- 14 Jun 23
Internationally renowned DJ and producer MK is one of the highlights on this year’s star-studded Longitude line-up. He talks Belters Only, Calvin Harris, and playing Ireland...
Summer has officially arrived for MK. The day after our conversation, the Detroit-born dance icon will have left his base in Los Angeles for Ibiza, to kick off a major residency with Calvin Harris. The legendary DJs are once again bringing what’s been dubbed “the biggest party on the island” to one of Ibiza’s most celebrated clubs, Ushuaïa, every Friday until late August.
Luckily for Irish fans, you don’t have to journey all the way to the Balearic Sea to catch MK and Calvin in action – with both acts lined up for major sets at Longitude.
“I’ve always respected Calvin,” MK, also known as Marc Kinchen, tells me. “I’ve loved him since he first came out. Obviously now we play a lot together, so we became really good friends. He’s just amazing, period.
“It was really fun last year, playing Ushuaïa with Calvin,” he adds. “Everyone’s into it, from start to finish. Even after I played, my friends and I would go out into the crowd, to just hang out and watch Calvin play – every week.”
Of course, Harris selected the shape-shifting, chart-topping producer and DJ as his guest for the Ibiza residency for good reason.
With over one billion global streams under his belt, MK’s iconic remixes have included the likes of Nightcrawlers’ ‘Push The Feeling On’, Wankelmut and Emma Louise’s ‘My Head Is A Jungle’, and Storm Queen’s ‘Look Right Through’, with which topped the UK Singles Chart in 2013.
He’s found notable chart success with his own singles too – from ‘Always’, which hit No.1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart 30 years ago, to his latest release, ‘Rhyme Dust’ with Dom Dolla, which proved a major hit on TikTok.
Having played Ireland multiple times over the years, including his 3Arena headliner in 2022, he tells me that he’s always felt a special connection to audiences on these shores.
“Ireland is my favourite place to play,” he enthuses. “I’ve always said that – so anytime I know I’m playing somewhere there, I’m excited. I’m ready to go.
“Even when I played smaller venues, the crowds have always been really good,” he continues. “It’s the best place to test out new music, because the fans are so great. They’re the most enthusiastic.”
Having that kind of receptive audience in front of you at a show “takes a lot of the stress off you,” he points out.
“Sometimes I play in different countries, and I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe I need a shot or something…’” he resumes. “But when I play here, I’m good to go. I can walk off a plane and just play anywhere.
“This is no stunt, but I’m trying to just show up in a pub with a thumb drive, and play,” he says of his plans for his upcoming Dublin visit. “It’s that much fun.”
He might also get a chance to meet up with Dublin’s own Belters Only, who opened for MK at the 3Arena show, and went on to remix his and Paul Woolford’s 2022 track ‘Teardrops’.
“I just spoke to them the other day,” he says of the Dublin duo. “I like the kids a lot, so it would be good to see them. They’re really good producers – they’re going to be around for a while.
“I tend to gravitate towards the young producers that remind me of myself, when I was younger – or even remind me of the struggle that I went through to do certain things with a certain kind of music,” he adds. “I can relate a little better, and I do with Belters Only. It reminds me of my sound, and what I was trying to do – and how enthusiasticly I was doing certain things.”
During those younger years, when MK relocated from Detroit to New York, he tells me there were influential figures looking out for him too, including Louie Vega, Todd Terry and Kenny Dope.
But the key to MK’s lasting success has been his ability to innovate. At certain times over the course of his career, he’s also produced hip-hop and R&B – working with the likes of Will Smith and Pitbull. Given that background, he’s excited about the array of hip-hop heavy-hitters on the Longitude line-up: “I want to see Ice Spice!” he smiles.
Of course, those various sonic worlds are never too far away. MK’s latest track, ‘Rhyme Dust’, samples hip-hop icon Q-Tip’s 1999 track ‘Breathe And Stop’.
“I love Q-Tip,” MK remarks. “It was a sample, so my manager contacted his manager and publishers – and Q-Tip and I never really spoke before the song was done. But we spoke a month ago for the first time.
“We were like, ‘Q-Tip, we’ve been trying to call you – we wanted you to come out to Coachella!’” he laughs. “And he’s like, ‘What? No one told me! I would’ve loved to come out to Coachella!’ It would’ve been amazing. But who knows, maybe we’ll bring him out for another one of these shows…”
Despite his roots in Detroit and New York, MK notes that his greatest early success consistently came on the other side of the Atlantic.
“I noticed it when I was 17-years-old – because the first record I put out did really well in England,” he notes. “At that time, they were way more open-minded compared to Americans.
“Everyone drives in America, and everyone listens to the radio – and so most Americans are fed whatever’s playing on the radio as what you want to hear,” he continues. “Outside of America, a lot of countries didn’t do that. They got their taste from clubs and doing things they enjoy – and not being forced to hear something while they drive the car. And it kind of stayed like that.”
That being said, he reckons that, “the world is getting glued together a little bit more than it was,” thanks to social media.
“You can put out a song and it could be big in America, England, Ireland and Spain all at the same time, on the same day,” he points out. “Years ago, you had to wait, and let it go through its course.
“When I did ‘Push The Feeling On’ [in 1992], I didn’t even know the success, because I didn’t travel and I didn’t DJ. I just went by what people told me, like, ‘Hey, that record’s good!’ But I had no idea. Which was probably a good thing – kept me focused, I guess!”
Even at this stage in his career – and having hit 50 last year – MK isn’t caught up in bucket list goals.
“My main motivator is when I know I made a good song, and I get to play it out,” he says. “Seeing people with their hands in the air, screaming... That’s all you really want, and it’s all you really need.”
And with MK set to spend the next few months based over in Ibiza, does he reckon there’ll be time for working on new music?
“I’m going to try to,” he tells me. “I’ve been talking to Seth Troxler about doing a project. So we’ll see by September if I’ve finished it – but it’s hard being on a party island trying to make an album!”
• MK plays Longitude on Saturday, July 1
Read the full Longitude Special Feature – featuring interviews with Jazzy, Joel Corry, Multunes, Songer, Fionn Curran and RAYE – in the current issue of Hot Press: