4Marcus: An interview with Soul:ution photographer and friend Al Baker

Last week, we celebrated the life and music of the influential Manchester-based DJ, producer and Soul:ution founder Marcus Intalex. His sudden passing came as a shock to us all, and Marcus’ close friends and musical collaborators were quick to ensure his life and clubbing legacy be remembered with a night in his honour, proceeds from which went to causes close to his and his family’s heart. Photographer Al Baker was a constant presence at Soul:ution over the years. He documented night both prior to and after Band on the Wall’s renovation, capturing the event’s raw energy, the camaraderie between the DJs and all the while amassing personal memories about the night and its founder. We spoke to Al about the history of the night, his memories of Marcus and some favourite shots from Soul:ution over the years, alongside some photos from the commemorative night, 4Marcus.

4Marcus: Soul:ution MCR – Thursday 6th July (photo by Al Baker)

For those too young, or who had too much fun to remember, can you paint a picture of Manchester’s Drum ’n’ Bass scene around the time that Marcus founded Soul:ution and share your thoughts on what the night came to represent?

I first met Marcus Intalex at a friends night called Transmission, late 90s. He came across as a very humble and sincere chap. Quite happy to simply take an equal split of whatever the takings there were that night. I didn’t really get to know him though until Soul:ution, his residency at Band on the Wall. I went down quite a few times, often with my camera. It was simply a consistently great night. At the time Manchester promoters seemed to favour the ‘big, bad & heavy’ sound. Lots of sweaty, gurning fellahs down the front and big, aggressive beats coming at you from the speakers. Marcus went against the grain. Always did, I think. He didn’t book people who had the ‘big new tune’ out at the time. His tastes and his guests were always exceptional. Often a bit maverick, like himself. His own music was tuneful, thoughtful, melodic. Soulful. A bit like with A Guy Called Gerald before him, you could hear Detroit in his music as well as Manchester.

4Marcus: Soul:ution MCR – Thursday 6th July (photo by Al Baker)

You photographed Soul:ution prior to and after Band on the Wall’s renovation – do you feel the night, its atmosphere and aesthetic changed with the club?

I took photographs at Soul:ution in 2003 and 2004. When BotW closed we all had to wait for (far too many) years before we could have that much fun all over again! But it was exactly the same vibe, quality and atmosphere when the club re-opened and he thankfully returned. I’ve had some truly top nights there. Emotional experiences. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have slapped those walls or felt the need to hug Marcus at the end of the night. A few times when I was staggering home in the rain with my camera bag his car would pull up in front of me and he would drive me home. He was just a lovely guy.

Marcus and DJ Marky at Soul:ution, Band on the Wall, Feb 2004 (Photo by Al Baker)

The relationship between a photographer and their subject can be an intimate one, can you tell us about your relationship with Marcus and what you learned about him through your work together?

My relationship with the man was always good. We respected each other, I think. I know a lot of people saw him as a bit of a dour, miserable old git. But that’s ok because a lot of people think the same about me! I always got on well with him, found him easy to talk to, laugh with, about music, about people, about life. I never found him unapproachable or precious or too busy with himself. EVER. I particularly loved the (very long) day where we attempted to create a fitting press shot for his sole solo LP ’21’.

Marcus Intalex ’21’ promo shot (Photo by Al Baker)

You saw Marcus a short time before his passing, behind the decks at a Bank Holiday Soul:ution. What are your memories of that night and of some of his finest moments behind the decks?

I remember him asking me “Who IS that geezer? Friend of yours?” in mock-horror when Salford Jon appeared at the side of the stage at Soul:ution where he soon became a regular fixture. Jon J was a big fan of both Marcus and his night and, when he died Marcus was quick to join the 8 Gold Rings night in his honour. He played a great set that night too, alongside Jenna G, Strategy & DRS. Now that they have both left us I think of them together in an eternal after-party somewhere. 

The very same friend who introduced me to him 20 years ago was up in Manchester recently so (of course) we went out to Soul:ution. No camera, just our dancing trousers. Marcus played an absolute blinder set that night, as he often did. By about 3am we’d both had enough (not as young as we used to be) so we made to leave. I went over to say ‘Goodnight’ to Marcus. He acknowledged me but was deep in convo with LSB (who we’d talked about only the month before at Joshua Brooks when I had to tell him how much I loved the ‘Content’ album and he was telling me about living in Berlin) I shrugged, thought ‘F*ck it. I’ll speak to you next time’ and left. And of course I never would. We woke up to the sad & shocking news on social media only a few hours later.


4Marcus: Soul:ution MCR – Thursday 6th July (photo by Al Baker)

Marcus produced under several monikers and Soul:r is home to a diverse range of artists; how prominently does his recorded work and the recorded work he helped facilitate or produce, feature in your record collection?
I’ve always liked the love and support he gave to other artists in Manchester, like Antagonist and Ancestral Voices, and how willing he was to help. Just look at his Soul:r releases. His collaborations with DRS, Calibre and ST Files. His radio shows. His track record speaks for itself. I’m no bedroom DJ and don’t own any decks so I rarely buy tunes on vinyl these days, but I did grab Dubphizix ‘The Editor’ on Soul:r in 2011 and the DRS ‘I Will EP’, which was their last release. I bought the first Soul:ution CD back in 2003, both later DAT:MUSIC compilations, both DRS albums (one of which I did the cover for), the MISTICAL album and the LSB one.
I think, like Factory Records, he provided a template for a lot of Manchester music makers for how to go about things, how to maintain quality control, and a musical identity (even though he had more than one!) I see his influence everywhere, I really do. Look at the other Soul:ution residents chosen over the years, the mighty Dubphizix, S.P.Y., the sublime Calibre, more recently Bane from Eastern Bloc, they’re all excellent choices. I know he had a huge influence on DRS who hosted his DJ sets for many years and who delivered two quality albums for Marcus on Soul:r. He will be sorely missed in hearts and minds in Manchester and beyond, and quite impossible to replace I think. We will all miss you Marcus.

Marcus Intalex and Dub Phizix at Soul:ution, Band on the Wall, August 2012 (Photo by Al Baker)

If you had to pick a favourite shot from the many you took at Soul:ution over the years, what might it be and why?

I’ve taken so many photos of Marcus over the years but these are some of my favourites. The first time I photographed him at D-Percussion. A couple of others with Dubphizix, DRS, on the decks at Soul:ution. One with Marcus handing Marky a white label of Calibre’s ‘Mr Maverick / Highlander’. Our ’21’ LP photo shoot.

Marcus Intalex, March 2003 (Photo by Al Baker)

Check out the full album of Al’s photos from 4Marcus: Soul:ution MCR here.