Martin Garrix was the youngest person ever to be voted into the Top 100 DJs poll — he was born in 1996! — and has had a huge global hit this year with EDM behemoth ‘Animals’ — only his second solo release. ‘Animals’ has gone gold and platinum in most of Europe and is probably going to hit the No.1 spot in the UK charts this weekend, clocking in as one of the biggest dance tracks of the year…
Next year Martin embarks on headline tours of Australia, Asia and the US and will play a lot of big festivals, but he tells DJ Mag that his friends around him help keep his feet on the ground. DJ Mag catches up with Martin chillin’ at home just before going to the cinema with pals…
How did you feel when you were voted into the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll this year?
“At first I didn’t believe it because we didn’t do any promo, then suddenly I saw shit-loads of tweets saying that I was No.40, and I was like ‘What the fuck?!’ I was surprised so many people voted for me, but really happy.”
How old were you when you first knew what a DJ was?
“It was 2004, I was watching the Olympics with my mother and Tiësto was playing there. That was the first time I got in touch with electronic music, the first time I actually saw a DJ. From that point I started saving up money to buy my own DJ set-up, which I bought three years later when I was about 10 or 11-years-old. It was like a super-cheap version of CDJs.
“At the time I bought a DJ set-up I also installed a program on my computer, which gave me the option to produce my own music. In the beginning I was just messing around, I produced a little bit of hardstyle at the time, but the last two or three years it became more house-orientated and more serious.”
So what year was your first DJ gig?
“It was in my hometown in 2010, it was 16th January — I remember everything. There were like 400 people, it was my own party and I asked all my friends to come, and to invite their friends. It was really fun.”
Hardwell says that his parents had to accompany him to every gig he played in Holland until he was 18 — are you in the same situation?
“No, they don’t go with me to every show, but they are joining me for a lot of shows. I have my tour management going to all my shows to make sure everything goes well, that I get my flight on time and things like that — and that everything goes great at the party. And then sometimes my parents come along just for fun, and to see what I’m actually doing. It’s very important that they’re joining me a lot, because they were already supporting me before everything went crazy like this. Without their support, it wouldn’t be like this.
“I know Hardwell’s parents really well, they are really really nice, I see a lot of similarities with my parents. They are really helpful and watching his health, seeing that everything is OK when he does his tours and that it isn’t too hard. My parents do the same, and they actually believed in this dream from the very start too.”
Dutch DJs like Chuckie, Tiesto and Hardwell have all helped you along the way, but whose help has been the most important?
“Chuckie didn’t help me, Hardwell has helped me a lot, and Tiesto is still helping, but Vato Gonzalez — a famous DJ in the Netherlands — started playing my tunes one-and-a-half or two years ago, and from that point I kinda got in contact with other producers and some labels.
“Then I made a ghost production for somebody else — I can’t tell you which track I made — but this track got signed to Spinnin’ Records and became really big. They found out that I made it, and so they invited me to their office and I played them my other stuff — and we signed.
“We created the name Martin Garrix, which is really close to my real name [Martijn Garritsen], and from that moment on we started thinking, ‘How can we create a fanbase, what kind of profile do we want to create?’ Then we started releasing tracks on the labels, because before that I gave them away for free.”
How long did it take you to make ‘Animals’?
“Pretty short, I had the melody already from an older track I made two years ago but never released, and in January I started listening to all the projects I made — all the tracks — and I heard the melody from ‘Animals’. I thought, ‘Great, this is very catchy’. Then later that night the melody was stuck in my head and I was like, ‘OK, I need to do something with it’. It’s an easy melody, you can remember it really fast.”
Part of it to these ears recalls some minimal techno from the mid-noughties — do you know that sound?
“'Animals’ was actually inspired by a hip-hop track, it’s a track by Busta Rhymes. I don’t know the track name, but I ripped the weird sound and thought, ‘Maybe I could use this in a house track’? It wasn’t really anything to do with minimal techno.”
What made you use that vocal sample in the middle — ‘Mutha-fuckin’ animals’?
“It was a friend of mine who said that, an MC from the Netherlands. I was working on the track and he was saying, ‘Dude, we need to make a track together’, and I was like ‘Oh that’s funny, cos at this point I need a new vocal for a new track of mine’.
“We started discussing on Skype what we could do, what would be a cool vocal to use. We had a lot, first we had some shit like ‘One, two, three, jump!’ but those were very basic, so then we were like ‘Maybe we can do something which can get more of a story behind it?’ We just came up with ‘We’re the fucking animals’ — we didn’t really have a plan behind it. Right now, it’s really sick how much influence such a small decision like this can have, because people now go to my shows with animal masks, which is really weird to see.”
You’ve had a very fast rise to fame…
‘Yes, it’s gone really fast. I was a little bit afraid that it went too fast, cos when I made ‘Animals’ and it became big so quickly I was like, ‘Oh shit, this has happened really fast’, and I didn’t have any other tracks ready to release yet. That was a really shitty feeling, thinking I had to come up with something that was on the same level as ‘Animals’. At that point I was like ‘Oh, shit, I don’t want to be like a one-hit dude’, but now I’ve got five or six new tracks ready. I have some really big collaborations with some of the biggest in the world… I can tell you one, it’s with Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and there’s another name that I can’t actually tell you but you probably know it…”
“Yeah. There is no track yet, but we’re going to do a studio session really soon. Tiësto’s been my biggest inspiration for six or seven years — he’s somebody I really look up to. He invited me to play my new track at Zigga Dome during ADE, and he’s really been supporting everything I do. Every time I have a new track I send it to him, and he is so humble and down to earth and nice. And there’s another collab with another very big name coming soon, but it’s not there yet so we…”
What do you say to people who think you have to pay your dues as a DJ by playing lots of rubbish clubs and bars for years before you make it?
“Actually I agree with them, that’s a learning point. I played at weddings and shit, you learn to react to people’s reactions, you learn to see how the crowd is responding to specific tracks and then you learn what kind of music you need to play at which moment. It’s really great to start that way — go from smaller clubs to bigger clubs.”