May 26, 2023
Ana Monroy Yglesias
10 min read
At 34, Italian DJ/producer Marco Faraone has both the youthful energy of his "little raver" days falling in love with electronic music at Tuscany's Tenax—where he cut his teeth with his first residency at 23—and the expansive catalog and perspective of a seasoned vet.
He wants the kids to know that super high BPM dance music they're calling hard techno is actually hardcore or gabber. While he's experimented with many styles of electronic music himself, often falling somewhere between techno and house, he is passionate about setting the record straight about the current confusion around techno, particularly because of social media.
"When people started going faster, I stuck to techno with a good vibe and groove. Groove needs to be there. Techno isn't only bass and kick," he asserts.
Yet experimentation and exploring a wide range of sounds within and across house and techno is core to Faraone's diverse sound. "I feel like it's creative to challenge yourself to make something different… I want to surprise myself first," Faraone says. Maintaining the element of surprise has allowed him to showcase his unbounded vision of techno and house on disparate labels, including Drumcode, Rekids, Desolat, Defected, Ovum, Filth on Acid, and his own UNCAGE imprint.
Not that he's done exploring and pushing his creative boundaries by any means, but he feels he's tapped into almost all the sounds he's wanted and is proud of his catalog. He even impressed legendary New York DJ Danny Tenaglia—a personal hero he's been listening to since the beginning—with the breadth of his sound.
"During the pandemic, [Danny] was like 'Marco, send me some music. I'm rebuilding my sets for when we start to play again, so I'm collecting as much music as possible from all my friends and the artists I like.' I sent him a folder with 300 released and unreleased tracks, everything of mine. He responded, 'Marco, I'm surprised by the big range of music and different styles you have produced. I went through all these tracks and they are all different from each other. Your musical spectrum is so large; it's really surprising to see an artist doing all these kinds of music.' This is just what I love to do," the "Hey DJ" producer reflects proudly.
He's most proud of his more experimental productions, including his 2020 album No Filter on Rekids, which he sees as his best music, the ambient-leaning album HOPE with reporter Ian Urbina, his most challenging project to work on, and the Our Freedom four-tracker on Drumcode, which he spent almost a year on, perfecting its intricate sound design.
Faraone relocated from Italy to Barcelona in 2018 and immediately felt at home. "Spain in this moment is on fire! It's amazing. They have so many great festivals, so many amazing events. It's a pleasure to play in Spain. The productions, the vibe, the people, the energy is unique," he exclaims when asked about the electronic scene in Barcelona. It's important to him to live in a city that exposes his joy and reflects his positivity and friendliness. He's found that there and feels it's reflected in his music.
"[Barcelona] is a city where you can grow artistically," he asserts. His favorite club in Barcelona is Input, where he'll be doing an UNCAGE showcase on June 13, during the upcoming Sónar Festival, with Alan Fitzpatrick, Avision, and a surprise special guest. He also loves Pacha Barcelona and the Brunch in the Park party series. And during the summers, he lives just across the Mediterranean Sea in Ibiza.
Ibiza has changed a lot since he first visited 15 years ago. The rising costs have priced out many potential visitors, making it difficult for big clubs to consistently draw the massive crowds they need to survive. "Big clubs are suffering. We miss the ravers!" he says. Some have adjusted by catering to VIP clientele, but not Amnesia, his favorite on the island.
"Amnesia is the one that's stayed true to its roots. I've loved it since I was a little raver. The terrace is the same as it's always been. Every place in Amnesia reminds me of a moment, that's why it's special to me. They keep it real," he says with a smile.
In his view, the change on the island isn't necessarily for better or worse. It has positives and negatives, and everyone must make the best of it. Yet because of the shifting audience base and the need to get people in the door, he feels, "You can't play a super crazy underground set in Ibiza." But at Amnesia, you can still catch that old-school Ibiza rave energy.
You catch him regularly at Pyramid, Amnesia's stacked Sunday series, and guest slots at other artists' Amnesia residencies, including Jamie Jones' Paradise.
Soon, he'll return stateside for shows in Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York—at Brooklyn's Knockdown Center for a Gray Area-hosted open-air with Will Clarke on June 9, which he's excited for. "I try to do different sets depending on the party and city, it's always different. I try to put myself there."
UNCAGE is the perfect platform to showcase his expansive sound. He's building a sonic universe alongside a select group of artists. For him, making music still feels like a hobby, and he spends six to eight hours a day in the studio. He also listens to every demo sent to him, totaling about 300-400 tracks weekly. He's proud of how many new artists they've signed "from scratch," giving them a space to showcase their vision of dance music.
"We've discovered some great talent," he says proudly, adding: "I appreciate when people keep sending us music after we sign them…the way to build a career is to believe in your project." He finds it disappointing when artists forget their roots and the people that helped them get to where they are when they make it big, instead always reaching for bigger and better. It's gratifying to do multiple releases with the same artist and be a part of their continued growth.
Speaking of roots, Faraone's are very much at Tenax in Florence, the club where he fell in love with dance music as a teen, realized he wanted to be a DJ, and had his first residency. "Tenex is a club where I really discovered the beauty of electronic music," he says with admiration. "[It's been around] 40 years and is one of the most legendary clubs in Italy. And I can say about Tenax almost the same things I said about Amnesia; they've always maintained their roots, their name, the credibility, the quality."
One of his first releases was on Tenax Records in 2008, which was one of the most prominent Italian house labels at the time. This was a huge dream come true then and still provides him with a sense of awe. He had a second release on Tenax in 2017, the Horizon EP, which featured a remix of "Double Faces" by Chicago house queen Honey Dijon.
"It was like going to school. For me, every time I was going to Tenex, musically I was learning something. I was coming back home with something; with a moment, with a track with some inspiration," he reflects. "I was coming back home sitting in my studio in the garage at my parent's house and I was literally spending my entire day making music with the inspiration I was taking from my old time ravey days at Tenax."
And Tenax is still home to him, the club he most looks forward to playing every year. He started as a warm-up DJ there back in 2012, and it formed the foundation for his dancefloor education. Now he gets to play six-hour sets there.
"I can't wait to be back. Every year I play in this club and every time it's like Christmas, it's like my birthday. I can't express the feeling. It's a place where I go and all my friends are coming to party all together. It's a party for a huge big family."
The first records that got him excited about dance music include Jaydee's 1993 classic house anthem "Plastic Dreams," which was the first electronic track he bought on vinyl, secondhand, from a little record shop in his hometown of Lucca. Another one of the early dance records he bought and loved was a popular Italian dance—the national rave sound big at the time—track, "Emergency 911" from Prezioso featuring Marvin. He recently sampled this record on a track that should be coming out soon, bringing his early Italian influences to 2023. Laurent Garnier's 2000 horn-led house gem "The Man with the Red Face" and Paul Woolford's 2006 earworm featuring Bobby Peru, "Erotic Discourse"—which got him up to techno and opened his perspective of electronic music—are also among the tracks that had a profound and lasting impact on him.
"15 years ago, I was so happy when I bought this vinyl ['Erotic Discourse'] and was playing it. [Now] I'm playing with this guy. Man, life is crazy. Music is magic!" he gushes of his recent B2B with Woolford at Amnesia's 2023 season opener.
While he's already checked off many items on his DJ bucket list, there are still a few others he has his eyes on, including playing Detroit's legendary Movement Festival and doing a B2B with his hero Laurent Garnier.
"Laurent Garnier is my favorite DJ. He is an artist that has been supporting me a lot for a long time, reacting to every promo we send from the label and all my tracks. Laurent Garnier is the fucking man! He replies to every email I send him; he's a real gentleman. Besides the respect I have for him as an artist and as a DJ, I really respect him as a person. So, it would be a huge honor for me to share the decks with him one day," Faraone says with a big smile.
Above all, he really just wants to "forever be able to make good music" and keep being happy with what he's doing and staying true to what he loves to do.
"There is no festival, no gig, no back-to-back, no track, nothing that can be more important than [being] happy with what you're doing. If you're not happy what you're doing, it's better you stop and you leave space for people that are happier than you because this is what people read in your eyes. They read in your eyes if you are lying, or if you enjoy what you're doing, if you're communicating your message with the music, or if you are just doing something for money or hype. It's always important to stay true to yourself and to maintain this is the most challenging part," Faraone implores.