News / / 22.08.12


Justin Martin is stepping out, and in the process has crafted an album of diversity and his “best mix ever”

Crack’s entourage is in the process of watching what we like to call the ‘Dirtybird effect’.

Guys and girls are jacking around to the array of good time beats and bass being supplied courtesy of the seminal San Francisco label’s roster of artists. We’ve eaten BBQ – lots of BBQ – and the sun is out. Later on in the evening, Justin Martin is tears through some new productions and the vibe is nothing short of scorching.

Fast-forward two months and Crack is jacking its way round the office in some impromptu dance troupe-esque party, we’ve just eaten BBQ chicken (this time from Sainsbury’s), and Justin Martin is tearing through some new productions, this time on the latest Crackcast mix. The vibe is nothing short of scorching.

Justin Martin is stepping out. Heir to Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird crown, esteemed producer in his own right and one of the most likable guys you’ll ever meet, there is a swathe of momentum behind Martin at the moment. Latest album Ghettos and Gardens will surely see many realign any preconceptions associated with Martin being solely an artist in the trademark Dirtybird ilk. While the odd, smile inducing samples and the sense of fun are still very much there, there’s an underlying sense of house music cool and a slickness to the production that sees Martin reverting away from a back catalogue that could probably act as a dictionary definition for the word ‘banger’.

From initial breakthrough production The Sad Piano, Martin, while fully representing the Dirtybird imprint, has been a force in his own right, influencing a whole range of producers; not least Julio Bashmore, who describes him as “a major influence on my career to date”, and Eats Everything, both of whom have released records on the label. Add to that consistent and unwavering support from Radio 1 jacking house tastemaker Heidi, and the support is in place.

Crack caught up with him a couple of weeks before a hotly anticipated gig at Love Saves The Night at Motion, Bristol.

How was the process of getting Ghettos and Gardens down? The sound is a lot more housey than normal.

You know what, it was actually quite enjoyable to write. First of all it was cool because I got to write a load of music I don’t normally get to write. Usually I’m more focused on just making a track for the club. Each single I do normally has one thing in mind, and that’s the dancefloor. Whereas with this I wanted the project to work as a whole, so if I went hard on one track, I wanted to balance it equally by going a bit lighter on the next. I got to expand my horizons a little bit and work on music that typically I wouldn’t.

Is it less ‘Dirtybird’ sounding than previous productions? Was there a conscious decision to create something removed from that signature sound?

I realised very, very early in the writing of this album that if I were to try and make 13 Dirtybird sounding tracks and put them on the album it wouldn’t be the most enjoyable thing to listen to. A real goal of mine was to make an album similar to the albums that don’t leave my iPod that you can listen to from start to finish. I also realised the only way I could have a big body of work I was happy with was if I expanded my horizons.

In that respect, what were the inspirations for the record?

Some of the albums I’ve been listening to over the last year, like James Blake, the SBTRKT album, The xx record. I’ve been into a lot of deeper, emotional stuff that would still be considered electronic music, but a lot more out there. I didn’t go as far leftfield as these albums, but I wanted to have a healthy balance of the ying and yang, the light and the dark.

Have you ever felt the fact you and Claude are so closely associated with the label has had a negative effect?

You know, not really. I used to produce a lot of stuff for Buzzin’ Fly records and I used to have this split personality back then. I was doing the more quirky stuff for Dirtybird and some deeper stuff for Buzzin’ Fly. Working with Barclay (Crenshaw, Claude VonStroke’s everyday alias), he’s always left it up to me. He’s said: “Whatever things you want to turn in to me, I’ll support.” In Dirtybird we’ve always tried to create music that blurs the genres. I’ve been able to more recently explore my sound further and do stuff that isn’t a peak-time banger. So to answer your question, I’ve never felt limited at all. If anything, I’ve felt like Dirtybird has allowed me to push the envelope further and experiment with new things, new sounds and not be pigeonholed.

So are you and Claude as close as ever?

He’s one of my best friends, lately I see him every weekend almost, and y’know what, he’s been my mentor throughout this whole process and pretty much my whole career. The amount of support and love he’s shown me is amazing. I feel blessed to have someone who I can bounce ideas off and he’s got a great ear for music as well. It’s a really good relationship we have. When I’ve finished a song I put it through him before anyone else. I can really get some honest feedback and he’s not going to blow smoke up my ass, he’s going to tell me what he really thinks about it. Every artist needs someone like that in his or her life.

Obviously there’s a couple of guys close to Crack’s heart in the form of Eats Everything and Julio Bashmore that have released on Dirtybird and become close to the label.

I just got Julio’s new track Au Seve. That thing is awesome, I played it this weekend at it went off! And Eats Everything, I love that guy, he’s always had such a good sense of humour. In our business, you see DJs that are way too into themselves and way too serious. I’m more attracted to people that just want to have fun in life and are doing this stuff for the love and enjoyment. You can really tell that’s where it’s coming from with Dan (Eats). He’s just a great guy and a really, really talented producer.

Is your brother Christian someone you still look for in terms of production advice and to work with?

I actually did a track with him for the new record under his new alias Leroy Peppers. Working with Chris is awesome. He’s another person I use for quality control as he gives me honest feedback. Sometimes you can be really into a tune, but you have a little bit of doubt and need someone to smack you down and say ‘you know what, this really is a piece of shit!’

The mix you’ve made us for our Crackcast series has gone down so well.

Ah thanks, I had a real pleasure making that one. You described it as your “best mix ever”, what made it so good for you? What are the ingredients? The music I stumbled upon making this mix has so much emotion to it. I really love the music on there that’s really deep, but still has the elements that really work for the dancefloor. These tracks still have the rawness and the bass and the grit that means they really work there. Some of the tracks on there are so incredibly emotional. When I set out to make a mix, I don’t want to just put together a bunch of tracks I’m playing at the moment, I want to put together something I will want to listen to when I’m on the road, or when I’m on the airplane that helps an hour of my life go by. I’m putting music on there I want to listen to again and again and again and this mix just clicked and came together nicely.

You guys at Dirtybird are legendary for your outside parties and your BBQs. What goes down at these summer activities with the Dirtybird family?

That’s where it all began pretty much, with the outdoor parties. We started the Dirtybird crew before we started the Dirtybird label and it started with our outdoor party where we probably had about 20 people there hanging out outside, renegade style, with no permits or whatever. We never thought we would grow to this size and be doing them on this scale. We’ve taken the spirit of those early BBQs and taken them on the road to Miami and to London. One of the craziest parties I’ve ever been to was the one in London. Unfortunately right now we are in a bit of a hiatus where we can no longer use the location in San Francisco where we’ve been for the last nine or ten years. We’ve just outgrown it and the park and the rangers have said we need to find a bigger location. We throw a party and basically it shuts down traffic, the last one we did there was well over 2,000 people there. It’s my favourite way to spend an afternoon. My parents come down and my Dad gets on the BBQ grill. All of our friends come out and bring their parents and kids. It’s not like a rave where you have to watch your stuff, it’s basically just a really, really positive vibe where we can get together with our friends and family and play some great music in an outdoor location. Right now we are looking for a new spot and taking the BBQ on the road and documenting it so we could put together a nice video and get some sponsors so we can afford a more expensive permit package. So far everything is looking up, we’ll definitely be back in full effect by mid-Spring.

Everyone we know who went to the London party says it was incredible.

I think there were 11 different Dirtybird artists, and including the after party it went for like 16 hours or something. It was mental!

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To download out exclusive Justin Martin mix, pop over to

Ghettos and Gardens is out now on Dirtybird

Words: Thomas Frost