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Mark MacLeod comes from a long line of musical talent. He was part of the original rave scene in Toronto and a regular resident in many of Montreal’s best house music clubs. This is when he began to move to the deeper side of electronic music. His productions range from deep house to the deeper sides of progressive house, with a recent exploration into downtempo. Today, Mark runs Deep Down Music, a label focused on the deeper shades of house, progressive and downtempo.
As Mark MacLeod readies to helm Deep Down Music’s maiden voyage into the electronic dance music scene, we caught up with him to learn more about the label, his ties to Toronto, his Scottish roots, views on music, and much more.
Electronic Groove: Hi Mark! Welcome to EG! How have things been going this year? How are you doing? Where are you based right now?
Mark MacLeod: Thanks for having me! As a long-time reader of EG, it is a pleasure to be here. As it likely has been for most people, this past year has been a funny one. Coming out of lockdown, tasting freedom, going back into lockdown. But on the whole, it has been a great year. I think that COVID has enabled many of us to reflect on what matters most in our lives. It certainly has for me.
I am based in Toronto, Canada, home of some incredible musical talent. As a useless piece of trivia: at one point Toronto had more nightclubs per capita than any other city in North America.
Electronic Groove: Well, we do love to learn something new every day! By the way, congratulations on the launch of your label Deep Down. What drove you to this new phase? How long has this been in the works?
Mark MacLeod: Thank you! Deep Down Music is actually a product of the lockdown. With nowhere to go, I went deep into production, pumping out 22 tracks this year. Not all will see the light of day, but it was great to have the time to explore. As with any art or craft, the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know. You are never done learning. Electronic music is limitless. This is something I love about it!
I actually come from a tiny island in Scotland (moved to Canada when I was 11). At the time, one out of every three people on the island was unemployed. Compared to that, in North America, I just felt like anything was possible. This is a mindset I have taken with me that has served me well my entire life. In anything I do, I want to go all the way. I want to achieve my full potential. So, it was not enough to just produce music, but also to turn that vision and sound into a label.
Electronic Groove: What kind of music can we expect from Deep Down? How is it different from other labels out there?
Mark MacLeod: For many years, I have leaned towards deeper forms of house and progressive. Deep house that is more about luscious, slightly after-hours sounds. Heavy on percussion and basslines. Light on vocals. Deep, progressive house that you would expect masters like Hernan Cattaneo or Nick Warren to throw down early in their sets. Lots of pads, tight percussion, and basslines. We are also experimenting with downtempo a bit, whether it is a pitched-down after-hours track or purpose-built downtempo number.
What makes us different is my background in business and technology. Most independent labels are not viable businesses and can’t invest in their artists. My superpower is business. I have had a ton of success in the business world. This has given me the resources and experience needed to make a real success with Deep Down.
Since 1999, I have been in the technology startup world. This is relevant because music and technology are coming together more than ever. First, electronic music is made increasingly with software. It is marketed with software. The lockdown forced us to find new, technology-based, ways to connect with fans. Now Web 3.0 offers brand new possibilities such as NFTs, direct fan financial support, etc. This is my world. So I believe I can guide our label and artists on how to maximize their potential by leveraging technology.
Electronic Groove: And in terms of artists? Is there a fixed roster? Will it be open to other artists?
Mark MacLeod: Absolutely open. We have already signed deep progressive heavyweights like GMJ and Dowden. The current dynamic with producers is that they sign with many labels and are continually working their way up to more and more established labels. This is different from more mainstream music where artists have one home label. I believe that this goes back to what I was saying earlier, that most labels are not viable businesses and can’t properly invest in their artists. My hope is that we can do a great job for our artists – helping people discover and fall in love with their music, and helping them build great careers. So, my goal is to have a core Deep Down family roster over time.
As an important aside, the music industry, like the tech industry that I come from, is very male-dominated. I am a huge fan of the ’23 by 23′ campaign to encourage more female producers to be signed and am actively looking for female producers that match our sound.
“Deep Down Music is actually a product of the lockdown. With nowhere to go, I went deep into production, pumping out 22 tracks this year”
Electronic Groove: What can you tell us about Deep Down’s first release?
Mark MacLeod: We are kicking off with a three-track EP from myself entitled ‘Original Sound of the Universe’. I am a fan of eastern spirituality where it is believed that the first sound heard in the universe at the time of the Big Bang was the mantra “Om”. I felt that building a track around the “Om” mantra would make for a fun and meaningful debut.
The other tracks include ‘Underwater Flight’, where I sampled birds out in the wild and produced a reverb-filled and restrained deep house number, and ‘The Low Flow’, a deep exploration of sound.
Electronic Groove: What were your first interactions with electronic music like? Was there a record that changed the game for you in terms of the music you listened to?
Mark MacLeod: I am going to age myself with this response. I grew up in the UK listening to Gary Numan, Tubeway Army, Ultravox, and others. I bought some of the very first house records ever. Basically, other than a confused stint in high school as a drummer in a rock band, it has always been about electronic music for me.
Electronic Groove: When did you start DJing and production? Has the scene changed much since you first started? In which ways?
Mark MacLeod: My friends helped bring UK rave to Canada. I grew up in that scene in the early 90s and have been DJing since the late 90s. Back when I started, DJing meant buying expensive and heavy vinyl. There were no sync buttons, no WAV forms, no key detection. I embrace technology, but I feel the technical side of DJing has become too easy now. Track selection remains as important as ever.
I have witnessed the scene move from sketchy raves to polished clubs to bottle service. The rave mentality was PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect). There are still elements of that, but like the world at large, I feel the scene is fractured and broken into many small, closed scenes. It is not as inclusive and open as it once was.
Electronic Groove: Do you believe there’s a responsibility behind having a label, in terms of shaping the scene?
Mark MacLeod: There is so much music out there. Too much! Technology is only adding to that. Anyone can make the next banger from their bedroom now. I think labels can play an important role as curators and editors. If you really get off on a particular sound, then following labels that represent that sound will help fans discover the music they love best.
Some of the best labels go beyond releases to host great events showcasing their sound. Anjunadeep, All Day I Dream, The Soundgarden, and Sudbeat come to mind here. I think this is an important role for labels to go beyond releasing tracks to hosting thoughtful, high-quality events.
“The lockdown forced us to find new, technology-based, ways to connect with fans. Now Web 3.0 offers brand new possibilities such as NFTs, direct fan financial support, etc. This is my world”
Electronic Groove: What else can we expect from Mark MacLeod and Deep Down Music in the future? What new milestones are you looking forward to in the coming year?
Mark MacLeod: We are starting off slow and still on our training wheels. As mentioned, we have upcoming releases from GMJ and Dowden. We want to get great at helping people discover our music, meaning that each release is a success for the artist. We still have much to learn there. Once we feel like we have a handle on that, then we will crank things up in terms of release frequency and ambition. In 2022, I would love to see us release monthly at the very least and host our first event.
Electronic Groove: Thank you for your time Mark! We wish you all the best for the future!
Mark MacLeod: Thank you so much for having me! Wish you and your readers all the best for the coming year!
Mark MacLeod’s ‘Original Sound Of The Universe’ EP will be out on January 14th, via Deep Down Music. Purchase your copy here.