Toolroom founder and Grammy-nominated producer Mark Knight announces his new album Untold Business: 13-track collection of vocal house music which aims to inject a much-needed dose of meaning and longevity into the world of dance music.
Mark Knight has gone back to his roots on his new album Untold Business, reprising the sounds and records that made him the artist he is today. Diving through his extensive collection of classic Funk, House, Soul and Disco records from the 1970s and 80s has provided the bedrock for the album, which is an homage to the soulful, vocal-led house music that Mark first fell in love with in the 90s.
A criticism often levelled at some modern dance records is that they are highly disposable. As the barriers to both production and releasing records have lowered, house music has become saturated with countless tracks, some of which take mere hours to throw together and are forgotten even more quickly, while the never ending treadmill of DJ gigs have forced even experienced producers into a cycle of producing purely functional records, with longevity and meaning barely considered.
Step forward Mark Knight with a collection of meticulously crafted, positive, life-affirming records with a focus on real instrumentation and properly crafted songs that will stand the test of time. Untold Business is the antithesis of the functional, cookie-cutter dance music that has become increasingly ubiquitous over the years, and it sounds absolutely glorious.
Lead single ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ features vocals from Beverley Knight as well as the London Community Gospel Choir, who together bring a powerful message of positivity, solidarity and hope: themes that echo throughout the rest of the album.
“I wanted to write a song of hope as we come out of this incredibly tough time. I feel that musicians and producers have a responsibility to provide the soundtrack to people’s lives, and with this glimmer of hope on the horizon, I wanted this song to be a moment of positivity for the future ahead.” – Mark Knight
From the string section, to the 14-piece London Community Gospel Choir, to the incomparably brilliant Beverley Knight on lead vocals – Mark worked with some incredible musicians on the single: an approach that informs his approach for the entire album. ‘Untold Business’ features further collaborations with the likes of Shingai (Noisettes) Michael Gray, Robert Owens and many more.
In addition to the 10 new tracks recorded especially for the album, Untold Business also includes three of Mark’s singles from 2020, including one of the biggest releases of his career to date. ‘All 4 Love’ was a collaboration with Rene Amesz and Tasty Lopez which became firmly lodged on the Radio 1 A list for six weeks with worldwide success following soon after. Picking up more than 10 million streams on Spotify it was, without doubt, one of the biggest house records of the year.
Also included here are ‘If It’s Love’ – a joyous celebration of a soulful house sound that came to prominence in the 90s – and ‘Tonight’, which took inspiration from the brisk, looping, filtered house music of the early 00s.
We had the chance to speak with the man about his new album ‘Untold Business’, the reopening of clubs, his career, and more. Enjoy!
WWD: Hey Mark, welcome to When We Dip. How’s your year been so far?
Thanks for having me guys. Yeah it’s been strange, but a good one. Obviously with no gigs over the past year or so that’s been a massive change of lifestyle for me, but there have been a lot of positives. I’ve spent way more time with my family which has been amazing, and it’s given me the headspace I need to be able to create this album. So on the whole it’s definitely been positive.
WWD: Congrats on the new album! You’ve stated that its a return to your soulful roots. I suppose some people might not be aware that you have all this history with the more soulful end of electronic music, how did that start?
I never really got House music initially, I just didn’t connect with it. It was only through listening to DJs like Paul Trouble Anderson, Bobby & Steve and Tony Humphries did I start to make the connection from the Swing Beat craze at the time, towards the Soulful House sound that was coming through. That vocal, 90s sound was when I really fell in love with the music: there was just so much energy and positivity. When I first started listening to music in those days I was like a sponge, absorbing anything and everything I could get my hands on. That’s definitely something I wanted to encapsulate with the album, which is why there are features on every record on there.
WWD: Tell us about why you wanted so many different featured artists on there…
It was definitely always the plan from the start. I wanted to make an album like people were doing 20, 30 years ago – and even further back than that. As a producer your job is to assemble the right cast of collaborators around the idea you have, and make sure it’s executed as you imagined it. You start with the idea, and the hard part is getting the right team together – then if you’ve done your job properly it should all come together from there. Obviously everyone brings their own unique flavour or vibe to the project, and that’s what makes it exciting and unique.
WWD: Any moments in particular from producing the album that will stay with you?
I think my favourite moment of the entire process was working with the London Gospel Community choir. Getting in a room with 20 or so singer and having to direct them, and them absolutely nailing it is a feeling I’ll never forget. They just fully embodies the passion I imagined when I came up with the idea, and to have it so beautifully realized like that really did bring a bit of a lump to the throat. Getting goosebumps now just thinking about it!
WWD: I know this is a hard question, but do you have a particular favourite track on the album?
You’re right, it’s a hard question! I really feel like this is a complete body of work, more so that anything I’ve produced before. So to split it up into favourites is super tough. But if I had to pick one I’d say the title track, Untold Business. This topline was actually written for another project I have called Black Zeus by Simon Lord who’s Simian Mobile Disco. It didn’t fit on that album but the lyrical content was amazing so I asked Gene to revocal it, slow it down at bit as Simon’s vocal didn’t sit quite right, Gene’s vocal was perfect for the project. It just feels really original, and it’s not trying too hard to be one thing or another. It just works.
WWD: Music has had an arguably even more important role than ever over the last year or so, as it’s allowed people to stay connected even though we haven’t physically been together in clubs. Has that been the case for you?
I can’t even begin to think about all the different times in my life that music has helped get me through challenges, way before Covid was even a thing, but yes you’re right that it’s definitely been super important. I’d say it happens every week – if not daily! Music has an incredible power to make the good things better and the bad things just that little bit easier to deal with. Regardless of genre that’s true, but for me, vocal house music has always been the one that’s really made me feel something – so that’s again why I wanted to make a record like this.
WWD: How frustrating is it that the UK’s date for clubs to reopen has been pushed back? Do you feel confident that it will actually go ahead as planned?
It’s massively frustrating. Of course it’s really important for things to happen safely, but one of the biggest takeaways from this entire ordeal for me as been just how inept our government has been. If they were a business, they would have collapsed by now – there’s just been so much that’s been handled terribly, that I don’t have any confidence in anything they come out with now.
WWD: You’ve recently been announced as a resident on Kiss – how does that feel?
Being asked to host my own show on Kiss is a huge deal for me, and feels like my career has come full circle. The station has always been hugely inspirational to me growing up, it was the point of reference in terms of youth culture and my access point for quality underground House music. I cut my teeth as a professional DJ, being their resident at Garage City & Independence. I have always loved the station, and I owe a lot of my success to them – so to now have my own show is something I’m incredibly proud of. I can’t wait to get stuck in and make the Friday night slot my own.
WWD: You’ve achieved quite a lot in your career so far, what’s your next move?
Yeah I’ve been busy! I’m always looking for the next challenge though, so next, I would really like to be considered as an ‘album’ artist. I’ve been putting out singles and club records, remixing other people and producing for bands for 20 years, but this album has presented something completely new, and I loved taking it on. I’ve enjoyed the process so much that that’s definitely the kind of thing I want to be focussed on. I’d like to be recognized as a key artist in the history of electronic music, so that’s what I’m trying to achieve. Got to aim high!