Once you have 29 years of experience behind the decks, you are most definitely allowed to say you have been in the game for a long time. While the overwhelming majority of DJ’s and producers from the 90s techno era have thrown in their towels by now, Marco Bailey - a proud Limburger - is one of those Belgian techno legends that just seems to keep going and going; and that might even be an understatement. Honestly, we have no clue how many releases this man has put out over his career; his Discogs discography page shows more than 142 entries. Having released yet another album, ‘Temper’, on his own Materia Music imprint just a few months ago, Marco is still regularly playing shows around the world. We were actually quite lucky to catch the man for a quick interview between his South American tour and his morning flight to Mexico. “I don’t see the DJ-sets as ‘work’. The working part for me are the damn flights, waiting lines and delays”, says Bailey with a big grin painted on his face. Something told us this was going to be a conversation with a lot of unsalted opinions, so without further ado…
You have been doing quite some gigs all over the world lately. Which one was your favourite?
"Any gig in South America; and Argentina to be more specific! The people over there are so dedicated! They arrive with a smile and an open mind; and they will not leave until they have danced their shoes off! That attitude is something I really miss in some other places where the phone has become more important than the music. Unfortunately, this has become the norm in many European clubs, although it must be said that Smolna in Warsaw and Grelle Forelle in Vienna are notable exceptions."
We get what you’re saying, but it seems that this problem is endemic to contemporary society than just the club circuit… If done discreetly, surely you don’t mind people sharing their experiences when they enjoy their night out?
"Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against mobile phones – but I don’t like them on a dancefloor. It defeats the purpose of why you are there in the first place: to dance. And even then; taking a grainy picture or a chaotic 30-second-video won’t show how cool the party really was, you know? How can you tell if a DJ is “amazing” if you just see a short clip? These days, some DJs become popular only because of their Instagram likes or Facebook videos. Similarly, major festivals promotors often book DJs that have never even released one track. I don’t think that’s the right way to promote your events. But unfortunately, that’s just how the scene works these days – and I’m happy there are some exceptions of course. You just need to take so much more into account, otherwise it’s all just a little too easy."
The upside of today’s technology is that you can now produce music on the go. Is that something you do?
"Yes, sometimes I make beats on the airplane. I’ll just work on a little sketch, which I’ll finalize once I’m in my studio. Often I invite old-time buddies in the studio to work on some music together. For example, me and Redhead first sat in the studio together in 1998; we have made so many tracks together, from techno to electro and we have released a lot of EPs, on Primate, Elektrix, Zync, and MB Elektronics for example. Same for my good friends Tom Hades and Dany Rodriguez (with whom I just finished a new EP); I just like to share ideas, exchange synths, talk about music, trying out new things, etc. These days, there is so much amazing new software and so many new plug ins that come out, it’s definitely a major upside of technology today; 15 years ago I couldn’t even dream of this. It saves a lot of my so much precious time."
17 years (!!!) after you started your record label MB Elektronics (on which you released most of your output) you founded a new one: Materia Music. Why decide to start over after all this time?
"During the production process of my latest album, I felt that MB Elektronics just wasn’t the right place anymore for this new direction I was heading in, it had become a little irrelevant. I had been playing with the idea for a while already. My ideas, my sound and the scene around me have all changed over time – and at one point, it was just too disconnected from what my old imprint was about. At first, Materia Music was just an event I hosted, but over time I felt that this could be the new home for my new output, so it became a label too. I didn’t want to close MB Elektronics down altogether, but for now it’s just placed on hold."
For a DJ that has been around for such a long time, the current re-appreciation for old school techno can be a great thing, as many new fans are introduced to your older tracks. Don't you agree?
"I definitely welcome this trend, but you got to understand it’s all a bit surprising to a DJ like me. I mean, sometimes I get these promo tracks from young producers that just sound exactly like the stuff I made 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, some of these are really well-produced, but I just wonder: "why?" It may sound ‘retro’ to you, but to me it sounds ‘old’. How can you be bored with all the great new records that come our every week? Why not look forward instead of backwards? Then again, who am I to say what you must like or not? Just make or play whatever you feel like (laughs)!"
Even Bonzai Records, where you started putting out tracks, is currently being rediscovered by a new generation of techno fans. Did you ever believe this would happen?
"Never. That’s what I mean, it’s just so weird. Suddenly all those retro labels are all ‘hip’ because Nina Kraviz played it on her Boiler Room session and other events. However, my hat's off to them, of course, they finally get the recognition they deserve."
How do you look back at the records you released on Bonzai?
"With mixed feelings. Back then, they were one of the biggest record labels in that scene, so for me it was such a big personal victory to release my tracks on there. If you listen back now, you’ll notice how it’s just ‘old music’, as it was made with old-ass equipment. You have to remember, this was the ‘rave’ era, which was the dominant genre in that time. I don’t see it as ‘timeless’ in the same way as old Carl Craig or Laurent Garnier tracks, but, then again; if it can still be valuable to some people, I’m happy, of course."
You have released a dozen albums and hundreds of productions; you have played around the world on multiple occasions. Are there still challenges you want to take on?
"It’s in my character to keep looking for the next goal. I’m never fully satisfied, because I know I can always do better. Even if I have just finished a certain track, I will still work on it for weeks. In the end, I believe this attitude is needed if you really want to go forward with your career."
Well, how hard is it to keep moving forward if you have been in the game for such a long time?
"Techno has many forms and faces, so it’s hard to get bored. I’ve always released on a wide variety of different record labels because I’m not satisfied with showcasing just one side of me, just like how I need to listen to a lot of different music. Techno is versatile, it tells many different stories. Unfortunately, that’s something many people tend to forget – although it’s easy to see why. Many clubs and festivals play it safe and book acts that play a version of techno that’s easy to digest. I have nothing against that these artists or that music, but in this way, only one particular version of techno is showcased over and over again and the versatility is lost. Of course, I understand why it has become the way it is, but I prefer not to play along."
If it happens, how do you spend a free weekend night off in Belgium?
"It does happen from time to time! What do you think I want to do? I’m a raver, so I want to go out as much as possible. Then again, I’m getting older and I’m in a relationship, so I have to make concessions (laughs)."
Techno never really went away, although it’s clear that the genre has been enjoying another boom as of late. Where do you see the techno scene in, let’s say, 5 years?
"Life is full of surprises, so I have no idea. Years ago, you could never have guessed the techno scene would look like the way it does now, so I’ll refrain from making predictions…"
For some it’s coming home after a great gig, for others it’s the moment when everything finally comes together in the studio. What are your favourite moments as an international techno DJ-producer?
"The moment I can put my feet up at home after a great gig on which the crowd had a great time. Sometimes you put in the work and there’s just no connection, but when there is, it’s the best feeling in the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sold out night or not, as long as the people there are having a great time dancing to the music I play. That’s the most important thing for me, by far."
Final question: not thinking about retirement anytime soon?
"Not at all! I don’t feel old – they say you’re only as old as you feel. Some people at my age feel tired and empty, but I still feel great and energized; and I love what I do, so there are no signs of stopping just yet!"
Marco Bailey’s next EP, ‘Revolutions’, will be out on Sleaze Recordings from May 28 onwards. In the end of June, Marco Bailey and Dany Rodriguez’ collab EP will see the light of day on Materia Music, including a Paul Ritch remix. Visit Marco’s Facebook page or website if you want to stay up to date with his latest endeavours.