IN CONVERSATION WITH MARRØN
“I got lucky that people appreciate me for myself and I could build my career on that – just being myself.”MARRØN
by Thore Damwerth
Authenticity defines this exceptional artist, who keeps exceeding his own limits and those of the crowds he captivates with his minimalistic, electic and rhythmic sound. Following a deep obsession with music fostered by the freedom and diversity of techno, MARRØN is a habitue of Amsterdam’s underground techno scene, constantly immersed in the community devoted to his techno collective, Eerste Communie, and its wild Sundays of dance and euphoria. As an internationally renowned and highly in-demand artist MARRØN has set the mood for early morning hours at Berlin’s Berghain, or heats up the wildest club nights in Amsterdam and all over Europe.
In this inspiring conversation we talked about his distinctive sound, his passions, as well as the development of the techno scene, his multifaceted life and much more…
How did it all start for you? What were your early influences and how did you find your love for music?
I started going to raves in 2013. From there, my love for music became an obsession – just dancing at the parties. I also got obsessed with actually following the details of tracks and with the vibe that the DJ could create or one that a DJ could not create. These are all the little things that got me obsessed with this scene. Eventually, I wanted to create something that I missed on the dance floor.
There was a moment where I was dancing for hours and I was like: this is it! But there were also always moments where I was in for two hours until it drained my energy. So I was, as a DJ, always searching for a sound that would be consistent. That’s how I actually got into DJing.
Yes, it’s a consistent energy that makes you stay on the dance floor for hours.
What did your process look like? Do you remember when your breakthrough came, when people actually got to know you and the vibe that you create?
Definitely, I remember. In 2017/18 my podcast series came online, and these were shared worldwide. COVID came and in that period everybody was listening to SoundCloud series so once I put mine online, it blew up. That was a turning point for me and I was like: okay, I gotta take this more seriously, it’s not just a hobby anymore, people are actually booking me for gigs now. At a certain point I had seven or eight agencies trying to sign me. So I took my time, which one I would choose. Eventually, I ended up with Triangle Agency, which was the best decision of my life. They really paved the way for me to become bigger and get where I am today and where I’ll go in the following years.
Can you describe your style in your own words?
To me, it is the purest form of techno. Super simple and minimalistic with a consistent energy flow. Timeless and something that you would hear in the 2000s or the 1990s but it’s also something you will hear 20 years from now. You have a lot of different types of sub genres in techno but this is something that always kind of sticks there, it’s rhythmic and it’s danceable. I just take it back to the core and make it my own by blending in my own soul and feel to it.
…which makes it unique and your individual sound.
Yeah, which makes it mine. Exactly.
So, what would I call this style? I think it’s just literally techno.
And would you say that it’s still evolving or changing? Do you sometimes catch yourself doing something different?
When it comes to my mindset to a set, then no, it did not change a bit. But when I listen back to sets from four years ago, it does sound different. I think you just evolve yourself towards a better you. I got better with layering multiple effects, so, eventually, you do change but the vision in my mind stays the same.
I guess, with yourself evolving, your style, your way of playing obviously also evolves…
…in slight changes. But one thing that I don’t do is follow the hype. I just follow my own beliefs that lead me to the path I am walking. With confidence in the music that I play, it will always be danceable.
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Which artists do you look up to, who are your inspirations?
DVS1 is, to me, top notch level. It’s what he’s doing for the community, especially with Aslice, a platform he built to bridge the gap between DJs and producers, in order to give back to producers and the community of this industry as he really cares. It’s not about making money, it’s about keeping this environment healthy. I really appreciate him for what he’s doing. To me, he’s the Muhammad Ali of the techno scene, he’s the people’s champion.
And then we have Freddy K. To me, he is very unique and I’ve learned a lot from attending many of his sets. He can play very fast but shows with simplicity and groove how it can be energetic but not too hard. His track selection with two decks vinyl only shows me the real skill of a DJ. Many people always admire DJs playing three or four decks. But, to me, playing on four decks is easier because it’s easier to layer than playing two decks and keep it dynamic. So playing two decks and making it sound like it’s three or four — this is showing me the true skilI of building a story.
Also Rødhåd is one of my inspirations. To me, he is one of the best story building DJs in the game. He is the one who showed me how to keep things consistent throughout the whole set. With his consistent style, he is never boring but can play at a lower pace in an always interesting way, full of energy and soul. Rødhåd truly always creates a sexy and groovy but mysterious atmosphere.
Ben Klock is an absolute legend. He is the one who makes you stick to the dance floor for hours. Especially on that Berghain dancefloor, he is one of a kind.
Another favorite of mine is Robert Hood, a Detroit legend. I love his productions which have rich soul and funk elements. He’s a highly talented DJ and I have looked up to him since I came into this scene.
The roots! As well as Steve Rachmad, one of the artists who have paved the connection between Detroit and Amsterdam — He’s a great producer and portrays an essential part of the development of the scene here in the Netherlands.
To conclude, I can’t express enough appreciation for Jeff Mills. He’s the wizard and an amazing, brilliant DJ. His skills are unsurpassed and I am very proud that he, as a black artist from Detroit’s hood, contributes and brings together so much of this culture.
Freddy K, one of the DJs you mentioned, is an absolute master when it comes to communicating with crowds. How do you communicate with crowds during a set?
Fortunately, I’ve found at most of my gigs so far that the audience responds very well to what I’m playing. I’ve never found myself in the situation of having to adjust my sound that doesn’t reflect my own in order to hype up an audience. So, for me, it’s difficult to say how I get a crowd into a vibe. I think one of my strengths is that I’ve been in the crowd myself for so long and I still go dancing in the crowd every now and then to capture the atmosphere. I think being on a dance floor is the most important lesson you can get as a DJ — you can really see and feel how we react to certain types and vibes of music that a DJ plays.
I’m also not the type of DJ who actively looks into the crowd or hypes them up with gestures as I’m focussed on the music during a set. I don’t leave any space between tracks, so I’ll mix the first track, followed by the second, third and fourth. In order to always keep it rotating and busy, I mix very quickly because I’m playing minimalistic tracks. This kind of music shouldn’t ride for too long because otherwise it can get boring.
As you were saying you often go on the dance floor yourself for a good set, do you have some favorite moments in front or behind the decks?
There have been a lot of beautiful moments for me. A Freddy K closing in Berlin, at Berghain, was one of my highlights. I will also never forget one of Ben Klocks Berghain closings in 2017. But to be honest, my own two sets in Berghain felt unreal as well.
Those were my best experiences, it was incredible to play at Berghain.
My Eerste Communie sets, here in Amsterdam, have always been special to me, too. There I feel connected to the crowd more than anywhere else, it feels like home. What I especially love about a crowd is when, while I’m playing, people start yelling and shouting at moments when I wouldn’t expect it. That is because they don’t just hear the music but they truly feel it. When I hear and feel that as a DJ, that’s the greatest compliment I can get.
If your only focus is on the dancing and the music, you won’t want to leave the dance floor. I had that feeling when I was at Berghain – it’s a vibe from which I’ve learned so much and one that I wanted to create myself.
I have definitely had that feeling myself at Eerste Communie, one of the Garage Noord parties. But also at Berghain, of course. It’s unreal.
You’ve already touched upon some spaces at which you really like playing, or also dancing. Which are your favorite ones regarding factors such as safety, quality, but also community and the space itself?
First of all, Eerste Communie.
This is obvious as me and my partners founded the collective and our parties. We felt it was something that was needed in the city, a rave on a Sunday which actually no one was doing in The Netherlands at that time. In order to create an always safe space we started with door sales which led to our raves of quality people combined with quality music – Eerste Communie is my favorite party in the world.
Berghain is a very important place to me too, because I’ve learned so much from experiencing countless high quality sets on its dance floors. It also has the best sound system I’ve ever heard.
Radion is another club that I highly appreciate. What they’re doing for the community of Amsterdam is very important and back giving.
Then, I have to mention Bassiani and Khidi Club, in Tbilisi, Georgia. Khidi is a crazy club in a bridge with an unreal sound system that is close in quality to the one of Berghain.
K41 was probably the most beautiful club I’ve seen in my life. It’s located in Kyiv and, unfortunately, we don’t know what’s going to happen with it.
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Since you’ve started, how would you say has the electronic music scene and industry evolved?
When we started Eerste Communie, the big techno wave became very transient and focused on subgenres with a lot of influences from other genres. This has in part caused the scene to lose its soul when it comes to true structured techno. That kind of techno we wanted to bring back, but at the beginning it didn’t work out as everything was focused on big names. When we started doing our raves, we felt that people were also seeking for this consistent sound of techno so we were able to build ourselves genuinely and in a very organic way. There even is kind of a synergy between myself and the Eerste Communie parties: when I blew up, Eerste Communie was blowing up at the same time so I had a lot of the community from Eerste Communie and vice versa. Then, when I got the chance to play some parties in Berlin and Amsterdam, I truly realized the potential I had as a DJ and that people were catching up with that sound as it was really missing.
As an artist coming from the underground scene, what are your underground values? What is your position on an ongoing commercialization of techno?
I hold my values to the underground very high.
It is where I was born as an artist, and that’s something I will always cherish. However, as an artist you keep growing, which is why I will also be playing mainstream events. The only important thing to remember is to play at the right ones. For example, Awakenings is a big commercial event, but it gives artists like me a chance to make my sound heard. I would never adjust to the commercial side of sounds just because I’m playing on that stage, though. That is why I kept my ground and values and played the way I do it at our underground parties, and it works.
You don’t do it for the hype, but you do it for your passion.
Yes, with real love and passion for the music and devotion to the scene, I’m trying to give back to the community as well. I also believe there should be space for every type of techno, even though I don’t like seeing it mingle and match in the same rooms.
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Apart from music, are you still pursuing basketball professionally?
I actually quit professional basketball. Although, I’m still training with the guys and if I have a weekend off and I have a tournament I’ll step in to help. The last year was the last one for me playing competitively, now I’m fully focussing on music.
At the same time you have a family, a baby. You also have a community that you’re always around, which seems like a lot of things. How do you get everything under one roof?
In fact, at one point in 2021, during COVID time, I was still playing basketball, DJing and just having my baby. On top of that I got a lot of model bookings. I had a lot of things going on but I think my mindset kept me going: I can complain about how busy it is, but I can also look at it from the side where I feel blessed to actually be able to do my job and not feel the effects of the COVID time financially. There are people who have lost their jobs, houses, everything. So I saw it as a blessing to be able to do the things I did.
My newborn baby has particularly enriched my aura and environment. I see her as a blessing – every time I come home, she gives me energy.
I’ve also had periods where I was about to break down, though. Basketball was very tough, but I always tried to keep up and I actually played in a world championship last year and was one of the top scorers in the tournament. Thus, being so busy drains your energy, but if they’re things you really enjoy doing, they give you more energy than they drain.
You have quite a significant influence on the public. Are there any topics that you would like to drive attention to?
I want to highlight Aslice, the platform that DVS1 started, because I think it’s very helpful for our scene. As a platform for DJs to donate a portion of their fee to the playlists of any artist they play, Aslice provides each artist with a fair share of the fee. This is something that is very important as it gives back to the community. There’s so much free music that we play so giving back to the artists is essential. DJs get paid a lot but producers barely get paid from the music they bring out so I would really like to see everyone contributing.
I’m also very proud of how Amsterdam has become a city where music and community take precedence over big names. People now don’t go to a popular club just to go to a popular club, they now go to organizations and communities and therefore give back by actually supporting those communities. This kindness between everyone and attention for each other is not found in any other scene in the world. It makes so much sense, though, as there’s enough space for everyone. People come for good music and the vibe – they come because they trust us as an organization to provide the best music throughout the whole day. I’m really proud to see that and I’d like to encourage all rave scenes to also focus on the locals and communities. This creates a space for people to actually feel safe, which is something that I really reach for.
Especially in this regard it is important to emphasize on all the young and upcoming talents. Do you have any path breaking words for them?
I speak with young artists a lot and I’m here to guide wherever I can. I think the most important part is that you create something authentic. You can get inspiration from others, but you shouldn’t get distracted by social media in a way that makes followers and likes most important to you. If you are truly yourself people will recognise your realness – that’s how people start following you because you’re following your own path.
What has helped me to be authentic in my sound is to be on the dance floor myself and actually hear what you really want to hear yourself. There’s no DJ who’s doing exactly what you want to hear but there’s always a moment where you feel like: I would have done this a little bit differently. If you can really define and practice these things, you can make it your own. That means if you do exactly what you want to hear, it’s yours.
That’s the most relevant tip that I would give everyone. It’s certainly also a little secret though because it makes it a lot easier for you, but I’m willing to share this advice as not everyone has the same taste.
A Numéro Netherlands Exclusive Podcast by MARRØN:
Photography: Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-nti
Videography: Niké Danae
Production: Thore Damwerth & Magdalena Roe
Styling: Magdalena Roe & Thore Damwerth
Makeup: Iljitsj Oppatja
Interview: Thore Damwerth