DJ Justin Martin is currently enjoying some well-deserved down time. After touring consistently for years, the producer is back home with enough time to work on a new project.
Along with his brother, Christian, and Claude VonStroke, Martin was part of the Bay Area’s original Dirtybird crew. VonStroke, who directed the 2003 house music documentary “Intellect: Techno House Progressive” in addition to DJing, founded the label in 2005.
The Dirtybird roster has grown far beyond the trio over the years, but Martin runs through it all. His “Southern Draw EP” was the label’s very first release and the remixes to his 2016 full-length “Hello Clouds” is the most recent.
After a weekend that found him performing in both Boston and Miami, PACIFIC spoke with the DJ/producer about his upcoming performance at this weekend’s CRSSD Festival, his long-running relationship with Dirtybird, and a new project he’s working on.
PACIFIC: Was there music in your house growing up?
Justin Martin: There was. I started playing piano at the age of four. And my dad was a huge record collector. He had everything from classical to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. At about 10, I started playing the saxophone and really got into jazz. But it wasn’t until I was about 16 that I fell in love with dance music. I was a bedroom DJ and a dorm room DJ until I graduated from college. But I knew it was my passion and I followed it.
Tell me about Dirtybird Records.
Dirtybird started as a renegade party crew. My older brother, Christian, is really the reason I got into dance music. He introduced me to it and I always wondered why he didn’t want to DJ himself. And then, finally one day, he did. And he didn’t want to go the traditional route and hand anyone a demo. He wanted to do it himself and start throwing his own parties right away. So he bought a sound system and a generator, and he and I, Claude Von Stroke, and eventually Worthy and J.Phlip, started doing renegade parties in Golden Gate Park. That was around 2002-2003 when I first started producing my own music. It wasn’t like a lot of the things that were going around in San Francisco at the time, but we knew from the response that we were onto something. Barclay (Crenshaw aka Claude Von Stroke) started the label in 2005. He called it Dirtybird based on the success of these parties we were throwing.
You just released the remixes to your album “Hello Clouds.”
When I made the album, I really made it to be more of a listening experience than a club record. And a year ago, I had this idea that I’d be doing all of the remixes for the album. But when it came down to it, I ended up handpicking all of the remixers myself. They’re people I look up to, all of them, great artists. And other than my original music, these are the artists that I play when I play out. So for me, it was really exciting to see what they were going to come up with and how they were going to flip these songs. And honestly, I feel like it’s a homerun. These versions have put a breath of fresh air into the entire project. And I’ve been playing all of these remixes in my set. I feel lucky.
Justin Martin @ CRSSD Festival Spring ’17
When: Saturday, March 4
Where: Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Highway, downtown
Cost: $180 (two-day pass)
Is it strange to think Dirtybird is well on its way to 15 years?
Yeah, it’s crazy. And I’ve said this so many times, but it’s so true - we’ve never really followed any trends and that’s been the key to our longevity. We just keep pushing our sound forward without really paying attention to what’s going on out there. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs. But we’ve stayed true to ourselves, and I think the fans appreciate that in the end.
So, you’re headed back to CRSSD...
I’ve done it twice now. And I played the Groundwater Festival as well. The lineup is great this year and it just keeps getting better. It’s an honor to be a part of it and I’m stoked that they’ve had me back. It’s really a blossoming scene.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a new project that I’m working on, but I’m keeping it pretty hush-hush for now. But I can say that a lot of my unreleased material will be a part of it. That’s all I’m going to say about that, but right now is the first time I’ve really had off from heavy touring in the last four years. So I’m really enjoying just being back in the studio and being creative again.