Drum and bass producer Marcus Intalex has sat comfortably at the soulful end of the genre throughout his career. Over the last two decades he’s produced the likes of Calibre and Martyn, promoted and played at his own Soul:ution nights, set up the Revolve:R and Soul:R labels and  given Instra:mental their first break. Here he tells Gutter why it’s taken him 21 years to make an album and what he dislikes about the current drum and bass scene.

How would you describe your debut album, 21?

A proper album, that was the idea. I know it’s not the done thing in the age of iTunes and iPods, but it’s something I wanted to do, I wanted to put together a selection of music that makes what I hope is a good album, regardless of what genre of music it is.

What prompted you to make an album like this now?

The fact that I seem to be making more music I’m happy with for some reason, whether it’s down to a level of maturity  or having made music for so long that I feel comfortable with it nowadays, but I’m just not bothered what people think of me anymore which was always an issue when I was younger. I’ve never been one to shout “hey check me out, this is my album, I’m the baddest”, I sort of meander through in a bit of a lackadaisical way, like hold on a minute, I haven’t done this yet, it’s about time I did it.

21 has a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Climbing Up The Walls’, how did that come about?

Lynx was coming to Manchester to do gigs so we’d have a few hours in the studio. One of the tracks we started had a bassline that was very similar to the one on ‘Climbing Up The Walls’ and because of that it got dumped. Over a period of a year, [Danny] Fierce surprisingly decided to teach himself guitar and to sing at the same time, and even more surprisingly he was teaching himself to read and play Radiohead, who have made some of the most intricate pieces of music to learn, no matter what stage of your musical education. I was really impressed and at one point we just put two and two together, we had this track that sounded a bit like Radiohead, I had somebody who was quite good at singing and playing and loves Radiohead as much as I do. There was no intention of putting it out, it was just an experiment. I’ve never ever dreamt of doing a cover version in a drum and bass fashion, especially of Radiohead, who are by far my favourite band of all time and musically the most impressive thing I’ve ever come across. Although I’m quite happy with it I don’t want to be remembered as that person who did that Radiohead cover.

What first got you into electronic music?

Weirdly when I was really young I would listen to the radio, instantly recognise what song it was, sing it, and run around the room pretending to play it. I imagined myself having a recording desk although I never imagined actually doing it in the future, I wanted to be an accountant up until the age of 16. Then I got blown away at the Haçienda when I went to see New Order play in 1987. I was one of the biggest New Order fans at the time but they were never that great live, however when the band went off this music came on and for the next hour I ended up dancing to records I’d never heard of.  The nightclubs I’d been to played ‘Agadoo’ and the DJs were getting on the mics and talking when the tune finished, then at the Haçienda there was this weird electronic early house, Mantronix, hip hop and old electro coming from a DJ you couldn’t see and who never said a word. It just completely blew me away, so I started travelling to Manchester quite a lot, going to record shops and buying records. I went to a club in Birmingham where all the DJs were shit – this was probably two weeks after I got thrown out for climbing behind the DJ box and turning all the amps off because they were playing shit music – but I went back and just said “your DJs are crap and they’re not playing the right music”. I’m not even a cocky guy, but for some reason I knew I could do it and I told them I had a load of music they hadn’t got so I managed to blag myself a Tuesday night, and it all developed from there.

You started out playing house and techno.

Chicago house, that’s what it was when it started, it was the beginning of house music.

How did you fall into drum and bass?

It developed into drum and bass, the Detroit sound arrived, then the English sound which was a bit more like LFO, the basslines and the little breakbeats developed. The big thing in the north that everybody was into was Italian house music, with huge pianos and vocals and I hated that stuff, I was more into the bleepy London sound. I remember going to London a few times and getting blown away listening to pirate radio stations, taping them and taking them home to listen to. You couldn’t get that vibe in the north, it was all very commercial and piano-ey. It just became drum and bass over a number of years and the beats and the bass excited me in the same way as techno.

Drum and bass is constantly sprouting new subgenres, where do you think it’s at now?

It’s in a funny place, it’s in a place I don’t like in terms of lots of people making music to get airplay on Radio 1 and it’s all sounding very commercial.  On the opposite end of the spectrum it’s very minimal, very empty and lacking a bit of soul. It seems like the middle bit’s missing, the catchiness and the progression of it without it being cheesy. It’s very underground in places, I just think the underground sound is not as popular as it should be because of all this cheesy stuff on the radio, and that’s what people think drum and bass is. You’ve got people like D-Bridge making very interesting music, that’s another take on it. It will find its own way, it’s just not where the spotlight is right now.

Another side to it is the dubstep scene which is very big now, what’s your take on it?

It’s taken the limelight away from drum and bass, not necessarily rightly so but it had to happen at some point. Dubstep is today’s generation’s drum and bass, all the dubstep guys are young because I guess that’s what young people want, they don’t want to see a 40 year old bloke behind the decks. It’s very similar to drum and bass, it’s a different tempo but there is some great underground stuff and I find some of it really exciting, but the general popular side of it is as horrendous as the popular side of drum and bass. It scares the fucking life out of me.

Do you find a difference in the audiences up North compared to London?

Yep. I’ve always been a DJ who picks his box of records up – although these days I use Serato – and whatever is in there is in there, you take it with you, play a few tunes, you work out the crowd, then you work out accordingly what you’re going to do for the rest of the set.  A lot of people work out their sets before they go, but I think that is saying  “I don’t care who you are, this is what you’re getting tonight”, and it’s not about that at all. I do my damnedest with what I’ve got and try to make them enjoy themselves and try to get something out of it myself. I get disappointed and upset if a night doesn’t go as it should do, probably more so than the crowd.

Reflecting over the last 21 years, what are you proudest of?

I’m very hesitant to say I’m proud of anything… I like the fact that I’ve seen it from all angles, I’ve been the punter, the guy on the radio, the guy promoting, I’ve been the guy who loses money at gigs, the guy who’s had to pay to get into gigs, I’ve been the guy that’s waited three months for a record I’ve been in love with to come out, I’ve been the guy in the record shop selling something, I’ve been the guy making it… I’ve been in love with it and I’ve been disappointed by it.

21 is out on 18th of April on Soul:R.

Listen to his 21 Years of Music mix here.

Related posts: