Saturday, 5 July 2008
If you’ve been following the creative path of dubstep over the past two years, you’ll know there has been some seismic cross pollination of musical genres which have all fed and bled into each other like an osmotic dub membrane. The Dutch born, USA dwelling Martyn, a 33-year-old producer and DJ, has been very much at the forefront of this exchange, helping redraw definite lines between the houses of techno, 2 step, jazz and dubstep. However, it was a stellar remix of TRG’s Broken Heart on Hessle Audio, championed by scene pioneer Kode9, which has helped propelled Martyn into the next dimension. Over the course of three internet conversations with plenty of food, ironing and sleeping stoppages, Mark Gurney managed to quiz the Dutch dynamo about his new single, forthcoming material on his 3024 label and working at 140bpms, but just don’t ask him about pigeon holes!
I’m always interested in how peoples’ early childhood influence their musical output in latter years. What are your earliest musical memories?
My dad used to be a soccer player, and as a mental warm up to the match every Sunday morning he played the records that he loved in a certain order. It was a mixture of different styles but I remember it ranged from Stevie Wonder to Kevin Coyne to Fairport Convention to Supertramp to John McLaughlin. I suppose it was sort of a weekly DJ-set in a 1970s style.
And do you find these types of music leaking into you music now, or is it strictly contemporary and modern styles?
It would be tough finding Fairport Convention influences in my music, but obviously the mixture of styles has had an influence. Mainly the soul and jazz he collected and played, and 80s new wave, more than the Irish Folk music.
And what was the moment you decided to buy your first bit of music making equipment?
I started DJ'ing long before actually taking up production; this was in the mid 90s. Although I had equipment for a while, I really started making music somewhere in 2004.
Did you feel there was a something missing? Or that you had sounds in your head that just had to come out?
Guess I started making music cos there was a sound I wanted to play in my DJ sets that wasn’t being released. So I decided to try and make it myself.
What was your very first tune called? And what kinda of vibe was it on?
Well the first track I was really happy with was called "Nxt 2 U" - a drum 'n bass track released on DJ Flight's Play:musik label.
Has your approach to making music changed over the years?
As far as approach - hmm I don't think it has changed, maybe though the more you make music and the more you release things, the more free I started to feel to do what I want to do regardless of style or sound.
So, you are more confident to experiment? Yes exactly.
You first made your mark in the world of dubstep with Broken/ Shadowcasting. A rich, thick blanket of synth and filtered percussion, which really sounded like nothing else at the time. And perhaps more surprisingly it came out on Marcus’s label. Although it does makes sense within the ethos of the label. How much feedback did you get on that first 12” from the musical community?
Quite a lot, Soul:r/Revolve:r has always had a good and widespread following. It found support in various genres, which was exactly what Marcus wanted to see happen with it.
Do you have any surprise fans yourself? People you didn't expect to be into your music?
My mum likes the downtempo stuff!
Even with this broad appeal, were you still keen to see your effect on the dusbtep “scene”? Was that an aim?
No it was never an aim, in fact I hardly knew about dubstep (apart from a few key figures) at the time I made the Revolve:r 12. Their sound inspired me a lot. But to "convert from dnb to dubstep" never came up in my mind.
You seem to have an aversion to pigeon holing your music into particular categories, which is understandable. What are your reasons?
Well I understand perfectly clear that in order to write about music or talk about music you may need words to describe styles and sounds. But I look at it from a musician’s perspective and try not to think in genres too much, as I want to be completely free making my music, and if I would start a track thinking, "This has to be a dancefloor dubstep track", I already limit myself so much.
Has the 140bpm helped open up a new vein of creativity for you?
Yes definitely, it’s almost a cliché but you just have more space to utilize at this speed. The 130-140 mark is interesting because you can make combinations between 4x4 themes as well as the halfstep pace. People like Mala and Kode9 are really good at finding these combinations.
What I love about your productions is the hidden pulse in the music, which is created I suppose through the sonic combination of the elements of percussion and pads in your music. Is this something you aim to do, or is simply a by-product of you building your tracks?
Well when making tracks I never start with the beats, for me it's all about the sounds, the themes (pads, stabs or percussion). This way the music already has a rhythmic structure even before the beats are laid down.
Then when I start on the beats, they just blend in with the rest of the music and it becomes one.
You beat structures are usually heavily syncopated, and complex yet all drive along nicely. Where are these riddims drawn from?
I don't really know to be honest, from everywhere! I use drum computers, old breaks, sample banks, percussion, my voice, anything that works in that particular tune.
I suppose this could be earlier influences coming through. The lush, machine jazz pads very reminiscent of Detroit techno are ever prevalent in your music. Tracks like Velvet, After Seven and Surburbia are all a great case in point. I assumed this is audio leakage form years of listening to techno etc?
Yes it is. Just collecting lots of samples from wherever you can find interesting sounds
Do you have a number of seminal records you go back to again and again for inspiration?
Too many, I have always collected music, as long as I can remember really. Lots of jazz, soul, funk, many many techno and house records, little bit of hiphop
lots of drum n bass obviously.
Do you have a ‘typical’ beat making routine?
Well when making tracks I never start with the beats, for me it's all about the sounds, the themes (pads, stabs or percussion). This way the music already has a rhythmic structure even before the beats are laid down. Then when I start on the beats, they just blend in with the rest of the music and it becomes one.
Your next release Natural Selection is more ‘Martyn Music’; rich texture sounds and a full aural palate. And you employ a rather foreboding vocal effect with Kid Drama (one half of Instra-Mental). How did the hook up happen?
I've known the Instra:Mental crew for quite a while, as we both had tracks out around the same time on Soul:r. We both love the robotic funk of 80s/90s electro like model500, Aux88 and Drexciya, so I did a tune and we decided to try a vocal in that style on top. So that’s how Natural Selection came about really.
And Kid Drama doesn't really sound like that, right?
Only when he has a cold!
Vancouver sees you on an altogether darker mode. A tribal, slouching riddim creeps in with menacing grating synths. Can you remember your mindset when you made this?
I remember that clearly yes, it would be a bit much to explain the whole story, most tunes have a story – but I'd rather let the listener make his own - I think you did understand the tune right though.
Where do you see your sound evolving to in the future?
Time will tell really. I’m just trying to develop my sound, bringing outside influences in, most recently I’ve been hearing a lot of great new house music and hiphop which was something I left untouched for years. I'm sure this attention will translate itself in some way shape or form into new music.
You seem to have an aversion to pigeon holing your music into particular catergories which is understandable. What are your reasons…?
Well I understand perfectly clear that in order to write about music
or talk about music you may need words to describe styles and sounds, to define waves of similar music (genres). But I look at it from a musicians perspective and try not to think in genres too much, as I want to be completely free making my music, and if I would start a track thinking "this has to be a dancefloor dubstep track" I already limit myself so much. In ordinary music conversation I use genre names obviously so its not a complete aversion, but some media types tend to get creative and come up with some strange examples of genre names!
What next for your label 3024?
Well in June we had the release of Natural Selection / Vancouver, after summer we're putting a remix 12" out with two very exciting artists, with their versions of Vancouver and Natural Selection. After this another 12" and then it should be time for an album.
For more info check http://www.myspace.com/martyndnb or http://3024world.blogspot.com/