Martin Landsky has now been living and breathing underground house and techno for almost three decades. After experimenting with homemade mixtapes and breakdancing in local crews, house and techno arrived in his Hamburg hometown and he fell immediately in love. Soon graduating to playing ‘proper’ DJ sets in clubs around Germany, Martin was amongst the first to be playing these new electronic sounds and even had his own night at the legendary Front Club, where he became known for his fresh selections. Now, years later, there is barely a club or festival anywhere in the world that he hasn’t headlined.
Largely inspired by black music, it wasn’t long before Martin began crafting his own productions and a debut release came in 1997 on MC Projects London. It was the start of what has turned out to be an illustrious production career that now takes in underground hits like ‘Bloodhound’ (which was remixed by Steve Bug and got re-released as a certified classic in 2009 on an esteemed Decks Records sub-label) as well as the huge underground anthem that joined together DJs from all backgrounds, namely the ubiquitous ‘1000 Miles’ on Poker Flat. A key member of Steve Bug’s Poker Flat family, Martin also released his debut LP, In Between, on the same label in 2001. Other successes that define the slick, sleek and seductive house and tech fusions Martin serves up are ‘The Composer’, also on Poker Flat, ‘Morning Caffeine’ on Mobilee and much more besides. What’s more, as a remixer, Martin’s unique touches have been put on music by everyone from Booka Shade to John Tejada, Miss Kittin to Pan-Pot.
Martin found time in his schedule to chat to Decoded Magazine about his latest releases, what he has planned for the remainder of 2017, and compile an exclusive mix for our readers.
Hi Martin, and thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to chat to Decoded Magazine today. What have you been up with your day so far?
Hello, thank you very much for having me. My days usually start slow, especially in this season of the year. But I almost finished all office work for today and can’t wait to get into the studio later.
Let us take a leap back to when you first started gauging an interest in dance music. What first caught your attention about the genre? What were some of the tracks that really caught your attention back in the day?
Actually, I started DJing before house or techno really even existed. I was pretty young at that time and it was all about Funk, Rap, R&B. In the area where I grew up, everybody was listening to this black dance music it was all around me. It was obvious that I would get deeply influenced by this. Later when the first House records arrived over here, when the first DJs started to add these new music bit by bit into their sets I was so infected by this new weird sound. I knew this music was going to change my life and it did. Visual “The Music Got Me” is a prime example of these in-between times when House Music was around the corner but still not quite there.
You ran Effortil Records (later renamed Intim Recordings) from 1998 to 2002 and you introduced artists such as Phonique and Marco Resmann to the world through that label. What made you decide to discontinue the label in 2002, and what have been some of the most valuable lessons you have learned from running your own label?
Oh yes, I remember these times. I had to rename the label for legal reasons. Effortil is a medicine and the pharma industry approached me, which was a funny moment; the young underground label owner being involved in a lawsuit with the pharma industry. They found out about me when I registered an internet domain with that name (internet was a brand new thing back then). And yes Phonique and Marco Resmann (under his moniker Phage) did debut on this imprint. This label was a one-man show and got pretty time consuming after a while. At a certain point, I decided to concentrate more on music and to spend less time on office work.
The experience of running a label was a very valuable one. I learned so much: I did most of the music, I did the artwork, promotion, press texts, A&R, DJ promo mail outs, legal stuff like licensing, publishing-related things etc. At that time I was also working for a record distribution (Word and Sound), so I was even the distributor of the label. I had the chance to get a very deep and complete insight into the whole record making procedure.
Have you thought about restarting the label or creating a new label?
Oh yes, I was and still am thinking about this pretty often actually. It’s on the bucket list!
You have had a long affiliation with Poker Flat Recordings that has seen you release many fantastic tracks spanning many years, including your new release, “Being Me”. How did the relationship with Poker Flat come about, and why do you feel the relationship has remained so strong?
The relationship with Poker Flat goes way back, I met Steve Bug before the label was born. We lived in the same city, we DJ’d together, we became friends. At that time he was running his Raw Elements label and after the corresponding distribution went out of business the idea of Poker Flat arose. As mentioned before I was working for a record distribution at that time and guess what, we signed the new label, that was in 1998 or 99. So I am somehow related to Poker Flat from the very beginning. My first release for Poker Flat followed in 2000.
There has always been a very strong musical connection between all the early members of the label, a kind of similar approach. After all the years we grew together as a family and there will always be this strong bound.
Today the only real entry point for DJs appears to be via production of their own music. Do you feel this is a good or bad thing, and what advice would you give to those looking to break into the scene?
Oh, that’s a tough question, but I think it’s a good thing if more people are encouraged to start to produce music, and bringing their own vision and influences to the table. Simply because this is the fuel for the evolution of our so beloved music.
On the other hand, if this leads to a state where the music itself is just a marketing tool to further one’s career then it’s pretty sad. Music is an art form of expression, it should bring the inner side of an artist to the surface and give the world an insight of his vision, it is a form of communication. In my boo, this is even true for dance music where a lot of people might only see the fun aspect of it. House and Techno have so much more and deeper to offer. So if this music is only seen as a product, used as a tool then it will eat itself because there’s no deeper meaning to it. Oh, and don’t let me start talking about the ghost producer industry, you really don’t want to open that can of worms.
You have been an integral part of the underground scene now for some time and seen many changes over the years. What do you feel have been some of the most significant positives and negatives over the years?
Oh well, that’s a tricky one: it’s not easy to not sound like an old fart when talking about the good old times and how everything changed. Obviously these days the whole scene is a very different one than back when it all started out. You have to deal with that if you still want to be part of this wonderful music in a professional way.
It’s a great thing that we managed to spread the word all over the world and made electronic music so successful, I remember times when we got dissed everywhere for listening to this stupid repetitive music and we had to fight for our right to party the way we wanted. The attention this music gets these days is still hard to believe sometimes for me. Also, technology helped a lot to bring this music to many abandoned areas, where before the people never had the chance to explore this universe. It’s also fantastic that so many people are able to make a living out of what they love these days.
On the downside, it looks like the whole thing has turned into something I like to call entertainment industry. It’s like a circus or an amusement park. Everything is for show, the most care is taken for appearance, for bling. Sometimes it feels like the music in itself is the last thing that’s taken care of. Maybe sometimes we should stop trying to benefit from the music scene but ask ourselves what we could do for the music in order to bring it to the next level. Because it’s the music that should be the star, not the presenter.
You are based in Berlin, which is the heartbeat for so many great producers and clubs. What are some of your favourite places to DJ and hang out when out and about in the city?
Yes, Berlin is indeed a very special place and the number of parties and artists in this city is overwhelming. But this is exactly the crux sometimes. As everything can happen anytime in this city, it gets so normal, it’s really hard to find these special moments, they do happen but it’s sometimes hard to recognize.
I, of course, have my favourites when it comes down to DJ in the city, but that would be a rather boring list, as that would include all the usual suspects that you can read in any other DJ’s interview. When I hang out I very rarely go to any clubs, sometimes it’s good to take a break. I do attend special events though and when friends are in town to DJ, but then it pretty doesn’t matter where it’s about the music and the people you’re with.
Let us chat about your mix you have compiled for Decoded Magazine for a few minutes. How was the mix constructed, and what made you select the tracks you did?
Well, that’s quite simple. When doing podcasts or mixes I always try to condense the idea of a whole DJ set into the timeframe of one hour; it’s like a quintessence of my current DJ sets. I don’t get too hard and banging though on podcasts as I think that doesn’t translate well outside of a club setting. Imagine one of my DJ sets with all ups and downs and with the jumping through styles compressed to one hour, et voila, here you are.
What can we expect from you in terms of releases over the coming months, and into the New Year?
My new EP for Poker Flat just has been released right now, later this month there will be a remix for Oliver Schories’ ‘Ivre’ on his own SOSO imprint. Upon You Records is celebrating its anniversary with a great compilation, which is split up into several parts. My contribution ‘Notch Off’ will be featured on the second part which will be out Nov/Dec. Then there´s a remix I did for Niko Schwind called ‘Acid’ which will be out soon on Sincopat.
My next original EP will be released on Still Hot Berlin, the label associated with my booking agency, this one will feature a remix by Gorge from 8bit. Right now I am working on two other remixes but these are still a secret.
When are you DJing what is your preferred setup when in a club?
I am not very geeky or technical complicated when it comes to DJing. 3 CDJs, mixer and my trusty Boss DD-7 delay pedal. I am thinking of adding some other effects but still not sure which.
As we approach the festive period, where can our readers expect to see you playing over Christmas and New Year?
It really looks like that this year I can finally take a long overdue vacation during the holiday season. I am sorry, but it’s much needed. I am not the biggest fan of this season of the year anyway.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add before we leave you to carry on with your day?
Thank you very much for these rather refreshing good questions. And to the readers out there: don’t believe the hype, make up your own mind. Listen to as much music and artists as possible and create your own vision out of all these different influences, don’t let others decide for you!
01. Architectural – Lipstick And Cigarettes – Non Series
02. Rhymos – Hi Sparrow – Whistleblower
03. Martin Landsky – Being Me (Dub Remix) – Poker Flat
04. Raw Series – #2 A – Raw Series
05. Murk – Dark Beat (Addicted To Drums) feat. Oba Frank Lords (Danny Daze Fundamental Remix) – Murk
06. Ed Ed & Petja Virikko – Mon Desir – Second State
07. Joeski – Lost Drums – Maya Records
08. Reset Robot – Earth Or Immortality – Last Night On Earth
09. Aaaron & Deckert Feat. Valentine – L.D.O.E. (Floyd Lavine’s African Techno Mix) – Connected
10. Martin Eyerer – Rethink – Bedrock Records
11. Sergio Fernandez – Urano Beatz – Snatch Off
12. Martin Landsky – Norway – Poker Flat
13. Mark Henning – Take The Corvette – Soma
14. Cybordelics – Adventures of Dama (Butch Remix) – Harthouse
15. Loco Dice – Flight LB7475 – Ovum
Buy Martin Landsky’s ‘Being Me EP here