Marco Carola is the recognized global ambassador of Italian techno. It's a position he treats with the utmost care and respect—and one that stands him among the hallowed company of contemporary techno's leading practitioners. Hailing from Napoli in the south of the country, Marco was among a small group of DJs and promoters who quite literally built the city's scene from scratch back in the early-'90s. In 1995's First Planet EP he became the first Neopolitan artist to commit techno to vinyl, paving the way for an entire generation of producers. These days Marco is a mainstay of Richie Hawtin's Minus and Plus 8 labels, who, much like Marco himself, are one of the driving forces behind techno's permeation of the worldwide dance scene.
Napoli, 1993, and the enduring flame of the Italo house sound had begun to smolder. The young DJ Marco Carola had at this point been spinning house music for a number of years— but as commercial club music began to assert a stranglehold over Italy, and the hopelessly insular media of the country's north continues to shun the south, a change is afoot. Fuelled by a groundswell of local DJs, clubbers and promoters; visits from DJs like Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills; and Napoli's long held propensity for underground music, the city's techno scene enters into its embryonic stage. Marco along with friends Davide Squillace, Gaetano Parisio, Danilo Vigorito, Rino Cerrone and Random Noize are at the vanguard of this early movement, and with no one outside of the city to take cues from, the Neopolitan scene becomes a force unto itself.
If they're doing their job properly every DJ will have a calling card, and as Marco puts it, he was "born" with a three-deck style of mixing. This fast and furious approach also lent itself to use of a sampler, which would later provide the grounding for Marco's work as a producer. By 1995 he had amassed a considerable body of music, but with no indigenous labels to put-out his creations, Marco was forced to take matters into his own hands. Design Music was set up with a humble aim: for people to experience the music of Marco Carola. But as sales on its initial release, First Planet, entered into the tens of thousands and Sven Vath became an ardent early supporter, it was clear Design, and by extension Carola, were set for far bigger things.
Aiding this ascent was Marco's concise approach to the release of music. The remainder of the '90s saw him establish the Zenit, Question and One Thousand labels—all with a clear musical aim, and, in the case of the latter, a defined number of releases. In 1998 he relocated to Frankfurt in order to further his advancement in the burgeoning techno scene. This new home base unlocked myriad opportunities for him to export his now famous three-deck style to clubs across the globe, although by 2001 he was already seeking a fresh challenge and thusly moved on to the electronic music stronghold of London. In retrospect the year proved to be pivotal. Marco released his second album, Open System (following on from 1998's The 1000 Collection), to widespread critical acclaim. Key German publication Groove deemed its multifarious, texturally rich approach to broken beats, techno and electronica worthy of their album of the year accolade.
Renewal: for a 20-year veteran such as Marco, shedding your creative skin and following your instincts are fundamental means of remaining relevant. By 2004 he had reached a plateau of sorts, and was torn. The harder techno sound he'd been pushing for so many years had elevated him to the scene's top tier, but inside he harboured a burning desire for musical upheaval; a lust for refinement, to slow things down and get back to the groove. Now residing back in Napoli, Marco began a process of reinvention, starting with a focus on bookings at smaller clubs with more underground sensibilities that better suited his new, more considered style and offered the opportunity to hone it over the course of longer, extended sessions. Domestic Minimal Noise was set-up as a bridge between the Marco Carola of old and new, evidenced by the label's pacey yet undoubtedly funk-fuelled output.
The encapsulation of this transformation came a couple of years later, however, as Marco reneged on his stance of not recording mix CDs (he always felt his three-deck, club-ready style was inappropriate for the form) and agreed to contribute to London club fabric's seminal mix series. Fabric 31 was a lesson in sleek, future-facing minimalism. The disc introduced Marco to an entirely new audience and clearly illustrated an artist revelling in a fresh creative perspective.
2007's Apena would also prove to be hugely significant. The release heralded his first collaboration with Richie Hawtin's Plus 8/Minus stable. This family environment has since established a platform from which Marco has been encouraged to express himself with unbridled creative freedom. The most widely recognized example of this was 2008's undeniable earworm "Bloody Cash" which garnered Plus 8 with one of that year's biggest techno tracks. Both Minus and Plus 8 have continued to host his 12-inch productions at regular intervals (Plus One, Plus Two and Walking Dog to name a few), and in 2M Marco has been granted his own sub-label (strictly limited to 2000 copies per release) to curate as he sees fit.
Ibiza has become more and more of a key destination for Marco through the years, and in 2010 this was solidified by his residency at Cocoon's Monday night Amnesia sessions. Party ringleader Sven Vath showed further faith in Marco by asking him to mix Cocoon's Party Animals CD alongside Nick Curly, building on the foundations laid down by Marco's double-disc Time Warp 2009 mix, which married the deeper house end of his range with his now trademark groove-ridden techno.
When it came to following up Open System Marco knew it must be with something exceptional. "I've been working like crazy on Play It Loud," he says on the travail behind his latest full-length. "I've never been working like this, not even when I was a kid and I wanted to be known!" The resulting album is the perfect amalgamation of Marco's DJ and production sensibilities. Play It Loud's 18 tracks are presented in mix form and explore what proved for Marco to be a highly fertile middle-ground between home listening and the dancefloor—a reduced tempo and complete creative license from Minus allowed Marco to burrow deeper into his sound than ever before. "I always try to do something new," he says. "When I produce, or when I DJ, I don't really think about where I want to go musically, I just start to feel."