Mark Knight has released his new album Untold Business. For the new album, Knight went back to his his collection of 70’s and 80’s funk, house, soul and disco records to build the foundation for this album. At 13 tracks in total, the Toolroom Records boss embraces the soulful and funky side of house music with Untold Business, adding a vocal to each song from the likes of Robert Owens, Tasty Lopez, Alex Mills and others. This isn’t just some of the utilitarian, disposable house music designed for quick club play, but rather is created for lasting play value.
Mark Knight’s career goes back decades to the 90’s when he first fell in love with electronic music. He has since become a world-known DJ and label owner with one of the biggest house labels under his guise. With the new album out now, we asked him to break down the ideas, influences and collaborations on it for a new Director’s Cut feature. See how he went back to his roots with this record as he goes through it all track-by-track. In such a collaborative process, not every song was so straight forward, so read on to see how complex this can be at times.
Listen to the project now and get your copy here.
1. Mark Knight & Beverley Knight (feat. London Community Gospel Choir) – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
I wanted to write a song of hope as we come out of this incredibly tough time. I feel that musicians and producers have a responsibility to provide the soundtrack to people’s lives, and with this glimmer of hope on the horizon, I wanted this song to be a moment of positivity for the future ahead. From a string section, to the 14-piece London Community Gospel Choir, to the incomparably brilliant Beverley Knight on lead vocals – I worked with some incredible musicians on this record. It was a mammoth production, and working with 20+ vocalists was a moment I’ll never forget.
2. Mark Knight (feat. Chenai) – Bit By Bit
I wanted to write something that sounded like Jam & Lewis. I was massively inspired by J&L who had this really big sounding soul music. Their production just sounded epic, kind of like a main room version of soul music. I love the production they did one the Michael and Janet Jackson single “Scream,” so wanted to create something that was rooted in dance music but taking those flavors. I’d previously worked with Chenai on “Tonight,” and she got it straight away. She wrote a song and I changed the hook from what was a verse to the chorus. She has just the right energy, and is an amazing singer — love that R&B sound in house.
3. Mark Knight (feat. Shingai) – Feel The Pressure
Working with Shingai was amazing, she is a completely unique personality, and turned up 4 hours late to the recording session with a bottle of champagne and some flowers, ha! Her performance on that record completely embodied that exuberant spirit, and actually put me under a fair bit of pressure. It was definitely the song on the album that I found the hardest to get right. Working with someone so individual and iconic in their own right definitely made me up my game – turned out to be a pretty fitting song title in the end!
4. Mark Knight & Michael Gray (feat. Gia) – Love Is All We’re Living For
There’s a record by Selace who is Felix from Basement Jaxx called “So Hooked On Your Lovin” and for ages no-one knew who the vocalist was. So I hit up Felix and it turned out that it was a girl called Gia who was working at the cafe in the studio he was working at who he just got to come and sing! So I tracked her down on Instagram and asked if she wanted to work on the record. I had an idea based on an old Evelyn Champagne King record. Andreya Triana wrote the topline, and Gia came is and literally nailed it in one take.
5. Mark Knight (feat. Damon Trueitt) – You Saw Me
Damien Truitt sang on the classic garage record “I Refuse (What You Want),” which was a seminal hit from the 90s, very much inspired by the kind of stuff that was coming out on labels like Nice N Ripe. It was one of the first labels that had a really distinctive UK sound, you just knew instantly when you heard a record that it was going to be on that label, so for this record I really wanted to make an homage to that sound. They are still playing those records on repeat on pirate radio every day. This was the only one we couldn’t do in person as he’s based in DC, but we went backward and forward sending ideas and changes remotely and it worked out really well.
6. Mark Knight (feat. Alex Mills) – It’s a Wonder
I made a record a few years back called “Yebisah,” which ended up getting loads of offers from majors but they wanted a topline. Alex wrote a topline on it called “White Flag,” which was amazing but didn’t quite work, so I walked away from deal rather than turn into something it wasn’t. Then a few years later Kings of Tomorrow released a record called “White Flag,” which used that topline which I had completely forgotten about, and it reminded me how much I wanted to work with her. I wanted something that reflected both our passions for that Afro house sound, and Alex nailed the vocal like she always does.
7. Mark Knight (feat. Clementine Douglas) – 10,000
This is an ode to all the things I loved in the 80s just reimagined through house music. Clem wrote topline on the spot – how impressive is that! I found this guy Jafunk who was doing some really amazing stuff so I looked him up, asked him if he wanted to work on the album. Amazingly he said he only got into production after hearing my record “Downpipe.” Finding the right people is half the battle when you’re putting an album together, and he absolutely fit the vision. He’s a brilliant keyboard player and knows all this stuff from the 80s, so good with sound design. Everything I asked of him he just got immediately.
8. Mark Knight (feat. Gene Farris & Jafunk) – Untold Business
This topline was actually written for another project I have called Black Zeus by Simon Lord who’s Simian Mobile Disco. It didn’t fit on that album but the lyrical content was amazing so I asked Gene Farris to revocal it, slow it down at bit as Simon’s vocal didn’t sit quite right. Gene’s vocal was perfect for the project. This is actually my favorite record on the album by a mile. It just feels really original, and it’s not trying too hard to be one thing or another. It just works.
9. Mark Knight & James F. Reynolds (feat. Mike City) – Fire Burning
I’m a huge fan of Mike City who had a couple of albums out on BBE and has written for Faith Evans, Mariah Carey: huge artists like that, but he’s also a brilliant singer in his own right. I got linked in with him and we really got on. This was actually released on BBE last year but I licensed it back in for this album as it just fit so perfectly with the vibe and with what I was trying to achieve.
10. Mark Knight & D.Ramirez (feat. Robert Owens) – Pass It Up
The premise for this was to make a record as if it were being made in 1987 – in fact the working title for this was 1987 until we got the topline. We used exactly the same process as you would have done back then – analogue everything. Marshall Jefferson and Ten City were – and still are – such an important act for me, and I wanted to make something in a similar vein, using those production values. I feel like we really achieved everything we set out to with this one.
11. Mark Knight & Rene Amesz – All 4 Love (feat Tasty Lopez)
I’ve worked with Rene a few times before and I always love getting in the studio with him. This record is based around that classic bassline and sax riff from Brick’s “Living From Your Mind,” which I think is something that a lot of people are familiar with, without really knowing what it is. So you have that familiarity but it’s doing something completely new with the vocal, which I think is a good balance.
12. Mark Knight (feat. Laura Davie & The Melody Men) – If It’s Love
This is arguably the record that started the entire album concept for me. I released it as a single last year before the album really started to come together at all. I wanted this to be a joyous celebration of a soulful house sound that came to prominence in the 90s, where vocals were the heart and soul of a record and the vibe was unashamedly positive, trying to combine feel-good vibe of those classic records with production values of the present. The success of this confirmed my suspicion that people are really crying out for more music like this.
13. Mark Knight (feat. Chenai & Mr. V) – Tonight
With this I took inspiration from that filtered house sound of the early 00s which producers like Kid Creme really nailed. Chenai was really on-point with the vocal, and if you want authentic, spoken word NYC vocals, there’s only really one man to turn to!