Interview: Marek Peszynski — Collecting Moments

Feature, Interview, Music

“You can’t look at Riff Raff or Lil B and say that they’re involved in the Hip Hop movement you know because they’re not.”

What they do is just straight organic, ignorant, albeit fun, party-rap music which has no relevance to Hip Hop culture at all. Apart from the fact that they’re rapping, which I don’t think is enough to constitute them being involved in the Hip Hop movement.”

Marek Peszynski otherwise know as Mazdef Productions is a DJ, promoter and lover of Hip Hop and rap music. His story stakes a claim in Wellington’s clubbing/party-scene history, then extends to Los Angeles and London. Unknown to many, his timeline is a music lovers’ dream; as he humbly goes about his business as a father, partner, DJ.

He is also a collector — of many things and says big purchases must be run past his partner Rose first. But, it is also discovered Marek is a collector of moments in Hip Hop, like the time he spoke to J.Dilla’s mum on the phone after he had just passed away; or the time Chuck D turned down a free Wax Poetics from him; instead the Public Enemy legend hung out for a few hours then eventually paid for the magazine. There was the time he went to LA and gave out copies of the Feelstyle album on vinyl to new friends, as a piece of his culture to them.

This story is a collection of Marek’s epic moments; some are great and some shocking, some are hard and others are really funny. Marek, who lives in Wellington but hails from Auckland remembers being the only guy in attendance at some Hip Hop shows in the beginning of the culture’s existence in mainstream New Zealand music to now, where he says: 

“I love it [new school rap]. At the moment being open minded’s cool. You don’t have to like Lil B or LP but as long as you know the definition between rap music and Hip Hop music then it’s all good. Take Waka or Gucci Mane — that’s rap music, or technically that’s trap music, but you wouldn’t put that on calling it a Hip Hop show, because it’s not. It’s a rap show. Whereas people with craft — your Joey Badass, your Talib Kweli, your Kev Brown — people that encapsulate the culture a little bit more, that’s Hip Hop.” For him, it just so happens that his passion has become his work. He says, there are of course risks in promoting shows, “But there’s a satisfaction that goes with putting on events like this.”

Reflecting on his promoting career thus far he names Action Bronson as one of the highlights. “That was a huge risk, that was like the eighth of January, it was such a terrible time for any sort of show, everyone’s broke after new years or away and I just bit the bullet and put on the show and it sold out. He ended up loving New Zealand and coming to my house, hanging out with my children — he’s like one of the biggest rap stars in the world at the moment, it’s crazy.”

Marekcrossarms

The Beginning

HH: Where are you from?

M: I was born and raised in West Auckland.

HH: So when did you come to Wellington?

M: In 2000, I’d just turned 21.

HH: What are your earliest memories of music and hip hop?

M: I guess my father’s always been quite musical, although he wasn’t a musician, he’s got a massive vinyl collection of rock n’roll through to classical, old soul music — Barry White, Marvin Gaye and all stuff like that. I guess it was probably, firstly the record player itself I was fascinated by and just learning how to use that then listening to the music. It just went from there really — that was the start of my love for music. I guess the first time I saw Radio With Pictures, [which is a] music show during the late 80’s, you know I always used to sneak out of bed and watch TV, do that kind of thing.. seeing videos from like Run DMC I guess that was always the initial cross over for me.

HH: When you got to Wellington, what was your impression of it, from an outsiders POV?

M: Well I’d visited Wellington quite a bit before, I’d been to early King Kapisi shows and stuff like that at that club that used to be above Area 51, La Luna. I knew from then it’d always been a strong kind of community and then I guess when I was living in Auckland and starting to DJ around 1997/98 people like DJ Raw would come play at the DMC champs and stuff in Auckland, he was kind of my favourite turntabilist at the time. The whole turntabilism thing was so new to me and he was one of the first people I’d really seen do it really well — he was from Wellington obviously, so that association was pretty strong from the start.

pants are overated

DJing — The First Love

“DJing for me, I think, it doesn’t matter what I do, it will always be my first love. Playing music I love to a massive awesome, receptive-partying crowd. The buzz from that is still — nothing can beat that.”

HH: When you began, were you a competitive DJ?

M: Nah. I’ve never been but you know I’ve always played a mixed bag of different music. It was Hip Hop that I really wanted to play in clubs and that kind of a thing; obviously learning the basic scratching and stuff but it was never at the stage where I was extremely technical with what I do DJ wise.. still to this day I guess because I can’t scratch that amazingly, I’ve always been about making the song the focus.

HH: How’d your route go, starting out in Auckland?

M: Normally just playing parties. Playing for my friends. I ended up being a DJ for a group called Bahama 62 it was my first ever…Me and a bunch of my friends, there was Tourettes from Breakin Wreckwordz and now YGB — Dominic Hoey; we were living together at the time so we decided to start a rap group. That was kind of like more of a fun kind of party project — we didn’t have any serious gigs, we were quite involved in the punk and hard-core scene at the time so quite often [I’d play] at the punk parties cause everyone was into rap music.

HH: At what point were you like, I wanna do clubs?

M: I guess it was when the bands that were playing all the parties started playing at clubs and I was asked to play music. I think my first club show was at The Kings Arms, with my friend’s indie band; it was pretty terrifying for me. It was kind of cool in a way because it was all my friends there, but at the same time there was also a lot of the public there and I was still a beginner you know like I couldn’t really sort of blend properly, I couldn’t really scratch..I remember just getting so drunk — to the point where I passed out and I wedged myself between my record box and the wall.. the song ran out and there were people looking at the booth [laughs].. all they could see were these flapping legs.

HH: Mid-set?

M: Yeah. (Smiles).

HH: Passed out?

M: Well I didn’t pass out. I fell over and got wedged between the wall, fully conscious and aware of what was going on. [Cracks up]

HH: Okay so once you got to Wellington, what was your mission, were you still in a space where you were finding your own way as a DJ?

M: I guess so. Yeah. Like I said I started off with Hip Hop, but I’ve always been really eclectic with the sort of music I play. So I think by the time I got to Wellington, although I was still buying a lot of Hip Hop vinyl and stuff like that, I knew for me, there was probably more work in dance music; I would play Garage and US House even though the house music I was playing was like Kenny Dope & DJ Spinna who are still sort of — they’ve got their roots in Hip Hop as well.

Record Store Life — Before The Internet

HH: Did you have a day job?

M: About three months into moving here, I ended up living with Tourettes for a while; his partner at the time was working at the CD store on Cuba Street. I managed to get a job at the CD Store, the one that was on the corner of Cuba and Dixon Street.

HH: Did you plan to perpetually work in music, it seems that’s just sort of what’s happened for you…

M: Ummm, yeah, it was one of those things where I’d always wanted to work in a record store. Not a CD store, but a record, record store. I ended up working for the CD Store for a long time. They ended up buying the Tandy’s Music space in Manners Mall, which had Chelsea Records attached to it. Over the years between 2001 and 2004 I was moved around all the different CD Stores; when I became assistant manager down Lambton Quay there was an opening to come work at Planet Jacks in Manners Mall where the crêpe shop is now. I ended up managing Chelsea Records which was my first step into proper record store life.

HH: Which you’d always wanted to do..

M: Yeah and I ultimately got there. It took a little while hustling top 40 CD’s but I eventually made it to Chelsea Records.

HH: So working in the record store would have advanced your dig-game?

M: Absolutely. I had to step up my game just to keep on top of current music. People would come in asking for specific vinyl, they were smarter than yourself, so you have to keep on top of that. I was in charge of all the ordering, it was all imports — there weren’t many people who were bringing in records locally. It was just dealing with shops in New York, San Francisco, London — going through release sheets; faxing stuff backwards and forwards — this is before the internet. We were such an integral part..I sort of built a bit of a brand around Chelsea Records because I had the freedom to do that, I guess, the owners of the company didn’t really know about that kind of thing. I had a bunch of people — Jaz 72, Zen Yates, Duncan Croft who’d worked in record stores previously.

“Chelsea Records has been around since the 70’s — the brand, but we moulded it in to what it ultimately became in Wellington.”

HH: What did Chelsea Records ultimately become?

M: Basically one of the best record stores in the city. It opened up a global view for me; especially dealing with people from overseas on a weekly basis inn terms of seeing what releases were coming through.

HH: Were You DJ’ing at this time?

M: A little bit. But it really wasn’t until Bryce from Sandwiches hit up myself and Duncan. We used to do the Flava show every Friday night on Active and I had played stints at Studio 9, Goodluck, Matterhorn, & Watkins Bar too.. So Bryce used to listen to our show; we’d never met him, he just came into the store one day and said, ‘I’m opening up a club called Sandwiches, I want you guys to be the residents in the lounge’.

Sandwiches — A part of Wellington’s Clubbing History

“Clubs would be an extension of people’s lounge. Where as now, it’s just different.”

HH: How old were you then, were you ready?

M: 22, 23. Nah. I definitely wasn’t ready. Radio DJing is very different to club DJing. But it was because of our selections and the sort of stuff that we did, that’s why he wanted us.

HH: What were you feeling at the time. Do you remember?

M: A lot of Hip Hop, a lot of UK broken beat house, sort of new jazz — that kind of vibe, that was big at the time — right through to UK garage, US house..I think it was our eclectic nature which made us appealing. We weren’t specifically any genre.

HH: Looking back now, because you would have watched the music trends change over the past 10 years, in terms of party people, have you kind of drawn some conclusions over how trends change?

M: Mmhmm. Wellington specific, or maybe even nationally, club culture’s in a bit of a lull right now. Compared to back then, there just seemed to be more happening. More parties happening. I don’t know if it’s because we were younger. But there just seemed to be more happening. Sad to say, but there were more drugs [laughs]. And booze was cheaper in clubs and life was cheaper. You could smoke in clubs.. clubs would be an extension of people’s lounge. Where as now, it’s just different.

HH: As someone who was immersed in it, is it a good thing or a bad thing from your POV?
M: Um, evolution is evolution. But at the same time I’m not going to deny that things were definitely better back in the day. [Cracks up]. Music especially.. not about the specific kind of music, or the quality of the music, but the fact that it was so hard to source any of the specific stuff; when you did get a record or an import CD, you’d listen to it over and over; because it was so hard to get and it took six months to arrive — you really treasured it. Now, it’s so disposable and I can’t even remember the last time I sat down and listened through a whole song. Unless I’m sitting on the bus with headphones or whatever..If I’m sorting out music for a set, I’ll listen to 15 seconds of a track.

HH: As well, I’ve heard you’re a collector of things and as we’ve said everything’s so disposable these days, do you think collecting and cherishing music might be revived again?

M: I think if we’re looking at vinyl, it’s definitely on a massive incline. Which is really good to see. You have people like myself who are just really into collecting vinyl. Record labels recognise that — look at Stones Throw, every single release they do is either a picture disc, or it comes with a bit of art work or a beautiful folder. They’ve recognized the collector and people just don’t need a black slab of vinyl anymore. For a lot of people that’s like a massive inconvenience, but if you make it a collector piece that’s what’s brought back the resurgence….Even with vinyl releases of stuff — I bought A$AP Rocky’s album which is like a triple orange gate-fold record. Even though I [already] had it for months, I just liked the album and I thought it’s a beautiful piece of vinyl. I’ve got a turntable set up at home and I can chuck it on if I feel like it, but you know, I very rarely do that because it’s all loaded into my Serato.. But as a collector I like having the piece, it’s just a nice piece to have.

Marek The Collector

“Not only are you getting this beautiful item, you’re hearing the music and discovering new tracks and that’s how it was back when we were at the record store.. I’d order off a list of names and there’s no way of even hearing what you were even getting.”

Marekkaws

HH: So from a collectors point of view does the overly saturated digital market affect the thrill?

M: Definitely. I mean if I’d never heard that album or hadn’t been listening to that album for six months and it turned up on my doorstep, and I was looking forward to it; then obviously the buzz of getting that record, putting it on for the first time, listening to it, that just takes the collecting experience to a whole other thing. Not only are you getting this beautiful item, you’re hearing the music and discovering new tracks and that’s how it was back when we were at the record store.. I’d order off a list of names and there’s no way of even hearing what you were even getting. So it would turn up and we’d sit down and have a massive box.. it’d be like, so and so remixed by so and so or so and so’s new record. Sometimes you’d know a song by Giles Peterson or someone like that and rate it but most of the ordering was done blind or deaf; you’re just ordering off a name and it’s just luck of the draw what turns up.

HH: How many pairs of sneakers do you own?

M: I don’t know. Maybe… 90 pairs.

HH: And why do you like Be@rbricks?

M: It’s just a collecting thing. Be@rbricks are like a mixture of PLAYMOBIL and Lego, but each one is individual and specific to a certain artist — I’m a big fan of art and pop art, artists like Kaws and Stash I guess it was a love of graph art and then I explored other avenues of pop art and now I’m a fan of a lot of modern art.

Marek says: “I guess like you said, I’m a collector and part of collecting is the hunt. So earlier on, like I was saying, it was the hunt; the hunt to find these small pockets or these little bits of rap music; whether that be at the end of Arsenio Hall or listening to a three-hour reggae radio show in the hope that there’d be a rap song that I could record — that to me, I was collecting at the time. “

After successfully throwing ‘Space Jam’ last Friday, a 90’s Hip Hop party with special guest P-Money, and clocking one of the biggest nights ever for the venue — Betty’s Function House, Marek dusts off 2013 with a bang. The Mazdef x WDYFILWHH story is to be continued in the new year. Stay tuned…

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