Artful Dodger and their collaborator Craig David were two of the biggest names in music to come out of Southampton in a generation.
Now, after a lengthy hiatus which saw him get married, move to Ibiza and have three kids, the UK garage producing duo’s main man, Mark Hill, is back.
Going by the name of Artful, he’s got a new album, a new tour and a bunch of new collaborations.
‘About a year and a half ago, I started making music again,’ says Mark, who’s back at home in Eling near Totton, having been Southampton-based since he arrived there for university in the early 1990s.
‘I experimented with a few names but I went with Artful because wanted to reflect that it was just me and I was half of Artful Dodger, because it’s similar music to what I was doing before.’
Mark says he never stopped making music, but took some time out to do his own thing because he ‘found the record business quite demanding’.
Following his now classic debut album – It’s All About The Stragglers (as well as producing Craig David’s debut and third albums), Mark is currently working on his second album.
‘It’s about 90 per cent there, but I keep tweaking it because genres of music move so quickly these days,’ he explains.
‘It’s almost a natural progression from what I was doing back then. There are still two-step influenced tracks and some house breaks.’
He’s been working with Donae’o and Terri Walker (who will both be appearing on his forthcoming tour), as well as Shean Williams, Daniel Debourg and Ed Sheeran.
‘Ed’s obviously influenced by what Craig did with the fast delivery,’ says Mark. ‘So, in September 2010 – not long after I got back into it, I started experimenting with him at the suggestion of my manager.’
The pair wrote Could Just Be The Bassline together with Ed on vocal duties. But, since then, Ed signed a record deal and his management thought he’d done enough collaborations and so wouldn’t allow Mark to use his vocal on his album.
Mark continues: ‘Ed suggested that Kal Lavelle, who had been supporting him on tour, could record the vocal and she nailed it.’
Mark’s really looking forward to heading out on tour next week to play the new material live.
It will also be the first time the Artful Dodger hits have been played with a full live band, apart from TV appearances on Jools Holland and TFI Friday.
Says Mark: ‘I didn’t get chance to tour with a full live band the first time round. I’ve found some amazing local musicians and they are really into it. They were fans of the music anyway and they’ve absolutely nailed the style.’
The tour kicks-off in Portsmouth on Thursday and ends in Southampton on May 5. But we’ll have to wait patiently for the album, which Mark hopes to have ready by the summer.
There’s also a possibility of more tracks with Craig David.
‘We’re still in touch on Twitter and email,’ reveals Mark. ‘We’ve been chatting about working together in the summer when he’s back over from Miami.’
In the meantime, you’ll find free downloads at artful.dj.
Tickets for Artful’s show on Thursday cost £6 in advance from (023) 9282 6249 or thecellars.co.uk, or £8 on the door from 7.30pm.