Marcus Worgull: Serious Business
Marcus Worgull is serious business when it comes to the deeper end of house music. A mainstay of the much-vaunted Innervisions crew, his DJ skills take him all over the world, from Innervisions showcases at Berlin’s Berghain to The Nest in London, where we met him as he rocked his way through a killer three-way session with Sub Club’s Harri & Domenic Cappello last Good Friday. But as he’s poised to headline the ONE DAY Summer Solstice festival that takes place to commemorate the longest day of the year, we caught up with him again – this time over Skype and not in the early hours of the morning…
To start at the beginning of your career, your Gerd Janson-penned DJ biog (which mocks many DJs claims to have been DJing since they were children) mentions that you snuck out as a teenager to see the likes of Norman Jay spinning, have you ever spoken to him about that?
No, you know I’ve never met him…
Wow, really, never?
No, I’ve never met him personally. I saw him last at the Notting Hill Carnival, which I’ve been to two or three times and I was at the reggae soundsystems, mainly Aba-Shanti-I, where I saw that Norman Jay was spinning next to them. But I didn’t have much time and I really love the bass of Aba-Shanti-I so I was kind of stuck…
Well, let’s talk about Aba-Shanti-I and dub because you have a history of loving that kind of black music. How has that been an influence on you?
Oh, it had been and still is a huge influence on me because it’s the music that I was into when I started buying music in my early teens. It’s still the music that I listen to at home, which I do a lot, old records that I have heard thousands of times, but still I don’t get sick of them. It feels like they’re the most comfortable thing to me. I don’t know sometimes how I ended up with this house music thing as a profession [smiles], but for me, the patterns, the rhythm, there are some things that match with reggae and dub music – the simple grooves, that change from bar to bar – it’s like a walk, that kind of sound.
Were those early records bought from Groove Attack [now a vinyl distributor which Marcus owns]?
Yes, because Groove Attack had been in my hometown, Wuppertal, then they moved to Cologne and I think they re-opened in 1989. This was one of first record stores nearby, so a lot of people came from Cologne to our town to buy that kind of music that was not available anywhere. And then a club that was called Beat Box…
That was where you saw Norman, right?
Yeah, that was the one. Gilles Peterson too – you know, I think the first foreign gig for Giles Peterson was at the Beat Box… and the first foreign gig for Gangstarr – you know, Guru?
I saw him there, I saw the Fugees there with 20 other people on a Thursday!
That’s incredible! Seeing Guru live must have been really something…
Also, when Gangstarr’s ‘Step In The Arena’ came out I saw them there with about a hundred people. And it wasn’t like this big thing, it was just a case of being interested in this music, so this is where you go to hear it. They didn’t play house there, or electronic music – that came much later for me. When the first techno parties and raves first came up in my hometown or the surrounding area, I was impressed by the energy that was there, but it wasn’t something that made me think ‘Wow, I have to go again!’
It was way too much for me, way too fast and too loud. But then I discovered house music in a special place in a town called Essen; they played all the Chicago stuff, the Strictly Rhythm stuff, the deeper stuff, DJ Pierre and the Wild Pitch [sound], which I liked a lot more than the techno of that era. There was nothing for me in that; it was like heavy metal or something [smiles]…
That makes a lot of sense looking at the kind of music that you make now. So what parties were you going to when you first discovered house music?
Well, the first one was quite a famous one called Roter Liebe, which means ‘Red Love’; they had two different rooms, one room was just house music the way I liked it. They also had a record store in Essen called Important Records and this is where I went once a week to check out all the important stuff – because, as you might remember, there was a time before the internet when the only way you could find out about music was to go to a record store, so you just went there and tried to make connections with a record dealer… but of course there was a totally different sort of atmosphere in the record store then because they knew that they were the ‘kings’ [smiles] and you had to socialise with them a bit to get the good records, to prove that you were really into it.
So I was going there once a week – and it would take me one and half hours going and the same coming back – but it was the best store for me.
So what kind of era was that?
That was when I was 21, 22, I became a father when I was 20 and around that time it became a regular thing to go there once a week and really quick that I had regular DJ gigs. That also happened more or less by accident. We rented an apartment when my son’s mother was pregnant but then we had to move out, but at the next one that we rented was the owner of a club in my hometown, who was doing techno parties and he saw some records there – and at this point I had maybe 20 house records or something like that, as I mainly liked soul funk, disco, reggae. So we talked about music and he told me he wanted to do a funk night so maybe I could play, which I did and at the end, in the last half an hour, I played all the house records that I had and they really liked it, then three weeks later they changed the night and they gave me a job and I played there for every night, every Thursday in a small room, for maybe 100 people. And if you do that every week you have the same people dancing, you really learn something and since then it’s always been part of my week, my gigs.
So is your week spent at Groove Attack, with gigs at the weekend?
No, no, it’s actually become less and less in the last year or so. At the moment I’m just here on Thursdays doing all the paperwork and because most of the new records arrive then; my partner does most of the buying. I’m just the stupid guy who says ‘Don’t buy as many records! [laughs]’
So you’re busy touring a lot of the time now – haven’t you just got back from doing a few gigs in Mexico?
Yeah… that was an experience! Some of the gigs were amazing, some of them were not so good and the organisation has been very ‘South American’, kind of thing…
Ah, you mean like ‘Mañana, mañana’?
Yeah, that kind of thing, but it could have been worse – I was happy when I came back that I had a good time all in all.
Didn’t you also do some gigs in Poland as well for the first time recently?
Yeah, that was the first time for me too. My grandparents are from Poland and my father was born there, so it was really nice to see it. I didn’t see as much as I could have but I just saw Breslau, which was really special; I liked it a lot.