As Marshall Jones, DJ, producer and founding partner of Sound Cartel (with Nogui Arambo (DJ Nugz)) and I sat down for lunch, he gave me the impression of someone who is deeply passionate about his art, as well as immensely talented. Humble and pensive, Marshall Jones has got to be one of the premier talents for EDM in this area, if not the whole South-East. Marshall is passionate and serious about what he does, and it shows. As we talked, his enthusiasm for House music and the musical and social communities he is a part of couldn’t help but shine through.
I asked Marshall what House music meant to him. To Marshall, House music isn’t about “who has the nastiest mix down or the fattest tracks, although these things do matter, but about developing a nurturing,strong sense of community by lifting a crowd and identifying with the daily grind of life, as well as the simple, pure joy of being alive.” House music is about connecting with the crowd rhythm. Says Marshall, “A good DJ tunes in to the energy of “the people, dancers and music and through that connection and engagement 'conducts' a musically euphoric experience unlike anything else out there in that time and place....” House is just as much about feeding off the audience as it is about feeding the audience. At that Marshall smiled and took a bite of his sandwich.
Now House music, for those of you who have not yet experienced it first hand, is normally mixed and constructed for the audience on the fly by DJ's on table. The DJ's take an awareness of the music, the technology and blend it to match the emotional state of the crowd at hand. This separates it from Techno and its offshoot, colloquially referred to as “Dub-step”, in two chief ways. First, any suburbanite kid can go and buy software that can greatly simplify the production of Techno or Dub-step music. They don’t even have to take the time to understand and appreciate why this technology is great. It's just smash two tracks together, hit the sync button, and then hit play. Boom, DJ-from-a-box. House DJs tend to have mad skill on a mixing table, which is part of the reason they can reach their audience. The table is their instrument, part of their toolset used in connecting to the crowd. Secondly, unlike most Dub-step “artists”, a classic house music DJ, reads a crowd and adjusts his set in order to keep the crowd on a certain mood or vibe. House differs from Techno and Dub-step because it requires an organic element that you can’t have loaded on your laptop out of the box, and when the youth begin to realize that the software doesn’t make them great, House will truly begin to be appreciated for the art it is.
Marshall’s interest in House music was piqued back in the mid-’90’s when he was exposed to the then growing rave scene. This exposure, as well as other pop-culture influences of the time (MTV Amped, local club scene, etc...) eventually lead Marshall to the Triangle area club known as Gotham. It was at Gotham that Marshall Jones would meet DJ Nugz, whom he would later form Sound Cartel with, and Hot Wax Harley, who would serve as somewhat of a launching pad and influence for Marshall. After becoming a regular at Gotham, Marshall approached Hot Wax Harley, who owned Gotham at the time, asking if he could be a promo guy, which was pretty common for Rave kids back in the day. To clarify, a promo guy is someone who plasters the streets with flyers about upcoming shows in hopes of raising the turnout for the event. So, Hot Wax gives Marshall a box of 3,000 flyers. A few days later, Marshall brings the box back to Hot Wax Harley, empty.
Marshall’s time as a show promoter sparked in him the desire to DJ, and so, in 2003 Marshall moved to Orlando, Florida, and began to hone his skills on the table. After leaving Orlando, Marshall spent some time in Chicago, the birth place of House music, where he proceeded to further enhance his chops on the table. It was here that Marshall was influenced by people like Ian Lee, DJ Slipstream, Hot Wax Harley, and Roy Davis Jr. to name a few.
At this point I couldn’t hold back the one question which had been on my mind since the start of the interview, which was “How did you get so popular in Serbia?” Marshall leaned back and cracked a big grin, “Ohh, Serbia” he said. Back in mid 2010 Marshall met DJ Buttke (of Serbian Fame) through a connection at DanceGruv (a house/ EDM podcast). Having birthdays near each other, they joked about having a birthday party. Well the joke ended up
culminating in Marshall flying out to Serbia in November of 2010 to DJ at Compressor (a Serbian club). The night of the show the club was packed to the rafters. When I asked Marshall about the response his answer took me completely off guard. “ I felt more accepted and appreciated in Serbia than I do here at that time” he said, “And I couldn’t help but think to myself that to Serbians, the release they feel from House has to be immense, because they live difficult and different lives than those of us state-side live.”
At this point I shut my little notebook and asked him a few questions I hadn’t written down. My first question was where the key places for good house were in this area. His answer was “Babylon and Mosaic Wine Bar are a good start.” Both places are located in Raleigh and are lacking in a lot of the juvenile energy found at other clubs. It’s this absence of juvenile energy that allows these DJs to push the limits and to branch out into new sounds and rhythms unique to them. Without these places House in the Triangle would be drastically different.
As I was standing up to leave, I asked Marshall what his advice was to up and coming DJs and to kids just fostering an interest in House music. “Stay true to who you are and do your homework” was all he said. It was all he needed to say. Marshall's smile and his music say the rest.
Still want more House music? Sound Cartel (Marshall Jones and DJ Nugz) will be playing a benefit show on Saturday, June 8th at Babylon in Raleigh to raise money for the Oklahoma disaster victims. You wanna get lifted and pay it forward? Be at Babylon Saturday night.
While I was having a drink one night with a friend of mine who moved in from Austin, Texas, four years ago, I handed him an invitation for one my shows on First Friday. “First Friday? I didn’t know there was one in Raleigh," he said. Strangely enough, many people are in that same situation, and have no idea what’s going on in town. What’s the plan tonight? Is one of the recurring questions among the outgoing crowd. Who’s show are we going to see? What time does it start? Where are we going? These are just some of the many questions asked by the enlightened crowd when it comes to First Friday. Dilemma, dilemma, dilemma. It shouldn’t be that hard to go out, have fun and support your art community by your presence.
It's the first Friday of the month and ART is king that night (it always is). Some might've heard of it referred to as the Art Walk. Either way, planning an artistic escape for you and your friends is a must. Every first Friday of the month, the art community in Raleigh opens its doors to new artwork. Dozens of venues and galleries welcome the local human fauna for an evening where the creative minds meet the inquisitive ones. It's all over town, and you can't miss it. Let's assume for a second that you just grabbed a bite at your local Irish pub around Moore Square and you have no clue where to go. Here is your destination of choice: Blake Street Shops and Studios, situated in City Market, a beautiful cobblestone city block, in downtown Raleigh.
City Market is a little island of creativity in the middle of an urban sea. Blake Street Shops and Studios offers an array of work from several artists, permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as artisan shops. This month, Blake Street Studios will be featuring, Ryan Cummings, Hoop & Stick (Brandon Spence), Saba Barnard, and the Teens from the NCMA. And if your thirst for creative knowledge is still unquenchable after such a display of talent, visit the no-less talented tenants of our art community, Scentsuosity, Patina Collaborative, Gaille Collection, City Market Photography Studio, Victoria Powers, African Beauty, Lisa Stewart, and Fathom, the home of AU COURANT.
Blake Street Studios is located right behind Art Space and across from Vic's Restaurant and Amplified Art. Literally, a one minute walk from Moore Square. So folks, you have no reason whatsoever not to discover your city and enjoy the family friendly events going on. You can either sit and watch tv all night until your brain mutates into a poorly seasoned ragout, or you can get out of the house and enjoy what your city has to offer. Savor some good wine and meet some interesting people (Did I mention that the artists are usually present?)
Wherever you decide to go and visit, come with an open minded spirit and take it all in. You will discover a lot of amazing work by some undeniably talented artists. I guarantee you a visually striking evening sprinkled with delicious wine and some amazingly interesting discussions.