DJ Justin Martin: ‘Every set that I do, I put my all into it and make it fit the vibe of that city’

Joe Davis

justin martin 541 copy 300x225 DJ Justin Martin: Every set that I do, I put my all into it and make it fit the vibe of that city Many across the pond and in San Francisco especially, have for a long time been captivated by the very endearing array of Justin Martin’s episodes of musical brilliance. However, he has now become a more than accomplished DJ in the UK and over the globe, unleashing some of the most unique, exciting and vivacious house sets amongst the underground dance scene.

Justin Martin is a long-standing member and co-creator of the Dirtybird Records label, managed by Claude Von Stroke. The Dirtybirds have been notorious in the last decade for putting on their annual party in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which always delivers a vibrant and fun social setting for revellers to come and ‘kick back with some good BBQ food and a place to get down to some big booty bass’. Since Justin’s first release, Sad Piano on the Buzzin Fly label in 2003, Justin has always employed a very deep house foundation to his tracks, whilst incorporating progressively soulful and hypnotic melodies.

However, after the release of his debut album, Ghettos and Gardens in May this year he turned more heads than ever before. The album really depicts what Justin Martin is about as a person and a producer, as it demonstrates an exploration of different sounds and a willingness to push the boundaries. The track itself, Ghettos & Gardens sees Justin implementing his tenacious trademark bass lines but like to Ruff Stuff it’s all about the experimental journey these tracks take to the drop, consisting of carefully contrived breakdowns, turbulent melodies and a combination of rough and mellifluous vocals.

After the recent release of the Ghettos and Gardens remixes Volume 1 EP in October, Justin Martin will soon be releasing the Volume 2 remixes EP in either late November or early December. This will initially be available on Beatport. I managed to catch up with Justin just weeks before he embarks on a month long tour of the UK with things kicking off in Bristol on 9 November.

Why do you think Sad Piano was so successful and helped you to gain global recognition?

I look at it as a big lucky break. I had just started working hard on creating and producing music. When I finished school in 2001 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life but I knew I was passionate about DJing. I was basically dating a girl at the time that wasn’t a huge fan of the amount of time I was putting into my music, so we ended up breaking up. And this was the first song I wrote after this happened which was a pretty sad time, so I poured all that emotion into that song. But I think at time there was a lot of eyes on Ben Watts and his label, so I think the timing of the release really helped me.

How did you meet Claude Von Stroke?

I met him through my brother after I graduated. They were both making a documentary on how to make it as a DJ with hours of interviews, tips and footage with world famous DJ’s like Paul Van Dyk and Derrick May and they needed some original music for it. Barclay (Claude) basically said if you give him some tunes in exchange he would trial the methods and tips in this video and see if they work. And it worked, so I guess the rest is history. (Laughs)

How did Dirtybird Records begin?

To make it in San Francisco is so hard because there’s so many house nights. So we decided to throw our own party and my brother decided to buy a huge Mackie sound system and a generator on his credit card, and we just started throwing renegade outdoor parties. (Laughs) It started off completely illegal in parks with like 25 people, but as it grew we started running into the law. So we got sound permits, hired rangers and threw huge outdoor parties – last year we had 2,000 people attend.

Aside from your album, was there a specific sound or atmosphere you wanted to create with your earlier releases?

I’ve never wanted to be pigeon holed into one sound and I like to push the boundaries and find new fun stuff for the dance floor. But I always try to have big earth shattering bass lines in my songs.

Who are your main influences as a producer?

Well, currently it’s the guys who I’m playing in my sets right now Dusky, Disclosure, Eats Everything and Claude Von Stroke. But on a bigger level – Hip Hop, Jazz, but it could be something I hear in a fast food restaurant on the radio and I’m like ‘I’m going to track down that bass line and try and sample it in my next track’.

How would you describe your album in one sentence?

Booty shakin’ fun.

The songs off the album differ slightly from those you have done before, how did this change in your sound come about?

When I make a single my first thought is dance floor but when I made my album I didn’t look at it like that, I wanted to make a wide variety of songs. I was able to explore with vocalists, down tempo stuff, different melodies rather than just thinking about the beats and the bass.

What do you want the crowd to feel when you’re playing a gig?

I just want them to feel excited and happy, and physically feel the bass. You know every set that I do I put my all into it, and make it fit the vibe of that city and the room I’m in. I spend so much time doing my own edits of tracks and making my set personal so I don’t sound like everyone else. Even if it’s a well-known track I’m playing I don’t want people to have my version of it.

What are your favourite three tracks right now?

Justin Martin – Ruff Stuff (Eats Everything remix)

DJ Glen – Boogie Mafioso

Djrum - Mountains (Pedestrian remix)

Can you tell us what we can expect from the Ghettos & Gardens remixes Volume 2 EP?

The line-up of DJ’s is incredible, we’ve got Claude Von Stroke, Eats Everything, Tanner Ross, Leroy Peppers, Shadow Child, Pezzner, Kill Frenzy, LOPAZZ & Willis Haltom. It’s completely different to Volume 1, I don’t want to say better but it is better. (Laughs)

For more information about Justin Martin visit

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