Techno is a style that today has become so widespread that the word itself, or its very meaning, has been completely distorted in many of its aspects. However, there was a time when there were artists and record projects that preserved the essence of this style without succumbing to passing fashions, artists and record labels that are still active today, after three decades.
Marco Lenzi’s musical activity dates back to the early 90’s until 2005, the same trajectory that his label Molecular Recordings followed, however, both Marco’s artistic career and Molecular’s recording activity returned with force in 2021, so taking advantage of this juncture we have talked to Marco to tell us about it all. We thank him for his kindness and the time he gave us this past Wednesday.
You are Italian but you have lived in London since the late 80s, how and why did you move to this city?
I moved to London in 1988 and I still live in this city, I have my family here and since I closed my record shop in 2005 I work as an IT specialist in a bank. At no time did I plan to live in London, I didn’t plan to, in fact I only came to spend a few days. I spent the summer of ’88 in Ibiza, during those three months I met a lot of people involved in the electronic music scene, from artists to promoters, and all of them were English. That same year, in November, I came to London with a friend to spend a week at his mother’s house, and after that week I decided to stay another week, another month, and then I decided to take up residence in the English capital. The reason I decided to stay was because I met all these people I met in Ibiza, I started to get in touch with them and also to work with them. Then in 1993 I opened Silverfish, a vinyl record shop dedicated to electronic music, and later I opened another one called Eukatech.
My connection to electronic music was quite early. I was already collecting records as a child, but it was my father who awakened my interest in this kind of music. He was an electronic engineer, an aviator in the army, worked as a missile specialist and then worked with the Italian state aerospace agency, a company that worked in collaboration with NASA. My father’s team worked to send the first satellites into orbit. He had a very open mind, and among his musical tastes was concrete music, he had many records of experimental electronic music that I now own.
Did you start out as a DJ before becoming a producer and founding Molecular?
The first steps I took in electronic music were as a producer. I started by first teaching myself to control the machines so I could create my own tracks and then I founded Molecular Recordings. My artistic work was based solely on my work as a producer and record manager. I never thought about becoming a DJ, it wasn’t a priority for me, but after releasing several records I started to be called to play, and living with mixing consoles and turntables it was logical that I ended up learning to be a DJ. Nowadays it’s the activity I enjoy the most, it’s the best drug, I like it and I’m not demanding at all, I can play for a large audience or for just a few people, I enjoy the experience just the same.
Did you play in London or did you play in other cities as well?
Although London has a very established club scene, funnily enough 90% of the clubs that booked me were based outside the UK. I always thought that was the best thing for me, I was interested in being booked in clubs outside London so that I could make myself better known. Here in London there are DJs who have a lot of name, who are very well known, but they have never gone out to play in another city, let alone out of the UK. This past Friday I played for the first time in a long time, since before covid, and I did it together with Maxx Rossi representing Molecular Recordings at The London Electronic Arts Festival.
Your artistic beginnings are linked to musical projects such as Intermolecular Forces and Format HD, both with the D’Arcangelo brothers. If you lived in London, how did this alliance with them come about?
Marco D’Arcangelo lived in London for a while, we met at Silverfish, he used to come to the shop and in fact it was him who taught me how to work with synthesizers and drum machines, he was my mentor and we spent some time working together on different projects, but at the beginning our style was techno and then he met Aphex Twin and his label Rephlex and started to get interested in experimental electronica and started to work together with his brother Fabrizio. This was Marco’s real passion, he was always a very quiet and humble person, without big pretensions in the music scene, he liked to make his music without thinking in a grandiloquent way.
How did the idea of creating Molecular Recordings come about?
The idea of founding Molecular Recordings was mine because I had already been producing for a while and I wanted to be able to release my music on vinyl, this was the initial goal, however, later on I wanted the label to be better known and I started to release records by other artists. DJ Bone made his debut as a producer on Molecular Recordings, Electronic Birth was his first album, released in 1996.
Molecular was born in 1994 and two years later the label had a frenetic activity, I think in 1996 you released more than 10 eps, was this the best time for Molecular?
It wasn’t that it was a good time for the label, but rather that before, in the mid-90s, releasing a lot of records was easy because then, in a genre like techno that was aimed at the dancefloor, vinyl was the medium that worked best, so everything we released sold. Now it’s different for various reasons, the music industry doesn’t work as it used to, either because of demand, competition, raw materials, prices or the long waiting periods for a record to be pressed for you. However, in this new phase the label has only released in digital format, but I plan to release on vinyl again next year with Molecular Recordings, there is a distribution company based in Berlin that is interested in pressing our records. This platform takes care of everything, so I think it’s a good opportunity because among other things, I don’t have enough time to be able to take care of this task.
How do you see the vinyl industry today?
They say that vinyl is the format that has increased its sales the most, however, although it is a medium that is becoming more and more interesting for music lovers, what is really working is the repress of great albums, of stars and artists who are well established. Techno nowadays is difficult to sell on vinyl, and in addition, there are long waits, at least 6 months to receive the copies, and prices have also increased a lot.
Molecular Recordings is a techno-oriented label, was it born with this purpose from the beginning?
Molecular Recordings has always been techno oriented, we have released some more experimental releases, but everything we put out should always be aimed at the club, the dancefloor.
In 1998 Molecular released XX1 by Inigo Kennedy. This was the first in a series of releases. What exactly was XX?
The original idea of XX consisted of a limited series of 500 vinyls, that its sound would be somewhat more experimental and also that the releases would be anonymous and the tracks would be untitled, it was not to be known which artist was behind each record, however, later, when these EPs were released digitally, it became known who signed each vinyl. XX1 was the work of Inigo Kennedy, officially his first release because he had previously only released one record as the winner of a competition that had as a prize the release of this record. XX2 and XX3 are my own work, XX4 I did together with Inigo Kennedy and XX5 was done again by Inigo. I also met Inigo in the shop, at Eukatech.
Curiously, and with regard to the first XX records, we have started selling them digitally again and they are selling very well, they are being played again in many clubs after more than 20 years.
What is Under Cover Music Group UCMG UK and what did it have to do with Molecular?
When we closed Silverfish there was a disagreement with one of the partners and we didn’t reach an agreement to continue working together, so afterwards, this German company, Under Cover Music Group, proposed us to open a branch in the UK, UCMG UK, and also to open the Eukatech shop. We then entered into a partnership with this company that already had branches in Germany, France, USA, in addition to Eukatech and Eukahouse.
Molecular is active again after a few years, why are you back after such a long time?
Because I missed it, I felt the need to be at the helm of the label again, and also to get back to producing. My daughters are grown up and independent now and I can dedicate some time to music production and record work. It’s in my blood.
What can you tell us about the 3 volumes of Taboo?
Taboo is a track that was very well received in its day, this track was very popular and many people asked me if I could digitise it, because so far this track was only available on vinyl. Also, some friends suggested me to release a remix of Taboo, so finally I thought it was a good idea and decided to update the track to this era with 12 different versions released in 3 volumes. Taboo is nearing its 20th anniversary.
I’ve had this project in mind for a long time, some of the remixes are already 3 or 4 years old.
Among the latest Molecular releases are XX8 by Ma Haiping and XX9 by Mal_Hombre, both continuing the XX saga, do these records follow the same philosophy of this series of EPs?
These records follow the same line as the series of releases, XX is characterized by being different from what we usually publish in Molecular Recordings, you can’t say that they are exactly more experimental but they do have a different and more sophisticated sound.
What do you plan to release on vinyl?
We are planning to release some Molecular reference on vinyl, the first one will be a mini-album with the 6 most popular tracks from the label and from different artists. The second vinyl will be similar, 6 tracks by different authors but in this case they will be unreleased tracks.
You have lived techno so intensely, do you think it has changed too much?
Techno as a musical genre hasn’t changed that much, what has really changed is the use of the word techno, as nowadays there is a fashion to call everything techno. To talk about techno we don’t necessarily have to think about the techno of figures like Jeff Mills, there are other emerging artists who are releasing very good techno, but not all the techno coined on platforms like Beatport is techno, there are even records that are closer to trance than techno. There’s a lot of shit out there that they call techno, it seems like everyone is doing techno just because it’s a trend, not a philosophy.