So, Mark, how are you doing at the moment considering the times we are living in with covid 19 and the strain it has put on the industry.
Its ups and downs to be honest, with the news about the vaccine, we know the end is coming so I'm getting excited for that. I quit my full-time day job in digital marketing about a year before covid hit so I got about a year of DJing full time, so it went from that really euphoric stage of being like woah this is class this is my new career I'm going to be able to do this for a living and the next minute it went to a dead stop. I always knew this was going to be temporary but a matter of how long, it’s a crazy time and a lot of people are dying so I can't be in a position to complain as I am very lucky to have a full-time job in music
Going back to better times pre-covid, what was it like coming up in the Belfast scene and around Ireland before becoming a national & international regular?
Well, being from Belfast, Ireland, Northern Ireland or wherever you would like to call it is definitely an advantage. If I lived in England or anywhere else in the world, I think that I would have struggled to get to a position where I was able to do it full time or be able to do shows on a weekly basis. The crowd in Ireland and Northern Ireland are so supportive but it can be quite hard to get the support from the other DJs. In Belfast its quite a small community so if you're lucky to be in the circle of the music scene it can help you a lot because everyone knows each other. Ive been lucky enough to become friends with many in the scene and been lucky to play AVA festival for 3 years in a row. A lot of DJs who come and play in Ireland always say that the crowd is absolutely mental so to also have that solid fan base is great.
In terms of production and releases, how did it change for you after releasing the likes of ‘Biggie was a jazz fan’ and ‘I miss the old Kanye’ being the most recognizable tunes by yourself as of now.
So, this is kind of a weird one, whenever you first start making music you have this weird obsession to try and get it signed to a label which I was like when I first start making tunes and I was constantly sending demos to record labels trying to get signed which nobody would so I started to put them out myself. After that phase of getting rejected, I started self-releasing and I don’t know if I got lucky but everything I self-released just blew up so I had no need to sign to a label. ‘I miss the old Kanye’ has over 3 million views on YouTube as a self-release so I always advise people who are starting off making tunes is don’t go chasing labels, sign up to distrokid and start putting tunes out on that and Spotify as it can be so beneficial for you.
2019 was a huge year for you, achieving your first million streams on Spotify, to playing the likes of Life Festival in Ireland and the main stage of AVA Festival in your home city of Belfast. As a personal achievement, how much did this mean to you?
AVA is the pinnacle, I could play the biggest festivals all over the world to thousands of people but if I didn’t get the chance to play at AVA id be heartbroken. It's not a massive festival in terms of numbers as its only along the lines of a 5000 capacity but it is just the best. See if I ever get the opportunity to play the AVA boiler room in my home city, there is no other gig I would ever want to play apart from that. That’s the peak that’s when you’ve made it ‘Haha’.
Weve seen that you’ve had to re-think re-skill re-boot which was the slogan by the UK government in relation to people getting new jobs because of the pandemic, can you tell us about that?
Yes, so in the first lockdown I was super productive, head was clear and was making tunes 8 or 9 hours a day, was able to focus on making really good music and after 2 months I hit a wall where it was feeling like more of a desk job and I started to hate it and reached a point where I gave up making music. I was sleeping in late and watching TV all day so it got to a point where I needed to get back into a routine so I got a job with the NHS Track & Trace which I still do full time 5 days a week doing 9 hour shifts which keeps me happy, busy and I enjoy it. It keeps you grounded and keeps you feeling like a normal person instead of slumping about and being lazy.
How were you staying relative and creative through lockdown, we see you had a podcast series and some livestreams throughout.
So, in one of the first few weeks, I thought that it would be a horrible time for people suffering with mental health issues being locked up at home so I was like ok how can I keep my own momentum going and also help others who are struggling so I started doing some livestreams every Friday where I raised money for PIPS (Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide) which is a charity in Belfast. I lived in my parents' house at the start of lockdown so I set up a small studio in a spare room and set up decks so every Friday I would have drinks and do the live stream and my parents would also have some drinks and jump in front of the camera and dance with me which was great and people loved it. It kept me sane and kept the connection with music, DJing and the laugh at the weekend. It was nice to have this to look forward to every week.
At present and looking into the future, at the time of writing we are only 2 weeks away from the biggest release of your career to date, a 3 track EP on Patrick Toppings label ‘TRICK’. How are you feeling in the run up to the release and what has the reaction been like so far?
I'm super excited, this is the first time that ive released with a proper label so it's been a great learning experience. Trick is great label to release on for the first time. They have a great PR section which send the tracks out to radio stations and DJs and they also send a report out every week with how the release is doing so it's very rewarding in that aspect. The main track on the EP would be a tune that would be played on the more commercial stations, it’s a piano house track so I'm very excited to see how that goes.
The title of the EP is ‘I can't (believe this feeling)’, is there a backstory to the name?
Ehm, no. Ha ha. Theres a vocal sample in the main titled track with a high pitched womans voice who says ‘I can't believe this feeling’ which is the only reason.
To conclude, should the fans expect big things from Mark Blair post covid?
Yes of course, I want to do a lot. I'd like to get the new label called ‘Barbed’ going and Ive invested a lot of money on new equipment such as new camera, microphones etc. for the podcast series, I would like to set up a creative hub to get DJs to come down, have a wee chat on the podcast and maybe do a mix.
Thanks very much for coming on and talking to me and all the best for the future
Really appreciate you having me on thanks very much!