The Story Behind: D'Marc Cantu 'Set Free' | Features | MN2S

New to the MN2S booking agency roster, D’Marc Cantu is the JakBeat innovator behind countless acid house hits. He told us about the making of one of his biggest early tracks, ‘Set Free’.

‘Set Free’ is not only one of the first tracks I ever created, it was also the first in a long line of songs that JTC, Traxx and I have coined as being part of the JakBeat ethos. A song designed to be quite deliberate in its desire to emote a strong feeling with a primal edge that was almost absent from the underground dance music community as we saw it in the early 2000’s.

The track wasn’t meant to be released as is but in the end it came to be that way, it sat for quite some time, close to 5 years, maybe. After sending batches of tracks to Ministry of Sound and not really finding anything I opted to put a bow on some of the older material I had. After listening, Ministry of Sound boss Aroy Dee was adamant about releasing the track, which was slowly built around heavy FX, a rolling drum line and some aggressive filtering, my attempt at that time to draw upon my many influences.

When it was first conceived I was aspiring to get to a certainly level of quality, trying to grasp a level of production that I did not have. It was this innocence, this desire to match what many of the artists I looked up to were doing that resulted in my current production direction but that has not always been the case.

With ‘Set Free’, my lack of production skill was the saving grace of the track, and many more like it from that time period (2002-2006). This “raw” production style is a mainstay in the underground dance music community today, with number of producers out there who have a tentative grasp on production growing. Many of these artists do not allow time for their sounds to mature before presenting them to the world, choosing to simply use their productions to showcase their live/DJ sets. However it’s this lack of knowledge and understanding that, in recent years, has been so captivating and it’s one of the reasons why ‘Set Free’ is so loved. It is an unabashed collection of happy accidents that resulted in a solid track and it’s this garage rock mentality that draws so many to these 200 person venues on a Saturday at 1am.

If I’m being critical of the song and in turn my skill at that time it’s because it is the truth. Despite being one of my most lauded tracks it is not a favorite of mine. I would have you listen to ‘Zone 4’ on Shaddock or ‘Some Kind of Strange’ on Sequencias for some of my favorite work. However, that raw unrelenting, cyclical 4-to-the-floor dance music on Ministry of Sound and Crème is really the culmination of years of daydreams and smoked out afternoons, seemingly giving up the polish and sheen of the work I was trying to emulate in favor of getting to the point.

The track itself is quite simple: some heavy flange work, a repetitive pad line and some of my favorite drum elements, 909/808 hats and Dr110 claps, add some snappy snares, some frantic filtering and you have an early D’Marc Cantu JakBeat track. The song was produced around the time 2AMFM was formed and during the founding of the JakBeat movement, so the mid 2000’s. This was also during the period of time in which I was given a sort of production boot camp as it were by JTC.

When I wasn’t working tirelessly to produce DMC tracks we were working on 2AMFM, when we weren’t working on 2AMFM I was attending local parties/gigs, always watching and listening. Trying to get as much insight into what moves crowds, how dance music is received and how live acts/DJs operate. It was during this time that ‘Set Free’ came into being, and it was during these parties that I started to shape my sound.

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