Audeze chats with DJ and producer Marcel Sterling

September 05, 2023

Leipzig/Germany based DJ and producer Marcel Sterling has been in the Electronic Music industry for about 25 years, focusing on club music such as Indie Dance, Melodic & Progressive sounds, always with a special retro touch. With his most famous alias Marc DePulse he was playing DJ gigs in over 40 countries, having hundreds of releases in the past two decades. Marcel is also running the famous podcast brand HOW I MET THE BASS and is the head of the successful Indie Dance & Melodic House imprint JEAHMON! Records.

 Marcel Sterling in the studio with his Audeze LCD-4z headphones

"(LCD-4z) are super honest to me, an absolutely clean and clear sound. And I honestly improved my sound since I used them."  - Marcel Sterling (Marc DePulse)
Here's our chat with Marcel:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I have created over 500 releases (singles, EPs, LPs, remixes, collaborations) under different aliases, also as a ghost producer. But the projects I'm proud of most are my 3 Marc DePulse artist albums. They tell a story and it's always a challenge to work on stuff like this. It's not the usual club content, it's about creating a golden thread. "Off" music, showing a different side of you. Trying something new, learning about other genres and combining them with your style and knowledge. This is always the maximum of creativity for me. My latest album "Together Alone" appeared in 2022 on Katermukke. It was that kind of pandemic retrospective. Making music together (online) but also being alone in the studio during the lockdown period. That was absolutely new for me, probably for all of us. It was something completely different to exchange stems, doing video and phone calls without meeting the collaborations partner in person. This work flow was definitely tricky but also cool the same way for me while being home alone. So the LP is a full collaborations project. 13 tracks with totally 12 different artists. Something I would probably not do again in this way, but it was worth it, every single track is unique and outstanding.
Another milestone in my career was the establishment of my imprint JEAHMON! Records in 2013 and to create a storytelling podcast (mix-)series in 2015 called HOW I MET THE BASS, asking artists about their roots. This series became a famous brand, having about 225 podcasts by 225 different and exciting artists and also we had some great festival days and nights with this concept already.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

I love to sit in the driver seat in all of my projects. That's the best way for me to express creativity. An empty book with a lot of coloured pencils to use. Having no rules, no borders but millions of options. I can decide which way to go. I can say "yes" and "no" on every corner. Either it is about music production or being the A&R and CEO of my imprint or even selecting and playing music as a DJ. I can direct things, of course making mistakes but learning from them and fail better the next day (laughing). I'm a maker and love to work on my own. Although I have done a lot of collaborations with different artists over the years and also I'm having a huge network of creative humans and good souls, I always prefer to work alone in my studio when it comes to music production. I love to create a special mood for this. Sounds maybe a bit romantic but a glass of wine and a moody light makes a magical difference. In terms of bookings, travel and running my label I'm having smart helpers, such as my agent or several graphic designers.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I'm child of the 80s so I'm still infected with the Synthwave/Synth Pop era, also I went through the Eurodance scene in the 1990s as a young raver and was getting in touch with Trance music later on. It's a mix of all: From Depeche Mode to Kraftwerk, later from Westbam to Kai Tracid, Pulsedriver, Blank & Jones and so on. I was born in the former DDR, so my music influence started around 1990 when I was 10 years old. Then I got deep into the Electronic Music scene already as a young boy. I went dancing to music 2-3x a week in our local clubs here in Leipzig. On the other side I had a great musical education in my early years: Learning accordion as a kid (from the age of 7), later singing in a famous choir and passing my A-levels in music. I started producing my own music in 1999 with the Impulse Tracker (MS-Dos based) and I started DJing around 2002 with vinyls. The beginning was really fast and powerful. I created 160 bpm Gabber tracks (close to the former "Thunderdome"). Later it was a lot of Trance, Hardtrance music. In 2006 my music had changed to the sound and tempo I still love to play and produce nowadays (between 120-130bpm). And from this time on I created this typical Marc DePulse hand script.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

Oh there were many but let's not talk about a specific situation: I have learned to sometimes make a step back to make two steps ahead afterwards. Although I'm a fulltime musician for more than 10 years now, I still learn every single day and will never stop learning. Also it's important for your own development to never be satisfied with your Status Quo. Always try to make things better, always try to grow although you might think you're already 'big'. Never compare, never copy, never follow trends just to be cool or hyped. Be authentic, be special, be yourself. Means: Make your own thing. This gives your work an important fingerprint.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their careers?

See above, but also: Always work on your skills, your productions and your talent in priority - not on your socials or your outfits. And talking about "socials" by the way: Since I'm a father I stopped spending too much time in the web, I'm not like checking my timeline every few minutes anymore. I'm having a strict to-do list since there is a tough time frame everyday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (kindergarten). I learned to fully focus on the main things. Priceless experience but absolutely needed.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I was 100% into software until the pandemic came. Then I asked myself: How can I improve my sound and especially my mixing and recording routine? So I set up a lot of gear with the help of some sound processors such as a Tape Emulator. I'm using them on the kicks, lows (kick drums you can literally touch). Plus an EQ, two compressors and a pre-amp in my lunchbox (I can re-patch, but usually having them on bass + leads + vocals + fx + sum). A lovely experience. In addition there is a limiter at the end of the route. Hardware on this point is a real helper, it simply sounds like real machines. Also I'm using Propellerheads Reason since 2001 and I'm in love with this DAW. It gives me all the options I want, a lot of extensions and exciting instruments. Outstanding sounds with synthesizers - at least since Reason opened up for more during the years.

Painting of Marc DePulse with his Audeze LCD-4z headphones

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

I'm a "bedroom producer" since forever. The same time I'm also a headphone producer. As I never had an external studio, I always had my studio in an isolated room in my private apartment. And of course I can't make any noise at all, especially not during the night time. So I'm used to produce my music with headphones on. Of course I also use my speakers (Genelec) and another reference monitors (Auratone) but producing with headphones is minimum 50% of my daily work.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

I was using a lot of different headphones over the years. 2 years ago I decided to try something new, also kind of going the next step, entering the next level. I was visiting a store in Berlin that are true experts with professional audio equipment and they have a huge headphone room. I was in this room really for a while, testing 20+ different headphones with my own music, making a shortlist later and then I've chosen the LCD-4z in the end. This was one of the best investments for my studio, I can say now. For me it is the best sounding headphone, best fitting, of course also a nice design - but that wasn't my criteria. I have had Audeze experiences in the past, friends were having these headphones and I tried them already in their studios. So I already had this "WOW"-effect before and so it was probably not a hard decision to choose them. Now I'm super happy and can really say: I would never use any other headphone in my life. OK, maybe the next edition(s) coming. Currently I'm using them around 1-2 hours a day. Especially in the evening/night time when my daughter sleeps next door. Basically for mixing it's important to use them, they are super honest to me, an absolutely clean and clear sound. And I honestly improved my sound since I used them.

Marcel Sterling's Audeze LCD-4z headphones