How Justin Martin Became a Dirtybird Player

Apr 18, 2023

Harry Levin

2 min read

When you read the word “Dirtybird,” what comes to mind? Funky, idiosyncratic house music? Sure. Highly curated events with a crowd of eager weirdos ready to express themselves? Probably. But there are probably also some specific names that come to mind, like Claude VonStroke, Ardalan, Walker & Royce, and Justin Martin.

While in recent years, Martin has staked his claim in dance music as a solo artist via his own label and event series, What To Do, for over a decade, he was a core member of the Dirtybird crew.

That kind of loyalty has always been one of the hallmarks of Dirtybird, the record label, event series, clothing brand, and cultural force founded by Claude VonStroke. Artists and fans stick with Claude, real name Barclay Crenshaw, through the thickest beats and the thinnest rave outfits because he’s created a space where everyone can express themselves through music, dancing, or whatever else.

Justin Martin & Claude VonStroke at Dirtybird BBQ 2011

Martin was one of the crew’s earliest members because he met Crenshaw before Dirtybird existed. In the early 2000s, Martin was already very much into DJing and just starting to produce. Justin’s brother Christian (a celebrated DJ and producer in his own right) mentioned that Justin should meet his friend who was making a documentary about the big DJs of the time, like trance legend Paul Van Dyk and Chicago house stalwart Derrick Carter. According to Christian, because of the documentary, this friend of his knew all the production secrets of the day.

Justin agreed to meet him, and Christian’s friend made Justin this offer:

“I’ll trade you some tricks of the trade if you give me some music for the documentary,” Justin repeated to Grammy Pro in 2016.

Christian’s friend turned out to be Barclay Crenshaw.

Going further back, the connection began when Christian’s co-worker’s mother met Crenshaw’s mom at the grocery store. They became friends. Their kids became friends. Christian meets Crenshaw, Crenshaw meets Justin, and the rest is history.

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