Mark de Clive-Lowe is an internationally renowned keyboardist, producer and DJ, based in Los Angeles.
Half Japanese, half New Zealander, he began piano lessons at age four. We had a chat with this master of the keys to find out what makes him tick. You can play Mark’s course here.
Tell us a little about your music.
I’m a studio producer and live musician. My most formative years were spent living in the UK for a decade from 1998 – deeply entrenched in the broken beat scene, collaborating with the best of London’s underground talent. In combination with my deep love for jazz music, that time spent in London informs a lot of what I do – whether I’m producing for a soul singer, lacing keys on a dancefloor joint or exploring something more experimental. Sometimes I’m writing for acoustic instruments, sometimes in an electronic setting, and often it’s a combination of both.
What’s your background with keys?
I grew up playing piano from a really young age in New Zealand and in my teens it was a mix of jazz on the piano and hip-hop on the speakers – I’d practice the piano inspired by people like Herbie Hancock, and try to make beats inspired by Native Tongues hip-hop. I’ve collaborated with so many of my favorite musicians and artists – Pino Palladino, Bugz in the Attic, DJ Spinna, Kenny Dope, Leon Ware, Kamasi Washington and dozens more.
How do you think the keys skills fitting into a producer’s music making ability?
I see instruments and being able to play them as a fundamental skill in music making. You can make music using a 16-pads interface or just a laptop, but there’s something so real and very human about making music using a traditional music interface – a keyboard, a drum kit, a guitar or any other conventional instrument. Even just having a bit of knowledge on a keyboard opens up new understanding and infinitely more possibilities in expressing creativity.
You have a unique style of improvisation. How do you incorporate keys into your music and your live performance?
Keys are my main interface to creating music – I have a USB controller keyboard hooked up to Maschine and Ableton as well as some hardware keyboards and sometimes a grand piano or Rhodes. I create and loop everything from scratch each show and really enjoy challenging myself to find new ways to approach the same themes from show to show.
What’s your all-time favourite song to play?
Any song that has lush harmony is a favorite for me. Harmony is the heart of the music and can bring so much emotion to a song. Whether the song is 100% electronic, acoustic, or somewhere in between, it’s one of the most powerful tools you have to create with.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and J Dilla are three very special inspirations for sure.
What’s in your opinion the most useful aspect of keys to master for music production?
Anything that helps you move around the keyboard with a sense of confidence is more than useful. Every little skill or technique you can learn is a key to unlock the instrument to another level.