"In the beginning there was Jack, and Jack had a groove. And from this groove came the groove of all grooves. And Jack boldly declared, 'Let there be house,' and house music was born." So goes the Genesis-like mythos of house music, as expounded by the legendary Chuck Roberts.
As a jack of all trades, Martin has juggled the multiple roles of DJ, producer, record store manager, promoter, and label owner for going on three decades. After migrating to the East coast, he cemented his DJ reputation in New York City, holding various residencies at seminal hotspots like Roxy, Twilo, and Tunnel, and touring with the likes of Grace Jones, Deee-Lite, Moby, and Dubtribe Sound System. The new millennium has seen Martin expand with his Sublevel brand across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, spreading his house gospel as far as Berlin and Tokyo.
Doc Martin will stop by the Electric Pickle on Friday to give Miami an exclusive taste of his deep and infectious late-night grooves. Support comes from residents Will Renuart, Tomas of Aquabooty, and Miami's one and only brother-sister DJ duo, Baby Sean and Inbal, the latter of whom also celebrates her birthday that night.
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Doc Martin. With Will Renuart, Tomas of Aquabooty, Baby Sean & Inbal. 10 p.m. Friday, June 25. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Admission is $15 in advance from residentadvisor.net or $20 at the door; ages 21 and up. 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com
New Times: You helped lay the foundation for the West Coast dance music scene back in '80s San Francisco. What can you tell us about the early days and first becoming a DJ?
Doc Martin: Being from California in the early days of house, there wasn't a scene yet for house and acid house. It was a mish-mosh of '80s electronic music mostly from Europe. I would play the whole night, 9 p.m.-5 a.m. I would play everything in that timespan, from Cabaret Voltaire to Marshall Jefferson to Kano. At that time there wasn't enough house available in San Francisco to do a whole night of it. San Francisco itself was very artsy.You would get people from every background. A mixed crowd as well.
I started a Thursday at a club called Townsend. This night was always good, I could play whatever I wanted. I did a lot of one-off shows for people like Gaultier, Sandra Bernard, etc. We were breaking live acts as well -- people like Liz Torres, Inner City (3 times), Fast Eddie, Kraze, Tyree Cooper, D-Mob, Afrika Bambaataa, and a slew of other acts. People were finally able to put a face to this music and that's when it started to really catch on.
With a career spanning pretty much as long as house music itself, you've no doubt seen a lot of changes in the scene, both locally and internationally. What would you say some of these major changes have been? What has stayed the same?
One of the biggest changes is that there are more DJs than there were in the beginning. The music has been segregated into so many styles. The music is so much more accessible now than it was 5 or 6 years ago. I see many more producers DJing now than ever before. With websites like RA [Resident Advisor] it's easier to see what's going on in other parts of the world, which is a good thing. I think now with modern technology, it's much easier to make music. People at the end of the day,just want to go out and dance. It's all about keeping it interesting for the listener. Taking people away from their problems. One thing that hasn't changed is people's love for the music.
From your famed NYC residencies at legendary clubs like Twilo and Tunnel to your own Sublevel parties in cities as far away as Tokyo, what have been some of the highlights of your career as a DJ?
Getting a residency at Fabric, playing the 10-year at Fabric after Villalobos. The first time I played the Sound Factory in New York. Ministry and Cream in the early days. Secretsundaze (UK).Yellow and Womb, Tokyo. Playing and doing Sublevel live at the Panorama Bar in Berlin. The Faith parties in the UK. Twilo with Mr. Tenaglia in the early days. The first Ovum party at WMC. These are just off the top of my head. There have been more good than bad, thank god. No matter what, Sublevel is where it flows for hours at a time. Anything goes. We don't really use clubs for these parties. We get a space and create an atmosphere with it. So it's like going to a new club every time, with a really friendly crowd.
What have you been up to professionally in the new decade?
2010 has been pretty crazy already. We are about to launch Sublevel Berlin later in the year. We have a new single about to drop on Sublevel US. I've been to Europe twice this year. We are about to do our live show in Japan and Korea next month. I'm doing a whole bunch of US dates as well over the summer. WMC was cool this year. I really enjoyed the parties for Ovum, and Hallucination at Electric Pickle.
What's the secret to staying fresh and relevant after 25 years, especially in a scene were younger DJs and artists are emerging all the time?
I think the most important thing is to put your personality into what you do. I tend not to follow trends. If you hear something you like, go with it. I'm constantly listening to new music on sites. I still buy records with a passion. Every time I felt that I was about to get to big, I'd go back underground. There are many good new people out there, with their take on the music. I'm not a hater on other DJs just because they are making a name for themselves. Without new blood it becomes stale. I've met so many amazing people over the years. I still have some friends that were there in the beginning. I told myself that when I didn't have the passion for this anymore, I would stop.
After all these years your record collection must be titanic. Who are some of the artists/records that have never left your crate, and which newer contemporary artists are rocking your socks off these days?
It's funny you ask this, because this is where my tie with Miami lies. I've always loved the early Murk stuff. These guys influenced a slew of producers. Dirty grooves with moody dubs and great vocals. This is the one advantage of CDs -- you can bring 10 crates of classics without taking up top much space. So Murk, Terrance FM, Chez Damier, Blake Baxter, and a slew of unknown house, acid, disco, and tech cuts. Artists that I like at the moment are Chez Damier, Guy Gerber, Luke Solomon, Jamie Jones, Moodyman, Two Armadillos, Murmur Recordings, Tama Sumo, Prosumer, Chaim, Subb-an , Ryan Crosson, and a ton of one-offs from other producers. I'm still a fanatic for it.
Has house and electronic dance music in general failed to withstand the test of time in the States? Why do you think it's less of a mainstream phenomenon here, compared to Europe? What can we do to make it big again over here?
I think the lack of interest from radio in the US is one of the reasons for dance music not getting its time in the mainstream. Dance mixes of top 40 songs don't count. In Europe its everywhere. On the radio, in the shops, in restaurants. I'm not looking at the negatives of this. I've seen people standing up for the music all over the US, and it's about time. People in Nebraska have the same access to the music, as people in New York, Miami, or L.A.
People in Europe are into the party itself. Most of the people in Europe that I know don't get caught up in the politics of dancing. I think this is one of the biggest reasons why things get stalled in the US. If you are not into something, that's fine. You don't have to ruin it for the people who are. With more US disc jockeys going to Europe, It's only a matter of time, before it starts to blow up here again. I see places all over the US, getting excited over dance music again. It always comes back around.
What do you have in store for us at the Electric Pickle on June 26?
That's a tough question. I never plan out sets. I can tell you this: you will get a variety of music that should keep you moving. I'm looking forward to this one. Should be a lot of fun.