Interviewer: Taishi Iwami
When he released “Animals” in 2013, Martin Garrix became world-famous in the EDM and house music scenes, and he’s been releasing great music ever since. From 2016 to 2018, he held the No. 1 slot in DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs for three consecutive years, and has established himself as a leading figure — DJ, beat maker, and producer — on the international stage.
Martin Garrix came to Japan to perform at the Fuji Rock Festival, 2019. He tells us what he felt during his performance in torrential rain at the festival, about his thoughts on EDM’s momentum, and he talks about The Martin Garrix Experience, his compilation album which covers from his 2016 music to his latest tune, and also about his stance on EDM’s future.
His schedule was so tight that we had to get right to the point. But he still took time to share footage of himself in the studio, took us through his Spotify playlist, and even started to dance: we could feel his infectious energy in the interview.
— What did you feel on the stage of the Fuji Rock Festival?
The mountains in Japan have a really distinctive atmosphere, and every little while the weather kept changing. I heard about that from artists who had performed at Fuji Rock before, but when I experienced it myself, it was much more exciting than I’d expected. The rain was really heavy during my performance, so I know it was tough on the audience and I don’t want to take that for granted; but I think it was an amazing performance because of the mixture of the dramatic natural phenomena and the technology like the video and laser show. It all came together in the moment.
— It must be rare to see lasers glittering through torrential rain like that.
It was magical. And it happened because it was at Fuji Rock, with a Japanese audience.
— What do you mean?
Simply because that wouldn’t happen in Europe. They would leave if it rained like that. But the audience of the Fuji Rock Festival were ready to enjoy music even in those terrible conditions. It was also great that they were open to new music. This time I played a lot of tunes that I haven’t released yet, but they were still really enthusiastic. I’m always trying to set up the stage with a new and different feeling by imagining how the concert will go beforehand and changing the set list according to the location and environment. I never want to just repeat the same thing, you know. So, I was really glad to know that the audience at Fuji Rock was open to all my decisions: they were reacting to the famous tracks, but they also enjoyed my selection of the tunes and the set as a whole.
— You released a Best of album which covers your 2016 releases all the way up to the present. Can I take this album as the result of a personal challenge to experiment with different genres after EDM?
Yeah, from the beginning I wasn’t playing only EDM, and I think I’ve been exploring a lot of genres especially these past few years.
— The world was crazy for EDM, where the development was clear-cut from breakdown to buildup to drop and the sound of synthesizer was rough and distorted. What do you think about this biggest-ever, long-lasting movement in dance music?
It was a great honor for me that I was a part of that movement. That’s what made me what I am. It was a crazy experience. But EDM has hit a wall. Artists have kept on making lots of similar tracks, but it’s gone as far as it can.
— What are you thinking while making music these days?
Almost the same as before. While making music, EDM might be at the back of my mind sometimes, or more friendly pop stuff might be there at other times. And I think this is fine, because I just hope I can make everyone feel good with my music. That’s my reason for making music and the goal I’m pursuing. It might hit some people on an emotional level, and other people might just experience happiness. And it would be wonderful if those people would all come to a party or a live event.
— Could you tell us what you think about House in a historical context and about your present position?
It wouldn’t be difficult to keep making only EDM, but it wouldn’t be fun for me. Even in House, there are different genres which have different histories, scenes and styles. If you ask me about my music, I would say each tune has its own flavor. One tune merged from my feelings, or another one was more spontaneous, and I sometimes make music with more of an end in mind. That’s how a tune like “Sacred to Be Lonely” was generated, the one I made with Dua Lipa. So, I’ve explored different types of music, but if there are any elements in common among them, I think they’d be strong chord progression and melody.
— Now, I think “Game Over” is interesting. I think it’s a unique tune in many ways: it has a strength like EDM, it creates a sense of distance, it has special melodies and chords with oriental, psychedelic atmosphere, and it represents a great sense of rhythm through some elements of breakbeat. It has its own special tension and temperature.
I think so too. It first had a characteristic baseline, and onto that, I added chord progression which I had originally prepared for a different song. It has a little hint of classical music. I don’t think other tunes of mine or pop music of other artists have quite this atmosphere. When the outline was completed like this, Loopers added percussion through trial and error; he also suggested breakbeat would be a good fit. We made this tune very aggressive. I’m totally satisfied with this tune. I really love it!
— Your new tune “Summer Days feat. Macklemore & Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy” is a funk tune, which perfectly represents your new mode.
When I finished this track, I felt I’d got a brand-new tune which is very different from what I’ve done so far. It was a really exciting moment, and I’m happy to know that the reaction was so positive. [Showing a video on his smart phone] Look, this is my studio. I’m always working here. I make music here alone or with friends. Can you hear me singing? I was just kind of singing along like this. Then I realized that the melody sounded great, so I started to work on the melody in earnest.
— When I think about your friends who make music with you, Matisse & Sadko come instantly to mind. You included their track “Saga” in your Fuji Rock set, and then “Together,” a song you made with them, which went down really well.
I really respect Matisse & Sadko. They are my great friends. We’ve released five tunes, but actually we’ve made more than thirty tunes together. I’m good at making melodies, and they make really beautiful chord progressions. When we made “Together,” thanks to our strong points synchronizing, we ended up creating a really great song.
— I feel that it’s their personalities as well as their music that you want to celebrate when you spend time with, or make music with friends.
Yeah, that’s right.
— So in conclusion, could you tell us some of your future goals and also what things you see in your future?
It’s very simple. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I want to be sincere about music: I’ll be playing the guitar, singing, making tunes in front of a computer, and holding shows. Oh, there is something new I want to try: I’d like to work on a score for a movie. Making a soundtrack is a real ambition of mine.
DJ, track maker, and record producer from the Netherlands.
Born in May 1996, he is now 23 years old (this interview was on 2019 so Martijn was still 23 years old at that time). He started playing the guitar and songwriting at around 8 years old. When he saw the performance of a popular DJ at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, he was so impressed that he began to perform as a DJ himself, make tracks, and produce music. At the age of 16, he signed a contract with Spinnin’ Records, a major dance label. In March 2014, when he was 19 years old, he performed as the youngest-ever headliner at Ultra Music Festival, in Miami, Florida, one of the biggest dance music festivals in the world. From 2016, he held the No. 1 slot in DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs for three consecutive years. In February 2018, he performed at the closing ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang; he was only the third DJ who has ever performed at the Olympics after Tiësto and Kygo. In July 2019, he performed in the Fuji Rock Festival 2019 for the first time.
Original interview in Qetic Japan. Translation from Japanese to English by Dutch Athletics (@dutch_athletics).