An Interview With Doc Martin

Photo by Snapping House and Thanks to Joee Irwin for transcription and research

This Saturday is the 3rd edition of our yOyOyO 90′s Rave in London and this time around we’re honored to bring one of our all time favorite American house DJs along, the legendary Doc Martin. In honor of this momentous occasion I got to catch up with Doc for an interview over skype.

This is part 2 of the interview. For part 1, including some awesome video links and some amazing words about Doc from DJ Three (another living American rave legend) head over to Sloth Boogie.

ELI
In the 90′s mixtape culture was huge. Are there any that stand out in your mind?
DOC
Oh man. I’d say Jeno – Bang The Drum, Garth – Easy Skankin, Thomas from RubNTug Live who was one of the first doing funky breaks.

You can check out these and more amazing other classic 90′s mixtapes here!

ELI
You did a couple legendary mixes. The UrbMix and United DJs of America. That’s when rave was crossing over into the mainstream. How did it feel to be one of the people defining the sound of the west coast and America?
DOC
The urbmix was insane cause I just put records I was really into. It helped me meet and become friends with a lot of those artists like Josh Wink, Carl Craig, DJ Pierre, Future Sounds of London, Dubtribe, who hadn’t really broke at the time, but are all still really big today, which is insane when you think about it. For United DJs of America i took a different approach with a lot more west coast artists. The Moonshine CD Unlock Your Mind is one you want to write about because it broke people like DJ Sneak, Cevin Fisher, and a lot of west coast acts… I was really happy with that one: it brought a lot of new flavors out. All the mixtapes were crazy too! I mean sometimes we’d sell 3000 copies of a tape, but DJ fees were pretty low so I had to get into some creative marketing to fund my record habit!

ELI
Speaking of mixers, what’s your favorite mixer of all time?
DOC
Recently in Tel Aviv I played with a custom mixer that cost 15 grand, but I cant remember the name but it takes a year to make and I fell in love with it. It had a green headphone jack and blue headphone jack and two people could cue up records at the same time without interfering with each other and it had wave curves on every frequency. I should give a really dorky answer like the Radio Shack 2-channel mixer with no EQs, up and down only. But I’m a big fan of the Rane Rotary.

ELI
Yeh let’s get the Rane Rotary for the party in London!
DOC
Yeh let’s do it, but make sure you have the EQ extension bit.

ELI
Nice nerd out! Let’s get back on track and talk about some of your early releases and labels.
DOC
I

actually did a hiphop megamix with a DJ named DFX in the late 80′s. My first house record came out on Groovalicious called Docs Daily Funk in 91 or 92. the first label I was part of was Shaboom in the UK, then Wax Records and Westbound in the LA and now Sublevel started in 2001. The first single was called Justus. it was a white label and no one knew who it was. Once the word got out it sold like 7000 copies. It’s still getting licensed and it was on the 1st Circo Loco CD!

ELI
Speaking of records, you opened up a record store in LA, what was that like?
DOC
I opened Wax Records in ’97. At that time there wasn’t a record stored bringing the music we wanted to LA. Amoeba was new and figuring things out. We were really passionate about house and because I was traveling so much I was able to pick up a lot of promos which let us put in for big orders, sometimes buying all of the US run. There wasn’t really mail order so we’d sit and play music for people over the phone so they could make an order without being here. But it was pretty normal to come in and find Theo Parrish or King Britt or whatever DJ was in town shopping there because it was the best shop in LA. Oh and our disco buyer was a little guy named DJ Harvey! I was pretty nervous when we gave him the American Express Gold Card but he’d always come back from his travels with some amazing disco cuts for the store.

ELI
He was already a legend at that time, right?
DOC
Oh yeah. I played with him at Ministry of Sound and he had the reel to reel going I mean… wow!

ELI
Charlie moved to LA around ’99 and he told me to ask you what it was like having the shop among the freaks and trannys of Melrose Blvd. Do you have any crazy stories?
DOC
Melrose Blvd at that time was still crazy though some of the corporate stores were starting to move in, not that they lasted. There was one guy who used to come into the store and he looked homeless but was really knowledgeable about classic house and I was trying to figure out his story and I started talking to him and he asked if I was familiar with Eddie Amador’s “House Music”… He did the vocals for House Music! I couldn’t believe it. People like Perry Ferrel always came in too. He’d always come in with girls in furry bras and boots to buy the most fucked up music… A lot of it was just noise. A lot of music we didn’t know what to do with went into the Perry stack. Lots of celebrities who wanted to be DJs came in.

ELI
Is there anything similar to the vibe that records stores used to have in our digital age?
DOC
Haha we called it the Barber Shop, not the record store. It was pre-facebook and there was a lot less egos involved because you’d be hanging out with people of different genres in the same place and even if they are into different music, you’d find that they’re a really cool person and there was a lot more comradery. But now when I go to record stores it’s not full throughout the day.

ELI
I think a lot of DJs are lazy at this point. They don’t want to carry records. Ya know?
DOC
Well there’s that and a lot of the DJs I’ve talked to, while some people’s fees fees have gone up a lot of gone down and they can’t really afford it and the price of vinyl has gone up. Like on our website we sell a record for $16 with shipping. So I can definitely see how that’s hindered it. But to be honest I mean, there’s thousands and thousands of songs coming out everyday that a lot of people won’t play in a week because they think they always need to play a new set, which is a little ridiculous but…
ELI
…There’s something about having a box of vinyl for your whole tour and getting to know all of your music really, really well.
DOC
Yeah haha. My book of CDs is 13 crates of records. One bag of records and you got to play for 7 different crowds and make it work That was the challenge. [Pause]
ELI
It’s a fun challenge!
DOC
Definitely.

ELI
This might be a little personal, but you got really sick a few years back. How has that impacted your life and influenced your music?
DOC
When people ask me how I got sick I say, ‘I started going to England in 1992′. And everyone understands what that means without saying it. Coming from California and then going to a culture where they drink on Sunday mornings with their eggs was a whole different thing for me. But in general I wasn’t being healthy, I wasn’t eating well, and I wasn’t sleeping much; just going for it! You know what it’s like, playing all night in Mexico City then flying straight to a gig in Manchester and not being conscious of it. But now I goto the gym and watch my dieting, eat well and I seem to have more stamina than people just getting into this now.

ELI
Here’s another question from Sunshine: How have you managed to remain so positive and so in love with house music after all these years with all the water under the bridge?
DOC
You really have to have thick skin. Which I didn’t at first, so I’d really take criticism to heart. Just remember that above all the other stuff, I really love the music. I really embrace the new different styles. I still meet a lot of really cool people and DJs who’s music i like. It’s kind of exciting cause now that the scene has been turned upside down world-wide you never know what you’re walking into.

ELI
Yeh even in the US Electronic Music is the biggest it’s ever been. I don’t think any of us really saw this North American dance music takeover coming. What’s it like seeing something you’ve kind of been involved in since the beginning take off like this and how do you feel about it?
DOC
I think it’s a good thing in a lot of ways. I think a lot of the early promoters are people who were really into the music as well

as the early club owners who were really into house, disco, acid, techno whatever. Now I think there’s a lot of people doing festivals cause they can make a lot of money at them… In the US at least. They’re going after the young ravers who are 16+. It’s a much different in Europe because there you can see bands like The Happy Mondays or Tricky at festivals. Obviously Coachella is bridging the gap and they’ve always had a dance stage. I was just in Vegas for the Electric Daisy Carnival and I did one of the daytime parties and it was like 100,000 people there everyday. They put people like Visionquest on at 9pm when no one is there and Guy Gerber at the same time at another stage when no one is there, but I guess they’re putting their just starting to put thier toes in the water now.

ELI
I was going to ask why you think it’s blown up so huge now and not in the 90′s but I guess it has to do with how it’s super corporate now, right? Now it’s safe, not just some kids in LA breaking into warehouses and kicking holes in walls when cops come.
DOC
Haha! Yeah there’s a lot of saturation with festivals. like 1 or 2 every weekend in California. Last weekend I was at a festival in Reno done by some of the people who help with Burning Man and it was quite good but less than 100 miles away there was another festival friends were headlining at and I know I saw posters for upcoming festivals everywhere. And there’s obviously the corporate raves but there’s more hippie festivals that are taking shape, I mean though I haven’t been to Burning Man I’d go to Rainbow Gathering which was more about meditation during the day.

Comments

  1. Tristan says:

    Check out the doc mix on the link to 90′s tapes – Afterglow Visions of Paradise. Recommended.

  2. Jose A. M. says:

    Where do I begin. I remember hanging outside of a club after it ended. This kid was earning his way into clubs by passing out fliers for promoters. He walks up to Doc and gives him a flier that has Doc’s name on it! Doc put his hands on the kids shoulders and says: “what’s up man, you feeling good? Cool, my name is Doc Martin. The kid looks up and just realizes what just happened. He starts to apologize profusely, but Doc cuts him off, and says: “It’s all good, man, you’re on top of the world.” The kid smiled and went about his way.

    If yall want more stories, just ask. I was a self-described Doc-head. Saw him spin on the second opening night,after Sash, at Sound Factory SF, saw him spin at Twilo I think, on Indian reservations, Hollywood sound stage, Prince’s club Glam Slam, where he spit at the bouncer for cutting off his set. THe sound got turned off but this cool cat kept on blowing through a didgeridoo and kept the vibe alive for another few minutes.

  3. djelyte says:

    yo jose,
    thanks for hollering. we would love to hear more of your stories!
    -eli clap