Interview with Mark Allen

Earlier this summer I got to interview one of the original legends of Goa Trance… Mark Allen of the Return to the Source parties and compilations and one of the masterminds behind the seminal act Quirk. Here is what came out of that chat…


Doing an interview in this manner is weird, so I’m going to give context to questions by writing a bit and then bold the specific questions. I placed sections where you can paste your replies within. There aren’t too many questions and I tried to mix things up with a bit of off-handed questions as well as some serious stuff. Hopefully the interview will work this way…

 The name Return to the Source begs the question, why did we leave the source to begin with? On that journey, did you find anything interesting?

Humans have come a long way since their early shamanic dance rituals and it’s not all bad. Dance music and clubbing has evolved by pushing sound and visual technology to the limits. It is constantly striving for bigger, fatter sounds and a more intense experience. This is very exciting, but too much emphasis on the mechanical, digital aspects of sound and dance can separate us from the warmth and grooves of more natural and organic rhythms. My return to the source journey has been a fascinating exploration of dance and music which has taken me all over the world, connecting with thousands of like-minded people.         

The early years of Goa Trance featured a lot of music with samples galore of aliens, spaceships, trippy shit, and general pseudoscience culture. Some is stuff that I don’t actually believe in, but I love the joke of. Quirk, along with acts like the Green Nuns of the Revolution, seemed to have gotten the same joke. Why did you add the extra layers of humor as opposed to being overly spiritual and serious as some of the other artists of the time? Did you know that this was going to set you apart from others and to some extent, have your music live on a bit more timeless and less dated than some of your contemporaries?

Yes, Tim and I from Quirk were abducted by the same aliens as Dick and Mat from the Green Nuns of the Revolution and while we were away, they injected us all with an extra dose of don’takeyourselftooserriously serum.

I still have and love my Chakra Journey albums. I have it on both vinyl and cd. The book that came with the CD is great, especially for that time period, and it shows that youthful exuberance of wanting to change the world for the positive. It seemed that for you, and many others, Return to the Source was more than just another party or series of events. What were you hoping to manifest through the events and with the music being shared at that time? Do you think you were successful?

I think we definitely had a positive effect at our events, not least by bringing lots of lovely people together to have a great party without any of the macho nonsense that so often pervades the club scene. We created an environment where people could be as cosmic as they liked without fear of ridicule. OK, maybe some ridicule.

Speaking of science stuff, who is your favorite Doctor?

Richard E Grant:

I’ve always believed that one of the main reasons that Goa never took off in the USA back in the 90’s was because of the ocean voyage needed to be journeyed for the producers to share their works here. In some ways, that family and community is what helped things grow and develop in your realm and is the portion that many probably remember fondly as opposed to the business side of things which seems to have burnt many bridges for people over the years and was quite the learning lesson everyone had to endure. Any particularly pleasing memories of how that community helped shape the life you live currently in a positive light? Any thoughts on how some of the less pleasant aspects of the community ended up giving you future perspectives with which you now see the world?

 I have many treasured memories of fantastic events around the world, which still make me smile and affect my outlook on life. I have been settled in Brighton for the last 15 years and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of friends I made during my travels in India. My contemporaries (now in their forties and fifties) are still up for a good dance, but it doesn’t have to be full on psy-trance. We still share something magical on the dance floor when we get together, something that can’t quite be put into words. 

 I had a few dodgy gigs over the years. Generally the intention has been good, even if the execution has been a bit flakey. I was left stranded in Mexico City once, by a promoter who did a runner without paying me or my hotel.  Fortunately, I was rescued by a group of lovely people who came to the gig and looked after me.     

A few years ago I did a fake interview of Infected Mushroom with one of my good mates on an old radio show. It garnered me my first death threat. Any interesting stories you’d like to share from long ago? Any shady promoters or sycophant fans that you remember and want to comment upon?

I would love to tell you some stories about Yakusa and Russian gangsters, but then I would have to….. no, let’s talk about Bali 2000 which was quite special. We were supposed to see in the Millennium with a Quirk live set, instead the heavens opened up just before midnight and the rain destroyed all of the stage equipment. Instead of putting a roof over the stage, (it was after all, the rainy season), the promoter decided to hire a shaman to “sort out the weather”. “He’s great”, said the promoter, “he did my wedding”. The thing is, his wedding was in the dry season. 

I assume everyone likes pie. If you don’t skip this, but what’s your favorite pie? Savory? Sweet?

Pie in the sky with diamonds.

 You got out of the scene right when the music really started to get formulaic and began losing its sense of wonder. Perhaps all of the mysticism was revealed to be covering up for sketchy leeches and users, or maybe the system is too far entrenched to be changed by youthful idealism. Do you ever wish that you had not thrown in the towel, so to speak?

I feel that I hung up my headphones at the right time for me. I still enjoy doing the odd retro set a few times a year, where I can draw upon a rich collection of tunes spanning 20 years. I am slightly in awe of the power and clinical precision of some of the contemporary psy-trance, but there is not enough variety to keep me entertained for long. One good thing about giving up music production, is that after a while, you can go back to just enjoying music for what it is and not micro-analysing every sound you hear. It’s quite liberating. 

All things must pass and come to an end. I’d like to thank you for taking time out of things to have this bit of a chat with me. Your music helped open a new world for me and there is no way I would be the person that I am without the work you and countless others did and shared with me. I can’t thank you enough and I hope you can reflect back fondly about the lives you had a hand in touching and shaping. Any last thoughts or comments for those entering the scene now and looking to turn up the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around?

Thank you for the nice words. I have certainly had a blast and would not have done it any other way. Hey kids, try slowing it down a bit and you’ll find space for new grooves and new moves, don’t feel obliged to use one of the 3 approved baselines and look for inspiration beyond the scene. There’s a lot of stuff going on out there.

 Thanks again for your time and your gifts. I hope the world is treating you well these days. Take care and maybe our paths will cross someday. All the best!

Cheers. Do drop in for tea if you are ever in Brighton.  XX
-Mark Allen

-The Goa Constrictor


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