Marco Bailey is the legend from Belgium that has been touring for a quarter of a century. His extensive life on the road has given him an unparalleled perspective on the industry. Through its ups and downs, Marco has been there. It's a mighty thing to maintain such a high level of quality for so long, both in the studio and on the decks. We met up with the Belgian legend to reflect on his 25 year career and discuss his latest project. When we caught up with him at his recent show in Toronto, the first thing we noticed was his immense love for the music he shares. It's clear he loves what he does and spending his days globetrotting through the best techno events in the world is an obvious plus. Although for Marco, being a DJ is much more than that. His driving element is the connection he builds with the crowd each time he plays and it is remarkable how he expresses his devotion in person.
"Passion, it's passion. I take a vacation one week in a year or so. I have been travelling now for 25 years. You need some rest, but I am never satisfied, I can't stop."
When he is not on the decks, he is in the studio. When he is not in the studio, he's running his labels. MB Elektronics and MB Limited―the latter is used to explore what he deems the 'Berghain' sound, while Elektronics is a platform for the new generation. Although he has been a part of other labels in the past, he has distilled his efforts into these two. He addresses the fact that he is a label boss twice over with great humility. "I think it's enough. One or two [labels] running well is already enough for me." This, coming from a guy who tours 51 days of the year.
Put concisely, he is a force of nature. He started well before the current surge of popularity that electronic music enjoys today, and his plans show that he has no intention of letting a little popularity affect what the underground stands for. "To be honest, in all my modesty, our music is never going down. Styles come and go, but the underground has always been there." Although he hasn't been to Toronto in a decade, his tour schedule has never faltered. "Now America, especially New York, has an amazing underground scene. Output, Pacha, Verboten, and also these warehouse parties all over the place."
Bailey finally returning to Toronto after 10 years is a healthy sign of the city's thriving underground. However, to the dismay of Marco, he is returning under limiting conditions. Dance music's popularity has inflicted some collateral damage to underground music. The onslaught of new DJs in the industry have triggered a new tactic in nightlife―promoters are putting multiple acts on one night's bill in order to fill the house. The lengthy marathon sets of the past aren't relevant in Toronto anymore and this is what worries some traditional DJs and fans.
"I love those eight hour sets because then I can play deep house, techno, some house, ambient or electronica craziness. If you have only 1-2 hours it is impossible. You can't play everything that you want to," he said. "I have 1 1/2 hour set. You can play maximum 20-25 records. You can't connect with the crowd, yet that is the way of the new scene." To DJ can be as simple as creating a playlist filled with some contemporary 'bangers,' but it can also be an all-encompassing listener experience. For this, they need the time to tell you the whole story. "I would like to push the borders, I'm never satisfied."
Along with his desire for more time on the decks, he expressed one of his regrets was not spending enough time in the studio. "What I would say to a young Marco is go to music school. Learn to play instruments. Don't focus on the computer all the time. When you play real instruments you can do bigger things, something outstanding." For Marco his passion still rests with the feeling he gets when he hits the decks, and over his lengthy period of doing so, he's noticed a few things.
One of his observations about this new generation, is their lack of enthusiasm. The era of festivals and 'iPhone dependents' have seemingly placed the nightclub lifestyle on alert, and to this notion, Marco wanted to pass on a message:
"Come out and dance… keep on loving techno. In the last 10 years people stay too much at home. They don't go out anymore to the clubs. It's something that should come back again. What I have found is that the festival scene is growing, but the clubs have been going down. Very strange," he said. Well, is it the venues? Is it the people? Is it the promoters? "There are better sound systems, better light shows, everything is improving. But it seems like the people just wait until the summer to go to these festivals and that is it. Tomorrowland, in my country, has grown so much, and yet clubs are having a hard time."
Nightlife is highly saturated and originality is rarely rewarded. Audiences now, more than ever, want some "bang for their buck" in music. Often this is in the form of three-day festival extravaganza, rather than the exploration of the music in their own city. To combat this, Marco is cooking up something old but new―a series of events based off his favourite parties, Carl Cox in Space.
"I am going to start my own events, not label parties, but a gathering of friends. We are going to do the first one in Madrid at Fabric, then do WMC, Sonar in Barcelona, and ADE in Amsterdam. There is a lot of thought on how to push the boundaries, but not trying to overkill it," he said. "It's better to throw one good party a month, than 10 half-good ones."
We're officially stoked. We can expect that the preparation for these events will be immense. And for that, we are eternally grateful that the underground has fuelled Marco for as long as it has.
You can follow Geoff on Twitter: @gpharricks