Many fans of Martin Ikin discovered him in 2019 when he released the massively sought-after “Hooked” with Fisher’s Catch and Release label. Although his career has recently taken off to new heights, Martin is a true veteran of the house and techno scene. Born in Liverpool, but growing up in London, Martin’s career began in the early 90’s. “I had my first release in 1991, I was 17. I was DJing a little bit then but not a lot. At the time it was the rave scene, lots of warehouse parties. My friends were putting on parties and I would play for their shows. Straight from the bedrooms to the warehouse raves.” Coming up in that era, Martin was inspired to DJ by the likes of Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson.
It took Martin many years to turn the hobby into a profession. “It was a lot different then, it wasn’t a thing to be a DJ. Back then it was not a career choice. I was still doing my apprenticeship while being a DJ on the side. It was harder to buy equipment, there wasn’t loads of choice. I had one Technics turn-table and a Sony belt table from my dad which I broke. I’d use all that and record on my dad’s Sony tape deck and just pass it out. There were no CDs or USBs.” Not only was the industry and scene more underground at the time, but Martin was also busy exploring another side of live music. His favorite music to listen to outside of house/techno is Jazz. “I play and study jazz piano. I have an old 1968 record player. I play all my old records on that. Oscar Peterson is my favorite jazz pianist. Herbie Hancock when he was doing Jazz on Blue Note. It’s just my love of piano. I taught myself how to play in my early teens. I took some classes and studied it. It’s the ultimate way to play piano and it stuck with me forever.”
With this knowledge, it’s easy to see the influence jazz has had on Martin over the years. Many of his greatest tracks are tinged with beautifully constructed piano melodies and breaks, helping to bring an uplifting and soulful vibe to his music. That being said, Martin is a fan of big energy whenever possible. When it comes to his setting of choice for performance, the answer was easy. “Festival. They’ve all got pros but it’s gotta be festival. It’s normally daytime and it’s sunny, the crowd is massive and always ready for a party.” Furthermore, when discussing the perfect lineup at a club, or his preferred brand of party, high energy seems to fuel the answer. “I’d have to put all my mates on there… definitely fish, Chris Lake, Noizu, Biscuit, all my pals… I’d have to play BTB with Fisher cause he’s just mental… I’d also love to be on an elrow party. That’s the one that sticks out. Their production is so unique and it’s just an amazing vibe.”
Although we now have a picture of what the Martin Ikin sound is, he has gone through a variety of phases in his career. Some of his early releases such as his “Rage EP” and “I Know EP” have a distinct bass house feel, tinged with breakbeat sounds and a clear influence of the 90’s sound in the UK. “I’ve always been influenced by the early stuff that I started out doing. 1991 was when I started, the rave era. That moved forward into Drum n Bass and even a few years after that I started making Garage. All my music is influenced by the stuff from the early '90s.”
Martin continued to release music consistently, although it was not until 2018 when he seemed to find his modern sound and begin to cement himself as one to watch. Releasing the “Pulse Wave EP” in 2018, Martin’s sound switched to a more tech-house sound, with four on-the-floor beats and snippy vocal samples.
He followed this with a release on the legendary Toolroom Records, and then banged out two of his most famous tracks to date, “No No” and “Hooked.”
For those who didn’t know Martin before, they certainly did now. For Martin though, he had a hard time looking at it like that. Internally, he didn’t even know that he had created a hit. “When I’m making tracks I always make something that I would want to play. If I’m working on an idea, would I play this, if the answer is no then I don’t go any further with it. For me I always think my tracks are good. It might sound a bit big headed but it’s just the truth. ‘No No’ and ‘Hooked’ to me weren’t any different. I just thought they were good tracks. The weird thing is, sometimes it takes people a while to latch on to what you’re doing. I’d sent both of them out to a lot of people and no one was interested. It made me doubt myself and feel like they weren’t good. Thank god for Lee Foss and Fisher cause they took them and gave me their platform and helped elevate me. You can be making good music but if it doesn’t get into the right hands it can be tough to take it to the next level.”
Martin’s breakthrough is a story of decades of experience and hard work. Some artists find themselves in the spotlight after a year of strong releases, some take longer. For Martin, he had his share of moments of doubt but his perseverance is an example of how staying true to oneself can and will pay off. “It feels personally validating. You’ve been sending your music out to a lot of people and they either don’t respond or don’t give positive feedback. When you get that sign-off, it shows you you can do it and it opens the door on your career… There were loads of moments when I doubted myself. I’ve never felt like I’m gonna stop doing it but there’s many times where I’ve felt like it’s not gonna happen but I’m gonna carry on anyways. ‘Kids if you get those moments, carry on! You never know what’s around the corner.”
Having big-name artists open the door for your career is in reality, just the start. For Martin now, he is focused on maintaining a consistent output of quality music while remaining fresh and always experimenting with his sound and production style. “I try not to ever make the same record twice. I love synthesizers, that’s one of my favorite things is making noises and sounds and finding something new to put in the next track that will make it sound different.” A self-professed gear head, Martin’s synth collection is ever-expanding as he seeks to truly create a brand new sound. “Sometimes it might be a vocal sample, that’s the kick-starter, having a little clip and build around that. A lot of the time it’ll be making a sound on one of the synths. I made the sound for ‘No No’ five years ago. When I made a new synth sound on my Jupiter synth, I knew it would go with the vocal and so I built the track after that. Sometimes it’s a bass sound from the Pro-1 or the Moog. The Moog is my baby, from 1972. The 303, Jupiter, Juno and Korg, are all also personal favorites.”
When Martin envisions the future of his live performance, one word comes to mind first. “Lasers. Going back to the old rave days of the '90s. Big green ones and some nice visuals behind me.” He hopes to bring a taste of the early days of rave culture to the modern world of high-powered visual spectacles that now are an industry standard in any electronic music show. Martin would like to eventually play at Coachella and Burning Man, although in the near future, he is excited about making his NYC festival debut at the iconic Electric Zoo festival. The veteran DJ and producer has many years of greatness ahead of him, and we look forward to catching him live in the states soon.
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