Occupation: DJ, producer
Recent release: Marhu's Obsession EP is out via Arkham Audio.
Recommendations: Woody Allen – ‘Without Feather’
If you enjoyed this interview with Marhu and would like to find out more about her work, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for DJing? Which DJs, clubs or experiences captured your imagination in the beginning?
I’ve been passionate about electronic music, especially techno since I was a teenager. I loved going out to clubs and parties.
Back then I was a professional horse rider and had no intention of becoming a DJ. I started working on my own music after finishing my courses at the SAE School of Music Production in Brussels.
As a clubber I often went to Fuse in Brussels which always had excellent music that helped me discover a lot of international artists and pushed me into the techno sound I love today. A lot of my friends weren’t into techno, so I often went alone to see my favourite artists of the time.
What made it appealing to you to DJ yourself? What was it that you wanted to express and what, did you feel, did you have to add artistically?
Sharing my energy and my love for the music with everyone. Enjoying the present moment.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to DJing? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or lineage?
Bringing my own artistic style to the scene.
Clubs are still the natural home for DJing. What makes the club experience unique? Which clubs you've played or danced at are perfect for realising your vision – and why?
The sound system really makes a big difference. In Belgium we have the Fuse and Kompass which both have an amazing sound experience.
From DJs composing their own music or DJ mixes as albums to albums constructed like DJ sets, there is a long tradition of cross-pollination between DJing and producing. Can you talk a bit about how this manifests itself in your own work?
I love playing music from other artists and not only my sound.
When I play a set of two hours there will be around 4 or 5 tracks from my own productions and the rest will be from other artists which I love to bring forward and highlight.
What role does digging for music still play for your work as a DJ? Tell me a bit about what kind of music you will look for and the balance between picking material which a) excites you, b) which will please the audience and c) fulfill certain functions within your DJ set.
Digging for music is a part of my work that I absolutely love. I can spend hours on my computer looking for new music to play.
I like strong acid lines, and pure acid driven tracks.
I've always wondered: How is it possible for DJs to memorise so many tracks? How do you store tracks in your mind – traditionally as grooves + melodies + harmonies or as colours, energy levels, shapes?
I play as much as I can at home, so I know all my tracks pretty well.
Using your very latest DJ set as an example, what does your approach look like, from selecting the material and preparing for and opening a set? What were some of the transitions that really worked looking back?
I like to start my set with a proper intro and let the crowd thank the DJ before me. It’s a nice way to show the transition between each artist.
While playing, I don’t spend too much time scrolling on the CDJ in order to not lose the connection with the crowd.
How does the decision making process work during a gig with regards to wanting to play certain records, the next transition and where you want the set to go? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
I adapt my sound to the line-up, timetable, and club but I always keep my artistic style in a way.
Kode9 once said: "I prefer to hear tracks in the mix together for extended periods of time, and I like to hear the tension between two tracks." What's your take on that?
I completely agree with this! One of the best ways to create a new sound which doesn’t exist!
Even if tension between tracks is not a goal for you, pieces can sound entirely different as part of a DJ set compared to playing them on their own. How do you explain this? Which tracks from your collection don't seem like much outside of a DJ set but are incredible effective and versatile on a gig?
I love mixing my records so people don’t recognise them too much.
Actually, I really like to work behind my turntables and not be in auto pilot. It’s very interesting how tracks can sound better and thicker together and create this unique sound experience that I’m looking for.
I’m always looking to use the best technology at that moment. And love to add effects to take my sound to the next level.
In terms of the overall architecture of a DJ set, are you looking more for one consistent level of energy or a shift between peaks and troughs – and why?
I want to tell a story to the crowd so my favourite thing to do is to have different variations of energy.
Online DJ mixes, created in the studio as a solitary event, have become ubiquitous. From your experience with the format, what changes when it comes to the way you DJ – and to the experience as a whole - when you subtract the audience?
Having people around definitely makes the experience much more enjoyable.
But I have to say I really enjoyed playing at Laarne Castle during the lockdown. I also had a blast at Hör in Berlin twice.
Advances in AI-supported DJing look set to transform the trade. For the future, where do you see the role of humans in DJing versus that of technology?
Well, until AI DJ's take our jobs, which is hopefully not any time soon, I guess that there are going to be AI-powered tools and I’d like to see what they're about and if they can assist me in my creative process in any way whatsoever. Then I can give them a try, why not!?
Let's imagine you lost all your music for one night and all there is left at the venue is a crate of records containing a random selection of music. How would you approach this set?
I’m pretty sure that if I’m in a very challenging situation like this one, the first thing I would do is to look for any good techno record and go with the flow.