Q&A with Mark Archer of Altern-8 + Bizarre Inc

Darkfloor had a quick Q&A session with the UK legend that is Mark Archer – founding member of Bizarre Inc and one half of Altern-8. A DJ and producer of over 20 years in the dance music scene with an impressive array of monikers credited to him (Slo Moshun, Xen Mantra, Trackman, DJ Nex…)

Currently there is a fan-led campaign to get Altern-8’s classic hit Activ-8 (Come With Me) into the Christmas number 1 slot on the UK charts. We’re all for that. Details can be found here.

How did Altern-8 start?

Blue Chip recordings owed us some studio time so gave us the key’s to the studio for a week and we set about recording some new material. The 9 new tracks that we recorded were all (bar one) very much influenced by other styles of house and techno rather than the Detroit techno that was the main inspiration for all the Nexus 21 tracks.

When we took the tracks to Network they suggested we use a different name for the tracks, so we came up with the name ‘Alien-8’ as Chris had been in a rock group at his high school with that name, when the 12″ copies of the Overload EP were sent to the Network offices, the sticker on them said ‘Altern-8’ , the label boss had thought that’s what we wanted to be called and sent the info down to the printers.

When Activ-8 hit #3 in the charts, how did you celebrate?

I’m not sure I did really…

I can remember getting the call to say we had a midweek chart position and were going in the charts at number 12 and literally just standing there not knowing what to do, do I phone someone? Do I go down town to the record shop I always went in? So I just stood there for a bit, gobsmacked.

My girlfriend at the time wasn’t that supportive of what I was doing and when I bought a tape of Activ-8 back from the studio after we’d just recorded it, I asked her what she thought “it’s alright” was all I got, so celebrations were not on the cards.

What was the best Altern-8 show you did?

There have been loads as we toured up and down the UK as well as all over the world, but I think Amnesia house at Donnington Park 12/10/1991 has got to be one of my favourite, just because of the crowd reaction and it was probably the biggest we’d done at that time.

…and what was the worst?

We did an Oxford Ball gig, totally the wrong crowd, everyone wearing ball gowns and tuxedo’s, the whole crowd were proper pissed up and hadn’t a clue what was going on, so we all just danced about the stage and had our own little party.

You’ve worked with a lot of great artists and DJs over the years – what was the craziest hook-up & were you ever star-struck?

I’m always star struck (possibly my worst habit) and half the time can’t pluck up the courage to go and speak to people.

When we first signed to Network records, they sent us out to Detroit to work with Kevin Saunderson, Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir and Marc ‘MK’ Kinchen and we also met Derrick May and Juan Atkins, I was pretty much speechless for the whole time I was there, totally in awe of these dudes who were my musical heroes.

What are your proudest musical achievements, both as Altern-8 and your other projects?

Infiltrate 202 is a very special track as far as Altern 8 goes and I’m really proud of it, but Frequency just pips it as it was recorded on a couple of pieces of equipment in my bedroom at my Mum and Dad’s house. 22 years on and really big names in house and techno are still playing it out, still doing edits of it or playing it live and that’s something I never thought would have happened when I made it.

Outside of Altern-8 I’m really proud of the Slo Moshun track Bells of New York and also my two solo EP’s – Songs for Einna on DS93 and Ring of Gyges which was originally out on Mutate Records.

What are your all-time favourite tracks to play on the dancefloor?

Outlander – Vamp
Plus One – It’s Happenin
Njoi – Techno Gangsters
Cybersonik – Technarcy
Fast Eddie – Acid Thunder
Steve Poindexter – Computer Madness

…and a guilty pleasure.
What’s a track that no-one would expect you listen to?

Got to be Badly Drawn Boy’s Once Around The Block.

Who would you say are your biggest influences and favourite artists today?

My biggest influences have got to be Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Frankie Bones, Marcos Salon (Outlander), Todd Terry and Masters at Work.

As far as favourite artists these days I’d say Stephen Brown, Paul Mac, Shadow Dancer, Posthuman, Ben Sims just to name a few, there’s a lot of great music out at the moment.

What are you going to do on Xmas day if you’re at the top of the UK charts?

Regardless of if Activ 8 tops the charts (just the fact it’s been shown so much love is reward enough), I’ll be celebrating with my kids and Nikki (my Fiancé) and sorting records out for my gig on Boxing day and the next two days after that.

I think a Robin Hood Brand-E ‘Poor Know The Score’ Xmas pudding might be in order – not an original one though, they could be a bit tough after 22 years in a cupboard.