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Universal Rhythms: Marcellus Pittman

Whether as a solo artist or as part of the gargantuan power that is 3 Chairs (who play tonight for The Hydra in Vauxhall), Marcellus Pittman is an individual who’s made quite a name for himself. Part of the upper echelon of Detroit House royalty, he’s been around the block a few times more than most, but, as we discovered over the course of this interview, he’s still a humble and genuine guy doing it for the music, not the ego. Whether it’s heading his hugely respected Unirhythm imprint or carrying out or taking us on a voyage with his marathon DJ sets, Pittman is a character who does things his way and, luckily for us listeners, it’s invariably the right way. With a back catalog that emphasises quality over quantity, you can guarantee that anything the man from the Motor City unleashes on us is going to be gold.

He took a bit of time off from his trips around the world with his cohorts Parrish, Dixon Jr. and Wilhite to talk to us about peace, love and unity of vision in the house scene.

Hi Marcellus, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, how are you doing? What have you been up to lately?

Whatupdoe. No problem it’s my pleasure. I’ve been doing a lot of touring, pushing beat machine buttons, buying records and listening to the records I buy as well, as the music that people give me to listen to via CD or wax.

Business as usual then I guess! I feel it can be quite hard to pinpoint an exact sound to ascribe to your productions, they’re pretty diverse! How would you describe your approach to producing music?

I’m a wannabe musician, who actually would like to be in a band type of musician, so everything that involves making music is what I do. I don’t consider myself a tech or house or apartment music maker. Although most of my production and arrangements have been mostly dance-oriented, I feel there is no boundaries to it. When your mind is open then anything can happen. Hopefully the outcome is good. I don’t think that anyone who make music should be limited. The only reason why we limit ourselves is because a name is attached to it, meaning that dreadful word ‘genre’. I know a few musicians who’ve played many a styles of music and still feel like they’re hungry for more action because that’s what they love to do. Being a Disc Jock, Musician and all that is art. All forms of art is expression. Real simple.

What’s your creative process, do you have a certain routine you go through or is it something a bit more organic than that?

No routine. Some forms of repetition can be boring. It can be a little challenging but there’s no formula or process I go through to do it. Plus, why would I tell you anyway if I did? (laughs)

What are your biggest influences, be they musical or something outside of that sphere?

Everyday experiences, drums and keyboards, my parents, family, friends, and most of all….. the great state of Michigan and the whole Midwest.

As a producer, you seem to favour taking your time over things and having a couple of quality releases a year rather than churning out 12″s at a rate. How far would you agree with that?

100%. I think it’s all about quality not quantity. Although quantity can be good if the quality is. Plus things happen in your life where you are forced to put things on hold. And when the time come, you grab it by the neck and take control.

How about the other side of your craft, playing out live? What’s your approach to DJing? How do you like to construct your sets?

It’s all about improv for me. I don’t try to play a party with pre-programmed  set. Thats so boring to me. Shit can happen. So I make things happen when I pick the records that I want to play the night before or the day of, not arranging them in an order but just making it fit together.

You seem to favour the longer set when DJing, why is this?

If you’re playing for an hour or two, by the time your on the last 30 min of your set you’re just getting warmed up. I think that’s why festivals and 24hr events can be a little disappointing.

Do you have any guaranteed dance floorfillers? That’s if you’re willing to share them!

Every disc jock, CD jock, or laptop jock does. Come to one of my gigs and you’ll hear my fillers.

You’ve been coming to the UK quite frequently of late, how do you rate the UK crowds?

It can be good or bad just like any other city in the world. Good when you have people in the place to be that are genuine about the music. Bad if you have the know-it-all hipster who think he/she knows about music simply because he/she read a book or seen a video about something 2 weeks prior to what they’ve read.

In the contemporary scene you’ve become renowned as one of the top DJs on the current circuit, Who are your DJ idols?

Wow. I didn’t know that. Thanks for the compliment. As far as my heroes go…I would say Anthony Shakir, Alton Miller, 3Chairs, Jamie 326, Spector, Kai Alce, Joe Clausell. Too many to name really.

What do you think makes a good DJ?

A disc jock who’s not afraid to do what he/she wants to play. A disc jock who accepts and set trends.

Moving onto the work you’ve done as part of 3 Chairs… How did you get involved with the collective? 

Real simple without a long drawn out scenario, because I don’t want to. I’ve always been with my with the OG 3 Chairs unofficially until the year 2000. We were all playing a game of Tekken. I asked, “What’s the goods with 3 Chairs?”. Next thing that happens is I’m doing a tour with my big brothers 13 years later.

With four of the biggest names in your scene it must be a stimulating environment to work in. What’s the dynamic when you come together?

The element of surprise is the dynamic. It’s 4 individuals who have their own priorities and tour schedules to fulfill. When we meet up, the UNIverse takes control.

Is there any reason behind the recent resurgence in the group, or is it something that’s constantly going behind the scenes and it’s only just come into the public eye again?

We never left so I don’t consider it a resurgence. It’s more of a ‘let’s get it in again’ type of thing. And, during the process, new people are introduced to the group. If you’re a true follower of any of us, you would know about 3 Chairs.

Talk to me about your label Unirhythm, what was the thinking behind the label?

I see myself as not being classified in a particular genre therefore the UNIversal Rhythm. The UNI being ‘You and I’ verse is Rhythm. At some point in our history were gonna have to set aside our differences if we want to see progress in this realm. Neutral ground.

All the output on it is material from yourself, is there some resonance behind this?

Of course. It’s my baby at the end of the day. But, don’t expect to just see me and only me. The UNI isn’t there for nothing. It’s all about expression and helping others with their expression. So expect to hear other peoples music on Unirhythm.

Can we expect to see it moving back into action after the Pieces LP last year?

No doubt. You gonna get what you’re asking sooner than you think.

How about general releases from yourself? What’s in the pipeline in the future for you?

Remixes and 12″s from my label. A album with family and friends starring along side with me. Togetherness ya dig.

You can catch Marcellus and the rest of the 3 Chairs at Fire this Friday as part of Hydra’s year of events. Grab tickets here to see them alongside the likes of Boddika, Funkineven and Alexander Nut.