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Quietus Mix 009: DJ Marcelle Presents Surface Noise
John Doran , February 1st, 2011 06:21

Dutch gramaphone technician DJ Marcelle has served us up a mind-bending mix of reggae, Afropop, jazz, hardcore, hip hop and electronica. She explains the method behind her madness

Many times I have been asked by bookers, journalists and music fans, ‘What style of music do you play?' Despite the regularity of the question I still get confused every time I hear it. Why does it have to be a style? Why do people just want one style?

I try to avoid an easy answer by stating a comparison that various people who know me have made - that I am like "the female John Peel". But this reply, however honourable in itself, still leaves me unsatisfied. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed! And that for me, is the essence of my DJ style - absolute freedom and the urge to stay ahead of the audience. The public is almost by definition conservative, they like to hear what they already know and don’t like surprises, even in ‘progressive’ musical circles. I like to push things into uncharted waters - for me, this is what every musical scene needs in order to survive.

Limiting oneself to a single musical genre is a shame. You leave out so many opportunities. On my mix albums and on stage, for example, I mix African tribal drumming with a cutting edge rapping, Chinese dub with Austrian accordion playing, bass heavy dubstep with animal noises, breakcore with post-punk and minimal techno with acid chants. Combining the weird dub of Lee Perry with the minimal groove of Sleeparchive, followed by the African highlife of Super Negro Bantous who then get blown away by the female power of Warrior Queen. This wild mix can be so much fun and inspiration. Never knowing where you’re going and enjoying that travel is for me an important essence of my life and therefore my deejaying. The two can’t be separated.

A few months ago in my hometown of Amsterdam I went to a dubstep night. And as I have been integrating dubstep for years now in my live sets and various radio shows I was really looking forward to the evening. However, it was not a great experience as, although it was interesting from a psychological point of view, I was surprised by how one dimensional it all was - the ‘ritualness’. Deejay after deejay followed the same musical path. Maybe we experienced the ‘strangulation’ of a very exciting new musical form by its own fans who miss the point (for me) of every new musical style - the sheer excitement and artfulness of creation and development.

The musical form is in a way irrelevant. I have been intrigued by so many different musical genres and each time the promises and raison d’etre of these new musical styles fail to get truly delivered because the majority involved rest on their laurels. My first ‘real’ musical love, not counting Mud, Suzi Quatro and Slade, was 1976-1977 punk (‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’), but it was post-punk which shaped my musical ideas. The willingness to experiment, to discover and combine unknown musical territories and the feeling of freedom in bands such as The Slits, Delta 5, PIL (Metal Box’), The Fall, Kleenex, Au Pairs, The Raincoats, ESG, The Pop Group, Rip, Rig & Panic or Throbbing Gristle still inspire me to this day.

So regarding my deejaying this means that you shouldn’t ask ‘What type of music do you play?’ but instead look forward to an experience of surprise, wonder and great dance-ability – this woman knows her bass! A bass that seeps up through the soles of your shoes, vibrates up your body and grabs you by the throat, leaving you breathless. A bass you can lie on top on.

I try to tell a story and take people by the hand for a walk into unknown territory – I have never been good at reading maps and orientation! I like to play records that astonish, full of bizarre and unexpected twists - one minute you're thinking how beautiful life sounds, the next how scary, then how strangely hilarious. This leads me to experiment with new records and mixes during the set; I am constantly juggling with a passionate urgency and on the verge of collapse. Accidents can happen – as in real life. The audience is not only entertained but also permanently challenged. And when that works it is a tremendous evening. Music is for me not escapism but a way of life, of politics.

I am convinced that any particular style of music sounds better as an individual track when played against another different style. It makes the listener more lively and involved. You never know what you’re going to get and the deejay is not showing off and acting cool, but she is genuinely sweating to get the records played simultaneously in an exciting way.

For that journey the use of vinyl is essential, for both aesthetic and audio reasons. I don’t like CDs or MP3s - they are soulless, too easy and I believe that the 'quality' of DJ sets and radio shows sometimes deteriorates because they are too simple and cheap to obtain music and therefore people become less critical.

As a result of my way of working I have found that I am regularly appreciated by people who do not come from the same ‘alternative’ background as me. I have worked together with contemporary modern dancers, improvisers and jazz musicians, and musicians from an older generation, like Faust’s founder member Hans-Joachim Irmler.

When I played the 2007 Klangbad Festival in Scheer in the south of Germany, curated by Irmler, he was taken aback by my deejay style. He confessed I got him dancing for the first time in 20 years. He also recognised the same cutting edge spirit found in his own music making and invited me to come back to Faust Studio to record a mix album, 2008's DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess Meets Her Soul Mates At Faust Studio Deejay Laboratory. Now Klangbad has released the successor, DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess Meets More Soul Mates At Faust Stusio Deejay Laboratory, on which I merge and mix over 50 tracks in 78 minutes.

In a predominantly male dominated scene I find it a shame that so many female deejays make the mistake of trying to copy their male counterparts by putting too much emphasis on technique and faultless, one dimensional mixing, when I feel they should rely more on their own strengths; use intuition, exploration and let go of ‘rules’. Why don’t we play more with the perception of what a deejay should be?

As Scout Niblett sings in her version of 'Uptown Top Ranking', the final track on my 2008 album and one that regularly ends my gigs: 'I got no style, I'm strictly roots'.

Marcelle’s latest mix album DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess Meets More Soulmates At Faust Studio Deejay Laboratory is released (on double vinyl only) on the German Klangbad label.

Check out Marcelle on the radio:

Another Nice Mess on DFM Radio: every Tuesday, 19.00-21.00 GMT on

Dandelion Radio London, monthly show, playing every day in a schedule.

FSK Radio Hamburg: every 1st Wednesday of the month , 22.00-0.00 GMT

For more information go to Another Nice Mess and Klangbad for more details.