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Roger Martinez [Interview]

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With a career now spanning well over a decade, Roger Martinez's transcendent style has long been a favourite of the world's top DJs. Cid Inc, Eelke Kleijn, John Digweed, Guy J, Hernan Cattaneo, Nick Warren and Sasha have all been steadfast supporters over the years, and remain as progressive music continues to grow and evolve. Sitting prominently on Roger's resume as one of his most well-received tracks has been 'De Machtige Trip'. Released in 2013 via GEM Records, the production was beloved for its timeless musicality and pristine techno framework, ultimately finding a place in a wide assortment of DJ sets. Now, looking to breathe new life into the track for 2023's summer season, Higher States invites Alex O'Rion and Roger himself to re-imagine the production in their own essence.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Roger to learn more about the release of ‘De Machtige Trip’, his musical background, studio process, inspirations, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

Hi Roger, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hi everyone, I am very well: healthy and inspired. Listening a lot to “Steve Roach - Into The Majestic” (Projekt Recordings)

How’s your year been so far? And what are your plans for the coming week?

This year I am very happy to see more people dancing again around the world and spreading higher states of consciousness. This week I am busy planning the rest of my Summer Tour 2023 and of course enjoying sunsets on the beach!

Talk to us about growing up and living in The Netherlands, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

I feel lucky to have been part of the Amsterdam party scene during the end of the nineties and beginning of the 2000s. Legendary club nights such as Chemistry and festivals like Dance Valley and Innercity completely laid the foundations of my vision as a DJ and producer.

And to add to that, what Dutch producers or DJs first inspired you when you discovered electronic music?

Secret Cinema, Remy, Marcello, Dimitri, Per, Isis, Gert van Veen (Quazar) and yes, also 2 Unlimited.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in the Netherlands, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

Hard to say, nowadays I am not really connected anymore to the Dutch party scene since I spent a lot of time outside of the Netherlands.

If you are not DJing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Since 6 years I started a permaculture project planting fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal plants on the Canary Islands. This is one of my great passions: plants and cultivation. I also spend a lot of time in Nature, hiking in the mountains and generally relaxing to balance out the digital work.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

I am still grateful to my then girlfriend for encouraging me to pursue a music production course at the Rockacademy in Tilburg, the Netherlands. It was a brand new course, highly experimental in terms of the curriculum. I’ve had the best times there and was lucky to leave the Rockacademy with a prize for my graduation Project: a 5.1 Ambient Audiovisual experience called Horizontal Excursions. I still produce Ambient music under that name.

But before I got admitted I bought a book called: the Dance Music Manual by Rick Snoman. This was my bible for years, since before applying to the Rockacademy, I was completely ignorant of most aspects of music production, music theory etc.

What I can recommend to new producers is to follow your bliss and ignore other people’s opinions about what you’re doing. If you enjoy what you do, you’re on the path!

You have a new release on your Higher States imprint this week, a re-release of ‘De Machtige Trip’ with new remixes from yourself and Alex O’Rion. Tell us a bit about the history of the track and why you choose this one to refresh for 2023?

The track is originally from 2013 and was under a ten year contract with GEM Records. When Alex O’Rion sent me some videos of him spinning the track at the ADE 2022, I got inspired to re-release it under my Higher States label. I made an all fresh 2023 Roger Martinez Remix and of course I’ve asked Alex to do a remix as well.

It’s hard to go wrong with an Alex O’Rion remix on any project but why was he someone you wanted to reimagine this particular track?

Alex has been a solid part of the Higher States story since the early inception of the label and moreover around that time I really liked his remix of Gadi Mitranis’ “Gone” on Balance Music. I think Alex is one of the more capable Dutch producers at the moment with a really personal and powerful sound.

Let our reader inside your studio, what is your current setup and and what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of your most recent releases?

Since I have lived nomadically for many years I always had a so-called “in the box” setup so as to not having to drag around hundreds of kilos of equipment. What is definitely a defining aspect of my sound are the Universal Audio plugins alongside U-he synths. Add to that Dynaudio monitors and my faithful RME Fireface 400 (now with 3 adapters to make it work on a new iMac!)

Most listeners find your music connects very well with naturistic themes, what are some of your biggest inspirations when working on new music?

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Cannabis. For me the sacred cannabis plant opens up vistas of creativity and gives me that extra focus to not get distracted during music making. Alongside that it is other great music that can inspire me to get back to sharing this wonderful non-linguistic language with the world.

Let’s look a bit more at production, once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you’re satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?

Oh, some of my projects are like very slow aging wines. I can have unfinished projects from years ago and finish them, turning them over partly, sometimes completely. What I also like to do is make snapshots or different versions of projects and work on each version until you have several completely new tracks. It’s like propagating plants: you can take cuttings and make several new plants from one plant. Sometimes I’ve also had the situation that a project file got corrupted and I couldn’t access the project anymore. That’s why I always bounce the result after a night’s work, so that I at least have a stereo file snapshot of the result of the studio session. Sometimes it’s the limitations of the digital equipment that decide what the final track is.

What’s the task you enjoy the most when producing and what is something you’d rather have taken care of by somebody else?

What I enjoy mostly is the “mistakes” and “happy accidents” that occur during studio sessions. However, sitting in front of a screen too long is something I generally don’t like as much anymore, but there I myself am the one who needs to take care of the ever present aspect of balance in my life. I actually enjoy that I do almost everything myself: production, promotion, bookings, tour planning.

Let’s talk about DJing briefly, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

I DJ with 4 decks, using them as instruments to create instant and in the moment new compositions. One deck could have the melody, then another the bassline, the other two the drums. I’ve noticed that for me this approach is far more enjoyable and creative when DJ’ing. I also rarely prepare sets, maybe the first two tracks, but after that I let myself be led by the sound and by the atmosphere of the place I am DJ’ing in. I like to have a dialogue with the music, not just impinge my vision on it, but again, leave space for the music to direct me in the moment.

How has your work as a DJ influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?

Well, as I am familiar with both crafts I know what I as a DJ look for in tracks. A good track should incite people to start moving their bodies of course. I always look for this perfect balance between groove and story telling in music. Some tracks tell a very good story, but don’t have the right rhythm, some tracks have a very good rhythm, but are dull in terms of the story they tell. When producing of course I am aware that a track needs a proper intro and outro to work as a track that DJs can use.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

Well, to start off, I would like the party to start early, preferably before sundown and long set times for everyone. The line-up would be:

18:00 - 20:00 Steve Roach

20:00 - 23:00 Nøpi

23:00 - 02:00 Guy J

02:00 - 05:00 Sasha & John Digweed

05:00 - 07:00 Carl Cox

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Oh, there are of course many over the years, but some of my absolute favorite books are:

The Encyclopedia of Psychedelic Plants by the late Christian Rätsch. The bible for anyone interested in psychedelic plants.

The Immortality Key by Brian Muraresku. A book about the forgotten (or suppressed) psychedelic origins of not only Christianity, but of Western culture in general.

The Three Halves of Ino Moxo by Cesar Calvo. A poetic journey into the realms of the Ayahuasqueros of Peru. Reading this book is the closest I’ve gotten to an Ayahuasca experience apart from actually having drunken Ayahuasca!

Then films:

Il Gattopardo by Luchino Visconti. A beautiful and opulent film about the transfer of power from royalty to parliamentary democracies around the turn of the 19th and 20th century. However, I have to say that royal families always have remained in power, but now they do it from the board rooms of major multinational companies instead of directly from their estates.

Embrace of the Serpent. Stunning audiovisual trip into the Amazon around the time of the rubber boom. The film stands out in sound design and in communicating the experience and history of the native people. Add to that a decent dose of Ayahuasca taking to the storyline and you have a masterpiece of film making.

Voyage to Kythira. Beautiful slow moving Greek film by the legendary Greek director Angelopoulos. I’ve been in Greece several times and this film really communicates the feeling of the landscape, the complex modern history of Greece and its effects on the Greek people and the beautiful Greek culture.  

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Being in the moment, whatever it entails. I have to think about the following: what I notice more and more is that there is so much negative crap being broadcast through all media nowadays, being alternative or mainstream media. I feel that the best we can do is to look for what we, in our day to day life, can do to make this world a better place. Forget the large processes that we are bombarded with through media and that only give us feelings of powerlessness, hatred (e.g. of groups of people) and despair. Forget these things that we have no control over. What makes me happy a lot is sharing: sharing food, money, beautiful Moments, actually whatever there is to share with other people. Holding on to things, just amassing material stuff makes me actually quite sad.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

I am preparing to go on a Summer Tour during July/August to Sri Lanka, Serbia and the Netherlands. Furthermore expect more consciousness expanding music through Higher States and more transcendental Dj sets on dance floors around the world.

'De Machtige Trip' is available now via Higher States: https://bit.ly/427GLaQ

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