House music DJ/producer Justin Martin has emerged as the Dirtybird Records’ chief export. Much of the bass-heavy ghettotech released on the label resonates predominantly with the discerning tastes of the electronic music elite, but his productions have succeeded in reaching a wider fan base.
Of course, that’s not to suggest that Martin has watered down his sound whatsoever. If anything, by embracing his drum and bass origins more in recent performances he’s only further challenged the status quo – he’s just managed to do it in such a way as to keep it from sounding contrived.
Since his new album, Hello Clouds, is coming out later in the month, we took the opportunity to get inside the head of one of underground electronic music’s freshest personalities. Aside from the effort itself, he told us about his creative process, how he and his brother got into DJ’ing, and more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!`
Tracks of yours like “Just Escape” are as proper as house gets, but still have a really tasteful mass appeal. What do you think has made you able to come up with concepts like that?
Justin Martin: Thank you, first of all. That’s awesome. I don’t know, when I’m making it I never really think about appealing to the masses. I just want to make something that I’m personally happy with, that I can listen to again and again, that doesn’t get old for me. I want it to have enough depth to it that I can listen to it a hundred times in a row and still be happy with it.
For me, I’m just trying to make something that I enjoy. It’s selfish, but in the end if I’m happy with it to the point where I’m not gonna get sick of it then the main idea is that other people will hopefully be able to listen to it again and again as well.
It’s interesting that so many of you Dirtybird Records artists have a history with drum and bass, and you revisit it sometimes – like your recent mix with your brother, Christian, for instance.
Justin Martin: Yeah, this was the one from the Campout. We did this at sunrise at the Dirtybird Campout, and it was really special to me because I was playing with my brother, but also because it started raining halfway through our set and it was incredible because we thought, “It’s over, it’s raining,” but the momentum actually built. People got their blankets and umbrellas and the dance floor built back up. People were having it, and it was the first time it rained in California in months, so it was a really, really special moment for me.
Speaking of you and Christian, which brother got the other into DJ’ing?
Justin Martin: This is how it went down. He got me into dance music. He’s older, and he went to college and got into going out to parties and clubs in New York. He was going to these things called the Full Moon Gatherings in the desert of California, and he was sending me all this new music. I fell in love with it instantly, and I was like, “I wanna do this.”
I started DJ’ing, and the crazy thing to me was that all of Chris’ roommates in college were DJs and he never did it, but he was always the one giving me all this awesome music to play all the time when I was first starting off, so I was like, “Dude, you have the best taste ever and you’re helping my DJ career. You need to just try it.”
I always say it was the best and worst thing that ever happened to him because the first time he ever matched beats and fell in love with it, he dropped all the other things in his life. Every goal and aspiration. He was like, “No, this is all I want.” That’s when he bought the sound system and we started doing the Dirtybird parties.
In your personal life, would you consider yourself a real purist about music or would you say that you’re pretty open minded about it?
Justin Martin: I’m pretty open minded, actually. When it comes down to it I’m always listening to – well, I’m always listening, that’s the answer. When I started off, I was inspired by people like DJ Shadow whose songs are made up of samples from everything around them, so I’m always listening to everything around me and trying to somehow incorporate it into the music that I make. So pretty much everything with the exception of – well, I don’t even wanna talk about what I don’t like.
Well, if you don’t wanna talk about that, let’s go in the opposite direction with this. What’s your guilty pleasure right now? There’s gotta be something that might lose you a couple of fans if they knew.
Justin Martin: I mean, growing up as a kid I was a Dave Matthews Band fan. (Laughs) That’s the most obvious one. I’m trying to think of something more current, though. I mean speaking of bands like that, I found out that Nickelback did a disco record. Did you know this? They did a disco record, and I could just imagine them being in the studio, like, “Alright, let’s shake it up, guys. We gotta get the internet talking. Let’s do a disco record.” Like, how did that conversation go down?
I dunno, though, I like everything. I’m not an advocate of Kanye West but I was the first one to download his album. I was waiting to press the download button. I just like hearing creative people, and what they have to give. There might be a bunch of buzz around a record, but even if it’s mainstream I’m gonna check it out.
How do you think people will receive your new album, Hello Clouds?
Justin Martin: I’ve gotten a lot of “Where the fuck is your album?” (Laughs) It was supposed to come out a year ago.
Why the 4/20 release date?
Justin Martin: It’s my birthday! It’s my 37th birthday, and in our family three and seven are lucky numbers as well, so it’s gonna be a special day for me.
This concludes our interview with Justin Martin, but we would like to thank him very much for his time.