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Interview with Mark De Clive Lowe

Mark de Clive Lowe, half Japanese half New Zealander based out of Las Angeles, California has been instrumental (no pun intended) in driving the New Jazz movement forward over the last decade.   His ability to fuse Jazz with a funky urban flavor has seen him work with artists as respected as Lauryn Hill and Sammy Figueroa. 


MDCL has toured heavily over the last decade, has released no less than 12 full-length albums, 6 EP’s and worked on over 150 collaborations.  De Clive Lowe is also responsible for one of the most respected club nights in Europe and America; CHURCH. Equal parts jazz club, dance party and live electronica remix experiment, CHURCH is set to take Melbourne by storm as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

Here at The World Loves Melbourne we were lucky enough to catch an Interview with de Clive Lowe ahead of his performance with Miguel Attwood-Ferguson on Saturday night.


Adam Kelly: Mark, how are you? Nice to have you here in Australia!

Mark de Clive Lowe: Adam, thank you it's always good to be here.

AK: The last tour I had here the band didn't take into account that it wasn't summer here in the southern hemisphere. Are you a little more prepared?

MdCL: It's certainly no LA. haha. Yeah I make sure I read up on the weather before I pack.

AK: Good man. Speaking of clothes, is there an outfit you have at home that might be ridiculously comfortable and warm but you would hate for anyone to see you wear it in public?

MdCL: Haha, no most things are good. I suppose my lazy day clothes wouldn't be ideal.

AK: Tracksuit pants, we allll have them. Are you an elastic around the ankles man or a freedom to move man?

MdCL: Definitely free. hahaha, does that say something about my character?

AK: I'm the same as you Mark so I'm going to say that it say's you're a GREAT guy. I should probably start asking some things that make this resemble an interview. (by this stage we had already spent 10 minutes of my allocated 30 talking about all kinds of irrelevant things).

The list of people you've worked with is huge – Do you have a favourite or a notable memory with anyone in particular?

MdCL: Honestly, Everyone I have worked with has been Amazing. I mean, getting to work with artists who you grew up listening to is always such an amazing experience. I did a party in LA recently and had Leon Ware, who of course worked with Marvin Gaye and Jody Watley, one of the most iconic pop, jazz, R & B singers from the 80's singing together. Actually, they were singing 'I want you' which Leon actually wrote for Marvin Gaye and it was one of those moments when you see the power of music bringing different generations together. 

AK: I can imagine what it must be like playing with the people who inspired you.  Do you remember what musical influences you had growing up through your parents?

MdCL: Yeah, my upbringing influenced me a lot. My dad forced me onto piano by age four, he swore hell or high water that all of his kids would end up musicians. haha... He had us listening to musicals and my older brothers had me listening to small group jazz.

I also used to make a trip every Sunday out to the country with the neighbours and their Dad would play the same Great Jones album every single time. I used to love it, those trips were like my escape or my break from all the usual structures, and yeah, every Sunday for a year and half I enjoyed the same album.  

I definitely got influenced most by my dad, however as our taste in music changed and he began asking me to 'turn it down' a lot more I found that my mum would find time for me to play it however I wanted to. I used to blast things like Public Enemy when no one was home, so loud though that I often wouldn't hear dad coming home, I used to have it so loud that when it happened I would get yelled at.  It just made me appreciate the moments where I could listen to it a whole lot more.

AK: Four years old? Do you remember the first song you learnt on piano at that age?

MdCL: You know what, I can visualise myself playing the first few notes and I can see my fingers running across the keys but I can never remember what the song was. 

AK: Any chance we might see a rendition of one of those songs you learnt when you were four?  Because I would probably pay you to slip one in as a dare.

MdCL: Hahaha, you know what's funny, a few years ago I actually did something like that. I'd been mucking around with these kids earlier in the day and I can't remember what the song was that we were all singing but I decided to try and seamlessly fit part of into another song.  We made it work, and the cool thing is unless you were with us earlier in the day you wouldn't have even noticed what we'd done.


AK: To Date, what has been the most life changing thing you have done in your career?

MdCL: Travelling.  I left New Zealand in 1998 chasing my then girlfriend around the planet. She went to London and I was touring so I re-routed my flights through there as often as I could.  Unfortunately we broke up before I got to London but I was stuck going there. At the time some of the music I was into and I was creating was starting to take off jungle beat, broken beat things like that and so I ended up staying there for 10 years. If I hadn't followed the girl I don't know how much of this would have opened up like it did.

AK: Tell us about CHURCH.  How did that start? 

MdCL: I always wanted to start a club night in LA, and this is great because it's a curated club night. I guess it's like a live story of my musical journey. It starts with jazz and has a great live feel and ends up transitioning through funk and soul and ends up being this fantastic dancey house party… I love showing people how all of these seemingly disconnected genre's and sub cultures can actually all blend together.  

CHURCH also features a heap of guest MC’s and musicians. Sometimes they are planned and sometimes they are not, we often get people just jumping up in the middle of a set to add to a performance. I remember recently thinking to myself 'wow, that was a great change in tempo' and I turn around and Chris Dave (Adele, Yolanda Adam's) has jumped up behind the kit.  I love it, I love how it tells my story.

it actually started back in the day with Nia Andrews, we found a tiny little venue called Angels and it was on the last Sunday of the month.  That's part of the reason we called it CHURCH, a play on words. But intentionally it also fit what we were aiming for. A bit like the great African American gospel churches we wanted people to know that we were coming together to lift our spirits and to celebrate. In our case that celebration is about music and it's about dance, but we wanted it to be a celebration and we wanted it to be infectious.

AK: What do you love about the Melbourne International Jazz Festival?

MdCL: Its diverse lineup, it really is eclectic. I think festivals like this are helping to show people that jazz isn't just trying to cater to a certain aged demographic, that there is literally something for everyone.

AK: Have you managed to tick anything off your bucket list by any chance?

MdCL: My musical one, absoultely. In terms of people I have wanted to play with I have certainly begun ticking those names off, which is great.  There is a heap more people I'd love to work with and to be honest the list only ever really grows. haha. Non-musically though it's my dream to just go to Bora Bora for like 2 weeks and do nothing, to just be there.

You can catch Mark de Clive Lowe performing with Miguel Atwood Fergusson at the Hifi bar this Saturday night.  Grab your tickets here:

CHURCH events are all being held at The Cave at the Kelvin Club. Saturday June 1, Friday June 7 and Saturday June 8, 10pm - 3am. Entry is free and registration happens here:

@theadamkelly @MdCL

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