Marky! – A Canberra institution

Along with Parliament House, the War Memorial and Black Mountain Tower, Thursday nights at the University of Canberra Bar are a Canberra institution, an essential part of any university/drinking career. There, you will see undergraduates desperately trying not to look as cheap as the plastic cups from which they’re drinking vodka and raspberry, later sculling bourbon and coke, then later using as ashtrays, and then even later slipping on while trying to dance to the upbeat tunes of DJ Marky.

Along with the plastic cups, Marky is the stalwart of the UC Bar, and has no doubt contributed to its popularity immensely. He keeps the dancefloor packed all night, spinning the latest r&b, pop, and commercial dance as well as some groovin’ classics. However, Marky is more than just the pride and joy of the uni bar. He has also been instrumental as one of the promoters of Dose, in building the foundations of Canberra’s strong progressive scene, which has also explored other genres, recently playing host to perhaps the hottest live breaks act around, NuBreed. The next Dose instalment will be a night of techno, featuring some more talented Melbournites, Simon Digby and Alpharisc (the latter playing live) at the launch of the WetMusik CD launch at Club Habana.

Marky is known as one of the few techno DJs of Canberra, and he attributes his strong passion for techno to Jeff Mills’ set at Welcome 2000 in Melbourne over the 1999/2000 summer, “A set that has forever changed me.” However, he has experimented with a range of styles in his deck career. “In 1995 I teamed up with DJ Speedloader in writing some pretty dodgy hardcore/gabba tunes which are embarrassing to listen to now! My real passion, however, was for the sounds of tweaking acid. ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ by Josh Wink, and ‘Access’ by DJ Misjah & Tim were two tracks that really inspired me to get into DJing”. Since then Marky has played in different environments – raves, clubs and even beginning as a mobile DJ. “It’s crappy work, but it teaches you a lot, and the crowd reading ability gained from doing weddings and 21sts is something that is really apparent in those DJs with a mobile DJing background.” Soon after scoring a few sets at the late but great Heaven nightclub, “Marky the Promoter was born!” organising Bak Bar events and COSMIC on Wednesday nights. Along with COSMIC partner Derek Jones, Marky started Dose, which featured other local DJs such as Jono Fernandez, James Elder and Barrie Barton, and was a night dedicated for lovers of epic house, trance and later, progressive house. When Dose went on hiatus, during a period when its place of residence (the Heaven nightclub) closed down, Marky continued with his involvement at UC, playing at the largest annual Canberra dance event, Stomp. “During this time, I was also playing a range of music at UC’s popular bar nights. I even managed to convert a few people to trance and techno while there. Thursday nights seemed to get bigger and bigger.”

Indeed, Marky will be playing his last term at the uni bar over the next few months, as he is about to head overseas. “Canberra has been a great little rock pool in which to learn how to swim, but we’ve seen lots of people grow a little too big, and move to a bigger pond. I’ve always believed Canberra has DJs that are more than capable of competing with the best Australia, and indeed, the world has to offer. However, it has been hard for many to get the recognition they deserve when there are only so many events and so many clubs to play at. I think that’s changing now though. Look at the success of local DJs and producers who are taking Canberra to places it hasn’t been before with awesome tracks being produced right here in our city.”

Marky has been around the traps long enough to witness the explosion of dance music and electronica worldwide, and on a slightly smaller scale, in Canberra. While some people lament the elements of the ‘scene’ that have infiltrated areas of local dance culture, Marky sees the growth as a way to expose more people to different sounds. “When I first started going out, they weren’t really playing much ‘dance’ music in clubs. Sure, there was the odd dance hit, but it was essentially a much more mainstream sound. You wouldn’t hear ‘rave’ music on the radio. That’s all changed. People are discovering it every day. You hear techno/trance as background music during the football, and now it’s come full circle. Raves used to be massive in Canberra if they pulled 400 people, whereas nowadays you get four or five times that. That sort of growth has its good and bad sides, and certainly does introduce a degree of a ‘scene element’. It’s not much different from the raves I used to go to though, just on a larger scale”.

“I think the most positive thing to come out of the massive increase in popularity of dance music, parties, and clubs is that more and more people are exposed to music they might not normally have heard. Of the 1500 people at (recent party) Passion, how many of them would have expected to hear pounding techno rhythms at the end of a night of NRG and hard house? And how many of those that stayed till the end liked it? It seems more than a few from people who spoke to me about the night. Those that did hear the techno at the end might have had their ears and minds opened to that style for the first time, and so might now be on the lookout for where they can hear that sort of stuff again. So, no matter how big and ‘sceney’ it all gets, the growth of the dance scene is a good thing for everyone. It introduces more people to electronic music, and encourages them to branch out and explore other styles of electronic music. As a result, it encourages growth and change, and prevents the music from getting stale, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Keen to hear Marky play but don’t think you can survive another ‘UC Bar Night-induced’ hangover? Well, the good news is that Marky will be playing one of his last sets in this little rock pool of ours at the WetMusik CD Launch. “I think it will help expose more people to the sounds of techno, and of those people, some will surely like it, and while others won’t, at least they will know. It’s called being musically educated, knowing what you like, but also knowing what you don’t, and why’. So, what kind of vibe can we expect at the WetMusik launch? “It’ll be a wicked night for sure. I just like to issue a challenge to people – come along and hear what it’s about, then decide for yourself. Be challenged.”

Dose presents the WetMusik Mixup 004 CD launch, with DJs Simon Digby (Melb) and Alpharisc (live, Melb) bringing pounding techno to Club Habana along with locals Marky, Ben Henderson, Atomic Theory, Ashley Feraude and Dylan Evans, and the Wicked Tribe Collective (live). This Friday October 12th, tickets $20 on the door.