The Second Coming: Marquis Hawkes - Artists - Mixmag

The Second Coming: Marquis Hawkes

Marquis Hawkes is having a renaissance

  • Words: Joe Muggs | Photos: Vaiva Hawkins
  • 9 August 2016
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Five years of madness on the road ensued. Hawkins got stuck into the traveller drug culture but never fell for the trance that dominated the scene, instead collecting dark Cologne techno, Chicago acid, and the funkier American house played by Midlands soundsystems like DiY. He learned to mix at a record shop in Carmarthen, played his first gig a week later in a tipi village in a valley, “dropping ‘Acid Tracks’ at 45rpm so it sounded like the Cologne tracks”. He survived by finding scrap metal with a friend – “cars that joyriders had crashed into quarries, usually,”– and ping-ponged from Wales to the Midlands to Portsmouth to London to Berlin to Poland and back, sofa-surfing after he’d abandoned his truck.

He fell heavily for the uncompromising mid-90s UK techno made by Cristian Vogel, Neil Landstrumm and co, and joined the Nottingham soundsystem BWTP (later Ugly Funk) “who were so fundamentalist about techno that if you played anything else you’d likely get a beer bottle to your head”. Then he started making tunes, “always on someone else’s gear, grabbing time when they were out at work or something”, releasing a slew of pounding tracks on the legendary DJAX-UP label, Vogel’s Mosquito and many others, and getting a following at mind-frying East German crystal meth raves. “I was a mess, though,” he says. “I couldn’t even run my own life until I was 28!”

His style of music was commercially eclipsed, though, by Jeff Mills-style loop techno, then minimal, and following fatherhood and relationship breakdowns he eventually left DJing behind and settled in Berlin, determined to survive in a normal job – as a general gopher, translator and artist liason in the club Suicide Circus – and make music just a hobby. It would have stayed that way too, if it wasn’t for his old friends from the Scottish techno scene setting up a label “for housey stuff” and asking for tracks. They went mad for his Nina Simone flip ‘Sealion Woman’ so he made some more to make an EP around it: “a bit of Omar S-inspired stuff, a bit of acid, just having fun really”. He’d made plenty of Relief Records-style house before, under his own name and as DH MH, to little interest, so he had no expectations beyond maybe shifting a couple of hundred 12”s. But when Dan and Kenny from DABJ picked a new alias for him, and his music was heard without all the techno baggage, things blew up insanely, the records selling in quantities he’d never imagined so that DJing suddenly became a viable career rather than just a hell-for-leather lifestyle choice.

It’s no wonder he thinks that “this is an amazing time for underground music, with the petty scene boundaries broken down”. As a house DJ he can indulge all his musical sides as he never could in the fiercely purist techno world. So it’s no wonder, either, that as his Fabric set picks up – steadily bringing the house and even disco elements to the fore, but always keeping the underlying trippiness that his festival crusty years imbued him with – a grin spreads slowly but inexorably across his battle-hardened face. By the third hour, the few curious onlookers have given way to a packed-in, gleeful crowd. Just like Hawkins’ musical career, his set took its own sweet time to get there, but it’s all the better for it.

Marquis Hawkes ‘Social Housing’ is out now on Houndstooth

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