When it comes to Marc Romboy and electronic music, he has pretty much been there and done that. Over the course of the last two plus decades, the German born DJ, producer and label boss has become synonymous with a soulful, vocal infused house and techno sound that has taken him all over the world. As well as releasing on only the most influential labels, from Ovum to Gruuv, Planet e to 20:20 Vision, he is also the sole mastermind behind the influential Systematic Recordings label and has been since 2004. That label is home to established artists like Blake Baxter and Booka Shade, Robert Babicz and Stephan Bodzin, but it is Marc’s own output that most defines it. Nowadays an album specialist, 2013 saw him release the captivating “Taiyo” (an album made in collaboration with Japan’s Ken Ishii that married Marc’s hardware techniques with Ken’s love of digital synths to stunning effect) whilst a year later came Shades, a personal compilation of new tracks, career highlights and standout remixes.
Can you take a few minutes to tell us about your biggest musical influences, and how you first new you wanted to be involved with electronic music?
My biggest influence is without doubt Kraftwerk, who are also from Dusseldorf by the way. But it was not only them. A popular local club called Sunrise was a place where I was educated in a way. The jocks played everything off beat which was not listed in the sales charts, from Italo Disco to Breakdance, from Chicago House to Electronic Body Music. Everything was pretty much open minded, something I’m missing a bit nowadays.
You launched your first record label in 1993 named Le Petit Prince alongside Klaus Derichs. What made you want to begin your own labels?
It was no more than a practical reason really. To have the possibility to bring out your own music and the tunes of friends we appreciated. There were not that many labels around in 1992 so we thought, hey, lets do this. We didn’t have any money, just visions and somehow we made it work, incredible.
Most people today will know you because of your work with your label Systematic Recordings, and your podcast Systematic Sessions. What made you decide to begin a new label, and what was the reason behind your podcast series?
The decision to establish the label was an easy one as it was the first label of my own, without the contribution of a partner. I love to collaborate but when it comes to A&R I find it more efficient to come to the decisions on your own. Running a record label is a heart thing and compromises aren’t a great influence. That’s why in the end I said, I have to create my own ‘baby’.
With all the advancements in technology, it seems that the modest DJ set is being overshadowed by more of a live performance. You have been DJing for many years, what are your thoughts?
I think it still depends on the performer whether a show is touching and amazing or not. But its true, djing and live performing have grown together. Nevertheless, at the end it’s the vibe and music that count. So I’m saying let’s use the modern technology, it’s lots of fun and when it comes to possibilities, sky’s the limit!
If anyone takes a quick glance through your social media pages, it becomes clear very quickly that you have a certain fondness for vintage hardware. Synthesis is a Pandora’s box, would you say that it is a labor of love for you?
Yes, absolutely, these machines are my true passion and I love to collect them, especially drum computers. They are, well, how can I say, witnesses of the old times. I just played a bit with a drum machine named Oberheim DMX. Many electro and break dance musicians have used the box a lot. The most popular song made with it is without a doubt a song you guys might know well, “Blue Monday” by New Order. So when I switched that beat on for the very first time I was like, woaaaaw!!! I could comprehend how the fellows must have felt when they composed this classic.
On the subject of vintage studio gear, you have donated your beloved Roland 303 to be auctioned for charity. I really enjoyed watching the heartwarming story unfold as you got all of your DJ comrades to sign the already sought after bit of kit as you traveled across the globe. How did the concept come about?
Thanks for your kind words, but to me it wasn’t a big thing. I had the inner feeling to do something good for people who are not always on the sunny side of life. It was a pleasure to do this and I hope that we all could help the children a little bit.
One question many of us would like to know is how you find the time to run a record label, podcast series, produce music, and tour as a DJ? Do you have clones of yourself?
Ha, ha, good questions. Sometimes I think so. To be frank I really don’t know. I can only explain this with the support of my wife Tascha and the matter of fact that I don’t have that many further hobbies. As I display on my Facebook page, electronic music is my life. There’s not much to add to be honest.
When you find time to hit the studio are you a person that has a strong idea at the beginning or do you just go with the flow?
This is a good question. Of course I do have my sound signature where I feel comfortable. But at the end of the day I try to go with the flow. This is maybe a reason why my output has such a wide range.
Can you talk us through some of your favourite studio gadgets, and why you always turn to them?
I love to work with a mix of both spheres, digital and analogue. I’m a fan of directing sessions with old gear and record these sessions. Afterwards I have a careful listen and include parts of those recording in my tracks. With this, let’s call it a ‘strategy’, I always keep the momentum of spontaneity in the sessions.