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Feature: GMJ [Interview]

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Based in Melbourne, Australia GMJ aka Gavin Martin has been a primary figure in the progressive house scene for over a decade. His passion for deep and emotive electronic music has seen him land releases on the industry’s most esteemed imprints. From Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat Music to Cid Inc’s Replug Records and UK behemoth Anjunadeep, it’s GMJ’s storytelling style that continues to surprise and inspire even the genre’s most discerning fans. We had a chance to catch up with the Melbourne resident on the cusp of his ‘Enter Universe’ EP for Roger Martinez’s new Higher States imprint. Enjoy!

Hi Gavin, thanks for joining us, how are you today and what are you up to? What are your plans for the week?

Hi Mitch! Great to chat again 🙂 I’m doing well, this coming week a combination of working on some projects, day job & visiting family!

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a DJ and producer?

I’ve always listened to music with electronic elements in it since i was a kid, but in the early 90’s i first found “techno or tech trance” through a local radio station called 3rrr run by Kate Bathgate. Hearing these sounds felt like i had come home. I started collecting this type of music & going out to raves / clubs, and the progression into Dj’ing was natural, from compiling my own tapes back in the day, to wanting to mix them! I always wanted to try making my own stuff after that, but i didn’t get around to it for almost a decade, but from there i never looked back.

Name five tracks that were most important in your musical development and why are these pieces so significant for you.

Honestly this isn’t possible, as constantly there are tracks that amaze & inspire development, but i will give a few from the early years!

1. Sasha & Digweed – Northern Exposure (whole LP) – I can’t separate just one track here! Underworld – Dark & Long is high up there, but it is the whole collective sound of this album that changed my direction as an DJ then producer.
2. LSG – Blueprint. – Oliver Lieb was a huge influence on me from the early days. His music really took me into deeper spaces i hadn’t known & his sound still influences me to this day.
3. Cosmic Baby – Tao Non Stop. – From my earliest days of raving & listening to that sound, Cosmic Baby was a huge influence. This track took me places & was way ahead of it’s time!
4. Melt – Be Liquid. – This was a seminal closer for the Melbourne scene & a track that always gave me chills & amazing feelings.
5. Guy J – Drps Classic. – Honestly i just plucked this track out of Guy’s catalog! When Sasha & Digweed’s sound was changing a bit, Guy was becoming more & more prominent, and ever since then i have been entranced by his sound. My favorite DJ & amazing producer who continues to inspire me!

I think for a lot of artists music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true of yourself? Where does inspiration come from?

I think that is very true! For me i feel music is something that is always within me as my tool for a deeper expression of life & the universe. The things i feel & the states i am in translate into the sounds & moods in a track. Inspiration comes from silence & solitude a lot for me, and from here being in contact with inner space & truth can lead to some of the most authentic music, where you barely feel like you are doing anything; it just comes through. For me this is a huge part of my love for music & sound; the expression of deeper & spiritual states. I am also influenced constantly by other amazing artists, nature & travel for sure!

Progressive music is well known for being hugely popular in Australia and it has been for well over a decade. You’ve lived through all of it, how has the sound and scene there changed over the years?

I think “progressive” music has always had a place in Australia, but it has definitely changed over the years. In the 90’s there were large events like Two Tribes, Future & such which were bringing out big guys like Sasha, Digweed etc & this was main room sound. For the last decade or so things were more niche in Melbourne where i am from, still with a core authentic following for the sound through smaller nights & crews, with some bigger events here & there. Notable exceptions that have always supported the sound on a bigger scale are festivals like Rainbow Serpent, who have constantly brought out huge acts & continue to do so to big main floor crowds. Progressive in general as we know is in a Renaissance worldwide, and the sound itself these days crosses over more & more into other big genres such as melodic techno & deep house, and that is also evident here.

In recent times in Australia the sound is getting bigger again, with crews like Morning After in Melbourne starting to do some bigger scale events, and some big acts & new venues showing up in Sydney as as well. I think the sound itself is very healthy, a big part of that also being Beatport’s decision to create a “proper progressive” genre, and the changing understanding of what “progressive” means. Progressive about the journey; within an individual track or a whole set; many sounds can be progressive & this is bringing more & more crossover appeal & a continually evolving & fresh sound here & abroad.

Who are some up and coming Australian artists to look out for?

Zankee Gulati, Mike Rish, Khetouin, Lime Sieker, David Leckenby, Mark Craven.

What are your favourites venues to play in Australia and why?

Rainbow Serpent Festival, hands down. The best dancefloor in the world! Many of the world’s biggest artists come here & agree there is nothing like the openness of the crowd there! I have been lucky enough to play some big sets over the years which hold amazing memories. Wildwood events are also special. Matter & I played our first live set there this year in rural Victoria, and this is also such an open crew. Morning After events are great, we warmed up for Nick Warren last year which was a lot of fun. Mostly i have to say i love playing outdoors in Australia overall!

You have a new EP ‘Enter Universe’ out this week on Roger Martinez’s Higher States imprint, tell us a bit about how these three tracks came together for the release.

Roger was out here in January & was running a production workshop in Melbourne which i went along to, we got to talking, and he mentioned his new label Higher States was starting up & to send him some music. He has always been one of my favorite producers & he is an even nicer guy with an amazing intention & it felt 100% right to aim for a release on his label!

Roger let me know straight away he didn’t care about “genre” so much for Higher States, as much as the feeling of the tracks & their reflection of his label Ethos. I had just finished one track, “Enter Universe” just before Rainbow Serpent which i sent to him, and after that i had the intention to write another new accompanying track for the dancefloor which became “Multiverse”, and a more downtempo track which became “Niloquai” (a name i had for years written down but had never used). Roger was happy with all of these & here we are with an upcoming release i am very happy with & a few other ideas in the works!

The most well received track thus far has been ‘Multiverse’, walk us through the production process on that one.

Multiverse came at a time when i was feeling really in the flow in the studio, and seemed to just come out with ease. I was looking for something to complement “enter universe”, something slightly tougher for the dance floor, and i think it worked well. I wanted to create a nice moving bass, something quite funky, and also layer it with a higher more constant bass, which worked really well, creating the core groove for the track. This track isn’t as “emotive” as say Enter Universe, though it does open up in the second half more into deeper melodic territory. I am very happy with the result, as it really works on the dancefloor & has a pretty fresh sound i think!

Is that a typical process for you or is every track a different journey in terms of the creative process? Do you have a studio routine? One where over time you’ve refined the production process into something that you know works or is every track a different journey in terms of the creative process?

Every track is definitely different for me in the studio & everything is cyclic also. Sometimes things just flow & you feel like you can go from one track to another with ease where the ideas just come. Other times you might find it just isn’t flowing, and then you can either step away & do something else, or keep going to push through until a certain sound jumps out & ignites things. I tend to find both of these methods work for me at different times. I think over the years i have more than anything refined my ear to know what sounds good from the start in terms of choosing or working on sounds. It is super important to start with a quality sound; there is no point trying to make it sound good with EQ or compression or a heap of effects; i think i have become better at recognizing that & if a sound isn’t working i move on quickly. Also i think i can get a core framework going quite quickly to work around in terms of a groove which makes a big difference in keeping interest. Having said all that, every track is a different journey; i never start with set templates of sounds & always try from a blank canvas to create something. Many factors can influence the production process each day, and often a lot of them non musical such as emotional state, sleep, solitude, nature etc!

Why did Higher States seem like the right home for these tracks?

I admire Roger as a producer, he is a great person with an intention that speaks to me so it is an honour to be a part of Higher States!

You have a very rich, atmospheric sound that still retains great rhythm and groove, this can be somewhat hard to achieve. How do you accomplish this in the studio?

I think for me music is a reflection of inner states, and atmospherics are a core way i translate feelings into sound. I have always had an ear for melody, and over the years i have refined that into atmospheres in my music with the intention of taking the listener on a journey. I have also always enjoyed deep & hypnotic rhythms, and been influenced by being on many dancefloors over the years, and have understood that combining the two is essential for my sound. It is the blend of hypnotic rhythms & atmospheres that have always captivated me & this has been the foundation of the sounds i continue to try & create.

Outside of all things music, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love nature & travelling. I live in the hills outside of Melbourne & walk often into the national park. I love solitude, consciousness exploration, meditation & practicing presence which is a big part of my life.

How much of an influence does music outside of the electronic spectrum have on your productions?

I think probably more of an subconscious influence. I love many types of music & listen to a lot of ambient & downtempo stuff, as well as vocal & many other sounds. Good music is good music & i think i always take note of compositions that really grab me & make me feel something special!

What are the biggest challenges you face as an artist in the industry right now?

I guess one could be making a living! Haha 🙂 But i am realistic about this & make music for the love of it & this is advice i would give to any up & coming artists also. Make music that is authentic because it is in you to express, then if “success” comes in terms of sales, releases or tours, then great!

We live in a time where obviously music is so accessible online, and you could take the view that artists don’t get the rewards for the hard work they put in.

I have to say i have been through some hard times with these questions & i am sure many artists do as well. The returns for digital sales or streams are so minimal compared to the time put in, that if you are attaching the thought of “making money” to your music, it can be a painful path. Having said that, you can indeed see returns from music, but if you let go & write for the joy of it without any expectation, for the joy of writing & putting something beautiful into the world & have the commitment & dedication to keep at it, good things will come!

Looking back over your discography, which one of your very first tracks that still puts a smile on your face when you listen to it now, and why?

Fulcrum – A High Place (Source Of Gravity)

I’m not sure which year this was but it was literally “back in the day”! It is under my other old moniker, and just has a lovely feeling about it; the production etc is of course outdated & the BPM quicker than now, but the feeling in it remains pure!

What five tracks are you loving right now?

1. Aluria – Life Loop (Michael A remix)
2. Funkform, GMJ & Matter – Solace
3. Nox Vahn & Marsh – Serena’s Garden
4. Anton Make – Stardust on my shoes (Subandrio remix)
5. GMJ – Multiverse

Tell us what we can expect from you for the remainder of 2019, anything you can share with us?

Of course my ep for Roger’s Higher States shortly! After that i have a few exciting collabs coming up with my good friend Matter, as well as some other cool stuff with other artists! I am focusing on some new originals as well, keep an ear out!

On top of that i am heading to Europe this year with Matter where we will be performing in London for Progressive Astronaut events on Saturday October 12th at a special boat party on the Thames alongside Moshic, and also at a soon to be announced show at ADE where we will both be heading for the first time!

‘Enter Universe’ is out now on Higher States, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2XxmZsa/a>

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