Mark Sherry: For me, trance is tech trance. I LOVE percussion and that’s why trance developed into an addiction to tech trance [Interviewing Artists]
I have such a music crush for Mark Sherry, that finally meeting and chatting with him is definitely one of the highlights of my trancer’s “career”. When I was getting ready for my interview with Mark Sherry, I had so many mixed feelings, the butterflies from my stomach got really really confused.
It left me speechless: to meet the amazing man behind the name. He is such a nice person, a very kind human, beside being this great artist we all know and cherish. Very open to all my questions, and so good with storytelling.
Prepare for a very long read. Prepare for a very meaningful read. Mark spoke all about his beginnings, favourite gigs, artists, trance tracks and many more.
Who is Mark Sherry and how did it all started?
For me it all started around 1992 when I used to listen to Radio 1 religiously every Friday night. Pete Tong had his Friday night residency and on his show you were always guaranteed good music alongside amazing guests like Carl Cox and The Prodigy etc. I took a lot of inspiration from these guys. Also, in 1994 there was a club in my home town called The Hanger and it was just the best club ever. Proper dance music, rave, techno, breakbeat, Italo-house, happy hardcore, trance, acid, acid-trance..it had it all! It was really energetic music every Saturday night, but the DJ’s also played house music as the warm-up, it was very different to what it’s like nowadays. There was always a proper musical progression throughout the whole night.
Today, there is trance, techno, house, EDM etc..but back then you had only one stage, under one roof, with no rules, no restrictions, no genres, just open-minded people that were there to hear all types of music, tempo or styles! You had 1000 people in a room going crazy and you could play any type of music. All of these factors inspired me and made me the DJ that I am today.
In 1996 I formed a rave band with a local DJ that I looked up to, Trevor Reilly, and we produced a lot of tracks together. He was a big inspiration to me and then after that I started branching out on my own as a DJ up until 2000 when the whole madness of Public Domain kicked off for me. Finally, in 2004 I started working under my own solo name.
Who is Mark Sherry in real life? Beside the artist, the DJ, the producer?
I am just a normal guy that loves his music, loves to make music and loves to entertain. If you met me in the street i’d like to think that you would also think that I’m just a normal person. I am not anything special.
I consider myself to be very lucky with what I do for my job, with all of the amazing gigs I get around the world etc. I am just very thankful of my mum and dad buying me a keyboard when I was 7 years old and then taking me to piano/keyboard lessons. I’m lucky that I entered the music world at such a young age and managed to make a career out of it. But the man behind Mark Sherry, is just Mark Sherry. I am just a normal person. In my eyes at least haha.
Why did you chose trance? What does this genre mean to you?
Trance is just…well for me it’s not just trance, it is tech-trance. I’ve always loved techno but also always loved trance. My mum has a real fascination about drums, she loves festival/carnival type drums, tribal percussion, Brazilian drums, live drums, and I am the exact same. Big drum sounds and sequences can give me goosebumps just as much as emotional chords can haha.
I LOVE percussion and that’s why trance, for me, developed into an addiction to tech-trance. I like techno tracks with groove, but I also love melodies with emotional strings and pads etc. Even though I don’t play many vocal tracks, sometimes a nice emotional vocal track can send everybody crazy, so I like to keep my options open and play all types of genres whether it’s techno, trance, tech-trance, uplifting, vocal..whatever works best on the dancefloor at that specific moment works for me.
What do you think is the most important moment of your career?
Ahhh..you’ve got really difficult questions haha… I think when Public Domain ‘ Operation Blade (Bass In the Place)’ came out in 2001 that was a really big moment for me. It was a global smash all over the world and it went on to open so many doors for me as a DJ and producer. We were just young guys messing around in our bedroom studio and having fun, and then the next thing we ended up playing all over the world. It was a big big turning point for me in my career. I went from being a ‘bedroom producer’ to a globally touring band and DJ. It was crazy, absolutely crazy.
Also, playing on the main stage at Trance Energy in 2008 alongside Tiesto, Sander Van Doorn, Marco V and Ferry Corsten etc was also a very big achievement for me. That was really my first big solo gig in the Netherlands and in many ways the world, basically. It was just me on my own again, no Public Domain, it was Mark Sherry..and I was extremely proud of that.
What was a mistake you made in the industry and what did you learn from it?
Ohhhh. How long have you got? Like 5 hours?
Let me keep this interview positive by saying, yes, I made a load of mistakes back in the early days, but after that hellish period of my life, I have spent the rest of my time learning from the mistakes that I made and also trying my absolute hardest to never make them again. Even if I had the chance to go back in time and do things all over again, I would probably still make the same mistakes again, just because I learned so much from those bad experiences and bad decisions..and they also made me a MUCH stronger and wiser person…
How do you actually produce your music? What’s the inspiration behind the tracks?
I get a lot of inspiration from Sci-fi. I am a big sci-fi nerd haha. I love Star Wars and films like Sunshine etc. Films that have huge soundscapes and epic soundtracks etc. You can probably hear this coming through in my music, tracks like ‘Pillars of Creation’, ‘Music Of The Earth’ ‘Gravitational Waves’ etc etc.
They all have big strings/pads, big riffs, trippy arpeggios, sampled scifi/scientific vocals and all that kind of stuff. I get a lot of inspiration from these kind of films, the big blockbuster type movies. I love going to the cinema and being blown away by the music just as much as the actual action and special FX.
What do you think makes a perfect track?
For me, it is always going to be a tech-trancer. I love groove, so a track has to have a really good kick drum, a good bassline, chunky percussion, but then in the breakdown I want to hear a melody that gives you severe goosebumps, but then I want the track to build up again with some synth madness before kick and bass comes back again, at that moment I want things to go back to raw tech again.
Have you ever experienced the creator’s block?
Haha of course, god at least once a month, sometimes weekly lol. I try to combat this though by keeping a huge folder of music by my favourite artists, but also a lot of other producers across different genres like techno, especially. I like listening to the guys that have been making tech trance for a long time, if I get stuck I just listen to 3 or 4 tracks by them and then I can get some ideas and start to feel inspired again.
I’ll also take a day off from actually creating/writing music and just go through my synths and plugins to find some new ideas. But if things are really bad, I’ll just turn off my PC and go home to chill and just ‘switch off’. Then I’ll go back to the studio the next day and hopefully things will be better.
What is the biggest challenge of Mark Sherry as a DJ?
The travelling is brutally hard sometimes, it knocks the absolute s**t out of you sometimes. You’re dealing with different time-zones and jetlag, a lot of additional stress and pressure, running back and forth etc. For example, sometimes you can fly for 12 hours straight and then you have to race to the hotel, quickly grab a shower and change your clothes, get some food, then go straight to the club and jump on stage and you’re like ‘hey look at how crazy I am on stage’ lol. Sometimes it’s very surreal, like you’re living in the twilight zone half the time haha..it can be really exhausting.
It is a lot easier when you see the crowd though, you can feed off of their energy and that replenishes your adrenaline levels.If the crowd is energetic, and they are all shouting for you, you feel like they are really appreciating the fact that you’ve travelled so far to see them and I really feed off of that energy. It makes you smile and you can really go for it. I can’t complain about anything though, I love my job!
You clearly played a lot of places. What is your favourite gig?
I’ve done a lot of amazing gigs in Argentina, LA, Colombia, NYC, Montreal (Circus) and also Toronto. I celebrated my 20th anniversary as a DJ in 2014 in Toika with Ozmosis and that was a very special gig.. I started with music from 1990 and kept on bringing it more and more up to date as the night went on. I went from 1990 to 2014 in around 6 hours. It was a small club, but the whole place was electric – it was a very special gig for me! I also had my first Canadian ‘Outburst’ branded event in Toronto too.
Trance Energy in 2008, was really special one for me as well. I was so nervous, because the DJ booth was really high and I had to climb up huge ladders to get up there. I got to the top and Jorn, Sander Van Doorn’s manager at the time saw my very white face peeking over the top of the ladder and he said ‘Mark are you feeling OK? ” and I was like ”Yeah…I think i’m ok.” Haha.
Let’s go a little bit into technicalities:
What’s your favourite DAW?
Cubase. I’ve used Cubase since 1994.
Can you name your top 3 VSTs?
I mainly use Spire, Sylenth & Massive for my synths. For EQ’ing I use Fabfilter ProQ 2, for reverb I use ArtsAcoustic, but there are so many effects that I use. For delays I use Bionic Delay. I use Slate plugins and URS as well. For other synths I use Massive, Serum. Nexus: a lot of stuff basically.
Sound banks or Sound design? Which is the way to go?
I don’t do much in the way of sound design to be honest. I know how to get a sound and mould it into something new to make it to fit into a track, by changing its parameters and adding a lot of effects etc..but making sounds from scratch is something that I don’t really do. For me that doesn’t really matter so much. It all depends on what you can do with the sounds that you have at your fingertips.
Hardest question of all: Can you name your Top 3 trance Tracks of all times?
- Westbam vs Red Jerry – Wizards Of The Sonic (Matt Darey Remix) (This track can easily bring me to tears on a dancefloor, for sure
- Solarstone – Seven cities (V – One Remix)
- System F – Out of The Blue (I heard this for the first time while I was driving to a gig in Scotland and Judge Jules played it on Radio 1 for the first time. When I heard that melody coming in I nearly crashed the car .. I was like f****ck!)
What is your favorite album?
Phooaa. That is a difficult one. I don’t actually know. Let’s say for now: Mauro Picotto – The Lizard Man…I’ve always been heavily influenced by this album!
What’s the simplest advice you’d give to someone fresh in the industry?
Make your own music, simple. If you don’t know how to, then learn. Analyse what other producers are doing in a track, make a similar groove, learn about the sounds, make the same percussion patterns, reference their melodies, their layers, but once you know to do all of that, you then have to become different and develop your own trademark sound.
You have to create your own uniqueness or else you’ll just get lost in a huge sea of producers. You won’t have that unique sound that will make people want to travel to come and see you. You have to have something that’s different about your sound.
Talking about the studio before, what are 5 things each producer has to have In his studio?
Good acoustics, a good set of monitors. If you don’t have good speakers and if you don’t have good acoustics, it is just not going to happen. I would recommend having a decent sized midi keyboard as well, like at least 4 or 5 octaves. It’s not worth buying a small one with only 1 or 2 octaves. You can experiment a lot more with bigger keyboards. Sometimes a sound can sound really bad up in the higher octaves but as soon as you play it down a few octaves it can take on a whole new dynamic and really come to life.
So, have a decent sized midi keyboard, good plugins, good effects, a really powerful computer if possible, with big hard drives. You don’t just need a lot of storage space, you also need to have a fast thinking and efficient machine, a perfect brain on your computer to control everything or else it will kill your workflow.
Any upcomers we should watch out?
There are a lot of new guys breaking through in the scene at the moment, some of the ones on my labels are like EverLight for instance. He’s making a lot of really good techy stuff just now. He actually reminds me of me when I was his age. There is a new guy called Systembreaker too that’s just released a track on Outburst Twilight called ‘Sleep Paralysis’ that I played at Lumi – it’s totally HUGE!
I’ve got also got some real legends on the label that have recently released some bombs and have more great new releases coming up: Richard Durand with ‘The Air I Breathe’, Scot Project with ‘Don’t Go’ I also debuted a new B2B project with Frank at Dreamstate called ‘Gentech’, my good friend David Forbes with ‘Extra Dimension’, he’s doing a lot of new stuff for Outburst at the moment. The same goes for Maarten de Jong. I played his latest single at Lumi (Cast Iron) and it absolutely wrecked the place..and of course my good buddy Alex Di Stefano has also just released his latest new new single on the label too ‘Now Get On Up’. Alex is amazing, he’s one of my favourite relatively ‘new guys’ to burst into the scene. When I first listened to him in 2014, I was just like ‘wow, this guy is absolutely incredible’.
What do you think about the trance community? The fans?
The fans are the best. The fans travel everywhere to see you. I even got a comment on Facebook tonight from a girl who said: “I’ve seen you 4 times this year, in 4 different countries and tonight (Luminosity) is going to be my 5th”. It’s crazy. The amount of passion, commitment and devotion that you get from some of the trance fans is just incredible. They travel so far to see you and it is amazing to experience that.
What do you think about the trance community, the colleagues in the industry?
I can honestly say that there are only about 2 or 3 guys in the whole scene that I try to avoid, just because they have let success get to their heads over the years. I used to say hello to them but now I don’t even bother. I’m not going to say any names though because 99% of the guys that I work with are all really good guys, guys that I can trust and get on really well with. A lot of them have become really good friends too which is cool, sometimes I wish some of them lived in Scotland so that I could see them more often.
How is the work with the label? With Outburst?
It’s amazing, I’m extremely happy with the way that it’s all gone. I’ve wanted to have my own label since around 2007/2008 but I just didn’t feel that it was the right time. I felt like I wasn’t happy enough with my own productions. Some people may think that they were good enough, but in my head I thought ‘I want to be better than this before I have my own label‘, just because I want to be able to release my own music on my own label and feel really proud of it. It took me a few years to build up enough confidence to feel OK about starting up, but since it all kicked off in 2014 it’s been really amazing. It really exploded in a way that I never felt it was possible. And I feel really lucky about that.
What are your plans with the label?
To be honest, I am not trying to grow into a massive label or anything. I don’t want it to become a multi-genre label collective that is so big that it needs a big office with loads of staff etc. I want to try and keep it small and focus only on the styles of music that make my dancefloors shake and not my pockets bulge with cash..and that’s the honest truth.
I want to try and keep it small. I always want to keep a very ‘one-to-one’ and direct A&R connection with all the guys that I sign. I don’t want it to become so big that I lose touch of what’s actually going on with each artist. Yes I want the label to become bigger, but not huge. I want to keep it at a decent manageable size.
If you could change places for one day with another artist, with whom would it be?
I think it would have to be one of the leading techno guys, maybe Adam Beyer or Carl Cox, just to experience what is like in the techno scene. I do go to techno gigs whenever I can, but I would just like to see what the gigs are like and what the techno scene is like and compare it to the trance scene that I know so well.
Everyone has a hidden talent. What’s yours?
I can do impressions of people, but you wouldn’t know any of the ones that I can do .. so I am not going to do them just now haha. If you get me drunk enough, and ask me to do some I might haha. I’m a good swimmer, I can skateboard and I can also breakdance a little.. 😛
Do you have a message for the readers?
I love playing in Romania. I hope to come back really soon. I’ve always loved to play in Eastern Europe. I have so much passion for playing over there. Scotland has a very crazy crowd too, we are a crazy nation, so me going to a club and Romania is pretty much the exact same as Scotland. High five to the Romanian crowd and I hope you enjoyed this interview.