DJ Marky interview: Paulistano player

DJ Marky told Mark Dale all about his steps to becoming a DJ, the clubbing scene in Brazil and the major influence from a certain Manchester-based producer.

Becca Frankland

Date published: 17th Mar 2016

As Skiddle just found out, Marco Antonio Silva aka DJ Marky has been around a lot longer than you might think. It was around the turn of the century that he first came to the attention of clubbers in the UK, spotted first by drum n' bass guru Bryan Gee, who saw him spinning in a club in Sao Paulo in 1998 and invited him to come and play in the UK.

His dexterity behind the decks prompted further invitations and after a couple of years DJ Marky began releasing music, sometimes alongside fellow Brazilians Patife and XRS on labels like Gee's V Recordings. 

Early singles such as 'LK' and 'So Tinha Que Ser Com Voce' proved to be a hit. Introduced first by his talents as a DJ and furthered by his extremely warm, genuine and positive personality, Marky soon struck up relationships with many named DJs and producers operating in the UK.

Collaborative studio efforts and the aforementioned DJ skill he possesses have helped him sustain a career ever since. He released his debut solo artist album 'My Heroes' on his own Innerground Records in 2015. The label has had over 50 releases.

DJ Marky still lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the monstrous city in which he was raised. We caught up with him for a chat as Marky was just watching football at home with his beloved son and soon found out about his history in the city and his long journey on the career path to becoming an international drum n' bass DJ.

Bom dia! Como vai?

Vai bem. Voce fala Portugues?

No. I was just being polite. Is that football I can hear in the background?

Yes, my son's here, he's watching Chelsea play Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League.

So, your son likes English football?

Yeah, he likes English football. He just likes football. He wants to be a football player. A goalkeeper. 

What football team does he like?

Just a sec, I'll ask [speaks Portuguese]. Chelsea. And here in Brazil our team is Sao Paulo. We're not Corinthians here, man. We hate Corinthians here.

Vai Corinthians!

No way! No way! I hate them! I hate this team! I hate everything related to Corinthians, you have no idea [laughs]. My dad, my whole family are all Corinthians, apart from me. 

OK then, no more talk about football. How's life living in Sao Paulo?

Amazing. Really good. Nothing to complain. Beautiful weather, food is fantastic and the women are amazing, although my girlfriend is from Birmingham. I found an amazing girl from the UK, so I'm fine. But it's good, it's great here. I think if you grow up in a big city like Sao Paulo you can survive anywhere in the world. 

What did your parents do?

My dad was police and my mom was... let me Google it. A seamstress. I never heard this word before. But my dad played instruments as well. He played guitar, cavaquinho , mandolin, bass guitar.

Did he play Brazilian music?

Strictly. Strictly Brazilian music. More samba than anything else. My uncle used to play more rock, like The Beatles. 

What Brazilian artists were your father's favourite?

Errr. That's a quite hard question. I grew up surrounded by records and one of the first he played that I was interested in was Jorge Ben. When he used to play Jorge I used to catch the vibe straight away. I think he was my dad's favourite. Through my dad I got into jazz as well, Art Tatum, Miles Davis and soul music, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin.

You started DJing when you were 12 years old. That's a very early age to start. How did that happen? Was it because your father had so many records?

It happened because we had all these records and I guess I was interested in how these little pieces of plastic could transmit so much emotion. When other kids would ask their parents for toys, cars for Christmas, I would always ask for records. So, it started like that.

At the beginning of the eighties, 1983 or 84, when I heard 'Buffalo Gals' by Malcolm McLaren, that's when I saw a DJ for the first time. Then I started doing parties in the house and for school friends. Soon I was doing parties for everyone. We had this music system, a turntable, receiver and a tape deck and I would use that.

But around 84 I started listening more to the radio and around 10pm they would have a mix show. I was curious how they could put the tracks one after another with no break and no change in speed. One day I was skateboarding and there was this club opposite my house and the guy was playing music with two reel to reel tapes.

So I sold my skateboard and my bicycle and bought a reel to reel. My friend had another, so I started to learn how to mix on those. It wasn't until later that I found out about Technics decks. When I'd seen them in the 'Buffalo Gals' video I just thought they were normal turntables. It took me ages to be able to afford so, so for a long time I had two terrible belt drive turntables that I would use.

Your first regular gig, you started off playing at a roller disco. What kind of music were you playing?

Yeah, I used to play that gig with reel to reel tapes. When I used to play the dancefloor was behind me, so I was always turning round, looking over my shoulder to see if the people were dancing [laughs]. But it was cool.

Funny to play with tapes though, looking back. It was quite archaic, but fun. The mixer had no crossfader. I still enjoy playing with reel to reels, although I haven't done it for a long time. I'd love to do a session like that now. 

I was playing more eighties stuff there, things like Ray Parker Jr. Not Ghostbusters, things like Raydio 'Still In The Groove', that was more funk. Boogie as well, Fonda Rae 'Over Like A Fat Rat', Skyy 'Here's to You', that's one of my favourite tunes. I also used to play some cheesy tunes, things like Miami Sound Machine 'Dr Beat'.

I love that tune.

I love that tune too, trust me! Yesterday a friend of mine, who has a blog and interviews a lot of DJs, asked me what tune do you think is really cheesy but you would still like to play it and I said 'Dr Beat'.

I want to play it but I couldn't. People would boo. But I love it. I think the production on it was amazing. Miami Sound Machine. I had no idea who Gloria Estefan was at the time. It used to blow up the dancefloor.

When you started buying your own music instead of just using your dad's, how did you get your music and where did you get it from?

[Monstrous sound of thunder in the background] Oh man, it's going to rain. It's 30 degrees and it's March, autumn is coming.

Well, basically, I had no money. I had a deal with my mother. We are very, very close. My relationship with my mother is something crazy, it's the same like me and my son. I'm with him all the time. Mum always said 'You have to study' and I was like 'yeah, but, I like music! I want to do something with music!'

One of my dreams was to become a drummer. In 1981 I saw a video of The Police, Stewart Copeland playing 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and it blew my mind. That's when I knew I wanted to be a drummer or something in music. But my parents didn't have the money to put me in music school. So I was a frustrated musician. 

My mum always said, if you're doing well in your exams in school, I'll give you records. So, every time I had exams or good notes, she would give me records. That's how she made me focus on school. And it worked.

I have a friend who played a gig with you in Brazil where you weren't playing drum n' bass, you were playing old school and he said he was surprised at how similar your record collection in Brazil was to his in England.

And some of those records weren't the kind of records that your mum would have bought for you, so where does the rest of your collection come from?

I started working. I had a lot of shitty jobs. I worked in a garage, trying to fix cars and that was terrible. Then I worked in a factory, making lamps and stuff. I worked there for two or three years. Then I worked in the stock market. That was OK. It wasn't a job I like, but I was working in a shirt and tie.

I had a lot of friends and they all knew of my knowledge with music and so this guy invited me to work in this record shop. They used to sell normal records and also some bootlegs. Import records would be recorded again and they'd put three songs on one side of a bootleg.

At that time I started playing in clubs. A friend of mine had opened a club and he asked me to play there. I must have been around 19. He used to go to New York all the time, so I was able to get hold of all the import records. 

The hardest point was in 1991 and 1992 when I started to discover UK music. You just couldn't get it here. Stuff like A Guy Called Gerald, N Joi, Prodigy, Bizarre Inc. Here you could get all the records from Miami, but not from the UK. It was so difficult to get them at first, but a little later the rave scene blew up.

Before that I was playing a little bit of everything, hip hop, reggae, a bit of house, then stuff like Nomad 'I Want To Give You Devotion', Nightcrawlers, Strictly Rhythm records like Josh Wink 'Higher State Of Consciousness'. The rave days were great. 

Why do you think Sao Paulo is considered the clubbing capital of Brazil and not Rio?

Yeah, that's something very strange. Here in Sao Paulo I think we always had more passion. In the seventies and eighties I think they had a lot of passion in Rio. Rio was massive back then, the disco scene. But when me and a lot of DJs here started coming through we came from the underground. We came from acid house.

Some people at the time couldn't really understand records like Frankie Knuckles 'Your Love', Maurice 'This Is Acid', Adonis 'No Way Back'. I think they didn't get it because it's more instrumental and a lot of people here really like to sing along to the tunes. But me and the other DJs in Sao Paulo were really pushing this music, we wanted more of this instrumental music. We wanted the groove. So I think that's what changed everything between Sao Paulo and Rio.

In the hip house era, Tyree 'Turn Up The Bass', Fast Eddie 'Yo Yo Get Funky', that was the time that people who weren't even into house could get into it. Including me. Before that I was playing stuff more like Whodini. But then I discovered acid house and thought, yes! This is the stuff I want to play.

Do you ever get to play those older styles that you used to play or a mixture of music, like you used to?

I have a night here once every two months where I try to play the full thing, funk, rock, boogie, reggae, acid house, rave, techno and a bit of drum n' bass. But old stuff, not so much new music.

So I guess this history with acid house is the reason you also decided to produce some house tracks of your own (Marky has, in recent years, made some house cuts)?

Erm... I think the acid house era and the early techno years, stuff like Dave Angel 'Rotation', Underground Resistance 'Jupiter Jazz', 'Timeline', Galaxy 2 Galaxy 'Hi Tech Jazz' that stuff, for me, is amazing. So musical but at the same time so groovy. Blows my mind even now.

When that stuff became more minimal I didn't like it, so I tried to put all my influences into those house tracks. The reaction was crazy. Of course I got a great reaction to the drum n' bass tracks, but the reaction I got from the drum n' bass people for the house tracks was insane. I didn't get it. Whatever you think isn't going to happen is what's going to happen. Even in the drum n' bass media they were talking about them.

The friend I mentioned earlier who played a gig with you in Brazil, he's a drum n' bass producer, but like you he's also produced some more 4/4 type music. He records techno under the name Trevino....

Marcus!!

Have you heard his music as Trevino and what do you think?

Amazing! A-m-a-zing! Especially 'Backtracking', an early one. When he sent that to me and I heard it, it was like flying back to 1989. So beautiful. The bleep thing (mimics the track) and the piano. Oww! That's what I miss in music!

I tell you, Marcus is a huge influence to me. He's the best drum n' bass producer so far. It's hard for me to fully explain because he's a friend of mine... I know he goes through phases sometimes. Sometimes he likes drum n' bass, sometimes he doesn't, sometimes he likes more techno.

I think it's because he's so clever, sometimes he's a bit out of everything, out of the world, restless. But in my point of view he's one of the most talented producers in drum n' bass and now he's blowing up on the techno scene. Trevino is killing it.

Your track 'Medusa' was inspired by him and Manchester. That's my favourite track from your album. Did you get that inspiration from a visit Manchester or did it just come from his music?

It was inspired by him. Totally. 100%. I've visited Manchester so many times. I played at the first Soul:ution party and I also played there for their tenth birthday. Around 2003/2004 me, Marcus, Futurecut, Calibre, High Contrast, we had like a little crew, so I used to go to Manchester all the time.

Marcus used to make these tunes and he would give them to me first. It was one of the best times in my life and one of the best times, for me, for music. Don't get me wrong, we've got great music now. I don't want to say, 'oh, that era was better than this.' They've all got their pros and cons.

But the music at that time there were no compromises. I don't think there was any pressure to try and make something that was going to be big. We were making music just because we like it. 

Manchester, for me, is responsible for some of the best underground music in the world. It's a great city, only problem is no sun.

True, but good football. Especially Manchester United.

Noooo! You're doing really shit this season. 

And last year too, but they'll come back. Besides, we weren't supposed to be talking about football again.

It's like with my team now. It's the same thing. For three years we've not been doing good. We've changed players, changed coach, but the directors are crap. 

Shame. How are Corinthians doing?

It's crazy, isn't it? Because Sao Paulo used to be the top team, very professional, everyone wants to play for Sao Paulo, but now that's Corinthians. They're doing really good. The secret is their coach, Tite.

The football players play for him. They say they play for Corinthians, but no, they play for him. They love him, he has the crew in his hands. He's amazing. I like what he does. A fantastic coach. I wish he was with my team. 

What's happening with Innerground Records at the moment?

Innerground is doing great. We had the focus turned off for a little while because we had some issues. One of my friends who used to work with me (he used to run the label) he decided to leave. He got a job with a major label. But it didn't work, so now he's back with us and we're catching up. 

You had your debut artist album My Heroes last year, so what's next for DJ Marky?

Everybody's saying album, album, album. But I don't know. I've got, like, seven tracks ready and I sent them out to some DJs to get some reaction and that was pretty good. Maybe I'll put them out across two EPs. I really want to do another record. And I have an idea for doing a boogie, funk record, like DJ Die's doing in Bristol. Sometimes I miss the groove. 

Something that I'd love to do more than my own album at the moment is compilations. I'd love to do another influences compilation and maybe, in the future, something like a DJ Kicks compilation. That's like a dream for me. 

Is there a difference between the drum n' bass that comes from Brazil and that which comes from the UK?

Er, no. I think drum n' bass music in Brazil right now is doing fantastic. It's not just like me, Patife and XRS any more, there are so many people doing it. A lot of young kids doing some fantastic stuff like Sound Energy, Andrezz, Chap, L-Side and Rusty. Some great music.

I think it's maybe more easy for people to make music now. It's not like it's magic anymore, for example like when I first heard 'How You Make Me Feel' by Marcus Intalex and ST Files I was just, like, 'what the fuck is that? How has anyone made this magic?' That tune just blew my mind. Nearly 20 years later I still play that tune.

But, no, I don't think there's a difference. Not now. I think maybe people talked about there being a difference in the beginning because I sampled a Brazilian record for 'LK', but that was just about making the right track at the right moment.

It was totally different, that was why it blew up. I'm very proud of that. At least I've made one timeless tune. It's not easy to make a big tune, but to make a timeless tune? That's difficult. 

You can catch DJ Marky at Electric Brixton with LTJ Buken on Saturday 2nd April. Tickets available from the box below.

Read more: Trevino Interview: Golf greens and city scenes

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