by Nevo D
Nevo D checks in with Mark SPLINTER
The SPLINTER brand has been associated with beatboxing for a long time. How and when did the Splinter reign officially start?
Well, I have been calling myself SPLINTER since 1999, doing visual work for musicians and collaborations with other artists. I work with people like Pete-O-Matic and Jeff Metal to make designs, videos, websites and music. I hope the logo is associated with a lack of bullshit, that is what I aim for. We work hard for each project and we're very practical with our creativity. A lot of people in this industry tell you things "can't be done" so we just work with the people who believe in magic. As for beatboxing, I was working on Kela's website and he had The Permanent Marker coming out, so I needed to infiltrate the online beatbox scene and plant mind-control propaganda everywhere so that kids would love Kela. I googled and went straight to beatboxing.co.uk and joined up. I could see beatboxers were not like MCs or DJs, which was a pleasant surprise. And I could see that they all loved Kela so I had no evil marketing to do, I just chatted with people about eggs and stuff.
Jeff Metal got me into hip hop by giving me Endtroducing so I was already converted, and then I was living with Jeff and he was beatboxing around the house, and you know what it's like, the disease eventually gets you. Now SPLINTER is a record label, design studio, video production house and slightly political think tank. I am relocating to Lithuania because that is where there is most opportunity for creative work right now. It's all about the East.
You have been a member of the Humanbeatbox.com community and moderator of the forums since the beginning. Why has Humanbeatbox.com been important to you and how has it changed over the years?
It is the only online community I have ever been a part of. There is something about shared learning and electronic communication that breaks down barriers, and the site was a place I really loved to be, regardless of beatboxing. I suppose if you are self-employed at home you need some social activity ha ha. Without a community you can't do anything really, I am not a loner, so the site was important in forming my thoughts about the internet and music and my own personality. I don't think the community has changed much, but I can see that under the new ownership things are going to get a lot more organised around here and that is probably for the best if we are to take anything to a higher level. I think the same problem always exists in the UK - people are waiting to be entertained instead of making their own entertainment. Hopefully with the new era there will be more opportunities for people to get involved, like you doing this interview.
What have been your major musical influences and why?
Shit, how long have you got? I believe that there is no original creativity, just remixes and combinations of influences, different instruments and inventions, standing on the shoulders of giants and all that. So you could say everyone in the history of music has influenced me consciously and sub-consciously. If I am forced to pick major influences or artists that I know have redirected my life, they would be DJ Shadow, Kurt Cobain, Damon Albarn, Bjork. I am a nineties boy aren't I. But then you hear the Specials and the Kinks and realise where Blur come from and suddenly you notice that music is a big magical web, not a list of artists.
You have worked with some of the most amazing and famous artists in the UK and Europe, including Killa Kela and DJ Vadim, as well as relatively unkown and underground artists. Who has been your favourite artist to work with and why?
Well I really love Vadim, he is incredible, no bullshit, complete integrity. When he came out to Lithuania he was so professional and friendly I was amazed. It really annoys me when musicians can't get it together to actually do the work, so for me Vadim is the best musician I know on this planet. However, he is about to lose his crown to Arro who is without doubt my favourite person to work with, every minute is fun, polite and productive.
I think "normal people" on the outside think it is all about songs and inspiration and microphone quality, but when you work in the industry it's like any other industry, you need to be good friends with your colleagues or the magic doesn't happen. Aspiring artists should learn this, although their songs might be called "motherf**ker I am the greatest" they will need a little humility backstage. Kela is a good example of this, he can destroy all other beatboxers onstage, but backstage it's like he's round his girlfriend's mum's house for tea and biscuits.
In just a few years, The King of the Jam has become a legendary event. What is King of the Jam and how did it start?
King of the Jam started because I could see all these people talking on beatboxing.co.uk, but nobody was really meeting up in the real world to make music and make the ideas a reality. I knew that nothing would happen until someone set a date, so I set a date, told everyone to go to the park in London and called it King of the Jam. The rules are no electricity, no spectators. We just jam with whoever turns up. At the time I couldn't beatbox at all, but as soon as I saw it for real, in the park, with no bullshit, I was hooked. I think it helps to convince people that they are not freaks, when they see other people spitting it gives them confidence and inspiration.
The best thing about Jam is that figureheads like Arro and Shlomo can all turn up and just join in with kids that only found the site a week before... all sharing vibes and saliva... it's very levelling. And I love it when people win without expecting, it's like turning on a light. Word to the Kings! Most of my work is about rejecting the commoditisation of music and rejecting copyright, so it was perfect for me to organise an event where we could share ideas and influences without paying. That's what Jam is for me, a reminder that music is something we are all supposed to create and share, not something that "musicians" make while "normal people" just buy copies.
I hear that you'd like to take The King of the Jam to other countries and states. Where do you want to take it and why?
My dream is to make a TV show around the world, I want to take it everywhere, especially "non western" countries and places that aren't so dominated by hiphop. It's for the same reason, Jam is about reminding people that we are ALL musicians and it is OK to like more than one genre of music Well if any TV production companies are reading this just get me some plane tickets and I'll get you twelve episodes of amazing music and culture. I am most keen on finding crazy traditional instruments in each destination and incorporating them into the jams.
Tell us about your newly acclaimed 'Splinterland'?
SPLINTERLAND is a magical event. I mean really, when you go to most clubnights, there is nothing there, just a bar and a DJ. It's like people have stopped trying to do events, they just do clubnights. So I wanted to make a special event and spread some love. I wanted people to know that when they go to SPLINTERLAND there will be efforts made to ensure their enjoyment. We even had fake passports and our own national flag. At the first party I bought 250 flowers and suspended them from the ceiling, things like that are essential I think. There was no way I would try that in London, I mean really London died creatively the minute Tony Blair said "cool britannia" and shook Noel Gallagher's hand while drinking champagne and wearing a suit.
So I found Lithuania and out there I wouldn't say it's easy, but the advantage is Lithuanian people come to party, not to spectate. They want fun and variety, not just big name DJs playing the same records every day.DJ Vadim came out to play and of course everyone went mental for each and every record, but in London I have seen him get a lukewarm reception from playing too much reggae or whatever. Londoners are spoiled for choice when it comes to performers, but every venue is slack and obsessed with alcohol revenue, a bad mixture. It's just lazy. SPLINTERLAND might tour the Baltic but I can't see it coming to London. The next SPLINTERLAND will probably be a chillout event, and I also want to get Vadim and Ethan Reid back to Lithuania for a reggae event I am planning called "Jamaican Embassy".
Some people are worried that because of Splinterland, your not going to do King of the Jam anymore. Is this true, and if so, why?
Well you know it is possible to do more than one thing at the same time! At KotJ2004B I joked that it would be the last KotJ ever. The idea is that people make their OWN jams on their OWN initiative, not wait for me to decree a date for jamming! Jam every day! I can't be everywhere. I will definitely have a Baltic Jam, and then I hope to return to London victorious with a TV contract in one hand an a miniDV camera in the other.
You're currently relocating to Lithuania. Tell us about the differences between the UK Hip Hop scene and the Lithuanian Hip Hop Scene?
Well I am interested in more than hiphop but I will tell you anyway. The scene out there is amazingly well educated. Since the arrival of the Internet, they read the same pages we do, so they know the same things and hear the same things. There is a hiphop radio show every Sunday in Vilnius called Gatves Lyga (Street League) which plays all the UK underground stuff and even played some Cutterz Choice drum and bass, so I would say they are starting to get open-minded and not stuck in 1984 New York style like you would expect from a new country.
Big ups to Mantini and all the Gatves Lyga boys, they are doing a good job to promote the artform. The graffiti in Vilnius is really good, there are toys tagging all over the place but there is also a hardcore of stencil artists and stickers, always with a really wicked sense of humour. I think the Banksy thing is worldwide, and in Vilnius they are definitely onto something. I can't wait to get back out there and see what's new, a feeling I never get from London. Out there art is more respected and spiritual than in London, it's not such a "waste of time". And now there are new crews like Fresh Rice Crew starting to define a Lithuanian style rather than copying America, it is set to explode.
I would say the scene is small but growing, and yes there are people who like gun-glamour and pimpin rides, but also they are educated in other forms of music, and unlike London, hiphop is not everywhere in the mainstream. Classic funk and soul is appreciated out there, and I think Jungle and Drum and Bass will be very big in Lithuania, because I still say straight hiphop doesn't make a party, you need other tempos and influences, nobody wants to hear the same stuff all the time.
And Finally, what do you think of cats? Furry cute cuddly friends, or annoying balding beasts from hell?
Well I am allergic to them, and I wouldn't say I really love them, but let's just say I hate dogs. Cats don't shit on the pavement or lick your face. Cats don't depend on you, they are not big stupid lumps of bad breath. If they don't like you, they just leave, they don't eat your sofa. Given the choice of living as a cat, dog or human, I think I would choose cat.
May I take this opportunity to say big up all Humanbeatbox.com massive, keep doing your thing, f**k the majors (except when they pay me) and never restrict your music. Make fashion don't follow it. Come and live in Lithuania, the rent is cheap and the girls are incredible.
"Come and live in Lithuania, the rent is cheap and the girls are incredible."