2017 has been a year of accolade after accolade, sold out show after sold out show, for UK producers Mark Richards (MRK1) and James Eliot, the boys behind Solardo. A summer touring every reputable festival and club in the UK, Europe and beyond and a Best Breakthrough Act win at the DJ Awards may have come to an end but the winter season promises to be even more successful; headlining and curating the Boxing Day event at this year’s Warehouse Project exemplifies the massive heights Solardo have soared to. From the well-established, indisputable, no-space-for-an-argument opinion that clubbing is bigger and better up North, to The Prodigy serving as the foremost of influences, In The Middle get the lowdown on Manchester’s most exciting and deservedly hyped tech-house export.
Who were your biggest musical influences growing up and did this naturally progress into you both discovering tech/house?
Mark: I listened to a broad range of music growing up – from heavy metal, rock, happy hardcore, jungle, drum and bass, hip hop and everything in between. But I think my biggest musical influence as a producer was The Prodigy; they really opened my mind to dance music and what could be done with it. Their sound is timeless and still sounds relevant now. I used to listen to them all the time thinking to myself that their music is something that I wanted to be able to do.
You guys have your own night at WHP this year, Solardo Sessions on the 26th of December. How does it feel to be curating the night for such a well-respected event, especially being from Manchester and attending the event as punters in the past?
It’s an amazing feeling really, we’ve come a long long way in a year and are really proud of our achievements so far. Coming from Manchester and growing up within the scene, it’s a huge honour for us to have our night at WHP. It’s definitely events like these that have shaped Manchester and helped put it on the clubbing map – so we are really buzzing to be a part of it.
Curating our own night has been really fun for us – it’s a great chance for us to give a platform to the artists who have released on our label Sola, and who we feel will be going places. We wanted to curate a night that would have high energy and a big party vibe – it is Boxing Day after all!!
You’ve spent the last few years playing at basically every festival on the UK calendar and abroad, what has been your personal highlight? Is there a festival or club that you particularly love returning to?
Well, as cliché as it might sound – Ibiza for us will always hold a special place in our hearts. This year was our first time playing there as Solardo and, for us, Hi totally dominated the island. We have just got back from playing at DJ Awards at Hi and won Best Breakthrough Act as well – which is a huge deal for us!! As well as that we are playing the first ever Hi closing – so like we say, the club has dominated our Ibiza experience and has been part of many amazing memories this summer!
Apart from that, Elrow & Abode have been other highlights for us. We’ve played for them a few times this year already and both parties create exactly what we want out of a party – lots of fun and great energy!
Continuing from the last question, and with this being the Leeds University student newspaper, do you have a highlight in regards to playing in Leeds? I came to your show at The Faversham in January, and it was fantastic. Was playing at such a small venue a nice change for you guys after the last year of massive clubs like Sankeys Ibiza and Printworks London?
We absolutely LOVE coming to Leeds, the crowd is always 110% up for it and stay until the end with huge smiles on their faces. It’s great coming here because they have a very music-forward crowd and nights that cater to absolutely everyone. We headlined at Canal Mills earlier this year in May for the sold out Garden Party – and the crowd took the roof off! Never a dull moment up North!
After enjoying such a meteoric rise over the last few years, what advice would you give to any aspiring DJs or producers out there?
Persevere and don’t give up – as basic as that sounds – that is the only honest advice we can give. We locked ourselves away for months and focused on our productions and by no means was it easy. However, we have come such a long way in the past 12 months from solid graft and believing in ourselves, staying positive and imagining the end goal and not stopping until we achieve it.
Finally, if you met someone who had never listened to house or techno and was looking to explore that type of music, which 3 DJs would you tell them to listen to?
Well obviously… Solardo! Haha. And apart from ourselves, we would recommend Green Velvet, Jamie Jones and Loco Dice.