Jurassic 5's DJ Nu-Mark on the Search for Rare Records and Playing With Toys
With over 35,000 records in his collection, producer and DJ Nu-Mark, one of the founding members of the recently reunited Jurassic 5, has managed to stay above the trends of dance music and digital DJing with his classical sensibilities and depth of musical knowledge. During the group's five-year hiatus, Nu-Mark pursued solo ventures including producing tracks for The Lonely Island and releasing projects for his mixed media funk/hip-hop series Broken Sunlight. Since the group reunited this past spring, DJ Nu-Mark has spent the summer touring the world, playing festivals from Outside Lands to Japan's Fuji Rock. We recently spoke with the vinyl aficionado about the J5 reunion, producing for different genres, and the future of 45s. He headlines PUMA Yard's rooftop bar this Sunday at America's Cup with support from the 45 sessions residents.
Jurassic 5 recently reunited this year. What was it like coming together again after solo pursuits?
For me it was a refreshing change of pace. If you ask any solo musician, he or she will contend that it's very difficult to sustain focused energy when you're creating by yourself. Since there are so many creative artists in J5 it was a great break from coming up with all the ideas by myself. All the members really had a lot to contribute for these shows. Been an intense summer.
It seems like today DJs either get hired to spin 45s or just digital. Do you ever see the two coming together?
Hmmm... probably not, but I always predict the wrong answer. I think the whole point of a 45 session is to keep the theme of vinyl alive. There's nothing wrong with spinning digital media, it's a wonderful tool and the music industry seems to keep moving in that direction. It's really cool to see DJ's coming up with innovative ways to mix in and out of records using Serato, Traktor etc. It's made me look at music in a different light. That said, nothing sounds better than vinyl, even when there's crackles in the record. Love it.
Is it strange for you that all-vinyl sets are now considered something rare and special?
Yeah, I remember when Mark Herlihy from Future Primitive came up with the concept of an all 45 event and invited myself, Cut Chemist, Shadow, Z-Trip, Shortkut, and Peanut Butter Wolf. Today we're seeing much more of these parties around the world, so for me they're not so rare. That said, I know it's rare for the average person to see these events on a consistent basis. It's still very special in my eyes, and I still feel the same challenge that Herlihy presented to us in the late '90s.
What's been the most rewarding aspect of your mixed media Broken Sunlight series?
I think being able to release that much material throughout 2012 was the most rewarding part. I loved working with Aloe Blacc, J-Live, Large Professor, Bumpy Knuckles, Charles Bradley, and Tiron & Ayomari. I think we all came away gaining something from creating with each other during that period! Never thought I'd release my own album by myself either. It's a really cool experience hearing people get behind the record and enjoy all the 10-inch singles as well!
Recently we saw that you were hanging/working with Incubus. Can you tell us a bit about that? What are some differences when working with a rock group versus a hip-hop one?
Yeah, we came up with a song for a video game called Rayman. The collaboration consisted of Alex Katunich, Jose Pasillas (Incubus), Slimkid3 (Pharcyde), and myself. The song came together in a blink of an eye. It was a challenge incorporating all of the characters for the game along with the sound effects for each character, but it was a lot of fun collaborating with everyone. Rock guys are much more concerned with bridges and buildups to the buildup [laughs]. A lot of dynamics come in to play with live musicians that you don't really get with sampled loops from hip-hop.
You're known for having an crazy record collection. Do you still dig as much as you used to?
I've been digging a lot online ... if you want to consider that digging? I'm really just filling holes in my collection at this point. The great thing about the 'net is that there's an even level playing field on the price of all records. People don't have the ability to recognize me or size me up when I walk into their store. I have lost a lot of the feeling that comes with the dirty dig though. It makes me a bit reminiscent of a real innocent time in my life. I remember waking up so early to go to the swap meets and thrift stores. I'd like to do a dirty digging trip like that soon just to regain that feeling again. I want to love the chase of music like I use to.
Speaking of crazy collections, you also are known for utilizing children's toys during live sets. Where did this idea come from?
There was a toy I was introduced to called Music Blocks. This toy was so innovative and fun that I decided to use that toy as my DJ routine for one of the Jurassic 5 tours. After J5 disbanded, I was curious to see what I could come up with if I filled up the entire stage with a variety of children's musical toys and play them in my DJ set. This kind of saved my love for music in a very elementary way. It became more about creating and having fun as opposed to finding a record all friends were searching for. It was an untapped area that nobody really cared about. I was very attracted to that and it worked for me.
Is there a particular piece you're still looking to collect?
To tell you the truth, for vinyl I'm searching for known and popular music since I've neglected them for the rare ones. As for the toys, I'm searching for a toy that records vocals from a built in microphone and then presses the recording to a plastic record that will play on any turntable. Wish me luck.
Lastly, what are you looking forward to spinning/enjoying in S.F. this Sunday at PUMAyard?
Trying to build a boat theme into my set for the America's Cup. Having a tough time but just playing music in one of my favorite cities will be enough to keep a smile on my face for the day. Can't wait to get loose once again! S.F. come visit your Uncle Nu!