Bursting onto the scene almost four years ago at the tender ages of 13 and 16, the Bronx-born Martinez Brothers have infused new blood and hope in what many see as a plateauing scene. Much hoopla has been made of their youth, but anyone seeing them live on the tables knows they’re the real deal.
Initially playing drums, timbales, congas, keyboards and bass, playing in latin bands and church, Chris and Steve Martinez were no strangers to music. Their father was a regular of New York’s Paradise Garage and it wasn’t long before the boys were turned on to Disco, the Classics and soulful House Music.
Fast-forwarding to today, this highly talented duo is still hot as ever, producing their own music with songs such as “My Rendition”, “Debbie Downer” and “Day Two”. I got a chance to speak briefly with Steve about the brothers’ fortuitous break, their accelerated learning curve and their plans for the future.
I see you already had quite the musical background at an early age. What was the definitive moment that made you interested in DJing?
Well it was really just out of curiosity, like fooling around with the computer. We weren’t really taking it seriously – just something to do beside playing ball. And then it got to the point where we really got into it, so we asked pops to get us a little set.
I know your father introduced you to House. Were you hanging out with anybody else or in any environment where there was a lot of this type of music?
Besides my house, not really. We started meeting other people later. But for the first two years that I was starting to DJ and stuff we didn’t really even know anybody. We were just in the crib – you know, playing, buying CDs, just learning.
That’s crazy to be able to be so into that music and yet be isolated from the community that fosters it.
Well the thing with us is that we were always into all types of music. So we were always listening to Jazz, Salsa… Even when we got into Jazz stuff – obviously there weren’t a lot of people in our school that were into Jazz. When we got into House, it was the same thing. It was just more music that not many people were into.
You guys have been DJing around the world for like 3 or 4 years now. So it’s almost like your career has been put into a microwave and you’ve learned much more than what a lot of DJs took years to learn. How have you changed in your musical style and what have you learned in that time in terms of life as a DJ?
Well, the thing that’s interesting about me and my brother is that we were basically learning while we were in the club. We didn’t know what else was out there – we thought it was only soulful House! We were actually experimenting and learning and finding our way while DJing in the clubs in front of people. So we didn’t really have the time to be in the background and learn. And going overseas and seeing all of this, we were exposed to a lot of different things.
And what have you from learned that?
Being exposed to all this different music, we were just like, “Man, we like this – we just didn’t know it!” We love Tech House, we like all this other stuff we didn’t know about! I wouldn’t say it changed our style, but opened us up even more.
Any nightmare stories from your early days?
Oh man, I can tell you like 50 million! [laughs] Early on we couldn’t mix for anything and would botch up mixes all the time! We would do stupid stuff like stop CDs, you know what I’m saying? I remember we were playing at Cielo and my brother’s mixing, and I just pressed pause on the CD! Like straight up, ’cause I wanted to take out the CD but I didn’t know that one was playing. That happened so many times! Seriously, there was a period where that kind of thing was normal.
So everyone knows the story that you hit up Dennis Ferrer on MySpace and that’s how the relationship started. Were there other people that you also contacted to help you out with your careers?
We weren’t really looking for anybody to help us out. We were just hitting up producers with fan mail! Like, “I like your stuff man, keep doing what you’re doing.” It was him, it was Quentin [Harris], Louie [Vega] – it was everybody that we were hitting up. It just so happened that Dennis said something like, “Who are these two kids that like my music, what the hell is that all about?” [laughs]
The next day, my brother was talking to him on AIM just bs’ing, and Dennis asked him to send him a mix. The very night he got the mix, he invited us to play at the Shelter in New York. Upstairs was Timmy [Regisford] of course, and downstairs they were doing a special party. That party man, I’ll never forget it! It was the first time we ever played at a club and it was just bonkers. People running downstairs wondering who the hell these two freaking kids were. It was really crazy – to the point that they had to shut us down!
How often were you guys practicing before you started making mixes?
Hours a day, man. Hours, hours and hours. Like I’d come home from school at 3 o’clock and play till 10 o’clock. Eat dinner, go back, do my homework, go back. And even today, after I talk to you I’m going to play!
Has the scene jaded you or burnt you out since you guys have so many gigs?
If anything, the scene has made us mature a lot faster. I mean my brother’s 17 and that dude is so mature, straight up! It hasn’t really corrupted us at all. I think having our foundation as far as family and growing up in a Christian household has really helped us.
What do you see yourself doing five years and ten years from now?
Five years from now… we should definitely have our own label by then. Ten years from now, I’m only going to be 31, so I’m still going to be pretty young. [laughs] 30 is the new 20.
I talk about this with a lot of DJs I interview… you guys are really a rarity because it’s hard to get younger kids into House. From your standpoint, how do you think you can get people your age into our music?
Honestly, I already see it happening. I see a lot of kids that hit us up on Facebook. One of the things I think they have to do is they have to lower the age limit in the clubs! Obviously they’re not going to be exposed to this music because it’s not on the radio. You kinda have to go to the clubs to hear it. In Europe there are 16, 17 year olds in the clubs. It’s all young kids listening to 30 year old DJs that are their heroes. I always say the major difference between Europe and the US is the age.
Have you or your brother ever played separately or had requests to?
Yeah I’ve DJ’ed on my own a couple of times. Sometimes my brother is still in school so there are certain gigs that he can’t make. But they’re dope gigs, so I say why not? But I will say that I don’t enjoy it as much. I look at my right shoulder and he’s not there and I’m like, “Aw man, I feel alone!” It kinda sucks to be honest with you – I’m just used to my brother.
Tell us a little bit about each of your personalities and work ethics.
Personality, I’m the more serious, quiet one. My brother is a jokester! Our work ethic is really the same – always in the studio, always digging for music. That’s one thing alike about us, our work ethic is crazy.