Marvin & Guy and Life and Death label head Dj Tennis, individually have grown into household names within the electronic music underground, and even closer to the foreground, gracing dancefloors all over the world with distinctively unique and energetic sets whether in huge venues or intimate clubs. Coming a long way from a small town in Northern Italy, Marcello, Alessandro and Manfredi have been spotted at the helm of many celebrated parties, from ADE to Sonar, Burning Man to gigs in Panorama Bar. As producers, the effect of their sophisticated ear for music shaped by diverse genres across generations, coupled with the gift of expressing passion through sound, resound tenfold through acclaimed and widely played productions for various prominent labels – Permanent Vacation, Life and Death, Running Back, Kompakt, K7, Desolat just to name a few. But joining forces reveal an even deeper layer worth seeing. Though their friendship has not remained unseen, not limited to their epic B2Bs and more notably, the creation of Life of Marvin label a few years back, just how close and alike are the three we are yet to find out. Shortly before the release of their first Future Life of Marvin EP, ‘In the Night’, Marvin & Guy and Dj Tennis take moments away from their very busy schedules to talk to Torture the Artist about the past, present and future of their joint venture, what they left out along Death & Guy and needed to channel through this special project, and inevitably, the friendship and shared inspirations at its core.
Torture the Artist: Ciao Life of Marvin! Whereabout in the world will we find the three of you today? How far apart are you at the moment and what were the last words you said to one another?
Marvin & Guy: We are having coffee right now in Biarritz while doing this interview with a nice ocean breeze in our hair. Last words to Manfredi was two days ago, reminding him about the interview. <smiles>
Dj Tennis: I am traveling between a Festival in Dusseldorf and Shelter in Amsterdam. Super tired but you know, it’s part of the job. We normally chat on WhatsApp about 80’s stuff and send cheesy videos.
I hate getting bored and music is my shortcut to happiness. (Dj Tennis)
Torture the Artist: You guys have had an eventful year so far, trotting the globe, getting your fingers on a bunch of different projects, individually as Marvin & Guy and Dj Tennis, rotating mixers, curating radio shows, topping floats, how are your energy levels right about now? How did you spend most of your summer and what are you looking forward to do in the following months?
Marvin & Guy: We are full of energy right now because we are working on our very first album. Everything is really positive, a lot of new ideas, different stuff, less dance music and so on. We are really focused on it and full of inspirations! Also we both had some time off during the summer with our families to properly recharge our batteries and refresh our brains. You really need it at some point, you know.
Dj Tennis: I hate getting bored and music is my shortcut to happiness. I think the three of us are linked by a very strong and colorful creative passion. Touring, making music, releasing records keeps us active and full of adrenaline… in fact we are constantly sharing new ideas. The future is full of surprises.
Torture the Artist: Marvin & Guy was brought to life almost 7 years ago, and Dj Tennis, well it almost feels like forever. Life of Marvin began to cruise our peripheries about two years ago. How did you meet and what made you decide on the evolutionary merger ? Name a particular track existing in this world that best sets the mood of your first encounter?
Life of Marvin: The very first connection started when Manfredi asked Marvin & Guy for new music material for Life and Death. Then we also discovered that we are all from the same city, Parma in Italy, which was a crazy coincidence. All this happened around 2016. A strong and genuine friendship has started back then. But one day we were all in the M&G studio talking about the next Tennis’ DJ Kicks and listening to some music when we suddenly jumped into a file folder with this crazy Italian proto-techno-electronic-house (we still don’t have any idea how to call it) from Interactive Test label that we all loved. We realized this shared passion and immediately fell in love with the idea of building something together, re-pressing most of that stuff we all loved, with some adjustments. The main and very first track that brought us all together was Roby J – Crossed Movements.
It always looks like we are still three guys from the countryside having long talks and fun time together.
Torture the Artist: Cruising through your socials, we notice that your acquaintances with each other extend the gambit of professional amicability. Tell us a bit about your friendship and how you ended up building a label together.
Life of Marvin: As we said we are all from the same city so besides music, that was the key element in developing true friendship even if we are from three different generations. We’ve started to play a lot of music together, to spend a lot of quality time as well, we created a chat group where we mostly talk about funny jokes and bullsh*t that make us crazy. It always looks like we are still three guys from the countryside having long talks and fun time together. We are really honest with each other, as though we are real brothers. So the label came out also because of all these reasons: friendship, similar music taste and the wish to give people the chance to re-discover what Italians have been making in the electronic music field in the past.
Torture the Artist: Marcello, Alessandro, Why the Marvin & Guy moniker? Is this a reference to the late Prince of Soul, Marvin Gaye? Are Marvin and Guy, Life and Death, two sides of one coin, each balancing out Marvin & Guy, Life and Death as wholes? As Life of Marvin, what did you eliminate along with Death and Guy?
Marvin & Guy: Of course, our name comes from Marvin Gaye, there’s no secret behind it. Unfortunately we don’t have any ‘special’ story related to our name. It’s all just THE MAN himself. Obviously the Life of Marvin name is a mix between us and Manfredi’s Life and Death. Honestly, the first choice was ‘Death Guy’ cause it sounded more intriguing but since the first release was from Roby J – who passed away around 10 years ago – it would have been a bit disrespectful. Hence, the second choice was mostly the only option and we actually like it a lot now.
Dj Tennis: Life and Death refers to the ‘out of body experience’ Psychedelic drugs like DMT induce onto the human brain. The combination of Marvin Gaye and the ‘out of body experience’ iiis referring to soulful uplifting music with Psychedelic elements. That’s something that was very strong in Italo house music in the 90’s.
Torture the Artist: Currently, there is no shortage of Italian talent in the scene. Side by side with Germany, the music that came out of the country over the past years was incredibly consistent and diverse. Was it difficult to start a musical career in Italy at the time when you decided to go for it? Or has the culture always been supportive of up and coming artists?
Marvin & Guy: For us, it wasn’t really difficult just because we started without much expectations and no stress at all. We just did what we wanted to do, then everything else came automatically. We’ve been lucky to ‘be there’ in the right moment. The culture in Italy then, wasn’t very helpful, and it still isn’t. When we started, there were just a few clubs and promoters trying to do some ‘underground’ stuff. There are mostly just commercial electronic music around, but luckily the world is huge and we had the opportunity to perform in many other countries. Of course, we would love to have huge support from our own country, that would be beautiful. But we don’t even want to force it now.
Dj Tennis: I think my contribution to the rebirth of the Italian scene since 2009/2010 has been quite consistent. In fact, before that, just a few artists, mostly techno or tech house were strong in the international scene. Life and Death supported and pushed a new way to produce music – more focused towards melody and dark vocals.
Torture the Artist: Did all of you grow up in the same region in Italy? Tell us a little bit about your hometown(s). Name some local delicacies and/or a brand of wine it is proud of.
Life of Marvin: We all grew up in the same town! Marcello and Manfredi discovered they grew up 500 meters away from each other but they never met at that time, or maybe they did in some toy shop but who knows. Parma is a very small town in the north of Italy, around one hour from Milan, well known mostly for food because of the ham (Prosciutto di Parma), the cheese and Barilla pasta. But it’s also full of art, a beautiful Roman Battistero and Duomo on top of everything. It’s quiet and clean, a very nice town to live if you want some calm but with no great pretensions of course. If you go there, besides the amazing food, you have to try the infamous Lambrusco, a type of sparkling red wine perfectly made to match the exquisitely beautiful food we have!
His apartment in Parma is the closest thing to Amazonia Forest, just saying. (Marvin & Guy)
Torture the Artist: With such active schedules, seems like you guys are spread thin. Do you still find the time to do things you enjoy most – that are not related to music? What are some of your favorite past times? Hidden talents?
Marvin & Guy: Marcello is very much into wine, mostly because his family owned a restaurant in town for many years. He’s also a real pro in fishing which is definitely a cool hidden talent. Alessandro is really into interior design, digging in second hand markets for furniture, as well as a big plant lover. His apartment in Parma is the closest thing to Amazonia Forest, just saying… <laughs>
Dj Tennis: I like cooking and I collect bicycles. I always spend my day thinking about new recipes!
Torture the Artist: So far, Life of Marvin has been entirely focused on production and the label. Should we expect DJ sets by this moniker rather soon, or do you plan to keep it this way?
Life of Marvin: So far, we only had the chance to do one all night long set as LOM during the 2018 edition of Nuits Sonores in Lyon, but for sure there’s going to be more in the near future. We just have to find the right spot and the right time because of our different schedules. Life of Marvin is a really special thing for us, it cannot be related to other DJ-sets so we prefer to keep it limited and precious, doing only all nighters in the perfect venue.
Torture the Artist: As DJs, you’re all so good at making an impression through music, narrating memorable sets, some even lifechanging. Well, was there a time when it was a set that changed you? Can you share some of your favorite venues or moments over the past years, as DJs or even as dancers?
Marvin & Guy: For sure it’s the Metro Area DJ set called ‘Weekendance’, in an Italian radio back in 2002! That one hour program changed, for both of us, the way we see dance music. We still listen to it sometimes and it still sounds on point even right now.
Alessandro (from M&G): Another one of the most beautiful and life changing experiences I had was in Turin in 2006 at a Daft Punk concert. There were about 30,000 people at the stunning Parco della Pellerina. I remember crying at some point.
Marcello (from M&G): My best memories were during the 1990s, especially the time between 1996 and 1998. There was this event called New York Bar in Bologna. It was open from 6pm until about midnight and hosted some of the best DJs from Italian scene, as well as international guests. The Italian House scene was huge during those years and the atmosphere in the club was comparable to Panorama Bar right now.
We never try to go the easy way, but we like challenging ourselves and the crowd with surprising choices.
Torture the Artist: You’ve DJ’ed all across the globe, with strikings sets that always stand out from ordinary. From Panorama to Burning Man, ADE to Sonar, huge venues and intimate clubs, indoors, outdoors the versatility and effectivity of your music curation and delivery are remarkable. This seems more than a full-time job of digging and storytelling. How do you find the time to put so much time and effort into your sets amid your schedules and other projects?
Life of Marvin: We enjoy listening to different kinds of music, collecting and cataloguing music that is not possible to label under a precise genre. This allows us to be versatile and to be able to adapt to any situation easily. We never try to go the easy way, but we like challenging ourselves and the crowd with surprising choices. Sometimes it’s hard to mix completely different genres, but when we find the key, it can be a very strong and memorable experience.
It just happened… ‘In the Night.’
Torture the Artist: And finally, after two years, Life of Marvin is breaking out of isolation and this time, a little louder, with an established duo in fact. What took so long to release another EP after the first three? Have you always had in mind to release on your own label? What came first – the idea of ‘In the Night’ or the idea of a L.O.M release?
Life of Marvin: Because as we said, we see LOM as our little jewel, we don’t have the need or pressure to release frequently. LOM is something special, we release stuff that we think is really interesting, that means it can be one within a month, four in two months, or even like in this last case, one per every year. No particular rules. We are going to try anyway, to not wait another year for the fifth one. The ‘no rules’ case is also true about the forthcoming one. We didn’t plan to release our own productions on the label besides repressing old music, it just happened… ‘In the Night.’ <smiles>
Torture the Artist: What is the secret behind the success of your productions?
Life of Marvin: We don’t think there’s a secret or a formula and that makes things interesting. As everything today is already a formula… <winks>
Torture the Artist: How does producing work as a trio? Do you spend most of the production process in the studio together or is it mostly cyber-collabs?
Life of Marvin: This is the only project we have done all together, so far. We didn’t spend much time in the studio with all three of us, that’s also why we don’t follow any particular line for our own releases on the label. If something good is happening in terms of productions as LOM, whenever it is, then why not release it? Easy like that.
Torture the Artist: For L.O.M. 4, you complemented the original ‘In the Night’ with two renditions, one a’capella and a remix. Did you ever think of a daytime counterpart, a couple more tracks, or was this the gameplan all along?
Life of Marvin: The real story behind ‘In The Night’ is very simple and funny. Since we are all very much into Italo Disco, we realized that a huge amount of Italo songs are called ‘in the night’ or there is something ‘In the night’ so, starting from this joke, we included the vocals of the track to repeat ‘in the night’ as leit-motif of the whole production. Since we thought the original track was pretty strong already, it made sense to create other versions of it, meanwhile keeping the same theme.
Torture the Artist: What is in store for Life of Marvin in the nearer and more distant future? Can you provide a soundtrack as a sneak peek to what’s in store for the remainder of the year?
Life of Marvin: We are trying to arrange the future releases but as we said, our plans to release music on LOM can change a lot, so we don’t give a specific date or time. Maybe the next will come in January 2020, or maybe December 2020? You’ll find out. For now we can give you this veeeery special and rare (also the very first) LOM mix full of goodies. Maybe some of the tracks inside are going to be released on the label later on, who knows!
Interview by Marie J. Floro
Life of Marvin’s EP ‘In the Night‘ will be released on October 4th, 2019