Features Guest Posts

Private Agenda in Conversation With Mark Barrott and Max Essa

(Editor’s Note: I’m thrilled to host a guest post from Lo Recordings act Private Agenda that is centered on the special EP The Space Between Swells. In this post, UK-based Private Agenda members Sean Phillips and Martin Aggrowe interview two producers, Mark Barrott and Max Essa, who provided remixes and reinterpretations of two recent Private Agenda songs, “Aura” and “Sea Life.” It’s a fascinating read to accompany two supremely engaging modern synth-pop and ambient releases, their Aura EP and their Île de Rêve LP.)

private agenda lo recordings
They are Private Agenda. Photo by Mark A. Phillips.

With Mark Barrott

Private Agenda: Where is your remix located? Is it anywhere at all? Who’s listening?

Mark Barrott: On a utopian island paradise, available to everyone in the palace of their mind, at 4 a.m. in the morning in the quiet nature of the night, with a subtle red light in the background of an after-hours party, whilst the heads nod and the beat chugs quietly and relentlessly on, just doing it’s thing… regardless.

Much of your recent production work has also been inspired by island living, field recordings, and natural elements in musical form. “Sea Life” is a sort-of landscape painting from the shoreline. How do you capture a sense of place in your music?

Hang a microphone outside the window and press record. Document everyday people living their extraordinary lives.

You grew up in the UK, and now live in Ibiza: two islands. What’s your perspective on the character of island life?

Claustrophobic, exhilarating, intoxicating, motivating, relaxing, cliched.

With Max Essa

Private Agenda: Where is your remix located? Is it anywhere at all? Who’s listening?

Max Essa: Travel, journeys I’ve made, and places I’ve visited over the years certainly inform some of what I do in the studio. Memories of an overnight ferry from Barcelona to Ibiza circa 1989; the Okinawan island of Ishigaki on a July evening by the ocean a couple of years ago; the tatami room at Bar Bonobo in Tokyo at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning … All of these locations and many more exist simultaneously in my musical imagination!

Having listened to Île de Rêve, you selected “Aura” to remix. Out of all the tracks on the project, it’s quite a statement to choose the most pop-sounding one for a dance floor remix. Looking back more broadly on your production credits and your background in music, where does pop fit into your musical outlook?

I was a teenager in the 1980s, so pop from that era has quite an influence on me. When it comes to making music, I enjoy melodies and chord progressions — I don’t get so much satisfaction from making very ‘tracky’ stuff. I think that maybe comes from the pop music I grew up listening to.

You grew up in the UK, and now live in Japan: two island nations. What’s your perspective on the character of island life?

I think often people like to characterize island nations as maybe isolated from the rest of the world in some way, but I have a sense that being surrounded by water, being able to look out into the distance and just see that expanse, somehow sparks our curiosity in the rest of the world and creates an urge to travel and see what’s out there.

About Private Agenda

Private Agenda is the eclectic, eccentric pop project of Sean Phillips and Martin Aggrowe. Based between London and Berlin, the pair have crafted their alluring and versatile sound over a series of releases on labels including: International Feel Recordings (DJ Harvey, Todd Terje) — home to their debut single, “Deja Vu”; Needwant (Robert Owens, Kim Ann Foxman) and Wall of Sound (Grace Jones, Röyksopp). Meanwhile, they’ve collaborated with acts as diverse as cosmic-disco pioneer Daniele Baldelli, London indie-funk outfit Stats, and Berghain-resident Massimiliano Pagliara. They are currently on Lo Recordings.

Buy The Space Between Swells now via Lo Recordings and find it streaming on Spotify and through other means. You can also buy Aura and ÎIe de Rêve via Lo and find it on streaming.

(Feature Photo of Private Agenda by Mark A. Phillips)