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Monday, August 26, 2013

My Exclusive Q & A with Remixer, Producer Dj Julian Marsh

CD Compilations
Buddy Beaverhausen: Julian,  thanks so much for doing this interview with me. I've been a fan and admirer of your work since the '90s. In fact, I was first aware of you when you mixed Circuit Party Spins, a cd (still available on amazon.com) for, of all labels, Rhino. How did that come about?

Julian Marsh: I received a phone call, out-of-the-blue, from Brian Chin (a music columnist in the 90’s) asking me to review a list of songs that another DJ had submitted for a T-Dance compilation.  The songs were all heavy club oriented, and not at all suitable for a T-Dance compilation.  They agreed with my assessment and asked me to produce the project instead.

      BB: In 1997, I believe, you put out your first compilation cd on Centaur. In fact you launched that series. How many cds did you do for Centaur and why did you part ways with them?

JM: I received a phone call from the owner of Centaur who asked me if I would do compilations for him.  I did about 20.  The trouble came in the early 2000’s when they stopped paying me.  I was given no reason, and to this day they owe me money.  I’ve not been able to collect, even with a lawyer.  My understanding is that the same situation has happened to many other artists who worked for them.  I no longer have anything to do Centaur, and certainly don’t support them in any way. 

DJing
     BB: According to the bio on your website, "In 1994, Julian was asked to DJ a private party in a one bedroom apartment in New York City for a friend.  Julian had never Deejay’d  before, but because of his love for dance music, he agreed.  A New York City club promoter heard Julian, and asked him to become a resident DJ at the Limelight in New York." That's really amazing! Was it really as simple as that sounds?   What was it like to be on such a fast track to success?

JM: It was that simple.  Marc Berkely heard me at the party and hired me to DJ at the Limelight the next week.  After that I was approached to DJ hundreds of gigs.  I never did anything back in those days, club owners and party promoters somehow got my phone number or email address and asked me to spin for them.   I can honestly say I never sought out work.  It just came my way.

Of course, there was good and bad.  It was good because I loved the music at the time, and so did the people who came to hear me play.  I really was doing it for the love of music.  The bad part was the dark side of the DJ industry back then.  My success was so sudden that I was offered many DJ jobs that had traditionally gone to other DJs.  Those DJs, their managers and supporters trashed me.  It really hurt.  To this day, I still don’t understand how these people could be so nasty.  Another thing was that I did not take drugs.  I was a rarity in the industry.  Because of this, I was mostly an outcast with most of the local New York DJs, especially on Fire Island, where I used to love spending my summers when I lived in New York. 
  
     BB: In 2005, you retired from the DJ circuit scene. Why did you retire back then, and what has (thankfully) brought you back?  

JM: In 2005 dance music, in my opinion, had gotten so bad that I lost all faith in the industry.  Dance music had become nothing more than the same tribal beat in every track, a bit of a bass line thrown in, virtually no vocals, no melody.  In other words, there were no more dance songs being played, just very repetitive tracks.   Of course, few people were buying these tracks; after all, fewer even knew the names of the tracks!   Music had bottomed out!   Since virtually nobody was hiring a T-Dance style DJ back then, I didn’t see any point to going on and decided to just DJ locally.

Since 2005, I’ve DJd locally from time-to-time, and also done a few benefits and themed parties (not always dance music).    I’ve also DJ’d for Source Events (travel company) for 10 years, and that was great because we sailed all over the world.

Over the years, I got really tired of travelling.  At the peak of my DJ career, I held down a full time day job, had a DJ residency every Thursday night in NYC, went record shopping, produced music, attempted to have a personal life, and travelled 50 weekends each year.  I’m 55 now and there is no way I would want to do that again. 

To compensate for DJing live, I started doing a Podcast.  I’ve produced 121 episodes to date.  Unfortunately, even though I have more than 10,000 listeners, the cost of producing the Podcasts  is far outweighing the donations I receive, so at this point, episode 121 will most likely be my last.  Of course, enough donations made via my website (www.julianmarsh.com) could change that!

     Music Production  
     BB: Still love your remix of Dolly Parton's "Peace Train." In fact, it's my favorite mix of that song. I still play it at Christmas. Could you tell us more about that project and how it came together?

JM: After my first remix (Lonnie Gordon’s “If You Really Love Me”) , the owner of the now defunct record company, Flip It Records,  told me he had a Dolly project, and asked me if I would do a mix.  I really didn’t know how to do a remix back then and needed to work with another producer.  The guy I worked with almost got me fired from the project.  He handed in a mix I didn’t do and told me he wasn’t going to help me.  He kind of walked in, pushed me out of the way and did his thing while I was at my day job.  The record company was furious with him.  Back in those days we had to work in very expensive studios that the record company paid for.  In the end we did do a second mix (the one you like), but my music partner really didn’t offer too much help.  I tried to explain what I wanted, he reluctantly programmed it, and the rest is history.  Just a little trivia, as the song begins, there are a couple of chords that are played.  They are there because my elbow hit the keyboard by accident as we were about ready to do our mixdown.  I liked it so much,we kept it in the song.
 
     BB: You have remixed a number of great dance and pop artists, starting with Lonnie Gordon ("If You Really Need Me"), and including Boy George, Whitney Houston, Gloria Gaynor, Leann Rimes, Charo and more, too numerous to mention. You've also remixed Connie Francis ("Where the Boys Are") and Darlene Love ("Christmas, Baby Please Come Home")! What drew you to these two Sixties icons and their respective songs?

JM: Nothing drew me to any of these artists, the record companies and promoters approached me .. lol.  I’ve been very lucky in that respect.    Of course, I was always pleased to work on songs by established artists, but I’m just as happy to work with new artists.  It’s rare that we remixers have any contact with the singers, but once an a while we do.  I was in the recording studio with KC and the Village People a few months back for a vocal recording session.  That was a treat!

     BB: I understand that your retirement in 2005 from DJing left you with much more time to concentrate on your music production.  Your recent work is better than ever, it seems, lately you have been remixing new music by KC and the Sunshine Band, Village People, Carol Hahn, Lady Bunny and many more. Tell us about your music production career and you are doing now?  

JM: Thank you.  You are very kind.  I’ve been producing music since 1996 and have seen technology grow by leaps and bounds.  I guess we just improve with time, and the technology helps.  It’s funny, because I was producing Electro and Trance music back in the 90’s and got criticized all the time for not producing tribal and hard house.  Go listen to pop radio today.  They are playing exactly what I produced back in the 90’s, but calling it Electro and adding a few new modern sounds.  There really isn’t any difference.

I was lucky enough to meet Barbara Sobel a few years back, and we have developed a wonderful friendship.  Most of the remix projects I work on come from Barbara, and so did the idea of doing a Podcast.  She and I have had very similar experiences in the music industry so we understand each other.  The dance industry is now global and on a day a project is released, it gets distributed over the entire world.  It’s amazing!  Unfortunately, these days, there is virtually no money in the industry thanks to ITunes and music subscription sites.  The artists earn very little and the producers and remixers get even less.  Now, we produce music because we love music, and most of us have to have another job to support our efforts.  Of course if there are any paying artists out there that need production work, Barbara and I wouldn’t say no … lol.

Personal
     BB: In the '90s, you were one of the first advocates, I recall, of uplifting, upbeat mixing as opposed to what you called "pots and pans." In 2013, it seems your sensibility is prevailing. Did you coin the phrase, "Pots and pans" regarding club music? Do you feel vindicated by the trend in music these days?

JM: I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but in NYC in the 90’s we refered to dark underground music as pots and pans and were always happy to get to Fire Island to escape the growing number of clubs playing it in the city.  To our horror, some of those DJs started spinning at the Pavilion, and of course, it was downhill from there. 

Current music has done a 180 degree turn around.  Dance music is back with a vengeance, and luckily much of it is happy again.  Just turn on the radio.  10 years ago it was grunge and now it’s dance again. 

     BB: I've met you in passing during your NYC days, at Louis Morheim's Heartbeat record shop, even on the E train, enough so that we acknowledged one another and said hello. (I was too shy to ever introduce myself and tell you what a fan I was.)  What motivated you to leave Manhattan and move to Fort Lauderdale?

JM: (blush blush) … and Louis .. what a good man he was.  It’s too bad we lost him to AIDS, as we have lost so many before and after him! … A full time day job, travelling 50 weekends a year, a bad break up, a belief I could live off of the proceeds of music, the desire to escape the concrete of Manhattan, mid life crisis … I just wanted a simpler life in the sunshine so I headed to Ft. Lauderdale where I’ve now lived for almost 12 years…
 
     BB: On a personal note, last month, I read an article about you in Huffington Post. [link to be posted] I thought it was wonderful!  Are you still walking on air over this?

JM: It’s funny to be brought back into the limelight again.  My husband and I were the first same sex couple to have our green card petition accepted by the federal government.  It could have been anyone, but our form was processed first.  It really has changed our lives and we are becoming quite the activist couple!

     BB: Julian, thank you so much for your time and we will be keeping abreast of all your new remixes!  Any last words to share with your fans?

JM: It’s been an honor having so many wonderful fans over the years enjoy the music I have played and produced.  I will continue to produce music because it is truly in my soul and I love to share it as an artist.
 
     BB: Also, my blog gets an international club-savvy audience. Anything you'd like to say to my readers in Russia and its territories?  

JM: Just know that we are all out here rooting for you.  We are sharing our thoughts with those around the world and making sure that everyone knows about your plight.  Shared information in the digital age is power, and sharing your stories on sites like Facebook will make a difference.

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