Arriving in Amsterdam over twelve years ago, Marco Sterk cut his teeth as an in house designer with Rush Hour Records before steadily working his way up as one of the A&Rs for the label. He concurrently produced and DJ’d on the side, nurturing an obsessive interest in crate-digging for spaced out and exotic sounds alongside close friend Tako Reyenga of Redlight Records. The last three years have seen change on many fronts for Marco. A blossoming solo career has been spurred forward with the help of creatives within his inner circles. At the same time, his general duties at Rush Hour have been understandably scaled back, with extensive touring and studio down time taking priority during the week. He’s been collaborating left, right and centre and his debut LP, ‘Biology’ landed earlier this year as a refreshing dose of interesting on Lovefingers’ art-house imprint – ESP Institute, a foundation where Marco has become a tightly knit member of family.
Hyponik’s Conor McTernan travelled to the second edition of Dekmantel festival in August this year to meet with Marco and discuss his involvement behind the scenes at Rush Hour and Dekmantel, the future of the party scene in the Dutch capital following the closure of Trouw and his forthcoming collaborative album with the newly formed Ambient grouping Gaussian Curve…
Being at Dekmantel it would be a good start to talk about the rise of Dekmantel. How did you become involved with the guys behind it?
I’ve known them since they started out. They used to have a really small club night in a club called NL here in Amsterdam. I was still doing a lot of graphic design work at the time and designing a lot of typefaces. I actually designed the Dekmantel typeface. They were pretty young back then so it was bizarre to see how much they’ve grown. That was around eight years ago and now the Dekmantel guys are good friends of mine. Seeing them create what a lot of people are calling one of the coolest festivals in the world is pretty amazing!
The Amsterdam clubbing scene is really healthy at the moment. What will happen with the imminent closure of Trouw in January?
I mean it will definitely leave a scar. The last “super club” in Amsterdam was The RoXY in the nineties. There’s always been a healthy amount of clubs but never a big one where the organisers would feel comfortable playing underground dance music. With Trouw it has been proved that is possible to have a big club here with good music and it doesn’t feel like you’re in a big place. The main guy behind Trouw – Olaf, I don’t think he’s going to do another club for a while. When it closes I’ll be heartbroken but as I’ve said, confidence has been re-installed in Amsterdam so I think somebody will start up something else because there will definitely be a big gap. Many people have come up behind the scenes at Trouw so there’s good hope for the future. There’s a whole bunch of clubs that are cool in their own right like Studio 80 for example but Trouw was the first that got everything right for a lot of people here. I’m always surprised that there’s a lot more clubs here than there are in other big cities. Take New York for an example, it’s fifteen times bigger but there’s not as many places.
Tell me about your Young Wolf project with Jan Schulte (Wolf Müller)?
I met Jan at Salons Des Amateurs in Dusseldorf. It’s a club inside the city’s contemporary art museum. During the day it’s a museum cafe and by night it turns into a club. My friend Tako used to be a resident there, I went up with him and played a bunch of times and met Jan in the process. There’s a really strong scene in Dusseldorf where kids grow up listening to weird music, crazy Krautrock and stuff.
You’ve performed together once so far, how was it received?
We don’t even have a record out yet. We did some songs where we kind of have an idea and the show is pretty much improvised. We use a bunch of synthesisers. I use a KorgPoly-800, a Moog Phatty, A Casio CZ-101 and a Roland TR-909. Jan does a lot of live percussion and the whole thing is based off a loop pedal. We build loops on the fly and all the tracks are made from scratch.
How does the sound compare to your own productions?
It’s a similar enough sound to my own productions of course, because well it’s me making the music! The way I work in the studio is really on the fly too so if I do start my own live thing somewhere down the road, that’s the way I want it to be too. We’re going to put out an EP on Themes From Great Cities soon.
Are you still working at Rush Hour today?
I still do a bit of art-direction and pitch the occasional record from time to time but nowhere near on the level that I used to. I’m away most weekends and try to be in the studio as much as possible during the week.
Who did the artwork for your Biology LP?
An illustrator from Amsterdam named Rop Van Mierlo. I saw his watercolour drawings a long time ago and said that’s exactly what I want to use for my sleeve. I could never remember his name until I finally ran into him. He’s done a whole series of those animals.
Now that the album is out, are you producing again already or what is your plan for the next couple of months?
I’ve just finished an album with Jonny Nash (Land Of Light) and Gigi Masin, an Italian ambient legend. They visited Amsterdam and we recorded an album together (Clouds) in two days basically. I’m very proud of it. It’s the kind of music I never thought I would be able to make. That’s coming out in September on Music For Memory & the band is called Gaussian Curve. That’s coming out and I’m going to do a couple of remixes too.
You’re a couple of releases deep with ESP Institute now. Tell me how you got involved with Lovefingers & his art house imprint?
I know Andrew (Lovefingers) through my longtime friend Tako Reyenga who runs Redlight Records here in Amsterdam. He’s one of my best friend’s and also a very inspiring character. I used to DJ in Amsterdam a lot until I got tired and stopped for about two years to focus on just making music. After those two years I looked at the music I had and the only label I could actually think to send it to was Andrew’s label. So I did and he liked it. Simple as that!
Would you ever consider launching a label yourself?
I’ve thought about it! When the time’s right, but i’m in no rush to do anything.
A lot of your productions draw from exotic areas that aren’t strictly associated with club culture and you’ve said before that you don’t want to make “dance music” per se. Do you find yourself going out to see other DJ’s play today asides from gigs you’re at yourself?
Not really. Maybe i’d like to but I’m just tired! It sounds cheesy but I just really like music & not necessarily clubbing. However I do like DJing and making people dance. But sometimes you want to make people cry!
If you walk into a record store, what section are you naturally drawn to first?
I don’t go to new record stores very often. You discover a lot more interesting things in second-hand stores and it’s not as pre-hashed. The first section I always look to is Jazz-Fusion. A lot of people put things there that they don’t know how to categorise….
If you’re attending ADE this year, you have two opportunities to catch Young Marco performing on home for the Rush Hour Special at Trouw and a Dekmantel Special curated by Carl Craig at North Sea Jazz Club.
Interview: Conor McTernan
Photography: Rachel Walsh