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Justin Martin

5 Years of Dirtybird...

Claude VonStroke and his roster celebrate the fifth birthday of his iconic San Francisco-based record label alongside his Mothership imprint

Dazed Digital got down with Dirtybird label boss Claude VonStroke aka Barclay Crenshaw before his gig at South London's Plan B, Justin Martin and J Phlip. Having been one of the leading labels in tech-house for the past five years, they've established a unique an distinct sound which has been undeniably influential on dance music today. On what they were hoping to express with their sounds and what they bring to house music, VonStroke says, "Adding a hip hop flavour to things, it's bassy house music".

Offering insight to his production methods via videos on Future Music, the ever-laidback VonStroke suggests "A good sound is whatever sound fits in well with the song, inspired by anything," which rings true in terms of his A&R role. It seems there is a particular element that allows one to be part of the Dirtybird collective, "There is a sound that makes something Dirtybird but I can't describe it, once I hear it, I know it immediately, but I can't quite say what that is..."

He denies the rumour that the San Francisco scene for house music was seemingly dead, "Not at all, there's loads of good things happening out there, but Dirtybird is like a big family". Delving into why he started two distinct labels, Mothership and Dirtybird as separate entities, VonStroke explains "basically anything that didn't have that Dirtybird sound but that I wanted to put out would go on Mothership." The most obvious distinction between his two labels may be the wonkier tech-'funk' sounds focusing on a dancefloor tip cohesively fit onto Dirtybird, whilst Mothership plays with more experimental pieces with eerie or often sinister effects such as with electronic duo Voodeux. In light of his signings Christian Martin and Julio Bashmore heading for a more dubstep influenced sound and VonStroke having hosted a night with Hemlock Recordings last month, they've proven to be more than a one trick bird. 5 Years of Dirtybird Compilation released April 19th...

Justin Martin-
Dazed Digital: Your tracks tend to be known for their inventive sounds and samples- what do you think makes a good sound?
Justin Martin:
A fart... Think about it, it's instant humour. The first Dirtybird record ever had a fart in it. You just can't take a fart too seriously (unless you're my girlfriend). I hear a lot of people compare the bass in my tracks to farts sounds, and know you know for a fact that I meant for it to sound that way. I'm all about the big farty bass.
DD: It's interesting how they're always so different and unusual, but do you ever worry that something will border on being 'novelty'?
Justin Martin:
I never think about that kind of thing. I put a lot of thought into my songs, and I strive to make stuff that doesnt sound like anything else. I'm trying to make music that I want to hear out and that I want to play. Music that is different and nasty on a sound system, but you can still listen to when you are chillin' at home on a rainy day. Music that blurs the lines between genres.
DD: You've just released Robot Romance, but had it been 2005 since your last EP? What has been going on in between?
Justin Martin:
Well, 2005 was my last solo EP on Dirtybird records, but I did a few EPs for other labels such as Buzzin' Fly and Utensil, loads of remixes for Dirtybird, two Martin Brothers EPs, four commercially sold mixes, and a whole lot of touring and partying! So while I may not be the most prolific producer out there, I can assure you that I haven't been sitting at home twiddling my thumbs!
DD: Is there any rivalry between you and your brother?
Justin Martin:
Yes! In the boardgame Scrabble! But in music, not at all... Actually quite the opposite- we both help each other out quite a bit. Christian's career started a lot later then mine so I do everything I can to help push him. He is a very talented, creative, and down to earth person and I believe he is destined to be great! And I can honestly say that I would be nowhere without his help, inspiration, and constant support. Thanks homie!

J Phlip-
Dazed Digital: What inspires you to make music?
J Phlip: I wanna make people dance dance dance! I am inspired by and listen to music of all sorts of genres but when it comes down to sitting down and making my own - I have a very simple goal in mind - make the booties shake and the shoulders drop. 

DD: What are you hoping to express with it, and what do you think you bring to house music?
J Phlip: I have an obsession with bass - deep low basslines - nasty, grimy, and funky bass - sometimes wobbly bass and other times big caveman bass drums - bouncing 808 bass - rolling bass - bass that you sometimes can only feel, even if you can't hear it. Also, it is very important how the bass interacts with the beats and other notes and sounds to create a groove or funk. I find that a lot of techy music can sound robotic - my music is more of a 'tech-funk' (that's what we Dirtybirds like to call it.) My intent with my music (when I produce or DJ) is to get a reaction out of people. I love to incorporate humour using silly vocals or totally ridiculous sounds to make the dancefloor laugh! I dig up tracks with original sounds, tension, or even emotional chords to make people throw their hand in the air, feel free, and feel the music.

DD: Ok and here come the question about being a female producer... Do you feel there is still a lot of patronization when it comes to being a girl in the biz, and if so, why do you think that is?
J Phlip: I really don't feel like there is much patronization these days - especially at the level that I am at now. It does happen from time to time but usually that person ends up looking like a complete fool! I can remember one particular incident in the past year - after rocking the faces off of a crowd in Boston, I was walking out carrying my records and one of the other DJs made some comment inferring I was somebody else's "record bitch"! Like just because I'm a girl I must be carrying someone else's records!? I guess he played at the same time as me so he didn't see me play, and a lot of folks assume I'm a guy if they don't actually see me. Everyone and their mother thinks my name is J. Phillip! My name is J.Phlip and it is definitely not gender specific. Either way that guy really pissed me off! (as you can imagine). However, I don't come across treatment like that very often.

DD: What is your production process like?
J Phlip: It's always different. Most of the time I like to lay down the beat and the bass first. But as I write the other elements I might have to change up the beat and the bass to fit. One thing I have learned that has really improved and sped up my producing process is to not get stuck for too long on one element. Sometimes I can get stuck for a week on the bassline if I let myself! These days if I feel stuck on one part, I just leave it and try writing a synth line or adding to the beat or chopping up some vocal bits or transition/building noises or even just start sequencing the parts that I like so far! I just have to keep myself going so that I don't get stuck or bored with working too long on one element.

DD: Any dream collaborators?
J Phlip: Outkast! Maybe Dani Siciliano. I love her voice, although it would have to be done right because I am very particular about vocals. DJ Koze is a badass producer - I would love to get in the studio with him although I might be too nervous. Right now I would freak if I got the chance to remix The XX or Die Antwoord (a rap rave group from South Africa - they are hilarious!) I would love to collaborate with my other fellow Dirtybird artists. I already wrote one with Barclay (aka Claude VonStroke). I am so inspired by what my friends do and hope to collaborate with most of them someday whether it be Justin Martin, Christian Martin, Worthy, or Tanner Ross, etc.