Marcus Intalex is the most lovably grumpy character in drum & bass. It’s rare to encounter this Manchester native not engaged in an impassioned rant about something, whether it’s recounting the story of his records spilling all over the luggage conveyor belt at London’s Stansted Airport or grousing about the high prices of toll roads in the UK. “I hate people who can’t drive, people who butt into other people’s business, service stations, and airports that charge shitloads,” he says when I ask for a short list of his pet peeves. “I hate the way everything is turning into a police state; there’s cameras everywhere all the time. I hate the lies that the government and the press tell.” But what about small dogs? “Small dogs are okay.”
For someone so pessimistic (not to mention a fervent fan of New Order and Joy Division), you’d expect Intalex (born Marcus Kaye) to produce dark, angry bangers–or, at the very least, sad, minor chord-laden jams. No dice. His name is synonymous with uplifting, house-influenced drum & bass that pairs soaring vocals, emotive strings, and positive vibes with a rock-solid foundation of tough breaks and clever bass. This isn’t your cocktail-lounge-variety “jazzy” D&B; try out anthems like “Play On Me” and “3AM”–both created with frequent collaborators ST Files and Calibre under the MIST:ical alias–on a huge stack of speakers and find out. Or pick up a copy of the trio’s long-awaited debut, The Eleventh Hour (Soul:R), which features vocals from house divas Diane Charlemagne and Robert Owens, as well as a rather scathing critique of the current D&B scene rapped by MC DRS on the title track.
“Take me back 10 years and I looked up to a lot of people in this scene and the music they were making,” says 35-year-old Kaye, who started producing jungle with Mark XTC in the mid-’90s under the name Da Intalex. “These days, there is hardly anybody that is still breaking boundaries and twisting my head and getting me excited.” A few years back he decided to look outside of drum & bass’ endless feedback loop for inspiration, and cites dub records, Steve Spacek, Carl Craig, and Âme as influences, along with Radiohead. “I admire their ability to be different all the time,” he says. “They keep things deep with so much beauty and emotion, and their use of effects to create sonic sculptures, and their drum patterns are amazing–you don’t hear the same pattern over two tunes.”
Perhaps Kaye’s biggest inspiration of all is the city of Manchester, which he calls his “spiritual home.” (He grew up 25 miles north, in the small town of Burnley.) “It’s a wicked size–big enough to get lost in but small enough to know a lot of people in your industry,” he says. “And it’s a very cynical place. The Manchester crowd is hard to please, but if you’re good you will know about it.”
Though his romance with the pulsating center of the grim North started at the age of 12, it had crystallized by the age of 15, when attending a New Order gig at the famed Haçienda club changed his life, musically speaking. “Being there was such an awesome buzz; it was like stepping into the future. After the band finished this DJ came on, and started playing Mantronix and odd rap music. I thought all DJs came on the mic, like at discos; here, there wasn’t a word all night and you couldn’t even see the DJ. Anyone would have been blown away by that, coming from a small town like I did… That turned me into wanting to be a DJ instantly.”
Taking the logical next step, Kaye found a job in a record shop, which led to meeting longtime collaborator Lee Davenport (ST Files). “We used to fucking hate each other,” recalls Kaye, chuckling. “I was into hard Belgian and Detroit techno and the angrier acid house, and he just wanted to buy happy Italian piano-house cheesy bullshit.” Eventually the pair mellowed out and found a middle ground in producing breakbeat hardcore and proto-jungle, an era Kaye remembers fondly. “I was unaware of potentials then,” he says. “I was just a kid who worked in a record shop and loved music. I lived my life for drum & bass and it was all very stress-free and not complicated. When you start to get success it makes you aware of what you can do and what you can’t do.”
Not that Kaye has been limited by what he can’t do–though the musical cohesion of his tracks may suggest otherwise, he’s never had a music lesson in his life. “I don’t know the difference between a major and a minor chord for a fucking start,” he says. “It’s all trial and error. And most of the time it’s fucking error. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just trying to excite myself.”
"I Love Manchester & Wish It Was Still the '80s" Mixtape
"My idea of a perfect gig these days is to go to a pub with a stack of records and sit there," confides Marcus Intalex despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he is constantly touring the world DJing his soulful brand of drum & bass. In fact, he's so into the pub idea that he almost called the MIST:ical debut Last Orders. Here are 10 Manchester records you can enjoy with a pint.
New Order "Temptation"
Listening to New Order has the same effect on me today as when I first discovered them. Their music between '82 and '85 was particularly outstanding. I always loved "Temptation" for its mix of synths and guitars, and the fact that the 12-inch version was over eight minutes long!
Joy Division "Shadow Play"
When I go into Joy Division mode it takes me weeks to come out on the other side. Whenever I see live footage, it always strikes me how disturbing Ian's dancing becomes on "Shadow Play." It's really powerful.
808 State "Pacific State"
I remember hearing "Pacific State" for the first time and inexplicably becoming overwhelmed, even shedding tears. It's more emotional than watching a rerun of Lassie. Oh, the ecstasy.
This bluesy and delightfully catchy tune is my favorite of theirs. I have actually been working with the lead vocalist, who's got an amazingly individual-sounding voice.
The Stone Roses "I Wanna Be Adored"
This is one of the greatest opening tracks to one of the greatest debut albums of all time. The ending ain't too shabby either. Goddamn, where did I put my flared jeans?
The Railway Children "Brighter"
The Railway Children had a much more commercial sound than most other Factory bands, mainly because the lead vocalist could actually sing. Super-nice guitar pop.
Happy Mondays "Hallelujah"
Not one of their best, but for me this summed up the whole Madchester thing. I remember seeing Bez and Shaun onstage at the Haçienda, way before this single was released, conducting the crowd with their outrageous trance dancing, which soon swept across the dancefloors of the nation.
A Certain Ratio "Do The Du"
This is very New York-style funk with the familiar "I can't sing too well" Manchester drone–classic. One of the band members was actually a tutor of mine at a music business college a few years back.
Durutti Column "Mello Part Two"
I'm not sure when this was released, as I only picked it up a few months back. Guitar genius Vini Reilly goes all synth on this dreamy piece of ambience.
The Smiths "The Queen Is Dead"
My God, what a band! The way Morrissey and Marr made music together was nothing short of genius. The ending was unfortunate, and not too amicable either, but at least there are hours of great footage, which is enough to keep me miserable for the next few years.