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Back To Basics: Martyn

Three years on from the release of his stellar second album, ‘Ghost People’ on Brainfeeder,  Martijn Deijkers aka. Martyn is back with a new record. Promising to be another collection of uncategorisable electronic hybrids, ‘The Air Between Words’ is an anticipated offering from an artist who’s always sat comfortably outside of any scene. With a musical upbringing that took in Techno (as a raver), DnB (as a promoter and a DJ), then Dubstep (as a producer), Deijkers has grown into an artist adept at an impressive range of styles and comfortable in innumerable different settings. Stepping up to mix the 50th edition of Fabric’s prestigious mix series back in 2010, Deikers crystallized his approach with an acclaimed selection that saw Ben Klock rubbing shoulders with the likes of Zomby and Hudson Mohawke.

Speaking to Hyponik from his Washington D.C home before he headlines Trouble Vision this Saturday, Deijkers was eager to talk about his new LP, living in America and the state of the scene around Europe.

Hi Martyn, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. How are you and what are you doing today?

Today has been mad but good! (laughs)

You’re due to release your new album soon, which will be your first since ‘Ghost People’ in 2011, what’s changed for you personally and professionally in the three years since that last album?

Lots.

First of all, I was sort of starting to make alot of music for the album and I just noticed I was not really happy with the way a lot of the music sounded, so I started to rebuild my whole studio and my whole way of making music. I was primarily a digital studio person but I decided to change it up and go completely analogue, so the first year was much more about experimenting, building the studio and just getting to grips with a new way of making music. That all started before I was actually making some decent tunes for the album, which is why I think there’s quite a gap between the last album and this one. But, I’m happy with the results, so that’s one thing.

I think secondly also in the studio while I changed back to the analogue way of doing things I noticed that the whole ‘back to basics’ approach was good for me. Even in playing live and DJ’ing I went back to playing just vinyl, and I got that feeling back of enjoying myself with a bunch of records instead any sort of digital help.

So yeah I just approached everything from a much more ‘back to basics’ sort of feeling actually.

Then is there any one particular piece of hardware that you’ve ended up relying on for this album, or is it a range of stuff that you’ve picked up?

It was a range of things, but I started building my studio by just having one of each you know? One big polyphonic synth, one big monophonic synth and then some effects and from there onwards I started building it up and just getting more stuff obviously, because its so addicting to just get more.

I think the one piece of hardware that did it for me was just getting a real desk and doing all the mixes on the desk instead of the computer. Its just a whole different way and a whole approach to sound in general I think. Doing it hands on it just feels like your actually manipulating the sound instead of changing little values with your mouse. So I think the desk is the central point of any big analog studio.

So because your experience of analog was a good one, are you going to stick doing things this way for the forseeable future?

Yeah I think so, it was just a much more hands on way of making music you know? So its a lot more fun in my opinion. I have lots of ideas still that even now that the album is finished, I’m working on new things all the time. I remember from the last two albums that after I finished all that music I just couldn’t do anything for about a year, because I was tired of it. Now its completely different, I’m vibing off of all the equipment and all the ideas that I have. So I’m actually a lot happier now than I was before.

What kind of records did you find yourself listening to when you were making the new LP and was there anyone in particular that you drew influence from when it came to changing your approach?

I’ve always been listening to a lot of 90’s Techno things and what they used to call ‘Intelligent Dance Music’, you know like the early Warp stuff and things like that. So that’s always been a major influence for me anyway. Its not really that I’ve been listening to people using analog equipment and therefore I’m now using it too. Definitely not anyone recent, although there has been an influx of interesting vinyl only labels and people going back to basics as well-people just using drum machines or synths instead of purely digital or purely sample based music.

The next Trouble Vision will see you performing live with Inga Copeland, who you’ve been working with on and off over the last couple of years. Whats your working relationship like, and can we expect to hear her on your new album?

Yeah, there’s two songs on the new album with her and also a single that we’re doing. Basically we’ve been shooting back and forth demos and ideas and some stuff has made it to my album, but we also did some stuff under her name, like a 12″ we did a while back and there’s some newer things coming up as well.

Its just a really interesting way of working, because she has a lot of ideas and melodies and obviously she records all her vocals really quickly and in demo version, so she’s really easy to work with. That’s kind of what we’re trying to do with the live thing as well and I’m not really sure if we’re going to be doing that a lot more often, so its going to be quite special on the 1st February to work together like that. She’ll be singing some of the songs and I dunno we’ll see what happens. Its pretty freestyle the way we wanted to approach it, so the only thing that I know is that its gonna be nice! (laughs)

Are you going to lead up to the album with a single release then?

Yep. I did a track with Four Tet and that’s going to be the single and then on the b-side there’s going to be two other tracks by me and then the album will also have the Four Tet track, the two ones with Inga, and the rest is all my solo stuff. I think it will be late spring some time.

And I assume you’re going to go on tour to support it as well?

That’s the plan yep.

I’ve seen you playing records from all over the place, and your Fabric mix put a bit of everything in there. Is there any music you feel passionate about that you’ve never felt comfortable playing in your DJ sets?
Not really. I mean obviously you can’t play everything everywhere, but there’s always opportunities to play the music that you like. If you play a gig in Panorama Bar or places like that, where there’s a big open minded crowd and they’re ready for anything and you have a long set and you can build towards it, you can pretty much get way with anything. It doesn’t even have to be dance music.
So there’s not really any music that I listen to that I wouldn’t ever dare to play.

Do you think thats a reputation that you’ve earned over time, and has now enabled you to play things that other people might not be able to get away with?

I don’t know if its a reputation that I’ve earned, but I think its much more about skill. After a while you have so much experience DJ’ing, I mean I’ve been doing this for quite a while, much longer than I’ve been producing. For me I think by now I know how to read a crowd and how to tell a stoty, and hopefully that story will end up where I want it to be. So for me its much more about experience than reputation. I mean even people who are unknown can get away with playing ‘difficult’ music or whatever you want to call it as long as they bring it convincingly.

I’ve seen you DJ but never had the pleasure of watching your live set. Describe for us the set up when you play live, and what you’re trying to achieve?

I’ve done different set ups over the last two years, but I’m trying to keep it quite basic because most of the music literally happens in the studio and obviously I’m taking all that audio with me. So a lot of the so called ‘magic’ has already happened in the studio and I’m just having fun with that in a live environment. What I usually do is take all my songs apart and just jam for an hour with those parts, building new versions of old songs, presenting my newer work. Its kind of like a mix and match of some of my more famous things and alot of new music.

You recently released Head High’s great remix of ‘Vancouver’ on 3024. What made you come back and comission the remix, after it was first released nearly 6 years ago?

Well there was a few reasons, but I changed distribution with the label and we were thinking about breaking the mould a little bit and doing something different. Its not that I really commissioned the remix, but I was talking to Shed quite a lot and we were talking about doing something interesting for the label. It was basically him saying that if there was one song that he could do something interesting with or always wanted to do something with, its ‘Vancouver’.

Then I figured the actual original vinyl is quite hard to find and we’ve never repressed it, so its kind of a tune that people want anyway, so why not repress that and put a nice extra on the other side? So that’s kind of how it went and I kind of like that sort of free-floating approach, like ‘we have an idea let’s just do it’, instead of coming up rigid ideas like ‘we have to have a sub label’ or ‘we have to do something with remixing’. It was more ‘whatever works at this time, we’re going to do’. We gave it a different catalog number, its KJL1. We’ll probably be doing some more sort of off the cuff vinyl only things and calling that KJL. So its on the label but its sort of separate you know?

Yeah, in fact its not the first remix of you that I’ve really liked. The Flying Lotus ‘Natural Selection’ rework from a few years back is probably one of my favourite remixes ever. Do you think that there’s something about your work that makes you an eminently remixable artist or have you just got really lucky with good people?

I do think I’m easy to remix because all my own stuff is very rich in sound. There’s always lots of pads and sounds and usually the beats are kind of interesting-or layered at least. So there is a lot to work with. I’ve been remixing other people myself, and itself much easier if you have a lot of material to work with. One remix I did a while back, I basically got a kick drum, a hi-hat, a snare drum and one sound, and its almost nothing to work with. Either you build a whole new track by yourself or you do something that’s extremely minimal. My stuff is quite rich, there’s a lot going all the time and I think that’s why people find it appealing to pick one of my songs to remix.

What plans have you got for 3024 then for the rest of 2014?

My album is coming out on the label and I’m doing a double EP by Leon Vynehall called ‘Music For The Uninvited’, that’s coming out in March and its an 8 track EP. That’s just a really lovely record, that I’m proud that we were able to put out. After the album there will probably be another KJL release, maybe another re-issue and we’ll just take it from there really.

You’ve been involved with d-Bridge since the early 2000s when you booked him to play DnB at raves you put on in Rotterdam and you released on Marcus Intalex’s label previously. How does it feel to be DJ’ing with and collaborating with these guys and releasing music by them?

Yeah, I mean they’re all people that basically got me where I am now. Those were the people that got me into music in the first place and pushed me to produce more music. When I had stuff that was fairly decent, they were the guys that were playing it. Its just really nice that things have come full circle that way and now I’m able to put out music by them and support their stuff. d-Bridge is doing a new project called Velvit, which is more of a techno and house, 4/4 oriented project I would say, which is still very Autonomic sounding I think, but its cool that people are really responding to it. If I have an opportunity like the one I just had to put on a night in London and I need someone to play, then obviously its going to be him. And the same goes for Trevino, we did some b2b gigs last year and we might be doing some more touring this year.

Its just fun because its these people I’ve known since the mid-90’s and I’ve always stayed in touch with them and we’ve gone through so many emotions together, so its just nice to have these people around me the whole time.

You got swept up in Techno, Jungle/Dnb and the start of Dubstep. There is definitely a lot of great music being made nowadays but it doesn’t really appear as if theres one trend thats going to make the impact that those genres did. Do you think thats a good thing that there’s now this open ended landscape?

I don’t really know if its that’s open ended. Everyone is pretty much making a four to the floor hybrid of some kind and I don’t really see that many people veering off into wildly different directions. The only thing you might be able to spot as a trend is a few people doing that sort of ‘noisy’ collage thing like some of the stuff on L.I.E.S or Oneohtrix Point Never, that sort of thing. Apart from that, most of it is four to the floor oriented and people are a bit less interested in doing alternate rhythm things, its quite stubborn, especially in the UK its a little bit stale. It usually takes a while before something new catches on, then you get a group of people who break away from an existing sound and it sort of becomes something interesting. That’s how Dubstep broke away from UK Garage you know?

It’s interesting you’d say its slightly stale here. Do you think living outside of Europe in America and having that distance, gives you the freedom to not be so influenced and be more individual as I think you are?

Its definitely different living away from the sort of centres of music, whether it be London, Berlin or even New York, I’m still quite far away from all of that. I quite enjoy being kind of isolated and doing my own thing, rather than hanging out with producer friends every night and making the same music as them.

‘Dutch’ is probably one of the first words in every article ever written about you, but you no longer live in the Netherlands and the music on your label is mostly from British and North American artists. Do you still feel attached to your home country?

(laughs) That’s funny. I’m a dual citizen now, so I’m both American and Dutch. Obviously its my mother tongue and my family is there and I have a lot of friends there, so its not like I’m completely removed from the country, but I wouldn’t really consider myself a ‘Dutch’ producer anymore. The other thing is that when I started getting really busy, gigging and making music, I already lived in the States. So its not like I had a really long producer career when I was living in Holland. Its weird I consider myself of the world, more than an American or a Dutchman really.

Obviously I keep track of what’s going on in Holland, but I also keep track of what’s going on in other countries.

That’s probably partly why you’ve been successful?

By not being Dutch? (laughs)

By being open minded like that.

That’s the thing too, if you travel a lot you become much more-it sounds kind of cheesy, but you become a ‘citizen of the world’. In every part of the world are things that interest me. Even in America, it depends on where you live and what sort of surroundings, but the area where we are is very international. There’s lots of different cultures, nationalities and influences, it doesn’t really feel like you’re out in the sticks at all. But yeah its different, its definitely different.

One of the last things I wanted to ask, was about your recent track, ‘Be My Own Pupil’, which came out in support of the Holistic Foundation in West Baltimore. Tell me a little bit about how that came about and what the charity is about?

Basically Baltimore is next to Washington D.C, so its like a 40 mins drive from here. I’ve played in Baltimore a few times and basically I just found about their foundation-its two brothers and a friend who started this thing. Really, really sort of grassroots, small scaled thing-to just give a little bit back from their education. They were educated in yoga and other martial arts and stuff like that and they just wanted to give that back to kids in the suburbs and the area where they live in Baltimore. So they started this thing and they called it a foundation because they wanted it to sound cooler than it actually was-because in the beginning it was just three guys. So they came up with this Holistic life Foundation and its grown to quite a large enterprise now and they do a lot of work in schools with kids there, especially schools that have quite high drop out figures. They’re trying to motivate kids to stay in school and teach them about mindfulness and yoga and things like that. That’s stuff I’m quite interested in myself as well.

I was like its December and I have this tune lying around, I can make some money for me or I can make some money for something good and that was kind of how it came together. You know, ‘lets put this tune up and try and raise some money for something decent’, instead of just for my bank account. It was pretty successful actually. I mean there were people that just paid a dollar for the record and there were people that were really really generous. Every little bit counts and it came up to quite a decent amount and they were really happy with it, so that was pretty cool.

Lovely. Thanks for taking the time to speak to me mate, I’m looking forward to hearing the record.

Thanks man, take care.

Martyn headlines Corsica Studios this Saturday 1st Februrary alongside Leon Vynehall, Trevino and Velvit (aka. d-Bridge). Buy tickets here.

Christian Murphy