2020 is unofficially the year of the silver lining. Literally any type of positive that can be gleaned from this frustrating pandemic-pulverised year should be squeezed for every gram of goodness it brings.
Things like the fact that DJ Marky has streamed sets weekly live since April and put out a whole trove of tunes; A Song For You with DRS & Dynamite, his Pola & Bryson collaboration and his single Parlet. These aren’t just silver linings, they’re walloping pots of gold keeping us sane during these trying times. As is his most recent release, a crucial co-lab with Vienna-based Jazzsticks owner Paul SG: Pepper Bae and Café International.
Tapping deep into their shared love of soul, funk, samples and vibes, both cuts stink of that raw early 2000s style that’s synonymous with the liquid golden age. And they too come with their own silver lining story.
“I had a gig in Vienna and I called Paul to see if he was okay,” Marky explains. “He was having a difficult time, I thought I’d give him a call and see if he was up for making some music. I came with some samples, he had shitloads and we had a fantastic time. It was very productive and we went to this Peruvian restaurant too, which was delicious.”
Pepper Bae and Café International were the two tracks that came from their day together, but both artists found the meeting helpful in more ways than just their pursuit of groovecraft. Paul was, and still is, recovering from a panic disorder he’d developed over the last 10 years while Marky, too, had taken up therapy to help create a calmer, quieter mind. “It was an inspiring time to have a good word with Paul and give advice to each other,” the Sao Paulo selector nods sagely.
“I’m getting better, I’m still healing, it’s all a process and I’m processing the information that I’m going through this anyway,” adds Paul who, like Marky, has been on a serious musical flow this summer with releases on Jazzsticks and Soul Deep. “By the time I saw Marky I was feeling a little better. But to have that time, to vibe off music together and eat great food was very welcome. I really appreciated Marco coming to see me.”
And we appreciate the music. To squeeze every gram of goodness from this meeting of soulful minds, we asked them to interview each other. Read on for deep thoughts on jazz, mental health, sushi and Music House…
Paul: I’m going to go with an obvious one. Marco, I know you appreciate what LK did for your career and the doors it opened for you. When was the last time you played it?
Marky: I don’t like taking requests, but I know everyone likes LK so if I’m feeling the crowd’s vibe and it’s somewhere I’ve not played before then I play it and the reaction is always so sweet. But the last time I played it was the other weekend at a little private birthday party my friend was hosting. 20 people in a little flat. I loved it. I played a little bit of everything. The last track I played was Stevie Wonder – Part Time Lover. It was going to be my last song but I forgot the 12” has a drum break and I was like ‘oh shit, I’ll play LK then’ and the reaction those 20 friends had was as strong as the reaction of 1000 or 2000.
When was the last time you played such a small gig?
Marky: A very long time ago. Probably here in this flat to some friends. But I never played LK that time!
Marky: So my question now: I know you love jazz. Everyone does. But what is your all-time favourite jazz record? And also how much did LTJ Bukem influence your sound?
Paul: My favourite jazz record is a difficult one. You know that. But off the top of my mind it would be Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue.
Marky: That’s my favourite as well.
Paul: It’s so rich in texture and sad and emotional. It’s so old, too, but it’s just as relevant now as it was the day it came out. Other than that, everything that ever came out on New York’s Blue Note. But there’s so much contemporary stuff I rate, too. Jazz is where it’s at for me, with all its progressions and nuances.
As for Bukem, well I always loved his Cooking Records off-shoot label and the Earth collections. I love how they would include all kinds of genres like downbeat, house, soul. Bukem’s influence was is his ear for arrangement and selecting and that’s been a big influence on me. We share a lot of love for the same jazz artists, too.
Marky: I think Lonnie Liston Smith will be in that list.
Paul: Of course. So my question to you now… I know you love sushi, so what is the best sushi spot in Europe?
Marky: Well I can tell you about one in London. Aqua Sushi has a great selection with some really nice dishes in there. There’s another one next door to Jazz Café in London which is incredible. Whenever I eat sushi I love going with Makoto. He always recommends the best things to order.
Paul: There’s a large Japanese community in Brazil isn’t there? I bet there’s some great sushi in Sao Paulo…
Marky: Sao Paulo has the biggest Japanese community outside of Japan. It’s an old joke here that if you dig deep enough you’ll end up in Tokyo because we’re the total opposite sides of the planet. Even our time zones are totally opposite. We got this neighbourhood called Liberdade, which has these incredible restaurants. This place called Jun Sakamoto. It’s tiny, like 15 people only and you have to book well over a year in advance. It’s such a cool place.
Paul: Take me there when I come to visit!
Marky: Definitely. So Paul, not many people know you’re from Germany. Everyone thinks you’re from Austria. So I wondered if you had a connection with other German guys like Jazzanova or maybe some influences?
Paul: Definitely. I love Jazzanova. I try and keep and touch with them because we have a very strong link musically. We’ve never collaborated. Compost is a great label, too. A little more on the house side but again, another a very soulful label from Germany. It’s all connected. Deeply connected. With the samples and the sounds. I know there’s a strong link between Jazzanova and 4Hero, they were all remixing each other. So the relationship is there.
Also with the Vienna connection and Kruder & Dorfmeister.
Marky: Oh the DJ Kicks albums were incredible! Through them I found about Underwolves and DJ Pulse and Professor Stretch. That Origin Unknown remix of Under Your Sky was a huge tune.
Paul: I actually have a little beef with Kruder & Dorfmeister. They did a Golden Years tour and I hoped it would be from the DJ Kicks and K&D Sessions era but all they played was techno.
Shame! When was the first time you two linked up?
Marky: Oh this is a great story; it was the mid 2000s and I was listening to Fabio & Grooverider’s show. Fabio played this track called Finding The Right Words. One of Paul’s earliest tunes. He played the tune and I was like ‘oh my god, this is beautiful!’ I was praying for Fabio to say the name. But he didn’t and I needed that track! So listened to the show the next time, Groove didn’t play it. The next week, Fabio played it and he said the name. I was over the moon. This was AIM days and I can’t remember how I found his AIM handle but I hit him up and told him I needed to sign it. I thought if I didn’t sign it, Fabio would. So I signed it and it was one of the first digital releases I ever put up on Innerground.
Paul: That was a good day! The AIM days were crazy weren’t they. Back then contacts really had value. I remember there being a bit of black market for contacts. Or people showing off which contacts they had.
Marky: I remember speaking to Makoto on there. At the time my English wasn’t very good and neither was his. Our conversations were quite tricky! I enjoyed AIM but for me Music House was the place. Those days, and meeting everyone here, were really special.
Didn’t you meet Marcus there on your first visit?
Marky: Yes that’s right. Frost played How You Make Me Feel the night before it blew my mind. I had some tunes to cut so I went down there very early. I also met Vegas and he told me about a new project he was involved in called Bad Company. He gave me this record and I put it in my bag and forgot about it. Every night I was here everyone was playing The Nine and I was like ‘what the fuck is this? I need it!’ Turns out it was in my bag all along – that’s the record what Michael (Vegas) gave me!
Paul: Classic. So I know you are you close to releasing your 100th release on Innerground and I want to say a little story… Innerground was one of my earliest influences. I got into drum & bass around 2001 and my younger brother was on a school exchange to London. I told him to bring me back a D&B record. I had no idea about any labels or anything and neither did he. But he brought me back Breeze by you and XRS with Cleveland Watkiss. On Innerground of course. He was three years younger than me, like 15, and has no real interest in music. But yet he found a store and happened to get me an Innerground record. How nice is that?
Marky: Wow man. That’s amazing.
Paul: I think so. So now I need to ask you – what is your all time favourite Innerground release? Mine is Breeze and also Psychedelic Drainpipe by Random Movement is a close second.
Marky: Oh that’s such a hard question. I have two that come to my mind and both from the same artist. I remember playing for Bassbin in Dublin and Rohan, the promoter, told me he had these amazing tunes from a US artist and he knew I’d want to sign him. Stars In The Dark and Time To Rock were two of those tunes.
Paul: Random Movement!
Marky: Exactly. I’m so connected with Mike’s music. My favourite releases are by him. Psychedelic Drainpipe is number one, closely followed by Waterlogged. It’s such a tune I can’t describe! It brought tears to my eyes. It’s my dream to make a track like that. Psychedelic Drainpipe is just another level, too. There’s no tune like it or even similar. In The End days when I did my events I made a lot of friends with this tune. Literally hundreds of people would ask for it and say ‘please mate, I’ve travelled for miles to see you play and hear this’. When I hear stuff like that it makes me feel like I’ve got the most treasured job. To be able to have and influence that makes people to travel that far. Moments like that made me proud to be a real DJ. I fight for what I believe. I don’t play big tunes, I only play what I love and that made me feel like I was doing the right thing. But back to Mike Random Movement, he’s so good. I just wish he used more samples again now.
Paul: He’s created his own genre. Everything about his music, his grooves, the space, the shuffles, the hi-hats. Even my non-producing friends recognise his music.
Marky: Totally. Okay, my last question… A lot of people say if we have problems, music can cure them. Because I collect records for such a long time, and I am obsessed with music and DJing, I found it didn’t cure me and I needed to have therapy to create some space in my head. So now, with what you’ve been through with your mental health, do you think the music helped you to be in a safe place?
Paul: That’s hard to answer but I think it did. Music is something that’s a pro and con. I can get lost in it and sometimes I want to get lost even when I shouldn’t. So if I think of the last few years, I was definitely hiding inside and behind music when I should have got help. Music made it possible to hide behind things. For example, flying to a gig; I drink a few beers or wine to take away the edge and it made me never really question what I was going through. In hindsight, it wasn’t a good thing. but on the other side, and this is such a cliché, music has always been there for me. There’s so much to make and there are years of music I want to take in, use as samples and get emotional over. Mankind has such a rich catalogue of music. But in the last few years maybe I abused that and hid behind it. It’s an interesting question and an emotional one to answer but I hope that’s okay for you.
Marky: I totally agree! From my point of view, I needed head space. I’d have tunes in my head just constantly going round and round intensely for days. I couldn’t clear my mind and it started scaring me a bit. The brain is one of the most powerful organs and it’s hard to control. For example; Brainstorm’s Journey Through The Light. I had it in my head for two weeks. That on a loop. I got over 20,000 records and my brain only picks that. So it’s finding how to take a break.
Paul: I love silence as much as I love music.
Marky: Ah that’s the difference. I’m a very city person. I love the noise, I love the rumble of it all, horns, people, cars, busyness. That makes me feel alive. But I’m learning to appreciate the other side of life… We need balance, right?