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Turntables, Turn Heads: an Interview with DJ Jesse Marco
New York's finest. Literally. He's also a Topman model.

He may only be 22 years old, but Jesse Marco is already well-established as one of New York City's most talented and sought-after DJs. His signature style and flair for mixing cross-genre classics, like Led Zeppelin and Jay Z or Michael Jackson and Nirvana, has caught the attention of some of the industry's biggest names, including Tom Ford, Russel Simmons, and Kanye West. Since he started spinning on his first turntables at the age of 12, his passion, talent, and dedication has taken him to the top, with a little help from DJ legends Mark Ronson and DJ AM. Don't miss your chance to get in on the action with Jesse Marco at Joonbug's Fashion Week Gala. Oh, and did we mention that he's also a model? How appropriate.

I hear you've been DJing since you were 12, is that true?  How did you get started?

Yes, I got my Gemini starter kit when I was about 12 yrs old. My best friend at the time, who was older than me, was really into KRS One and Wu Tang Clan and was a dj as well.

What kind of sound equipment did you have as a child?

I had a Sony cassette player that got a lot of use and I had a SANYO boombox for a while that i would listen to the radio on.

What was it about DJing that sucked you in?

Music has always been my thing, from the moment my mother would play Aretha Franklin or The Doors around the house, dancing and music was always important. I guess it was the sense of control and creativity that made a lasting impression on me. Once I started carrying other dj's records and going out to their gigs with them, I felt immediately at home in the booth. I'd sit on the floor and just look through their records all night, and maybe pick out a few for them to play that I thought would go over well that they might have over looked.

Who or what are your greatest influences?

My family, my friends, more specifically dj wise I've learned everything I know from AM and Ronson. Music wise Jay Z , Talking Heads, Nirvana, Daft Punk, Led Zeppelin, New Order, Larry Levan, The Rolling Stones, A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Premier... The list goes on and on.

Which online music site is the best?

Pitchfork reviews are harsh but accurate, and Jessemarco.com!

I've read that you believe that NYC DJs are better than others.  What makes them better?

This is the toughest, most judgmental, critical environment in the world. Standards for musical taste change every day and dj's here come up playing these long drawn out usually 6 hour sets (sometimes even longer depending on the genre of the dj), giving them ample time to practice their mixes and know their records and how to play to different sorts of people. We have a responsibility to be the tastemakers and if you can introduce something to a tough crowd and make it work, I'd say that's a characteristic of a NYC dj.  Like Frank said, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, it's as simple as that.

What's different about the crowds in NYC versus other cities?

Some other non- metropolitan cities are late on new music, and are sometimes, but not all the time, stuck in a zone because  the people there are only getting one thing. As far as club music goes, NY is still a bit stuck, and it's our jobs as dj's to keep it moving so often times we introduce new music even when it might make a room uncomfortable, and then play the record 5 times in a night until the crowd knows it and loves it. NYC, I think, is about balancing new and old, keeping people on their toes and giving them surprises, and always being creative. But in comparison to other cities, like Miami where I've got this housey Latin vibe, or Chicago being a bit electronic, or even Baltimore, which has this huge bmore craze which I love. Every city has their own energy, and it's great to feed off all of them. LA is great too, so much energy, and they love to just hear everything. Europe is amazing as well as Canada.

How do you adjust your set to appeal to different crowds depending on location/age?

I just keep different crates of different music. I can't give away all my secrets!

What other exciting places have you traveled to for DJing?

A lot of fun places, I loved Santorini in Greece, Mykonos as well, Venice, Italy. Not all exotic I guess, London was a blast, Paris, Milan, Sweden, Switzerland, Istanbul, Barcelona. Lots of places, its great when there is a language barrier and you can still connect with people through the tunes you play or make.

How do you decide what you're going to play every night?

Sometimes I prepare, if not I always am reading the crowd to see how to build and create a sense of energy.

What is the difference in terms of an iPod DJ and one that prefers vinyl?

Music is the medium - I don't think it really matters anymore. I just think the iPod doesn't allow you to mix at all... which can be easier or harder depending on what you're trying to do. If you're just playing music in a store, let's say greeting people, I think an iPod is fine. You need a DJ to create a mood or soundtrack for a client.

Do you have any tracks that you know will be crowd pleasers no matter what city you are in?

Yes. They are called classics.

You seem to do a lot of fashion gigs and you've even signed a modeling contract.  How did you get into the fashion side of things?

I did Tom Ford's after party in Milan a couple years ago kind of on a whim and since then seem to get booked for a gig now and then.

How are the worlds of modeling and DJing alike or dissimilar?

I think they are very similar, there's something about them both that can really empower people and also make people a little uneasy. I've always imagined clothing needing a setting or a model just like music needs listeners. They are a bit dissimilar in the fact that "modeling," separate from fashion is its own animal. You've also caught me on a very busy day leading up to a show I'm doing the music for, so excuse me for being a bit all over the place.

You've had the opportunity to learn by being alongside DJ greats DJ AM and Mark Ronson.  What did you learn from them and how does that shape the way you spin?

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Both Adam and Mark have been the most inspiring and influential people when it comes to the way I approach DJing. Both [are] tastemakers in their own right, Mark would often times surprise me with blending different genres together that might not fit in the first place, as well as creating a standard for when and where to do these blends in the New York setting. Adam always reiterated that it was very important to practice, which I'm extremely thankful for. [He] created a totally new style of DJing, and I think any DJ, whether new or old, was influenced by his artistic approach. Adam also really taught me how to scratch and use wordplay -- where you're mixing a phrase of a song that might match the song title or lyrics in another song. Most importantly, Adam would remind me to have fun with it. A lot of seriousness goes into the business aspect of DJing and the industry in general, but at the end of the day, I love what I do and get paid for it, and that's fun for me.

What gig are you most proud of or makes you feel the most accomplished?

Probably most recently either DJing for Madonna in NYC and seeing all her dancers and everybody actually dancing! Like sweaty wall-to-wall dancing. Or DJing Russell Simmons' annually party in St. Barths this year.

What's your favorite venue or place that you've DJed?

I don't think it's fair that I have just one. There are many great venues, some being Gold Bar, Avenue, 1Oak and Butter in New York City, Le Baron in Paris, LIV in miami, Java Club in Geneva, Pure in Las Vegas, Bungalow 8 in London, Teddy's and Playhouse in LA,  I mean the list goes on and on.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the business?

Practice. There is always gonna be someone better than you.

What the hottest track out right now?

Well hot to me - anything by Holy Ghost! (DFA records) and Ryan Leslie. - "You're Not My Girl" Jesse Marco Remix!

What are the next steps for you?

Producing original music and a couple surprises I have in store that I can't reveal yet. Just keep checking Jessemarco.com for updates!