Troubleman is one of the many incarnations of Mark Pritchard, whose vast career threads together a staggering range of work. Born in Crewkerne in 1971, Mark has delved through a pantheon of styles and influences over the last three decades and has worked alongside a commendably eclectic range of musicians including Thom Yorke, Wiley, Steve Spacek, Linda Perhacs and Nightmares on Wax. For the majority of his career Mark's musical focus has been in the more leftfield realms of dance music.
Mark developed a passion for electronic music during his adolescence, and exploring the clubs of Bournemouth where he met through a mutual love of Detroit techno and Chicago house he met his partner Tom Middleton, with whom he would form Global Communication. They met at one of Mark's early DJ gigs, “Went back to his house afterwards, and he played me loads of as yet unheard-out-of-Cornwall Aphex Twin tracks, and they blew me away.”
With inspiration from Carl Craig (the label was named after one of his tracks) Mark and Tom set up the seminal Evolution label in 1991, dedicated to pioneering techno and electronica, trying to reproduce the “soulful and futuristic” sound of the Detroit revolutionaries. The label encouraged a high level of experimentation with its uncompromising stance, also releasing early work from fellow innovators Matthew Herbert and Danny Breaks. The combination produced some amazing music but was fiercely non-commercial in its approach, which ultimately led to its demise. An acclaimed label compilation was released on Warp in 1996.
In 1992 Mark embarked on the now-legendary Global Communication (again alongside Tom Middleton) – a “more ambient and melodic” project making music with the emotional soundscapes that became a signature of their work. Highly challenging but beautiful, the project took electronic music to another level, and introduced them to a whole new audience and won massive critical acclaim: 'best ambient album of the decade' (The Guardian). The first album was a remix project for indie band Chapterhouse in 1994, followed in 1996 by ‘76:14’ – which “has gone down as a bit of a classic”
At the same time, Mark was working on a project called Reload for Creation, a hugely experimental imaginary soundtrack - ‘A Collection of Short Stories’ was released in 1993. Reload was produced using rather novel methods, including recordings of factory noises refracted through Mark’s studio electronic wizardry. It also included Mark’s school friend Dom Fripp’s spoken word stories, as he happened to be hanging out in the studio while it was being recorded... Steve Beckett from Warp Records loved the LP (it’s still one of his favourites), and a Pritchard-Middleton Link-E621 12" was released on the label.
From some of the deepest and most beautiful ambient music of the decade with the Reload and Global Communication albums, Mark and Tom took the opportunity to show their range in 1996 with the cartoon electro-breaks project The Jedi Knights. As Mark says, “Club music at the time had become very serious, so we decided to bring back the funk,” and they became the first producers to mix Star Wars into George Clinton’s Funkadelic. The Jedi Knights ripped up 1996 with their no-messing heavy beats and bass lines, combined with an inimitable funkiness. They incorporated elements of hip-hop and electro, giving them a distinctive and instantly recognizable sound, and reinvigorating an entire genre in the process, and always containing that vital dose of humour.
The Jedi Knights also betrayed Mark’s “new hobby” in space discovery and science fiction, continued with hip-hop pseudonym Harmonic 33 – it’s named after the frequency produced by planets turning on their axes, with which it’s believed aliens use to navigate the universe.
After the demise of the Jedi concept (a presumably jealous George Lucas threatened to sue) came Mark’s classic ‘Link’ 12” by the Chameleon for Good Looking records (“a jazz-funk inspired drum and bass track, with a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sample”), which became a definitive anthem at LTJ Bukem and Fabio’s infamous Speed club night from its release in 1996.
Mark spent 1998 producing Kirsty Hawkshaw’s solo debut album (singer for Opus 3, a rave act who had an early 90s number one single with ‘Fine Day’), and in 1999 began a collaboration with former Kula Shaker front man Crispian Mills. This hasn’t led to an album release just yet, but has given Mark the opportunity to upstage Robbie Williams on tour, playing as his support alongside Crispian and Portishead’s drummer Clive Deamer. He’s also been working on hip hop, drum and bass, and more…
As their reputation grew in the 90s, Mark and Tom picked up remix work together, producing astonishing reinterpretations of Lamb, Azymuth and Warp 69. Meanwhile, Mark developed his own sound, which can be heard on remixes for the Orb, Stereo People, Cosmos, KRS-1, and A Tribe Called Quest, which have all become underground classics.
This selection of remixes has led naturally to Mark’s current projects, “Taking inspiration from electro and funk and from what Kenny Dope does” and leading spectacularly to the Troubleman, LP – the mid-tempo project that he’s been itching to do. Mark says: “most of the house I was hearing didn’t sound as good as the original stuff,” so he’s concentrating on the Brazilian-tinged electronic funk that’s Troubleman – with a long-standing relationship with Far Out Recordings and a penchant for the sounds of Brazil, Mark has developed an exciting new sound.
Mark’s production philosophy is pretty simple: “I suppose I’m quite purist when it boils down to it. When I do a hip hop track I want it to sound like a hip hop track, not trip hop or something like that. Of course I want to try to put my own take on it but the fundamentals I try to get correct.” His obsessive attention to detail “can seem tedious to a lot of people but from my experience that extra effort can be make or break on a track. For example I probably spent a week just on the drum editing on ‘Strikehard.’ then probably another full week on the rest of the track.”
With tracks inspired by the psychedelic soul of Dorothy Ashby and David Axelrod (‘Lonely Girl’ and ‘The Righteous Path’), the afrobeat of Fela Kuti (‘Strikehard’), and featuring nu-school soul stars Steve Spacek and Eska (‘Without You’ and ‘Roll On’), as well as including a couple up-to-the-minute underground club classics, ‘Time Out Of Mind’ brings together all Mark’s influences.
Under the Troubleman guise Mark interspersed Brazilian and other global musical traits into electronic productions releasing two albums: The First Phase and Time Out of Mind. The 12" hit 'Strikehard' is one of his most definitive floor-fillers.
Pritchard is also renowned for his remixing abilities, and has acheived tremendous results by chopping up a number of Far Out cuts including Azymuth's 'Jazz Carnival' and 'Pieces of Ipanema' as well as 'Vendetta' from Far Out Monster Disco Orchestra.