When the annals of drum ’n’ bass come to be written, DJ Marky will be a foremost character – having laid the foundations in his native Brazil in the 90s, seminal track LK (alongside XRS and MC Stamina) and 2001 compilation The Brazilian Job established the São Paulo native as one of the scene’s most creative selectors, a reputation that he has maintained to this day.
Marky’s unbridled enthusiasm behind the decks was writ large during lockdown, as he entered the vinyl-bedecked ‘music room’ of his apartment to present a series of expertly-curated livestreams, showcasing both his technical dexterity and broad musical knowledge.
It was these livestreams that also enabled Marky to showcase a different side to his musical character. While he had previously released a couple of ‘Influences’ compilations, featuring an array of tracks that helped shape his musical mindset, soul, funk, MPB, jazz, boogie and house featured regularly in his at-home streams, with the man himself sometimes putting in three- or four-hour shifts to keep the masses entertained. [For example, check out the recent ‘Brazilian Grooves’ set, the ‘Jazz Sunday’ mix from early 2021, and his excellent Christmas Day set.]
And entertained we were – for the 909originals crew, Marky’s livestreams were an undoubted highlight of an otherwise dispiriting time. For that, we are eternally grateful. 🙂
A couple of years back, we featured a ‘non-techno conversation with Dave Clarke’, chatting to the techno baron about photography, Gustav Holst, Fontaines DC, and other topics unlinked to hard-edged electronica.
We’re following this up with what you might call a ‘non-drum ’n’ bass conversation with DJ Marky’, as we delve into the musical upbringing of one of Brazil’s true electronic pioneers. Shout out to Sarah Sandy for organising this.
Over to you, Marky.
Hi Marky, thanks for talking to 909originals. You recently came back from London, where you were playing an Influences set at the Jazz Café – how did that go for you?
It was fun, because I played funk, soul, disco, boogie – yeah, it was really really good. It was really nice to play different music for the people in the UK, because everybody sees me as a as a drum and bass DJ.
I want people to see me as a DJ, you know, because the concept of the DJ changes so much. Especially with the technology now, it’s about who plays more music in a short amount of time, which I don’t enjoy at all.
Before we start, I want to thank you personally for keeping us going during lockdown with the livestreams, both the drum and bass streams and the Influences sets. It was a couple of times a week, let’s get a nice bottle of wine and dance around the living room. It was very important – I’m sure a lot of people have said that to you.
Well, it it was important to me too, you know. I was doing the drum ‘n’ bass show – that was fine and a lot of people were watching, then I was thinking, ‘Yeah, but I wanna do something different’. I want to show people that I’m a real DJ. I’m not just playing drum ‘n’ bass.
It was really cool, because it shocked a lot of people. Then, suddenly, it became quite normal and a lot of people started asking me about music – when and where I used to play and what I used to play.
I was with my girlfriend yesterday and we were listening to some old music – I was thinking it’s funny, because I haven’t seen the time pass.
Music is music after all. Actually, my partner, who is from Brazil, went to Toco [nightclub in São Paulo] a few times back in the early 90s, when you were resident there.
Yeah, I was playing this underground club called Sound Factory – that was absolutely amazing because I had the freedom to play whatever I want. Myself and my friends used to save money to buy Jockey Slut and Muzik magazine, and look at the charts of DJs like Fabio & Grooverider, or Graeme Park. We knew that the different nightclubs played different kinds of music, but we never thought that these tunes would one day be big in Brazil.
Toco was a massive club, for something like 5,000 people. The club owners saw me DJing and they hired me to play – I was the highest paid DJ at the time, I think I was getting $1,000 a night.
Obviously you were playing lots of different styles back then, but for a lot of people, they have only found out in the past few years that there’s more to DJ Marky than drum and bass. It’s incredible the way you shift between genres in the Influences sets, for example. Prior to the livestreams, you had a couple of Influences CDs out didn’t you? Going back a few years now.
I always wanted to do a compilation, putting out tracks that influenced my life. A lot of people wouldn’t even have an idea, especially in the UK. My manager at the time, Oliver – we are still working together on the Innerground label – had a conversation with Pete Adarkwah from BBE Records and he really liked the idea.
So we did the the first one, it was really good. We had it quite mixed, with the likes of Eddie Palmieri and at the same time, N-Joi Mindflux and Skyy Here’s To You.
Looking ahead to the second one I tried to be a little bit more electronic – I had some massive house tracks like Maurice This is Acid. I also threw in a few drum ‘n’ bass tracks, to give it a little bit of balance, and on the B-side of the record there are only Brazilian tracks.
Nowadays it’s getting very difficult to license tracks for compilations – it’s very hard with the record labels and stuff. But I really want to do a third one. Let’s see.
The room in which you record the livestreams is incredible, wall after wall of vinyl. How many records are in there, for one thing?
It’s not a massive room, because this is my apartment – at my mom’s house I have a big room full of records. I think there are around 10,000 to 15,000 here and there’s another 15,000 or so in my mom’s. So I’ve got around 30,000 records in total, I think.
One of the most impressive things about watching the Influences sets is that all of a sudden you’ll get an idea, and then you jump to, say, shelf number three and pick out a track – that you know exactly what to play next and where to find it.
It’s totally freestyle. I just think of a tune and I play it. The other day, for example, I was doing the live stream and I was playing uptempo disco tunes. I really wanted to play Melba Moore Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance, but I couldn’t find the record.
And I was just like ‘oh my God’, and I came on the microphone and said ‘look, I really want to play Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance, it would have been a great mix, but I can’t find the record’. Everybody was laughing.
I always choose the first record, and then I go with the flow. That’s always what I have done when playing drum ‘n’ bass, and it’s what I always did when I used to play house. It’s about surprising myself, and surprising those that are watching. Sometimes I make some mistakes, but that’s ok, I’m human.
Sometimes the Influences sets go on for three or four hours. Obviously with the drum and bass sets, a lot of what you play is digital, it’s all on the laptop. But with the Influences sets, it’s pretty much all vinyl, including lots of seven and ten inches. I would have thought that lots of planning would go into that, but you’re saying it’s completely the other way, right?
For me, it’s so much fun. Also I get to play some obscure tunes, or a track that I love so much and haven’t heard for a long time, and see the reaction it gets from my friends.
For example, I remember I played Brainstorm Journey To The Light on a livestream, and people went absolutely crazy. People were messaging each other, and my friends were getting in touch to say ‘oh my God, what is this?’ Some of them ended up paying a lot of money so they could get their own copy.
Twice, I did a cheesy set – I played all the pop artists like Culture Club, Tears For Fears and Phil Collins. I remember I played Time (Clock Of The Heart) by Culture Club, using two records, I started with the instrumental, and then put in the vocal, and then back to the instrumental again, to the start. Everybody was like ‘oh my god, what version is this?’. People were going absolutely mad on the chat. I was just like, ‘I haven’t played this record in something like 28 years’.
I can believe that, because some of the time you’re playing records and they’re quite dusty, and some of them are even a bit mouldy. You spend a lot of time cleaning them before putting them on the turntable.
It’s because I haven’t played these records for such a long time – especially the pop ones, which I played back in the day and now I don’t play anymore. There are other ones, you know, Steely Dan or the more groovy, rocky ones. I don’t play them, but I love them – and I keep them.
Yesterday I put Tracy Chapman Fast Car on the turntable, and my girlfriend was like, ‘oh my God, this is the tune of my life!’ I was just like, ‘wow’.
A lot of the time when you are doing the sets, you reference your mum and dad, or days gone by when you were growing up. They must have had a serious record collection?
Very serious. My dad never took us to the beach or things like that, he was quite strict. But at the same time, myself and my sisters – I’m the baby – grew up surrounded by such incredible music, from Ray Conniff to Ray Charles to Milton Nascimentio to Marvin Gaye.
I had a big family – my dad has since passed away, along with a few uncles and aunties – and when we used to have parties, I would be at the record player, and my dad would say ‘Marco, play that song’, and I would put the record on and everybody danced.
My sisters were teenagers in the early 80s, which was an amazing time for music, you had Tom Brown Funkin for Jamaica and all that. They used to buy these records that blew my mind – the groove was amazing.
So I think I’m a very very lucky person in terms of my music education.
Since I was young, I was always fascinated about records. I mean, the actual record, the vinyl. At the start I used to memorise the record labels, and then the artist names and what instruments they played. That’s how I started learning English – from reading the credits on these records. I had a dictionary in one hand, and a record in the other, and was taking notes.
My partner learned English in a similar way actually, she used to listen to bands like the Pet Shop Boys, and the lyrics are in a very refined English accent, so it was easy to understand.
When the Pet Shop Boys released West End Girls, I said to my mum ‘I need this record’. So she was like, ‘if you study, and you get good marks on your test, I’ll buy it for you’. She bought me the record, and I saw on the sleeve that Chris Lowe was wearing Boy London, the fashion label, you know? And since then I have bought Boy London.
When I got that record, I didn’t know that the West End was in London, or was even a neighbourhood in the UK. It was a different world. For me it was all about the groove.
So you were in Sao Paulo, and you were listening to Graeme Park’s recommended tunes, and you had no idea where Manchester was, or that it was raining all the time?
That was at the time of acid house, we played a lot of acid house here. But I didn’t know what ‘acid’ meant – I thought it was the stuff they used to unblock toilets. I didn’t find out until about 94 or 95 I think. I was a normal kid, drinking soft drinks, and playing music all day… and then finally I discovered what the ‘acid’ association was all about.
You mentioned that your sisters are a bit older, so they were into the whole funk thing in the early 80s. When you were a teenager, did you go through different musical phases – as in, you were really into funk, and then got into hip hop, and things like that?
Where I come from, you had lots of soul music, and funk – and when I heard early hip hop, like Kurtis Blow The Breaks, and Sugarhill Gang, I thought it was really cool because of the groove. Whodini Magic Wand blew my mind, it was played here all the time.
Then, when house music came, I didn’t like it. When I heard Frankie Knuckles Your Love, I didn’t like it, no way. What changed my mind was hip house, tracks like Tyree Cooper Turn Up The Bass. That for me was amazing, because it was a fast tune with a guy scratching on it, and rapping – all these Public Enemy samples. I was like ‘yeah, turn up the bass!’
That was the gateway really. Turn Up The Bass was the first one. But then you had Bomb The Bass, and Rhythm King Records – remember them? Bomb The Bass, S-Express, Beatmasters, Betty Boo. I loved that sound, and that changed my mind about house music. I started to understand more about it. Then, when Inner City and Kevin Saunderson made Good Life, that was game over.
We spoke to Greg Wilson a couple of years back – there are lots of similarities between what he does with his sets and what you do with your Influences sets. He was telling us that a lot of people think that house music just magically appeared out of nowhere. But in reality there was a segue, from hip hop, to electro funk, to house music. It got there over a period of time.
It was different here. For example, clubs like Toco were playing house music, and it was totally separate from other clubs that would play hip hop and things like that. With me, I loved the hip hop of that era, and how it blended with house music.
Dave Dorrell and CJ Mackintosh – they used to do these remixes, Bonita Applebum from A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul Say No Go, and I was just like ‘oh my god, I need to play this’. There were not many places where I could play that sort of stuff, so I started doing my own parties.
You said you have something like 30,000 records. You were obviously going to record stores all the time?
All the time, all the time. Every Saturday, I just spent my entire time in a record store. It’s like therapy for me. When I go to a record shop, that’s like my kid playing a video game like Fortnite or something like that. It’s something that relaxes me, I feel like I’m a little kid, you know? Personally, I love to go record shopping.
When I go to London, I go to Alan’s Records, in East Finchley. I love hearing the stories from back in the day, because these guys lived through something that I never had the chance to, although I had the same records. I’m always like, ‘what was this club like’?
At the moment though it’s getting harder to do that because there’s not many record shops any more.
Yeah, it’s like everything is on Discogs now.
Yeah, and Discgos sucks. I’ll tell you what, the other day, I wanted to buy a record for my friend, Donald Byrd’s Places and Spaces. That’s the one that’s got Wind Parade. I remember buying this record in a record shop in the UK, I think I spent around £12 to £15 on it. I thought at the time, ‘that’s a very decent price’.
Now, the record isn’t available any more, and if it appears on Discogs, it’s like a minimum £70. And then Blue Note did a re-issue of it, and that costs £45. So I had to pay £45 to buy the record for my friend, and it’s not even the original, it’s a re-issue.
I’m not the kind of person who cares about ‘180 gram vinyl’, blah blah blah. I just want the original record, the original cover. The original smell, you know? I’m very freaky about vinyl.
I’m based in Dublin, and there are a lot fewer record stores here than there used to be.
I bought a few records in Dublin over the years, because I used to play for Bassbin over there. They were amazing parties. Man, I miss Rohan and all those guys, I used to play Dublin all the time. I got to know all the guys like Zero Tolerance and Beta 2. It was a magical time for me.
What other record stores do you like going to?
Well, in the UK I still love Eldica Records, in Dalston. Andy [Westbury] is the owner. He’s a really good friend of mine, and he’s a big James Brown fan. He knows everything about James Brown – everything. James Brown, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker. He always has some good stories. He was in a group called 2 Mad back in the day, which was on the Big Life label. Remember Big Life? Lisa Stansfield People Hold On, Coldcut?
Anyway, he’s a good guy, and he always has these different records from places like Trinidad and Tobago. He had this record for me, called Classic Lovers Rock. It was a reggae record with a cover version of The Glow of Love by Change. It’s one of those records that when you play it, people are like, ‘what the f**k is this?’.
I wouldn’t have known anything about it, but he handed me the record, and said ‘check out the first track, I think you’ll like it’. I was just ‘whoa!‘. Then when I played it on the livestream, everybody went crazy, they were like ‘hey, this isn’t Luther Vandross?’ But I didn’t tell them the name.
This is exactly the kind of thing you get with record shops that you don’t get with, say, Spotify algorithms. Someone might recommend you an album, and you go, ‘this is great, can you recommend another’, and then they’ll take the next track on the Spotify algorithm. It’s a case of ‘no, I want something that you like, I don’t want something that the computer says you like’.
That’s the thing, man. A lot of people are making music just for Spotify. I’m not going to make a track that’s like three minutes long, just so it works on Spotify. I do what I think is right; I’m still making tracks that are like six minutes long.
Also, I like to discover music. I don’t want an algorithm to shape my taste in music. It makes people lazy.
For example, it you were to feed all the tracks that you play on a typical Influences set into a Spotify playlist, it would start to go off in a different direction – it might start playing two hours of George Clinton and Parliament or something like that. But that’s not how your mind works.
There’s so much music in the world. So much good music to play. Even with drum ‘n’ bass, you have so many great drum ‘n’ bass tracks out there, but some people only play the classics, the same tracks over and over again.
Some DJs are forced to do that, because they’ve got a ‘brand’. If you’re a tech house DJ, and you have hundreds of millions of fans, or whatever, you’re sort of pigeonholed to play a certain style of music. So if they’re playing at a festival, people know exactly what to expect.
I like festivals, certain festivals are very special, like Outlook Festival, or Boomtown, they are amazing. But sometimes it’s very hard to play festivals, because people wait for the big tunes. I’m not the sort of DJ who wants to play all the big tunes, I want to take people on a proper journey. I want to do something that will surprise them, and I want to surprise myself as well.
There was a festival I played a while ago called Nozstock, and I played stuff that was totally different. The owner of the festival loved it because I was so different to anyone else. But it someone wants me to come and play at a festival for an hour, I wouldn’t even go. Cancel the booking.
But when you get to play somewhere like Jazz Café, you might get four or five hours.
I wish I had five hours. It was only two and a half. But I still had the chance to take people on a bit of a journey.
I played a few tracks that everybody knew, like George Benson Give Me The Night. Also, Imagination Just an Illusion – a dub version, totally instrumental – and Stomp Your Feet And Dance by Cloud One. There’s a new version of that out now by Dave Lee, formerly Joey Negro, but I love the original because it’s more disco. It got an amazing reaction.
When you’re playing your Influences sets, you can see that you’re really into the music. I’d say when you have the chance to play these out in front of people, you get the same reaction.
Sometimes if I am doing the livestream. I would be dancing, and then I would play a track and I’d almost be on my knees. It’s crazy, sometimes the music takes me – I don’t know, there’s too much emotion there. It’s too much.
If you’re playing a record that you haven’t played for 30 years, it might remind you of something, like an ex-girlfriend or a birthday party or something like that.
Yeah, that’s totally it. That’s exactly what happened. I played Jean Carn and it brought back these memories of my parents, and being in the house I grew up in, and I actually started crying.
You did a couple of Brazilian music-only livestreams as well, I remember one you did when Elza Soares died, and you finished off with an Elza track. I know you had a box set of Brazilian 45s out last year as well.
Yeah, I love to do the Brazilian ones, because I play some weird shit as well. It’s not just recognisable tunes, or even tunes that were that successful. But they’ve got a really good groove.
When I do the Brazilian sets, people might know 40% of the tracks, and the artists, but with the rest, they are just like ‘who are these guys’? It’s great, because everybody already knows the likes of Jorge Ben.
I think my my favourite is Junior Mendes. When I play it on the show, everybody goes wild. He made this record, Copacabana Sadia, which is now worth something like £500. But I’m still going to play it. Why wouldn’t I?
Thanks Marky for talking to us. DJ Marky’s weekly livestreams can be accessed through his Twitch channel, click here for more information.