The Education of Marco Carola

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The Education of Marco Carola

From birthday parties to his Miami residency, the Italian techno primo keeps the music on.

As Marco Carola delivers a dark, glittering, mechanical sermon, he stands tall on 25 years of tutelage. "I have seen many things and many experiences, and I have learned from many of my friends and DJs, but nobody really taught me more than music," he says.

All around the Italian techno monolith is action. He holds court in the middle of Story Nightclub surrounded by South Beach glamour. Lights are flashing in the swirling smoke, hands are jumping in the air, women in robotic bras with bored expressions are dancing on speakers, and name-droppers in the VIP are creeping up to nab pics of the man of the hour, later instagrammed #MusicOn.

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The night is alive, and so is Marco. From December until just last week, Carola has helmed a thirteen week residency in Miami at the Story nightclub. Week after week, Carola was in his element on the decks, the only place he's ever felt at home.

"Since I was 12, I was living in a club," Carola says, laughing. "In Napoli, no one cares about ages in the club. We made the rules."

It was Marco's friend's dad who owned the club, making it hard to doubt that Carola was there at age 12. In a dark church, he learned to scoff at bed times and fell hard in love with the beat. Poised in the crow's nest of a lighting booth, he had a bird's-eye-view of the DJs below. Mystified, he spent hours and hours, night after night, watching their hands move, dreaming of a day when he too might be a midnight maestro.

Carola bought his first pair of turntables in September of 1990. Three months later, he'd learned to beat match in time for his buddy's sixteenth birthday party. "Luckily, I was the only DJ out of all my friends, which is why they called me."

At 15, he'd pulled off his first gig, charmingly humble as it was. He was smitten, but even with all of Italy's love for disco, house and electronica, it was by no means a career path. "Nobody could see it as a job," Carola says. "I really didn't see any possibility of living off that. It just happened because of pure passion." Not that teenage club rats give a shit about the future anyway.

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"In school, I was really bad. I could have followed my father's career as a businessman, but I didn't really like that," says Carola. "I didn't like wearing suits. It didn't really fit me."

Carola graduated from birthday parties to proper clubs and spent his high school years gigging around Napoli. By that time, his bookings had caught some decent momentum. He let school fade away and kept going. "I never really had the chance to think," he says. "There was this period of finishing school and thinking of being a DJ as a career. After a few months, I realized I could live with that."

His parents, however, weren't thrilled. "They couldn't believe people were paying me to play this music," he says. "Even today, they don't understand. I don't have a musical family. It just really was inside me."

Even to this day, it's a game of never giving up. He spends three days a week sifting through several thousand demos. Nevermind the days he spends writing his own tunes and edits, preparing for the next show. He lives out of rented houses for months at a time to hold down residencies around the world. He nearly lost his hearing a few months ago, forcing him to finally take a few weeks off. "When I DJ, I put my whole self, my whole body (into it)," he says.

Having turned 40 in January, Carola has been forced to find balance in his life and new ways to approach to his career. He's "basically done almost everything," from private shows to major festivals, day-long sets, and yet somehow, he still has an appetite for more.

That's why he started the Music On residency series three years ago in Ibiza, his first real residency after a quarter century of DJing. Modeled after the ethos of his label by the same name, it's a no-bullshit night for Carola to feed his musical addiction. He moved it to Miami two years ago, then to New York City, and it's come back annually ever since. He lived out his residency on South Beach until the end of February, with a reprise performance during Winter Music Conference at the end of this month.

Right now, Music On is the focal point of Carola's world. He lives and breathes by the night. It's his escape, his release, and his chance to share his passions with an audience it's his chance to teach people to care half as much as he does. "I don't know if people believe me or not, but there are many, many, many DJs that don't care anymore about music," he says. "It's become a business routine. They just play."

"When you can do underground music and people will understand, that's the goal," he continues. "It's easy to do commercial records. I mean, it's not easy, but it's easier when you play something easy, something more people like. The goal is play something difficult and still more people like it. That's my job, and I think it should be the job of every DJ. Don't be a jukebox. Be a DJ."

Find Marco Carola on Facebook // SoundCloud // Twitter