TF Archives

Mark Farina interview: Mushroom House

Author: Emma-Louise Tovey
Friday, November 18, 2005

"Things are changing all the time", contemplates Farina in his laidback thick American accent. "I think the reason house has been around so long is that it can adapt all the different genres and still be house. Chicago house could be a minimal track, or a German techno track or it could be a hip hop sample track - or it could be Detroit techno or a filtery type of song, maybe vocal too - it's kind of always changing and it's still house."

"It's just that over the years there are more house terms. There used to just be house, and now there's techno house, electro house, soulful house, acid house..there's just this endless kind of list of all the different types of house that are out there now."

A veteran of the Chicago house scene, Farina began back in the late 1980s DJing on Northwestern college radio with long time friend and acclaimed DJ, Derrick Carter. "I used to do mixes with Derrick on the radio, we'd make it at the house and listen to it on the lake where they filmed 'Risky Business'. We would drive around and listen to 89.3 WNUR." Excited at hearing their mixes and tracks played on the radio, their starring airtime however quickly came to a close when the university changed their policy and only allowed students to DJ on the station. Bet they're kicking themselves now.

Farina is hailed as one of the best American DJs to date, promoting and playing house all over the world. What he's really famous for however, is creating the 'mushroom jazz' genre at the Chicago club he began playing at. "As opposed to competing with the house music being played in the other room I decided to play more mellow stuff that you couldn't really play in the house room". A smooth downtempo sound evolved and with the music's success he opened a club in San Francisco wittingly called Jazzid Up. With the club's rolling success, the first compilation of the 'Mushroom Jazz' series was released in 1996 to a very eager and hungry house crowd. The fifth instalment was released late last year. Farina assures me that the sixth volume is on its way, although he doesn't know when or at what pace, but says he can't see it ending any time soon. "No, I didn't really think it was going to stick around that long", he answers quietly when asked if he thought mushroom jazz would form the cult-following it did. "I just made up some mix tapes and I didn't really think beyond the record store I was working at during that time." That easy for the Chicago born and raised DJ.

"When I started with Derrick Carter, we began playing in Chicago and we would play a gig every now and then on the weekend. We never thought that 10-20 years down the line that we'd still be going on to some great things. At the time we began there wasn't many DJs that were older and had been doing it successfully as a career, I mean Frankie Knuckles was the oldest DJ I knew and Larry Levan and those guys, so I never really thought it would become more than a hobby." Quiet-spoken, almost bordering on mumbling; and very humble, in the background of our conversation his Yorkshire terrier, Pumpkin, barks at his heels. "House is open in terms of creativity, it's just, you know, a groove, soulful and melodic and it's still got oomph to it so it seems like it will stick around for a while."

Farina has travelled all around the world, playing upwards of 300 shows a year to over 300,000 people globally. However, never once do you get the impression he has lost his head in the clouds in the midst of it all. Nobody would blame him if he did; he has endured more than 16 years of the music industry and is still ready for more. "Just playing new music for people regularly, that's the fun part. Just getting new stuff out."

"Chicago DJ style has always had an emphasis on the mix just as much as what you were playing. Growing up in Ch