Last week the legendary DJ Nu-Mark took to the CMW/CMF stage at Wrongbar. He was performing as part of a vinyl only 45 night alongside fellow legends like Diamond D and Mat the Alien. It was yet another example of why Nu-Mark is a consistent innovator in the world of djing and production. He's made an impact on hip hop that is unforgettable, with Jurassic 5, his own album 'Broken Sunlight', and his dj shows. Nu-Mark took a few minutes to talk with us about the beginnings of Jurassic 5, what inspired the brilliant songs on 'Broken Sunlight' and so much more.
Fingers on Blast: Going back to the early Jurassic 5 days, did you ever get the sense that the music would get as big as it did?
DJ Nu-Mark: There was one memorable moment on Cut's front porch where we were reviewing just the beats with the mc's for the EP (96). At that moment we all kind of locked into the vibe of where the group was heading. We knew that the sky was the limit as long as we stayed focuced.
Fingers on Blast: With 2 dj's in the group, how did you perform? How did that work together with you and Cut Chemist?
DJ Nu-Mark: It's actually pretty efficient. We take turns playing instrumentals as well as adding cuts and samples to spice up the live show. It really helps when we execute the DJ solos as well. Brainstorming with Cut truly helps me create something meaningful on stage.
Fingers on Blast: What inspired the Broken Sunlight project, and how did it take shape?
DJ Nu-Mark: I wanted to create a project that featured artist that inspired me in sort of a dark time. Many parts of my life were broken, J5 split up, the economy was and is a shattered mess, the record industry couldn't be more fragmented, so I decided to be the sunlight in the equation and forge ahead during tough times. I decided to further the theme by breaking up the album into six 10" color vinyl releases throughout 2012 and 2013. At the end of the singles I created the album which includes a DVD which includes the making of the album as well as my life on the road.
Fingers on Blast: You have dj'd with so much varied gear over the years, and your in town for a no laptops, 45s only night. We're curious if you ever utilize a digital system like Serato or Traktor?
DJ Nu-Mark: Yeah, last night was a fun break from what I normally display on stage. Lately I've been playing the all children's musical toy sets. I love Serato, it's made me a very creative DJ without limitations but here's my Toy Set:
Fingers on Blast: Where did the nickname uncle nu come from?
DJ Nu-Mark: Not sure exactly...My old room mate Sarah said it to me and I remember the Beat Junkies saying it all the time early on and it just caught on I guess.
Fingers on Blast: Do you remember your introduction to vinyl? What was your first record? 45?
DJ Nu-Mark: My mom bought me a Monster Mash record as a kid and I really enjoyed Halloween and the mystery tied into that record. Later on I bought U.T.F.O.'s debut album and was hooked and couldn't stop buying vinyl.
Fingers on Blast: Do you have a favourite place to dig? Do you have a favourite shop in Toronto?
DJ Nu-Mark: I enjoy digging at Cosmos and Kops. Diggin in Japan and the U.K. is always enjoyable because they have so much of our Funk. While the states was listening to New Wave and Hip Hop in the 80's, the UK and Japan was buying all of our forgotten about 60's and 70's Funk for 10 cents a copy.
Fingers on Blast: What part does the element of discovery play in your day to day work as a producer? I remember finally finding the J5 EP in a record store in Michigan and it was like finding treasure, I couldn't believe it.
DJ Nu-Mark: That was hard to find?? Well, yeah as a producer that digs I put a lot of time into looking for new dusty goodies to chop up. I also like to keep up with current music. It's always important to know what's going on today.
Fingers on Blast: How did 'Jayou' end up on the lyricist lounge compilation? That was the stand out track for a lot of people back then.
DJ Nu-Mark: I think they just heard it off of our EP and wanted that track to be represented on their comp. It got us into the East Coast scene which up until that point heard of us but hadn't really heard our music in an East Coast setting.
Fingers on Blast: When did the love of toys and kids records make it's way into the music you were making? What inspired the decision to tour with all that gear?
DJ Nu-Mark: It started with a toy called Music Blocks. That toy was so well thought out and executed that I decided to fill the entire stage up with toys and see how far I could push the concept. Wasn't really sure if it would work but just wanted to have fun with it.
Fingers on Blast: You've mentioned in interviews that you don't measure musical progress in big milestones, but that all the little things add up. Does that mindset keep you focused? It seems like that perspective would keep you humble and motivated..
DJ Nu-Mark: Definitely, if you try to bite off more then you can chew there tends to be a lot of important parts that slip through the cracks. I like to take things one step at a time and enjoy each step. Making big power moves happen usually after a bunch of successful smaller moves have transpired first....that's how it's happened for me anyway. No shortcuts in this biz.
Fingers on Blast: What inpspires you on a daily basis? Are there any other art forms that you experience that make you think 'I need to make new music'?
DJ Nu-Mark: Listening to both old and new records inspire me. Hearing new producers trick out technology gets me motivated to create dope music. I appreciate Latin music very much these days. Lately thay genre has been pushing me in new directions.
Fingers on Blast: How did your work on Saturday Night Live with the Lonely Island take shape?
DJ Nu-Mark: They are mutual friends with an old friend of mine. They wanted beats and it just worked out. They're the funniest guys and really professional. I have 2 new beats on their upcoming album too!!
Fingers on Blast: Was there a moment early on where you thought this might work out? That music could be a lifestyle for you? Do you feel like you made the transition from dream to reality, or is the balance between the two?
DJ Nu-Mark: Yeah, I always knew that my purpose on earth revolved around creating music...I just didn't know if I could make a living at it. I dropped out of X-Ray school about 4 months before graduation and that's when J5 took off. I haven't stop touring since. Once I put all my eggs in one basket and focused my energy on my gifts, things started to develop career wise for me. I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity to create for a living!
Fingers on Blast: The necessary digging question; what's the best find from the craziest spot?
DJ Nu-Mark: None of your fucking business. Just playin, I can't say I've found it yet. That's the thing about digging, you always want more and think there's something better out there. I found a Don Karrington Trio in Toronto, that made me pretty happy.
Fingers on Blast: Broken Sunlight has some brilliant guest artists, J-Live, Aloe Blacc, Charles Bradley, who's next on your list of collaborators? Any dream collabs you want to let us in on? You never know who might hear about this...
DJ Nu-Mark: Ahh, I haven't thought that far yet. I plan on doing a multi-track project next. I collect multi-track recording from the 60-80's. I'd like to release a project where I re-edit those original multi tracks with some producer friends of mine.
Fingers on Blast: Who are your favourite dj's to listen to/see live?
DJ Nu-Mark: J-Rocc, Scratch, Four Color Zach, Q-Bert, Diamond D.....ahhh the list goes on and on.
Fingers on Blast: If you could impart one piece of advice to dj's starting out now, what would it be?
DJ Nu-Mark: Make sure you love it and not just love the image of DJing. Never give up if you know it's your calling.
Fingers on Blast: Do you feel like your devotion to vinyl and collecting makes you a musical historian of sorts?
DJ Nu-Mark: No, I dig for records to build my musical vocabulary. This allows me to grow as a musician and try things I couldn't dream of creating on my own. I don't enjoy collecting for the historical value of the records or the rarity of the records. I dig for dope records that can enhance my production so I can produce something enjoyable to myself and my listeners.
Fingers on Blast: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
For more DJ Nu-Mark on the web: