Lab Chat with The Drifter

by Dorian Goldman

The Drifter, aka Mark Flynn, was kind enough to sit down with us and answer some questions about his music production, DJ style, and where he sees the scene going, in anticipation of our event, Fiction Mad Hatter Cruise w/ The Drifter (Extended Set) this Saturday, August 13.

Thanks for taking the time for a quick Q/A Mark. You sing as well, and some of your releases have contained your own vocals. What originally inspired you to start singing, and how do you see your career as a vocalist evolving in the context of your productions?
My mother did! She noticed I was the only one of her four boys who could hold a note, so she pushed it....she was quite musical herself. So I was in choirs and drama singing groups from an early age. I really enjoyed it. Then along came Radiohead, Oasis, Blur etc so playing guitar and singing in bands was a natural progression in my teens. I'll be singing some more on my own productions for sure. On the right tracks, when I feel it fits.

I understand that Baikal played a role in teaching you some of the basics in regards to production, are you mainly self-taught otherwise?
He was like my Splinter to the Turtles! He is very good for guidance, he has some wise words that Baikal fella! And Mano was very helpful too. Living together made it handy to get constant feedback. I'd do the same with his tunes too. Between the two of them, I had a lot of experience to draw from. 

What kind of technology do you use when producing? Do you have a favorite piece of gear that you use?
I use Ableton Live. Lots of soft synths and samples. And now I've started to get some more equipment and hardware. I feel it's good to draw inspiration from both methods, hardware and software. Both have their own benefits. I do feel that there is so much to use with Ableton live, it's about how it's used and being creative and innovative to get the best sounds. The Moog Minitaur is my new fave at the moment. 

How does your creative process look like, from the initial idea to finalizing the track?
It can be different for each track. I tend to work until I get a clear idea, then expand on it. Can be a hook, a groove, a melody. Then I build from there. Lately I find the longer I work on a track, the better it gets. Especially with my own new stuff I'm working on. Edits and remixes can come together quicker, as the core elements are there already.

Do you work primarily on your production while on the road, or is it connected strictly with work in the studio?
I can do both but it’s easiest in the studio. With my new sound card setup I can't access everything when I’m traveling, but I can work on enough things - ideas, arrangements, edits, listening sessions. It's enough to keep me busy! Sometimes you get these clear bursts of creativity while traveling and get something done, and then I work on it more when I get home. Being away from the studio can inspire sometimes. When I’m home visiting my family in Ireland I tend to miss the studio after a few days, that meditative music making state. The first time I come back to my work having being away, something good usually comes out of it. It’s like listening to your tunes again with a clear fresh head, decisions are easier.

Do you work on different projects at the same time, or are you concentrated on a single project until you finish it?
Usually i’m jumping around with projects until one really grabs me. Then I try and concentrate on it specifically in order to get the idea down. Other times you have a deadline for a remix so you just need to knuckle down and get it done.

Are you planning on releasing an LP in the future, and do you believe it’s important for producers to have LP’s? Is it better to have an LP released from a booking perspective?
Yes it's the most important creative statement as an artist in my opinion. I grew up with albums and always dreamt of making them. In time, I definitely want to make one but also don't want to rush it, and I want to develop as a musician until I feel I'm ready. From what I can see, the right album can heighten the profile of an artist. But also in this digital age, when people tend to listen to individual tracks more, an album can sometimes go under the radar.

You certainly give special touches to the tracks that you remix, how do you choose which tracks you will remix?
Thanks! I try to pick remixes that have core elements I know I want to use. I listen to the original and try pick out parts I can work with. Sometimes it goes to plan, other times you have to work to find the right ingredients and sound design for the track. For instance, I couldn't find the missing sound for the ZK Bucket remix, it lacked something. I added an arp and the whole track finally came together. When you listen to the track now, the arp sound seems like a core element that was probably there from the start, but actually it was the last sound added.

All of you in Maeve are great remixers, but you still haven’t remixed each others tracks. Is there a specific reason why not, or is it just a coincidence?
It hasn't come together yet, but we’re not adverse to the idea!

Maeve has grown into a label that is connected with some of the most influential tracks in electronic music in past two years, are you guys planning something special for the Maeve 10 release?
That's a bold statement! Yes we have one of our favorite producers for Maeve 10. An artist that if you asked us all our top 3 choices to release on Maeve, this artist would most certainly be in all of our lists. We love the record, stay tuned!

You played Ibiza a couple of times this year at Mosaic and Afterlife, how did you like it? Ibiza has developed a mainstream crowd over the years - do you change your style when playing there? Do you see yourself playing there more in the future?
Ibiza is its own little planet it seems to me. Very different to other party scenes in Europe. I spent a bit more time there this year and it's growing on me. 

Who is a newcomer worth keeping an eye on?
Although not newcomers, Aera is really hitting his stride as is Mattheis, and Fango’s music is so individual it really stands out. 

We see different styles and trends coming and going, where do you think the sound will move in the near future?
Let’s see! It changes like the wind, but quality remains quality.

You are probably the only the DJ in NYC this summer season who’ll have the honor to play an ‘open to close’ set on a boat - are you preparing something special?
It is an honor! I am really really looking forward to it. Last year was brilliant and I'm delighted that I get to do an open to close this time.  It’s a chance to really build it up and tell a story. I have a few things up my sleeve. All aboard!

For a wonderful interview with Mark, covering his background as a DJ and his early career, XL8R wrote this insightful piece.