INTERVIEW: Altern-8’s Mark Archer: “I pretty much loved everything from 1986 to 1992…”
The word legend gets used a lot, but Mark Archer, better known as one half of Altern-8, has produced some of the biggest stompers in dance music history, from acid house to techno and back again.
Tracks such as Activ-8, Infiltrate 202, E Vapor 8, Frequency, Brutal-8-E, Armageddon, Move My Body and Hypnotic St-8 are all worthy inclusions in the annals of rave history, and to this day, Mark certainly knows how to keep the party going, as his devastating Boiler Room from Nottingham demonstrated.
The self-styled ‘Man Behind The Mask’ comes to Dublin this weekend, to play back-to-back with Techno & Cans, in the warehouse-style surrounds of Hangar.
Ahead of what promises to be a fantastic evening, 909originals is proud to present an interview with Mark by Dean Foster of Future Past Clothing, carried out earlier this year.
Interview with Mark Archer
Q: What were the main inspirations that made you want to start producing music?
The acid house coming out of Chicago in 1987 and the techno coming from Detroit were the main reasons I wanted to start making my own tracks. I never once thought that I’d do anything that was any good, as when I started I had no idea about production or what equipment was needed.
Hooking up with Dean [Meredith] was the push in the right direction I needed and we had an immense amount of good luck at the start which helped us greatly.
What tune do you wish you had written?
There’s loads of tunes I wish i’d written but probably the main one is LFO by LFO, it was just at the pinnacle of that scene and set the standard for so many other groups to try and follow.
As Nexus 21 [Archer’s previous, Detroit-influenced side project] was more techno-influenced and successful in the underground, what was the main inspiration for creating Altern-8 and changing direction into rave?
Altern-8 wasn’t a conscious plan to do a side project. We had so much studio time given to us as sort of payment for tracks we’d had out on Blue Chip records. I was being influenced by much more than just the Detroit techno that was the main influence for Nexus 21, so the tracks we recorded still had that feeling to them but the label didn’t want to put them out as Nexus 21.
By the time we had recorded the follow up in 1991, the sound of Altern-8 had been decided and was more of a breakbeat rave sound than what we had recorded before.
Did you ever imagine you’d get the chart success you achieved with Altern-8? What did that level of fame feel like? Were the gas masks about hiding your face, so that the music took centre stage?
I honestly never imagined my career would ever take off when I first started. After less than a year recording as Nexus 21, the label we were signed to and studio we used went into liquidation, so I thought that was that.
With Altern-8 being just a vehicle to get these eight extra tracks out, chart success wasn’t really something we were aiming for at all so when Infiltrate blew up on promo it all came as a bit of a shock.
The masks came about because while Infiltrate was on promo, we were asked to do a live PA at the Eclipse, it wasn’t something we’d even thought about doing as Altern-8, because we were still touring as Nexus 21. We had already played the Eclipse earlier in 1991 as Nexus 21, so didn’t want to look exactly the same on stage when we did the Altern-8 gig, so that’s when we got hold of the NBC suits and I made the masks.
Why do you think the rave scene imploded so quickly?
Mainly because after years of media persecution and what amounted to a witch hunt by the government to try and stamp it all out. New laws came in that made it nearly impossible for raves to be put on, which drove the whole scene into clubs.
Which is the best track, in your opinion, that you made?
If it was an Altern-8 track it would either be Infiltrate 202 or Frequency. If it’s any track that i’ve recorded it would be Dream Plant. It’s a track I recorded in around 1996 and was what I wanted to do in 1989 but I didn’t have the production knowledge. It was released in 2007 on a label called DS93 (only 93 copies were ever pressed). It’s being reissued soon on a label called ARTless, from Berlin.
What music do you listen to now when not performing?
I listen to a lot of 80’s funk, soul and electro. All the StreetSounds electro compilations and stuff like that. I get sent a lot of music digitally, so I also listen to new stuff but it all tends to be music with a retro sort of feel to it, like new acid house that sounds like old Chicago stuff or new breakbeat hardcore.
Techno, rave, house/acid house – if you could only choose one, which would you choose as your favourite?
Probably techno – the late 80’s, early 90’s Detroit stuff though – as that’s really what did it for me back then. Acid house is a very close second. I pretty much loved everything from 1986 up to 1992 really, those were the best years for me.
For someone who has had such incredible success and doesn’t just rest on his laurels, what’s left to achieve? What is your biggest ambition for the future?
To keep playing for as long as people will listen to me. Without anyone liking what you do, you haven’t got a career at all so i’m going to keep plugging away at it. This year’s a special one as it’s my 30th in the industry.
It’ll soon be 30 years for Altern-8, and i’d like to do something special that year and maybe record a Mark Archer artist album as it’s something i’ve not done yet.
Alternatively visit www.markarcher.co.uk for more information.
[Special thanks to Dean Foster of Future Past Clothing]