Interview: Markantonio

Markantonio is an Italian techno legend. He has now been in the game for 20 years and marks the occasion with a series of all night long gigs, as well as a flurry of new EPs.

He runs the Analytic Trail label and will release one of them there, while more come on Carl Cox’s Intec and Unrilis. Someone who has very much shaped techno, we speak to him here about his long and successful career, how he got into dance music, how he will approach his all night long sets, and more besides.

Can you remember when you first got into electronic music, first DJed, first started producing? What was it like? Where was it?

I started listening to electronic music around the mid-90s in Naples, where I’m from. At this time the scene in the city was just starting up, and there were only a few people who went out to the parties there. It was a friendly vibe, we all knew each other and I was fascinated by these new otherworldly sounds that were making everyone feel so united and happy. I went to these parties for a few years before buying my first set of turntables and practising myself. My girlfriend at the time was slightly older than me and was taking care of public relations for the techno parties in the city. We joined with another group of guys, one of them being Marco Corola, and organised our own event where I made my debut as a DJ alongside Colin Dale and Marco himself.

After a few years I realised that, to make myself known outside of Naples, I needed to start producing my own music. I went to London to improve my English as well as learn more about techno. In the second half of the 90s, London was at the centre of the European dance music scene. After a year spent there I went back to Naples, bought my first instruments and in 1999 made my debut as a producer on Design Music, Marco Corola’s historical label.

What state is the Italian techno scene in now compared to when you started?

Today the techno scene is certainly much more solid and popular than when I first started. I think that Italy now plays a very important role in the world of techno, with good young DJs and producers representing Italian techno and having a lot of success around the world.

You are embarking on an all night long tour. How different is playing all night vs a short set? Will you do any planning?

Being the only artist for an evening, being the only one that is in charge of the whole night compared to maybe one or two other DJs, is something I find very satisfying. When I play in this way I like to go through a range of different genres, starting off slow and gradually rising in tempo, selecting music between house and techno and all of their nuances. When you play for just an hour, or with two other guests, it’s a little different, and you have less time to explore other genres. I have two all night long parties coming up: one at London’s Fabric and the other at The City Hall in Barcelona.

What sounds will you play that you might not in a usual, shorter club set?

In a long set I like to vary the different shades of techno, starting with slower house grooves and moving towards harder big-room techno. I like to create my own story from the beginning to the end, bringing the right energy to crowd and keeping them on their toes.

What set up do you use in the club? Vinyl or digital? Has that changed much over the years?

Currently my set up is digital. I use Traktor and controllers but sometimes I like just playing with CDJs, without the computer. Of course, at the beginning of my career, I was playing vinyl only. But I have no particular preconceptions about which is the best to use. What counts is what comes out of the speakers, having fun, and delivering your best to the people that come to your show.

What have been the highs and lows of running your own huge label AnalyticTrail over the years – how has it evolved?

Being a label manager and choosing music for my own label has certainly given me more advantages than disadvantages. Owning a label gave me the chance to test my own music, helping me to decide what to do and what not to do in my productions. Running a label might take away time that I would like to dedicate to the studio, but I am happy and proud to have created a label that, over the years, has produced many emerging artists, giving them the opportunity to show the talent in their productions.

You have also manage many other labels – what is the art of managing a successful label? Is it about more than just the music? Is it about a band, an image, managing artists?

In the past I have managed other labels, but this took too much of my time so I decided to stop. When I was involved with these labels it was mainly a question of artistic direction. Nowadays though it seems that it isn’t enough to just produce good music, you need to direct artists on how to build a character around them through social media, using it correctly to help them grow an overall profile.

How has social media changed the game? Are you a fan of direct contact with your fans or is it a silly distraction?

Social media has had a major impact on the music industry, as with many other industries. I personally like to be quite present and try to interact with my fans as much as possible. I feel today that those who follow me are much more interested to see what I did during the day, following stories on Instagram and seeing where I am in the world through my posts. Today it seems that the majority of followers aren’t really interested with posts that are to do with my new tracks or album. It’s not something to be opposed of, it’s just the way it is, and we must adapt to changes in life and in the music industry in order to continue to thrive. Today DJs can be defined more as DJ influencers than DJ producers.

Are there any goals and targets you still have, things you still hope to achieve in your career?

Certainly I still have goals that I hope to achieve. I always want to produce new music that is better than what came before, and there are still a number of festivals and clubs around the world that I haven’t been lucky enough to play at yet.

Finally, why techno? Why not house? Why do you love techno so much?

I chose techno because, when I started, it was the music for the crazy people, the outcasts and the strangers, which is something I identified with at the time.