This globetrotting musician’s career graph has been ascending ever since his album – “Gemini” released in 2006 to countless number of original works and prolific remix work, down to his latest offering a totally unique classical/techno album titled – “Reconstructing Debussy.”
An emphatic presence in the house/ techno scene for close to two decades, and in that time has launched two record labels; Le Petit Prince with Klaus Derichs and Systematic Recordings which continues to go from strength to strength, producing countless seminal tracks that continue to keep dance floors engaged – not to mention his radio show too that showcases cutting edge sounds from renowned fellow producer/DJs from the world of dance.
We at Decoded caught up with one of Germany’s finest music connoisseurs to discuss his newest venture, his label aesthetics to machine love and more. It’s time for Marc Romboy –
Hi Marc, how are you? To get right to it, could you run through how the idea or thoughts take shape for an out and out dance and Techno DJ such as yourself to edit, remix and reconstruct Claude Debussy’s works – “La mer“ to “Prélude à l´après-midi d´un faune“.
Hey, Priya I’m fine. I’m just back from a great show in Constanca in Romania. Regarding your question. In Autumn 2015 the management of the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra gave me a call and they asked whether I was interested in doing a concert together with them December 2016. I was pretty speechless and was only able to reply “Yes, of course!” although I didn’t really know what I was about to deal with.
I do always like the notion of our scene that sky’s the limit and that there are no limits or boundaries referring what we are doing, so that I started the entire project without any prejudice, more like a child exploring the giant candy store. I instantly found out how wide the range of classical music is and that this genre is anything else than old fashioned or of yesterday. I made long listening sessions in my studio and dived into the world of many fantastic composers and at the end I thought: “Hey, Bach, Stravinsky and Debussy are the people whose works really touch you. And after a while of going through their works I explored Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ which totally blew me away”.
Is this kind of work interesting you enough to continue with in let’s say other projects, perhaps as an extension of your musical mind-set?
This project has enduringly influenced me, also because of the fact that I began to learn piano and music theory. I always thought that I didn’t need lessons because I always trusted my intention. But I have to say that this notion was crap. Learning more about music can enrich your compositions, productions and shows so much.
And concerning other projects, yes, there are more projects and ideas coming up. I just finished a concert called “Reconstructing Beeps & Bleeps” in my German hometown. This concept is the counter draft of the orchestra project. I drafted a fusion of 8-bit/chip music from the legendary Commodore VC 64 computer with contemporary electronica sounds and classical instruments like cello and piano. We were an ensemble with four people and it was awesome.
I’m also busy with a project with two legends in electronic music, saying Eberhard Kranemann (ex-Kraftwerk) and Harald Grosskopf (Ashra). We have just finished a one week jam session and I have to go through gigabytes of recordings now.
You performed together with the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Ingo-Martin Stadtmüller, the concert master Miki Kekenj, keyboarder Ali Khalaj. The album was recorded live in one take at Konzerthaus – Dortmund, Germany 12th Dec last year, tell us a little about the experience, and the challenges you may have faced whilst undertaking this concept?
As soon as I have begun to focus on Debussy’s music I instantly realized how different he was compared to other famous composers of the history. Also the usage of parallel chord figures and bi-tonality were remarkable attributes of Debussy’s music and this, let’s call it freedom of musical expression was the aspect which brought me to the conclusion that I have found a soul mate. And when I jammed with sound samples, notations and fragments of “La mer” I could step by step anticipate his urge to push the boundaries of musical rules. At some point I was aware of the fact that I could be able to create a bow between his original work and my contemporary style.
Remarkable attributes of his music were i.e. the usage of parallel chords, bi-tonality and many compositions of whole-tone and pentatonic scales, and all this surely reminds us of contemporary electronic music, where you hardly find limits or boundaries when it comes to traditional, harmonic sounding scale tone music.
My idea was to follow up to this philosophy and to try to break limits. Ali and I sampled a lot of little snippets from Debussy’s works and manipulated them with several effect units like the Roland Space Echo, the Ensonic DP4 effect unit or some Ableton Live 9 internal effect units. We asked ourselves how Debussy would feel like being with us in the studio and exploring all these new possibilities he wasn’t able to try out 100 hundred years ago. This imagination was fascinating, motivating and stunning at the same time and we at the end decided to use classical synths like the Minimoog or several vintage Oberheim sound sources.
The challenge was to bring both worlds together and to merge it without losing the authenticity. But with the mental support of Miki whose roots are also old school hip hop and the conductor Ingo we could figure out a method and a distinctive way to deal with this we, let’s say impossible mission.
Can your fans and followers expect more live shows in future such as this?
Yes, definitely. I have begun to like this way of working with electronic music a lot but all fans should not worry, dance floor music will always stay my passion and both worlds, the dance and the listening world will be served by my ideas and visions.
With a career that spans across 15 years and more how do you keep the energy up for constant tours, travel time, production commitments, has there been any let up or slowing down within yourself, in as much to say, I don’t need to rush around like I used to in the old days?
Making music is my life mission and I’m aware of this. But I’m also only a human being and I also have my days when I’m just tired and exhausted from touring and working in the studio. Nevertheless I have to say that a new project or a new idea or a new upcoming show always gives me the energy to carry on and to continue. It’s hard to explain but I feel that this way is what I was made for.
What pieces of music gear do you love at the moment?
I love the Korg Minilogue, a pretty cheap but versatile synth where I always find results I love and I´m over and over in love with Ableton Live 9 plus the extension ‘Max For Live’ which gives you infinite possibilities to create unheard sounds. But there are so many more devices and programs I could mention…
What do you look for in a track when you take on remix work, is your method the same as when creating one of your own?
First of all I have to admit that I prefer to write my own music. I’m not so much into remixing, also due to the fact that I consider many released tracks as finished as they are. But sometimes I think, hey, I could do something with the music, i.e. when I did the remixes for Laurent Garnier or John Digweed and Darren Emerson which was good fun.
What type of activities do you take part in running Systematic, and are you happy with the direction the label is going at?
I always have been happy with how Systematic is going because the label simply represents music I like and want to spin myself. So nothing to complain about.
Your all-time favourite top 5 dance tracks would be?
Oh, my god, what a tough one at the end. Well,
1. House Master Boyz ‘House Nation’
2. New Order ‘Blue Monday’
3. Kraftwerk ‘Numbers’
4. Minimal Man ‘Make you move part 1’
5. Laurent Garnier ‘Wake up’
Lastly what are you looking forward to for the rest of the year, gigs or music wise?
Lots of gigs all over the world and producing a lot of dance floor tracks. I miss this!