David Marston has released two sunny & splendidly melodic records for Soul Clap Records, Jamaicalia and, in April, Kindness of Bearer. People (including me) cannot stop raving about them. Working with a talented array of vocalists, the Jamaica-reared artist is one of the most talented, versatile producers I’ve come across in the last few years. I had a chat with him as he was preparing to join the Love Train 2016 tour in Europe & the United States.
Are you in Boston or am I just assuming that everyone associated with Soul Clap lives on the Charles River?
My sister went to University in Boston, but apart from that and my association with Soul Clap, I don’t really have much of a connection to Boston. I’m currently based between the UK and the States, but I am planning to move to Brooklyn with Nick Monaco and another friend. The core of the crew is based there, so it seems the most fitting place to be live right now.
You really fly the flag for Jamaica, though. Can you tell me about your background? Where are you from and how did you get to where you are now?
I was born in the States – in Chicago, actually. My parents are both from Jamaica, and I spent most of my childhood and adolescence on the island. I also lived in the UK with my family for awhile and then went to university in the US. Even though I have lived in several different places throughout my life, I strongly identify as Jamaican.
I developed an interest in music from an early age, and got into classical guitar and then electric guitar as a teenager. I had dabbled in production and recording a bit, but it wasn’t until I was in my first year of university that I started to take production seriously. I studied Psychology at Uni, and I was focused on a career in academia, but I always had it in the back of my mind that I could possibly pursue music as a profession.
Jamaicalia was the first record I heard from you but that couldn’t have been your first record, right? It was way too sophisticated for a guy that just unwrapped Ableton. Give me kind of a thumbnail here of your music career?
Jamaicalia is actually the second EP that I released. The first one was a three track garage-influenced EP on a small UK label called Cool Kid Music. I’m still pretty fond of that first release, even though stylistically it is quite different to my current sound. I then put out another garage house track on a now defunct label as a single. Shame, because it was a really strong track! Then came the Jamaicalia EP. It is fair to say I had been producing for a while by the time the Jamaicalia release came out.
How did you link up with Soul Clap? Blind demo submission?
You guessed it! I was sitting at home in Jamaica and I was trying to figure out who in the industry would be receptive to my music. I remembered a DJ that I had met in Philadelphia had mentioned Soul Clap and Wolf + Lamb – I didn’t really know Soul Clap at the time – but I looked them up and sent out an email to an address that I found on Soul Clap’s website. Eli got back to me pretty quickly saying that he liked what I had sent.
You’re one of the music producers in the dance music scene – I think there is a small handful who otherwise have little in common – that writes “songs” rather than “tracks.” How would you describe your music? What are you writing for?
I would say that my music is melodic, thoughtful, and varied. I draw my influences from numerous genres; I strive to merge various styles in a meaningful way.
I don’t really have one particular goal or set of goals when I write music. It may sound cliche and extremely vague, but I just want to make beautiful music – music that is awe-inspiring and profound, at least at some level. I probably spend most of my time each day thinking about and listening to music. Sometimes, you come across songs that make you stop whatever you are doing because you are so captivated. I want to make songs that capture people’s imagination and, at times, make them want to dance. These are pretty ambitious aims, and I am not sure that I’ve achieved either, but I hope that my music will affect and move people.
You’ve worked with some tremendous vocalists as well. For the music geeks out there: how do you get a good vocal recording? I’ve heard so many that are so heavily filtered and I suspect it’s because they started with a poor recording. Yours sound glowing, though it probably helps that you’ve had two or three brilliant vocalists too.
I typically enjoy working with vocals. Because we as humans naturally connect to the sound of the human voice and because words have meaning, the presence of vocals immediately adds a certain emotional resonance to a song.
I’m not the most tech-savvy producer, however, I am increasingly trying to gain more in depth, technical knowledge related to production and audio engineering.
To be honest, most of the songs on which I have worked with vocalists have bad quality vocal recordings. A couple of tracks (one of them on the Jamaicalia EP) used vocals that were recorded on a cellular phone. Shout out to Brigitte Zozula because she is the Queen of impromptu iPhone recordings. She is so supremely talented that her voice sounds beautiful regardless of how or where it is recorded.
That being said, I think I have a pretty good sense of what sounds right when working with vocals. I know how to tailor certain effect chains to specific vocals to coax out what I want to hear. But mainly what it comes down to is the fact that I have been really lucky to work with artists like Brigitte, Beth Aggett and Anna Spackman. They are all remarkable singers and songwriters and I hope to continue working with them in the future.
What do you have coming up for this summer? Performance? Sets? Releases?
This summer I am going to be playing several shows with the Crew for the Love Train 2016 tour. We have dates in Europe and then I’ll also be featured on some of the US dates in July. I am also working closely with Nick Monaco and I’ll be performing with him for his new live show.
We are also developing further a project we started called “Island Life” and we are gearing up to release a new single for the Summer. It’s fresh and provocative. Stay tuned…
David Marston’s Kindness of Bearer is out now on Soul Clap Records on vinyl and digital from iTunes, Beatport, and all digital retailers worldwide.
Originally published inside 5 Magazine Issue #133 featuring Vincent Floyd, Karizma, Tony Humphries, David Marston, Doc Link, Deep Club Denver and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music – on sale for just $1 an issue!