When news started to surface recently about the incredibly sad passing of Marcus Intalex, it was hard to believe. Just the night before he’d played a set at his Soul:ution club night in Manchester, where, by all accounts, he’d absolutely destroyed it on the decks – something he’d been doing since I first saw him at the Music Box in the mid-‘90s. It came as a seismic shock, one that friends, family and fans are still trying to get their heads around.
It’s no wonder tributes have subsequently flooded social media. Marcus commanded respect in every corner of the industry – from being revered as an uncompromising pioneer of forward-thinking drum and bass to seamlessly switching to producing quality house and techno under his Trevino alias in more recent times, Marcus has left a back catalogue and legacy that puts him among the greats of electronic music. And he did it all while supporting artists he believed in through his Soul:r label, by sticking to his vision and never letting the quality control dip below excellent, by being a straight talker and humble, and by taking his signature soulful sound from the streets of south Manchester to every corner of the world (fitting in a cheeky game of golf or two along the way).
In 2011, Marcus released his debut album ’21’, marking over two decades in the game. Now, six years later, we celebrate 27 years of a true master.
The early years
Having spent his teenage years getting the bus from his hometown of Burnley into Manchester to hang out in record shops and soak up the heady acid house vibes at the Hacienda, before taking up his first DJ residency at the Angels nightclub in Burnley, by the ‘90s Marcus could be found marshalling the drum and bass section in the basement of the Eastern Bloc record shop. To give you an idea of how militant he was with punters, when I was a youth, he once gave me grief for listening to Lemon D’s ‘Going Gets Tough’ and not buying it, which, looking back, was actually fair enough.
Don’t get it twisted: reppin’ jungle and drum and bass in the north in the ‘90s was an uphill battle. Manchester was a city dominated by the house music Sasha represented, but scene stalwarts like Marcus, Mark XTC and Sappo (and later Future Cut and Sonic & Silver) kept the fire burning. Marcus’s earliest forays into production were alongside Mark XTC as Da Intalex, and ‘What Ya Gonna Do’ and ‘I Like It’ (remix) sent out a clear signal that jungle was spreading and showed it was possible for producers in the north to shape the future.
'What Ya Gonna Do'
'I Like It' remix
Mark XTC reflects on the early days: ‘We knew each other from Angels in Burnley in the very early ‘90s, where Marcus was resident and I played there with the Mix Factory. We had a lot of things in common – from growing up with just our mothers to our love of acid house, techno and hardcore breakbeat.
‘I was already managing Spin Inn, in the underground market of Manchester, and Marcus began working in Manchester Underground, a rival record store near Victoria train station. Marcus was always in my shop buying his tunes so I offered him a job to come and work with me and he started the week after.
‘We decided to start making tunes together and made a track called “Soul Thunder”, which remains unreleased. We then spoke with L Double who wanted us to put a track out on the new label he was starting called Flex. We went up to his house in Huddersfield and he helped to engineer our first tune, “What Ya Gonna Do”. To hear the likes of Mickey Finn play our tune on the mixtapes we used to get in the record shop, which was now Eastern Bloc as we’d moved to run the jungle/D&B counter there, was amazing for us.
'We then had the opportunity to start our own labels, Intalex Productions and Jump Up Records, with the help of Pete Waterman who owned Eastern Bloc. We released quite a few tracks on these labels such as the huge “I Like It” remix with ST Files.'
As well as producing, DJing and working at E Bloc, Da Intalex had it locked down with a weekly show on Kiss FM, which was essential listening back in the day. A showcase of the very best drum and bass, Marcus honed the dry humour and self-deprecation that later became a feature of his Red Bull Music Academy and Soul:ution radio shows, while regularly supporting Bristol beats and Dillinja’s punishing rhythms, showcasing a producer at the peak of his powers.
As Da Intalex wound up as a production duo, Marcus and ST Files put a few things out under this alias. This wasn’t a productive time studio-wise; releases were few and far between compared to their later work. There were stirrings of great things to come for the city, though, with the duo joined by Perfect Combination, Future Cut and Accidental Heroes (Sonic & Silver) in the city’s New Mount Street studio complex.
Their biggest track at the time was ‘Untouchable'/'Style’ on Suburban Base, which was caned on One In The Jungle. ‘Style’, in particular, was a Manchester anthem, with ravers slapping the walls of clubs in appreciation when it dropped; its bass was so wobbly it made jelly look stiff. The lesser known ‘Nimrod’ on Double Zero is well worth a listen too.
‘Guidance, my brothers and sisters, Guidance’, as resident MC Mad Rush used to say on the mic. It felt like a church for Manchester’s drum and bass community at the time, albeit a dodgy one where you had to be on your guard when it kicked off, which it did on numerous occasions, or anyone tried taxing you in the bogs. Yes, really. At this time Marcus used to appear under his actual name Marcus Kaye, and like all the best residents, his sets held their own against the big-name regulars including long-time comrade Doc Scott. Nights that live in the memory include this Radio 1 broadcast and the Wormhole tour, a night where Marcus finished up rewinding Ram Trilogy’s ‘No Reality’ before Ed & Optical went on to create history with one of the best sets ever seen in Manchester.
Marcus & ST Files
After trying (and, as he later admitted, failing) to make a track that got played at the seminal Metalheadz club night at the Bluenote, Marcus and Files hit the motherload in the late ‘90s with 'How You Make Me Feel'. Around the time he told me during an interview for ATM Magazine that ‘we were trying to get a few tracks in Scotty’s box, do you know what I mean?’ Not only did Doc Scott snap up the track for his 31 Record imprint, but Fabio absolutely hammered it on Radio 1. Its importance isn't lost on Goldie: 'I remember it was such an unbelievable record. It really made him. But the same could be said with ‘What You Gonna Do’. If you listen back to them, the early makings of 'How You Make Me Feel' were on that record ('WYGD').'
'How You Make Me Feel'
The remix years
Marcus and Files had the Midas touch when it came to remixing at this time. Every track had its own unique flavour and groove and added a much-needed injection of soulful vibes to the dance which were dominated by the darkside at the time. Crucially they received support from all corners of the scene. A tasteful reinterpretation of MJ Cole's 'Be Sincere' was joined by two stone-cold classics for Reinforced, ‘Better Place’ and ‘9x9’, and one of the greatest remixes of all-time, ‘Just A Vision’ for Renegade Recordings. Then came a mix of ‘Midnight’ that Andy C still plays in his sets to this day. Listen back and you’ll hear the sound of masters at work.
'Just A Vision' remix
'Midnight' (MIST VIP remix)
Over to Jenna G: ‘Me and Marcus were in college together. I’ve known him from the beginning of my D&B career. In fact, he was the beginning of my D&B career, release-wise. He let me sing at Guidance, got me on my first D&B release for Soul:r. He introduced me to Darren and Tunde (Future Cut), Goldie, even DRS in Midem on a college trip! We hadn't made music together since the early days mostly ‘cause I was a happy-to-have-a-go-at-anything Charlie and he ever the perfectionist. It never bothered me, though. Marcus was my friend, a very old friend, a really good friend, and I'm gonna miss him a lot.’
In the same way Marcus and Files had wanted to get in Scotty’s box years before, they most certainly wanted to have a release on Goldie’s Metalheadz – and they saved something very special for the occasion. ‘Universe’ is a prime example of drum and bass that stirs a deep emotional response (Goldie maintains it's Marcus's best tune to this day), while the flip did a lot of damage on the dancefloor; its second drop sending ravers into raptures. This link with Metalheadz carried on throughout his career, with the mighty 'Wastelands' and 'Riots' following as solo productions.
Is this the greatest b-side to a drum and bass record of all-time? It’s certainly up there. The duo’s Detroit influences ran deep on this one, with its futuristic, cinematic intro that switches into trademark rumbling bass and razor-tight beats. As Marcus later said about their production values: ‘We build a dancefloor element first, without being cheesy, and then put a musical element on top. The beats and bass – they’ve got to have impact.’
The Soul:r years
It’s easy, some 16 years later, to forget just how much of a game-changer Soul:r was when it launched. Marcus and Files had been planning on starting a label since the late ‘90s but bided their time until they had the sound (Calibre, Marky, Sonic & Silver and D Kay were among the early signings), the look and feel that they wanted. Not only did the music stand out as distinctly original and of exactingly high standards (the first release 'Play On Me' was an instant classic), it was visually different too, with the label’s artwork looking more like something Jazzanova would put out then the prevalent drum and bass sci-fi aesthetic.
Marcus later reflected on the launch: ‘I wanted it to encompass the word soul, it had elements of soul samples in there… And I didn’t want it to look like the usual drum and bass futuristic, spaceship, kind of techno name. I wanted it to be a bit more thoughtful, more mature sounding.’
The stories about Dominic Martin’s (aka Calibre’s) prolific studio output were the stuff of dancefloor legend around this time (2001–2002). 'He’s got 300 unreleased tracks' was a common one – and it was true. Having made a few trips over to Manchester from his native Belfast, Calibre’s alliance with Marcus and Files became one of the defining partnerships of the era. The dub-infused ‘Mist:i:cal Dub’ was one of their stand-out early collabs, and follow-up 'Memory Jog' confirmed that this was a trio who were producing audio alchemy.
The Soul:ution club night quickly followed the launch of the label. The very first event took place at Sofa Central (aka Joshua Brooks, now Versions) on Thursday March 7, 2002, with residents Calibre, Marcus, Files, MD and DRS alongside special guest Marky. It later moved to the iconic Band on the Wall for a ten-year stint before taking up its current residency at Soup Kitchen. It's also flown around the world with events in Berlin, LA, New York and its annual residency at Sun & Bass in Sardinia.
Jim Bane followed in Marcus's footsteps by working at Eastern Bloc and he partied at the event since the early days before Marcus asked him to become a resident in recent times. Below, he explains just how important the night has been.
'Soul:ution has been successful for so long purely down to the quality of the music being played and the quality of the DJs being booked. Right from the very beginning Soul:ution has been on the cutting edge, perfectly balancing the more forward-thinking, experimental side of D&B, whilst maintaining that raw dancefloor energy.
'I can wholeheartedly say that there is nothing else that compares to this night. The regulars who attend are the most loyal, friendly and devoted music fans. They embrace music they have never heard before and want to dance from when the doors open until the lights come on at 3am. They are also ready to catch DRS when he decides to get on an impromptu crowd surf. It is a family vibe, attitudes are left at the door, and lifelong bonds are made.
‘On Saturday May 27, 2017, Marcus played his last set at Soul:ution. The club was packed and rocking, all of the regular heads were there (front right as standard), and there were plenty of new young faces. LSB, Escher, Galvini and Sense MC were on the line-up, and they all delivered superb selections. As usual, Marcus stole the show and absolutely destroyed the place. Marcus's set was packed full of Soul:ution classics and brand new material. At the peak of his set he dropped “International”, a fresh release from Spirit. Rewinds were called for, and of course Marcus obliged!’
Set up to showcase a tougher, darker style than Soul:r (and even different tempos), Revolve:r was an instant hit: ‘Barracuda’ absolutely tore the roof off of early Soul:ution parties. It also gave Marcus the chance to sign a track from Spirit, a producer he’d long admired, and later gave a platform for the mad skills of Martyn from Eindhoven.
With a big nod to their musical roots, ‘Outerspace’ came about after Marcus heard DJ James Holroyd playing a Bobby Konders acid house record called ‘Nervous Acid’ at Sankeys. This provided the seed of an idea, which was watered with a touch of inspiration from Kevin Saunderson’s bass patterns, resulting in one of drum and bass’s greatest ever rhythms.
By 2004 Soul:r was already leading the way when it came to innovative drum and bass, and this double-header by Marcus paid homage to his Hacienda years – Zumbar and Temperance were nights at the club. Like on ‘Universe’, there’s a timeless emotional quality to ‘Temperance’ that transcends the genre.
One thing you’ll hear people say time and time again about Marcus is that he supported their work and introduced them to like-minded individuals. On his recent show, Benji B paid tribute to him by saying he intro’d him to the Fabric staff when he ‘was a kid’. Soul:ution was a regular fixture at the club, and Marcus went on to record a fabricLive mix that's widely regarded as one of the best in the series. The club has recently made it available over here.
Having already set drum and bass on a fresh trajectory in the past, Marcus switched it up once again in 2007 with this solo release, which channelled his techno and electronic influences into breathtaking new forms. Listening back, there’s an increasingly assured maturity to his studio work that confirmed his standing, alongside the output of dBridge and Instra:mental, as one of the key innovators in the drum and bass scene.
Marcus railed against the misconception that drum and bass wasn’t as credible as other forms of dance music since his early days in Manchester (it was something that pissed him off no end and a subject he'd regularly bemoan). In an interview around the time of the ‘11th Hour’ LP launch, Marcus, Calibre, Files and MC DRS became increasingly vocal about their dissatisfaction with the scene's state of affairs. DRS said the title track was intended as a 'wake-up call for the producers to get back on it.’ The lyrics left you in doubt: 'Most producers these days, I think you’re cowards, same old samples, same old bullshit, when did you care no more?’
The best pound-for-pound lyricist in the drum and bass game, Del had been holding down the mic all night at Soul:ution events since it started and had long accompanied Mr Intalex around the world. This mutual appreciation lead to two DRS albums being released on Soul:r. Tracks like 'Count To Ten' feat. Enei, 'The View' feat. Tyler Daley and LSB and the all-star Manc collab (including Strategy, Chimpo, Fox and Skittles) on 'Bun Ya Too' ushered in a new era for the Soul:r sound.
'Bun Ya Too'
On his relationship with Marcus, DRS has since paid this tribute: ‘I lost my brother and the first person who truly believed in me and my art uncompromisingly. The first person I ever MC’d for in a club, the only person to offer a helping hand when the whole Good Looking Records thing went bad for me. He introduced me to my brothers Calibre, Marky, Goldie, Scotty and most of the artists that I now call family. I have never compromised my art or passion for status or monetary gain. You taught me that lad!’
21 years in the game
Marking 21 years in the music industry, Marcus’s debut album ('21') was worth the wait. Featuring collabs with DRS, Lynx, Zed Bias and S.P.Y, it showcased his increasing range in the studio (check ‘TB or Not TB’) alongside his continued ability to construct drum and bass with heart and soul, exemplified by the heart-stirring sound of ‘Celestial Navigation’ with S.P.Y.
Providing a platform for talent
Among the many tributes paid to Marcus since the news broke, many people have said he was instrumental in their careers – whether as an inspiration to make music or by getting played in his DJ sets or being released through his label. The roll-call is like a who’s who of drum and bass: Sonic & Silver, Jenna G, Zero T, High Contrast, Marky, Martyn, Lynx, Alix Perez, Klute, Break, dBridge, Icicle, Phil Tangent, Skeptical, Lenzman, S.P.Y, Bungle, LSB, DRS, Dub Phizix, Strategy, Fox, Skittles and Chimpo. As Jim Bane sees it: 'Marcus has always represented new music and new talent that he believes in. Straight up. No nonsense. No bullshit. Real.' Zero T agrees: 'He changed the direction of the whole music and was a figurehead for many artists coming through at that time. When Marcus drew for your tune, you knew you were onto a winner! It's hard to accept I'll never have that unique pleasure again, but the legacy of the man and his music will inspire forever.' And LSB echoed these sentiments on his Facebook page: 'For Marcus it was never about protecting what he had, it was about sharing it with others, bringing others along with the journey with him and taking delight in watching them fly.'
Strategy summed it up beautifully on Instagram:
Words are supposed to be our craft but in times like this what do u say. Biggest compliment I could pay Marcus is that he was genuine. Genuine guy, genuine music, genuine intentions. Everything that people love about the north west was in him. I went into his studio yesterday as it seemed like the perfect place to take a moment to pay my respects and as sad as it was I felt so proud for him..the effect he has had on people worldwide is obvious and he did it all with zero compromising and kept it classy as fuck. If you ever made Marcus genuinely laugh it felt like it meant something. One of my proudest moments in music was seeing my name next to the Soul:r logo on vinyl it meant I'd fuckin done something with life. We are all his legacy. The outpouring of love for him from across the world is staggering but not surprising and he will be sorely missed. Thoughts and love go to his many many friends and close family. This is not the end of Soul:r or Soul:ution. How could it be? My favourite Marcus quote? Being interviewed in Manchester one night straight after the set the interviewer asked him 'what was it like playing back to back with Goldie?' Without any hesitation Marcus looked and him and said 'easy' ....fuckin love u mate God bless x
The Trevino years
For a man who had such an obsessive, deep-rooted passion for house and techno, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that he so effortlessly switched to producing at that tempo under his Trevino moniker. The name came from golfing legend, Lee Trevino, and the name of his label Birdie reinforced his love of the game. It wasn’t long before the big players in those scenes embraced his work with open arms – Ben Klock and Craig Richards released his work, and his old apprentice Martyn returned the favour by supporting his music on 3024.
In a case of serendipity that Factory Records would have been proud of, Marcus recently started making techno with Roberto from the Fossil Archive label, a producer and DJ who spent his formative years attending the early Soul:ution parties in Manchester. Below, Roberto takes us through a few of his favourite Trevino cuts.
‘A haunting track that was released on Ben Klock's label. I know Marcus worked his arse off to finish that EP. It was definitely worth all the effort.’
‘A really emotional track released on Fabric resident Craig Richard's The Nothing Special label. Somehow a fitting soundbite to the tragic loss of Marcus.’
'One of my favourite tracks from the Trevino album, which was released on his own Birdie label in 2016. You can really hear the Detroit techno influence here.'
Roberto - 'Dreams of a Solo' (Trevino remix)
'When Marcus agreed to remix my track “Dreams of a Solo” I was immensely excited about what he could come up with. He didn't disappoint. I will cherish this forever.'
Straight down the middle
Outside of music, Marcus's biggest passion was golf, and he always tried to fit a round in when he travelled around the globe DJing. Only recently he posted on his Instagram account that he’d made the first hole in one of his career – a proud day to remember.
Along with the outpouring of tributes that followed the news, DRS and LSB released a beautiful, poignant track on Bandcamp to help raise funds for his family and funeral. Donations are still very welcome. If you can contribute, please do so here.
Love from the drum and bass family
The response from the D&B community has been nothing short of incredible. Such was the love and respect for Marcus, tributes have been sent from all over the world. In the UK, all of the industry has come together to celebrate his legacy, including an all-star get together at Rinse FM. Hosted by Fabio, a whole heap of people turned out including Randall, Storm, Zero T, SP, Zinc, Spirit, GQ and DRS. You can listen back to the four-hour show here.
A word from Goldie
'His thing for me was the humbleness of his music. He was so humble. Marcus really didn’t give a fuck. He had no fear. There were tunes he wouldn’t like, he would just say, ‘I don’t like it, it’s a load of shite.
'We laughed a lot. I remember him leaving a club early because he had to travel to another event and Andy (C) said something like, ‘You going already? I’ve got tunes you know?’ And he replied, ‘Heard ‘em all,’ as he left.
‘There are people, like myself, who will make conceptual tunes for the rest of our lives. People like Calibre and Marcus. They make tune after tune after tune because they’re seasoned. They’ve got massive consistency with huge dynamic. To me, Marcus is as impactful on this music as J Dilla is to hip hop.’
'A Better Place'
Putting this tribute piece together was a labour of love, and it confirmed just how incredible Marcus’s legacy is. I could have included dozens more tunes, that’s how much of a genius he was. Not that he’d ever see himself in that light. For someone who dedicated his life to creating quality, forward-thinking drum and bass, and more recently did the same in the house and techno worlds, Marcus’s contribution to Manchester and drum and bass puts him up there with the Detroit techno pioneers he was inspired by. I’ll leave you with this one below, as that’s where he deserves to be right now. Marcus, we salute you.
Related Marcus Intalex links