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Erik Voake

Justin Martin: The first album opened a lot of doors. Obviously, any album should be a labor of love, but I had a lot more opportunities with this one to work with vocalists and artists that I was inspired by. I got to work with some really good singers, which I didn’t really have the luxury of on my first album because no one really knew who I was.

DJ Times: Is this one more vocal-driven?

Martin: It is. There [are] three main vocal tracks, all different singers. There’s this girl [Laura Bettinson of] FEMME that was on this bootleg I put out of this track called “Small Talk.” I fell in love with her voice and just reached out to her, and we made the title track of the album called “Hello Clouds.” There’s another vocalist—Lena Cullen—who’s absolutely amazing. Her voice just gives you goosebumps. And there’s another vocalist who I think is going to be absolutely massive. I don’t even want to compare her to anyone. Her name is Charlotte OC. I think that might actually be my favorite track on the album.

DJ Times: Back in May 2015, the album was “almost done” according to you. What’s kept it under wraps?

Martin: Touring, man! Touring has been the best and worst thing that happened to this album. It was the best thing in the sense that I got to try a lot of the tunes out on the road, but I also realized that a lot of the stuff—if it had come out a year ago—I wouldn’t be completely happy with. I had to put a lot of stuff down because my schedule was so crazy. I’ve been on the road for almost a year straight.

DJ Times: The “Hello Clouds” tour alone was over 60 dates, right?

Martin: Yes. Since this time last year, it’s been about 170 shows. It went by really fast, but it was just like, “Oh my God, I was supposed to release an album last year!” The silver lining is that I got to put everything down and let it simmer for a while, and I came back to it and heard what was strong and what was weak. Now, I’m 100-percent happy with everything. This album that I’m putting out would’ve been totally different a year ago.

DJ Times: So was there a real deadline?

Martin: Having a deadline on something like this just sucks, and the only reason I had a deadline was because there was the [Hello Clouds] album tour. Once everyone realized that the tour was going to do alright with or without the album, then everyone kind of laid off me and said, “When the album’s ready, then we’ll release it. Don’t try and get it out just for the sake of getting it out.”

DJ Times: Is it a club-ready record?

Martin: It’s half and half. There are some really fun tunes on there that I play in my sets, and then there’s some stuff that’s strictly for headphones. With Ghettos & Gardens, we had eight or nine artists all do the remixes. For this one, I want to do all of the remixes myself, so that’s the next project I’m starting on. And it won’t take me another four years to do it, don’t worry.

DJ Times: So less of a break?

Martin: This year I’m taking it easy. I’m not touring as much because all I want to do is get back in the studio. When I’m on the road and I’m playing as many shows as I do—even when I’m back home for four days—it takes me two days to even want to go back to my room and listen to music again. It gets overwhelming; you just need your downtime away from the 4/4 kick. I need to just listen to some jazz and decompress.

DJ Times: What was your musical upbringing like?

Martin: Neither of my parents were actual musicians, but my dad has the most insane record collection you’ve ever seen. He has every classic-rock and classical record—he was a vinyl collector. He has this McIntosh sound system that’s lasted him 40 years. Back then, it was the equivalent of if you spend like $25,000 on a sound system—he saved all of his money for it when he was in college and he still has it to this day. We used to blast everything on this stereo in our living room when we were kids. They had me and my brother [Christian] taking music lessons; I was taking piano lessons when I was four and started playing the sax in third grade. I hated classical piano, but now I’m so thankful that they made me do it.

DJ Times: Was that the basis for what you do now?

Martin: Yes. And jazz I loved—playing jazz saxophone in funk bands and quartets and stuff like that. I was a class clown and sucked at school; [my music teacher] was the one person who believed in me.

DJ Times: How did you bridge the gap and get into electronic music? Wasn’t it through drum-n-bass?

Martin: Yeah! My brother is three years older than me. I was a sophomore in high school when he went off to college, and he started going to these Full Moon Gatherings out west that were just like these desert parties. He was telling me all about them, and over the summer he was working for PC Magazine in New York City as an internship and I came out to visit him. He was staying in the NYU dorms, and he took me to my first parties when I was 16. I just fell in love with electronic music.

DJ Times: What were you listening to?

Martin: What really solidified it was when I heard Goldie’s first album [1995’s Timeless]. Around that time, I also heard the LTJ Bukem Mixmag cover CD. Both of those things combined when I was on a jazz band tour in the U.K. It was my 16th birthday, and a friend bought me—and I still have framed to this day—LTJ Bukem’s Logical Progression because I had been listening to the cover CD. That was when I thought, “I want to start getting records.” Something about it just made me think that I wanted to be a DJ. It just started off as a hobby, and then it grew and grew. I ended up going to school up here in New York, and I started going to jungle parties every week and getting completely immersed in the scene.

DJ Times: Your brother introduced you to the parties, but you picked up DJing first. Was there a sort of osmosis between you two then?

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