By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY — Mark Farina is best known for his successful “Mushroom Jazz” mixtape series. To date he has released seven of these mixes, which are a chilled-out blend of downtempo, trip-hop, and house, all centered around a jazzy, psychedelic atmosphere.
Originally from Chicago, Farina discovered house music through his friend Derrick Carter in the last chunk of the vibrant ‘80s scene he grew up around.
Around 1993, Farina moved from Chicago to San Francisco. It was a gradual process and for a time, he maintained apartments in both locations. This may sound like an impossible feat today, especially for an aspiring musician, but rent was much cheaper in those days – the two places ran him a little under $500. In 1995, his Chicago lease ran out, and he settled down in San Francisco.
“It put me at a different angle than just being in Chicago the whole time,” says Farina. “Of course, coming from Chicago in that era was super special and for house music there was nowhere quite like it. Around that ’89 to ’93 range, just being in Chicago was a special thing, but then also, San Francisco was a totally different thing that happened to be going on.”
Farina was captivated by the eclectic nightlife scene that was happening in San Francisco. He took the style he had forged in Chicago and, along with Derrick Carter, he began to embark on a new and exciting sonic chapter. This ultimately culminated in what became known as Mushroom Jazz.
“Derrick and I were kind of the first people that brought out this Chicago house mentality to the electronic scene here that had a whole bunch of other stuff going on like funky breaks and more darkish, West Coast techno style stuff,” he says.
“The whole Mushroom Jazz style developed more in San Francisco cause I started it as a mixtape in Chicago but it didn’t really have any club influence there. Chicago was such a house town, nobody really listened to much stuff below 125 BPM. Mushroom Jazz flourished in San Francisco,” he explains.
By the end of 2015, the eighth instalment of the Mushroom Jazz series will be complete. Farina stated that he is “mulling over tracks as we speak.”
The overall vibe of this saga has remained essentially the same, a testament to the lasting power of the sound Farina has created.
This past summer, Farina made his first appearance at Shambhala Music Festival where he performed both a day time, three-hour Mushroom Jazz set as well as a house set on another night.
“I definitely play more house sets than downtempo ones, but I do like being given extended time, because I feel with downtempo, it’s not something you want to cram that into an hour and a half,” explains Farina.
He states that roughly 75 per cent of the live sets that he does are in the house vein, but he is no stranger to playing two sets in the same night, or playing extended five hour mixes, where he is free to explore a vast territory of musical genres.
Fans in Calgary, where Farina has made numerous appearances, can expect a diverse selection of dance floor motivating tunes he has compiled over nearly three decades in the electronic music business.
“When it comes to new stuff, obviously music’s changed so much in 25 years, in how it’s bought or played, everything’s changed. So before, being in Chicago you had to be there to get records or New York, and now in the digital age there can be somebody from any random place making a really good track, whereas before it was a little bit more geographical. Now things have become high paced. There are young kids rediscovering old stuff that they missed, so I find there is almost more music coming out than the old school vinyl days. I think that these old roots that I established in both styles still command how I pick music today,” he concluded.
As well as his busy touring schedule, Farina is also a father to a five-year-old son and manages a house label called Great Lakes Audio, which will steadily be releasing music over the course of the next year.
Mark Farina plays June 13th at Habitat Living Sound. Tickets are $35 in advance.AB, Alberta, Habitat Living Sound, Mark Farina, Mushroom Jazz