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Meet the Lineup: DJ Marcelle/ Another Nice Mess

The Netherlands’ sweetheart, DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess, is one of the most innovative music artists in the scene. Needless to say, Marcelle is as much a musician as she is a DJ. Also, she is an exciting and prolific producer; with her latest album “A Different Fridge For Cheese” being her fifth album in six years. Her DJ performances exist somewhere between environmental sounds combined with the latest electronic music (partly her own), heavy bass, radical noises, weird hip hop, new African dance music and lots of unrecognisable sounds, happening all at once on three turntables. Taking inspiration from avant-garde art movements, dub, the real-life absurdism of British comedy troupe Monty Python and post-punk, her music sees no boundaries and adheres to no rules. This approach to making music sets Marcelle apart from any other musician, combining an absolute knowledge of past and contemporary underground music with a playful rebellion that makes her sets exciting and artful creations.

Hi Marcelle, how are you today?
It often sounds horrible to me when I read or hear how ”busy” people are, and pride themselves in it, but I must admit I am busy; so far this year I already played in amongst others Dubai, Japan, USA, Brazil and Mexico, next to many European shows…. I just returned from Morocco. But I enjoy it very much since I not just play, sleep and leave, but also go exploring everywhere I am: swim in various waters and eat soup! Sit in a local bar and talk to people. I don’t take drugs or drink alcohol so I am very alive, only very tired every now and then. I am also very pleased with my brand new LP ‘A Different Fridge For Cheese’, released by Berlin label Play Loud.

You take inspiration from things like avant-garde movements, the absurdism of Monty Python and post-punk. Can you elaborate more on that?
Essential elements in my music and DJ sets are freedom and creativity. I want to stay ahead of the audience, and surprise them. I put various styles of my music in a different context. I am convinced a gig is more entertaining when you don’t know what’s gonna happen, so when you put raw techno next or on top of African dance music, it changes the way you perceive the individual styles. By using three turntables I can be very creative and spontaneous. My sets can change in music style and feeling at any minute, so that keeps the audience on their toes. I don’t want to rest in the boring comfort zone of one dimensional ‘party’ music. I want to celebrate being alive by being energetic. This open-minded attitude I grew up with, with bands like The Fall, Throbbing Gristle, The Slits, The Pop Group, On-U Sound label. To quote Ari Up, the late singer of The Slits and The New Age Steppers: ”I don’t want to be liked, I want to be heard!” Humour is also part of what I do. In my perception the majority of the DJs act being a DJ, by looking very serious, doing these cliched gestures like the constant twiddling of the knobs, all this over-acting! It often makes me laugh. I feel very relaxed when I play because I love being creative, surprising not only the audience, but also myself, and also let chance play a part. I feel totally free on stage. Let’s see what happens when I do this, play these records simultaneously, play random parts of an environmental record, or, when a record gets stuck, let it stay stuck for a couple of minutes! In my world there is no such thing as a mistake; only taste. I pay the greatest attention to playing great, exceptional vinyls; I spend a lot of time finding them and am very critical.     

Talking about your music: your track and album titles often have funny or original titles, like ‘DJ Marcelle: The Musical’, ‘Technicians And Their Smoke Machines’, ‘Big Room Techno Looking For A Room’. What’s the idea behind this?
A good title stands out and makes you think, but they are also comments to things that happen to me, like male technicians who have their priorities wrong and don’t read my technical rider properly; regularly I have to ‘fight’ to get what I need on stage, like a lot of bright like on the decks so I can see the grooves of the vinyls (I need to see them clearly in order to be able to improvise). The album title ‘DJ Marcelle: The Musical’ comes from the fact that almost ‘everything’ turns into a musical, from Anne Frank to Tina Turner. So I thought I couldn’t stay behind;  one of the musical genres I really really hate is musicals, so that’s also funny I think. I don’t like cheese either, so my new LP album is called ‘ A Different Fridge For Cheese’. On one of the tracks, ‘A Difficult Fridge For Cheese’ friends of mine from around the world demand in their own language to leave the cheese in the fridge.

That’s so fun! And what has been a recent source of inspiration?
Too many to mention, so I will mention them all 🙂  Holy Tongue, Sisso, Model Home, Saint Abdullah, Eric Copeland, Badawi, HHY & The Macumbas, Kopy, House Of All, Simon Grab, Indigenous Resistance, Ossia & Ojoo, Abu Ama, Flore, Brutter, Dale Cornish, Valentina Magaletti, Muqata’a, Sofeso, Shit And Shine (the ‘dance’ stuff, not the ‘rock’ stuff), Jlin, Serpente et cetera! 

And following up on inspiration in general, which other DJ and/or music artist inspire you the most?
Muslimgauze and The Fall are still great inspirations; Muslimgauze was such a genius and forward-looking  musician, his music still sounds as fresh as it when it was made, in the eighties and especially the nineties. When I play his tracks, audiences always think his music is new, he was already making techno and drum n bass, IDM, when these genres hardly existed! Also his enormous productivity stands out, more than 25 years after his early death new music of Muslimgauze is being released. And his general political attitude is as relevant as ever with the genocide going on in Gaza and the oppression of the Palestinians. All this stolen land, which has been going on for 75 years!The opening and closing tracks of my current LP ‘A Different Fridge For Cheese’ are called ‘Muslimgauze Was Right Part I and II’.

As for The Fall, let me quote the opening words of my tribute 10” which I made when leader Mark E. Smith passed away in 2018:  “It sounded all right through two walls, so what’s the problem?” This summed up an aesthetic almost lost in today’s musical climate, where often a pleasing attitude and overproduced music sadly rule, even in so-called ‘alternative’ circles. 

The Fall have been with me during my whole musical life (which more or less started seriously in 1977 with punk). Smith was an iconoclast, a surrealist Dadaist breaker of conventions in music and art more generally. A magically creative individual, a brain-twisting wordsmith. An attacker of the pretentious and dishonest elements in society and music scenes. An autodidact whose singular vision, fired by both humour and sharp observation, found a voice in a body of work unlike anything else. I can’t deny I see a lot of nonsense and fakeness in the DJ-world as well. Words like ‘respect’, ‘eclectic’, ‘punk’ have lost their initial meaning almost completely. Electro-acts constantly promoting themselves on Instagram calling themselves ‘punk’ – ha!

And how do you usually prepare for a set?
I don’t in the sense that I never practise a set; I have never done that in the past 40 years or so; I just take along mainly the latest records I bought (that’s essential also, I don’t want to be retro or that the audience recognises the music I play) and improvise on the spot. Obviously I listen to music at home, so that’s always an influence, but it’s all subconscious. I mix on sounds and tones, so anything is possible! I sometimes play a few oldies, to show the audience where I come from.

With your vinyl collection of 20.000 vinyls and counting, you are a true expert when it comes to underground music. But what is underground music to you? And where do you find yourself when you explore the realm of the underground arts?
I just go to record shops all over the world, listen to piles of records I never heard of and pick the jewels! I look for ‘specialness’, not for danceability and certainly not ‘well produced’; a test is often when a record is 2/3rds underway: do the high synths come in or not? When they do, I am out! The term underground is a subjective one; what gets known or  not is dependent on so many factors, so I don’t think about it; I just do what I want and play just as well for a big as for a small audience. The attitude and content of my own music and DJ-sets won’t change.

 And during your performances, what do you think makes someone in the crowd stand out to you?
I am not that bothered about the audience, but I like to see them though, I don’t want to play in darkness, I prefer the human element of looking each other in the eyes. I am always happy when women feel free and act accordingly.

Besides DJing, what do you love to do in your daily life?
I love going to flea markets, the surprise element (you will never know what you’re gonna see) I like very much, like in my music and DJ sets. I love literature, I read a lot of novels, also when travelling. I love going to the beach. I love to go to (art house) movies, I play tennis, I like to do nothing as well!

What advice would you give to younger DJs trying to get into the industry?
For a start: don’t use the word ‘industry’, because that shows what’s wrong in the scene: a neo liberal approach where the majority see themselves as a brand which needs to be promoted through instagram, tik tok etc. At its best it’s a hobby which maybe can turn into your job, but don’t desperately want to be a DJ! Start with thinking why you want to do this in the first place. Are you really a music lover, with talent to create, or do you just want to be on a stage and get attention and be ‘loved’? Are you a ‘service provider’ or really an ‘artist’? If you are a service provider, being a DJ will most likely cost you a lot of stress. Avoid DJ schools at all cost because they create mostly clones with no real authenticity and style of their own and they pin you down on very stale and uncreative rules.

Lastly, tell us your top 3 soups ever
Fish soup, Barcelona
Bouillabaisse, Marseille
Sopa de Mariscos, Guanajuato, México

Words by Agata Villa
Images courtesy of the artist
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