Marc Urselli – “I used to tell the guy ‘I like this and this, what do you have that sounds similar?’ The good old day of human record store clerk recommendations!”

Marc Urselli (1)

A tribe of turtles dominates over the wooden shelves full of the dubbed cassettes. A telephone cable adaptor underneath it all, the kind of object that tells me that technology has got a hard road to get into this house.
An impressive image, at least to my eyes. Can you comment on that, please?

Well that’s the basement of my parents house in Southern Italy and when I used to live there my CD and tape collection was immaculately organized by alphabet. I have about 5000 CDs and about 300 cassette tapes but after I left for NY my parents reshuffled some furniture down there so the order has been lost a bit. And yes technology doesn’t have an easy path in Southern Italy. I think they just got fibre optical internet last year and although it’s supposed to clock in at a still shameful 25Kbps it actually only goes to an infuriatingly slow 11-12…
The turtles were a little collection I was growing back in the days, 25 years ago. We actually had about 20 real turtles roaming around in our garden and new eggs would hatch every year, until some asshole climbed the fence and stole almost all of them for unknown purposes. I hope they are fine. We only have 4-5 left in the garden.

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God. This story about the turtles is amazing. I’m still interested in other objects instead of records: the bow and the horn? They remind me of a pre-historical age! But the contrast with (I guess) golf ping pong balls is strong.

The bow was a present I had gotten when I was a little kid and it’s just been hanging on that wall forever. The horn is from Switzerland, I think, where I was born. The golf balls are from a golf course in Switzerland near where I lived. I never played golf but when I was a little kid I used to walk in the forest at the edge of the golf course and collect all the golf balls that had been thrown (swung?) past the fence. I collected hundreds of them.

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So you are born in Switzerland? I didn’t know, I don’t know very much of your personal story, sorry! Maybe because I ‘met’ you through Chain DLK. I know you ended up living in New York where you had an astonishing career as a sound engineer. I see a baseball glove in one of the pictures, that sort of game that sounds ‘American’ to me. Does the US have been an interest for you since you were a kid? What pushed you to go to New York? How did it happen?

I was always a bit of an americanophile in a way but I didn’t think I’d end up in the US and I’ve never played a game of baseball in my life to this day.
Around 1998 I was running a recording studio in Southern Italy and growing increasingly unhappy with the conditions around me for a number of reason so I was thinking of moving to northern Italy or Switzerland (where I was born and was planning to eventually return at some point). At some point I decided to basically go do an internship in NYC to broaden my horizons. The plan was to go to EastSide Sound recording studios where an Italian guy named Federico Panero (who was a friend I had met through Paolo Favati of Pankow) used to work as an engineer. Once I did the internship I kept renewing it and it soon became clear I wanted to stay in the US. I now am the chief engineer of that same recording studio.

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As many other contributors to Concrete Shelves, you have that lovely bunch of dubbed cassettes. In spite of your parents, I still see that most are in alphabetical order… which creates nice connections: Laibach beside Living Colour and some mysterious title, such as “Dolore caldo” and “Paousotialol” (or something like that, a light blue one at the bottom). I see a lot of metal/experimental/industrial, and no jazz: Maybe I just miss to find it, or for you jazz became an interest later on? Can you somehow briefly describe how your tastes evolved while you grew up?

Acute observation Watson! Yes, jazz became something I loved later. I didn’t know or care much about jazz in my teens and there wasn’t any jazz to speak of in Puglia. Once I moved to NYC it was ALL jazz and I got to know it better. Today a large part of what I record is jazz in some way shape or form. Back in my Italian days it was all metal, rock and electronica/industrial for me (when it came to listening) and a lot of punk and hard core (when it came to the circles I frequented and the people I recorded in my studio in Italy). As a listener I came from rock and metal but my interest in industrial bloomed and turned into Chain D.L.K. (which I started in 1994) so a large part of my CD collection is actually stuff that was being sent to me to be reviewed in Chain D.L.K. while the cassettes were me and my friends exchanging records that were coming out at the time or that we found access to somehow.

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Yes, I also somehow think that jazz is the kind of music that one might start liking when he grows up and gets more mature. It happened the same to me. Maybe, since we were boys, we needed something that fitted with the typical ‘teenage angst’, like metal or industrial. So here is the last question, as you mentioned Pankow and I noticed their tapes. What’s the first band of that ‘grey area’ you discovered? For me, it was S.P.K… for you? And in metal? I see for instance Pantera…

I don’t remember the exact first band of the “grey area” but I think it was The Young Gods… I am half Swiss and my Swiss cousin was a big influence on what I used to listen to at the time and he was the first one to play me The Young Gods, who I still love and listen to this day. From there I went into Nine Inch Nails, Neubauten and many many others… There was a record store in Aarau (where I was born) called Baby Doll where I’d just go and buy stuff of this kind all the time… I used to tell the guy “I like this and this and this, what do you have that sounds similar?” and he’d hook me up and I’d listen in the store and decide what to buy… the good old day of human record store clerk recommendations!
I feel pretty lucky that I’ve come full circle with my career and that along with mixing tracks for U2, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, John Zorn and so many others I also did remixes for Pankow and bands like that… and although I’ve never worked with The Young Gods, unfortunately, they did actually record their “TV Sky” album at EastSide Sound, the studio where I now am chief engineer at. It was before my time and my friend Roli Mosimann (also Swiss) was the producer, but it’s nice to see how all these things and names are connected in my life.




Marc Urselli is an engineer, producer, mixer and sound designer. He has worked with U2, Foo Fighters, Sting, Lou Reed, Keith Richards, Kesha, Jeff Beck, Les Paul, Buddy Guy, Luther Vandross, Nick Cave, Børns, The Black Crowes, Joss Stone, Mike Patton, John Zorn, Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding, John Patitucci, Laurie Anderson and scores of artists performing rock, pop, metal, jazz, experimental/avantgarde/new music, urban and electronica and classical. Marc also composes music for film and television, creates sound design for commercials and mixes audio for film and television.
He’s one of the founders of Chain D.L.K., established in 1994, one of the longest-running and biggest online music communities. |
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Photo by William Semeraro.

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