Marcus Intalex is a name synonymous with the progressive sounds of UK bass music, and specifically, drum and bass. Having been indoctrinated into the world of electronic music in the late eighties with trips to his native Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club, the young music fan soon set about collecting and playing out the classic Chicago and Detroit house sound, before discovering the harder sounds of European techno.
Moving into early ‘liquid funk’ drum and bass in the early nineties with releases under various monikers such as Da Intalex and Ill Figure, it was with ST Files that Marcus found his production groove. Turning out seminal releases like ‘How You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Universe’ on legendary imprints like Doc Scott’s 31 Records and Goldie’s Metalheadz, Intalex was weaving funk, soul and techno influences into drum and bass at a time when the scene was ridden with an overarching darkside sound.
Now, over two decades into his career, Intalex is set to release his debut album this April. Exploring a range of tempo’s, ’21’ sees a younger generation of dj’s like Rinse FM’s Oneman, DMZ’s Loefah, Eglo’s Alexander Nut and Hot flush boss Scuba pick up on his distinctly deep sound, ensuring his years spent honing the craft meet fresh ears. With a downbeat Hyp mix airing on the site soon, we talked to the Soul:R and Revolve:r boss to find out his take on 21 years in the game.
So Marcus – 21 years in the business. Does it feel like over 2 decades to you?
Not at all. Especially the last ten years, having been so busy time, has just flown by.
Can you remember when it was that you first thought that music could be a career path for you?
When I realised at the age of 18 that college and BTEC Business Studies were teaching me nothing I didn’t already know. Couple that with getting paid £50 for an hour or two’s work for deejaying on Tuesday nights at my local club playing acid house and I was sold!
Would you say you have a ‘proper’ job?
It’s as proper as you want it to be. It’s more of a business than a job. You can always do more, that’s for sure, but you can get away with not doing that much too. The more gigs you have, the less you feel you need to do but the more you do like production, studio work, promotion, networking.. the more dj work you’re likely to have. It’s a real balancing act, one I can say I have yet to perfect. It takes up unusual hours too, so you do find yourself working at different times to the normal world, so I’d probably say a proper job, yes, a normal one, no not at all.
I read that you actually first got into electronic music through the harder Belgian end of techno, is that true?
No my first love of electronic music came through the early sounds of Chicago house and Detroit techno. I was blown away with the sounds of Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Marshall Jefferson and Larry Heard. The Belgian things were a few years further down the road but i was pretty mad for the crazy Belgian techno rave sound at that time.
Is there anyone from those days you still listen to?
I still try and check things coming out of Detroit for sure and almost anything that Larry Heard does is a winner for me. From the Belgian techno days, Orlando Voorn last time I heard was still making good techno but I still to this day wonder what happened to Frank de Wulf. He was definitely the hot producer from the early nineties.
So, why do you think it’s taken 21 years to make your debut album, and why release it now?
For years it was all about trial and error, there was never any methodology about what we did. So sometimes we got lucky other times we could go for weeks without making anything of any use. I always knew when we did something good that it was good but it was never frequent enough to feel like there was an album in us. I have never approached the making of music as something you have to do to just for the purpose of treating it like work. For me, it was about feeling productive then hoping that feeling turned into something good. It just so happens that in the last year I have found making music a real joy, something I prefer to do more and more. I have spent more time in the studio in the last 12 months than I have in all my career. Hence I now have a lot of tracks and the idea of releasing an album. I also feel much more confident of my ability to produce at the moment, which is very important for actually turning an idea into a finished product.
How has your sound progressed since cutting your first track back in 1994?
It’s just a natural learning curve. I think most importantly though it’s the advancement of the technology used to make music. Things are so much easier these days, a decent computer, a pair of speakers and a box of tricks in the form of a DAW and you can do everything in a flash. It’s so different to what it used to be like but the major advantage to todays system is that everything is quick and easy, and frees up more time to be creative rather than just programming and mixing. I remember having the same tune up on the mixing desk for months, scared to take it down incase one thing needed changing and you didn’t want to have to mix the whole track again.
The album features a number of different tempo tracks, with you taking in dubstep on tracks like ‘To Be Or Not To Be’, plus more 4/4 related business on tracks like ’21’ is this varied tempo an area you’d like to push yourself more into?
I’m just making music of various tempos because its more fun, more creative and I guess more rewarding. After working on the same tempo for the last 15 years it feels quite liberating. I’m just trying things and see where it takes me. As I said before, making music is linked with emotion, feelings and a desire to create something fresh and not just for reasons of financial gain or work. I am not really making stuff at 130/140bpm because it’s the current tempo of popular choice, it’s more about it being a tempo and sound that excites me and I can relate to a lot.
What do you make of the dubstep scene in 2011, and when did you first see it’s potential?
I honestly don’t know very much about it. I hear tunes/dj’s that I really despise and hear tunes/dj’s that blow me away, which ain’t to dissimilar to drum n’ bass at all. I think they’re built from the same foundations, they certainly have a lot in common with each other: the only difference in most respects is the tempo. Dubstep to me is today’s generation’s drum and bass. It’s great to see another UK sound take the world by storm. If anything, it has a much bigger potential than dnb as its a tempo closer to the rest of most other forms of established electronic music.
Have you ever been to FWD>> or DMZ?
I am sorry to say I ain’t. If I was free and they were in my town then I’d be very interested. I saw Scuba here a few weeks back on a Monday night. I thought his set was very good indeed, also I caught Mark Pritchard in town last weekend, which was also wicked.
Where do you see underground electronic music in the UK heading – it seems all different tempo’s now come under a more generic heading of ‘UK bass’ – where do your label’s Soul:R and Re:volver sit within that tag?
It’s interesting but strange times… I have no idea where its heading – it’s an uncontrollable beast! There is so much music out there its pretty scary – hundreds of new artists and labels. Some great, most not so much, and lots of it I ain’t even checked yet. It’s very hard to judge what is happening, as a music maker and label owner you just have to do what you believe in. For Soul:r and Revolve:r it’s never been about trying to be the most popular d’n’b label out there, it’s just for us about releasing music we love and hoping other people love it too. So I guess nothing has changed in that respect.
What do you have coming up for both labels?
2011 is going to be an album year for Soul:r with hopefully albums from myself, S.P.Y, MC DRS and Silent Dust. Revolve:r should see some more action too as we’re writing more and more alternative flavours.
You were an early champion of Martyn, releasing his first 12″ ‘Get Down/Black Lies’ back in 2005 – did you ever play at his Red Zone night in Eindhoven, and are you surprised at the ease in which he’s crossed over a number of genres?
Yeah I played at Red Zone a few times, it was always great. Martyn’s switch didn’t take me by surprise at all. I remember meeting him for the first time in ’99 and we talked techno for hours. He was patient with his learning and over the last ten years it’s been really great to see his development.
Is this something you see yourself doing, or do you think your real roots remain in drum & bass?
Right now I feel a real freedom to experiment with tempo. I know I can do d’n’b whenever I want to and will continue to do so but I am writing more and more varying types of music, what happens with it and myself is very unclear. It’s a road of discovery right now there seems to be time for everything at present so it just feels natural.
You’ve held down Soul:ution residencies at Fabric in London and Band On The Wall in Manchester for a number of years now – how are these going, and how do the two differ?
Yeah the resurrection of the Manchester event has been amazing. It’s my favourite place to play again, without a doubt the best crowd to play too in the world right now. The vibe is electric. London is also great, Fabric seems to be going through a mini resurgence too. Over the last year or or two, the crowd has changed down there and it’s been most enjoyable.
You’ve taken the Soul:R label on a tour of festivals this year – how was the response from festival crowds and which would you say was the best?
I always seem to get booked for European and American festivals and they’re always tons of fun. The Electric Daisy festival in Los Angeles was huge last year with over 180,000 people attending for a two day festival. Sun and Bass was amazing again but if any of the motherfucking booking agents from the UK festivals are reading this then take note, I’m available, a good dj and dont charge the earth. I never seem to get any UK festival bookings, maybe next year things will change.
’21’ will be released through Soul:r on April 19.
Interview: Louis Cook