Hello, yep, I am 563, also known as Mark 563 by some, or just Mark by others. Yeah, I currently live in Hammersmith. Iíve been living in West London for the past 4 and half years, but am originally from Camberley in Surrey.
The name was kind of an accident, and youíre right, it was something I needed to come up with on the spot. Basically, when I was at university, I was also a writer. I wrote ĎEraisí, and was part of a small crew called ĎFull Contactí and often threw up ĎEFCí. We used to get up quite a bit locally, which included hitting the unií campus. So, anyway, the Entertainment Manager at my unií bar knew I was a bedroom DJ, and asked me to play down at the student union bar, which of course I accepted. So he asked what my DJ name was, and I knew I couldnít say ĎDJ Eraisí or ĎDJ EFCí, as Iíd get booted out of university, so I came up with Ď563í, which is just the numerical values of ĎEFCí in the alphabet.
How old are you?
I am, I be 27.
So you can only have been into Hip Hop for about 15 years, what was it that made you turn to Hip Hop? What would you bump in your walkman?
I got into Hip Hop towards the end of the eighties. It was pretty much the likes of the Juice Crew, the Native Tongues and Public Enemy that got me really hooked. Iíd been aware of Rap through some of the stuff my cousin used to play me a bit earlier in the eighties and had a bunch of tapes Iíd dubbed off of him, but it was really ď3 Feet high & RisingĒ that got me properly into it.
Can you remember the things that were going off Hip Hop wise in your area at that time?
Ha ha, for me, it was real dry in Camberley. I mean, I only knew a handful of folks there that were into Hip Hop, so weíd trade tapes and stuff, but there wasnít any jams going on in my area. There wasnít even any writing going on either. I found myself kind of sourcing Hip Hop off my own back, travelling up to London and stuff like that.
Were you initially a graf writer? Why did you like graf and what eventually made you stop that side of things?
Yeah, I used to write, but never on a big scale. I remember some kid in my class at school selling me his copy of ĎSpraycan Artí for my dinner money, and being totally in awe of what I saw.
I was always into drawing big time, so I just kind of got hooked on the whole graffí thing, filling all my school exercise books with sketches, and eventually taking it the next level, and going out bombing.
I kind of got more active when I went to unií, where I hooked up with Tizer (ID) and Pesky (FTK), and weíd just go out bombing, hitting tracksides and what not. Those were some wicked times, just going out late at night, pure adrenaline rushes.
I graduated and moved to London to get work. My girlfriend at the time and I moved in together, and I kind of lost the motivation to go out painting at 1 or 2 in the morning in the cold and wet, when I could be warm in bed with my missus, so I basically retired. Although, I still like to paint canvases from time to time, and do a fair amount of graphic design work under the name Erais.
Were there any particular DJs who inspired you, or whom you based your style on?
I canít really think of any particular DJís. Although the guys I used to live with when I was at unií played a huge role in influencing my style. One of them had real eclectic musical tastes, and was quite into his House. I learnt how to mix from him, and I think you can still hear that House style of mixing in what I do, with the smooth blends. The other guy I lived with was a pretty tight Hip Hop DJ, who taught me how to cut.
OK, so to give a bigger perspective are you affiliated with any MCs or are you part of a larger crew or collective?
I have connections with the Receptor Records guys and Musicforheads.
OK, so tell us about Run The Line, I guess that is the umbrella name for any business projects you may have?
Yeah, thatís basically how it works. Itís just a name to associate with all the stuff I do, be it my mix tapes, my radio show, my graphic design work, my illustrations, etc
Most significantly there is the series of Run The Line Mixtapes. How many have you done?
Officially, there have been 3, but only 2 of those were out there in the shops.
Why did you do them? What did you bring to the mixtape game that was different?
I started recording mix tapes, like most DJís do, for myself and my mates, and also to try and get my name out there, you know, get some exposure. I used to just go out to every jam in town with a stack of tapes and hand them out to people who I thought might be able to hook me up at some point. Thatís what happened with the first ďRun The LineĒ tape, and off of that I got some gigs.
From there, I got my tapes out a bit further a field, and into a handful of shops. With each release it seemed to get bigger and better, in terms of recognition and the press I was getting. And by which time, my motivation kind of shifted. I was picking up loads of independent Hip Hop that I wasnít really hearing being played anywhere, so I kind of took it upon myself to try and expose what I thought was dope music.
As well as the ďRun The LineĒ tapes, there has been my ďYoga 4 HealthĒ series of tapes, which are more of the same, musically, but tied in with some yoga vocals.
As for what I bring to the mixtape scene, Iíd probably say itís just the smooth blend of mixes and the tune selection Ė those are the 2 things that seem to get mentioned most frequently whenever people are giving me reviews or personal feedback. Just dope tunes, smoothly mixed together.
How were the tapes received and how many of each edition would you be looking to shift?
I was surprised at how well my tapes were received, to be honest. I got reviews in HHC, Big Smoke, Undercover, Blues & Soul and at a couple of online websites, and they were all positive.
Of the last few tapes Iíve done, I must have shifted about 200 copies of each. Half of those I gave away, and the rest I sold.
Over the course of doing them what tips and techniques have you learned in order to aid you getting out there?
For me, I work out my mixes, which takes forever, then when Iím happy with what Iíve got, Iíll record the mix, then re-record the mix, then re-record it again and again, until I think Iíve found the cleanest, nicest mix. Iíll then put it on my walkman and listen to it all week. If I notice anything thatís really out, Iíll then re-record it. Iím a perfectionist, so the whole process takes ages, but I think itís worth it. I donít want to be putting a product out there that I donít think is good, if you get what Iím saying. That said, Iíve never been 100% happy with any of my mixes.
Iím only really familiar with you as a radio or club DJ. Do you ever do any production many DJs take on that side of things as well?
Nah. I have definitely considered the idea of getting into production, but currently my DJing and graphic design keep me more than busy as it is, let alone working in Mr Bongos every now and again. My time is more than taken up as it is, but who knows what will happen in the future.
Lets now talk about you as a DJ. Did you always know you were going to be a DJ, or did it take a while for you to decide or build up to it?
Well, I kind of fell into DJing by accident really. Iíd been collecting tapes and CDís since the late eighties, and had thousands of them. I was properly addicted to the music and culture. Then in about 1996, just as the whole independent scene was kicking off, I was finding it harder and harder to get the tracks I wanted on CD. Iíd kind of been taken in by the whole Ďvinyl will die out in favour of CDísí scare, so had foolishly opted to buy everything on CD at the time. So, not being able to get the shit I wanted on CD, meant I had to start picking it up on 12Ē. From there, I just got into buying everything on vinyl, and taking it round one of my matesí house to play it on his turntables. I eventually got myself some decks with my student loan and then sold off all my CDís, with the intention of replacing them all on vinyl as and when I saw them.
It just all started from there. Buying records and recording them onto tape to listen to on my walkman, and eventually developing some skills and doing some basic mixed tapes.
What set up did you start out with?
Well, I learnt on my matesí turntables. I forget what he had, but they were some really shitty, second hand belt drive decks. They were knackered. And he had this really old, basic Gemini mixer that leaked sound from the fader and the ups. The whole set up was really ropey, but it did the job.
When I got my student loan, I was really in two minds about which turntables to buy. I had people saying that I should buy something cheap, in case I turned out to be a shit DJ, or if I got bored quickly, and then it wouldnít have cost me much. And I had people telling me to go for 1210ís straight away, as it was an investment, and that if I pursued DJing, Iíd only end up having to buy them at some point anyway.
I ended up opting for the more expensive option, and picked up some Technics 1210ís and a pretty basic Gemini mixer.
Would you agree that starting out on shitty equipment would help a budding DJ learn light touch and stand them in good stead for the future, or would you recommend that they just get on a pro set up from day one?
Well, I think I was kind of lucky really. Not having to invest in any equipment initially, you know. Being able to learn on my matesí shitty set up definitely helped me be light handed. I can see proís and conís of both options to be honest.
So in the relatively short time you have been doing this have you had many different set ups or did you quickly settle on what you liked? Was it a money issue?
I still have the same 1210ís that I first bought. The only things that I have chopped and changed would be mixers and cartridges.
And now I suppose you are using the standard Technics 1210s and a Vestax 05 or 07? So you do anything special to your set up, like have it hamster style, or do something funny with the cartridges in the head shells?
Yeah, I have 1210ís and a Vestax 06. I actually donít have my set up standard like most DJís, as I really struggle to cut with my left hand. I have my turntables next to each other, and the mixer on the left hand side, so I can handle the vinyl on both decks with my right hand.
Do you ever regret choosing to be a DJ Ďcos it is defiantly going to eat all your money, what with constantly buying records and all the equipment you have to buy?
Ha ha. Yeah, I feel that. I donít regret it at all, but it is mad expensive. I mean, Iím always buying records, whether online during the week when Iím at work, or at the weekends when Iím hitting the shops, Iím always hunting for records. I love it, but it costs.
Ok, so how would you best describe your style? Do you edge towards a particular style of scratching/cutting or mixing, or would you say that you donít specialise and try to cover everything?
I like to have real smooth, subtle blends, so the tune edges in without the listener really noticing an obvious change. I guess that goes back to the whole House style DJing I was talking about earlier. And Iíll throw in simple cuts here and there, nothing too over the top. Just trying to let the music do the talking really.
Have you invented/discovered any scratches or special techniques of your own that you have or expect to be credited with? I know when I was DJing I invented everything I did for myself, but someone had already got there first!!
Ha ha. No, not at all. I mean, I personally think my cuts are quite nice and clean, but nothing technical really. I like to keep my scratches clean and basic, but thatís just me.
To get to your level and keep it there do you find yourself practising all the time? How many hours per day would you be at your decks?
Not enough. Iím kind of lazy in that respect. Some days I can get into that zone, and be in the mix for a few hours, and be happy with everything Iím doing. Then, other days I just canít get into it, you know, mixes not sounding right and all that, so Iíll just leave it for a while, do something else, and come back to it afresh another time.
You are one of the DJ's on London's Itch FM. How did you come to be playing on there then?
I feel really blessed to have been given the gig on Itch. The way I got the gig was, I was playing out at Breakin Bread, back in the day when it was at the Jax in Stockwell. Anyway, the venue was packed, and I rocked an early set. After my set, I was approached by the Itch management and they said they really liked my set and said they would be interested in having me DJ on the station. I was given an address and asked to send a tape in, which I did. It all went from there really.
Can you tell us a bit about the station and the set up there? Who are the DJs, when are they on and what do they play (Donít just say Hip Hop!)?
Yeah. Itch has been broadcasting now for 3 and a half years, playing all sorts of Hip Hop. Basically all Hip Hop tastes are catered for in one way or another, with the selection of DJís and hosts we have. If you like your major label / upfront type stuff, youíve got people like Penfold and Biggamanís shows. If you like your older, classic Hip Hop, thereís the Kool Skool show. If you want to check for strictly British Hip Hop, then thereís Disorda with his Suspect Packages show. Or if you want to hear old original breaks, you can check out Breakiní Breadís show, etc. Check out the website for more information on shows and all of that Ė www.itchfm.com.
Thereís a real good mix of stuff on there, that all falls under the Hip Hop umbrella. Itís cool, and all the guys involved are real cool too. Everyone on Itch seems to be really trying hard to get their shows sounding as tight and professional as possible, and the management have worked real hard to get Itch to the level itís at. Itís wicked to be involved in it.
Tell us about your show, what can listeners expect?
I host and DJ the Run The Line Show every Thursday night, between 10PM and Midnight. Basically, itís like an extension of my ďRun The LineĒ and ďYoga 4 HealthĒ mixtapes, in that itís given me a platform to try and give some exposure to new music that I personally feel is often overlooked. Itís just about me playing tunes that Iíd want to hear being played on the radio.
It has been a bit up and down recently, hopefully it can be up more regularly, are there any plans to get some sort of license, or with the dope new website might there be streams on the web?
As far as Iím aware, the online streaming is something the management are looking into, but I donít really know what plans they have for that.
Do you have any idea of how many people might be listening? I don't know how you would measure that...
The only way I can gauge the number of listeners is through personal feedback, really. Like we have the phone in the studio, where listeners can text in or call up, which gives you some indication of the listeners out there. And I get feedback online, the morning after, or if Iím out at clubs or wherever. I guess thatís the only way to really get any idea of the size of my audience.
Do you know how far the signal goes? I live in Dalston and it is sometimes pretty rubbish even there.
Yeah, itís funny, as I gather certain parts of London struggle to pick up the signal, but Iíve had people text in, saying they were in their car in Luton, and even listeners in Guildford too.
Continue on to Part Two