DJ Eddie Martinez :: Stimulating the Turntables
Recipe for success: youthful ambition coupled with real talent. Take Eddie Martinez. In just four years as a DJ, he has made a name as an international headliner and as an up-and-coming remix producer. Oh yeah: He's also devilishly good looking.
Martinez, 25, can thank his parents for his combination of German solidity and Latin machismo. Growing up in Brooklyn as the second-youngest child and the only boy in a family of five kids, Martinez first set his sights on dancing professionally.
Then a friend encouraged him to step inside the DJ booth, and it was love at first sound byte.
"I would mix my own music" even as a dancer, Martinez says. "At heart I am a dancer. It started from there." But he so instinctively put tracks together and mixed beats that making other people dance was a natural fit for him.
As is the case with many big-city dreamers, Martinez put in his time as a cater-waiter-bartender - the last in his case. He tended bar at Vlada, a gay spot in Midtown Manhattan known for its yard-long menu of custom vodkas.
Shakin’ and Stirred
One night, he hopped into the second-floor DJ booth and found himself at home.
"It was my first official gig," he says. It led to other opportunities at spots around New York. Out of necessity, he tailored his song selections for the happy-hour crowd but was steadily establishing his style behind the speakers - and it’s all-embracing.
"I like every type of music," Martinez says. "I like being eclectic. My personal taste was always on the darker side, more tribal. But at lounges, you can’t play that." Instead, he usually started the night with the expected Top 40 hits and diva anthems (but with a dash of hip-hop). As the night wore on, he played more progressive.
His skills grew, and so did the venues. Martinez got his first big break at the Pavilion - the leading nightclub in Fire Island Pines, currently being rebuilt after a devastating fire - where he opened for then-bigger names.
As someone who loves to dance, Martinez appreciates what music makes people want to move. He cites Peter Rauhofer, Victor Calderone and Abel as master beaters whom he listened to carefully on the floor.
He’s also aware of the army of DJs struggling to make a name in a saturated market. Speaking of the 1990s, Martinez says: "Back then, DJing was a little more prominent - there are so many DJs now."
Not that the shifting names and faces on the club circuit ever deterred Martinez. Instead, he expanded his abilities. "With computers it’s become very easy, but I taught myself to mix with CDs as well. You really have to work."
Martinez taught himself the hands-on approach of turntable mixing - now all but obsolete. "I felt it was important," he says. "It made me feel much more credible. You have to really listen to the music." No one would question his skill, artistry or command of the party.
Taking inspiration from the rhythms that moved him as a dancer, Martinez found an immersive connection to the deep, dark beats of house, which resonated in the remix culture as perfected by Calderone and Abel on hits for Madonna and Whitney Houston. He also instantly felt the percussive wattage of tribal music. Perhaps some of Rauhofer’s Roxy influence impressed the aspiring mix-master. It was the fusion of these two club sounds that laid the groundwork for Martinez’s approach as a DJ on the turntables.
Martinez is informed by the vibe in the room and does not plot his entire set list, preferring to meter his audience. "If you plan it out, you’re not reading the crowd," he says.
He remembers the innovators that inspired him and how DJs like Calderone, Abel and Rauhofer revolutionized the dance floor. "Everyone was happy," Martinez says. "There was always good energy."
One Big Party
Now that music festivals are beginning to supplant Circuit parties, Martinez sees the opportunity to collaborate. "Some DJs think it’s competitive," he says, "but it’s meant to be one big party." That’s how he approaches his headlining gigs - fun, not work, and certainly not oppressive thumping. Playing gigs in New York City, such as at the dance bar Splash, also helps Martinez keep it real.
He’s played to international audiences making the rounds in the U.K. and hitting Brazil and Canada. Martinez has just come off a turn opening at the gargantuan Pride in Toronto, and has been invited back to play at "Drama Queen." He’ll return to Canada in August to perform in Vancouver, but he cites Rio as his favorite city.
"It rained the whole time that I played, and it didn’t stop the crowd," Martinez says. Working in Rio whetted Martinez’s appetite for producing. "They really have a love for music," he says of the Brazilians. "They really go all out. Sometimes it feels like here in the states we’re behind."
Still holding our own, though. The artist continues his monthly residency at Splash and prepares to appear soon alongside Rauhofer at the XL Nightclub.
Stimulating New Talents
Martinez has challenged himself to move his unique sense of musicality beyond the big rooms and into the studio. Having launched his own label, Stimulus Recordings, he has embarked on an additional career as a remixer. Although he uses many of the elements that he’s learned are successful on the dance floor - he favors tribal and House beats -Martinez is pushing the boundaries of remix productions.
Working with new and emerging talent on his own label is giving Martinez the freedom to make music (and even the occasional mistake). He’s been inspired to explore an aesthetic that will be judged not by commercial success but by the reception it gets when it’s bouncing off club speakers.
Martinez has been working with a local pop vocalist, Dimitri Minucci, and remixed the latest single off his debut album; "Lucid" will be released on Stimulus.
"He did such a beautiful job with the original," Martinez said. "The song had so much emotion in it. I wanted to just do a dub version of it. That’s all it really needed."
Pop princess Rihanna tops Martinez’s wish list of established artists to collaborate with. "She keeps changing it up," he says. "Rihanna keeps evolving. Her music is fun and catchy. It’s sexy."
Martinez knows something about sexy. It’s how he likes to keep the energy flowing during his DJ sets. "I like my music to be sexy. When you have moments of sexual emotion in your set, it takes it to another level. I like to feel that."
As a gay DJ, he acknowledges the advantage he has in connecting with his fan base. "Gay audiences like a certain sound, and only another gay guy can understand what that sound is." For Martinez it will most likely pound profoundly to a tribal beat and in the depths of the after-hours penetrate slamming walls with house.
Recently single, Martinez says he’s content devoting himself to his craft and finding stimulation in his career. He also finds dating a challenge at the moment.
"It’s especially difficult in New York City," he complains. "Everybody knows everybody!" And pretty soon everybody will know Eddie Martinez.
Martinez opens for Peter Rauhofer at New York’s XL Nightclub on Saturday, Sept. 1. Go to the club’s website for more information.