If you are from Toronto, and have been into "raving" or Jungle or Drum & Bass at any point over the last 23 years than you are no doubt at the very least aware of the name Marcus Visionary.
Widely regarded as the "General" by his close friends for his long standing status as the ever present authority presiding over not just the Jungle, Drum & Bass scene but also many of the various "Bass Music" off shoots that have sprung from Jungle's sphere of influence over the years.
Marcus's respect level from other artist's and DJ's across all of electronic music in this city is unprecedented, many often citing that although they may be known for House or Techno for example, their own personal histories and musical upbringing almost always involve stories of listening to Marcus spin at any of the innumerable raves he has appeared at or catching him on his radio show.
Yet through it all Marcus has always maintained a humble, approachable manner to himself, which in a city notorious for overlooking It's own home spun talents does not always allow for ones accomplishments on a larger scale outside our locale to be fully recognized, or even properly appreciated. Take any number of the Toronto born producers and DJ's, across the electronic spectrum, currently residing or touring primarily abroad as an example of this. Arguing the causes or cures for this ongoing dilemma is not what we are here for today however because the first step in exposing the impact that any artist is making across music on a global scale is to first simply talk about it, and second to be proud of it.
On April 7 Marcus Visionary will (quietly by EDM/talent agency/PR standards) be releasing his fourth full length artist album, this time of all original Ragga Jungle on UK Dancehall and Dub impresario Curtis Lynch's highly respected Necessary Bass label. No samples, all original legal artist collabs and remixes featuring a who's who of classic and modern dancehall and roots artist's featuring: Busy Signal & Million Styles, Cutty Ranks, Dready, Gregory Isaacs, Macka B, Mr. Williamz, NY & Sizzla, Tippa Irie and Papa Levy.
We caught up with Marcus in between never ending studio sessions working on new material to touch base with him about the project.
First off much respect on the album, four albums deep for any artist is a major achievement. The fact that this project is being released via Necessary Mayhem makes it all the more special. The imprint is a behemoth in British Dancehall and Reggae, sort of like the contemporary version of Greensleaves. How did the hook up with Curtis Lynch and his brand come about?
Thanks. Although I feel like I haven't achieved anything close to where I want to be production wise. There's always so much to learn! I'm excited about this LP as I have so much respect for Curtis Lynch and what he has achieved with Necessary Mayhem.
I met Curtis through Benny Page (Digital Soundboy, High Culture) When I was on tour in the U.K. Benny had already completed two remixes for Curtis so I was aware of Necessary Mayhem from that work. Knowing how much I love remixing reggae and dancehall Benny put in a call for me and made the introduction. I familiarized myself with the Necessary Mayhem website and realized how massive the catalogue actually is. Since then Curtis and I have linked up on my last two tours to the U.K and he's made me feel like family.
What's most impressive about this release is the artists that you are working with. There is no sampling at all on this album, all the vocals are 100 percent legal artist collaborations all voiced specifically for the project. Tell us about the features.
That's definitely the highlight for me. In 94 when Greensleeves was releasing legal Jungle material I knew that I wanted to go in that direction. It's much more gratifying knowing that the artists are being paid for their work as well as getting the right exposure. That was the highlight with my first full length LP 'Humble'(Liondub International). Liondub and I had made the conscious decision to work, feature and pay the artists for their material. This might sound like common sense to most people but Jungle like hip hop has always been known for cheeky sampling. I was spoiled on this LP. Definitely an honor to have an opportunity to remix; Mr. Williamz, Cutty Ranks, Macka B, Ny & Sizla, Busy Signal, Million Stylz, Gregory Isaacs, Shola Ama, Tippa Irie, Dready and Papa Levy.
You have worked with a veritable "who's who" of Dancehall, Roots and Reggae artist's thus far in your career. Who have been some of the highlights for you and who would you love to work with that you haven't had the opportunity to work with yet?
Some of my favorites so far: Johnny Osbourne, Mr. Williamz, Sugar Minott, Jah Cure, Bunny General, Jah Dan, Freddie McGregor, Ranking Joe, Chino McGregor, Mighty Diamonds, Mykol Rose, Luciano, Tippa Irie, Top Cat, David Boomah, Tenor Fly, Gregory Isaacs.. I could go on all day! As for people that I would love to remix or work with: Sanchez, Beres Hammond, Stylo G, Flow Dan, Bitty Mclean & on the soul side one of my living idols Bobby Womack.
For people in Toronto anyway your career as a DJ has been widely documented and recognized, but as a producer now your discography spans well over ten years and is in excess of over 100 releases deep. Any specific tracks or labels that you have released on that stand out in your mind as highlights or turning points in either your growth as an artist or in how they impacted your overall career?
When I think of highlights I would definitely have to say 'Gimme your Love' on DSB. Also 'Ruling Sound' which was the flip to Shy FX & T Powers 'Feelings'. After that 'Number 9 Dub' on Marcus Intalex's Revolvr , and I'm really proud to have had a single on Doc Scotts 31 imprint. Those singles marked the real start of my production career.
After that I would say the 'Humble' LP and also my 'Carib' double album which stayed at #1 on Juno for 6 weeks. "Humble" really let people know that I was taking the reggae/ragga jungle sound seriously and "Carib" let people know that I was capable of producing something other than Jungle. I honestly feel that my best work is still to come. Health prevail
You still essentially live in the studio, constantly making music. After all these years what keeps you motivated?
Love for music keeps me in the studio. Making music is also my therapy. I don't have kids yet so making music is the legacy that I'm going to leave behind. I'm still on a journey to create music that I can be proud of.
You are best known as a producer for your Ragga Jungle output, and obviously this album project only furthers that body of work, But just as you are known as a DJ to play all styles of Drum & Bass and other tempos of Bass music your production also follows this eclectic mix. Tracks like "Cold Sound- Blue Note mix" and "Dubwizer" off of your latest Inner City Dance EP, or your remix of Gremlinz & Friske's "Your Luv" are perfect examples of your varied production within Jungle. Your Carib LP on Lion Dub was widely regarded as a landmark body of work with in the 140 bpm realm a few years ago also. Tell us about your influences and motivations for making different styles.
I've grown up experiencing the birth of hip hop and before that my Dad was heavily into Funk & Soul. My family is West Indian so Soca, Reggae & Dancehall is like food. Growing up in the 80's I simply progressed with all of the current trends. From Funk/Electro/Hip hop to House to Techno to Hardcore & Jungle. A lot of people seem to think that you can only dedicate yourself to one form of music. I wouldn't be able to function without exploring multiple genres of music. It's the Soul, Funk, Dub, Techno and House that influence all of the music that I make.
Word on the street is that you also operate under a variety of aliases both in Drum & Bass and at other tempos. Care to elaborate on some of your more shadowy guise's?
I do have quite a few alias that help me create other genres without judgment from my fan base/peers. That's about as much as you're going to get!
LOL, Ok we understand, top secret! What's next on the table for you over the months to come release wise, DJ wise, Label wise ect?
Release wise I have 4 singles forthcoming on Liondub International; Ranking Joe, Jah Cure, Daddy Freddy & a Humble Remix E.P. I have a DnB single on Inner City Dance: Cosmic Force & Feel this Way. I've completed a remix project with Canada's reggae ambassador; Dubmatix feat. Mykol Rose, Tenor Fly, Mighty Diamonds & Tippa Irie forthcoming on Inner City. I also have a remix for MC Fox on Irish Moss. Some remixes for Benny Pages 'High Culture' imprint as well as a Mr. Williamz remix for the Chopstick family. As for DJing in addition to regular Toronto shows I'll be going on a US tour in May and I will be spending all of August and September doing dates in Europe and the UK.
Look forward! Any last words? Shouts? Rants? ect, The soap box is open.
Watch out for 'Bump' 004 coming on Friday April 18th inside Tota if your into U.K Garage, Deep House, Afro Beat. I'm also planning a 22 year anniversary since I threw my first Jungle event 'Lost in the Jungle'(92). It will be called 'Return to the Jungle' featuring some of my favorite Toronto Dj's and MC's.. Big thanks to everyone that continues to support me from the scene!
Marcus Visionary's "Computer LP" arrives today, April 7th via Necessary Bass.