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Bass from the ground up with Christian Martin

By Vanessa Krystin Wong

The bone-rattling bass of Christian Martin and his friends Smalltown DJs, Sabo and Neon Steve come to Vancouver this Wednesday for one hell of a party. As part of their Mountain Magic Tour the crew has been touring select mountain towns in BC and Alberta, bringing the madness to the ski hills and clubs alike. The next stop on this adventure: Fortune Sound Club February 25th.

We had a chance to ask Christian Martin of the legendary Dirtybird crew a few questions on what makes him tick. He gave us some very authentic and passionate answers in anticipation of his upcoming show.

Can you describe what you mean by the phrase: “bass from the ground up?”

Inside, it’s bass that knocks bottles off the back bar if they’re not secured. Bass that rattles your eyeballs, rearranges your internal organs, gives you a smile you might not realize until you look around and see that everyone else has the same face. Outside, it’s even better – after a while it feels like it’s a permanent part of the landscape. It’s bass that shakes the earth as it radiates outward from the system and passes through the crowd, unencumbered by walls, tables, or any other reflective surfaces.

You seem to have traveled and lived the party scene quite extensively before your DJ career. How do you think your attendance of world-wide electronic events has contributed to your musical style and your perspective of the industry today?

All my traveling helped me focus and hone in on the sounds I wanted to hear (and eventually make). I was a fan of electronic music long before I thought about DJing or producing, and that still influences my approach. I’m a fan of all these alien sounds that make me dance, and I love contributing to that continuum.

Can you elaborate on the inspiration for Dirtybird BBQ’s? These seem to be such genuine, fun loving events, what was the mindset in hosting the first one?

I was regularly traveling down to the SoCal desert from 2000-2002 with SF friends. They threw parties with their own soundsystem, almost as a reaction to the heavier evil trance that other desert crews had veered towards. We had a run of bad luck, from busts to engine breakdowns. There was even a party where the main access road washed out into loose sand, and 15+ cars got stuck. We had to unload & reload the sound trailer just to get to the spot.

9 hours (one way) seemed like a long way to drive to not have a party, so I started fantasizing about getting my own system and doing it closer to home. When the opportunity arose to grab some self-powered Mackie stacks & subs for a great price through a homie who worked in the industry, I jumped on it. That was May 2003. We found a perfect secluded meadow in Golden Gate park that became our home for many years. The BBQ aspect was an immediate and perfect side effect of our location. If no one showed up, at least we would still have lots of food as we bumped it.

What is it like to be part of the world renowned Dirtybird crew? In previous articles it has been called “a family.” Is this your personal opinion as well?

It’s an honor, and it’s definitely a family. We’ve all learned the ins & outs of the industry together as db has grown – so many people trying to make music a career have gotten chewed up along the way for whatever reason. Being part of this crew has helped keep our heads on our shoulders and stay focused on always achieving more. Our family style was on full display last year during the BBQ tour. Though each stop was chaotic & challenging, we were able to stay relaxed and enjoy the moments as they unfolded. It was really amazing being able to share the BBQ concept with cities all over North America. This year in Miami we’re doing all back 2 back tag team sets: Claude VonStroke vs Justin Martin, J.Phlip vs Shiba San, me vs Ardalan. It’s such a natural adaptation to our complementary styles – when I heard the idea I was like “of course!”

To what degree does their passion, energy and musical style rub off on you?

There is so much influence – there’s always been an element of wanting to surprise the crew with the best new tracks, the illest basslines, the secret weapons that make the floor go insane and homies come trainspotting, yelling ‘Wat da F is this track!!??’ It’s even sweeter when it’s an original production that causes those reactions.

How cool is it to have your brother be part of your crew? In what respects has his career influenced yours?

It’s so cool! Justin gives me by far the best feedback one could ask for when it comes to perfecting my tracks. I think it’s ultimately made me work harder, because I have to prove my DJ & production skills independently – so I’m not just known as Justin’s brother. I’ll still flow him my secret weapons, and vice versa

How often does your alter ego, Leroy Peppers, make an appearance?

Not so often, but I always have a few folders of DnB, juke, ghetto tech, and hip-hop ready, just in case LP gets the call.

What track are you most excited to drop in your next set?

Sinden & I have a techno monster that’s pretty much finished, we had a chance to collaborate last week and really took advantage of the time. It sounds like a spaceship crash landing on Lee Scratch Perry’s roof. Peak hour only!

If you could choose to play only 3 festivals ever again, what would they be and why?

Shambhala (Canada) – It has the best atmosphere, run by the best people. Everywhere you look, you can see the passion that goes into every aspect of this magical place. The crowds are mental, and you can tell everyone has been dreaming about it all year. ‘Life-changing’ is thrown around too much but it definitely applies to Shambhala.

Northern Nights (Northern California) – I played the first two years at this NorCal jewel of a fest. The sound is all slamming Void, and the organization would make you swear they’ve been doing it for 10+ years. The location is incredible – giant redwoods all around, there’s even a lazy river to float in beside one of the stages.

Desert Hearts (Southern California) – Love this crew! All killer, no filler – it’s an immaculately curated, single Funktion One soundsystem, bringing so much bass from the ground up. There’s still a raw element of wildness & uncertainty like the old school SoCal desert parties – last time I played there it snowed during my set.

By Tyler Bowles

events calendar

May 20   Russ (All Ages)   Pacific Coliseum
May 22   Joyner Lucas   Fortune
May 22   Sofi Tukker   Commodore
May 29   Cozz   Fortune
May 31   Lightning Dust (Victoria)   Lucky Bar
Jun 1   Lil Gnar & Germ (All Ages)   Fortune
Jun 2   King Tuff   Fortune
Jun 2   Rittz   Venue
Jun 3   Smoke DZA & Bodega Bamz   Fortune
Jun 13   The Sword (Vancouver)   Venue
Jun 15   The Sword (Calgary)   Marquee
Jun 15   Upon A Burning Body & Volumes   Fortune
Jun 16   The Sword (Edmonton)   Union Hall
Jun 17   The Sword (Regina)   The Exchange
Jun 18   The Sword (Winnipeg)   Pyramid
Jun 21   Culture Ft. Kenyatta Hill   Venue
Jun 23   Freddie McGregor   Venue
Jun 23   Louis Futon (Live)   Fortune
Jun 28   Neon Indian (DJ Set)   Fortune
Jul 5   Slum Village   Fortune
Jul 6   FVDED In The Park 2018   Holland Park
Jul 7   Neurosis / Converge   Commodore
Jul 19   Great Grandpa & Dead Soft   Fortune
Jul 20   Opia   Fortune
Jul 21   Melvins (Vancouver)   Venue
Jul 24   Melvins (Edmonton)   Union Hall
Jul 25   Melvins (Calgary)   Marquee
Jul 27   Melvins (Winnipeg)   Pyramid
Aug 7   Rex Orange County (All Ages)   Vogue Theatre
Aug 30   Let's Eat Grandma   Fortune
Aug 30   Poolside   Biltmore
Sep 3   The Exploited   Fortune
Sep 6   grandson   Venue
Sep 13   Buddy   Fortune
Sep 13   Ella Mai   Venue
Sep 14   Pell   Fortune
Sep 14   Ravyn Lenae   Venue
Sep 15   Duckwrth   Fortune
Sep 16   Fatima Al Qadiri   Fortune
Sep 27   The Midnight   Fortune
Oct 26   SG Lewis   Fortune
Nov 8   Gallant (All Ages)   Vogue Theatre
Nov 17   Young Fathers   Venue