D’Marc Cantu Talks
"Slow building, spacey jackin’ techno tracks with some nice squelchy acid lines from this underrated Michigan producer. Fans of Basic Soul Unit would approve." And who are we to argue with a description like that of D'Marc Cantu.
Last week we were lucky enough to be gifted a dark, brooding beast of a remix of Richard Fearless' new single by Mr Cantu. You can hear that here:
We liked it so much that we had to get in touch and have a chat to him.
Richard Fearless even felt that way inclined to give us his own background on how he arrived on D'Marc's sound…
"I first became aware of D'Marc Cantu through his 2AM/FM alias that he does with the fantastic Tad Mullinix aka James T Cotton. Always on the search for raw, visceral techno Cantu delivers just that with his own, straight from the gut unique sound. His 'Fallen' and 'A New World' albums have been secret weapons in my record box since they were released. Well the cat's out of the bag with this man and I was over the moon when he came on board to remix the first release on Drone… and what a mix he delivered; dark, brooding techno of the highest order."
Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you now?
I’ve been producing dance music for nearly 14 years now in the Ann Arbor Michigan area. It’s a college town that about 35 min from Metro Detroit. I first got introduced to house, techno and their associated variations by a good friend of mine Tadd Mullinix. We met when we moved into a house with a bunch of friends back in 2000. It was a great place to exchange ideas as quite a few musicians lived in the house. So we had a variety of people stopping by to jam as we had a small studio space in the basement there.
What first got you interested in music? Is there one particular early memory that stands out in your mind?
There wasn’t one moment when I would say I wanted to make music; it was always a part of my life. Like most kids I took piano lessons when I was young, then moved into choir and band later in school. It wasn’t until I was in 8th grade that I started to really get into beats and rhythms. I picked up the drums around that time and by the following year was popping in and out of friend’s bands, just trying to get my feet wet with live performances and working with other musicians.
You’re a man of many aliases. Could you talk us through all that you produce under a reason for differentiating them from each other.
In regards to my projects, I don’t actually have any official aliases; I only produce under the name D’Marc Cantu. However labels like to make slight variations on the name in order to add something unique to each project, hence why you see dcantu (associated to Sequencias), cantu and DMC on various releases. Collaborations are another story, I’m in the groups X2 (which is Traxx, JTC and I or just Traxx and I depending on the track), 2AMFM with JTC and Altered Form, an EBM/Industrial project I started with a good friend of mine from Dresden, Doc Opto. There are also informal projects with people like JM DeFrias of Sequencias (I have no eyes and I must see) and recently with Bryan Bai-EE (audio Jazz Music) and Tyrell Williams (Acid test SF).
Why ‘D’Marc’? This clearly isn’t your real name. Or maybe I’m wrong!
The name! Yes, I get this question a lot. It’s actually my legal middle name; my mother combined my godfather and grandfather’s name together to create D’marc, David + Marcial. An interesting way to honor them both I suppose, either way it was a no brainer when I was selecting a name to produce under. It was actually JTC and Traxx who convinced me to go with that rather than some of the the other questionable names I had at that time. So I can’t take all the credit!
What was the idea behind 2amfm?
2AMFM was conceived after JTC and I started working on minimal noise live sets together, he had a huge influence on me during those early days. He was really supportive providing a variety of new music for me to absorb and tie into what I was doing. Plus he taught me everything he had learned about hardware and productions. During those days I was really into noise/minimal, I remember listening to a lot of Wolfeyes (I actually remember seeing them play an amazing show, it was 2002 and they were in Royal Oak MI with Sonic Youth, truly memorable) and Pansonic’s Aaltopiiri practically on repeat. It wasn’t until JTC and I started working on the noise stuff together that we decided to take it in a more dance friendly direction. There’s actually a radio recording from 2001 I think, we were invited to go onto WCBN radio in Ann Arbor to try out our noise live set. He and I had only played a couple of shows like that before we formed 2AMFM. As I noted we started to move in a much different direction, he had finished mind your manners and I was just starting to play around with noisy dance music (check One Electronicas release from me, 1210, the track Just One was made in 2001) he really loved what I was doing and suggested we join forces. We had gone through several name selections but when we listened to Poison Dart we decided that the sound was one that you would hear on the radio at 2am. So 2AMFM was born.
Ah JakBeat, you can read about the creation of the sound on many sites but basically it was conceived by JTC Traxx and me during our sessions that lead up to Time Elevation Rhythm. Traxx is actually the one who pushed for the name JakBeat, the impetuous being that he wanted to put a stamp on the sound we were creating before it could be claimed as rehashing. We spent and are still spending time refining the idea behind JakBeat. For all of us it carries with it a different meaning but at its core it has its shoes firmly placed in the early days of dance music from the Midwest. The central theme of JakBeat is the importance on moments and how it elicits raw emotions bringing the listener and the artist to this intersection of pure energy. The recent upsurge in the popularity of dance music has really blurred the lines between the core sounds of those base genres and their subsequent movements. The key to JakBeat is that it’s not anchored by one genre rather it’s tied to that idea of cultivating an almost primal emotion out of a track or set.
Talk us through your production process. How do you go about putting your tracks together? Is there usually a single unifying theme or do you prefer to just go where the music takes you?
My production process, it’s pretty varied. I have many options on how to sequence tracks, create sounds and to record, we all do. So it depends on what my expected outcome is. Like most producers you get into a flow the longer you work at your craft. In the early days I would just press play and would see what would happen. These days I’m a bit more focused on what I want out of my productions. However going into the studio with a vision and trying to achieve that is a recipe for failure in my opinion. So to get around that I try to capture a feeling prior to dropping the kick or laying down a bouncy bass line and the easiest way for me to do that is to noodle on the keys for a while, building some atmosphere before getting into the meat of the track. Once I have a mood I can then start to add drums and the other elements of a track.
What makes you stand out from the crowd? Do you feel like you're producing music that isn't quite like anyone else’s? Or is that too difficult a question to answer.
You’ve just turned in a mighty fine remix for the return of Mr Richard Fearless with Higher Electronic States and his Drone label. Talk us through the thinking of the track. Any further plans to work together in any capacity?
With my remix of Richard Fearless’ track I tried initially to walk into it with a plan. This was a train wreck, it sounded insincere and simply using his samples as would be expected. Instead I decided to find sounds within the audio tracks that he sent. I pieced them together in a fashion that would make the track feel like its building up to a big an explosion but opted to keep it bubbling never letting it boil over. The addition of that deep brooding bass was the finishing touch allowing me to capture what I heard within the audio tracks, what I interpreted the heart of Drone to be. Richard has been amazing and really supportive. It’s really great to be able to experiment with his work and hand in a mix that’s both pensive and respectful of the original cut. He and I have since discussed future projects, which is really flattering coming from someone so versed in production and music as a whole.
Describe what you're aiming to achieve with your music.
There’s no end game with my sound only a journey that is just starting to get exciting for me. It’s really fun to see the evolution happen right in front of you, to have the ability to slowly radiate further out from center yet still have a sound that’s your own. I’m willing to admit that this journey is far from over and I’m excited to see what I can learn and inject into my music in the years to come.
What do you think the future holds for music if people are no longer willing to pay for it?
Music will continue to get made regardless if artists get paid for it or not. Should we get to a point where music is no longer purchased I truly believe you would hit equilibrium. Too many choices would be had but there would still be those that sift through the shit to find the good stuff. Then they would charge us for it. Haha!
Previews of D'Marc's excellent 2012 LP on MOS.