Marshall Jefferson Interview: "Love to be... is always a great party"

We caught up with Marshall, to chat all things Love to be, the differences between modern house music and the original scene, and the story behind some iconic House tracks. See what he had to say below!

Thomas Hirst

Date published: 9th Feb 2024

Marshall Jefferson is a name that should need no introduction for any true fan of House Music. A man central to the genre's original boom in Chicago, and someone who has championed its sound throughout many decades since, he is a true legend of the scene and the DJing community as a whole.

This weekend, Marshall is set to headline Love to be... at their 30th anniversary at Mint Warehouse in Leeds, alongside Julie McKnight and a host of local talent.

With this career-spanning set on the horizon, we caught up with Marshall, to chat all things Love to be... and the differences between modern house music and the original scene, as well as taking a few trips down memory lane through iconic tracks, both his and from others. See what he had to say below!

There are still some last-minute final release tickets for Love to be... 30th Anniversary in Leeds, so if you are wanting a last-minute rave, then scroll down to the bottom of this page and secure your tickets now!



So we’re here to chat about your headline slot at the Leeds Love-To-Be 30th anniversary at Mint Warehouse. Are you looking forward to it?

"Yeah Love To Be is always a great party, just the overall vibe is nice.

"Leeds always has enthusiastic partiers too. But that's the same all over the North; Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle; they’re always jamming."


You’ve been a frequent collaborator with Love To Be for over 30 years. When was the first time you played for them? and have there been any standouts?

"Oh, it was in the 90s when I first played. But I played for them a load of times over the years. 

"It's really hard to say about any standouts because I guess I play on auto-jam, I don't play sensational one day and play the next, but Love To Be is always a great party."


You’re going to be sharing a stage with Julie McKnight too, you’ve got some massive hits between you, are you looking forward to sharing a stage with her again?

"Oh, yeah, it’s always a pleasure with Julie. I played with her a few times all over the world, and she's brilliant. 

"A lot of control and a lot of emotion, and consistent too."


I think consistency is such an interesting point with Love To Be, as one of the cool things about these parties do is continuing to give that 90s sound a huge stage. It shows the longevity of great music at the time. Is it good to still be championing that sound in the modern day?

"Yeah, it really is. Especially because it's so crowded now. 

"Early last year, somebody told me there were 100,000 releases per day coming out. So to have songs that they still play and people want to party to is a blessing, a privilege."


I’ve seen that stat too, how much harder do you think it is for people to make a hit nowadays? Especially of the kind you used to put out.

"I don't think I could make it today if I was just starting out. 

"When I first started, it was like 500 records a week coming out, man. I mean, it was pretty easy. There’s just too many songs coming out now. 

"Then you got the DJs, who don't like playing the same song twice. So how are you going to get a hit?

"DJs are not going to unite on a hit, you got no cooperation between them, which you need more than ever because there are so many songs coming out. 

"Everybody just plays like, a couple of weeks or months with a hit and that's it, onto the next thing, and that's limiting."


Image: Rachel Cain @synth_history

Despite that, is there anything you like about the modern scene that you prefer to the 90s scene? Something better than it used to be?

Technology, the actual making of music has way improved.

Back when I first started in, the music sequencer would take, just run one part and repeat it through the song, sometimes it would take like 30 minutes. 

Well now, on a computer, it's instant. So it's a lot easier to make music now. 

The only problem is you can't break the format. It's so formatted now, man, if it doesn't sound like somebody else, nobody will put it out.

Each label has its sound, and if you don't sound similar to other things on their label, it's a conflict. They're not going to put it out.


Do you think that stifles originality?

"Oh, hell yeah. I got a lot of originals that I can't get out.

"It's tough, man. Especially for someone who's just starting out today.

"How are they going to get new ideas out? If they coming out with something straight out the pocket original. Nothing that's ever been heard before.

"No label will put it out. And if the label does put it out, nobody's going to hear it, if it's an unknown artist, because there's 100,000 songs a day coming out.

"Even I can't put out something completely original because there are no labels to put it out. It's bad man."


Well, I’ve seen that you have been getting together with a lot of the crowd from your era, putting music out still, that must be good to keep being able to do. Like with Byron Stingily on your new Ten City stuff. What’s it been like rekindling those fires?

"It's been very nice, man. Hooking up with your old friends and collaborators, for songs and tours and stuff. 

"I've just recently done a song with Kym Mazelle this year on a track called ‘Don’t Bother Me.’

"I've done some stuff with Cece Rogers and his son, and even Curtis McClainean, who sang on ‘Move Your Body’ on a song called ‘City Life.’

"So yeah, that's always nice getting together with old friends and that's much appreciated, especially at my age, because, well, I'm losing friends.

"We lost Michael Watford recently, and also another friend of mine, Mitchbal, who put out some of the very first house records. He was Vince Lawrence's father, and Vince Lawrence made the first house record with Jesse Saunders ‘On And On’ 

"So maybe without him, we wouldn't have house music at all because he produced the original producer."



Would you be able to tell us a bit about what it was like for you as a DJ, hearing ‘On and On’ and that house sound for the first time?

"Well, with ‘On and On’, I was a DJ at the time, and I guess Vince had made friends with Jesse Jones, who later became Master C & J, But Jesse Jones was the buyer at Loop Records, and he put hot, hot, hot on it.

"So I bought it, I heard it, and I said listen to bullshit ahaha.

"But you know what? The light bulb clicked off in my head and I said, I'm going to make records, too.

"I would not have a music career if it wasn't for that song.

"Because truthfully, I thought it was weak and I could do better, and the whole city thought like that too, and that's why there was a boom out of Chicago to start house music. 

"That's when we all started making records, Me, Steve “Silk” Hurley, Chip E, Joe Smooth, Larry Heard, Farley; all of us made records because of that one record. 

"Chip E got a $10,000 loan from his grandmother to press records. He wouldn't have done that if that song didn't come out. 

"We all thought we could do better and we did do better, but there would be nothing without that song. 

"There would be no DJ as the artist culture, DJs wouldn't be the artists because that started the whole thing. There would be no DJ-centred festivals, you couldn't have a festival with just DJs, that was unheard of. As far as the travelling DJs worldwide, you wouldn't have any of that. It completely changed the culture and it changed music, 

"So, yeah, haha, that song was a big deal.

"I would still be working at the post office, that was a lifetime secure job. I would have retired as a postal worker, probably early because of email. 

"So I probably would have never left the post office. So, yeah, that one song changed everything."



While we're on the older tracks, I'd love to chat with you about a couple of them. First I'd love to hear the story behind ‘Devotion.’ It's one of my favourite classic house records. How did that track kind of first come about?

"Well, me and Byron had been working together already on a group called Rag Time, and I was already touring doing ‘Move Your Body with On The House, which was Curtis McClain, Rudy Forbes, and also Thomas Carr. 

"But Thomas was scared of touring, so I said let's bring Byron on tour with us. So we did an East Coast tour over the weekend which was nine gigs in two days… I know haha.

"But it came off without a hitch. So Byron said, hey, man, let's stay over a week and talk to all the major labels. At the time they wanted to sign everything. Byron got a deal without anybody even hearing his.

"But everything I had, they signed, and Byron had a deal with Atlantic Records, but that meant we had to come up with a song. 

"Anyways, so we were on a double date, and Byron, his girl wasn't receptive to him, so he pulled out his ace, and started singing the lyrics to what eventually because Devotion,  and I said, oh, man, that's it. 

"I went home and I made some music under it, and boom, that was it, and Atlantic signed it, and the rest is history."


Just to round things up and bring it back to Love To Be, with it being a 30th anniversary, if that set was reduced to just three tracks, what would you play and why?

"A Deeper Love by CNC Music Factory

"Strings Of Life by Rhythm Is Rhythm

"And Move Your Body

"I got to play Move Your Body, there’d be riots otherwise, I'd have to get security to get me out of the club if I didn't play it haha."



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Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.








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