Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Why is the word "eclectism" totally overused? DJ Marcelle explains

This spring, British journalist Patrick Hinton published an article titled “Stop calling DJs eclectic,” and encouraged everyone to “take vows of eclectic abstinence.” This epithet has become impossibly clichéd, turning into a figure of speech, by which journalists, promoters and booking agents attach importance to the work of any artist.

We might as well have written "eclectic DJ from Amsterdam" about our interviewee today, because her sets, played simultaneously with three turntables, are considered one of the most daring and free-spirited. But, having taken a vow of abstinence, we merely offer you to read what Marcelle herself thinks about it all.

Text: Mariana Berezovska

There is a big discussion right now about the so-called “eclectic” style. It’s being applied to everything. If you mix some techno track with house, it becomes “eclectic.” You are one of those DJs and selectors, for whom “eclecticism” seems to apply to. And this is something we wanna talk about. You’ve been doing this for many years, mixing different styles - it is kind of your DNA now, your signature approach.

          My roots in music sprang when I was 13 - 14 years old. I was into the first wave of punk, like Sex Pistols, Ramones and the Clash. I’ve always been interested in revolutionary music. I think music should be a little bit political, not just fun. I’ve always had this attitude. What punk meant to me was not the style of music, but an attitude to life. To be open to different cultures and don’t care that much about audience and expectations. To go your own path. Though, it was not only about punk but also about dub and reggae. I had a natural inclination to be interested in new, strange and authentic things.

          Things become boring for me when they turn into a formula. It applies to techno, drum and bass, dubstep, and so many revolutionary styles, that was very exciting in the beginning but became a formula very quickly. For me, it’s all about an original idea of being inventive. What I do is about the context of different styles. It is not so much about one particular record - it is about the whole idea.

What do you mean by “context?”
Text: Mariana Berezovska

There is a big discussion right now about the so-called “eclectic” style. It’s being applied to everything. If you mix some techno track with house, it becomes “eclectic.” You are one of those DJs and selectors, for whom “eclecticism” seems to apply to. And this is something we wanna talk about. You’ve been doing this for many years, mixing different styles - it is kind of your DNA now, your signature approach.

          My roots in music sprang when I was 13 - 14 years old. I was into the first wave of punk, like Sex Pistols, Ramones and the Clash. I’ve always been interested in revolutionary music. I think music should be a little bit political, not just fun. I’ve always had this attitude. What punk meant to me was not the style of music, but an attitude to life. To be open to different cultures and don’t care that much about audience and expectations. To go your own path. Though, it was not only about punk but also about dub and reggae. I had a natural inclination to be interested in new, strange and authentic things.

          Things become boring for me when they turn into a formula. It applies to techno, drum and bass, dubstep, and so many revolutionary styles, that was very exciting in the beginning but became a formula very quickly. For me, it’s all about an original idea of being inventive. What I do is about the context of different styles. It is not so much about one particular record - it is about the whole idea.

What do you mean by “context?”

It’s about how I put different styles together, simultaneously. All the time it’s three or four records playing at once. It’s all improvised; I never practice my sets. That’s what eclecticism means for me. It is about being open but also finding some meaning in a mixture of contexts.

It’s about how I put different styles together, simultaneously. All the time it’s three or four records playing at once. It’s all improvised; I never practice my sets. That’s what eclecticism means for me. It is about being open but also finding some meaning in a mixture of contexts.

DJs that mix house with techno, as you say, have nothing in common with eclecticism, because they have no effort to really connect the contexts. As for me, I try to blur the division between some styles. As a result, you don’t exactly know, what you are listening to. Some African beat might sound like a techno record.

 

This is somehow a “Dutch” thing to care so much about the selection of music. I mean, the Strange Sounds From Beyond festival, for instance, which is super famous right now.

          I played there this year. I don’t think it is the most revolutionary festival, but a very nice festival nevertheless. Some of the musicians are somehow one dimensional, though. Maybe I shouldn’t go on, because I don’t feel much connection to other DJs in general. Most of them are a bit boring. There are not so many authentic musicians or DJs that make you say “OK, what he or she is doing, that is really her signature.”

DJs that mix house with techno, as you say, have nothing in common with eclecticism, because they have no effort to really connect the contexts. As for me, I try to blur the division between some styles. As a result, you don’t exactly know, what you are listening to. Some African beat might sound like a techno record.

 

This is somehow a “Dutch” thing to care so much about the selection of music. I mean, the Strange Sounds From Beyond festival, for instance, which is super famous right now.

          I played there this year. I don’t think it is the most revolutionary festival, but a very nice festival nevertheless. Some of the musicians are somehow one dimensional, though. Maybe I shouldn’t go on, because I don’t feel much connection to other DJs in general. Most of them are a bit boring. There are not so many authentic musicians or DJs that make you say “OK, what he or she is doing, that is really her signature.”

Everybody is kind of copying each other – this attitude of beat matching and built-up. There is not that much bravery.

Everybody is kind of copying each other – this attitude of beat matching and built-up. There is not that much bravery.

What does “authentic” mean to you?

          It's when someone is doing something, which comes totally from that person. I don’t see this a lot in music. DJs are worrying too much about the audience expectations and wants.

You said, there are very few DJs, whose approach is similar to yours. Who are they?

          Last time in Berlin I played with the DJ from Poland – DJ Morgiana. She had a kind of free spirit. I can appreciate people with different tastes than mine when they have an authentic approach. That’s what I’m looking for. Because otherwise, it bores me. I think it is the same with Atonal festival. It’s experimental and nice, but also so conventional. Everyone is in black, everyone is serious, listening to some drone. Especially, the men. They take it so seriously. I mean, I like it but at the same time, people are copying each other.

You always play vinyl and own an extensive collection of wax. I wonder, how have the so-called «digital revolution» influenced you?

          In general, things democratize. DJing shouldn’t be something elitist anymore. At the same time, when you really have something in your hands digital can never replace it. I’m very busy with physical stuff - it is a part of an aesthetic. Of course, it is not an easy thing. If a DJ says "the record bag is too heavy," I don’t take him or her seriously anymore, because it’s not about convenience. It’s about showing something real.

          Now anyone can be a DJ because you can download stuff and so on. But at the same time, you have your own creativity, style that you can’t download. I haven’t even thought about it previously. I never wanted to go digital, because I love vinyl. I need to stay true to myself. Of course, I do an internet radio show and also produce on the computer. But digital DJing is not for me.

 

What about those flowers on the stage? I haven’t seen them before. What do they symbolize?

          Nothing. I like colors. And I also sometimes have big colorful African flags. I love the decoration of the stage. But that doesn’t mean anything, that’s just me. That’s more connected to breaking expectations. I mean, people think “Oh, she’s got flowers on the table and these lights and so on, so she might play some 70s disco music.” And then I do this!

That’s nice! Again, it’s this irony and a kind of playing with the crowd.

          It’s an ironic moment, but I don’t want music to be a joke. I’m very serious about it.

What does “authentic” mean to you?

          It's when someone is doing something, which comes totally from that person. I don’t see this a lot in music. DJs are worrying too much about the audience expectations and wants.

You said, there are very few DJs, whose approach is similar to yours. Who are they?

          Last time in Berlin I played with the DJ from Poland – DJ Morgiana. She had a kind of free spirit. I can appreciate people with different tastes than mine when they have an authentic approach. That’s what I’m looking for. Because otherwise, it bores me. I think it is the same with Atonal festival. It’s experimental and nice, but also so conventional. Everyone is in black, everyone is serious, listening to some drone. Especially, the men. They take it so seriously. I mean, I like it but at the same time, people are copying each other.

You always play vinyl and own an extensive collection of wax. I wonder, how have the so-called «digital revolution» influenced you?

          In general, things democratize. DJing shouldn’t be something elitist anymore. At the same time, when you really have something in your hands digital can never replace it. I’m very busy with physical stuff - it is a part of an aesthetic. Of course, it is not an easy thing. If a DJ says "the record bag is too heavy," I don’t take him or her seriously anymore, because it’s not about convenience. It’s about showing something real.

          Now anyone can be a DJ because you can download stuff and so on. But at the same time, you have your own creativity, style that you can’t download. I haven’t even thought about it previously. I never wanted to go digital, because I love vinyl. I need to stay true to myself. Of course, I do an internet radio show and also produce on the computer. But digital DJing is not for me.

 

What about those flowers on the stage? I haven’t seen them before. What do they symbolize?

          Nothing. I like colors. And I also sometimes have big colorful African flags. I love the decoration of the stage. But that doesn’t mean anything, that’s just me. That’s more connected to breaking expectations. I mean, people think “Oh, she’s got flowers on the table and these lights and so on, so she might play some 70s disco music.” And then I do this!

That’s nice! Again, it’s this irony and a kind of playing with the crowd.

          It’s an ironic moment, but I don’t want music to be a joke. I’m very serious about it.

I play serious stuff, sometimes funny, sometimes very strange, you know, when it’s just dogs barking. Sometimes I can annoy the audience. But then they come to me on the next set and ask “Marcelle! Are you gonna play the dogs again?”

I play serious stuff, sometimes funny, sometimes very strange, you know, when it’s just dogs barking. Sometimes I can annoy the audience. But then they come to me on the next set and ask “Marcelle! Are you gonna play the dogs again?”

          No, that was kind of a surprise. It’s not funny to make the same joke twice.

Dutch musicians seem to care about a diverse vibe. Like Dekmantel selectors. Don’t you have this feeling?

          I don’t have this feeling. It’s versatile as everywhere – mixing techno with breakbeat.

Do you think some cultures are more diverse than the other, music-wise? Like England, where people value reggae, and dubstep, and techno at the same time.

          That goes back to my youth, punk and post-punk attitudes. I think in the early 80s, it was a period of «everything goes» attitude. People had no technical skills. They could just start a band. You don’t have to go to a music school to play guitar. That was a period when everybody felt totally free, bands like The Pop Group, Delta 5, The Slits - they were not particularly skilled musicians. If you’re not a skilled musician, you always end up doing your own style. This freedom is probably an English thing.

You have experience of a grown-up generation. Now it’s a bit difficult for young DJs to be like this because there are so many expectations. These days they are being judged much more.

          That’s true. I agree. But this is still up to the individual and how far you take this. If you want to become famous, maybe that’s the wrong attitude. Perhaps you should choose whatever you want and then things will come.

That applies not only to music. Nowadays everybody says “let’s do it in a punk way.”

          But that’s also a cliché. People dress like punks now, but it’s kind of a uniform. Let’s take Berlin. I like being in Berlin. It’s the most open city, but it’s also very conventional with this techno stuff.

 

Which city do you think is open?

          Maybe Zurich, I don’t know. More generally, the cities, that don’t worry about their image too much. In New York, for example, everybody is so busy with how they come across. Whether they are cool, that’s what Americans talk about. It is not authentic. That’s also true about Berlin.

It’s like “what cool can I do with my life today?”

          Yeah. Maybe, you are just totally bored. But when you don’t hang out with people in hip places, you are isolated – that often brings original stuff. Take Aphex Twin. He is from the small village, Cornwall. He is totally apart from the “coolness.” But he is doing something very special.

So, are you optimistic about music? Don’t you think it’s going in one direction?

          Never. There are a lot of people going in all kind of directions. There are always people like this Polish woman I met, DJ Morgiana. There are always people doing their own stuff.

There is this skepticism, that music is one-sided. Maybe it’s about people who don’t experiment enough.

          It becomes a huge business, that’s a problem, of course. It may be nice when you sell chairs. But music should never be too much business. My living is not a business. It’s what my heart wants to do, in the first place.

So, when your music is described as “eclectic,” does it bother you?

          I think the word itself is totally overused. Sometimes words lose their meanings. It’s a regular thing to say. That’s what you should say about yourself as a DJ. Otherwise, the audience doesn’t take you seriously. I mean, when you’re interested in one style, people say “Oh, you should be more open.”

          No, that was kind of a surprise. It’s not funny to make the same joke twice.

Dutch musicians seem to care about a diverse vibe. Like Dekmantel selectors. Don’t you have this feeling?

          I don’t have this feeling. It’s versatile as everywhere – mixing techno with breakbeat.

Do you think some cultures are more diverse than the other, music-wise? Like England, where people value reggae, and dubstep, and techno at the same time.

          That goes back to my youth, punk and post-punk attitudes. I think in the early 80s, it was a period of «everything goes» attitude. People had no technical skills. They could just start a band. You don’t have to go to a music school to play guitar. That was a period when everybody felt totally free, bands like The Pop Group, Delta 5, The Slits - they were not particularly skilled musicians. If you’re not a skilled musician, you always end up doing your own style. This freedom is probably an English thing.

You have experience of a grown-up generation. Now it’s a bit difficult for young DJs to be like this because there are so many expectations. These days they are being judged much more.

          That’s true. I agree. But this is still up to the individual and how far you take this. If you want to become famous, maybe that’s the wrong attitude. Perhaps you should choose whatever you want and then things will come.

That applies not only to music. Nowadays everybody says “let’s do it in a punk way.”

          But that’s also a cliché. People dress like punks now, but it’s kind of a uniform. Let’s take Berlin. I like being in Berlin. It’s the most open city, but it’s also very conventional with this techno stuff.

 

Which city do you think is open?

          Maybe Zurich, I don’t know. More generally, the cities, that don’t worry about their image too much. In New York, for example, everybody is so busy with how they come across. Whether they are cool, that’s what Americans talk about. It is not authentic. That’s also true about Berlin.

It’s like “what cool can I do with my life today?”

          Yeah. Maybe, you are just totally bored. But when you don’t hang out with people in hip places, you are isolated – that often brings original stuff. Take Aphex Twin. He is from the small village, Cornwall. He is totally apart from the “coolness.” But he is doing something very special.

So, are you optimistic about music? Don’t you think it’s going in one direction?

          Never. There are a lot of people going in all kind of directions. There are always people like this Polish woman I met, DJ Morgiana. There are always people doing their own stuff.

There is this skepticism, that music is one-sided. Maybe it’s about people who don’t experiment enough.

          It becomes a huge business, that’s a problem, of course. It may be nice when you sell chairs. But music should never be too much business. My living is not a business. It’s what my heart wants to do, in the first place.

So, when your music is described as “eclectic,” does it bother you?

          I think the word itself is totally overused. Sometimes words lose their meanings. It’s a regular thing to say. That’s what you should say about yourself as a DJ. Otherwise, the audience doesn’t take you seriously. I mean, when you’re interested in one style, people say “Oh, you should be more open.”

Being eclectic for me means being not only open but also adventurous and brave, creative and inventive. Because if you play things with no context connection, that doesn’t mean anything.

Being eclectic for me means being not only open but also adventurous and brave, creative and inventive. Because if you play things with no context connection, that doesn’t mean anything.

I like that you are not retro at all.

          Of course, I’m older, and I’ve got so many records, and I could easily do a retro set.

I know, but you don't!

          That is what I've said already a few times. The whole point for me in music is that it should go forward. I play old records too, but they still sound very modern. People don’t notice. If you play old stuff, then you end up in a comfort zone. People might recognize it or they recognize the kind of music, because you can always tell which years or what era music comes from and then it gets too comfortable.

          It is looking backward, music should always go forward. I do radio shows. People are interested in my old records. They should not forget about old music, but if you are performing, you should be now. I will never continue doing this if people ask me “Oh, Marcelle, can you play old post-punk or something.” It would bore me to death. I might like the records, but it's a comfort zone. It doesn't mean anything. Also, the original idea of the energy of that time is gone, of course.

What is the “energy” of our time?

          It’s very troublesome times. I think digital revolution is doomed. The totally wrong direction. Everything is fake. Everybody is just posing, playing their lives as actors or actress, taking selfies. I might be an old woman now, but I think, our times give freedom, but also make people lose identities.

          By the way, I don’t have a smartphone. I’m not going to perfect myself – I’m not going to buy a smartphone. Of course, it would be useful to check emails or something. But it’s too addictive. That’s how capitalism works – make people addicted, lose themselves. That’s opposite to freedom.

I like that you are not retro at all.

          Of course, I’m older, and I’ve got so many records, and I could easily do a retro set.

I know, but you don't!

          That is what I've said already a few times. The whole point for me in music is that it should go forward. I play old records too, but they still sound very modern. People don’t notice. If you play old stuff, then you end up in a comfort zone. People might recognize it or they recognize the kind of music, because you can always tell which years or what era music comes from and then it gets too comfortable.

          It is looking backward, music should always go forward. I do radio shows. People are interested in my old records. They should not forget about old music, but if you are performing, you should be now. I will never continue doing this if people ask me “Oh, Marcelle, can you play old post-punk or something.” It would bore me to death. I might like the records, but it's a comfort zone. It doesn't mean anything. Also, the original idea of the energy of that time is gone, of course.

What is the “energy” of our time?

          It’s very troublesome times. I think digital revolution is doomed. The totally wrong direction. Everything is fake. Everybody is just posing, playing their lives as actors or actress, taking selfies. I might be an old woman now, but I think, our times give freedom, but also make people lose identities.

          By the way, I don’t have a smartphone. I’m not going to perfect myself – I’m not going to buy a smartphone. Of course, it would be useful to check emails or something. But it’s too addictive. That’s how capitalism works – make people addicted, lose themselves. That’s opposite to freedom.

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