By Jonathan Crane
VANCOUVER — Marc Kinchen, more commonly known as MK, has been one of the most recognizable names in dance music for multiple generations. Ironically, he was figuratively absent for most of it. Kinchen’s story began in the 1980s in his hometown of Detroit, where he started producing at the age of 14.
“I was always a house head, but my other love has always been electronic, alternative leaning music like New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Ministry,” says Kinchen.
“Everything I did and still do in house is rooted in those early bands through to acid house, Detroit techno, and Chicago and N.Y. house.”
His connection with house began at age 16, initially he worked alongside would-be legends like Kevin Saunderson, Terrence Parker, and Chez Damier.
In the early ‘90s, Kinchen shot to fame with songs like “Always” and “Burning,” which reached number one of the U.S. dance charts. Then in 1995 he released his “Dub Of Doom” remix for Nightcrawler’s Push The Feeling on. The track’s signature, single- note organ-line continues to influence dance music to this day, and was even replicated by Pitbull on 2009’s Hotel Room Service.
These tracks became part of the canon of ‘90s dance music, and this is one of the factors that led Kinchen to leave the world of house music for over a decade. After the success of his Nightcrawler’s remix, record labels wanted him to continually replicate that sound. He became disenfranchised, and began to explore other artistic avenues.
“I moved from Detroit, to Brooklyn, to Texas, back to Detroit, then to New Jersey, back to Detroit, and then to L.A.,” he says. “I was definitely not the easiest person to find if you were looking.”
“I got married and divorced, decided I wanted to do R&B and hip hop, and used my full name, Marc Kinchen, which hardly anyone in the dance world knew… I was known as MK in dance music, and Marc Kinchen in the R&B and hip-hop community.
“I was working with people like Quincy Jones, Will Smith, and Pitbull, so I was far from being buried [in history], I was just off doing something different.”
Finally in 2010, Jamie Jones and Lee Foss tracked down Kinchen, and coaxed him into playing a party for their label, Hot Creations.
Although Kinchen was still actively making music with some of the biggest artists in popular music, the rift between him and dance music had grown substantially by this point.
“It took a minute to understand and become aware of how the house landscape had changed and what was new, what was old, what was reinvented.
“It takes a little time, like switching sports if you are an athlete or going from oil to watercolor if you are a painter.”
Jamie Jones and Lee Foss are two of the most notable artists of the modern era of house music, and their quest to locate Kinchen is a testament to the influence he had on dance music before executing his return.
A closer examination of Kinchen’s return to dance music also provides a closer look at one of the most interesting elements of modern music, namely the interplay between hip-hop and dance music. In a post-SoundCloud world where hip-hop producers routinely collaborate with electronic music artists, it seems strange that Kinchen could be so far removed from dance music while simultaneously working on something that’s viewed, by today’s standards, as being so similar.
Although Kinchen is now primarily associated with dance music, he doesn’t discount the idea of going back to making original productions for some of the genre-blurring new-age rappers.
“It’s a natural progression, especially for me, and definitely part of my own personal vision.”
Kinchen believes that both genres will continue to influence each other, and that someone may eventually have a breakthrough record that starts an entirely new genre.
Given the scope of Kinchen’s career, it’s entirely possible that he could be one of the artists to lead this breakthrough. With the recent rise of deep house, numerous artists are currently trying to recapture the style and energy of music from 20 years ago. Meanwhile Kinchen, the originator of many of those stylings, has continued to expand on them since his re-entry into dance music.
MK performs at this summer’s Shambhala Music Festival, August 5 to 10 in Salmo, B.C.BC, British Columbia, Marc Kinchen, MK, Shambhala