Like the scorching of earth deemed necessary for modern growth, destruction and creation have always come hand in hand. It is this very boundary-breaking principle of sonic reinvention that Amsterdam-based DJ and producer Young Marco strives toward. Cutting his teeth in the Dutch capital’s underground scene, Young Marco’s bouncing eclectic sets transcend genre, era, and attitude. Having found a footing on the global circuit, and with a recent hit single exploding over the airwaves and dance floors, Young Marco finds himself traversing new contemporary and glossy terrain while retaining his DIY origins and audacious authenticity.
Cultivating the new from the old, Young Marco’s musical journey commenced when he was a kid on an outdated Atari, crafting forgotten gems into resounding anthems. “I think the combination of playing in bands and making music on computers kind of still carries through what I do now,” he says. “I still try to do stuff with a punk mentality and keep it pretty DIY and honest.”
A key element in Marco’s low-fi-ethereal-psychedelic style is the time he spends crate digging. Amidst this sonic excavation, he unearths unconventional and enigmatic tunes forgotten, reincarnating them as roaring melodies. “There are so many weird compilations of lost music,” he shares. “The last five years I’ve been buying CDs because there is actually more that is overlooked.”
In his latest single, “What You Say?” which closes a heater of a Boiler Room set, Young Marco samples the haunting hook of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” aural echoes etched in the consciousness of anyone over the age of 25 (perhaps from the teen drama The O.C.’s infamous shootout, or the SNL parody that followed). “I don’t sample a whole lot,” says Young Marco. “My last single was based on a sample, which is, for me, not normally my process. This just kind of came to me in a fever dream.”
And the fruit of that fever dream was red hot. “What You Say?” has garnered over 17 million streams and earned him his first #1 on Beatport, the de facto ranking and online music store for DJs worldwide. With an upcoming album following the success of the single, Young Marco’s temperature isn’t dropping anytime soon. “I’m not interested in necessarily being in a niche anymore,” he admits. “I kind of like dabbling with popular music...And I like the way that appeals to a broader scale of people—as a form of musical activism almost.”
Along with his own impressive discography he’s cultivated over the past decade-plus, in 2015 Young Marco founded Safe Trip—a boundary-pushing publisher dedicated to elevating up-and-coming talent. The label has put out coveted compilations like the ‘90s Italian house series Welcome to Paradise, and the early trance collection, Planet Love. The imprint’s ethos is entangled with Marco’s own, focusing on the obscure and unconventional, and has gained recognition for its idiosyncratic curation.
“My brain has cataloged the 70s and 80s,” the artist reflects. “Then I started getting more into the 90s and early 2000s and finding how that relates to me. Now I’m getting into eras that I actually grew up in, which is interesting,” he continues. “You have a different kind of nostalgia. It’s interesting to see how certain things are coming back now in a new form and how that loop actually works, from a firsthand view.”
Young Marco, who headlined the major Dutch festival, Dekmantel, this summer, is constantly making changes to his sound and style while staying true to what got him into music in the first place. He takes something with him every time he “resets,” and continues to build upon a sonically-rich foundation. “I’m very easily bored,” he says. “Not just by what’s going on around me, but also just by myself. I get very antsy when I’m in control of a situation...I always want to try and put myself in an uncomfortable position, which forces me to try things I haven’t tried before. I think historically, for me, and also for other artists, this creates better results.”
The need for discomfort pushes Young Marco to diversify not only in genre, from ambient to trance to house, but also in the medium in which his art will ultimately live. This past year, Marco stepped into the film world by scoring the psychedelic-saturated short feature Met mes, marking yet another departure from convention. As for the upcoming album, the contents remain veiled, save for his work-in-progress status. The only expectation will be that of captivating surprise, as this musical maverick continues to abandon old styles and start fresh, like a scorched-earth approach to artistic innovation, leaving behind a trail of intrepid renewal.
Photographed by Eva Roefs
Styled by Cristina Planelles
Written by Isaac Dektor