In the mid-‘90s, drum & bass was the most futuristic, kick-ass, innovative UK-derived music around. After a gestation period in the underground, breakbeat science exploded into the mainstream, although that led to assorted TV ads and theme tunes and suchlike co-opting a d&b element to them. But because the scene itself was controlled by the DJs — Bryan Gee, Fab & Groove, Goldie, Hype etc — it was able to be steered back underground, so that by the end of the 20th century d&b was largely associated with the dark tech-step sound of No U-Turn et al.
Your hack was lucky enough to be present at DJ Marky’s first-ever UK gig in the late ‘90s (at Mass in Brixton), and after the Brazilian’s hyper-energetic, skillz-laden set I wrote: “Other junglists are going to have to up their game”. Not only was Marky bringing an infectious energy to the scene, but an overwhelming degree of positivity that was a welcome contrast to some of the moodiness — and blokey-ness — that would sometimes pervade.
This was further underlined by the 'Brazil EP' that Marky and Brazilian cohort Patife signed to Bryan Gee’s V Recordings just after the Millennium. Standout track ‘Sambassim’ was a breezy delight, but the track that followed it — ‘LK’ — was the one that totally changed the game.
Marky and Patife started playing in the UK a lot after the ‘Brazil EP’, and their energy seemed to rub off on other DJ/producers as people like Shy FX & T-Power, J-Majik and D-Kay & Epsilon would soon be making sunshine d&b tracks themselves. Marky was also working with XRS, another Brazilian producer who he had met in the early ‘90s. In his early DJ career, Marky was playing a lot of hardcore, and XRS made a track that Marky started to play out. They started hanging out by chance, ended up collaborating, and — both falling in love with drum & bass — tried to make some tunes that would feed into the UK scene.
“At the time, me and XRS were trying to make tunes that would fit in with what was happening in the UK at the time,” Marky tells DJ Mag. “I decided that we had to try to make our own sound instead of just doing what everyone else was doing, and the next time I came to the studio I brought this sample with me and we had a go at chopping it up and putting it back together.”
The track that Marky brought to the studio to sample was Toquinho & Jorge Ben’s ‘70s bossa-nova cut 'Carolina Carol Bela' that Marky’s dad used to play him in his early childhood. “He used to play lots of stuff like this when me and my sisters were kids,” Marky remembers.
In the studio, the guys loaded up the samples (guitar, vocal etc), and the beats flowed naturally afterwards. “Having the rough version of the tune mapped out made the beats so much easier to construct,” Marky admits. “I think we made it using just a couple of keyboards and a Yamaha mixing desk. It was a really basic set-up.”
Like a lot of these Game Changers, the track was basically done in more or less one recording session. “Once we separated the samples, putting it together didn't take very long at all,” says Marky, “and we only ended up using six channels for it.”
‘LK’ was an instrumental at first, apart from a muted bit of vocal sample towards the end that the guys put in as a homage to the original artists. “We did think we had something special when we finished it, but then you almost always do when you finish a track, otherwise you'd just put it in the trash,” says Marky, philosophically. “I don't think we understood quite how much impact it would have long-term, though — and how it might change our lives.”
When Marky got home from XRS’s studio after finishing the track, his mum was doing some washing. He started playing around with the phrase ‘Liquid Kitchen’, and ‘LK’ became the working title of the track — they didn’t want to call it a remix of the original. The name stuck.
They sent it to Bryan Gee, and it was his vision and open-mindedness with regards to the liquid sound that really brought the track — and Marky — through.
“Bryan was really into it, it was weird, though, because we had given it to a couple of other people and they really weren't interested, so when we gave it to Bryan, it was with a load of other tunes and we expected him to go for one of the others,” Marky recalls. “But he loved ‘LK’ and wanted to bring us to the UK to play some shows.”
Marky did a tour with Bryan, and then went back to Brazil. By this time, ‘LK’ had been cut to dubplate by a few key DJs, and the vibe had started to build. “The next time I came to the UK, everywhere I went, I was getting asked to play ‘It's The Way’,” says Marky, “and I had no idea what it was. Then I would play the ‘LK’ instrumental, and everyone was saying, ‘That's the track!’ I asked my manager, and he said that it was a bit of vocal that [mainstay d&b MC] Stamina had been doing over the top of the track, so we immediately got him into the studio to record a final version and put that out.”
Before they knew it, BBC Radio 1 had picked up ‘LK’ and it smashed into the UK Top 20 in the middle of the summer of 2002. “We were really surprised, we never thought it could be that big,” says Marky. “We were just two kids from Sao Paulo, so playing big shows in the UK was already a major thing, without getting into the Top 20.”
The guys even went on Top Of The Pops, the iconic TV chart show of the time. “That was weird, but really cool!” chuckles Marky. “It was great to do and experience, and I’m glad to be able to say that I have performed on the show. The dancers were all a bit last minute, and just made it all a bit surreal.”
Marky says he’s been told lots of times since that he was instrumental in bringing a more positive vibe to drum & bass, and it’s something he’s really happy about. “I think it was just bringing people round to realising that bass-heavy music didn't need to be dark and gloomy,” he says. “It can be light and funky but still have the same effect. Still today I love to dance to tracks that have a lot of harmonies mixed in with the basslines.”
Of course, Marky did — and still does — play across the styles, but ‘LK’ set him up for a fantastic career in the decade or so since its release.
“It gave me a massive platform and exposure to the rest of the world that I wouldn't have had just playing club shows in Sao Paulo,” he says. “Suddenly everyone knew who I was and wanted to get me to play at their club, so I went from playing around Brazil only to flying to the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and all sorts — playing records. It was all I ever wanted to do, and I got my wish — so I couldn't be happier.”
‘LK’ has been good to Marky, and also to the drum & bass scene as a whole, as it’s increased its reach internationally, with DJ/producers from many other countries now also putting their own spin on the sound. “I still play ‘LK’ out all the time,” Marky outlines. “Even though it's been so long — we’re getting old, bruv! — I still enjoy the track. I also still play a lot of shows with Stamina and there are certain people who might only know me for that track, so I always try and drop it when I can — especially if I am playing somewhere for the first time. It's been a crazy and enjoyable ride!”