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The Birth of a Label

The Birth of a Label

Many of you may know this already that MK837 was first conceived at a music festival. What most of you do not know is how deeply embedded that music festival is in our blood. Today, I’d like to let you a bit deeper into our world.

Perhaps one of the oddest things about MK837 is that many of our artists are actually Christians. We’re all at different stages in our faith, but our faith shapes our values in running the label, the content that we put out and how we portray ourselves. When I say that the label was conceived at a music festival, I really mean that it was conceived at one of the longest running and perhaps quirkiest Christian music festival’s in the United States.

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The Cornerstone Festival ran from 1984 until 2012. Miraculously, it was run by a group of Christian hippies known as Jesus People USA. Based out of Chicago, this group of hippies never got the message that the age of communes and hippies had ended long before the start of the festival. The festival itself was a mixture of music, art and teaching and just as a matter of history was the proving ground for many rock, punk, metal and folk acts. One of the biggest breakout acts for the festival was P.O.D. By the end of the festival, it wasn’t uncommon to have Bono from U2 sending a video message or Brian “Head” Welch of Korn to attend whether he was performing or not.

One of the oddities of this Christian rock fest however was the existence of an EDM stage. When this stage first appeared is still someone clouded, but it was there. Every year, Christian DJs and producers would come out and throw a rave each night in the middle of the cornfields of the Cornerstone Farm. The crowd always varied in size and every now and then the management of the stage would change.

As luck, karma or grace would have it, I eventually was given the opportunity to run the stage. At this point, the stage’s attendance had been in decline. My job was to save the stage while cutting the budget as much as possible. I honestly had never thrown a rave or club night in my life. I needed some major help. That’s when and why I reached out to Kevin Neely and the BTU (Birmingham Trance Underground) gang. Together with their help and the brilliant lighting and sound gurus over at the Harmony Network, we literally turned that stage around in just one year.

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We ran that stage together for 5 years together. Our annual trek to the Cornerstone Farm in Bushnell, Il was an event that we looked forward to every year. It was a time of chaos, spur of the moment innovation, freedom of expression, mistakes, successes and so much more. We ached deeply for the many months between each festival to return to what had become our second home. After 2011 though, the festival ran out of money and our stage was cut. They did one last festival in 2012, which ended in of all things a true Viking funeral, but we were not there.

For four of the five years, we produced a CD to give out for free. Each night we would pull in between 800-1600 people in foot traffic with sustained crowds of 100-300 people. We did have our low nights, but nobody wants to remember those. We also pulled in a combination of world class talent like Tim Richards, Joel Armstrong, Kenneth Thomas, Greg “Stryke” Chin, Topher Jones and more. We would pair that up with talent that nobody had heard yet like Brother Brooks, Alex Bedwell, Deeflash and DJ Marcuis. Each year, our stage and lighting rig grew and became more creative. Greg “Styke” Chin’s jaw literally hit the floor the first time we introduced a 20 foot video wall to the barn. And for the last year, we had to build about a 40 foot video wall at the last minute.

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It was Cornerstone 2009 when, Kevin and I started to discuss forming a label. After all, if we could pull off this event every year, why couldn’t we pull off a label that was run as an artists and ethics first label? Why couldn’t we run a label that focused first and foremost on exposing new talent that would otherwise be ignored? Why couldn’t we bring the same level of creativity and talent to a label that we were bringing to Cornerstone? So we gave it a shot and we pulled it off.

So the video below showcases our 2008 setup session. Take a close look and you’ll see many of our artists, from Alex and Brooks of Chemical Harmony to Fitzpartick, Deeflash and well Kevin and me. This video shows our roots. It shows that our hearts and passion have always been on the music. This is MK837. We are electronic dance music. This is who and what we are at our core.

17 July 2014 Articles