“I did it once before and that was really good, so I am excited to go back.” At first Dutch superstar DJ Marco V (the V stands for his surname Verkuylen as opposed to something weird or wonderful) seems to be pretty straight talking. With our phone call having been delayed by my lengthy heart-to-heart with his fellow Godskitchen headliner John Askew, it is hard to tell whether Verkuylen is purposely answering questions in curt sentences as punishment for making him wait. However, it is not long before his brief answers start taking greater shape and Verkuylen opens up.
Though his earlier response makes it clear that his upcoming set at Godskitchen is an event he is very much looking forward to, the Dutchman (who has rather impressively appeared in DJ Magazine’s Top 50 list for some seven years consecutively) sees a festival being less about his presence but rather the enjoyment of the punters. When asked what in his eyes makes for a good festival he answers at first, “the crowd of course,” before developing his response into a rounded explanation: “The crowd is the most important part of a good party and a good festival. So, if they are up for it then and they like the music, then that is the best thing you can have for a festival.”
As someone who has travelled the global festival circuit for well over a decade, Verkuylen must surely have a tip or two to share as to have to win over a crowd successfully. However, the suggestion is met with an abrupt, “Secret tricks? No. I just try to read the crowd.” His retort is far from rude, but rather one of sheer surprise at the suggestion. While many DJs suggest that they know how to get a crowd going, it soon becomes clear that in Verkuylen’s eyes, the crowd are not quite so easy to control. Though a certain amount of pre-set preparation is essential, it is clear that in his eyes, the best preparation is the ensuring the ability to deviate from any set planning. “If it does not go in the direction I want it to, then I try some different elements in the music. Sometimes I go a bit more trancey, more techy, more whatever style then I see where I get the most reaction from. Then I just try to jump on that genre a little bit more and put a bit more in my set. Most [of] the time that works.”
Though Verkuylen openly admits that his appearances are dictated by the crowd response, he also willingly admits that he likes to plan his set to ensure they include tracks that he also finds distinctly enjoyable. “Obviously I have my favourite tracks from my playlist that I like the most, but sometimes the music has to go in a different direction. It also depends what the DJ is playing before you, you can’t do the same thing one after the other. You have to go in a bit harder. If he plays really slow or a different style that you thought he would play, you have to go in with a different flavour. Most times it works and I can see where the crowd would like to go and pick it up from there.”
And while the music is the main attraction for him, he also realises that for many in the audience, his output is not necessarily the mainstay of their focus. At a festival, people want to have fun and be able to move, regardless of who’s playing the set and what exactly the set entails. Yet, when it comes to choosing places to play and the tracks that make his set, he has a tick list. “It is a bit stupid because a lot of people don’t care, but for me it is the sound quality that is really important – the impact from the bass drum and the bass line. That is really important in my tunes. Aside from that it is obviously the arrangement, it has to deliver what it promises. If you have a big build up then it has to deliver, it has to come in and make you say, ‘Wow’. I like melodies, I like to have original melodies, something that is catchy or gives you shivers. If you have that in a track, then it is something that I will really like.”
While he may have a mental checklist for tracks that make the grade, his attitude towards the tracks is somewhat surprising. When asked to name a couple of current tunes that are making him move, he laughs as he admits, “The thing is that I am not so good with titles. If I had my playlist just in front of me, then I could tell you the tracks that I really enjoy, but if I had to sum up now then I just could not.” Though it may seem somewhat odd that Verkuylen spends his days spinning tracks that he can’t fully identify, it soon become apparent that his seeming ignorance to song titling stems rather from the way he perceives music. “The music is just a tool for me to get the crowds going and it doesn’t really matter to me if it is Tool A or Tool B, they are all tunes that I have picked out that I really like and really enjoy. They have to do the trick for me.”
“The whole sound is so global at the moment. It’s got more to do with what set the DJ is playing, the time of the day or the time of the night. If a DJ is playing a set at five or six in the morning then it is very different to the middle of the daytime at a festival. What I am playing and what is working depends upon that more than in which country I am.” Having more than covered his own personal approach to a set, Verkuylen suddenly offers up a change of direction. Having witnessed more than a few changes in the global music scene during his rise to the top, it becomes apparent that perhaps an exciting element of diversity has been removed from his profession. “Before you had in some countries a progressive sound that worked and in others more trancey and techno. Nowadays it is just so the same everywhere. It is also because the whole of electronic music is becoming bigger and bigger that it’s more the same everywhere.”
“It’s also to do with the internet, as before everybody was depending upon the record shop and what the record shop was getting in and selling. On the internet everybody has access to all the music that is out there, so people are picking what they like. They don’t have to go to distributors anymore or anything. You can pick all the tunes you like. It is another reason why music has become much more global and the same music works everywhere.” While Verkuylen clearly feels that his role as a DJ is no longer heavily focused on providing a different sound as he travels the world, or even being at the forefront of introducing new tracks, there is a clear sadness within his speech as he celebrates the global sound. Having no doubt benefited from the rise of the electronic music scene, it soon becomes clear that the success is a double-edged sword for all those involved. “The biggest change, because I have DJ’d for a long time already, is obviously the vinyl and the CDs going to download and people have access to all the music there is. The artist, not only in the electronic music industry but the whole music industry are relying more on the festivals and the gigs. They are more important than the music sales as you don’t sell much music anymore, so it is just all about the gigs. That is a big change.”
“Some people complain that everyone is playing the same tunes. But that is just people seeming to like to hear the same music, so that is what the DJs are playing.” With a clear disillusionment at the direction the electronic scene seems to be headed, Verkuylen has found his own way to ensure that he remains at the top of his game. “But for me personally I am playing a lot of my own music. At least 40% in my own set are my own productions so I can still get my own twist on it.”
Regardless of any annoyances or issues with the scene, Verkuylen remains optimistic about the future and still loves his role as he closes with an affirmation, “I’m still really happy to be in probably the best job in the world.”
BY JEREMY WILLIAMS
Marco V [NED] plays Godskitchen alongside Richard Durand [NED], John Askew [UK] and more on Saturday October 8 at Melbourne Park.