Tokyo Project: Turning Japanese
Friday, 7 April 2006
The name Mark Doyle won't be familiar to some house heads, let alone the scene's fashionistas, but, as the mastermind of Hed Kandi, he's exerted his influence over dancefloors worldwide.
Indeed, Doyle was broadcasting on London's Jazz FM when around 1999 he came up with the idea of releasing spin-off compilations - hence the formation of Hed Kandi - but things began to change when the Guardian Media Group bought the station and with it the successful label. The DJ eventually resolved to split and start his own venture - and, as such, he's now developing Tokyo Project. Meanwhile, Hed Kandi has been sold off to Ministry of Sound. Today Doyle admits that he sought to buy out Hed Kandi himself, but the price was too high.
"I never owned it - that was the problem," he says. "Hed Kandi was a company that I dreamt up while I was working for another company and that company owned it. "I was pure and simply an employee of that company and, over seven years and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, running a company, at some point you've gotta say, 'Well, can I have a bit of this, please-' - or shall I go and do it myself- The 'Can I have a bit-' option was not open to me at all. I think you have to decide whether you're just gonna stay that way for the rest of your life and work for someone else and potentially, at any point, be sold to another party and have to go along with that party as well, or whether you go out and do it independently."
It's been suggested that Doyle was increasingly pressured to follow his bosses' commercial edicts, but he refutes that. "At no point can I ever say that I was told what to do with the content of Hed Kandi and I think probably towards the end of Hed Kandi I got a little lazy," he says candidly. "So creatively was I curbed by anybody- No. I was probably more creatively curbed by myself becoming slightly numb to the whole thing."
Ask Doyle how he imagines Hed Kandi will fare without him and, again, he's diplomatic. "The other realisation that I had was that the brand was bigger than the individual at the end of the day. Hed Kandi has turned into a phenomenon and, to some extent, another reason I wanted to leave was it was getting so big and uncontrollable that you kinda start doing things for what you think the brand should deliver, rather than doing what you think you should do.
"Ministry is probably a very good place for it to be, for what it is now. I think it'll be down to them to decide how it's gonna work. They're the only people who can make the decision about that now and, if they stick to the formula, then it's got a life, as far as I'm concerned. There's room for everyone in the dance market - and I am trying to be completely politically-correct [laughs].
"So, if they keep Hed Kandi in its space, then I think they'll do very well out of it and people will still like it - I don't think they'll be that worried that it's Ministry that owns it... Or [Ministry] might choose to make it much more commercial, in which case they'll open it up to a lot more people - and that also might be a good thing. I'm quite happy 'cause we can slot ourselves into the gap that they might move it out of.
"I've made my peace with Hed Kandi and kissed it good-bye several months ago, so it can go off now."
If the gregarious Doyle is at all resentful over the time he spent consolidating Hed Kandi, then he does a good job of concealing it - or maybe he's just more excited about Tokyo Project and his future ambitions. He's happy to be in control of his destiny. The DJ has christened his latest concern after one of the world's most happening clubbing destinations - although traditionally Tokyo is perceived as more of a techno city than house - and explains that the concept originated from "a complete obsession with everything Japanese."
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