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Herb Sundays 31: Josh Marcy
A sweeping L.A. expedition from music lifer Josh Marcy. Art by Cina.
This time of year my thoughts go to Los Angeles.
I lived in L.A. for a very brief moment at the turn of the ‘10s. While I never fully committed to the city, being pulled this way and that way, I am grateful for the opportunity. At the time it was still funny to leave NYC, and you got the requisite tough-guy chuckle. But only a few years later, it was game on. Everyone was going West.
L.A. is a music city, everywhere you go it’s part of the story. While NYC music is often held in a snowglobe of distinct historic moments and aesthetics, L.A. somehow makes it all seem current in the blender. Both are deeply nostalgic cities, but Los Angeles makes it feel a little less pained. The city revels in its parodies and pastiches with a who gives a shit energy. When Marty Roberts of lounge duo Marty & Elayne died at 89 this year, you were amazed and relieved they were still playing and thankful they were still beloved.
To get in the spirit of this week’s mix I watched Criterion’s re-scrub of Menace II Society (1993) on Friday night. Zapp’s “Computer Love” is transcendent, elevating the vision of Caine’s 5.0 Mustang in the California sun. Everything that is fly in one moment. Obviously today the city will be broadcasting globally with a half-time show of some of the city’s golden greats. L.A. Plays Itself. No One Can Do It Better.
I didn’t last long in LA. I lack a certain something to pull it off. Those long 4pm stretches of sun were melancholy for me. I felt pulverized by them, eviscerated by their stillness. But Midwesterners often do well out West. Freddie Gibbs is as much California as he is Indiana now, and Dilla’s Donuts is as much an LA record as it is a Detroit record. The Stones Throw crew knew how to treat Jay Dee, they understood Dilla before the rest of the world did.
When reviewing the 110 (yes, I assume it is a freeway reference) Greatest Los Angeles Albums in Herb Gawd Jeff Weiss’ The LAnd publication, there’s a big Venn diagram of my favorites. I love Fleetwood-ian Dan soft rock (a big part of the Herb Template) and The Chronic and the rest of the widescreen Death Row oeuvre changed my life forever. Plus I think Love’s Forever Changes is one of the best albums, period.
So my faith is pure as I look to the snowy skyline out my window today. While this playlist isn’t all L.A. music, it is a distinctly L.A. feeling. A Salvador Dali clock folded over the tree branch. Deeper cuts you may have not investigated with some moments you’ll maybe know. Heatwave sounds like a miracle, a Phil Collins demo lurches, Dynasty’s “Adventures In The Land Of Music” (yes, the Camp Lo sample) comes into view. Herb mixes always take me back too. My neighbor at the time in LA, John Paul Jones, shows up here coincidentally in his Dukes Of Chutney project with the perfectly dreamy “Hazel.”
The curator of note here is a friend, Josh Marcy. Josh is the director of music at Media Arts Lab (aka Apple's agency of record) and has spent his life finding music, making it work to picture, and helping indie artists make money as a result. It’s a good thing.
When I lived in LA and even now (if we are in the same city), Josh is my fave person to go to shows with. We saw Tim & Eric live, braved Hollywood for Matthew Dear DJ gigs at Avalon, and went off in the drum & bass dome thing at Coachella one year. With Josh, all musical pleasure is fair game.
Marcy was actually born and raised in Beverly Hills (90212) in the ‘80s, His eleventh birthday party was a Fat Boys / Salt N Pepa / Dana Dane show. After a brief stint as a Phishead, he fell in love with dance music at Pomona College thanks to his roommate Christian Martin (Dirtybird family, the older brother of Justin Martin). The Masters At Work-helmed Nuyorican Soul project was his gateway from jazz to house. He went to the legendary Moontribe raves in the desert and when he heard the Daft Punk remix of Detroit legend Scott Grooves’ (feat. Parliament / Funkadelic) “Mothership Reconnection” at one of those, he was never the same. It took him 4 years to find the song after holding it in his head.
His music supervisor itch started while working as an assistant for the inventor of “soft core” Zalman King and he soon started writing for the definitely-not-a-hit Showtime show Chromium Blue. It also taught him music supervision: “they needed music, so I stepped in to help. A lot of Om Records licenses, bless them.”
I met Josh probably at Winter Music Conference (WMC) in Miami somewhere between 2004-2008. Josh is more than a crate digger, he also makes and records stuff. Continuing with his LA good fortune, in 2009, he met DJ Harvey, who lived on the other side of his dog park when Harv moved there from Hawaii. They ended up doing some remixes together and then the Locussolus project was born. When his buds from Stones Throw left to start Innovative Leisure, he ended up recording Hanni El Khatib.
It continues… “In 2013 I saw this video of a Thai marching band (Khun Narin Electric Phin Band) on Todd Robert's blog and had my mind blown. Left my day job later that year and went straight to Thailand to record them with Innovative Leisure’s support. (Rundown on that whole trip here.)”
The stories can go forever but photos of Josh are scarce. He’s not there to be seen. He’s there to soak it up.
A musical adventurer has blessed us with a taste of sunshine on a February Sunday. Life is good indeed.