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Marques Wyatt is a messenger of the deepest, most soulful kind of house music. Beneath his relaxed, spiritual and unknowingly suave persona, therein lies a man partially responsible for giving birth to the West Coast house scene and bringing the fresh sounds of New York to Los Angeles beginning in the mid eighties. Carefully pointing out that he has “always had a deep passion for music,” you know that his adoration of house has become its gateway into the lives of thousands of people. Promoting and playing an enormous amount of parties including BBC, Brass, MAC’s Garage, Does Your Mama Know? and currently Deep, over the years, Marques has changed the face of LA nightclubbing and the presentation of its music and sound.
Growing up in Santa Monica, Marques’ family and environment were his major musical influences. One brother was in a psychedelic band while the other two were listening to the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire. His father introduced him to jazz and as he grew older, he inevitably discovered clubbing finding inspiration at Hollywood’s Odyssey; the venue featured the unique and eclectic sound of New York-influenced disco and club music ranging from Donna Summer to Malcom McClaren. Marques lingered by the DJ booth noting titles that he would later search out at local record shops; he stored his rapidly expanding vinyl collection at a friend’s house and around the age of eighteen, learned the mixer and began doing parties while going to high school and then college.
On a journey to New York City in 1984, Marques found that “something else” he felt was missing from the LA scene. The massive size, assortment of music and the very mixed crowd at Danceteria enthralled him. Witnessing the magic of Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage was another major catalyst. “Once I got introduced to that sound, I was all about New York club music,” he recalls. On another East Coast venture in 1986, Marques introduced himself to Frankie Knuckles at The World in New York, a meeting that would prove to be one of the major turning points in his career. “I had never heard music played that way, presented that way or sound like that,” he says of Frankie. “From that point on, I was on a mission to bring that music into the scene here (in LA).” Tony Humphries was another mentor to Marques; he was musically schooled and nurtured on cassette tapes of Tony’s groundbreaking weekly mix show on New York’s KISS-FM.
Marques began promoting and his first event, BBC at the famed Osko’s Disco, led to bookings at various underground parties. He was then approached about DJing at the Hollywood hot spot Helena’s, the chosen location for high-class celebrity dining and entertainment. Marques trained the crowd at Helena’s, turning the clientele on to his flavorful mesh of house. Madonna, Robert Plant and Prince were among many that were exposed to early sounds of Marques Wyatt. After Helena’s, there was Water My Bush and MAC’s Garage, circa 1988. MAC’s Garage became Marques’ seminal club and the first LA venue to feature live house acts such as Adeva, Tyree Cooper, Liz Torres and New York legend David Morales. “It was such a phenomenon here,” says Marques. “It was one of the first clubs in LA where crowds were making noise on the breaks of songs. It was a first in a lot of ways. Every Friday, everyone would end up there and it was such an amazing scene.” After its initial weeks, MAC’s Garage carried on without alcohol, following in the footsteps of New York’s legendary Paradise Garage and becoming the first club in LA to attain success without a liquor license.
As the rave scene exploded on the West Coast in the early nineties, Marques sought out and created musical options with a residency at Love in San Francisco and the launch of the Sunday night party Brass as an alternative to both the rave and hip hop scenes. Brass’ five-year stint broke such cutting edge soul and jazz artists like the Brand New Heavies, Digable Planets and Jamiroquai by promoting their first LA shows. During this time, there was also Max’s on Mondays and Candelabra, the Saturday monthly where Marques first teamed up with Tony Largo, co-promoter of Does Your Mama Know? These events proved to be at the forefront of a new house revival in Los Angeles. In 1994, Marques brought the legendary Louie Vega to his Prague night; Louie reciprocated by bringing Marques to New York to play the opening set in the main room at Sound Factory Bar. This all-important gig was well received by the critical masses of the Big Apple and Marques was regularly invited back to play Sound Factory Bar and Giant Step. Playing the Masters at Work party at the Winter Music Conference in 1996 earned him exposure to an international crop of promoters, opening the door to long awaited international acclaim and world-renowned clubs such as London’s Ministry of Sound.
The nineties was the decade of Marques’ musical coming of age, playing regularly at the aforementioned events. In addition, there were Saturday nights at High Society and seven years at the high profile after hours Does Your Mama Know? Marques used the latter as an outlet to bring out many of his New York heroes and counterparts to LA. In 1999, Marques left his Saturday residencies in favor of launching his own club. Deep soon outgrew its original home at the Viper Room and moved to Vynyl where it alternated Sundays with Revival, Marques’ joint party with the Wax crew. “I really enjoyed doing that party with Doc (Martin), Little Chris and Juan (Nu-ez) because I really do respect them as DJs,” says Marques. “For all of us to be playing together, have a successful night and all be local talent was very special to all of us and the scene. We saw the transition and open-mindedness come into play like we had never seen in LA before; it was all in the timing.” After years of exploring separate paths, Marques and Doc had finally come together on the decks at Revival and it proved to be a key factor in the development of the LA scene.
Though Revival has since ended except for special one-offs, Deep is still thriving due to its dedicated promoter and resident DJ, devout supporters and an incomparable formula of quality sound, music and family atmosphere. “What is happening at Deep is real,” says Marques. “The meshing of different kinds of people is something that you can’t buy.” Deep has turned into a sanctuary for LA’s congregation of house revelers. With weekly guests like King Britt, Joe Claussell, Mark Farina, Timmy Regisford and Louie Vega, Marques has created a home for the international DJing elite in an intimate LA setting. There is little doubt, however, that Marques is the glue holding Deep together as one of the most soulful and inspirational house nights on the planet. In addition to playing alongside his guests, Marques commands the decks all night long one Sunday each month to satisfy his LA faithful. The next installment of the Mixer/DMC compilation series, United DJs of America, Volume 20: Marques Wyatt – DeepÉWhere House Lives, will showcase most endearingly the music and the vibe that is Deep; a national tour will follow the disc’s February 2003 release.
In addition to DJing around the globe, Marques began experimenting in the studio in the late nineties with remixes for Nervous, Strictly Rhythm and Yoshitoshi. In 2000, he released a remix on Tilted and the Fog City Players EP with Moulton Studios’ production master Jay-J. However, it is his latest work, “For Those Who Like to Get Down” on the renowned Om Records that he is most proud of. 2002 brought a remix of Joel’s “Won’t Take No” on Electric Monkey. With two compilations, Sound Design V1 and For Those Who Like to Get Down, and this latest EP, Marques has developed a lasting relationship with the San Francisco-based imprint and expects at least one more mixed disc under their supervision. More original work can be expected in the future as he sets his sights on putting music to commercials and film, balanced with DJing. “I’m always maintaining my balance,” says Marques. “Having a sound mind reflects really well on my work.” Words by Carly Miller