Keyboardist and composer Mark de Clive-Lowe marries jazz, beats and electronica into a sound all his own. Get to know more about our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Week!
NAME: Mark de Clive-Lowe
HOMETOWN: I was born in Auckland, NZ and raised primarily there, and secondarily in Tokyo, Japan. Both London and Los Angeles have become surrogate hometowns to me too.
MUSICAL TRAINING: My father decided I was to take piano lessons at age 4, so it was traditional classical piano lessons from a young age. In high school, I fell in love with early new jack swing and native tongues hip ho. I bought my first synth and drum machine and dived into that world. Jazz was always around me and quickly took over from the beats, leading me to one semester at Berklee. After that my training was by doing - collaborating, performing and producing.
FIRST GIGS: I played piano in a big band when I was in high school and soon after, I was gigging with friends in Auckland. I played with local musicians in my hometown and pretty sure I had no idea what I was doing at that time, but I feel lucky to have had something of a community and a scene around me in NZ. The aspiration though was always to get to New York!
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: There’s so many, but top of the list when it comes to the piano would be Herbie Hancock, Kenny Kirkland, Ahmad Jamal and McCoy Tyner. Beyond the piano - J Dilla, Miles, Masters At Work, 4Hero, Theo Parrish, the Soulquarians, the Ummah, the Mizell Brothers, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Charles Stepney, Harry Whitaker, Pharoah Sanders, Roy Ayers, and Fela Kuti.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: I’m loving the new album by Rejoicer - he’s a super talented producer from Tel Aviv. Kassa Overall’s new album is amazing - he’s really creating his own lane with fusing studio production and live playing. Nicholas Semrad’s album is dope - really great keyboard playing in a dirty lo-fi beats context that doesn’t compromise any of his musical depth while keeping it bumping. And Wayne Shorter’s latest release Emanon - the greatest living composer and improviser with his long-standing quartet and orchestral collaboration. Unreal.
MY BIG BREAK: They keep on happening! I’m grateful to have a career which keeps on growing and evolving with new opportunities and successes. My album Six Degrees was released in 1999 in NZ and then got signed by Universal out of their London offfice and released internationally in 2000. That was what really helped establish me around the world and got me touring beyond NZ and Japan. Since then there’s been numerous moments when I’m in situations that I wouldn't have imagined - creating every day for a month in studio with Pino Palladino, performing on stage with Eric Harland, Lil John Roberts, Chris Dave and Les Claypool all together, playing in Harvey Mason’s band along with Patrice Rushen, Darryl Jones, Kamasi Washington and Bill Summers - to say that I’m grateful is an understatement and I’m excited for whatever comes next.
LATEST PROJECTS: My new project “Heritage” is a deep dive into my Japanese roots - I’m half-Japanese - through the lens of jazz and electronics. Exploring my own identity and ancestry through my art. The album is the first of a two part release (“Heritage II” comes out in April) and was recorded over three nights live at LA’s Blue Whale and one day at NRG Studios. The project is also a big return to the acoustic piano for me. I walked away from the instrument for 10 years when I lived in London and a big part of my LA story has been reconnecting with the piano. Integrating the acoustic piano with live sampling, synths, programming and the rest of the band is an adventure in itself and gives me an almost infinite palette with which to create using.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? The acoustic piano is number one. It’s my first instrument and that counts for a lot. The Fender Rhodes would be next - the way it’s so closely related to the piano but has a whole other timbral resonance and sonic character makes for a lot of fun playing it. When it comes to synths, I love the Roland Juno-6 - it’s pretty simple but sounds amazing and has one of my favorite arpeggiators I’ve ever used. The Korg Polysix has always been a favorite too - kind of like a supercharged Juno-6. The Arp Omni II has a special place in my collection - that classic 70s Herbie/Roy Ayers synth string sound, but add the synth engine and LFO blend in the mix and it’s such a unique sound. The Moog Source and Moog Prodigy are magical little boards too - the list is really endless! I’m a huge fan of soft synths too - Arturia, Korg, G-Force and Native Instruments are all go-tos for me, especially on the road.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? I’m touring my new “Heritage” project as well as my solo live shows, which get a lot more electronic and beats heavy - centering on live on-the-fly production and remixing. I’m also working on a new collaborative project - Ronin Arkestra - with a crew of amazing Japanese musicians. The first EP will be dropping soon followed by a full length album. I’m constantly working on new music, collaboarations and remixes - there’s a new 12” coming soon with Chicago house legend Anthony Nicholson, and a compilation of collaborations for my club night CHURCH.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Diligence is everything. We create art, share it with the world and it becomes part of a lineage and cultural tapestry. That’s inescapable, whether you’re making music that is a reaction towards or against the past, either way, it’s part of the greater creative statement that represents humanity and our existence on this planet. For that reason, I believe there’s a reponsibility inherent in contributing to that continuum and that responsibility means - at the very least - honoring your craft. Exploring, learning and reaching to be the best you possibly can be. And never stop learning and being open to something new or different.