Ian Martin: "This month I celebrated my 40th show at Operator"
Ian Martin is a Rotterdam-based Dutch/French producer and DJ. He has released many records on
labels such as Bunker, Pinkman, Enfant Terrible and Strange Life. Last month we talked to Ian about
his career in the music world, his radio show SEER, and the Rotterdam nightlife scene.
When did you get involved with music?
I bought my first records and started DJing around 1997, soon after came the I-F sound, whom I’ve heard on Dutch national radio: dark electro and acid mixed up like adventures full of suspense. And after that came the Italo and disco genres. It doesn't really matter if it's dark or bright warm music. The scene was/is for the freaks, who love music with a lot of character.
My show SEER started in 2009 on Intergalactic FM and on October 16 we hit the 500th show. We’ll have a big live-stream marathon celebration at Intergalactic FM that day.
I do the show with 10 other friends and collectors who have different a view on experimental music. So it changes every week and stays interesting for the listener and for us.
Tell us a bit about your journey as a DJ. How has your music taste evolved?
My music taste around the 2000's was based on dark music: dark electro and dark acid. Mostly what I-F and Bunker Records did. I remember when Mixed Up in The Hague came out which is an 80s mix with 80s electro and Italo music. At the beginning I was like a bit disappointed because I wasn't ready to understand the beauty of melodic music. But quite soon after I managed to get used to it and then fell in love with the melodic genres.
From 2004 until 2008 (-now), Italo was really big on Intergalactic FM. I mean, everybody went on the Italo train. The continuous search for new music, which for me is what IFM is about, stopped, to my perception. And there was a period that music was like going in circles, like people were celebrating this music genre now and they stopped searching for new sounds and genres.
So I did a couple of mixes which pushed me to the ambient experimental genre. And I stopped buying music for DJing and started buying records for listening instead, that sometimes had more depth. And right after this switch, I really left dance music and the dance scene. I focused completely on experimental music and started the SEER show, which was one of the first shows on experimental music back then, there was only Intergalactic FM as an online radio station. Can you imagine that?!
After a couple of years diving into experimental music, I went back to club music too because I
missed mixing a lot. And now as a club DJ, I focus mostly on electro, techno and acid kind of styles.
You have released music on labels such as Bunker, Strange Life, Further, and Pinkman. Can you tell us more about your releases? Do you have any upcoming releases?
In 2005, I was selected for the Red Bull Music Academy in Seattle. I had lectures from Larry Heard, Legowelt, and Arabian Prince, to name a few. There were studios everywhere with synths. And this was the first time I touched a synthesizer. When I came back from Seattle, I bought the Juno 106.I started jamming, just really crude and naive stuff. I gave Guy and Legowelt a demo at a Bunker squat party. And within a month Guy sent me an email saying that he would like to release these dark sketches. My first tracks got released on Bunker in 2009 and right after also on Legowelt’s cult label Strange Life. After that, I got two releases on Further Records from Seattle. And since then, every year I have had couple of releases, either on tapes, CD or vinyl.
In 2016 I was asked by Paul Du Lac if I also could do beat music and I was kind of afraid of it. Because I'm not a technical genius concerning music production techniques. But I had just started to understand all the MIDI stuff a little bit. And started to use samples of drum machines which you can download for free on the internet and that resulted in my Bio Rhythm LP: Sea Of Visions. After that I made mostly beat driven music. I still make experimental music.
Which of your releases best describes your sound?
That's difficult to say. I always try to not repeat myself. So every album is actually a reaction to the
album before. So it's hard to say: ''That is the one that best describes me''. Because for the next
album I'll try to not make that again. Sometimes it’s really light and colorful music, and sometimes
it's really dark. It moves between these flavors, like life.
You host SEER radio at IFM since 2009. Can you tell us more about this?
SEER Radio started with, like, five or six of us. I'm the host, I manage all the shows and I email everybody. I call it myself ‘Kaleidoscopic music’ that we play. I like melodic music, but also when it's kind of repeating itself. So it has a mantra, like a kaleidoscope. It changes all the time, but it stays the same. SEER is actually an abbreviation that stands for “Sinister Echoes and Exotic Realms”. “Sinister Echoes” are for the darker genres, and “Exotic Realms” represents exotic kingdoms for colorful fantasy music. Every other member has its own color or gray scale of music. Some people only play dark and some people only play melodic music.
Sometimes I can't find music I like to put in a show, so then I decided just to make a couple of tracks to fill my show with fresh new material. So last year every show at least had three tracks of my own in it, which are not released but only published within the SEER shows.
You have a resident show at Operator. What is your approach when preparing monthly sets?
My show started as an electro, disco, house, and Italo show. But I am obsessed with originality. So all
the shows I do have a totally different track list. After a year or so I dropped a bit the disco and Italo
sounds and went more towards deep house, techno, acid and electro, not the brighter side but more
the darker and suspenseful side. And after that I included the SEER sounds, more the listening music.
Recently I just celebrated my 40th show at Operator.
You have been active in the Rotterdam scene for many years. Have you seen the scene evolve or change?
In 2003, when I came here, you still had the older clubs, but they were all closing the years after. The Bootleg DJ Café was really important for me between 2005-2008. This was the place to meet and dj with the local electronic music freaks. Around 2006-2007 me and Roberto Auser did parties together with David Vunk, Seutek and Mark du Mosch called “Magical body”. And then, yeah, everything closed down. I think in 2010 there was like nothing open anymore. And the first new light of the new DJ scene was the small BAR on the West Kruiskade. So that was the start of the current Rotterdam scene that we know now with all the new places.
You are also a Visual Artist. Can you tell us more about your work in this field?
My visual art is kind of an illustration for my music, I use it to promote my radio shows and for covers of my records. I like to make abstract art a lot. I don't have a plan. I just let my creativity flow naturally.
What can we expect from you in the future?
You can expect a lot of releases, I'm still very productive as an artist. And, as a DJ, I'm still
pushing my own boundaries, to dig deeper. I want to just be a step ahead of the others. I'm not a
follower. I don't like trends. Because then you are trapped.
Text by Carlos Eperon Beltrán.
Photography by Kenneth Owens.