Nacho Marco: Conquering the Dance Floor
Photo courtesy of Nacho Marco by Tana Capó & Pau Roca
Born and bred in Valencia, Spain, Nacho Marco’s career started when he was just 15 years old. By the age of 11, he already owned his first mixer and a second turntable. His dad’s record collection sparked Marco’s passion, and he knew from the start that DJing would eventually become his job. “I used to sit with my dad in front of a turntable and a pair of loudspeakers, and we would spend hours listening to anything from Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, the O'Jays, to Ella Fitzgerald. My dad used to be very specific about which style of music we were listening to,” he remembers.
His older brothers brought home tapes from the clubs they went to, and Marco would listen to them “again and again,” these tapes becoming his source of knowledge. He kept on buying records and taught himself how to beatmatch, beat juggle, and scratch. “YouTube didn’t exist yet, and DJs were very secretive about their techniques. It wasn't an easy journey,” he recalls.
His first DJ residency came at the age of 15 at a club he regularly visited with his friends. During a trial session, his feelings gravitated from fear to excitement to joy as he succeeded and landed the job. This was the seed of a career that has taken Marco to DJ in venues and festivals all over Europe. Of all the places he has DJed, Fabric is one of his favorite venues, and he defines the London club as “an institution” of dance music history, with unique sound systems and a great crowd.
Marco designs his set depending on factors like the city, time, and venue or festival at which he’s playing. “As we study in class, a DJ must know his or her bounds in terms of style and adapt the set depending on the gig,” he says. In 2003, he was recognized as one of the big names on the DJ scene by English magazine International DJ.
A Turning Point
In 1999, Marco was one of the first Spanish DJs to release a record with a foreign label, Odori Recordings, from the United Kingdom. “I got lucky enough to meet an influential DJ and producer called Chris Duckenfield at one of his gigs, and I gave him a tape with a few tracks. A few weeks later, I got a message from him together with a vinyl release agreement,” Marco remembers. Ten years ago, he created his own label, Loudeast Records, and started to direct his own weekly radio show called Loudeast FM, which was broadcast on Mega Radio, Scanner FM, and Ibiza Sonica FM in Spain in addition to Club FM (Macedonia), Radio Klub (France), and I Love Radio (Italy) until 2012.
Teaching is Marco’s other big passion, which he discovered in 2005 at the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers (also known as SGAE), where he had his first teaching experience. In 2014, he started teaching DJing and Turntablism at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, where he currently teaches four classes between the Master of Music in music production, technology, and innovation and the Berklee Study Abroad program.
“I try to keep a half-theory plus half-practice balance in all of my lessons,” he says. He explains that in the Live Electronics and DJ Skills course, the goal is to be able to execute and beatmatch a DJ set at the end of the semester; the same goal applies for the DJing and Turntablism course but with the addition of scratching and beat juggling. In Applied Analog Synthesis, the goal is to master synthesis and know how to sound design on an analog modular system, while in Advanced DJ, the aim is to produce a track using every piece of gear students learn throughout the semester.
For students enrolled in the Berklee Study Abroad program, Marco’s classes are a real treat. “They love it. In the first week, they understand that the technical side of DJing is mainly about rhythm and counting times and bars, so they can apply everything they’ve previously learned,” he says.
To become a skillful DJ, Marco says that practice is the number one must, followed by being a great selector and having good musical taste, something that according to him cannot be taught but can be encouraged. “That’s why I let my students freely develop their own style,” he says. The rest involves the technical side: to have a good flow and the ability to program an interesting and flexible set, scratching, and the use of sound effects and external devices like drum machines or samplers.
Finally, Marco believes in helping students get ready to face real life once they graduate. “In class, sometimes they ask questions about gigs, publishing, royalties, or management, topics which might not be directly related to the subject we are studying. However, if I consider them important, I don't mind stopping the class and talking about it as they are part of the day-to-day of an artist,” says Marco.