Over the course of the last two-plus decades, musician, and composer Marc Romboy has become synonymous with a soulful electronic music sound that has taken him all over the world. As well as releasing on only the most influential labels, from Innervisions to Ovum, and Kompakt to 20:20 Vision, he is also the sole mastermind behind the influential Systematic Recordings label and has been since 2004.
Nowadays an album specialist, 2006 saw him release his debut album, the captivating ‘Gemini’ whilst in 2017 Marc released his first listening long player called ‘Voyage de la planète’, a pure electronica album with classical music influence and later, in summer 2017 the live recording of his collaboration with the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra called ‘Reconstructing Debussy’, in cooperation with Boiler Room hit the stores.
Despite being a key player for so long, Marc is still as relevant as ever and remains right at the sharp end of electronic music. Proof of that comes in the form of his DJ schedule, which takes him from Fabric to Womb, and Berghain to Watergate, as well as to not one but three separate Boiler Room shows. All three proved Marc to be a dexterous performer who never relies on obviousness or gimmicks, instead, telling truly musical stories that place dancers right at the heart of the action.
Decoded Magazine caught up with the music maestro over a very entertaining Skype chat to discuss his exploration into classical music, and his ever consistent label, Systematic.
I dived straight into the chat with Marc by asking him about his recent gig at the Planetarium Bochum which saw him skillfully interweave minimal electronic soundscapes with the instrumental sounds of the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra into a nostalgic and futuristic symbiosis. “Old music, it’s timeless, you realise it’s timeless and it was composed during a different time, with different influences. I wanted to bring that feeling of old, timeless music into the modern age. It was a great moment.” As I am sure many of you are aware Marc’s music is always full of emotion and there is an obvious link between classical music and emotion. I asked Marc about his connection to classical and emotive music… “It comes from the love of music. It’s not a question of being old or new. I was born into contemporary music. After a while, you try to explore other genres such as Jazz or electronic. Sooner or later it’s a logical step to take to move into classical music.”
I just had to ask Marc what it was like working with Dortmund Philharmonic, an orchestra that is clearly full of incredible classical music talent. “I was contacted 1 year before by their management and asked if I could manage such a project. I was surprised and honoured and didn’t really know what to expect.I had to prepare myself more and read a lot into the history. It was a lot of work and prep, but I have no regrets. It was a great experience, it really widens your range and allows you to bring something different into the studio or your productions.”
Germany has put out some incredible electronic music artists over the years and is like a well-oiled machine when producing some of the finest techno around. I asked Marc about why he thought that Germany seemed to produce some of the most talented artists around. “It is not just a thing that is specific to Germany. I mean, England also have a large number of great artists. When recording it’s easy to explain. In a country like Germany, industrialisation has contributed to this, I think.”
“Artists like Kraftwerk produce records using the influences of the industrial environment. The generation after followed with hard machine inspired sounds, so yes, I would say the industrial environment is a big factor in German electronic music, at least.”
I have personally always thought of Marc’s music as pretty mind-bending and evocative. He seemed a little surprised at my choice of words, smiled and went on to add… “Wow, that’s a tough one. Evocative? Next question? Haha. It may sound a bit selfish, but when you make music, you do it for yourself. You try to make something that you would listen to yourself. I listen to my old productions regularly and I still enjoy listening to them, because they still touch me, or move me so evocative, yes. If I start producing a new track, I can only continue with the music if it touches or moves me.” Whilst on the subject of Marc’s productions and style, he has just released a track on the Innervisions sampler. “Yes, it was released last Friday. It was 1 track as part of a sampler featuring the likes of Marc Houle and Aera. I am pretty happy to be part of it, it is one of few labels that have kept a high level of consistency. For the future, I have a release coming June 1st on Kompakt called Speicher 103 that I am very excited about, so keep an eye out for that.”
Moving on from Marc’s productions and thinking ahead to some of his upcoming gigs that is certainly one that stands out in my mind, and that is his upcoming appearance for John Digweed’s Bedrock 20 event that promises to be a very special night. Marc seemed very excited (obviously who wouldn’t) and was more than happy to talk about the night and his long-standing relationship with Bedrock and John Digweed…
“Well, I have known Digweed for very long time. His main passion is music, a lot like myself. This is something that connects us. He started Bedrock in 1999 and it’s still got the same huge following it had back then. It has been nearly 20 years since the first track, Heaven Scent, was released on Bedrock and it was a game changer. It really was one of the most essential dance tunes. I have always been impressed by their ability to keep up quality.”
I had to ask Marc if he was going to find some time to throw a few shapes at the Bedrock event and who he was looking forward to seeing DJ. “The lineup is simply amazing! I saw comments on Facebook of people from South America saying that they are coming to the show. It is exciting that people are making the trip all the way from South America to London to come to the show. It also shows what it means to the people. Bedrock has a great rep in South America.”
“I was speaking to Digweed recently and I expect he has a very special set planned. He has been thinking about what he could play for it to be special. Of course Guy J also. He is, in my opinion, is one of the essential artists on the label. He is a good friend and it will be great to catch up. Of course, it will also be great to be back at Fabric. I will be staying until the door close.”
Bedrock has been an institution for what seems like forever and that comes back to the strength and trust many have in the brand. I asked Marc if he thought brand recognition was important in dance music today… “I would say yes. Especially considering all the latest developments, such as digital sales for example. You don’t look at whether it is Chardonnay or not, you look at the label and who produces it. Even in times where people are overwhelmed by so much music and the industry is saturated, it is essential to have parameters. Kompakt, for example, as a label, and as a brand is instantly recognizable. So yes, I would agree that brand recognition is very important.”
I was excited to have a chat about Marc’s label Systematic, being a label that has been a big inspiration within my own productions. The label has been an institution for so much great house and techno music over the years and is up there with the likes of Bedrock in terms of consistency. Systematic has been running for 14 years now so I asked Marc if he had achieved what he set out to achieve when he started the label, and also what his goals were at this point of the label. “There were no long-term goals really when Systematic started in 2004, I simply wanted to create a platform to release myself. I wanted to create a label that was many steps away from the popular techno at the time. I wanted to create something contrasting to that sound. I always try to put out music that contrasts what is already out there.” Whilst chatting about the label I went on to ask Marc what is on the horizon for the label and who he thought might be the next big “breakthrough” artists… That is a difficult question, as you can’t always tell who is going to breakthrough and be consistent and who is not. Nela, who is a Watergate resident, has been making very nice music. She has recently released an EP with us and we really hope she will release more music with us. I would like more releases from female artists. There is a really strong movement at the moment and I would like to support female artists as much as possible. I also have a remix EP coming in June of a track I have done with Stephan Bodzin, ‘Kerberos’, on Systematic. Solomun & Johannes Brecht, Matador, and André Hommen have all provided remixes, they all have great futures.”
Before I left Marc to carry on with his day, I felt that I had to ask him about Stephan Bodzin… He is a man that clearly loves his craft and can often be seen throwing shapes in his own studio or on stage. Marc has clearly shared some special moments with Stephan. I asked Marc if Stephan is as brilliantly eccentric in daily life as he is on stage? Marc loved this questions and we both laughed… “He is very authentic, to be honest. He doesn’t play any role. When you see him on stage enjoying every moment, it is simply because he is very passionate and loves what he does. He is a very genuine person and great to work with.”
It was an absolute pleasure to speak with Marc, and seconds after first speaking to him you soon realise he is a great role model for the dance music world and a truly nice bloke.