Interview by Benjamin Price
Exposed to music from an early age through their father’s church, the two began mixing tracks and researching diverse genres of music as teenagers. With an enviable list of gigs that includes DC10 in Ibiza (where former Givenchy Artistic Director, Riccardo Tisci first discovered them), to the famed Electric Daisy Carnival in California where they attracted party-going crowds of 60,000, the Martinez Brothers are quickly moving up the ranks in the world of DJs. In the past 3 years, the brothers have partnered with a number of brands, from mass market campaigns with Pepsi to elevated cultural collaborations with Givenchy. Working with influential artists such as Tiga, Basement Jaxx, King Britt and Miss Kittin, the brothers continue to evolve and explore new sounds as their fan base spreads across the globe. The Martinez Brothers have designed an exclusive collection of hats and jackets, under their label Cuttin’ Headz, for New Era, launching their second season this fall. The first season sold out online within a single day. The brothers have also recently signed with the mega-modeling and talent agency IMG, extending their reach even further into fashion. In between recording music with their label Cuttin’ Headz, IRIS Covet Book discussed with Steve and Chris how they got their start, and their rise to club and fashion disc jockey fame.
How do you think that growing up in New York, especially the Bronx, affected your taste and your career?
I think growing up in the Bronx… it could have gone a lot of different ways. A lot of different roads we could have traveled. Fortunately for me, I grew up as a preacher’s son, so I had a sheltered lifestyle. I think being in the church, being in the church band and traveling around with the band inspired us a lot. When we would get home from church or school, we would just DJ, make music, and learn about music. It was basically all music all the time. Without even being told, I knew I wanted to do it. If we weren’t in the Bronx I don’t think it would have been that way. The cultural diversity here plays a major role.
From the Bronx to Ibiza to Paris Fashion Week, both of you have come a long way in your career and your personal life. What do you think was your big break?
The first big break… I think it was definitely when we hooked up with Dennis Ferrer who, as far as house music is concerned, is a legendary figure who has made some crazy contributions. But I think once he picked us up he really molded us, you know what I mean? That was the big break. That was when everybody started questioning like, “Who are these guys?”, when he took us under his wing.
Where do you think most of your musical influences came from when you were growing up?
We listen to all types of music and we buy all types of records. When I was younger what was really driving me crazy was early hip-hop. I was inspired by going over to my grandparents and listening to salsa music, soul, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, all of that. Jazz was pivotal for us. Brazilian music, George Lenox, everything. So, I can’t really say that there is one thing that influenced us because it’s a sum of all of those genres.
In 2014, you both traveled to Paris to perform for the Givenchy Menswear and Womenswear collections. How did that happen?
We’ve always been into fashion. Riccardo Tisci came to our set in Ibiza one night and he just really loved it. We set up a meeting with the Givenchy office soon after and just really clicked. Riccardo is a really great guy and we were on the same page with so many ideas. After that, we quickly became involved with the fashion world.
What are some of the most memorable sets or gigs that you and your brother played?
Most memorable sets? Pretty much any time we play at DC10 in Ibiza it’s amazing. That place has just such a good vibe. Panoramabar in Berlin is great too; the last time we played there it was like church, we played for like ten hours or something like that. Actually in Miami this last month we played for twenty hours nonstop. All around the world we have a little special connection.
When did you feel the need to start your own music label and can you tell us more about the artists that you have signed?
I mean having a music label for us was to have an outlet for our music. People would admire our music, our friends’ music, and we wanted to set up shop to give artist friends a little more representation. So, I think our label is just an extension of our taste in music, leaning more on the experimental. Still electronic, but a little bit more experimental, maybe not always playable. It’s just like a creative outlet: broadcasting the things we like.
Do you ever have a sibling rivalry with your brother Chris over artistic differences?
I think with my brother in particular it is so easy because we are working together, making music, living together, and have been doing that all our lives. It’s always me and my brother. He automatically thought of DJing as well because it’s just what we gravitated towards. Even when we get into little fights...the little things don’t get in the way of our goals. It’s like a beautiful partnership. We are like yin and yang. We are really similar in a lot of ways but also very different, so it’s perfect. If we were too alike it probably wouldn’t work.
What is your goal for keeping the arts thriving in light of this new U.S. administration?
Like many genres of music and art, the best work has come out of troubled times, so I think this is going to fuel the arts. It definitely fuels me and a lot of my peers. I think you are going to see a lot of interesting things coming out of this because everybody now has so much emotion whether it’s negative or positive. I think in the music industry, anything can happen. I don’t know what’s the situation is going to be in the next 4 years, but hopefully we can distract from the negativity.
IRIS Covet Book likes to cast a spotlight on the charity work that are subjects are doing. What’s the focus of Cuttin’ Headz as a label and the Martinez Brothers in terms of giving back to the community?
Yes, actually we are talking to a group that has approached us about giving back and doing classes and seminars, to teach children about music. It is a big project that I want to do, and Chris and I are setting up a Martinez Bros. Scholarship. We are going to give kids in need X amount of dollars to support music or arts based programs, but that’s gonna be within the next year or so. We are still trying to figure that out, but that’s definitely one of our focuses. Everything has to be in the right time, but giving back is definitely a big part of the agenda. We want kids putting out music. Chris and I have this one kid on the Cuttin Headz label who is 17 years old! We are definitely going to have the kids involved.
I think that you and your brother are so inspiring in that way because from DJing in your room at fifteen years old to performing for Givenchy in Paris is amazing for a young person to see.
I want to let them know that they can do it too. These kids that produce out here, they have to know that they can do it too, you know what I mean, as long as they have the drive, as long as they have the ambition and if they stay focused.