Ahead of last week’s album launch party at London’s Jazz Cafe we had the opportunity to sit down with none other than the legendary DJ Marky, the Brazilian drum and bass maestro known for his infectious tunes and energetic performances.
Known for timeless tracks such as ‘LK’ and of course his unequivocal skills as both a selector and turntablist, DJ Marky’s passion for music is palpable, transcending the boundaries of drum and bass, a true artist of the decks, he is not just a drum and bass D- he is a DJ in the purest sense, guided by his love for jazz, boogie, funk, soul, disco, hip-hop, house, and techno.
Infusing all his musical influences and emotions into his latest album, DJ Marky creates another piece. Talking about the album, DJ Marky recounted his personal struggles, and how despite the challenges, he found solace and healing through the power of music and the support of friends and collaborators. Through raw emotions and deep connections, he crafted tracks that resonated with his own experiences, making his album an emotional journey for both him and the listeners.
Join us as we explore the world of DJ Marky, where emotions, influences, and musical artistry intertwine to create something truly extraordinary.
Hello DJ Marky, how are you?
I’m really good. Excited and happy about the album launch party.
The album launch at London’s Jazz Cafe. What can we expect from your ‘influences set’?
I think it will be good. I like to play my influences, not just a full drum and bass set. I stopped thinking of myself as a ‘drum and bass DJ’ and for quite a long time now I think of myself as a DJ. I’ve been playing records since I was like 11, that’s when I learned to DJ. I always played different kinds of music. I’m not just interested in drum & bass, I love jazz, I love boogie, funk, soul, disco, hip-hop, house, and techno. I like everything. That’s what I tried to put into drum and bass. I’ve tried to put in, not just my emotions but all my musical influences. That’s what I do.
You can hear that in the album…
Yeah. I always try to express this in all my music. I don’t want to just do very electronic stuff. It needs to have a groove and a swing, something which makes you move. When I make music I don’t think about mixdowns or things like that, I think about how people are gonna dance. How people might react to this part of the music or that part. I try to discover what feelings they’re gonna have. Maybe I’m a stupid romantic.
It must be difficult. Everyone has a different reaction to art and music, so it’s an interesting way to think about creativity. How do you get into the space where you’re thinking about how other people might think?
I try to think of one of these big producers for example like Quincy Jones or someone like that. I try to think about what he thought when he made so many classics. Some of these songs were a great part of my mother’s life, then my life and now my son loves them, singing along. This is what I try to do, create something not just for the moment. But I want to be proud of my music and be able to hear my music in 40 years.
I think it’s safe to say your music is pretty timeless…
It’s very hard and it’s actually very funny. I remember when I made ‘Silly’ and it was about seven years ago I was playing the tune and people liked it, but it was just okay. But in the past two years especially after the pandemic, everybody wants me to play the tune all the time and I think it has got a better reaction now than when it came out. It’s quite crazy.
So you don’t see yourself as just a drum and bass you’re a DJ, what are you listening for when you’re selecting tracks? Is it that swing?
I never know what I’m gonna play. I came from DJ Culture. My heroes don’t plan sets because you don’t know what people want to hear until you get to the party. I think the advances in technology have got good sides and bad sides because now I think the new DJs don’t create emotions. I think they want to hear people screaming but they don’t want to hear people think.
I remember the first time I came to London, and I saw Grooverider playing this track. I had no idea what the track was. It was the early days of my career and every time I was in a city where Rider was playing, I’d be there, three o’clock in the morning, waiting for him to come on. I want to hear that track and he was the only one who had it. I was running to clubs after my gigs to see him play and sometimes he didn’t even play track. I was like “My God, just let me hear the track!” It’s that sensation when you really, really want a DJ to play a tune, that creates emotions because you don’t know what they’re gonna play.
And for me, the main thing about being a DJ. You surprise the crowd and surprise yourself.
Now I think everything is very predictable. How some DJs play is kind of more mechanical than emotional. I’m an emotional person and I don’t know how to work in that way- make a selection and home and know and I’m gonna play only this- I don’t know how to do it.
When my friends ask me to go to Austria and go snowboarding. And I said, “I don’t know how to do it.” They always tell me it’s just skateboarding, but the idea of being stuck on the board didn’t feel good. That’s the same way with the music.
Okay, so you want to have freedom in your sets?
I separated some tunes the other day and I said “Okay I’m gonna separate, I don’t know, 50 tracks to play out.” I ended up separating 500 because I don’t know if I’m gonna play. I don’t know what people want to hear because I want to surprise them. I don’t want to play the same genres that everybody plays. I want to be different. I don’t want to make people scream all the time. I want them to long for tunes.
I think that’s why we don’t have more classics these days. We have big tunes but where are the classics? I want classics, ‘Inner City Life’ is from 1994. We know in 2023 we will still play the tune and it will still blow up the floor. Brown Paper Bag- Roni Size– it works. ‘Shake Your Body’.
It’s very funny to think about this, for example, when Shy FX made ‘Call Me’, I thought that this was one of the most beautiful things I heard for a long, long time. In my head, I said ‘This is gonna be huge.’ And it was a big tune, but not the way I thought. The new way the music industry works is quite difficult for me these days, it feels like it’s less about the music. Sometimes it’s very tricky. Sometimes it’s unpredictable, we don’t know what’s gonna be big or not, but what I try to do is I try to create emotions with my music.
Listening to your album while it’s drum & bass, it’s a mixture of subgenres. Is that because of this link to emotional feeling, you want to pick from different bits of the scene and connect with different emotions?
Yes but, as well as that, I’ve been through a lot of emotions, because I’ve been in a sad place because I caught covid and I was very, very ill. I thought I was gonna die to be honest. I was really bad in the hospital. I stayed in the hospital for one week and it seems it was a month. It was during the peak of Covid in Brazil, so all of the hospitals were full. My mum had it before me and I was terrified.
I didn’t know what was going on. I knew I had to do the album and in my head, I wasn’t very happy, but at the end of the day, I put all my emotions into the album.
When I went to Harry Bryson’s studio and we made ‘Colours Of My Mind’. That was one of the saddest days of my life. At the same time, it was a very fantastic day because of him and Cimone, his partner- they treated me so well that I started to feel hope. I had the understanding that things were going to get better, it’s just a phase, and that track was born from that.
Trip to the Stars’ which I made with Makoto, was made right after I left the hospital. I couldn’t sleep much in Hospital but the little times I did, all I could see was the stars. I didn’t know if I was going to the stars, or if I would ever come back. But I did come back.
It’s a very instrumental track. But if you sit down and you listen to it you can feel it’s very emotional. I just try to put myself into this music, I don’t know how to make music without emotions, I’m not the type of person who can open a computer and just make music. I need something, I need an emotion.
How do you decide who you’re going to work with on these tracks?
That’s quite interesting as well because I was planning to do the album by myself. I knew a lot of people were gonna help me make sounds and stuff, people like Lovely Makoto, he’s my long, long time friend, so I knew he was going to guide me. But at the same time, in this album, I wanted to show different emotions and the fact that after all these sad things happen, love and hope can come back again.
Some of the other collaborations come from gigs. For example, I was in Berlin and I got a phone call from Dave, from GEST and he just said “I’d like to meet you. What do you think about getting into the studio together?” So it started like that, we went to the studio, I had two or three loops, and we started up the project in his house. Then he sent it to Harry in Spain. We started creating the vibe, and I thought ‘my God, this is good!” The loop I made for that was inspired by Marcus Intalex, he was my long-time friend and I wanted to make a track for him.
That track is for him. For Marcus. It’s nice because it has a Marky touch, it sounds a little bit like Marcus and has GEST vibes, so it’s three in one. There’s a lot of different emotions in that tune.
So, some collabs come about naturally like that, but there were some people I knew I wanted to work with, like Quadrant & Iris. I tried to make more of a techie tune, but I felt like there was something missing, so I sent it over to them- I love working with Quadrant and Iris. I love their music and I have a lot of respect for them. They’ve been friends for quite a long time so I knew I had to make a track with them, and for me, it’s a very special track.
Tyke and I have been trying to make a track for quite a long time, it was cool to make a track with him because we’re different. I love the jump-up that Tyke makes, so I made a loop in a hotel for our track and then came into the studio- and I said to him “I think we need a little vocal.” Upstairs from the studio is Daddy Earl’s shop, so we talked to him and we had a vocal done in about two minutes.
All the different things just came together…
At the end of the day, I was trying to get away from my personal struggles. Trying to hang out with people as much as possible. To escape the sad feelings. Everybody was like “Marky you wanna come here? Aren’t you gonna come here? Let’s make Music!” And slowly I stopped feeling bad.
There’s nothing like it, music is a healer and so are social connections, so to make music with people that you like and meeting new friends is just going to heal you so much…
Exactly- that’s the way it starts. Some tunes I needed to write with people but others I needed to write on my own at home. Like ‘Poetry’, I made the tune at home, but I heard Solah on a Halogenix tune and knew I had to work with her. The same with Charli Brix I love what she does, it was a big privilege to have them on the album.
So this year is 20 years of Innerground. That’s a special number, are you doing anything to celebrate?
I’m gonna release another EP this year on Instagram. That will include a classic Marky and XRS track called ‘The Soul Samba’ remixed by me and Makoto. Makoto loves my old tunes, when he came to Brazil to play about five years ago he wanted to do some remixes and I said “But I don’t have the parts.” But I had all the samples. All the tunes I did with XRS are samples from my record collection, and you know I’ve got a little stash of records…
Yeah, I’ve heard that you’ve got a few…
30,000, and I still buy records every day.
Always physical, or do you expand into digital as well?
I buy digital when I don’t have them on vinyl. But most are physical because I love very rare records that are not online, which is fantastic for me. I go to play in the club and play any genre and people and if people try to Shazam my selection and they can’t find it. That’s my victory. I spent the time digging.
That’s your treasure.
Yeah, I spend a lot of time digging everywhere in the world. And because of my collection, I said “Wow, even without the parts, I can recreate what we did in the past.”So I started recreating the samples just chopping in the simplest way, that’s the way I make music- the hip-hop way, the more the old school way. I did that really quickly and then we started building the remix. So we’re gonna put it on Innerground with a couple of brand new tracks. I could have sent them to Shogun, but these tracks I made for Innerground, they’re more Innerground style.
Are you gonna have a birthday party?
That’s a good question. I need to talk to my business partner. It’s a tricky decision because I think label marketing has changed quite a lot, but I think we’re very consistent with the releases. I feel very proud of the label, especially because when I started putting out Random Movement, I loved his music, it’s just something else for me. It was a very special time for us, we released Calibre, Total Science and a bunch of young producers. I was the first one to put a T>I record, a Dominator record, Random Movement, and Decimal Bass- now he’s in Annix. I sign them for their tune but also because I want to allow people to make music for themselves and explore their ideas. I think it’s cool and I’m proud of that.
Over the years has running a label taught you anything about yourself?
Yes, it’s very difficult. That’s number one. And it’s much more about marketing than love which it’s very hard for me, very difficult. Because most of everything I do, especially music, I do for love. But it’s a process, I think I’m still learning, especially now. It’s like children working with paint, I have a little vision. At Innerground I’m not the boss, I’m just the guy who gets to play the tunes. All the bureaucratic stuff is with Oliver, and Eugene does the promotion, all the videos and stuff. I think he’s doing well, we are a small label but I think we’re making cool content now.
We need help from the artist as well, because, if the artist doesn’t help themselves, forget about it. Even if you don’t like social media, you have to use it for promotion. Nowadays you can’t release a tune and just sit down waiting for your money. It doesn’t work like that, you need to promote yourself as well. The label will always promote, but you need to promote yourself. That’s what I learned, I need to promote myself all the time. Sometimes it’s a bit of a nightmare. But I have to do it because I have bills to pay.
I’m also learning how not to complain too much and trying not to do everything. That’s why working with Shogun has been a really good experience, I get a lot of freedom.
In terms of making music?
Friction, K-Tee and Pete give me total freedom creatively. I didn’t even have a timeline for the album. I said to them ‘Look, for me to even do a single is difficult. Imagine an album…”
Because you have to wait for the emotions and the feelings to come to you, do you need something to give?
I consider myself more of a DJ than a producer. I make music. But if you ask me if I’m a producer or a DJ I can say to you with all my heart I’m a DJ because I love being behind the decks. I create emotions and I love to play all different kinds of music. I love it, and I think everybody who sees me play can feel it. That is my passion and my love is not fake.
As you love to DJ so much, how’s festival season going for you?
I confess to you, I’m more of a club DJ because I think in a club you can express yourself properly. I’ve never been a big fan of the one-hour set. I hate them. Two words I don’t like- one-hour sets, and back-to-back.
But it is kicking off well. I played the Hospital Stage at the Rampage Open Air, it was really cool and very interesting. I also played at Hospitality On The Beach- I had a Marky and Friends boat party. It was me, Makoto, LSB, Seba, MC Ruthless, Lowqui, SOLAH- all my friends. It was very emotional. I was very drunk. I don’t drink all the time, I’m not that kind of person. I like to be sober. But that day was very happy. When I played the last tunes a lot of people cried and I cried as well. It felt like something else.When you’re creating emotions you surprise yourself and surprise the crowd, that’s when we do special things.
That sounds beautiful. When you can get those kinds of special moments in these different settings, what is it about a club that you prefer? Is it the lighting? The time of day?
I think when you play in the club I don’t have a compromise on what to play. I don’t need to play the big tunes, but during festival season, everybody wants to beat each other, people are asking which DJs are gonna smash it. No, I’m different. I like to play what I feel at that moment. I don’t want to go there and say I’m gonna smash it tonight. I’m gonna play double drops, I like to bring something else.
When you’re on a dance floor it’s very good to have the energy and stuff but it’s nice to have the peaks followed by dips, that’s the way you create an atmosphere.
I’ve always said the warm-up is the most important part of the night. When I’m promoting in Brazil I make sure I choose the right DJs. I’ve seen people playing warm-ups starting with some absolute bangers when you need to build the atmosphere.
When I play in the club, I have people in my hands, I can do whatever I want and I can express myself better. But I love the energy of the festivals. I love festivals. Sun and Bass is one of the festivals where I completely express myself. Everybody there is just there for the music, the same with Outlook festival too. And last year Boomtown, my God, was incredible.
Can we talk about Brazil, what makes the drum and bass scene in São Paulo special?
Because people love the music. I’m not saying people don’t love the music anywhere else. But I think the difference in Brazil is that if you play a track, the whole crowd will be singing every single lyric. They don’t like fast mixes or DJ tricks, they want to hear the music, they love a good mix but you don’t need to rush.
Charlie Brix recently played in Brazil, it was beautiful, and the whole crowd was getting emotional. It’s like Collette Warren, she is a superstar in Brazil. When she gets on stage and grabs the mic, forget about it. She pulls more people into a club than some DJs. But this is our work, I play their music and then the ravers ask me to bring people over. I’m waiting for Halogenix to come, I play his music and I love his music, and everyone is begging for him to come over. It was the same for Pola & Bryson, Bryson came over to play for my birthday last year, and we had a fantastic time. He played their track ‘Under’ the whole crowd was singing, I was on the other side of the DJ booth, watching him play and seeing the whole crowd in a trance and suddenly, I started crying, So I think that’s why Brazil is special.
What should we be talking about in bass music that we’re not talking about?
4Hero. For me, they changed everything in dance music when they made ‘Mr Kirk’s Nightmare’ in the hardcore era, that dark side. Two Pages is one of the most incredible albums on the planet and I don’t think they get the respect they deserve, and that hurts me sometimes because, for me, they are pioneers. The funk, the soul, the broken beat, the house. It’s always been ahead of its time. They; ‘re so inspiring to me.