LWE Interviews Martyn


Dutchman Martijn Deykers has made a sizable impression on electronic music over the past two years with a striking run of singles and remixes under the moniker Martyn that helped to shed light on the burgeoning disparities within dubstep. This was crowned by his debut full length album which dropped at the start of 2009; Great Lengths had instant classic stamped all over it and this was reflected by its high placed status in end of year lists and polls. A DJ for many years, his music production career started out with drum & bass releases for Marcus Intalex’s Revole:r label, before side-winding into dubstep after the release of his “Broken/Shadowcasting” 12″ in 2007. Ever exploring new territory, Great Lengths also hinted at an affinity for house and techno, a penchant which is also mirrored in his DJ sets. LWE spoke to Martyn while he was on tour in Canada about his new Fabric mix, the inspiration of environment, and the development of his harder side.

You’ve been DJing for over a decade. What was the music that really got you into electronic music and DJing?

Well I started raving at quite an early age and really got into house and techno — like old Chicago stuff and old Detroit stuff, and at that time I loved going to parties and hearing DJ’s play and I loved to buy the music and that sort of stuff. But for some reason I never really felt like I belonged to that generation because I was quite young at that stage and I felt like I was more of a consumer of the music rather than being of any importance to it. But during the mid nineties I encountered drum & bass through some DJ’s who had come over to Holland and at that time I felt that that was my generation and that music was more for younger people. There was just some feeling that I could do something in this music. Around that time I went to London a couple of times and went to the Blue Note nights and really felt that vibe even more, especially seeing people like Photek and Jonny L and people like that. Because I was already buying music I decided to start throwing my own parties and to play at them myself too. So for me drum & bass was the music that I thought I could really do something constructive in rather than just going out and partying, you know? So that’s how it started for me. I kept buying records across many genres and continued doing my own events for a long time as well, and eventually Detroit techno and Chicago house came back to haunt me when I started making music. Because I thought all of those old influences were gone but they came flooding back when I went in to the studio.

It is interesting that after so many years of DJing you look at your collection and see that there really is almost everything in there.

It is. I remember I did this residency at a student club on a Thursday night and the owner told me he didn’t care what I played as long as it wasn’t drum & bass. This was about 2000-2001 and I was already quite well known as a drum & bass DJ so I thought, oh well I just have to play all my other stuff. So I decided to use the money I got paid from that to only buy records from other styles and that was around the time when broken beat and early two step and garage became big so I’m thanking myself that I did that now because I have a treasure of all of these hard to find records.

So when you started making drum & bass were there certain producers you started listening to around the time when you started changing up the tempos and making stuff that was perceived more as dubstep?

Yeah, as for the drum & bass part, I started making music because I felt I was missing something in what was out there. On one hand you had the really dark stuff that was coming out and then on the other hand was the very melodic, dreamy stuff. I was looking for something that was more in the middle and there were really not many producers doing that at the time. So that’s why I started making music in the first place. Then when I heard the first Burial stuff alongside Kode9 and Digital Mystikz it was a turning point for me. Drum & bass at that time was a bit too loud and forced. It was all so fast that you couldn’t really do too much to it; at 175 bpm it’s hard to get much melody into something. When I heard Digital Mystikz especially, I just thought their music was so spacious and that really inspired me. Obviously Burial had his own take on the music as well, and they were both very inspirational for me. So I decided to do something around the 140 bpm mark and did a tune called “Broken” without really knowing about what was dubstep. Marcus Intalex owned a label that I was recording on and he put it out and that’s where this whole other side of my career started.

I think a lot of people see you as having defected from drum & bass as though it’s some kind of country or a code of ethics which to live by, but I guess in reality it’s just that you’ve found more excitement in exploring these other avenues.

Yeah, I mean honestly I don’t really care about how people see it. I never really felt a part of drum & bass anyway and you just go where the music takes you. This is where the music has taken me and hopefully in a couple of years it will take me somewhere else again. As a producer you just keep working on your music and try and stay inspired without thinking about any scenes of genres. That’s not really what it’s about for me. But you know I haven’t really had anyone be negative toward me for changing the music I make. I’ve had a couple of people come up to me at gigs and ask when I’m going to make more drum & bass because they love those records of mine. All the other people who have talked about this leaving drum & bass thing have been producers who would love to do the same but for some reason they think that they can’t do it.

Let’s move on to Great Lengths. It is such a totally cohesive album from start to finish that really presents a particular view on how you were seeing that music at that time. Since then, listening to singles of yours, they present completely disparate styles from that album. How planned out was Great Lengths as an entire album?

Completely planned because what I did was take about four and half months off from playing gigs. I was writing a lot of music but it was fragmented by playing gigs and it became very hard to go into the studio and try and stay in that zone to make something. So I was able to do singles and able to remixes and stuff like that but I wanted to do the album so I took that time off to concentrate on it. I started from scratch really. I think there are only two tracks on the album that I had done before this break (“Vancouver” and “Natural Selection”) so they were the starting point for the album. I had another track called “Hear Me” about half way finished too.

You’re living in the United States at the moment. How has living there and living in other cities impacted your music?

Well I’m always quite inspired by places that I’ve lived in or places that I have visited, just like most musicians I think. I always use location names in song titles and love to record atmospherics so I always take a little sound recorder wherever I go. I’m living in the suburbs at the moment which is pretty strange for me because I’m very much a city boy and this place is very, very quiet. There are the mountains here and it is just outside of Washington DC so for me it is ideal at the moment because I play so many gigs at the weekends so it is nice to have somewhere peaceful to come back to. I have my studio here too so I can focus on my music too. But I do think that if I listen to my album I can hear that peace in there, whereas when I lived in Eindhoven and Rotterdam, those places are both quite hectic you know? So I’m very interested to see how the second album will sound because now that I am used to this environment it might give me a different perspective as well.

Your singles that you’ve released since Great Lengths have really showcased a harder side to you. Was this just you exploring other sides of music or was it intentional to let people know that you make different styles to what people had heard on the album?

Well the Efdemin remix I was commissioned to do before the album but I had to put my album out first so they were waiting for a year. But yeah, I guess all of the new stuff is a bit more stripped down and a bit more minimal in a way. Maybe that has a lot to do with playing a lot of gigs because that does always change your perspective on music. Up until recently I had been touring solidly since the album came out so that would definitely play a part in this. Also I think things are changing in electronic music very rapidly just over the last year. Like dubstep now is not what it used to be; it is branching out in so many different directions and that’s without even referencing the whole house music side of it from the UK right now. But you have so much going on right now with Flying Lotus taking on 125 bpm stuff and Dorian Concept making more dance stuff. You know, where is all this leading to I ask myself. So there is so much exciting stuff going on and I suppose I am just finding my own sound in this changed scenery as opposed to how things were about a year ago.

Your Fabric mix seems to have a bit more of a 4/4 influence that you would hear in one of your DJ sets normally. Can we expect more 4/4 based productions from you in the future?

I must say that the mix CD is sort of what I’ve been playing very recently as I have been playing a lot of different parties and more house and techno clubs like Berghain and Panorama Bar and places like that. So I’ve been digging in to my old New York house and Detroit and Chicago stuff, and my own productions as well. But I would say that is the way I have been going lately, at least that tempo anyway, something hovering around 130 bpm.

I find the sound you guys who have been making dubstep come up with when you turn it towards more of a house/techno vibe very interesting.

Yeah, well it’s still bass music you know. A lot of the stuff still revolves around bass lines or bass rhythms rather than a four to the floor kick. But it’s funny because it opens up a lot of possibilities for me as a DJ because I can then play this new London sound, which is quite percussive and then I can look back at my old Kenny Dope remixes or stuff from the Deeply Rooted House label, older Kerri Chandler things. Then there is the whole Berlin thing with people like Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann and Shed who do the percussive techno thing and keep that soulful even though it’s quite brutal sometimes. So there are lots of things going on and it’s nice as a DJ to look in all these boxes and see what’s there and try to make this coherent sort of set from it all, and also a coherent mix CD.

Ben Klock has just remixed one of your tracks. Will we see you returning the favor?

Hmmm, he just needs to ask me. The thing is he asked me before, but Shed had just asked me to do a remix, and then Ben released his album and he wanted me to remix something from that but because I had just done the Shed one it didn’t really work out. But I’m in touch with him all the time and I hope I can do something for him at one point or another. His music is a big inspiration for me. He actually took one of the leftovers from Great Lengths. It was another one of those stripped down techno things but even more so than you hear on the album, and he’s going to use that for his Berghain mix CD which is coming out this year. And the exclusive 12″ that they put out with the mix, my tune is going to be on that with someone else, so I’m very happy with that.

What can we expect from you in the next year?

Well the two remix twelve inches are coming out a week after the CD. They will have remixes by Ben Klock, Redshape, Zomby and a new guy from Manchester called Illum Sphere. Then there should be another artist twelve inch as well and there should be a remix for a Latin band and I’m working on my second album already. I want to get that out for the summer of 2010 so I’m going to have to speed it up a lot if I’m going to get it done by then.

rubin  on January 17, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Great news about the second album, absolutely love Martyn’s entire output across the years!

Darag Byrne  on January 18, 2010 at 1:04 AM

Just getting stuck into the Fabric mix today, it’s ace, nicely diverse.

Nick  on January 28, 2010 at 3:33 PM

Nice interview. Wouldn’t expect otherwise from this humble and good man from the ‘city of lights’.

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