SoberPunks Interview: Legendary Techno DJ Mark EG

Until recently I knew very little of Mark EG:

  1. He’s a DJ that makes ferociously POUNDING tunes
  2. He’s from Leeds (oi oi! Up the northerners! Etc…)
  3. Looks like a fucking possessed nutter behind the decks

In years gone by I’ve occasionally found myself, in various states of inebriation, staggering around dancefloors at his shows whilst dribbling into my pint. This has definitely happened in Leeds, definitely in London, and potentially at a club in Liverpool. I’m not sure why I’ve only seen him in places that start with L.

A few weeks ago a mate brought it to my attention that Mark EG, a man with a reputation for Aving it LARGE m8, was seven months sober. Having also spent a considerable amount of my adult life getting spangled at crazy shows, something inside me went ‘Ping! HolyfuckingshitJonyoushouldtotallyinterviewthisguyforyourshittyblog!’ and so I wazzed him a message, and was pleasantly surprised to find this gurning turntable anarchist to be a lovely, personable, and very well-read chap who is excited about his new sobriety, and very keen to talk about it. Result!

Cheers Mark for agreeing to chat to SoberPunks. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your music?

So yeah, I’ve been DJing for about 25-30 years all over the world as my full time occupation and also produce music. I’ve run record labels, magazines and music stores along the way and in the last five years I’ve also started my own music school. My roots in this are early electro/acid/techno/house from the early 80’s, but I’m probably more known over the years for playing techno and hard trance. These days, I’m so open minded musically that I get inspiration from most styles of music, as long as it’s unique and interesting. To be honest I’m simply someone who managed to make a life out of a total passion and love for music. I still pinch myself some days being able to do this.

How did you become addicted to the ol’ disco-juice?

I think my main issue with addiction began with smoking at a very early age. I then tried alcohol, weed, then it just kept going on to acid, ecstasy, speed (it all made the music sound incredible) until I found myself sat smoking something a lot worse backstage at a gig in Canada at the turn of the millennium. That was the beginning of the end of ‘hard drugs’ for me. I kicked them all fifteen years ago, including weed.

You see the weird thing was, I had a very good education. In fact I’m very very grateful for it. Knowing me when I was young, you wouldn’t have expected me to even start on this path. But my education is quite possibly one of the things that, in the end, saved me. Most times I’d be the one that didn’t take as much as everyone else, just ‘going with those around me’. Looking back I suppose it was a need to ‘fit in’. When I stopped taking hard drugs, I became proud of the fact I was one of the small percentage in the club totally straight. And probably the person going the most nuts to the music. It became who I was and it defined me. But unfortunately, the problem transferred to alcohol.

I’m extremely professional in my DJ life, and even when I was doing hard drugs, I would never ever take them until I’d finished DJing. Alcohol for me was something I’d do at home or out with close friends. I’d never drink if I was playing in the UK because 99% of the time I’d be driving, but if I was abroad, it was not unusual for me to be completely drunk at 9am stepping back on a plane to the UK.

How long ago did you make the decision to go sober, and why? Any bumps along the way?

It’s quite a long story but I came to seriously resent being controlled by alcohol. The older I’ve got in my life, I have really got to appreciate how lucky I am to be doing something I love with a passion. There are people who never find their passion. Alcohol was getting in the way of what I was so lucky to be doing. I’d struggle to focus in the morning and the evening I’d find myself thinking about nipping down to the supermarket after being in the studio. Then I’d be up until 4am with an intoxicated brain thinking I was making the best music in the world, but really not focusing on understanding or improving my artform. There are other reasons, but music was one of the main decisions for me to call it a day.

As far as bumps go – NONE. I suppose my education has taught me that if you want to do something well you must study and learn. That’s exactly what I did. I researched heavily into what alcohol does to your brain. I scared myself senseless realising what this horrible addiction does and how it controls you, no matter who you are. We’re just all at different stages of the trap. I must have downloaded 10-20 books on giving up alcohol but settled upon one that I liked (by Allen Carr ‘The Easy Way to Control Alcohol’) and learnt it like the back of my hand. I stuck notes up throughout the house. I consumed myself with it all for over 2 months. I finally realised I had been sucked into this massive con since my very first drop as a kid and started to hate what it had done to me. I was so excited to stop so for my final drink I bought a bottle of vodka, downed it neat and kissed the whole nightmare goodbye. What a brilliant day that was!

Does working as a DJ make you more susceptible to alcohol problems? How do you think your job in the music industry has affected you personally where booze is concerned?

I never let alcohol or any drugs come in the way of doing my actual ‘DJ’ job. I think in the 90’s I did a few sets on drugs and quickly realised that I needed to be great at all times. I couldn’t afford for my mind to be affected in any way whilst doing a job that people paid me to do. But the moment that last record was on, drugs and alcohol is all around you. Pretty much 90% of DJ’s I see play have an alcoholic drink of some kind in their hand. I lost my licence through drink driving in the mid 90’s (after a gig) and the hell I went through getting to gigs that year meant I was not going down that road again. So as long as I wasn’t driving then I would absolutely ‘join in the fun’ and due to my anarchic nature and slight nuttiness (lol), would more often than not be the last one standing, unable to put a sentence together.

As far as being the studio during the week goes, I suddenly came to realise I was starting to do the same thing. Now with 24hr drinking laws and supermarkets selling cheap drink, it’s just as easy to surround yourself with alcohol if you so choose in any environment, not just clubs. So whereas I had a golden rule to never drink whilst on the decks performing, it didn’t occur to me that I was throwing that rule out of the window in the studio late at night. When it hit me, I knew I had a problem. That won’t happen again. I’m done with it.

Mark_EG_Anarchy

Mark EG providing the entertainment at a toddlers birthday party in Morley yesterday

If nothing else, our years of boozing can give us some awesome stories. Tell us about some of the stuff you’ve done, or witnessed. Give us the gory details.

Well yes I have more stories than hot dinners. Alcohol removes fear so you find yourself in places and situation you wouldn’t dream of being in without it! Again, I’m an anarchic person deep down, so that didn’t help. I remember once I was DJing at an event in Canada. A group of people invited me back to their flat. Of course I obliged and took my records with me. I should have realised something was up after the sixth hour of me being completely annihilated on Jack Daniels on the decks and a couple came up and started trying to fiddle with my private parts. I simply laughed, put my head down and started mixing. But next time I looked up the whole flat was full of people completely naked having sex. The state I was in I couldn’t see my manhood, let alone put it anywhere, so I made my excuses to nip to the toilet. I put on a mix album, grabbed my records and headed for the door. But they’d locked it. I quickly went to the toilet to gather my thoughts and found the key hidden behind the loo. At that point I exited the building, never to return. God knows how I got back to the hotel that morning.

If someone came to you and asked you for your number 1 tip for staying on the wagon, what would you tell ’em?

Do what I did. Do your homework before you even stop. Research, learn and understand. Even to this day I have the important quotes I made from that on my phone, just to remind me. I’m not in the slightest bit tempted and can’t see myself tempted again, but if I ever am, I want to be prepared.

How has quitting the booze affected you, both as a DJ and in your normal life?

It was never really an issue for me in the moment of performing (as I said I never used to drink at all at that point) but I’m absolutely more focused than I ever was. I’m naturally a positive person, but my positive thoughts are now even stronger. Whereas before I might worry about certain things, I don’t consume myself with worry anymore. I deal with things better and move on. I get stuff done. I find myself analysing my life and removing anything bad. I wake up a lot earlier than I used to and I don’t find myself pointlessly tweaking a hi hat sound at 3am in the morning.

Stats tell us that kids these days are drinking less. Why do you reckon this is?

I’m not sure that’s the case, especially in the UK. You only have to look at town centres on a Friday or Saturday to realise this. Nothing has ‘suddenly’ got better. Just look at the office of national statistics website: 2016/17 there were 337 thousand estimated admissions where the main reason for admission to hospital was attributable to alcohol. This is 1% lower than 2015/16 and 17% higher than 2006/07. You tell me what that says to you? 10 years ago, Tony Blair said that 24 hour drinking would put us ‘in line with Europe’ and solve all our problems. It hasn’t. It’s only made it worse. Don’t listen to the headlines, make your own judgement and choose what is best for your life, not others.

Anything else you want to tell us?

Yeah. If you think you have a problem and you ABSOLUTELY want to do something about it, this is a great book: Allen Carr ‘The Easy Way to Control Alcohol’. Good luck everyone x

Cheers to Mark for agreeing to be interviewed by SoberPunks. It’s inspiring to know that some of the most active people in some of the craziest music scenes out there are, in fact, doing it with a clear head and an eye on their health. Proof that there ain’t nuffin more punk than sobriety. Check out Mark’s website here, and his Facebook page here.

Double bro-fists,

Jonathan

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