Hi, and welcome to another in-depth interview, it’s a little different from the usual interviews I do. However, Mark Falcone AKA Mahkness, is not your average independent music producer or songwriter.
Mark talks about his struggles and his music and says; “I’ve gone through a lot of hard times, a lot of heartbreak and soul-searching. I’ve studied a lot of theory and am trying to be a pioneer lyrically”
It takes a lot of hard work and creativity to come up with a unique sound, after going through and listening to Mark’s material I can only conclude Mark’s emotions play a deep part in how his music and lyrics impact on those who listen and appreciate what Mark Falcone brings to the music scene.
I wanted to know more about the man Mark Falcone, about what is his driving ambitions, and why it’s important “or’ not’ to educate oneself in the music industry and what he thought about how things are with the music scene since the age of the Internet.
The music industry can be a cut-throat business to get into. How important was it for you to study the music industry at Drexel University, before considering what path to take in the business?
It was massively important. There is so much to say about being able to immerse yourself in any subject for four years, whether it be engineering, science, philosophy, or music. I was able to gain so much appreciation and understanding of the business of something that I loved that I would never have fully realized if I didn’t commit myself to formal study.
Not only did we learn from professors who were all incredibly talented industry professionals (record label owners, major label studio engineers, publishing company owners, managers, talent buyers, bookers, music lawyers), but we also had state of the art studios with SSL consoles, tape machines, retro outboard gear, and enough microphones too close mic two orchestras.
I was able to touch all aspects of the industry and find the right fit for me. I was originally drawn to management: it seemed so cool to take a new artist and grow him into a stadium/global touring act.
But once I got into the studios and learned the technological masterpiece that is a mixing console, there was no question that I wanted to be a recording artist and manipulate sounds and songs through engineering.
Do you feel that it’s important for everyone to learn about, or at the very least have a basic understanding of the business before committing to a career path in music? After all, it’s pretty easy nowadays, what with the Internet and a multitude of web sites with a service to offer. It seems anyone can upload their music tracks, in the hope of getting a bite of the cheery.
I say just jump in the river and see where it takes you. Learn along the way. This industry is so liquid – things come and go, technology is blossoming all over the place, big labels are falling while other big labels are still dominating… There is so much room for anyone to be a player, either artistically, technologically, or as an entrepreneur.
Learn it all, and then pick something to master. And sure, put as much of your music out there as you possibly can. It’s free! I upload to SoundCloud all of the time and it makes me feel great because anyone in the world can access the things I create in my basement immediately.
That is immensely rewarding for me. But it doesn’t pay my rent yet. So I immersed myself in all other aspects of the industry to see what could bring me some cash to help me get by in order to make more records.
I did talent buying for a while at Drexel, I recorded other bands, I helped at Drexel’s MAD Dragon Records… and it all led me to where I am today. But every step of that path was all hugely beneficial. Just be open and go for what you want. The industry is booming despite what anyone has to say.
You started your own independent label “Ocean Song Records” how and why did that come about? How does the average artist, audio engineer/producer or singer songwriter go about setting up their own label? Can you tell us about the benefits of working under your own label and what the costs are for setting a label up?
The idea of a record label is to record music and present it to the public. In Philadelphia, I was coming into contact with so many incredible artists. I was addicted to Open Mic nights. You get to hear so many people play.
It got to the point where I literally couldn’t stand that these artists didn’t have records. It was because studios are expensive to rent. I was lucky enough to have free access to the Drexel studios, so I started bringing in artists to record so I could get the engineering practice and they could walk out with a Hi-Fi record.
I started branding it as Ocean Song Records because, shoot, I was doing everything that a record label was doing, so why not just call it that? And I think that was the spirit of the 90’s, where there wasn’t so much technical talk as there was “holy crap, this band is awesome, I need all of my friends to hear it, let’s lay it down and send it out.”
It’s all about having a desire to share great art, and it is humbling to put your own career on the back burner and focus on helping another band. When you bring a band into a studio and record them and give them an asset that they can sell and promote themselves with, there is a serious bond that forms in that day or over the course of the project.
It is an incredible vibe. I hope that Ocean Song Records can continue to help more artists and keep a reputation of putting out really high-quality recordings of great music.
Your status is audio engineer/producer, singer songwriter, and owning your own label; that’s a full package; I can see how that can be a benefit to you. It’s all in house. However, what’s your preference, working in your studio (engineering, producing and mixing tracks for release) or getting out there performing and entertaining people in person?
PERFORMING. Ha. Absolutely nothing in my life has made me feel as alive as performing on a stage with a band. I will never forget the night that my band played World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. I had been jamming with my high school friends Walt Rogers and Blake Pena for so long in the suburbs, and when we finally made it to the city it was such an accomplishment for us.
We sold tickets, made some money, and just rocked face for the best 40 minutes I could have possibly asked for. I’ve been in a lot of bands, and the mates always end up feeling like brothers to me.
We practice for years in basements and when we get the chance to take our songs to the stage it is the most rewarding thing. Any time that people come together and can all experience a musical event is fascinating to me.
I have been uplifted by so many bands, and to be able to provide entertainment to other people and get them out of their heads and into the common vibe of the room is something I feel blessed to have been able to do. All the work I do in a studio is always my practice for the stage.
I once read somewhere, ( To be successful in the music industry. You need a mind for music and a mind for business). Falling back to the last question, audio engineer/producer, singer songwriter, and your label Ocean Song Records. That’s a good all-round solid foundation to offer your services to other artists out there.
one: by collaborating with others for credits on a project, or two: offering your paid services as an audio engineer/producer. Is that something you are pursuing, if so how does that work assuming all those involved in the project never get to meet in the same room?
That’s funny you mention that quote because I tend to live by an opposite mantra: You are either an artist or a businessman. They cannot coexist, at least at the same time. That’s why I sometimes step into the role of audio engineer instead of trying to be an artist because I know that for other artists to make a record, they have to be in the studio as 100% artists.
There has to be teamwork. That’s why the industry invented managers and lawyers, and record labels.. so that artists could be artists and not have to worry about the drab of the production.
It takes too much mental capacity for one person to harvest the full capabilities of a record, let alone start a tour and make sure the productions run smoothly and the money gets handled properly.
I love being the businessman for others. I love logistics. I love strategy. I am a strong producer. But when I am inspired and moved to an artistic endeavor, I have to be able to close that door. I need someone else’s help managing me, which I have gratefully found in Ross Robey of Rolling Artists.
I will eventually need a label. I will eventually need a lawyer. So in a sense, I am paying it forward by being all of these things for others right now. I am just waiting for the right time to put away the suit and get down to the real business of creating my art full time.
The music business changed an ole lot over the years; it’s no longer the closed door society like it used to be, OK you can still keep banging at the doors of the big labels to get yourself noticed and try to get a recording deal.
We touched on the subject earlier about the multitude of web sites out there waiting and willing to take everyone’s music on board. However, I’m a believer of marketing one’s own talents and products and keeping control of copyrights to one’s own creations.
What’s your take over the state of the music industry, and how easy do you think it is for an independent artist or producer to market themselves in a highly competitive market?
It is incredibly saturated out there. Bob Lefsetz is my hero – he’s a music industry critic and he always hits the state of affairs on the head. (If you are in the industry, you need to sign up for his letters at www.lefsetz.com).
He repetitively states, and I thoroughly agree, that the song has to come first. You can knock on doors and shout on your Facebook page and offer free downloads, but if the song isn’t there then nothing matters. And it’s always been that way, before the Internet, and it always will be that way no matter what.
I am drawn to the idea that an artist should attract, not promote. Your art should be so good that people need to talk about it, need to share it on their own Facebook walls, need to tell reporters to interview you, need to tell talent buyers to book you.
That’s how the best acts prosper. You have to be available, which is great and easy and fun with the Internet. But what is available to the public must always be top notch and has to be a representation of who you are and what you want to be.
I want to change the world in a better way with positive music, so I make my songs available for free download so people have a chance to sample me, and when my music gets in front of the ears of someone who shares my same passion and vision, I will know that the time is right to throw on the gloves and get to work.
You have some music tracks out on release, https://soundcloud.com/mahkness How would you describe your music, unique sound to those who have yet to listen and appreciate your creative talent?
My music is me trying to make sense of all of the emotions that cross through my head. It’s insane up there – I’ve gone through a lot of hard times, a lot of heartbreak and soul-searching. I’ve studied a lot of theory and am trying to be a pioneer lyrically.
I never have a repeating chorus. I go pretty far out with effects. I just try to keep it as emotionally real as possible. I know that my music might be abrasive to some people because it is such an unfiltered look at my emotions, and that can be hard to handle.
There have been so many times where I have put my heart and soul into a project and have presented it to the people that I love, and I get this weird sort of withdrawn silence. Nobody responds, and the song just kind of floats out to the depths of the Internet.
But I don’t care because I love every song that I make, and I am unapologetic about their realness because that is the only way I know how to craft a song. And if a song helps just one person the way that other people’s music has helped me through my hard times, then that song served its purpose.
My songs are not my own – my whole life creates my songs. I don’t own them; they own me. But I have to create my songs or allow my songs to be created through me, to be fulfilled. I get as much revelation out of my music as anyone else who listens, because I am hearing it for the first time at some point as well.
My recording is fast and frantic, so when I publish it and sit back and listen like any other listener, I don’t have that egotistical pleasure of listening to myself being broadcasted. I have the sensual pleasure of listening to the amalgamation of an infinite amount of calculations being summed together in a stereo field. It fascinates me that my songs exist. I like them for what they are – deep, honest, and emotional.
Anything you wished I’d asked, you would like to be added to the conversation?
I think we got it all covered pretty well!
Any message you want to give to your fans and future fans out there? Or offer any services or offers of collaboration with others?
Anyone in any state, country, or continent – if you send me the invite to come and jam and make some music and set up some microphones and get weird with some effects, I will forever be down.
Again, thank you so much for this. I am so appreciative of you working with me. This is a huge asset for me and you are simply the man.
Peace, Mahkness out.
Mark’s Social Links and Music
My music is available for free download/to buy at…