Monday, 10 November 2008

Ratpack Interview: Lipmaster Mark

Mark, one half of the duo that is Ratpack, tells us about their latest album, his beat boxing roots, and a forthcoming Drum 'n' Bass version of Searchin' For My Rizla.

Was it hard picking the tracks for your latest album, Raveology?

In a way, yes it was because we've done some other albums that are out there so we wanted to pick a slightly different selection and cater for a more of a northern and southern selection, rather than just a southern selection as I normally do. On the first list we had close to 60 tracks, so we had to sift through what was a yes, and what was a no with the licensing.

You met music-partner Evenson in 1985.

Yeah, I used to do human beat box and my cousin introduced me to Evenson who was already a friend of his and we just clicked.

You were only 15 - were you the envy of your mates...!?

Not really. My friends and I were in a gang and used to fight the flats across the road and get into loads of trouble, so when I went off to do that, it was just a chance for them to take the piss out of me really!

When you are 15, you aren't allowed to go off and do others things; I was the ultimate snide!

You are nicknamed the Lipmaster because of your beat boxing skills. How come you were so good at beat boxing at 15?

Basically I used to go school with a boy called Sipho, and that is his real name. He and a guy called Yankee were doing quite well on the British hip hop scene as human beat boxers. They had battles with Fat Boys and Dougie Fresh and people from back in that era, back in '84, and I kind of heard it through them.

But beat boxing was always a thing I did from when I was a kid. I used to be running along after watching the Six Million Dollar Man, and I'd come out and be doing the theme music in my head and trying to run about 6 million miles an hour as well. I would just be doing the beats in my head when I was running with my friends, so it was a nice little progression to see someone doing it, but doing it in a different style, so I just copied them and got on with it.

It was all kind of meant to be in that way. I became more into DJjing so I didn't give it up, I just didn't give that much time to it really. Now the whole beat box craze seems to be picking up again. They are all going crazy for it, people are giving me offers left right and centre but I'm not too sure if its what I'm into really. I kind of do it for fun, but there's some kids out there that are really wicked at it, so they should just get on and have a chance really.

You and Evenson were the first MC / DJ tag team - that's quite a success story.

Yeah it is really, we are quite pleased with it. At the time, when it was all happening house music was just being born and when acid music was played in clubs you didn't have MCs; that was just taboo - you know, no one talked over the music! But Evenson has his own unique style because he used to be a DJ as well, and we used to call it a Sing-J - cos as he DJ's, he'd be singing over the tunes he was playing.

One night we had a spare set, filled it in and did a back to back thing. But he basically got on the mic and stayed on the mic, and left all the mixing to me, and that was it! The rest as they say is history!

We are bit modest about it, we don't like to say if it wasn't for us, or anything. I think it was a natural progression of what was happening. We were naturally progressing too - Evenson was naturally progressing from the reggae scene, I was progressing from the hip hop scene, both of which have rapping and MC's in them, so we just brought it into the clubs with our style and what we do.

It is nice to reflect on though, and then there were all those garage MCs and all the drum and bass MCs. It's just nice to see that when we were getting so much stick for doing it, other things have flourished from it.

Tell us about the Trip City days.

People used to squat in old buildings, and just take it over and do it up in their own way and have big parties there because of the Squatters Rights Law, which existed before the Criminal Justice Bill.

You could just get into a buildings, not break into it because that would be breaking the law, but if they'd left the door open then you could just walk in their and claim it as yours. If it was a place where you were living then of course you've got your rights, and if you want to invite a few friends over for a party then you can, and that's basically what happened - and we ended up doing it in all different weird places.

We found a public swimming bar once which was derelict so we had a big fat party in the empty pool which was quite a good one, but the day after at the after party, someone was so out of their head, they decided to jump from the gallery into the pool which was empty. That was the end of that venue because the fire brigade had to hoist him out with a crane in a crippled state, which wasn't good.

There were loads of great parties. I played in old warehouses with the roof ripped off and it started snowing, and there was snow on the decks and chill blains on your fingers and stuff, but whatever; it was fun!

Richie Fingers and Macy B who is now Bushwacka he used to be part of our team, but we had some good laughs in the old warehouse days. Then the police would come to raid them and they just couldn't understand it; what are these 2000 people doing in that empty swimming pool.

We used to get it done right, we used to get the fire brigade to come round and check the venue for health and safety even though it was an illegal party - but we were in a government building that would have already been set up for all that with the facilities, so it was all good.

Searchin' For My Rizla was number 1 in July 1992. Is it true you made no money from it?

Yeah it is, basically,because of the bad business of the guy who was putting it out. It was all bits and pieces that we did. It was just a song that we put into our set - everything in that tune then was what we did, so basically the beats I took from Congress - Fourteen Miles, mixed with the Dirty Kane beat that was being used in quite a few tracks. Bizarre Inc. was playing around at the time too, so I took the little rift out of that, and Evenson used to always sing those lyrics anyway.

We didn't end up making any money out of it, and the bloke badly invested things and I'd still like to find him now! After that we went with Fantazia which was a good combination and we did well by each other.

What have you got in the pipe line?

We have a couple of remixes of Searchin' For My Rizla which is killing the club sets now, and I'm not just saying that! It's a drum and bass remix by Rob D'Riche, so we will have that coming out very son. We are just finishing the summer season playing around the Mediterranean before we get back in the studio to finish off another album that we have coming up. I've had a hard drive nightmare so hopefully that5 will be out in the early part of next year.

You've been in the music industry two decades now. Do you see yourself there for another two decades?

Hopefully! I am totally not getting bored of it at all and if I'm not DJing, I will be producing it, and if I'm not doing that I will doing something else along the line. It's all I know really; I've been doing it since I was 15.

What's been the biggest change in the dance music industry for you?

I think it would be the birth of the genres all coming through like the UK garage scene and the drum 'n' bass scene when it burst into light. Also the way the house DJs really milked it all and robbed the whole public and started charging everyone big prices for a load of rubbish, basically.

The music was good, I'm not complaining about the music, but charging those sort of prices - that's why the house scene has plummeted. Basically it was good to see them all come up, and DJs exploiting it because you are only going to get one chance, but at the end of the day there was only one person who was going to pay for it, and it wasn't the promoter - it was the punter.

What your personal philosophy?

You can always chose which path you want to walk and don't be afraid to make your choice as long as it's what you want to do then go for it because no matter who you've got around you who loves you, they can't live your life for you. When you get slapped in the face, only one person feels the sting, and that's you.

Tell us three things we don't know about you.

I do oil paintings and used to do a bit of photography, developing and processing as well. I did have a dark room pre digital days. Im a vegetarian and have been for about 18 years now, and I also play the piano, drums and guitar.

For further information, visit the Ratpack's website at

Rachael Hannan: Interview 2005

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