Interview - Marko Nastić [SRB]
Marko Nastic is the leading South Eastern European DJ. In a troubled Serbia of the 90’s, Marko and his friends built one of the most vibrant club scenes in Eastern Europe, one that inspired writers of “Mixmag”, “The Face”, “DJ” and “NME” to write accolades many moons ago. They resisted dark forces of political madness through electronic music and a celebration of life.
Djing and music were always part of Marko’s background: even in his pre-teen years he was fascinated with synthesizers, drum machines and other sound making gadgets. When techno started filtering through to Serbia in the early 90’s, Marko eagerly entered the scene.
Very soon, word began to spread about a teenage techno prodigy and this energy channeled into a young and aspiring DJ team called “Teenage Techno Punks” - all of whom were under the age of 18. Nastic was the leader of the pack, soon to become the hottest talent of South Eastern Europe’s electronic music scene. The queues to club entrances on the nights they performed were longer than ever, and this spread beyond Serbia.
Just as techno music was becoming popular in Serbia, the Balkan conflict escalated. These circumstances shaped and strengthened Marko. The free parties they threw during those times are still an urban legend in Belgrade.
After the war, the club scenes in neighboring countries became aware of Nastic’s unparalleled DJing skills and his distinctive three-deck style. Marko has since matured into a DJ who cannot be labeled as purely techno, house or minimal; he’s all of that, and more.
In the following interview conversation with Marko:
Roomania: Hello Marko and welcome to “Roomania”. We can say without a doubt that you’ve been an inspiration to us and a lot of younger artists in the field of electronic music. After years of hard work and dedication, how does it feel when you look back and see all of your accomplishments?
First of all, thank you for all the kind words. I am glad that I have managed to inspire someone with my work. From my point of view, art is an ever changing process and we all try to keep up with the times, but simultaneously to progress even further. When I look back, I am definitely most proud of the fact that I managed to accomplish myself as a father and that I have a wonderful family. In a professional sense, the very fact that I have been on the scene for almost 25 years, is a great success for me. Despite that, my desire and love for music and this job have remained unchanged, moreover, at some moments it seems that I now have even more will and perseverance, especially regarding music production.
Roomania: You are a vinyl record collector. How many does your collection number? Any special ones on there that you can single out?
I bought my first album around ’87. I listened to different kinds of music back then, ranging from metal, to hardcore and punk. I had my first contact with electronic sounds through dance music, somewhere around the beginning of ’93. From the end of '94, I began collecting records on a much larger scale. At the moment, I think I have over 10.000 records, although the number alone is not the reason I buy them. Genre is not the most important to me. I feel that for this job it is very important being versatile in your listening ventures and that you are not afraid to dig out something new and different. Therefore, you can find a lot of different albums in my collection. I love when I meet fellow artists who have the same penchant for music, because I don't think anyone was born to be a DJ, but the music you listen to is the basis for you to become a DJ.
Of course, I have a lot of records that I would like to single out, but here are the ones that I am emotionally attached to, which were given to me by my wife: “Chris Rea - Josephine (Extended Mix 1987)”, “Morane - The Trick (Think Dark)” and “Tim Maia - Acenda O Farol”.
Roomania: Starting out in the 90s, the only available form of DJ-ing was vinyl. How did your transition to digital happen? Which one do you prefer more?
I went through various stages - from playing only vinyl, to the total transition to final scratch. Currently, I find it most satisfying with the combination of turntables and CD players. This suits me best, because not all of the clubs have ideal working conditions, so the combination of one turntable and a CD player allows me to work quite precisely. Technology has come a long way, so I like to hear what kind of edits I can do alone, live from “Pioneer”. During this quarantine, I managed to practice my live act a lot, so in the future I see another thing that I would like to master.
Roomania: "Teenage Techno Punks'' is a legendary name. Who came up with it and why?
As far as memory serves me, I think “Gordan Paunovic” came up with the name for a party with “Eric Powell (Bush Records)”. We liked the name “TTP”, so we kept it - and the rest is history.
Roomania: You mentioned that you organized free parties in Belgrade during the '90s. How did this idea come to life? What was the driving force behind it?
It was a kind of escape from the gloomy present - bombing and everything bad that our country was surviving. When I think about it a little better now, from this perspective, it was quite dangerous what we were doing - we were having parties while the air-raid sirens were screaming and at any moment a bomb could fall on you, however, when you are 20, you look at things differently and you want to live in the moment.
Roomania: Is “Retrospektakl'' the embodiment of those ‘90s raves? What is the concept behind it?
Retrospektakl was created to celebrate 20 years of my career. We managed to revive that moment of the occurrence of the electronic music scene in Serbia and bring together all of the people who participated in creating it and who were part of it and my journey through all of these years. It was one of the most emotional parties I’ve ever attended and I’m glad we were able to do one such project. The plan was to hold it again in 2020, but we all know what happened. I hope that in the near future the conditions will be right to repeat that party.
Roomania: Creativity in a DJ mix can be expressed in different shapes and sizes. In which way do you feel more creative, alone or while doing b2b sessions with colleagues?
Honestly, it all depends on the situation and who I work b2b with - how much we get along with the style and the music which we play. Sometimes when I work with people I love a lot as friends, but we don't fit in musically, I can't give 100 percent of myself. If I get along with someone, it's a totally different story, and the satisfaction is mutual. On the other hand, when I work alone, I have my own routine and my creativity is in full swing.
Roomania: Who was your biggest inspiration and motivation to start producing your own music? Do you have a ritual when it comes to making your own tracks?
When I say this, I wouldn’t like to sound like I’m very old, but it really was so long ago that I don’t even remember who influenced me in the beginning. But what I do remember and what was a big turning point in my life and career, is that I wanted to make music completely live, and one of the people who were a great inspiration to me is “Ricardo Villalobos”, not so much in the sense of music style, but because of the way he approaches production and how he makes his own tracks - making a track in one take without the use of a computer, except for recording. This was a long process, and a lot of times I found myself in a situation where I was dissatisfied, but when at one point I entered that formation, I could no longer stop.
Roomania: Your studio is pretty "sick". Do you have a favorite "toy"? Is there a single machine that you include in all of your productions?
True, I have a lot of equipment, but of course I don't use everything at the same time (laughs). It would be pretty impossible. Lately, I've been using a lot of the “Pioneer SP16”, because it's very easy to make a song mode. In addition, I like using the “Cirklon Sequencer”, “Torias Squid Sequencer” and all my synthesizers which are constantly in rotation, especially the “Pro 2”.
As for modular, it all depends on the inspiration. Sometimes it happens that I make a whole song with modular, sometimes just some details.
Roomania: This year freed up more time for creative studio work. Any interesting collaborations that you can share with our readers? Upcoming releases?
Of course. Perhaps, during this period, I worked more than ever in the studio. In addition to the projects I’ve done for myself - finishing my album; I’ve done an album with the amazing singer “Ana Curcin”, which goes a little beyond what you’re used to hearing from me. I have finished a release with “Dejan Milicevic” for “TTP 2.0”, “We Are What We Are” with “Layzie”, and something that I believe will make a lot of people happy - I started my techno project “NASTA +”. The “Timeless” EP on “Octophonic Records” is in pre-sale, “Rakija 005” and “Easy Tiger 005”, which I made with “Djunior” from Slovenia, will soon be in print.
Roomania: This prolonged period of no clubbing has been difficult for the culture. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any ideas on how we can all help in bringing club culture back to life?
Hard times are behind us. From my point of view, I think the only solution to get life back to normal is vaccination. I trust science, doctors and I am grateful for them. On the other hand, when I look at the situation, in March last year I became a father for the second time, and this time, although difficult, is one of the most beautiful periods spent with my family. I found something beautiful in all of this chaos. In business terms, I used this period to the maximum for perfecting and further developing my production skills.
Roomania: You've played in Macedonia numerous times. What are your thoughts on club culture here?
I really enjoy coming to Macedonia. I have a lot of dear friends and I can say that it feels like a second home. I mostly work on sold out events, and I have good feedback from people, which I really like.
It’s a great scene, with a lot of quality parties and quality artists.
Roomania: Living life as a DJ is not always what others see. Can you comment something on this subject? Something that people don't know? What's life like "behind the scenes''?
I hope you understand that every day, in addition to 3 to 6 hours spent in the studio, I listen to music for at least 2 hours a day and I need to fit a family and two children into all that, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this job. I think just because I love this job so much, I manage to balance everything out.
While it sounds now like a distant past, life with connected gigs, lots of transfers, plane delays, going straight from the club to airports, is not as much fun as it seems. In order to stay healthy and preserve your inner peace, the most important thing in this business is to honestly and openly love what you do.
Roomania: Besides DJ-ing, is there anything else that you see yourself doing? Did you always think that you were going to do this or did you have other plans?
DJ-ing is definitely the primary thing I do, but I would like to prove myself even more as a producer - that's what draws me at the moment. And if you think of another profession, which isn’t connected to music, literally nothing comes to my mind, nor have I ever had any other desire, although I must admit that during this forced vacation I was thinking whether there's something else I'd like to do, and I haven't found it.
Roomania: If you could go back in time and see yourself as a kid, what would you say to yourself?
That would be cheating. I would repeat everything, because I think that everything I have lived through, made me who I am today.
Roomania: Another creative form of expression is tattoo art. You mentioned that you love drawing. Are any of your tattoos your own designs? Do you have a favorite?
I love to draw, but I didn’t design a single tattoo myself, I only participated in the idea. And my favorite is the family tattoo, which has to be updated now with a new baby girl. :)
Roomania: We can say that you are a certified Instagram memer. How much time do you spend on making your followers laugh?
I've always wanted to post some memes from time to time, but as the quarantine prolonged, I needed a special dose of laughter, so I took my job as a memer more seriously (laughs). As time goes by, I'm more and more surprised how much Instagram changes its rules and how many things are forbidden to post, and those jokes are not even offensive. I'm not sure if Instagram or people have become so sensitive, but it’s definitely time for some new sort of virtual joy and not to take everything so seriously.
Roomania: Finally, how would you describe your mix for "Roomania"?
What kind of a surprise would it be if I revealed everything to you. Play the mix, turn the volume up and enjoy!
Thank you for being a part of “Roomania”. We hope that after this madness ends, we will be able to dance together.
The next episode premieres in two weeks. For more information on the audio series ''Break Away'', as well as listening to the previous and next episodes, follow “Roomania” on Soundcloud and “Room 313’s” social media. Roomania on Soundcloud and social media of "Room 313".