Interview by John Wisniewski
AMFM Magazine: Why did you decide to play and record music, Mark?
Mark Plati: I’m not really sure it was me that made that decision. I’ve always felt like music chose me. I was seduced early on as a child in the mid 60’s, from our car radio as well as TV programs like Ed Sullivan and other variety shows from that era … you could do worse, I suppose! I think I knew it was in my blood from a very young age. I even tried to fight it at one point – once I got to college I figured I ought to straighten up and fly right, and maybe get a business degree. That lasted about two weeks.
AMFM Magazine: What were your first experiences with music?
Mark Plati: Aside from all the songs I’d heard as a child, two things happened in 1971 when I was nine. First, I received a transistor radio for Christmas, 1970; it lay dormant until the spring or so, when I tuned in to our local Top 40 radio station. I guess the timing was right, as I got instantly hooked. From then on, most of my allowance would be spent on 45’s. I would even call the stations’ request line. Those first couple of years – ’71 and ’72 – are now seen as pivotal in the blossoming of rock, and lucky me with a newfound obsession and raging prepubescent hormones was ripe for the plucking. Second, a friend of mine was playing snare drum in the school band; I thought that seemed pretty cool, so I decided to try it. Again, I just got swept up in it. I really used to annoy the family beating out paradiddles at the dinner table, but there was just no switching it off.
AMFM Magazine: When and how did you meet David Bowie? You co-produced the “Earthling” album by Bowie. What was that like? Did you share his artistic vision when working with David?
Mark Plati: Like many meetings in music, it was essentially by chance. He came to visit a studio where I had my own workspace, and since I knew the room it made sense for me to engineer and program for him for a couple of weeks. Of course, I had no idea that two weeks would turn into seven years! I found with David that he’d cue into musical personalities pretty quickly, and they could often become one of his cast of characters. I was fortunate to have occupied a number of roles in that universe – first on the studio side as an engineer, mixer and programmer, and then as a performer and band leader. The first album I did with David was ‘Earthling’ – a record blending electronics and beats with a live band – and it was the perfect starting point, as I’d wanted to make a record like that since the dawn of the 90’s. We were all on the same page – David, his guitarist/musical director Reeves Gabrels, and myself – so, producing this pretty complex recording actually felt pretty effortless.
AMFM Magazine: What was it like working with Lou Reed, Mark?
Mark Plati: The first time I worked with Lou was as a mix assistant in 1987, when I was still on staff at Arthur Baker’s Shakedown Sound. Lou knew what he wanted, and he wanted to try all sorts of devices and settings to get there. I’d not seen an artist put Arthur or a mixer though those sorts of paces, so that was pretty interesting. The second time was in 1996 when we were rehearsing for David’s 50th birthday show – Lou came in to run through a couple of songs. It was a little trippy being in the same room with David and Lou, who we all associate with the ‘Transformer’ album, and watching them interact as regular people.
AMFM Magazine: You recorded with Prince on “Graffiti Bridge”. What was that like?
Mark Plati: It was actually a little scary at first. He was the very first artist of that stature that I worked with as a first engineer, mixer and programmer, as opposed to as an assistant. I knew a lot was riding on it as far as the potential trajectory (or, lack thereof!) of my career, and that I was sitting in the proverbial hot seat. His reputation as a ridiculously hard worker and task master preceded him, so it was a little intimidating – he was always dressed like Prince for example, no blue jeans for him! Still, once the work began we and started to make music, off we went.
AMFM Magazine: What are you currently working on?
Mark Plati: I’ve been working on loads of independent projects the last few years. People seem to find me the modern way – Google, social media, my website, Spotify credits, etc. So, I get asked to do a variety of different projects. I’m currently working on mixes for artists from New York, Belgium, France, as well as being involved in a couple of media/theatrical projects. Oh, and I helped write a musical a couple of years ago. It’s all over the shop, in a good way. I was very fortunate during the pandemic, I stayed fairly busy.
AMFM Magazine: What was it like – Bowie ‘s last album “Toy”?
Mark Plati: Toy wasn’t actually his last album, though I suppose it was technically the last full album of new material to be released. It was recorded live in the studio in the summer of 2000, right after performing at Glastonbury. It was the third studio album I’d done with David, following on after ‘Earthling’ and ‘hours’. Each of those records were completely different in style and method, but by then that didn’t surprise me that we’d take a different path every time we would make an album. It was also my first time as a full producer with David, so of course it was a little more exciting than usual. It was a lot of fun and everybody was in a pretty joyous mood, which I think you can feel in the performances. An adventure to remember!
AMFM Magazine: Any favorite music artists?
Mark Plati: I have way too many to mention. Just taking a peek at my Spotify and Tidal track lists, I wouldn’t know where to start. I was never a full-on rabid fan of one artist or band, as there was just too much to go around and I was interested in so many genres. There are the 60’s and 70’s classic artists of course, and I was a sucker for any and all New Wave as that was the musical movement of my adolescence. And, growing up around New York City you were exposed to just so much – R ‘n’ B, punk, disco – and there was so much to absorb and learn from all of that. It was no surprise to me that I’d end up making house remixes as well as more conventional rock recordings. I suppose my favorite artist to work with would still have to be Bowie, as it was always a learning experience regardless of what the project happened to be.
ABOUT MARK PLATI
There are people who make music for a living … and then there are people who live to make music. New York based producer, engineer and musician Mark Plati would definitely fall into the latter category. If you’ve met him, played with him, or had him record or produce you … you know.
Mark moved to New York City in 1987 and began working with dance music legend Arthur Baker at his Shakedown Sound studio as an engineer, mixer, synthesizer programmer, and musician. Working with Baker was an instant immersion into the music industry of the 1980s: it was a trial-by-fire period that kept Mark busy not only in Baker’s domain, but quickly led to work elsewhere. Between 1987 and 1991 Mark worked with such diverse artists as Quincy Jones, Janet Jackson, The Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Oingo Boingo, Dream Academy, The Fat Boys, Grayson Hugh, Pete Wylie, Dennis Brown, and the Bee Gees. After working with Prince on the ‘Graffiti Bridge’ album he decided to leave the world of dance music and remixing, but to then incorporate those sensibilities as he made a move into more mainstream record production, a philospohy he still continues to embrace. During the 1990’s Mark worked with such diverse artists as Nina Hagen, New Order, Natalie Imbruglia, Suzanne Vega, Al Green, Big Audio Dynamite, Shawn Colvin, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Deee-Lite. In 1991 he began a ten-year association with minimalist composer Philip Glass’ New York City recording complex, The Looking Glass, where he produced, engineered, mixed, or performed on albums by David Bowie, The Cure, Hooverphonic, Alisha’s Attic, Duncan Sheik, Dave Navarro, as well as Glass himself. In 1996 Mark co-produced David Bowie’s ‘Earthling’ album, which marked the beginning of a period where he produced, recorded, mixed, or performed on most of Bowie’s musical output until 2003.
In 1999 Mark switched gears and began a three year stint as Musical Director and guitarist/bassist with Bowie, performing with him in Europe and the U.S. at such shows as the Glastonbury Festival, NetAid, the Montreux Jazz Festival, VH-1 Storytellers, The Concert for New York, and the Area 2 Tour with Moby. He supervised the live execution of two complete Bowie albums – ‘Heathen,’ and the 1976 classic ‘Low.’
In 2005 Mark began a period of working in Paris, producing and mixing a number of iconic platinum artists including Louise Attaque, Les Rita Mitsuko, Emilie Simon, Alain Bashung, KYO, and Charlie Winston. Mark continues to work in New York as well as on the Continent, and is constantly looking for new musical adventures.