THE BIRDHOUSE 099: Doc Martin Interview

Raised in SF but bred in LA, Doc Martin has been a pioneer in the West Coast house scene since the late ‘80s. He’s had residencies at storied clubs across the country, from Metropolis in Los Angeles to Twilo and the Tunnel in New York, and put out his first release in 1996 (!). Doc started his own label, Sublevel Music, in 2002, and was among the first to contribute to Fabric’s storied mix series in 2003.

Never content to rest on his legacy, Doc has continued to release music on labels that span the dance spectrum: K7, Crew Love, VIVa, Crew Love, Get Physical, Desert Hearts, Crosstown Rebels and more. We’re honored to have him on the show – our 99th episode! – and I’m looking forward to seeing his set at HARD this weekend.

Read on for Doc’s BH Questionnaire and a special poem from the show’s producer, Nate Donmoyer.


How did your music career get started in earnest?

Everything started in San Francisco at a small bar called Zeitgeist. I guess i was doing what [are] now called mash-ups with rock, hip-hop, funk, New Wave and reggae! This was pre-house and pre-acid house. I've always been attracted to bass frequencies.

Where are you from and does it have an influence on your music?

Even though everyone thinks I'm from LA – I might as well be, as I've been here over half my life – I'm originally from San Francisco. Growing up there really opened my eyes to all kinds of music. I was always surrounded [by] and involved in music. Early on I learned when you mix the crowds you get an unbeatable energy! It gives you more room to mix styles and vibes.

How many times did you want to quit trying to make this your career?

I don't think that I ever wanted to give up. This may seem funny, but even when things weren't at fever pitch, I was just happy to go out and play. It's never been about the superficial stuff for me. I really love the music too much!!!

What was one piece of equipment that helped define your sound early on?

I had a residency in San Francisco at this new club at the time called Townsend. I was introducing house there which was [already] big in Chicago, New York and England. I would mostly shop at two places called The Record Rack and Butch Wax in the Castro District. They would let me buy the imports on promo. I would bring this Casio FZ-1 keyboard to the club, and play piano, loops and samples over records. I was also playing a ton of hip-hop on other nights.

When you were getting started, which artists did you try to emulate (both musically and careerwise)?

We were bringing a lot of artists out to the club. For live acts: Inner City, Liz Torres, Digital Underground and a slew of others. For DJs, [guys] I heard in NYC: Frankie Knuckles, Red Alert, Afrika Bambaataa, David Morales and Tony Humphries. These guys would play records six months or more before they came out. They each had their own style and vibe. That really stuck with me – have your own style and to not sound like everybody else.

When you have a tough week or a rough tour, how do you get yourself back on track?

First of all, rest. Completely unplug for a couple of days. I'm finding that really hard to do as things are getting busier and busier. To get back on track, staying active to build up energy before we hit the road again. Recently we were in Nerja, Spain, and it was completely therapeutic.

Where and when are you at your most content/happiest?

Being around people who are close to me always puts me in my happy place! Still, after all these years, DJing and producing puts me there as well. My passion is still very high

Do you have any secret hobbies or hidden talents?

I really like riding my bike and swimming (activities which have been nonexistent so far this summer). I used to be an assistant chef before I started DJing. Doesn't look like I'll be going back into that anytime soon!


[Doc Martin is too real – and/or too busy – to answer some of the sillier questions in the BH Questionnaire, so in their place I give you a poem from the show's producer, Nate Donmoyer, in honor of the approaching hundredth episode. –CVS]

"The Road To One Hundred" by Nate Donmoyer

It's the final exit

Last gas station 

Tank's on “E”

Bladder ready to burst

Sign reads: "50% off sale on fireworks”


"Al pastor tacos"

But NO


Towards the purple corner of the dark sky

The last few hours of radio static are interrupted

But it's not the sermon of a deranged old man

Billy Joel and Bruce are nowhere to be heard

Drake is still Canadian in these woods