Justin Martin Talks Beats, Bass, BBQs and Burritos in San Francisco
With tech-funk producer and DJ – and well-established member of Claude VonStroke’s illustrious Dirtybird Records family – Justin Martin recently releasing his debut full-length album, Ghettos and Gardens (the most melodic, intelligent example of booty-house you’re likely to hear all year, as it goes), we caught up with him to chat about his much-loved home city, San Francisco, a location which also sowed the seeds of Dirtybird Records itself, ten years ago.
It’s perhaps the default reaction to lean towards New York and Los Angeles when discussing dance music scenes in the U.S… What’s the scene like in San Francisco?
Justin Martin: It is absolutely amazing here! I have been living in San Francisco for the last 13 years, and the nightlife has never slowed down one bit. I used to think of it as the "Berlin" of the U.S. because we had such an abundance of quality acts coming through, but in fact I think of SF as even more open-minded, because the dance floors here are always filled with people who are welcoming to a wide array of new sounds. On top of that there is an abundance of amazing talent, nice nightclubs, and supportive peers in the scene. Even when the clubs close down here, the parties never stop.
Tell us about the Dirtybird Golden Gate Park parties:
They started about ten years ago. My brother Christian had just discovered his love for DJing and wasn’t interested in going the normal route of self-promotion and butt-kissing to find gigs around the city. He decided to buy his own soundsystem and generator, and we would throw our own renegade outdoor events in the Golden Gate Park. Maybe 30 people showed up for the first one, but we just kept doing them and spreading the word about our BBQ, and each event grew bigger. Last year we had probably close to 2,500 people. The vibe and atmosphere of the party is amazing. My parents come to every one, people brings their kids, and get dressed all funky. It is my favourite party to play at without a doubt!
Where do you go record shopping in San Francisco?
Beatport… (laughs)! There used to be a lot of amazing records stores in SF. Tweekin, BPM, In House, but for the most part there really aren’t any stores now selling the dance music I play out. I still buy records I really want online, and Amoeba on Haight St is great for digging in the crates, but 98.5 percent of the music I buy now is digital.
What about clubs to play at, or just to visit?
We do a quarterly Dirtybird party at an amazing club called Mezzanine. They have a nice big capacity without losing that intimate vibe, the people that run it are rad, and the soundsystem is dope. I also really like Monarch. My friends just opened this club and the soundsystem is seriously the business, and it’s got the perfect size dancefloor for smaller shows. I also like going to 222 Hyde for pizza and a beer.
Would you say that San Francisco influenced the sound of Ghettos and Gardens? Or even just your attitude to making music?
Well, I would say the way that San Francisco has most influenced my sound is that it’s given me the confidence to take chances. It’s really inspiring to play my music for people that want to hear something they have never heard before, as opposed to people who only want to hear music they already know. San Francisco is filled with those kinds of people.
There’s a nice juxtaposition between melody and harder, bassier sounds on the album. Was that intentional?
Yes, I wanted to make music that was balanced in that sense. Music that you can play to a packed dancefloor that will move people and rattle the speakers, but music that you can also sit and listen to at home in the headphones. I love trying to find this balance, and it’s more interesting and more of a challenge when the balance is acquired with extremes on each end.
Give us a whirlwind account of what to do and where to go in San Francisco with 24 hours:
I really could write a book, but instead I’ll just give you a few fun things I like to do with friends. Wake up and go sit out in the beer garden at the biker bar, Zeitgeist. They have amazing Bloody Marys and breakfast sandwiches. For lunch I recommend grabbing a burrito somewhere. Pretty much anywhere in SF you can’t go wrong with the burritos, especially in the Mission. For happy hour I recommend Mojos on Divisadaro. On Thursdays they have a pop-up Bun Mee restaurant inside that is so delicious, and right next door is one of my favourite restaurants, Bar Crudo. If the Giants are playing, go to the game. The stadium is beautiful and it’s one of the most fun things you can do in San Francisco, even if you are not a baseball fan. If the Giants aren’t playing then go get a pizza at Delphina on California St., and then go do Monarch to dance the night away. Just hang with me, I’ll show you a good time.
Ghettos and Gardens is out now on Dirtybird Records.