Marlo at Dreamstate So Cal 2017

Time after time, I stood in the crowd experiencing MaRLo’s energetic banging music. This past Thanksgiving, I had to the chance to sit down with the man behind Reaching Altitude at Insomniac’s Dreamstate held at the NOS Events Center in So Cal. We talked about his passion for freedom and creativity, discussed his successes, struggles and admiration for Trance Family SF’s fashion sense of stylish pants. He filled us in on how daddy duty was going, adapting to baby River, and where he met his wife!

Reaching Altitude with MaRLo

Credit: Jake West for Insomniac

TFSF: Tonight we’re at Dreamstate So Cal with MaRLo… capital “R” capital “L”?

MaRLo :( laughs) You have all got very awesome pants; I’m just like looking at them all like, your pants game is spot on! Love it; I need some zippers on the side. So, the reason behind that[the capital “R”], is because when I first started out making music, I would just have my name normal without the capitals and in the interviews and even one of my first releases they wrote Mario with a “i”. It happened four or five times. So, I wanted to make sure it was capital “L” it’s “MarLo”. Then, the “L” looked weird, and then from a design standpoint, we just made a capital “R” as well. So that’s why it is.

How are your eyes doing? Will you be okay tonight, you’ll be able to see your buttons and your fans out there?

MaRLo: The reason you’re asking is because I had laser eye surgery a couple of weeks ago because I used to wear glasses at night and got laser eye surgery done and it’s a lot better already. Yea, yea, yea! For sure [I’ll be able to see]! I already can see really well. Just the long flight from Sydney to LA which was like 15 hours, my eyes got quite dry but they’re all good now.

You have a “tech energy” set tonight, can you tell us a little more about it?

MaRLo: It’s not only dark tech. It’s what tech energy is all about. It’s just a label I’ve given myself to have freedom to play whatever I want without having people saying this isn’t this genre or that isn’t that genre. I don’t want to label it. So, it’s a broad thing. I can play whatever I want. I can play hard trance, tech trance, psy-trance, hardstyle, drum & bass, really bangin’ techno. Old stuff from 10 years ago, like German hard trance from back in the day. It just gives me freedom. So, then I thought, “What is it?” Okay, it’s techy and it’s got lots of energy. So, I’ll just call it Tech Energy. It’s not like I’m trying to create my own genre. Really, it’s just an easy way for me to describe my own musical freedom.

Tonight you’re closing out the Dream main stage, how does that feel?

MaRLo: Love it! I played last year at Dreamstate as well. It was just insane. So, I am looking forward to it again.

About your label, Reaching Altitude, Congratulations on that! How did you come up with the name?

MaRLo: Thanks! I have my own concert event it’s called Altitude. I launched last year in Australia and we sold over 15,000 tickets. It’s just me playing for 4 hours with live vocalists; it’s a concert style show. Actually, we had Ruben de Ronde doing the warm up. This year, we had Jason Ross doing the warm up but the concept is that I play the whole journey of when I first started going out. All the music I love, all the biggest tracks I’ve been playing over the past few years and of course a lot of my own catalog because if you get booked for an hour of two hours for a club set, you’re going to play your new stuff, your new music, and things like that. So my own concert shows allow me to also play some of my earlier things. Some of my stuff people might not know, like new fans won’t know. It’s a real journey for me. From that, I was sent a lot of music from people that wanted me to play their music in my sets. Some of the tracks are amazing! I’m like “WHY isn’t this stuff released? WHY have I never heard of this artist? They’re amazing!” So I decided to start my own label called Reaching Altitude to really promote and push new talent. That’s what it’s all about; it’s giving people an opportunity that I don’t think have a home on other labels. I think it’s true to the stuff that I play, I think it’s true to my sound, and basically I’ll sign any genre as long as I can play it as well and as long as I believe in it. Every artist I sign, I really want to nurture, help, and give advice. We’re constantly e-mailing back and forth and it’s awesome. It’s a great opportunity to share new talent.

Is there a reason why “The Launch” was the first release of Reaching Altitude?

MaRLo: Not really, no. It’s a track I made and I knew I was launching the label so I called it “The Launch”. It wasn’t really ever thought of that way. I was like I got this track I got to release, let’s make it the first track for the label.

Do you think it’s difficult to get your foot in the door if you’re a new artist?

MaRLo: It is…but it’s difficult in any day and age. See, if you are a new comer, now it seems really difficult because there’s so much over saturation. There’s so many DJ’s, there’s so many producers, there’s so many labels, there’s so many outlets, there’s so many social media platforms,  that it feels overwhelming of where to start. When I started was before YouTube, before Spotify, before Soundcloud. Then, the struggle was, “No one wants to hear my stuff.” and, “There’s no way for me to show anyone because there’s no platform to launch anything”. The only way you could get known was to sign a vinyl release. A vinyl release cost $20,000 plus, sometimes $50,000, for them just to do the pressing of the vinyl to market it to sell it to shops. It’s a huge risk for labels and if they don’t know you, if they don’t know you personally or if you haven’t had previous hits, they’re not going to invest that sort of money into you. So, that was my obstacle when I was starting out. I don’t think that in this day and age it’s any harder than any other day and age. It’s just really hard. You just have to find a way to make it work. In my case, the reason my event is called Altitude is because no one would book me, no one would give me a chance, no one would sign me. So I started my event in a tiny little club and promoted to university students back in the day and it was called Altitude. That was the first gig I ever played. Once people would come to my nights, then other promoters were like “Hey! Where is this guy? He’s building a name for himself.” Back then, I was called “Liquid M” with another guy, we were a duo. Then, being a promoter as well, I was able to be like “How ‘bout you book me for your club night and I’ll book you for my club night or one of your DJ’s and do swaps.” That’s how I started to get my name out there and play more and more venues. It’s hard but no matter what era you’re in; don’t use that as an excuse. The key is finding a way around it. There are plenty of opportunities. 100% there’s plenty of opportunities. You just have to go out and create them. Don’t expect someone to give them to you; that is the key.

What would be your plan B if you were not doing this?

MaRLo: Yeah, I mean I’ve said this in other interviews before but, I was young, like 19 or 20. My mum was like, “Hey Marlo, what are you going to do if this whole music thing doesn’t work out?I think it’s great that you’re trying to do something creative, I think it’s awesome but what are you going to do if, in a couple of years, it just doesn’t work out like the millions of other people where it doesn’t work out? What’s your plan B?” she said. I said “Mum”; I looked her dead in the eyes and said, “Mum, my plan B, is try plan A again.” So it’s just persistence, hard work, determination. It’s such a cliché but it’s true and don’t expect someone to help out, because they won’t.

At this point in your career, have you achieved your goals yet?

MaRLo: Yes and no. I am super happy with where I’m at, super grateful and super thankful and not just on a career level. I’ve got a baby boy now and a beautiful wife. Those things are really important to me as well now and finding that balance. When I was starting out there was no balance. It was basically, I sacrifice everything, sacrifice Christmas, sacrifice family, I sacrifice friends just to be determined because I wanted to not succeed, that’s the wrong word. My success for me isn’t money or fame or anything like that. Success is doing what you love to do, right. If you are doing everyday what you love to do, and you’re able to do that, that is success. So, am I a success? Yes, 100%.I’m doing what I love. I’m talking to you guys, in LA in America, playing for Dreamstate after Armin [van Buuren]. This is a dream come true for me so 100%, I feel like I’ve achieved all those goals of doing what I love to do. I am also very hungry and driven to do more stuff and to have more opportunities to do different things.

Speaking about family and work, is it tough to balance for you?

MaRLo: It definitely is, it clashes with everything. The balance of family and work is constant. You’ve gotta work at it, create situations where you can be home with family and you gotta take time off, simple as that. Just block periods out like I’m not touring that month.

What’s Baby River’s favorite music?

MaRLo: He’s a huge Above & Beyond fan. A “Little Something from Above & Beyond has been his jam from the start. It just puts him to sleep, it’s very peaceful, and it’s a nice song. I think also because my wife [Janette Bishara, aka the vocalist Jano], she’s a promoter and tours with Above & Beyond, that’s a song close to her and she used to play it when he was still in her tummy. He chills out. He knows when that song comes out it is sleep time.

How did you meet your wife?

MaRLo: At a mobile phone store! I was a struggling DJ trying to make things happen and worked at a part time job in a mobile phone store. She was at a university studying marketing and that’s how we met.

If you were stuck on an island and you could only take 3 things with you, what would you take?

MaRLo: My mum, my wife, and my baby. Family is really important. Music you can create. I can find some coconut shells. If you got 3 band members, I mean, you can jam. One person splash the water, another one’s got the coconuts, the crackling of the fire. You can make your own music.

What would you like to say to your fans and when will you be showing up in San Francisco again?

MaRLo: Soon as they invite me I’m there. I’d love to come back to San Francisco. Call me! I’d love to come out, I love you guys! I want to say a big thank you to all my fans in San Francisco but also the rest of the world, without you guys I wouldn’t be where I am. Simple as that, it’s because of your support that I get to do what I love to do.  I’m super thankful, super grateful.

– Diana Borja, Writer, TranceFamily SF







Trance Family SF 







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