Marco Faraone remains calm, despite a hectic tour schedule.
For the next in our series of interviews exploring the psychology of DJing, we hear from Rekids artist and Italian techno star Marco Faraone on how he stays on his game amidst the pressures of an insanely busy tour schedule.
Marco Faraone is a big room specialist. A breed of DJ seemingly engineered for towering speaker stacks and searing ice cannons who has built his career on the kind of release that only thundering kick drums can provide. He's been steadily working his way up the ladder since the early 2000s and like many high profile techno DJs from Italy, his break onto the big room circuit came from playing Tenax in Florence. Releases on labels like Drum Code and Rekids have established him as a key player in the sphere of techno that exists somewhere between the underground vinyl world of techno's most leftfield labels and the digital realm of Beatport's top selling techno imprints. As such he has the kind of DJing resume that includes an impressive number of air miles trekking the global big room techno circuit and a lot to say on the trials and tribulations that go with the job.
Ibiza Voice: Where do you get your music from?
Marco Faraone: I get music from a lot of different places. I receive so many promos each week, and sometimes I don't have the time to download them, so I prefer to dig myself a little and search for new tracks. I really love to buy records every week and I probably buy around 20-25 new records a week and have done since I was 15 years old, so you can imagine by now I have very little space left in my apartment for anything else! Some of my friends ask me how I can live with so many records in the house – I guess it’s just a labour of love. I also like to use some of the digital platforms like Bandcamp because there I can find special releases sometimes not available in the mainstream music stores. So, I dig every day for new releases, as I think this is the only way to find great music.
How do you prepare for a set and what are you doing in the lead up to a gig?
I don't prepare my playlists for each gig, however I know the music I want to play and start with one track I have in mind and then improvise from that point. Every club and crowd are totally different, so it’s not until you are there ready to start, you can feel the vibe and what they want. Generally, after a few tracks you get into the flow. So therefore, I think it’s impossible to prepare a set before you go as I have no idea what that crowd of people want at that specific moment.
That's why I do not feel I am ready to play a live set yet because you can’t escape to another type of sound or track if the crowd isn’t feeling it, however if you are a skilled musician and live artist, then you can always improvise, but that's a scary thought. I want to always remain as versatile as possible and DJ sets are the best way for me to succeed in doing that.
Marco's vast experience has taught him how to read the vibe of the crowd and adapt..
How do you balance production with DJIng? Do you set yourself any rules for how your manage your time?
I spend so much time in my studio. If you actually counted the hours, then the studio time would be about 10 hours a day, so that's like a full-time job and more. I travel a lot and have so many gigs and with summer coming up, it gets even crazier, as parties tend to be happening mid-week now and not just at weekends. I try the best I can to balance it out, but it’s not easy. If I have a new mixer or machine, I sometimes I use the gigs as a way to practice, but honestly after 15 years of DJing – I don't think I need to practice that much, when I play 2-3 gigs a week – that's plenty to keep my skills at a good level.
How do you split your time while travelling? are you working on music or just chilling?
I actually get ideas for a lot of my tracks on the road and I start to build the ideas as much as I can and then finalise them when I get back into the studio. You need to be out on the road, experiencing life and seeing and meeting new people to generate ideas and inspirations for the music you make. It’s never very chill when on the road, so I mainly focus on the shows but also like to spend time to look for new tracks, as this can be done when I have some time to kill on long plane, train or car journeys.
How do you organise your music in preparation for the gig?
I use Rekordbox because I want to see the waveform on the CDJ, so I use playlists for different moments. I have them in sections like house, techno, warm up, sunset, sunrise, closing, etc. I never create a specific folder for a specific party though. I generally just grab some tracks with a ‘tag selection’ from the folders ten minutes before I start and that helps me to create the first part of the journey into my set. Its worked that way for me for a while now and if it works, I am going to keep it that way.
Do you ever mix at home or on rekordbox/traktor to try out combinations?
Yes definitely, Rekordbox is incredible! I haven’t used Traktor for about five years now, I used to for a while with vinyl timecode, but I don't like to look at the computer when I play, I like to have more focus on the crowd and watch everyone smiling back at me.
Hypothetical situation: you've just got to your hotel after a long flight with lots of travel complications, you have to go straight to your set, you haven't slept properly for 24 hours but you have a big gig tonight in a new country and you're travelling on your own. How do you psych yourself up to play in these situations?
Well this happens I feel almost every single weekend! Sometimes I even play three shows in one day. For New Years Eve last year, I did four gigs in three countries; Italy, Germany and Lebanon – it was intense!
I do not take any form of drugs and I generally always think that it actually helps me to focus on what I am doing. I do like to have a drink though but I am very careful to never get wasted. OK, sometimes this all goes wrong and not to plan, but not very often. When it happens, that's when three days on the road can feel like ten. You have to love what you do and for me, it’s playing music and seeing the world at the same time, so when you are tired, frustrated and fed up on plane journey after plane journey and endless nights of no sleep, you need to remind yourself how lucky you are to be doing this as a full-time career. That should be enough to psych anyone up before they play. I’d never be so irresponsible to ruin that by going nuts and losing control at every show, as I want to respect those venues and crowds I play for and always do my best at every single party.
What kind of rules do you set for yourself in your preparation? is there a cut off point for when you take on more tunes or are you still hunting for more tracks the day before leaving for the gig?
Never any rules in music for me…..it’s quite simple. Its all about freedom, experimentation and doing what works. I always like to ensure I have a good meal, that's about it! But then I am Italian!
Having some much needed chill time in the studio.
What lessons have you learned over time that have made you a better DJ?
Be humble, keep your head down and your feet on the ground. You have to be able to take criticism, educate yourself and come back stronger. Mistakes will be made, many of them – so it’s time to learn as much as you can from each one. Something else which I feel many people tend not to mention, is respect and love for all those fans who come and buy tickets to see you play every single weekend. It’s quite amazing to think they wait for weeks or months for you to come to their city, it's a big deal for them and in the end they help you get to where you are, so whether its ten people or 10,000 on that dancefloor, give the very best for each and every one of them.
How do you prepare for different situations or eventualities?
As I mentioned before, preparation isn’t really something I think you can do for many reasons, but of course I know if I am playing a big festival or a really small imitate club, then some of the track choices maybe different. Or a crowd in the USA might not want the kind of tracks heard in Berlin. So making some intelligent choices on a few tracks ahead of time is a good idea and it always helps if you have played in those countries before, as you can kind of know what to expect.
Do you obsess over what is and isn't your sound? This is quite a common issue for DJs and can lead to all sorts of anxiety. How do you deal with this problem?
No, I don't. I do not see how you can obsess or worry about what is and isn’t your sound. I created my label UNCAGE for artists to release freely what they want to produce, experiment a little – that's the key to diversity. If you have developed a specific style of the way you produce your tracks then this is something which comes naturally to you and every DJ has it, it’s never forced or you are never trying to emulate it into something that it’s not.
Would you describe yourself as quite a confident DJ who plays in the moment, or are you often scrutinising/perfectionising every detail of a set ?
‘Versatile” is a name I used to describe me and my music. I like to create special moments in my sets and play different variations of sounds. I get bored when I play the same groove for too long, so I try to change things up. That in itself is a confident thing to do, as it doesn't always go down as you expect.
But I would never say that I am very confident; you never know what it going to happen at each show and when you get out in front of crowds of thousands of people, no matter how long you have been doing this – it’s scary! About perfectionism – I think anyone who is creative is their own worst enemy, we keep playing with a track a thousand times before we let it go. Sometimes you have to walk away, or you’ll never finish it with all the tweaks you make!
If you find yourself booked to play the wrong kind of crowd, are you happy to go down in flames playing music you believe in or are you open to the idea of compromise to keep a crowd happy?
The crowd being happy is my number one objective at every single show. They are the ones that support you and they have paid to come and have a good time. I’ll always play to the crowd, read what they want and work it out. It doesn't always happen, but a few times I have been at a club and the vibe wasn’t there. It is hard work, as no matter what you do, sometimes it just doesn't flow. I feel sometimes at festivals it can be harder, as you are playing in a stage with a lot of other artists when it's a mix of genres and its very varied. Some of the crowd only came to see that one DJ, so they aren’t too excited about your set and your fans feel the same about the other artists.
How do you handle things when something goes wrong in the middle of a set?
Luckily, I have had enough experience now to safely say that nothing has ever gone really wrong in my sets. Sometimes things like the power went off, or someone drops a beer on the CDJs and they exploded and sparked up all over the place, but that's all part of the fun of it (tt wasn't at the time I am sure). As everyone’s says, “the show must go on”.
Good gigs are easy, but not every gig is a good one. How do you handle the bad ones mentally? Do they get to you or are you not bothered?
I have spoken about this in a few interviews before and it’s always hard. It’s sad for me to have to go on a long journey to a show and then turn up to a club which is nearly empty. It’s not about the money, or anything like that, but I am sad for the promoter, as they spend so much time bringing the talents to these new clubs and cities and they then lose money.
Sometimes it’s just an issue which is out of your hands, but either way it’s sad to come home after the weekend and have to reflect on the shows. It’s funny though, as sometimes I played at a few clubs with less than 100 people, but the vibe was just insane and we had a blast, no matter how many people were dancing. It all depends on so many things, and yes, it’s always hard to deal with, but thankfully it happens few and far between.
How do you handle negative comments from promoters, crowds or trolls?
I haven’t really had any negative comments about my work from the crowd or promoters, or not those that I know about anyway! I respect all comments and think that constructive criticism is something you always have to accept and learn from, but the haters on their keyboards writing messages online and leaving nasty comments to anyone in our industry are just not welcome.
Anyone can write something horrible on their laptop, but when it comes to meeting them it’s another story. Thankfully, I’ve never had many, but I have seen them online for others, when things go wrong from time to time, and I just think it’s very sad.
There is a lot of talk currently about the psychological challenges of DJing, how do you deal with these? And can you describe the ways in which you find the DJing game challenging?
There is a lot of challenging things in this industry and it’s not an easy job. As I mentioned before, being on the road a lot, with a lack of sleep causes the body to feel exhausted for sure, so looking after yourself mentally and physically is maybe the number one thing for anyone on the road. It can help you recover faster, enjoy life more when you are not gigging and find a good healthy balance between the two. There are many temptations and I think when young DJs are just starting out it can all be a little overwhelming and sometimes they go in at the deep end.
Just remember this is a job, your career – If you are going to be doing this for a long time, you have to slow down, take control, look after yourself and realise that life outside of music (vacations, family time, learning a new hobby) is just as important for your mind, body and soul.
What kind of gigs inspire you?
Oh wow, how long do we have for this answer? I have so so so many gigs that were just outstanding and I couldn’t ever possibly exclude any of them. Of course, now my schedule is nuts and I am very honoured to be playing some of the most amazing venues all over the world and genuinely they are just that – amazing. I have a lot of friends all over the world and when you go to certain cities, you get to reunite with them, as well as the teams running each of the clubs, it’s like a family, a very big one!
Going back to the bad gigs question, I also now think that sometimes, I use them as inspiration in a way, as I come home and find myself in the mood to write dark and introspective tracks. An example of this is my track ‘Crying Alone”…..and you’ll understand what I mean! An artist is heavily influenced by everything that surrounds them and I think that's the most important and beautiful part and aspect to examine.
Marco Faraone’s second EP for Rekids ‘On My Way’ is out now.
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