Artist of the Month: DJ Marky

Beatport links up with DJ Marky to celebrate a moment of personal and professional fulfillment and understand how the Brazilian drum & bass star formed his musical taste, refined his technique, and conquered clubland over his 30-year career.

9 min
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Apr 15, 2024
Claudia Assef

If he weren't a DJ, Marky would be a drummer. One way or another, the life of Brazilian Marco Antonio da Silva, DJ Marky, has always been marked by beats. This karmic connection was fundamental to the development of an almost mystical connection between the DJ and music, his primary tool. "I can't explain it, but when I'm playing, I go to another spiritual plane. I don't plan the set, when I have a track on the needle, I'm already thinking about the sixth, seventh track I will play next," says the DJ, in a long interview via Zoom from his apartment in São Paulo, where he lives with his 19-year-old son, Gabriel.

Marky has just released a new EP, titled Kochi, in honor of the Japanese city of the same name, which Marky fell in love with in just one visit. "The short time I spent there was super interesting, I discovered that there is a fish that is only from this region of Kochi, called 'Bonito', just like that, in Portuguese. The people are very friendly, they live intensely at the party, dance, drink, and the next day go to work as if nothing had happened. I've been going to Japan for many years and always liked the culture, but when I made these songs for the EP, it was in Kochi that I thought of and that's why the name," he says.

The cover features a beautiful illustration by Japanese artist Hirosato Sakuma, with the name DJ Marky written on the cover in kanji, which is the most famous ideogram of the language. Released by Marky's own label, Innerground Records, Kochi features the track "Soul Samba," produced in 2004 in collaboration with XRS, the same producer with whom he released the hit LK in 2002, now in a remix by Japanese Makoto. The EP also includes the tracks "Star Trippin'," "(It's Just a) Simple Song," and the title track, which rounds off the record. Not surprisingly, in May, Marky embarks on a tour of Japan to launch the EP, and of course, the city of Kochi is not out of the plans.

With over 30 years of professional DJing career, our Artist of the Month here on Beatport is one of the greatest stars of DJing on the planet. And despite being a creation of the city of São Paulo, his persona is completely international. So, let's rewind to analyze how a DJ of Marky's caliber is built.

Check out DJ Marky's Artist of the Month chart on Beatport
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The first time I saw Marky playing at a club in London was in 2002, at his residency at Fabric. I was in England to cover Homelands, a legendary electronic music festival that took place in Winchester between 1999 and 2005, and I stayed a few more days to explore the electronic music scene in the city.

One of the three Brazilians on the Homelands lineup (the others were Anderson Noise and Patife), DJ Marky was experiencing a special moment in England, thanks to the success of the newly released "LK," with samples of Carolina Carol Bela (from 1970, by Jorge Ben and Toquinho), produced by Marky and Xerxes de Oliveira, also known as XRS. The success of LK took the duo to the English TV show Top of The Pops, where all the great names in world music usually pass through. The single LK became the most successful in the history of Brazilian pop music in England, surpassing Tom Jobim and Sepultura.

On that damp night in June 2002, we arrived together at Fabric, Marky, Anderson Noise, and I, while also Brazilian DJ Patife played on the main floor. We were greeted with champagne and an affectionate greeting from the club's staff. When Marky finally entered to play, the dance floor went wild. I noticed a pair of Marky fans wearing Brazilian national football team shirts with DJ Marky's name on the back and, just below, the number 10. Like Brazilians, the English are fanatical about football, and soon they saw a connection between Marky's mastery and the greatest idol in Brazilian sports history, football player Pelé, the immortal owner of the number 10 shirt of the Brazilian national team. And to Marky's luck, in 2002 he was invited to perform at the opening of the Olympic Games in Japan. That year, Brazil became the Olympic football champion.

I often tell this story to those who don't know the trajectory of this São Paulo native born on June 14, 1973, in the Cangaíba neighborhood, the son of a seamstress mother and a police lieutenant father who was a musician in his spare time. Marky grew up surrounded by beautiful vinyl records at home.

DJ Marky Claudia
DJ Marky London
DJ Marky 2002

From Brazilian music to jazz, the vinyl records enchanted young Marquinho since he was 7 years old. Among his parents' records were gems like Jorge Ben (Força Bruta), Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges (Clube Da Esquina), Ed Lincoln (A Volta), Miles Davis (Kind Of Blue), James Brown (Sex Machine Today), Billy Paul (360 Degrees), Marvin Gaye (What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On), Rita Lee (1980), Elis & Tom (Elis & Tom), Marcos Valle (1970), Martinho Da Vila (Canta, Canta, Minha Gente), among many others.

And, of course, there were the neighborhood parties, a big sensation in the 80s. "My sisters were older and went to the parties. I was a child and couldn't go in, so I stayed with my friends outside listening to the music, and then I asked my mom to buy the records for me," Marky recalls.

Some of the songs Marky heard from outside the parties, he already knew from the radio, which was a great feeder for his appetite for quality music. It was listening to Brazilian DJs on FM that he formed musically, in addition, of course, to the "lessons" he had at his own home.

As soon as he managed to save enough money, Marky, still a teenager, bought his first turntable. He then started working odd jobs to get money to buy records, his great obsession to this day. "I've always been obsessed with records, all my money was invested in that. I even worked in record stores in São Paulo and almost always spent my whole salary on records," recalls the DJ. That's how he, over the years, built an enviable collection with almost 30,000 vinyl records.

Self-taught, Marky trained his ears listening to master DJs on the radio, names like Ricardo Guedes, Grego, Cuca, and Sylvio Muller. He not only listened to the programs but also recorded many of them. "I must have those tapes until today," he says. It was using the abstraction that only a DJ of his talent can have that he learned to mix.

His first achievement as a DJ was winning a mixing contest at the Showbusiness nightclub in the Penha neighborhood, East Zone of São Paulo. That's how he also got his first job as a DJ, at the same club.

"I rehearsed at home everything I was going to play on the weekend. I arrived there with the set ready. There came a time when people even sang the set. I ended up being fired from that club and I have to agree with the dismissal because that wasn't being a DJ," he recalls. "I didn't have control of the dance floor. The dismissal made me open my mind. I understood that I had to know the music, know the mixing points, and, at the moment, be able to read the dance floor and dare. I put that in my head. And the place where I felt like a competent DJ in a surreal way was at Sound Factory," he says, categorically.

Sound Factory in São Paulo was a game-changer. Not only because it was where the "monster" DJ Marky was born but also because it was where an entire clubber culture was experienced intensely in São Paulo, a cosmopolitan city, yes, but one that was far from the center of the storm of electronic music novelties coming from Europe and the USA.

"The owner of Sound Factory, Osvaldo, was very tuned in. He traveled a lot and brought all that information. He owned a record store, where I also worked. In the club, Julião (also a resident DJ of the club) and I had all the freedom to express ourselves, and the audience was very open too. And I always liked to be at the forefront," says Marky. It was at Sound Factory that some of the first international names who came to São Paulo played, such as Laurent Garnier, Josh Wink, and Little Louie Vega.

Such success caught the attention of a much larger club, Toco, in the Vila Matilde neighborhood, with a capacity for 5,000 people. "They made me an irresistible proposal and I went," he recalls.

At Toco, Marky had carte blanche to play in the club's underground floor, which had a capacity for 300 people, in addition to doing the Sunday matinee for teenagers, a resounding success: 5,000 people entered and 3,000 stayed outside, in line.

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A third and perhaps the most important stepping stone of his career was the Lov.e club, in an upscale neighborhood of São Paulo, where Marky's career gained international visibility. The invitation to play at Lov.e came from Angelo Leuzzi, DJ, and entrepreneur.

"I met Angelo at a party, he was DJing too and was impressed with my way of playing. I was quite disheartened with my DJing career because Toco had just closed and I was unemployed. Lov.e completely changed my life," he says, referring to the success of his Thursday nights, Vibe, where stars from TV, artists, influencers, and people from the fashion world in general came, all wanting to know about drum & bass, a genre in vogue in the year of Lov.e's inauguration, 1998. "Roni Size had just won the Mercury Prize, and in São Paulo, there had been the Free Jazz festival with artists like Adam F, Goldie, and Grooverider. Drum & bass was very hype," Marky recalls.

With the success of the night, the club started bringing international guests to play at Vibe. "Bryan Gee came to play and after he played, he said I needed to go to London. I ended up accepting and went to play at a Planet V party in Brixton, at a venue called The Mass, which was actually a church. I took the first slot of the night and played literally for nobody," Marky says.

But the mass there was in the DJ booth, and a miracle was about to transform the life of our Brazilian hero. "Around 4 am, Bryan Gee came to tell me that Grooverider was late to play and asked me if I could take his place. The club was packed, and I thought, 'this is the chance of my life.' I grabbed two records and played the two open-channel tracks, without headphones, mixing. People couldn't believe it, and the next day everyone wanted to know who that guy from Brazil was who had played at The Mass," he recalls. The year was 1999.

The big international breakthrough would come three years later, with the release of the track "LK." "This song transformed my life. Mine and Michel's (XRS)... Man, we never made music to make money, we made music for fun, to make some good money to buy more records, go out with the ladies, go to a nice restaurant. With this song, I was able to buy a house for my mom, bought my apartment... it was awesome," he proudly says.

Among the thousands of kilometers traveled around the world, more than 20 EPs, two albums, and many awards throughout his career, Marky speaks with a special fondness for another achievement in life, being a father. "Being a father is very special. And I want to be the best father in the world, I'll do my best for my son," he says, as I see his son Gabriel in the background preparing food in the kitchen, realizing that this achievement is also a conquest for DJ Marky.

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