If you don’t already know the name Mark Eteson, you still might have heard the British DJ/producer’s work. Previously with dance-music brand Godskitchen, Eteson is now not only a resident at Hakkasan and host of the club’s new podcast, as well as his own, Highway, but also the voice of festivals such as Global Gathering. Eteson serves as the warm-up act at Hakkasan, meaning he’s faced with one of the most challenging time slots in town.
You’ve leaned more toward playing trance in the past. Describe your musical evolution.
Production-wise, I’ve always made trance. The popularity has grown and gone more commercial, which is going to bring more people into dance music, and I see the good side of that. A lot of other people were moaning that dance music should stay underground and shouldn’t be as popular, but I think it’s great. My music had to change when I came over [from England], especially to Vegas. I had to adapt a bit more. I’m still going to stay true to my original roots, but I’ve always played a variety of stuff anyway.
What are the greatest rewards as well as the challenges that come with playing a supporting role right before the headliners at Hakkasan?
The greatest reward is the names that are on the lineup. It’s an honor to be playing alongside some of these names; they are the biggest in the industry. I feel very privileged to be there. I wouldn’t say “lucky,” because it was very hard to get to this point, but I do know how fortunate I am to be in this club.
It’s difficult to be a supporting act because we have to walk a very, very tight line between not outdoing the main act and also not playing anything that they might play. Within 15 minutes or half an hour of them coming on, we have to dial it back down, but we have to keep the crowd interested so they don’t leave before the headliner comes on. The support act can be the most rewarding and the most challenging at the same time, but if you get it right, it’s a great feeling.
How do you decide or guess what the headliners might play? Do you study their sets?
That’s difficult as well, because Vegas is a different beast. The tracks that Moby would play here may be different than what he might play in Europe or somewhere else in America, because Vegas is so commercial. People come here to be entertained, not educated. They want to hear songs that they know, vocals that they’ve heard on the radio. There are not very many DJs who at least sidestep a little bit to cater toward that music because they know that people are here on holiday and some are sort of from the middle of nowhere. They’ve not necessarily had great access to dance music. So you have to play something that people will know. So as far as putting a track list together, he might play a slightly different style here. I have to just be aware and really try to think the way he would think, but not necessarily by looking through tracklists. Just from your knowledge of being in the scene for so long, because somebody new to it might not have as good a grasp on what these guys might play.
Speaking of people who have been around the industry, they would know that you spent quite awhile spinning for Godskitchen, correct?
Yeah, I think it was 2006 or 2007 that I had my first introduction to the guys at Godskitchen, and then I became a resident. Oddly enough, the guy who gave me my first gig now manages Calvin Harris. So I see him all the time anyway. It’s funny how massive a scene this is, but the people whothat are sort of making the big moves, it kind of feels like a family still.
What is your favorite memory from your career before moving to Vegas?
I traveled to the Global Gathering festival, which was sort of a Godskitchen spinoff. I traveled everywhere with that. I played in Kiev in Ukraine; that was one of my favorite places to play. Absolutely incredible crowd. I absolutely loved touring with Global Gathering. It was two years after I became a Godskitchen resident they gave me the closing set in the trance arena. Bear in mind I’d only just come out of university, and I’m closing this tent to 12,000 people. That was really a “wow” moment.
Speaking of festivals, you do voice-over work for some of them. How did that come about?
I started doing my own radio show, and through the affiliation with Godskitchen, I started doing their shows and then I was doing various bits of advertising work with promotional videos and stuff, and I guess it just filtered out. Other festivals heard about the voice-over work, and I just got involved from there. I really enjoyed that side of it. I loved doing the radio show, and that’s why we’re doing the Hakkasan [podcast]. That’s an extra string to my bow.
What are the similarities and differences between your own show, Highway, and the Hakkasan podcast?
I stopped doing Highway about six or seven months ago, knowing that I was coming over here. Obviously we have to play music from our acts at the club, but other than that, they’ve given me complete [freedom] on what I want to play. Hakkasan doesn’t play drum and bass, so I’m not going to play a drum and bass track in there, but other than that, I’ve got a wealth of music that we do play, including some of the deeper lounge-y type vibe from the restaurant all the way through to the slamming main-room stuff. I play a cross section of that. The beginning of the Hakkasan podcast, you can hear stuff that you can imagine hearing if you were on a boat in Miami, and then in the middle of it you’re going to hear stuff from Calvin or Tiësto or any of our other headliners.
Do you have any of your own upcoming productions that you’re able to work
into the mix?
I’m working on new productions at the moment. My latest one is called “Aventus,” and that’s a traditional trance track. That one’s got really good support like having been played by Above & Beyond and on Armin [van Buuren’s] show. But my production style has changed with my sound. I’ve got another track I’m finishing off, which is having vocals written for it with another guy back in England, that will be coming out later in the year.
You moved here in October. What do you think about living in Las Vegas?
I’ve had people say to me, “You’ll get bored with it,” or “You have to draw that distinction between going out and having a normal life.” I’ve just recently moved to Turnberry, which is pretty much on the Strip. At the moment I don’t have a car. But I rather enjoy living on the Strip. I have free limo service from here. I’ve got the monorail or I can get a cab. I want to try living on the Strip for six months to a year and see how I get on. I may look to get a house, because I’ve always wanted a pool, maybe some housemates.
What’s your favorite non-club thing about Vegas so far?
Back where I’m from in the countryside in England, we don’t have very much variety of food. I love the fact that there’s literally everything here.