Six years deep into his life as a full-time drum & bass artist, Birmingham’s Total Recall (AKA Darren Marsh) has laid down firm foundations for a long life in music. Within years of emerging he caught the attention of the likes of Hazard, Marky and Hype who have all heavily rinsed and released his music on their labels. As a DJ his all-style energetic blends are famed across Europe with appearances at dances as diverse as Hospitality to Raveology.
In October he also became the latest addition to Full Cycle’s new breed of talent with the massive Repeating History / Planet Earth single. Referencing the label’s unique funky signature in his own turbo-charged way, it goes a little something like this…
If that’s not quite enough reasons to talk to him, there’s also the matter of his limb deficiency. Born with only half of his right arm, Darren is, as far as we know, drum & bass’s only professional one-armed artist.
Confident he’s established his reputation as an on-point DJ and razor-sharp producer on his own rights (and not gained any ground through sympathy or positive discrimination), he now wants to address his unique situation and use it as a platform to encourage other DJs with disabilities to come through…
I’ve never had a limb and lost it so I’ve never learnt things or overcome things – it’s just life. Me imagining two arms is like you imagining one.
You’ve been on this for a bit now… Was there a defining moment when you felt things were really happening?
I’d say when Hazard started playing my tunes. There was a track I’d done with Dialogue that appeared on his Fabriclive 65 mix and that was later released on his label. Even before that there were some encouraging signs; I’d had tunes on a Birmingham label Class A Recordings and Krust had got in touch about them. It’s mad, six years down the line, I’m on Full Cycle myself.
You kept in touch since then?
No not at all. Krust disappeared and went offline for a while didn’t he? One day I was thinking ‘where’s Krust?’ and suddenly he popped up on Facebook. Told me they were bringing back Full Cycle and he wanted a release. What an honour.
The tracks tap back into that late 90s / early 2000s Full Cycle sound…
A few people have said that and it’s a mad compliment to be paying me – even after six years I’m still a baby in this scene. I’m young. So to be tagged in with those guys is mental. It just makes me get my head down and work even harder.
Full Cycle launched when you were a baby full stop. When did you first remember drum & bass coming into your life?
Always. It’s just always been there hasn’t it? I grew up listening to it, it was the sound of where I live and mates and hanging out. I can’t think of a time in my life when it wasn’t there!
Roni has spoken highly of Birmingham in interviews before. Big up the Birmingham D&B artists…
There are some truly gifted producers here who I feel are overlooked. Guys like Dialogue and PA. He’s a dangerous producer! Harvest has been solid for years but never gets the support he deserves and an artist called Recluse a few years back. It’s important anyone reading this checks these names – I’ve seen a lot of gifted people lose interest because Birmingham doesn’t get the love that say Bristol or London gets. But for me you’ve got to keep on pushing on and be in it for the long haul. Music is all I’ve got… What else would I do?
Do you have a daytime job?
No. I’m full time music, which hasn’t been easy. I’ve had trouble finding work to be honest. I’ve been trying to get a ‘regular’ job for years. So it’s music all the way.
Is this because of your arm?
I don’t want to blame anything on it but it does contribute to decisions. And there has been discrimination in the past, yeah. I’ve had a few bumps along the way and I always end up back on the music – so it’s meant to be. I hope so anyway!
Would you say your disability affects your DJ style?
I don’t think so. It’s definitely not worse for it but I don’t want to sound like I’m the best thing since sliced bread! I’ve never known anything different. I’ve never had a limb and lost it so I’ve never learnt things or overcome things – it’s just life. Me imagining two arms is like you imagining one.
Did you start on vinyl? One armed vinyl has to be tricky!
Yeah that took me years. That was hard. I was screaming at the turntables for a long time before I worked that out… But I did.
A lot of people know your music but don’t know about your disability. How do people react when they actually realise you’ve only got one arm?
It takes time for people to come up and ask. A lot of people do that stare and not ask thing but I’m pretty approachable and open. Just ask me about it. You’ll never find out anything without asking.
Do you find that differs when touring in other countries?
Yeah it can do. You do get a lot more stares in some countries because they’ve not been as exposed to it and had conversations about it or been educated about disabilities. It’s not rude when they do it, it’s more cautious and concerned. I don’t mind it.
Have you had other disabled DJs get in touch with you?
No I haven’t. I’d like to meet DJ Semtex one day because he’s a great DJ and we’ve probably shared a few similar experiences. I’d love to hear from DJs with disabilities and try and help them and make sure they know that nothing can stand in their way. I understand the complexities and how it can affect your mind and how confidence is really hard to build up so would welcome any opportunity to pass on what I’ve learnt and help others. It’s ability that counts, not disability.
How does it affect your confidence and mind?
Not so much now but when I was younger I was brutal to myself. Really brutal. There’s a man I need to namecheck here; MC Magika. I’ve been around him since I was young and when I started he used to put me in the room threes and the bottom of flyers. Then Hazard’s playing and signing my tunes, then Marky’s playing and signing my tunes… Magika was like ‘right, I’m putting you in the main room but only if you wear a t-shirt’. He did it to break that confidence barrier I had at the time. Before then I always played in long-sleeved shirt and didn’t want anyone to notice.
Was that scary?
Not as much as I thought because I knew it was going to happen one day and it was a local crowd. It was really good actually. I was a lot more nervous on my first international gig in Belgium. It was like ‘here we go, what are they going to think?’ But they were fine. I haven’t lost my confidence since.
Have you purposefully not discussed this much in interviews before?
Kinda. I’ve never not answered questions about it but I’ve never brought attention to it. It’s Magika again… He told me to sort out my profile and my releases before I exploit my disability or it will just be a gimmick. Like ‘look at him – he’s only there because he’s a one-armed DJ! He said to get my head down, work out my production and get my profile sorted because no one can take that away from me then – I’ve not had any sympathy votes, if you like. Now I’ve had releases on some of my all time favourite labels – Playaz, Innerground, Full Cycle, Radius – and play all the raves, I feel it’s the right time to discuss it.
Let’s talk about the rave side of the scene…
It’s all D&B to me. People stick to their own slices of the cake too much. I know I’m probably most associated with the jump-up scene but I’m all over all styles of drum & bass. Listen to any of my sets and you’ll hear that. I think that’s why Hospital’s booking agency Clinc Talent have signed me. That’s a big liquid brand and they want to work with me? That’s another honour!
I think the walls between the genres are only made by certain people. The best people play it all – look at Hype.
Hype, Serum, Bladerunner, Voltage… All killing it. I love what those guys do as producers and DJs. Take people on a journey – don’t feed everyone the same slice of bloody cake. This is in sets and on line-ups full stop – if you just serve chocolate cake then people will probably have two slices. If you serve up loads of different flavours then people will eat a lot more slices and not even realise.
Amen. What are you cooking now?
Another batch for Full Cycle. I love working with them, I get on with them and they’ve not tried to change my style at all. It’s perfect and long may it continue.