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The Martinez Brothers: reaching new heights in Ibiza

As they kick off their Tuesday night headline residency at Hï Ibiza, New York natives The Martinez Brothers catch up with DJ Mag Ibiza's Mick Wilson about  their love for the White Isle and their big plans for the coming season

Straight outta the Bronx in New York City, The Martinez Brothers — and yes, they are actually siblings; Stevie is three years older than Chris — were introduced to music at an early age by their dad, who was a pastor. They played percussion in the church band as youngsters, and when they showed interest in disco, soul and salsa, their father — “Pops” — bought them some DJ equipment and began helping them pursue their passion. He tried to help them get gigs in the city, and they soon met prominent DJ Dennis Ferrer, who took them under his wing. Their first productions came out on Ferrer’s label Objektivity, including 2007’s ‘My Rendition’, which coincided with their first trip to Ibiza with their dad.

Over the past 15 years they’ve collaborated with a slew of top-drawer artists such as Nile Rodgers from Chic, Louie Vega from Masters At Work, Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, Rudimental, Tiga, Kittin and more. Falling in love with Ibiza and playing many summers at DC-10 has been crucial to their elevation in the international scene. Now, they’re headlining every Tuesday at Hï Ibiza for the whole season. DJ Mag Ibiza caught up with both brothers in anticipation of their biggest residency on the island to date...

Hi guys, can you remember the first time you came to Ibiza?

Stevie: “The first time we came to Ibiza was around 2007, we came with our Pops. It was for Pacha, we came over with another DJ who brought us to Ibiza. We had no idea about anything to do with the island back then. It was about the time DC-10 was going down... yeah, I believe it was around 2007 and it was going nuts, it was bonkers, so sick to see it.”

Chris: “Ibiza looked so different at that time, there were just a few billboards here and there, pretty old school. It was like an old island but now it’s completely full, completely different. It was raw, it’s crazy to see it now compared to back then.”

Stevie: “Then we came again for Space, for a DJ Mag party actually. We came a couple of times before we ended up spending the summers out here. But those experiences were, like, super. We were still so young, you know what I mean? We had so much to learn about what was going on with the clubs on the island. We were still caught up in our New York scene.”

Chris: “Yeah, we got our feet wet to be honest, we were still discovering and learning. In New York we went to Shelter, we went to all these legendary New York spots, but this is when we first kind of started travelling to Europe and understanding, like, okay, the different sounds...”

Stevie: “The European DJs, and Ibiza, and not just soulful house. There was a whole different spectrum of music and sounds going on overseas that we just started understanding at that point.”

The Martinez Brothers

What effect did you think coming to Ibiza had on your sound?

Stevie: “It changed our sound, broadened it. I mean, we were listening to other stuff here and there that would get dropped by our favourite DJs and we’d play some of this stuff at times, but we didn’t really dive into it and get into it until we started coming to Europe and started hanging out with people like Argy. Like, we met Seth [Troxler] out in Ibiza and in Berlin at Watergate.”

Chris: “Because you have to go out, you have to experience it. There wasn’t really YouTube at the time to find out about the music and understand the other type of dudes that were playing that type of music. There wasn’t really a way of finding out about the music at the time other than being really involved in that stuff to really understand what was going on.”

Do you remember the first time you DJ’d on the island?

Stevie: “The first time we DJ’d on the island was when we came out with our Pops, that’s the first time we ever heard about the island. I mean, we had heard of it, we had seen and heard a few things about it, we even bought a series of compilations — 'Sounds of Ibiza'. But we didn’t really understand about Ibiza. We knew Ibiza was a place, but we didn’t really understand what was going on and the massive importance of the island. We didn’t get what was going on until we got there and started going out, and then got a few ‘signs’ and said, ‘Alright, yeah’.”

You’ve got your first headline Ibiza residency at Hï every week this season, can you tell us a bit about that? What’s going to be happening?

Stevie: “It’s a great thing because it’s like we have a club that we are able to bring some of our friends to, some of our biggest influences, some people that we’re really digging — just trying to bring something different to the island. And, aesthetically, what people are going to hear is really mixed. We’re going to throw out the whole season with so many different styles of dance music. I think that’s a really important thing for us, just because we love so many different types of music that we want to be able to showcase that as well. Whether it be the soulful sounds, disco, the Latin sounds that we love, it’s just going to be cool to be able to bring that type of vibe to a club like that.”

Chris: “Especially with Paco [Osuna] in the other room, he’s going to be throwing down for sure, because he’s a legend. That’s what he does. So it’s going to be fun, man. I’m really excited, we’ve been on the island for a long time, so I think we’re in a good space right now. I think it’s a good time for us.”

Is it important for you guys, when programming the line-up for Hï, to make sure that the music covers such a wide-reaching avenue of sound?

Chris: “Yeah, it kind of just represents who we’re feeling now, who we’ve been feeling for a long time, and just trying to bring everybody together. At the end of the day, it’s all music to have fun to and enjoy, bringing what we like to the club.”

Stevie: “I think it’s really just a reflection of the time that we’re in right now. I think maybe this wouldn’t have been able to have been done 10 years ago or even six, five years ago. We’re at a point where dance music has evolved and trickled down. People who have gotten into dance music back in those days have really delved into it and have kind of been educated a lot. I think there’s been a lot of education going on in recent years, especially with so much cross-pollination and different genres getting into house music and dance music, and the parties being more... I hate to use this word ‘underground’, but it’s kind of becoming more of an underground scene, which has become more mainstream and popping up overground.”

Chris: “It’s like when EDM — and I hate that term too, ‘EDM’ — was popping, all the underground heads would be like, ‘You watch, it’s going to trickle down’. For years now you’ve kind of seen it, it’s definitely happened. Even in places... like, we just played Coachella, and the biggest takeaway we got was how much dance music there was at the whole festival. I mean, it was just crazy, on every stage there was some house music, some dance music. I was like, ‘Wow’. It wasn’t like that a few years ago — I mean mainstream, but in a great way.”

Stevie: “I think the rest of the world has just been able to get more educated and really dive deep into the music, ‘cause it’s like a rabbit hole, man. Electronic music goes in so many different directions. It looks to me as if it’s time for people to really get into it, it’s really in a great moment right now.”

"It’s about making people dance, but also about pushing the culture forward, breaking new sounds and trying new things and taking chances. That’s what real DJing is all about because that’s what the forefathers were doing" – Stevie Martinez

How do you think the re-opening of Ibiza will go for this 2022 season, considering that the clubs have been shut for the last two years?

Stevie: “Think about it this way: if somebody held you prisoner for two years and said you cannot leave, and then they finally opened the door and there were no rules, like everything is completely back to normal — no mask, nothing, back to the way it was then. I think honestly the parties lately have been pretty insane, overly insane. You guys need to calm down.”

Are DJs and records still discovered here in Ibiza?

Chris: “Without a doubt, without a doubt. I mean, think about the fact that it’s one of the only places where there is a weekly residency, where you get the same DJ every week. That was a big thing back in the days, right? I mean, all these legendary clubs all had their weekly residents. That kind of thing went away a bit — and maybe in the underground clubs kind of stayed a bit, although even then still not really — but in Ibiza it’s always been that way, maintaining a reverence to that true clubbing style. That’s how records are broken, because if you have a different DJ every week, you’re going to be hearing different music every week. How do you break records like that?

“In Ibiza you can definitely do that, it’s a place where a lot of our records have become popular just because we play them every week. You could program people to like a record, literally! They hear it enough times, they’re like, ‘Damn, I was feeling it and I love it’. It’s a really cool thing. You’ve always got to come in with that fresh heat. That’s the thing, but it also keeps you on your toes and it keeps you working. It keeps me wanting to show people new stuff and your sound every single week.”

There’s a lot of power invested in you as the DJ to be able to break new music, then?

Stevie: “That’s the most important role of a DJ. Number one is obviously making the dance and having your own sounds, but number two is breaking new records, breaking sounds. Like me, personally, I don’t like hearing that record that we were playing after a year or so. I need to be inspired. I need to know that there’s new sounds coming out, and that there’s new producers. We’re always buying records, even an old record could be a new record. You can find some old record that nobody’s playing and you can make it hot, and all of a sudden everybody is all over it.

“So that’s what it’s really about. It’s about making people dance, but also about pushing the culture forward, breaking new sounds and trying new things and taking chances. That’s what real DJing is all about because that’s what the forefathers were doing. We try to stick to that game.”

The Martinez Brothers

"Playing percussion for Nile Rodgers, that was a pretty insane moment. I was like, man, I never thought I was going to be playing drums with Nile Rodgers, that’s pretty crazy" – Chris Martinez

For many people, when they first came to Ibiza they discovered a new way of life. Do you think this ethos still holds true for the new generation of clubbers, and even for older clubbers still coming to the island?

Chris: “I think it’s always going to have that mysticism to it. It’s always going to have that intrigue around the world, especially for people who are into the nightlife scene and like the music — but times are always changing, bro. It’s never going to be like it was back in the day. Oh man, I would’ve loved to be there back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was really no holds barred. Those are the days that created that essence of what we think of Ibiza. It’s the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, that’s what created that mysticism that we’re talking about. Is it that way anymore? Probably not, but it’s still a cracking good time on this little island. It’s still a joy to land there, to be there. I’m getting chills just talking about it.”

Stevie: “Whether you’re from the older generation or newer generation, when you go to the island for the first time you feel something different. Anytime you go there, you’re just like, ‘Whoa’. It makes me want to keep going back. It makes you delay your flight. No matter how old you are, you go there and you’re going to want to keep coming back. It always has that mystique and that energy about it when you land. You’re just like, ‘Whoa, I’m somewhere different, I want to stay here’. You always feel that, no matter what generation you come from.”

Well, do you ever get bored of the allure of Ibiza, the beautiful beaches and the sunsets?

Chris: “Honestly, that’s a good question. There’s a line that gets drawn. It’s a six-month life. When you get to Ibiza, at the end of May or whatever — this year late April, which is ridiculous and for good reason — at the beginning it’s always amazing. Once October hits, I gotta get outta here, man. It’s October, Halloween, you’re just living there every single week for six months, at some point you’re going to start feeling it. That’s what I know. I understand why a lot of our friends just come in and out, they hit it in spurts because after doing it every single week, at some point, the body’s going to be like, ‘Yo! It’s about that time...’”

What has been your standout Ibiza moment?

Chris: “There’s been a few, it’s hard to pinpoint one, man. I mean, honestly, playing live with Nile Rodgers... we had a live set, playing percussion for Nile Rodgers, that was a pretty insane moment. I was like, man, I never thought I was going to be playing drums with Nile Rodgers, that’s pretty crazy.”

Stevie: “There was another moment where we played back-to-back with Masters At Work at Dalt Vila. That was really nice because, I mean, Masters At Work to us is the home, we kind of got into their music too — that was a great moment playing back-to-back with them. There’s a lot. Openings with P. Diddy and Cassie, hanging out with them, just like the random people that you would pop into a network and fellowship. It could be at an after-party or at DC-10 or Space or any club, you just never knew what to expect and you never knew who you would meet and the relationships that you would build. It was a blending of cultures, different people from all types of life.”

What are you looking forward to over the course of your Ibiza residency this year?

Stevie: “It’s like this is our first headline residency, we’re really two guys at the helm. I think that the most important thing for us is that we just kind of want to enjoy it. I mean, it’s obviously going to be stressful, because how could it not be? One thing I want to do is just try to be in the moment and just really enjoy it, because who knows where this ride is going to take us?

“Let’s do it, have a great time, enjoy it with our friends, and just try to make people have a good time. That’s what it’s all about — having a good time. Sometimes you need time to wind down and relax, come out of that clubbing headspace"

Where’s your favourite place to go in Ibiza when you’re not in the club?

Stevie: “To be honest with you, me and my boy, James, we got these mountain bikes and we just go biking around the island — that’s our favourite thing to do. To be honest with you, it’s good exercise, and just a dope vibe riding the bikes through Ibiza. It’s a great way to unwind. We don’t really do sitting still well, we’re always doing something. Bike riding is a really good activity to just take the mind off things. It’s also nice to go to Formentera and take the boat out into the water, that’s always so nice and relaxing and always fun.”

What’s going on musically with you right now? You’ve got the collaboration with Gordo and the Nigerian artist Rema which was released recently, is that correct?

Chris: “Yes, it was released on May 13th, it’s actually a track that we made during the pandemic. Obviously, everybody was at home. It was like, ‘Yo, it’s just mixing music’. Gordo had brought this idea around and we just started messing with it and it came out to be kind of a little bomb. Every time we play it, people go pretty crazy. We’ve had that track for a little while now. We’re glad that it’s now seeing the light of day, it’s going to be a dope one. I think people will feel it.”

You’ve also been in the studio with the Dominican rapper Tokischa, how did that come together?

Stevie: “Yeah, well she’s actually a really big fan of the electronic scene and I think she had come to see us at Space one time. Her team are friends with our boy called Gordo who was out there in Miami. It was just something that was put together through the grapevine. “It’s funny because when she came into the studio, she was like, ‘Can we make something like ‘Stuff In The Trunk’?’ It was just cool that she’s not trying to do something just to be on some type of a bandwagon. Like, when we went to play out, she was front and centre having a great time. She’s really dope, super chill, and definitely an electronic music fan. The jam came out really dope.”

The Martinez Brothers play every Tuesday at Hï Ibiza.

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