Mar 1, 2023
6 min read
Justin Marchacos is one of the most exciting upcoming house and techno artists out of New York City. With roots originating in film, the triple threat composer, producer, and performer's unorthodox journey into dance music led him from composing music for award-winning independent films to becoming a resident of the premiere dance music events outfit, Cityfox and dropping dark, driving and beautifully cinematic releases on Desert Hearts Black and Sven Väth's Cocoon.
For many years Justin composed ambient soundtracks for award-winning documentaries and films. Not your average 9-5, he explained that it wasn't even something he studied in a formal setting. Despite taking piano lessons as a kid, which he hated, and writing intricate string and orchestral arrangements for film, he doesn't remember how to read music. All of his success is due to an incredible ear. In middle school, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist learned to play the guitar, drums, and bass.
Despite a flourishing career in the film industry, electronic music had always captured his interest. At first, it was under the guise of hip-hop, which shares a historical link to dance music and many of the same production techniques. He produced, aside his principal work, as a hobby. He says that the hip-hop scene was thick in his hometown of Denver, Colorado, and as a dancer and graffiti artist, he was embedded.
It wasn't until one night when he saw one of his heroes, DJ Premier, that his life would change forever. For those unfamiliar, DJ Premier is one of the most influential producers in hip hop. He was a part of the foundational Gang Starr duo with Guru, and his repertoire includes hits for Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G, Nas, and many more.
After the show, Justin went on stage to talk to Premiere. At the time, Marchacos was considering moving to New York to become a hip-hop producer.
'"Hey man, I'm a really big fan. Can I ask you a question? If you could give me one piece of advice, what would it be?" Justin remembers asking the hip-hop icon.
Premier responded, "You make music you think that I would like. You make music that you think I would actually like and play. And you don't settle for anything less."
It forced Justin to reconsider his direction. "So I had to be honest with myself, would DJ Premier like this? No, he wouldn't like this. I keep what he said in the back of my head, so whoever my favorite producers/DJs were at the time, I kept in mind what he said."
It took over a decade following that night for Justin to finally get his music to a level where record labels would consider releasing it. First, he had an EP signed to Cityfox. Then they asked him to perform a live set on New Year's Eve of 2014.
Justin Marchacos, MIDAS104, and DJ Premiere
He had never performed anywhere, not even a house party. Justin prepped his set for months. Then, the day before the show, as Justin ate lunch in his neighborhood, he saw DJ Premier sitting across from him at the restaurant. Unable to deny the work of fate, Justin walked over to speak to him.
He told Premiere the story, explaining how impactful that night had been. "If it wasn't for that advice you gave me," he said, "I wouldn't be where I am today." They exchanged phone numbers, became great friends, and now their studios are a few blocks apart.
The CityFox New Year's live performance proved to Justin that performing was where his heart lay. He played for over 2000 people and absolutely loved it. He realized that moving forward, performing was where he would direct his energy.
"It's great seeing films with your music in, but it's much more fun performing to a live audience," Justin told Gray Area.
Asking any successful individual who their influences are, provides some interesting, sometimes surprising, answers. So when I asked Justin about this, he hesitated.
"I always have a tough time answering this question. I listen to all kinds of stuff. So I honestly don't have an answer to who is my biggest influence."
I rephrased, and instead asked what his biggest driving force to create is.
"Performing for sure. A lot of people were making a lot of productions during the pandemic, but I lost all my motivation during that time because I couldn't imagine performing. If I can't imagine the space of performing then I have a hard time creating. I love communicating with people through my music. I'm not a DJ at all, every bit of music I play and perform is all my own, every single drum sound, every single thing. While there are a lot of live sets like mine that are really freestyled with a lot of machines. I actually prepare pretty much the entire thing from start to finish and practice it and create a real story from start to finish. I've got it planned out. I enjoy watching everyone get involved in my story and me going on the same journey too," he explains emphatically.
"I'm making music that's my favorite music. I want to make music that I enjoy more than anything else, otherwise what am I doing? When I play I'm drenched in sweat. I move like crazy. I never play the same way twice. I always create and prepare a brand new thing every time. I love going on a journey and communicating with people without saying a word. I sometimes have a hard time talking to people for an hour after I play, because for so long I was communicating in this other language."
Justin's performance style is certainly unique, and this seems to originate not only from his innate creativity but simultaneously his career in composition.
"It's impossible to separate them. It took me longer to pull some of that cinematic stuff out of my music. I had a period of time where there was too much of this cinematic, moody stuff with big breakdowns and epic sections where it was just too much. I had to figure out how to strip it back and under-compose. But 100% both are a part of me forever."
After such an impressive and eclectic career thus far, Justin is excited to look toward the future.
"I wanna keep pushing the envelope of boldness. Big and bold memorable tracks that stand the test of time, that aren't too trendy. There's a lot of trends in music that everyone gets drawn to but I think you've gotta be careful of that."
So watch out for this New York powerhouse gracing a stage near you. It is only just the beginning for Justin Marchacos.