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Interview: DJ Marky


Brazilian drum & bass DJ Marky has mixed the latest compilation for Fabric (FabricLive 55) and chatted to Skrufff this week (via email) to promote the CD.

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Starting with the Fabric compilation: in recent years the compilation market has collapsed with every DJ releasing podcasts and mixes on soundcloud; how much, if at all, did that change the way you approached the compilation?

DJ Marky: “I have to say that it didn't really change the way I looked at the compilation. At the end of the day, if I had taken that into consideration then the mix probably wouldn't have happened. I had to look at it as a way to connect with people and therefore had to do my absolute best with it to make sure it was something better than just another Soundcloud or Mixcloud mix. If we took the attitude that ‘it simply isn't worth it because there is free content everywhere’ then none of us would have jobs anymore.”

Skrufff: You remixed Deadmau5 last year, who’s been made massive by EMI: how important is marketing these days for Deadmaus level DJ success? How much do you see yourself as a brand: one that needs to be marketed and sold?

DJ Marky: “It's quite a major thing I think. The majority of brands like Adidas or Nike need to find ways to relate with their consumers and a major way to do that is through artists who have a big following. If you can market yourself so that these sorts of people take notice then you will do well. It doesn't guarantee success, but it definitely helps.”

Skrufff: Wikipedia says when you started Djing ‘the small audiences nearly caused you to give up’: how small were they?

DJ Marky: “I think every DJ has had to play to a tiny crowd and it is the kind of experience that either drives you forward or makes you give up. Thankfully I decided to keep on going. I have played shows in big clubs to 20 people or thereabouts, which can be quite disheartening. But then you might go somewhere the next weekend or even to the same club and it will be packed. The key I think is making the most of any opportunity you get to play and by doing this you give the people something to talk about and then you start to build a following.”

Skrufff: How did you manage to make a living in those days?

DJ Marky: “By having a day job. I worked during the day and then I would DJ at night: pretty standard for most DJs starting out. You have to pay the bills and often when you are starting out your fees are low and really spread out and sporadic. It's good because I feel I’ve appreciated everything that came my way because I knew how hard I had to work for it.”

Skrufff: You were the first Brazilian DJ to become a global superstar, how much pressure did that success bring?

DJ Marky: “There was definitely pressure, but I wouldn't say it got too much. I am lucky to have a great management team behind me, based in London and Sao Paulo, so I always have someone that I can discuss these things with and get direction from. Without a manager or a decent agent to let you know what is going on and how to handle it, everything becomes more difficult. The pressure is still there for sure, because especially in drum & bass you have so many new artists appearing every day. But most of the pressure I feel is from myself. I love what I do and I want to keep on working, so I have to keep on pushing myself so I don't get complacent or lose my edge in the scene.”

Skrufff: How much did it provoke envy or jealousy from people you’d been on a level with just a couple of years earlier?

DJ Marky: “I was lucky enough that a few of my close friends all exploded career-wise at around the same time. People like Anderson Noise, Renato Cohen, DJ Patife and XRS all hit high points at the same time as me, so we were all in the same boat and could help each other out. I have to say that I have never had to deal with too much jealousy - probably because I spend so much time travelling”

Skrufff: Drum & bass got bigger and bigger during the 90s then fell back to a smaller, more committed audience: when did you first notice the scene peaking?

DJ Marky: “I would say that when a genre starts trying to reinvent itself, that is when it is probably peaking. This is when you end up with millions of subgenres that are all a small variation on the same thing, but the basis is still the same. When LK came out, and also ‘Shake Your Body’ by Shy FX, I think it brought in a lot of people who would not normally listen to drum & bass. Then the scene literally exploded and it was suddenly the genre of the moment. But it was almost like someone had to come up with a new LK or new Shake Your Body every week for it to be sustained and obviously that can't happen.

Since then we’ve seen it happening every couple of years with people like Pendulum being the most recent act to do it. They created a crossover that had never really happened before, with rock music of all things. Suddenly all the rock fans are listening to drum & basss, but then between albums the hype dies down and you have the regular drum & bass heads staying true to the scene.”

Skrufff: When you started, you were constantly linked to Patife: why did the two of you move in different directions?

DJ Marky: “We had some differences of opinion about the way to play to crowds which I think separated us in the eyes of the public. To give you an example, Patife was very much a samba guy, he loved the Brazilian samples and used them a lot. When he played his sets he was less about playing for the dance-floor, but he preferred to satisfy the musical people in the crowd with some amazing melodies and samples and some great mixing, of course.

When I played I always concentrated on making the dance-floor move. I'm not talking about playing necessarily really dirty tracks, just anything across the whole breadth of the genre that had a vibe that could make people get up and dance. Basically we were both doing the same thing, we were just aiming at different audiences. I still have a massive amount of respect for Patife though, and everything he has done.”

Skrufff: The Favela / gang movie City of God played a big role in your career: did you ever visit favelas before you became famous? Or afterwards?

DJ Marky: “I have visited favelas many times for a number of reasons, both before and after the film. It's one of those things that you come to grips with and you cannot really avoid sometimes. You just have to be sure of where you are going and who you are meeting when you go into the though.”

Skrufff: Has your success and high profile ever placed you in danger? (I know soccer players are frightened of being targeted by criminals? Has anything similar happened to you?

DJ Marky: “Thankfully no, it hasn’t. I don't know what I would do in that situation, but I can imagine the safety of you and your family becomes the most important thing. It's sad that these things happen, really sad.”

Skrufff: You answered ‘no thanks’ when asked by Big Shot Magazine if you’re playing any dubstep in your sets: what is it about the genre that you don’t like?

DJ Marky: “It's just weird. It has a weird tempo that doesn't really fit with dancing, or not the kind of dancing I am used to or would do myself. Basically it sounds like slowed down DnB with no real musicality to me. I'd much rather turn the tempo up or down by 30 or 40bpm and have either some DnB or some Hip Hop.”

Skrufff: What advice would you offer DJs wanting to follow in your footsteps?

DJ Marky: “Work, work, work. Don't rely on anyone to make it happen for you. I can't tell you how many people think that because Lily Allen was signed through her MySpace account that that is all they need to do. You need to make a name for yourself. Start playing on your the local nightclub circuit, make your own tunes and just spread yourself about as much as possible. If you are good enough and have enough ambition then it will happen; but don't sit back and wait for it to come to you then wonder why nothing has happened. It's a participation, not spectator sport.”

FabricLive 55 is out now on Fabric Records.

Jonty Skrufff:

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