of my time is spent with my gorgeous wife Kathryn and beautiful daughters Olivia (7) and Holly (4)!