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Sunday roast with Mark Knight and Maxinne

We sat down for a family lunch with Toolroom’s residents at Relish Ibiza.

Que aproveche! Here in Spain, we have paella. Meanwhile, Italy is renowned for being the home of the pizza. The French have their coq au vin, while Germany is known the world over for its bratwurst sausages.

But when it comes to the UK, our national dish can often be a contentious subject amongst fellow Brits. If you asked us personally, we'd have to plump for the traditional Sunday roast every time.

Meat, roast potatoes, two veg, stuffing, Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy. How's that for perfect?

Gathering around the table as a family to tuck into the holy grail of a meal loaded with calories and carefree indulgence. It's a ritual depicted at countless dining rooms across our nation on any given Sunday. One we especially miss during the summer months.

That's not to say we don't love Mediterranean cuisine. We would be more than happy spending our time on Ibiza eating around the gastronomical delights the island has to offer. Yet every so often we do get a craving for the most British of home comforts.

All part of the reason we jumped at the opportunity of Toolroom's invitation to sit down to Sunday lunch with its resident DJs, Mark Knight and Maxinne.

Eden's Sunday night promoters from the UK know all about the importance of family and therefore the importance of the family meal.

Last weekend, we joined them at the table at Relish Ibiza to eat well and discuss unearthing new talent, the label's family philosophy and the season so far.

Cosy in, pass the salt and pepper, say grace and let's enjoy the pinnacle of family mealtimes.

For the sake of reflection, let's just reminisce and talk about the last time Toolroom had a weekly presence on the island. It was several years ago now if we recall correctly?

Mark Knight (MK): “It was 2013 and we were again at Eden, back when our party was called Toolroom Knights. We were the first brand to go back to Eden after the Dutch takeover and refurb. Initially, it was amazing.

So fuckin' good. We loved it. It was probably the best Ibiza season I've ever had.

We'd done Toolroom parties at Space for several years prior to that. And I thought it was better than that. It felt new and exciting. It was like we really had a free-reign to build something from scratch.

When you hold a residency at some of the bigger clubs, it can sometimes be about the club more than what you're doing in it. After Space, it just felt like a very different set of rules and the way it operated, which was great.

We were very much looking forward to going back the next year. That (2014) was the year that Gatecrasher bought the license - and then everything went belly-up."

MK: "I invested tens of thousands of my own money getting the season ready. But the situation just became so untenable before the season had even started, we had to pull the plug. The writing was on the wall. It was just a nightmare.

As much as it pained me to lose all of that money, you could just tell that we didn't want to have any part of that sinking ship. So we made the difficult decision to walk away, and we haven't really been back since with a weekly presence until now.”

During that hiatus, what do you think has changed on Ibiza?

MK: “I think what's apparent is that year-on-year, this island is losing a volume of clubbers who used to come here. The demographic is changing.

When you're trying to build something from scratch at a venue that requires numbers through the door to work, it's difficult to get that going. The landscape is constantly evolving. I've been coming here since 1989, so I know the scene pretty much inside out.

That mass of people that used to fill these massive venues is on the wane. Privilege 10,000 people. Amnesia - half of that, but still massive. In many respects, they're too big."

MK: "It's been like starting afresh, really. Having not been here for a while, trying to build something new in an environment that requires a lot of people - it's tough. It really is. But we're happy that it's gone as well as we could have expected. We're holding our own.

But I'm not going to sit here and lie, it's not all roses out there. There's an insane amount of competition every night.”

Especially on Sundays this year. Four UK promoters, plus a big puller in Solomun. What would you say is Toolroom's niche amid all that noise?

Maxinne (MG): “What I love about Toolroom is that when you go to an event there are people flying in from all over.

Not just here on Ibiza, but at Toolroom parties all over the world. Just this past Sunday, there was a couple from Austria who had been following the label for years. And they're not alone."

MG: "They're passionate too. They know the music, the sound of the label, the back catalogue - and the producers too. I think Toolroom as a brand has a really strong musical identity and that's really reflective in the audience we attract.

You can tell in the booth. As soon as me or any of the other DJs playing drop a Toolroom track, the reaction on the dance floor says it all.”

Reaching for the lasers at Eden on Sundays.

MK: “Yeah, exactly. Look, Toolroom has never been 'on trend.' A lot of brands arrive on the island, they're the big 'in' thing, it lasts for two or three years and then they disappear. We're not a flash in the pan. We're a business that's approaching two decades.

We have a die-hard, global following that travels to attend our events. We're international, in that respect. So actually, we're consciously trying to steer away from that fight of the UK crowd - that's not what we're about. In actual fact, the strongest territory for us is the USA.

Maxinne mentioned Austria, but we've had people fly in especially from Boston as well. It's incredible - and humbling - to know we have that pull."

MK: "The other thing we do at our events is replicate the brand and our values. We're not just going to book a fuck load of headliners. What we do as a recording business is totally mirrored as an events business. There's continuity in what we do.

Right the way through, there's no disparity there. There are other labels that throw events who book acts completely unassociated with their brand. It's not the backbone of their musical output.”

Let's talk about the line-ups a little bit. For starters, Mark, you're not playing every week. I think you're down for just over half of the dates in total. Maxinne, of course, every week as the resident.

The other thing that stands out, is that you're clearly investing and putting faith in emerging talent.

MK: “Maxinne is the biggest example of a young artist we've developed and pushed through the ranks ourselves. We believe in the people we work with - and we believe in her 100%. We put the money where our mouth is and give them every opportunity we can offer.

That's what our business is about. The strapline is 'Sundays are for family,' that's not just some marketing motto we made up. Toolroom is a family business. Me, my brother and our Dad. That ethos seeps through the business."

A family affair: friends reunited in the booth.

MK: "If we invite you to come on board, that's exactly what it means. We're a family on every level. Internally and all the way down to how we interact with our fanbase. It's just how we operate. If we face challenges, we do it together as a team.

Look at our line-ups, they're completely different to everybody else's. We're not fighting for the same 15 headliners that everybody else is. This is what we do as a brand, this is what we stand for.”

This past weekend was a classic example. Eli Brown, GW Harrison, Alisha and Maxinne, with Danny Howard adding a touch of experience. I'm not sure there's any other party on Ibiza that shows that commitment to homegrown talent.

MK: “No, and that's what we're about. We're authentic in that respect. If you release on our label, then we're going to book you at our events. I mean, why wouldn't we?

If you look back through history, the strongest brands in the music business - Motown being the biggest, most obvious example - they reproduced everything they did at the label when they threw a showcase. They had a roster, a family, of artists.

That was who they were and that's what they did.”

Alisha - another of Toolroom's in house talents - rocks Eden's dance floor.

Last summer we spoke about Toolroom's presence at the various conferences worldwide and the live A&R feedback sessions, and it came back to Toolroom being the down to earth, approachable label.

We suppose it's that same philosophy that made you commit to the beach clean-up here in San Antonio last week?

MG: “The feedback we got was really positive. I met people who attended Eden later that night who said they'd gotten involved in the clean-up. They were so chuffed because they got to meet Weiss, then they got rewarded with a VIP upgrade.

They were just made up to be involved and get that treatment. It was small gestures for doing something beneficial for the town and the island. It comes back to being approachable. That's exactly the vibe I got before I even became part of the set-up."

The Toolroom team and fans cleaned up S'Arenal beach in front of Tulp Beach Café.

MG: "I attended a Toolroom Academy event in Brighton, near to where I'm from. It was about three years ago and the first time I'd met anybody from Toolroom face to face. At that time, I'd been DJing for several years but had only just started getting into production.

That encounter was the start of my production journey, really. Because they were so welcoming. That really encouraged me and settled my nerves. Without that personability, it would've been more daunting.

Toolroom is able to develop its own talent that others might overlook, and that gives it an advantage. I know it's really helped me and aided my career.”

From rising talent to bonafide superstars - let's talk about Jack Back, otherwise known as David Guetta. Can you tell us about how you got him on the label?

MK: “Well I've known David for years. I think Toolroom is the only house label who have released a David Guetta track under the artist name 'David Guetta' - back in 2009.

In fact, we worked together on the Black Eyed Peas project (both have production credits on 2009's The E.N.D.) which we helped produce in a pop context. But we've just been mates for years.

He hit me up and told me about the Jack Back business - and, of course, we were definitely interested. I helped him put together the idea of the Cevin Fisher record, but that's A&R - that's what I do. Seeing potential collaboration and getting individuals together on projects.

He's a really cool guy. He gets it. He's just chilled.”

Jack's Back! David Guetta playing at Eden under his housier moniker in June.

We think it's been understated about how colossal it was bringing David (as Jack Back) to Eden earlier this summer. That was huge for the town and the clubbing community here.

MK: “I don't think he's ever played here before. Maybe he did for Pete Tong back in the day, but certainly not in the last ten years. That underlines just how cool he is.

David came and played for us at Eden because we'd swapped remixes - it was a favour.

Very few people in the industry have anything bad to say about the guy. And he's gonna do some more shows with us as Jack Back.”

Yeah, we saw that he's just been announced as your headliner for Studio 338 in London. That's gonna be some party, with Jack Back on that terrace.

MK: “You know what, he's easier to book that a lot of the B-list talent who are under complete delusions of grandeur. Some are under the impression they are absolute superstars, and you have to jump through hoops in order to book them.

He has the right mentality. He's not hard work and he's not a diva. He's totally sound - and that's why he connects so well with people.”

The Jack Back date was huge, of course. Looking at the remainder of the programme, are there any dates that stand out as highlights?

MK: “I've only got two more shows left myself, but obviously the closing party always stands out for obvious reasons. Closing parties are a highlight every year. You can always bank on them being good.”

MG: “Every week has been a highlight for me. Sometimes there are artists on the line-ups I've not even met before they come to play. It's been amazing to have variation each week and meet people I've looked up to for a while or can put a face to the name.

Especially when they're due to come back later in the summer, and when you catch up it feels like being reunited with an old friend. In that respect, it's been great to broaden my network of people in the industry - which goes back to that family values.

The 25 August date next week is one that stands out to me, simply because there's a lot of talent on the line-up. Those parties are particularly special because it feels like everybody is together.”

MK: “Exactly. Everybody plays back-to-back, nobody has an ego - that's the way it should be. Again, the family mentality resonating through everything we do.”

Back-to-back magic.

Let's move onto the label itself. This summer, like every other summer I care to remember, Toolroom has had a volley of release after release. A number of potential candidates for summer anthem.

What is it you look for when procuring a Toolroom track?

MK: “First and foremost, it has to have a certain degree of production quality. That's paramount, you know? We have a standard. And then, I always look for records with hooks."

Something that's going to stand the test of time. Something you could play in ten years time and the consensus being that it still sounds good.”

MG: “The melody or the vocals have to be memorable.”

MK: “That's it. Records that fit that criteria where people walk into a record shop and go 'have you got that track that goes da da daa.' Is it one of those? You can still do that in a credible way.

That's the line we try to straddle: records that are big enough to have that appeal, yet credible enough to fit in with what we do. In this day and age, there's too much emphasis on commercial and underground. Let's just fuckin' worry about whether it's any good.”

MG: “Is it going to work in the club or the radio?”

MK: “Yeah. Those two words 'underground' and 'commercial' - they're so subjective. I mean, look at the Chemical Brothers. They're probably as commercial as you can get in dance music terms.

They can sell out 100,000 capacity stadiums. But you'd never say they're not underground. And they don't worry about being either. They just worry about being good. That's their manifesto. Our objective is the same.

When we sign records, that's the mantra we try to stick to. They should have all of those attributes.”

Maxinne, you yourself have had a couple of releases already this year on Toolroom and sister-label Toolroom Trax. Can we ask if there's any one-on-one mentorship between yourselves?

MG: “On a production level, absolutely. Mark has given me loads of feedback on my production techniques. I'll send him a track I'm working on and he'll test it out, tell me if he thinks anything needs changing.”

MK: “I don't generally have to say a lot, to be fair! No, I really don't. You've got it covered.”

MG: “The great thing about Toolroom and this philosophy is that everybody who works in the office is involved. Everybody works together. When a demo is received, it gets played to everybody and everybody gets to have their input. It's like an open forum.

If the general consensus is that it's a great track, chances are it's getting signed.”

MK: “That's exactly it. You know, it's not just me. That's what we're trying to put across with this year's line-ups as well. Toolroom is more than Mark Knight. That's precisely why I'm not doing every show. I could easily have done all of them. But it isn't about me.

We're a collective. A family. It's not Mark Knight, it's Toolroom. The residency is a platform for everyone and for everyone to feel equal and on parity.”

Flipping that question on its head, Mark, is there anything you have learned from Maxinne and the other youngsters on the roster?

MK: “We connect with people of the same mindset. I don't want to do a job that I love and then have to work with a bunch of wankers. If I wanted to do that, I'd go to work in a bank.

The talent we've booked, we've done so because they're on our wavelength. When we do these gigs, it's like partying with all your mates. It genuinely feels like that. No egos, no bullshit.

What I do love is listening to other people play. What records they're playing, the way they build their sets. When you're a DJ, you never lose that hunger to discover new music.

To answer the question, yeah, it's great to get the youngster's perspective of what the 'Toolroom sound' is because of course, it's not only Toolroom records that are getting played.

What music they feel fits within the remit of the party- it's a great way for me to grow, even several decades into the business. All that new music, it filters through to our own parameters.”

I also wanted to ask you about the #WEARELISTENING campaign - the directive that Toolroom has implemented to help unearth more female producers.

MG: “It was a few years ago, Toolroom's community manager posted on socials, encouraging female producers to submit demos on International Women's Day. So I did, and I actually got really helpful feedback from the A&R team. It inspired me to keep going.

Six months, maybe a year later, Toolroom officially announced the #WEARELISTENING initiative. I've attended all of them with the exception of one, but they've all been amazing."

MG: "Not only do you get to meet all of the Toolroom crew, but you do production sessions with Ben Remember, Leftwing:Kody went over their Milkshake remix - deconstructing it all. It's just a great platform for encouraging emerging talent. It's a great opportunity.”

What we've noticed is that it's almost like a support group. Women empowering each other, it isn't something we see in society enough - let alone the music business.

MG: “The group is really supportive of each other. It's been a pleasure to be involved.”

MK: “Absolutely. I just wish what we see there would spread further and translate to other areas of the industry."

Maxinne with the rest of the Toolroom Academy.

MK: "We tried to put on an all-female line-up this season. But could we get everyone to play together? It was a real shame. It's right to say that it's a male-dominated industry, that it's not a fair playing field, which is why it's so important for women to stick together.

If you want to show growth and progression within that, you have to drop your ego a little bit. At the beginning of the year when we were trying to make that happen, we couldn't believe the fight we had. It was nuts. We were pulling our hair out.

We tried hard to organise it, but people put a barrier up at the suggestion. 'I'm not playing if she's playing.' It was disheartening to hear. Hopefully, our efforts can encourage a change in mindset. We need to stick together.”

That is disheartening to hear. Let's end on a positive, as we enter the second half of summer, are there any lessons you've both learned from this year's campaign?

MG: “For me, it's been the opportunity to play every week. This is my third summer and it's always been a dream for me to have a residency at one of the top clubs. Personally, that experience has been invaluable. It's helped me grow as a DJ.

Maybe I'll play an opening set, sometimes I'll get a closing set and last week I played the peak time set. It's made me a better DJ. I've honed my craft this summer.”

MK: “I've learned that getting the 23:30 flight home is far more palatable than the 09:30 (!) That's been the standout lesson for me. Usually, I'm in and out super quick. Madness.

This year, my boy is a little bit older and he's been wanting to spend his summer holidays hanging out with his mates, so I've opted for the 23:30. It's been a game-changer.”

Having talked enough, we had worked up an insatiable appetite. Fortunately, the kitchen staff at Relish had timed our dinner to perfection. There was nothing left to do, but tuck in and savour every last mouthful.

Roast dinner is served at Relish Ibiza on Sundays from 13:00 until it runs out. Booking highly recommended. Lamb shank, pork belly, beef rump, chicken breast and vegetarian Wellington all available subject to availability.

TEL: +34 971 345 913

Read about our recent visit here.

PHOTOGRAPHY | by Michael Tomlinson

Mark Knight is back at Toolroom on Sundays at Eden on 15 September and the closing party on 22 September.

You can find Maxinne playing each and every week from now until the closing.

Next up is the mammoth 25 August date that also includes Leftwing:Kody, Friend Within, Illyus & Barrientos, Jesse Perez, Dale Howard, Tuff London, GW Harrison and many more.

The Sunday game plan is simple: roast dinner at Relish in the evening, followed by Toolroom at Eden later on. It might just be the perfect Sunday. Remember Sundays Are For Family.

Tickets for all remaining shows and the line-ups can be viewed below.

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