Mellow sounds, crafted in Amsterdam's Red Light district.
A lot has happened since we caught up with the Amsterdam artist Marco Sterk, AKA Young Marco, for RA's Breaking Through series back in 2013. For starters, there's Gaussian Curve, his collaborative project with Jonny Nash and Gigi Masin. The trio recently released their second album, The Distance, on Music From Memory. It's a follow-up to 2014's mellow masterpiece Clouds, which struck gold with a simple-yet-beautiful combination of piano, synths and guitar. Gaussian Curve emerged as an in-demand live act, with shows in London, Sydney, Melbourne, Amsterdam and Croatia.
Sterk's evolution as a DJ has also been remarkable. He digs as wide as he does deep, and he's made a habit of staying one step ahead of trends—putting records "in the fridge," as he calls it, as soon as other DJs start to catch on. When it comes to the frothy conversations that swirl around reissue culture, he's usually got something interesting to say, whether it's debunking myths about remastering or outlining his curation process.
In 2017, Sterk already has a couple of major projects under his belt. His Selectors compilation for Dekmantel is a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection that takes in Dutch rap, electro, synth pop and more. He also released a two-part compilation of Italian house, Welcome To Paradise: Italian Dream House 1989-93, on his recently rebooted label, Safe Trip.
For his RA podcast, Sterk took a collection of beatless records and added his own drums, samples and other overdubs to create a very special sound collage.
What have you been up to recently?
Loads. Finished a couple of albums, remixes and 12-inches, setting up my label, playing records, hanging out in airports. Just did a two-month tour for my Dekmantel comp where I curated nights with friends all over Europe. That was nice. Trying to get some sleep here and there. Last year was pretty mental, I'm gonna cut down on remixes/mixes/interviews for a good while and try to spend some more time at home, in the studio and on the label.
How and where was the mix recorded?
To be honest, I got a bit tired of doing mixes, so I wanted to do something a bit different. I did kind of a half-live, half-mix thing. Basically playing beatless records, then jamming on top with a TR-808, a modified TR-505, some touches of D-50. Had an MPC loaded up with some vocal samples and weird sounds, and at the same time dubbing/spacing the whole thing out with an RE-20 Space Echo and a H3000 D/SE Harmonizer. My trusty Rodec MX180 was sort of a sub-mixer, but I mainly used my D&R Stylix desk as the main mixer. It's not really a mix, more like a live re-mix or something?
It was recorded at the Psychic Gym, which is my studio above Red Light Radio/Records. It used to be a brothel, and my space was the pimp's private gym/office. It has a steel-plated door, mirrored walls, weird '70s gym instructions on the ceiling, and a hidden safe.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
One of my all-time favourite mixes is The KLF's Chill Out mix. It's partly inspired by that, not so much musically, but the way it sounds. So I tried to emulate that mega spacious evolving sound a bit. And partly inspired by the way Ron Hardy used to play wonky rhythm tracks over other tracks at the Muzic Box. Mostly I just wanted it to sound like a massive trip.
The second Gaussian Curve album has just landed. It feels like interest in ambient music has skyrocketed since Clouds. Does it feel that way to you?
I don't really consider Gaussian Curve to be ambient per se, but I guess I know what you mean. I think generally there is a generation of people right now who are quite open-minded about all kinds of music, which is pretty cool.
You recently told The Guardian that you've never DJ'd at a wedding. Are you disappointed you haven't been called upon for a wedding set?
I was mostly disappointed that The Guardian cut down and rewrote most of my answers, what's that about? But yeah, I'm up for the challenge if it arises! It would have to be a good friend though, don't start calling my agent for wedding requests just yet.
Your label, Safe Trip, had a slow start but it's burst into life with the Italian house compilations and the Private Eyes 12-inch. What can we expect in the future?
Setting up the label in this day and age was a nightmare, all the factories are clogged up pressing lame Record Store Day box sets, and the overall quality of pressing has gone down a lot because they can't cope with the demand, or the presses are badly maintained. Clouds had about nine test pressings for instance! So I really wanted to take my time and get it right.
There's loads lined up. I've signed a lot of artists who haven't released anything yet, and they come down to my studio and we mix it together, which is a fun new thing. Then there will be some more comp-type things, albums, 12-inches. Sweet merch, the odd bandana. I'm psyched that it's finally up and running.
What are you up to next?
This month I've got a US and Japan tour set up, so that should be fun. There is a lot of music coming out, but you'll find out about that when it drops. But first I'm gonna take a nap. Oh yeah, sorry for being a year late with this mix! Hope you dig it. Thanks! :)
Young Marco plays at this year's Love International, which runs June 28th to July 5th at The Garden Tisno in Croatia.