The lone producer discusses horror films, the hurricane season and hopeful futures
Following up his 2017 debut EP Drain, the Miami based producer Marks – full name Donny M – returns this month with Crush, a new ten track LP released by London’s Coyote Records. Marks grew up in Jamaica and South Florida, “I was born in Kingston and grew up in and around St Mary and Ocho Rios,” he says. “I went to school all over. Too country for the city, too city for the country.”
Crush pulls heavily on the shifting energies and emotions of bass cultures to create what he describes as a “giant feelings dump”. Ahead of its release on 31 August, Marks shares the Crush track “Pop” and speaks to The Wire’s Daisy Hyde.
Daisy Hyde: Were you involved in any kind of music scene in Jamaica?
Marks: Besides going to a few sessions, I was too young to fully appreciate it.
How long have you been producing music?
Eight or nine years, somewhere around there I think.
What inspired you to start making music?
A good friend of mine lovingly pushed and prodded me into it while I was trying to organise an instrumental tape for a small internet community. I would drop it for little pockets of people but music has always been such a big part of my life that I always came back to it.
Has your hometown’s history of Miami bass influenced you in any way?
Not particularly. Dub music has probably more influence over me but anything with heavy bass I’m a fan of. I got into dubstep a bit late, probably around 2007 or 2008, so a lot of the guys that were really solidified around then I was bumping (DMZ etc). I had a good time exploring those first few dubstep all-star volumes, as well as film scores, particularly works by John Carpenter and a lot of 1980s horror synth shit. I’m pretty much always listening to rap or things related to rap too.
What’s your favourite horror film?
Day Of The Dead [directed by George A Romero, 1986]. I absolutely adore that film. It’s bleak with a healthy dose of nihilism, but also hopeful too. Everyone in that movie who zoned in on the problem of trying to assert and hang on to control ultimately dies. The characters trying to imagine a better future and looking ahead are the only ones who make it. Or that’s how I read it anyway. Also, one of the main characters is an easy going Jamaican, haha, so that definitely bumps it up for me.
What does the club scene in Miami look like at the moment?
I honestly couldn’t say. I’m not super involved. I imagine it’s probably a bunch of rich kids having fun doing whatever they wanna do.
Would you describe yourself as a lone producer? Do you feel that impacts on your sound in any way?
Absolutely it impacts on my music. It can be hard sometimes not to have immediate feedback or real-time collaboration but I think for now, for the sound I’ve been settling in on, a bit of isolation or loneliness works in my favour.
How do you feel your surroundings influence your music?
The heat and endless sky are things that are always on my mind, but really my dreams and visions of the future influence me more.
What are those dreams and visions?
Hopeful of my own future and a societal one. I know things seem very doom and gloom right now because there’s a lot of nasty shit on the rise, but I have to believe these are just growing pains. As a civilisation, I don’t think we’ve fully processed or understand what the internet has done to us – is doing to us. I’m not saying that as a bad thing either. We’ve just been living in a flood of every kind of information, data. From facts, to fiction, to music, everything. We’re learning, possibly in the most painful/stressful way, that the only things that matter are the stuff you’re choosing everyday, moment to moment. That shit creates your world. I'm getting old so I’m just trying to be more patient and loving in everything, but with my self especially
I asked about your surroundings because the press release for Crush made a point of saying that it was created during hurricane season. Can you expand on that?
I’m still sitting on a grip of stuff from that period. It wasn’t my first hurricane season but it was the first where there was power loss for almost a week. It was just hot, miserable. I read and meditated a lot and tried to process some other stuff that was going on in my life at the time, money stresses and stuff like that.
The album is quite a journey. Can you describe the process of making it?
While writing, I was mainly focused on just learning. Learning how to mix down better, how to programme drums better, etc, while still being playful. I had a lot of fun making “Pop” and “Strawberry Shortcake” in particular. They’re probably my two favourites.
What is it about “Pop” [above] that makes it a favourite?
It was just a lot of fun to make. One of those breakthrough moments where what you’ve been practising or trying to learn finally kinda clicks. When I listen to it, it’s like a time capsule for that feeling. I felt great while making it, and I still feel good listening to it back. I even feel good thinking about it while I respond to this question, haha.
I read you're into RPG (Role Playing Games)?
I’m a big gamer though I’m not really playing a lot of RPGs lately because they just take a lot to get into for a small session, but I’m going through a game called Pillars Of Eternity right now, albeit slowly. It’s a PC RPG set in a world where science has essentially proven metaphysics is real – souls – and how all magic is based around it. I love that shit, haha, but it’s taking me forever to finish. There’s already a sequel where you get to go on a pirate-themed quest to kill a god. I’m excited to get to that one – in a few years’ time, probably.
What else do you do when you’re not making music?
Stare at memes in the group chat.
What are you currently listening to?
A lot of 03 Greedo, VIO_L3T’s Cloud Tech EP, Mutations by The Untouchables, Juice WRLD, and Benny The Butcher.