Chemistry. It’s what makes life worth living. Finding people in this crazy world who understand you and connect with you on multiple levels. Christian Martin and Lenny Kiser have this kind of chemistry, and they are happy to share it with the world.
These two house veterans have chemistry in the studio, as represented by their groovy new EP, “The Beat”. They have chemistry behind the decks which they displayed in full force at Clinic Wednesdays. But most importantly, they have chemistry as human beings. None of their artistic pursuits could align so fluidly if they didn’t enjoy each other’s company.
Prior to their appearance at Clinic, the jovial pair gave us a glimpse into their chemistry with a back-to-back interview where they discussed their respective introductions into the music business, their favorite synthesizers and more.
LK – When was the first time you started DJing full time and touring?
CM – Great question. Well I was bar-tending from 2001 to 2011, and it was near the end of that time period that I was kind of planning my exit from bar-tending. It was terrifying because it’s kind of a big jump as you know, but I remember when I decided that I was going to make the jump. I think it was sometime in 2010 when I had the opportunity to go to Lima, Peru, but it was like last minute. I had to fly down to play because I was filling in for someone, and I had to ask for time off bar-tending and I was like, “This is so weird that I have to call in sick basically to go play a show.” I knew that I just had to make the choice and kind of tip over. And it was that tipping over that was super terrifying, but it was also exhilarating because there’s no safety net anymore. I laid back in the cut for a while when I was still bar-tending because I was like, “Well I’m doing O.K., but I still need to make my bread and butter.” It was that moment when I got booked for that show I was like “Damn I think I should maybe tip over.” I think that was the moment where I was like “Damn, I need to make some moves here,” and everyone else in the crew was already doing it. Justin [Martin] had been touring for years and years. Barclay [Crenshaw a.k.a. Claude Vonstroke] was touring for years and years. Worthy was making more tracks than all of us put together. He was touring too. So yeah it was then. There could be a moment when you decide that, but I feel like there’s the pre-moment when you really want to evaluate your life and decide if this is the kind of stress you’re willing to jump into to achieve this gratification?
CM – What about you [Lenny]? When did you decide that doing music full time was the only path forward?
LK – I guess it was maybe 7 years ago. I was working at the Academy of Art in San Francisco teaching. Teaching music. Just like working on stuff and always making beats. And then I started working, you know teaching people Ablet0n privately, and after a while I was like “I think I can do this full time.” So I started teaching my own classes, running my business, and the music stuff was always part of that. Then I just kind of kept making music. Still making the transition.
CM – Hell yeah it’s exciting.
LK- It is. It’s also like you said. Like what’s next month going to be like?
CM: Well the cool thing is that when you start, when you make that tip over you start planning further and further ahead and you see your moves pay off before the fear sets in. When you start seeing things lining up then I think that helps your mentality, too if you want to keep that going. It’s less driven by fear and more by joy…and fear.
CM – Question: If someone has the bright idea to get into the music industry what would be the number one piece of advice you would give?
LK: Get ready to stay consistent.
CM: Oh I was going to say “cry”.
LK: Get ready to cry. Yeah that’s probably right. Cry and consistency over a long time. Easy.
CM: Next question unrelated. What would you say is your track that’s made the most waves for you. Or been the most beneficial to you thus far that you’ve made?
LK: So that would definitely be my track “Dial Up”. I think I made it about three or four years ago. Yeah I just made it as kind of a joke as if the internet was prank-calling me hence the whole “hellos” and the dial up tones in the track. Then it got picked up by you and Justin [Martin] and a bunch of other guys started playing it out, and it kind of did well. And yeah it was like a lot of people were hitting me up like “what the fuck is this track” and…
CM: It kind of introduced you to a new audience.
CM: Fans but also producers and DJs.
LK: Yeah It was just a fun track to make.
LK: What was the first track you ever made that was released?
CM: I played keyboard on a track that my friend Will Yarley produced, and I played a keyboard solo. Super noodly. I think you heard it. It was called “Smog Sunset”.
CM: And I don’t think I was thinking about any kind of music career at that point. I was just drawing on my piano experience and just the idea of getting on a track was cool, but I didn’t think about it in any other way besides that. And I think that was in 1999 maybe? I’d have to look. Maybe even 2000. But the first track that did anything was with Justin [Martin] called “Stoopit” as the Martin Brothers. Like you said, we worked on it for a pretty short time, and it came together quickly. Kind of how a good track should come together. It helped us break through from making sort of jazzy house at the time to going into this uncharted territory of hip hop samples and strange mid-rangy, growly bass sounds that didn’t have any basis in reality. They were just kind of like alien noises. I think that track opened the door for me to just get weird in the future with everything I’ve done since.
LK: Nice! What are some essential elements that you look for in a tune when looking to sign things to Trippy Ass Techno?
CM: Great question. I will skip ahead to the first drop and see what it does, and see if it moves me on a visceral level as if I was record shopping. Then if that happens I’ll keep it playing and see what it does to develop to the breakdown and second drop. Then if I’m still feeling it I will pop it on a thumb drive and see if it works in a DJ set, and see what the crowd reaction is; see kind of if it has legs and it’s not just something that catches my ear, but is something that I want to hear over and over. But that didn’t really answer the question. I think it’s gotta scratch an itch that I always have had of just wanting to hear the unknown. But within the context of this pretty narrow and techno template of sounds and like the format of house and techno, there’s not too much that you’re going to be able to do to change it. But I’m always trying to find those little nooks and crannies that make a track special. That elevate it. That make people come running or Shazam it or get the gas face on the dance floor.
CM: If money was no object, what synthesizer have you drooled over the most?
LK: Oh I think lately the Moog 1. Just because of its classic Moog sound, but it’s polyphonic so you can play chords and the thing just looks completely insane. What about you?
CM: I would say that it would be a full size grand piano.
CM: But that comes with a whole other burden because then I’d have to have a room large enough to put it in.
LK: Yeah and you have to make piano house from now on.
CM: NO! [laughs] maybe a baby grand, but I think that would be it because it’s so outrageous. Like if you’re going to buy a piano there are so many other things in my life that I need to spend that money on.
LK: But a grand piano would be pretty awesome.
CM: It would be sweet.
LK: In like a really nice sounding room.
CM: Yeah I need a hall to put it in.
LK: Yeah so first you need a concert hall. Then you need a piano.
CM: Concert hall needs to have walls of rare woods. Ideally koa, ebony, throw some redwood in there.
LK: The walls need to be at least 50 to 75 feet high with a glass dome on the top.
CM: Right. A glass dome with bird-feeders up there. The room would have to be designed by Frank Gehry so the acoustics really pop, and I’d need to have a piano tuner in residence. So I don’t walk up on any humidity bullshit. So that’s the long answer, but then I think within the realm of reality and I’d say I don’t know. I’m happy with my set up. I feel like yearning for expensive synths is like an energy drain. When I’ve been so lucky to find the soft synths that scratch all the itches that I had. Gotta give it up to the diva again and again. You know kind of like learning how to use synthesizers, but without that 20 grand in the hole.
LK: Totally. Less is more.
Thank you so much to Christian Martin and Lenny Kiser for providing this interview and joining us for 5 Years of Clinic!