03.10.2019 | Words by: Bram Barentsen
“What the fuck, I need to release this”, was the first thing Mark said when Pascal (Dollkraut) played him Geen Genade and Wat voel je nou for the first time. It was the darker side of Pascal's sound, accompanied by bass player Timothy Francis, that formed the basis for De Ambassade's first single of Dutch songs Wat voel je nou
, that got released by Knekelhuis in 2016.
Mark and Pascal met around 2000 in Rijssen where Mark grew up. Pascal lived in Hengelo but deejayed in Rijssen at a regional discotheque. When years later Pascal played him the new songs, they had both been living in Amsterdam for a while. “For me, the Knekelhuis label really starts with the Pascal's first De Ambassade release”, tells Mark. “We had done a release before by Cliff Lothar and Legowelt as Pagan Sector in 2014, and a Knekelhuis label night at Radion during Amsterdam Dance Event. Hieroglyphic Being, Beau Wanzer, Parrish Smith and I were on the line-up. Only fifty people showed up over the whole night; we lost a lot of money and the label went bankrupt. When two years later De Ambassade came out it felt like a second start for the label.”
When I ask Mark about growing up in a small village as Rijssen he tells me he had always felt out of place there. “Most people there were Christian reformed. When I was twelve I realized I didn't believe in a God, and in an environment where religion is key, it can be very hard to find people who felt the same. I did find soul mates who all fought in their own way against the world in which they grew up and they expressed this in extreme music. Philosophy, politics, activism, it was us against the world. A rebel in a religious community.”
“With these friends I started a band called Cathode, it was all very DIY. Everyone in the scene was helping each other; we would book a Japanese punk band and asked five guilders entrance (around two euros) and they'd do the same thing for us.” While touring Brazil to promote their album, a promoter invited the bandmembers to join him to a rave. Most punkers had lost faith in this promoter because of his interest in techno, and also Mark's bandmembers didn't feel like going. The promoter pushed a little more and Mark was in. “We started to drive 200 kilometers inland at 2 AM. All green and jungle. When we arrived we had to climb over a hill before we found the rave. That experience, the people, the energy, laughter, positivity. It totally embraced me.”
At this point Mark had already started to doubt some of the scene's activities. “When you’re so concerned with extreme music or radical activism, which I still find very important, you constantly push your limits. Groups of like-minded people tend to create a world that they believe in. Pushing this can lead to extreme situations, in which you even start to accept violence for example. I wanted to move away from this, and as soon as I came back from Brazil I bought a mixer and started approaching music and life from new angles.
After moving to Amsterdam, Mark started a party called Knekelhuisdisco. A night where you could hear records from Joy Division and The Cure in between live punk bands and italo disco. An evening would start with Deathheaven and go into the night while Rude66 was playing. But mixing the crowds didn't work, the metal people would leave right after the band, then it would empty for an hour and later at night some dance people would start to come in. “It was just terrible. People weren’t ready for it, but I believed in these nights and kept trying and losing money.”
Then ‘disco’ of Knekelhuisdisco got dropped and Mark continued to organize parties at OT301, OCCII and Studio 80. These were slightly more electronically focused. More people started coming again, and when these nights became more popular, Mark decided to restart the label with De Ambassade.
Since then Knekelhuis started developing an own identity and doing more international events next to their label nights at Garage Noord. They put out music by Patricia Kokett, Job Sifre, Zaliva-D, EYE (a new album is on its way!), Parrish Smith and Victor de Roo, while also putting out older music like Dark Star and the Kale Plankieren series. And next to running the label, Mark also started playing out more often. While he does the warm-up for De Ambassade's album release, he also plays the basement in October with Pearson Sound and Simo Cell, and in November with Zaliva-D and Vladimir Ivkovic. “I never intended to be a DJ”, Mark begins. “I just want to be constantly engaged with music. When I deejay, I try to play everything, full of conflict and surprise but still consistent. Quirky, often melancholic. It can be anything. To me that’s more punk than being a punker with a fixed set of rules.”Mark plays Het Muzieklokaal this Saturday for De Ambassade - Duistre Kamers album release, tickets are still available here.
De Ambassade LP is available to order here