EXCURSIONS 018: MARK GRUSANEChicago
Words: Bad Lieutenant
Mark Grusane is a renowned digger and dj. Born and raised in Chicago’s Washington Heights, Mark has a natural connection to dance music. He came of age in the formative years of House music in the early 1980s when Chicago's burgeoning electronic scene set the stage for the rest of the world.
When he was 8 years old, his brother introduced him to Importe Etc, a record store famous for its pioneering clientele such as Frankie Knuckles. He has been digging for vinyl and uniting people through music ever since.
As a Dj, Mark is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of music, but especially those genres that have a firm connection to the dance floor. Whether he’s playing disco, house, boogie, techno or other obscure records, there is an inherent emotionality to his style that draws in the listener. His mixes are proof that while all records have a compelling individual story, the sum is greater than the parts.
In 2004, Mark and his compadre Mike Cole started Mr. Peabody Records, a brick and mortar record store tapping into their vast vinyl collection. Mr. Peabody served the wider Chicago area and the international dj’s who’d visit while on tour in America. Mark chose to keep a low profile during the years of Mr. Peabody’s operation, but he gained notoriety from international dj’s and scenesters for his exceptional knowledge and taste.
Mr. Peabody was forced to close in 2012, but Mark continues to purvey dance music in Chicago and around the globe. He was tapped for several compilations on respected label BBE for “ The Real Sound of Chicago” Parts 1 and 2 and follow up comp “The Real Sound of Mark Grusane”. He runs Discotechno Music out of Chicago and continues to be a sought after source of material for diggers around the world. He’s toured Europe and Asia and played some of the most well known clubs and festivals such as Dekmantel, Panorama and Nowadays.
Always about music first, Mark continues to share personal mixes on his soundcloud page and on his livestreams on IG. We were thrilled to have Mark join our series with a mix. Expect an hour of classic and modern music carefully arranged by one of Chicago’s greats.
Interview with Mark Grusane
Hi Mark. Thanks so much for contributing a mix to our series. We always start by asking dj’s about their lives during Covid? How are you hanging in?
Hey no problem, Thank You :-) Well this year has definitely been life changing for all of us. When things get a little tough, i manage to snatch myself up again and settle back into the things I love which is this music, listening, producing. I will say this year has made me more humble to the things I have instead of what I want. I think Covid has regulated many of us at this point.
Before Covid hit, what was the scene like in Chicago?
Chicago is a big city so depends what scene you are into. But things we’re just gearing up from winter 2020 when the Covid hit. Chicago was waking up from its hibernation and getting geared for better weather, more outdoors and nightlife. Nights were picking up, street and park festivals were starting to organize, also I had just scheduled a European tour that would start last April 2020. Obviously all of that cancelled like many others plans. We’re currently locked down regarding clubs, restaurants and bars still at this point. Those making a living regarding the arts, social, people, small businesses, groups etc.. are feeling it tough pretty much.
You’re a well known entity and highly sought after in Europe and other parts of the world. How does playing internationally compare to playing in the States? Do you feel you have a duty to represent the legacy of Chicago house music when you’re in other countries?
These last modern years in the states, you have many areas, some have grown organic scenes of their own which is really cool to see develop, all kinda moving along with the new resurgence of music with the newer generations of people. I will say overseas has always had a more consistent strong dance music market for the years. So with that along, you have a market that can thrive that pays everyone. The clubs, musicians, dj’s, labels, the supporters. It’s all fluid on how things mend together to keep everything functioning. From my experiences, a great party is as great as the people supporting, no matter big or small. I’ve had wonderful memories of nights of 100 or less people, to festivals of thousands. A good feeling is a good feeling I say :-) As far as Chicago legacy, I think wherever I am outside of Chicago playing it will just show, just like many other areas of natives I love to listen to as well.
You're known for your incredible knowledge of music and building sets that fit together tracks into a cohesive narrative. Do you think a deep knowledge of music across genres is essential to dj’ing?
I’ve grown over the years my thing to being able to play all genres, styles, and tempos yet, the set doesn’t fall in any 1 or 2 categories. I think playing music for people is all about the feeling of the song, then if you mix according to feeling, then many songs mesh together nicely for people to enjoy. But yeah, knowledge of music is very important, its like knowing your inks, paints, and mixing them, before creating your piece.
This mix got me immediately with the killer guitar riffs on the first track. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Sure, In the 80’s through 90’s there was this musician/band contest sponsored through the United States. They were advertised through the network radio stations throughout the U.S.A. in most major cities. Budweiser was the sponsor and the challenge was for each city and stations to have a contest with new musicians, Mosty Soul, R&B, and Dance. The winner for each station in each city that won had the song pressed to vinyl. Usually 1 separate artist on each side and it was distributed nationally representing each station involved. This first track in the mix is one of those records.
Thank you again for being part of EXCURSIONS. Do you have a message to your fans and the people who are learning about you for the first time?
The pleasure is all mine, thank you all so much. As far as my friends and fans, I miss you all dearly, lets stay optimistic for this new year and you all be safe. P.S. For everyone and new friends meeting here, I Hope for us to say hello in person and have a dance sooner than later in 2021!