DJ Mark Farina brings his lo-fi hip-hop style to Houston
DJ Mark Farina
Photo: Courtesy of Mark Farina
As someone who has already done a 9 1/2 hour set in Japan, Mark Farina says he can still go the distance, even at the ripe old age of 53.
However, the veteran disc jockey and globetrotter says that many places these days aren’t legally open that long to pull off such a feat. “I always like to play long,” Farina says, on the phone from her home in Dallas. “Sometimes I always do an open-to-close set. But, sometimes the opening to closing is just 9 to 2 – a set of five hours – or even, like, 10 to 2.”
But Farina admits marathon sets can make a DJ want a good night’s rest. “It’s a good thing to fall asleep sometimes before 3 or 4 in the morning,” he says. “That has its advantages too, but playing for a long time is also fun.”
With over three decades of records under his belt, Farina is essentially an old statesman in the world of electronic dance music. He was born and raised in Chicago, one of the meccas of EDM in the United States. In the late ’80s, he and his former roommate (and Chicago house godfather) Derrick Carter would throw parties where they would spin house music until sunrise. In the early 90s, Farina moved to San Francisco, where he started a weekly lounge party, called Mushroom Jazz, in 1992.
This eventually led him to create the “Mushroom Jazz” series, a collection of mixes in which Farina blends hip-hop, house, jazz and other genres into a funky, downtempo collage. Farina hasn’t released a “Mushroom” collection since 2016. Since this year marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Mushroom Jazz party, are there any plans for another?
When: 8:30 p.m. Sept.
Where: Last Coffee Concert
Details: $20 in advance, $26 at the door; 713-226-8563; lastconcert.com
“It’s still in the works, but I’m just trying to think of a different angle to finish the next volume,” he says.
Farina wants to collaborate with artists this time around, instead of licensing previously released music. “Obviously you want to do something special for him and not just a mix of other people’s music. So we’ll see what happens.
Although he posts mixes on his SoundCloud page and even does periodic live mixes for Defected Records, he misses the good old days of CD and vinyl mixes. “I mean, there’s nothing like getting a good free promotion in the mail – like a physical copy,” he says. “[Getting digital mixes] does not touch quite the same thing. I mean, I’m grateful to have digital promos, which is how everything is sent these days. But there’s something about, you know, going to your mailbox in the morning and pulling out a file.
Farina has found her Mushroom Jazz sound to still be popular – it’s just under a different name. “Like, all lo-fi hip-hop, for me, kind of stems from a lot of the early Mushroom Jazz stuff,” he says. “Younger people call it lo-fi hip-hop or lo-fi house or whatever, you know. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve been doing since ‘Mushroom Jazz 1’.
Every time Farina steps out and performs (as he will in Houston this Friday at the Last Concert Cafe), he is greeted with the utmost reverence and respect by his peers and fans, young and old alike. “I see new faces coming into my business all the time,” he says. “Like, always in every city, the older DJs – maybe they haven’t been playing as long as I have – they grew up listening to me at the club. For example, someone will come and say that I became a DJ by listening to a tape or a mix. I always like to hear things like that.
He even asked parents to bring their children to his shows. “In Atlanta,” he recalled, “a guy who had been listening to me since the 90s and going out for rave days got his son to hear me for the first time.”
As the father of a 12-year-old son, Farina enjoys seeing parents point their children in the right direction. He says, “I’m introducing my style to a whole new generation via, you know, club-going parents.”