The French producer sat down with Joonbug before Ultra Music Festival began on Friday to discuss his explosive rise to stardom, his new North American tour, and his favorite places to search for new talent.
Jaime Sloane: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to Joonbug, we’re all huge fans and we’re excited to hear what you have to say.
Martin Solveig: Thank you.
Jaime Sloane: Your performance at Ultra marks your second stop on your North American tour. How’s the experience been so far? And what differences have you noticed between touring in North America and touring in Europe?
Martin Solveig: At this time I must say I enjoy myself a lot in the U.S. It’s a fantastic crowd, it’s a crowd I connect with a lot, especially on the music level because, um, I don’t know. Actually I don’t exactly know but it seems that you know there is a real connection. This sort of character of mixed genres of dance music since the last ten years from hip-hop to rock to actually electronic dance music which is like the core of it today is really something I’m very comfortable with, so I’m having a great time. And I think there is a little more excitement, a little more enthusiasm in the US at this time because Europe is having a hard time, and unfortunately it takes over a little bit on the youth. It will change but it’s true that for the moment, and it’s great to be here.
Jaime Sloane: You kind of already talked about this but I was wondering if you could get into more detail, what does this demand in America, the recent surge in electronic music, what do you think it stemmed from?
Martin Solveig: Well, of course the great thing about what’s happening in the US is that it’s all new, and everyone is saying the same, that since the last couple of years it’s really execrated a lot and the interest for electronic music has become so massive, so big, that of course it’s like a new era and everyone is so excited. It’s a great moment to be a DJ and an electronic music artist.
Jaime Sloane: Definitely, I totally agree. Your song “Hello” was the one of the biggest hits of last summer, topping charts in ten countries and being played constantly around the world. How did that song change your career?
Martin Solveig: It changed it all, basically. It’s one of those songs, or one of those hits that changed it all because you’re in a world that’s driven by the results or the success, and so when you get a lot of success it attracts attention and opens the door to make more music, more attention on what you do, so of course for me it was a life-changer.
Jaime Sloane: Speaking of “Hello," did you produce the song with the lyrics in mind, or did the beat come first? Also, did you envision Dragonette for the vocals? How did it all come together?
Martin Solveig: If I remember correctly, the instrumental came first and then the dub-line after, but Dragonette was part of the story since day one because we had done this track together just before that called “Boys and Girls” and I loved so much working with her as a singer, that for me it was obvious that I was going to open my next album with her.
Then, the lyrics were not exactly in mind but I just had this hook coming like “Hello-o-o-o-o” which is ridiculous when you say it like that but it works.
Martin Solveig: It’s my own label, I just use it as a way of releasing my own material but it’s not really like a label and I have no interest or time for the moment to really work on a label, so I’m just focusing on my music. The record company work is done by great people who are doing record company work so that’s the best because for the moment I want to enjoy myself doing music and not record company work.
Jaime Sloane: The widespread availability of technology has made it possible for almost anyone with a computer and a few programs to make music and become a “bedroom DJ.” Do you ever go through submissions from fans and provide feedback? What do you think about the surge of the bedroom DJ movement?
Martin Solveig: The time we live in for the accessibility of technology is great and when I started it was impossible. It was not impossible, because I did it and I worked with very very low kind of equipment, but it was very difficult to have proper sound, which is now possible with just a laptop and a few cheap softwares you can get a good sound so that’s one very positive thing.
About my search for new talent, everyone has their own way of doing it you know. I personally don’t respond to the things people send me because it’s just too many, there is like an average of between 20 to 40 tracks a day which is between one and two hours a day of just listening to music from people who you don’t know what to expect from. So I said to myself, “Ok, I just can’t do it, I don’t have the time to do it, so what I do is that I surf blogs. And in the blogs the guys who are running the blogs, most of the time, they are doing the sort of first layer of selection.
Jaime Sloane: They weed out the weaker tracks?
Martin Solveig: Right, and so then from there I can listen. So for example I use a lot of hype machine, I do a lot of that, and that definitely leads me to new talent.
Martin Solveig: I’m just going to say that her manager called me and of course I went for it immediately. She’s the queen and she’s a fantastic person and artist to collaborate with and I’m really, really proud of the release of the album called MDNA on Monday.
Jaime Sloane: I know you have your own weekly radio show that’s broadcasted worldwide. I’m personally a huge fan of the essential mix you did for BBC Radio 1. I was wondering how did your radio experience work into your essential mix?
Martin Solveig: I try to work on mixes from time to time because I think it’s only fair to give to everyone that follows you, mainly online you know, a decent selection of what you do. Sometimes I record it live, sometimes I do it a little bit more like a mixtape and I really sort of edit and do some mashups and something special for that. And that’s fun, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s been a lot of fun to share with people.
Jaime Sloane: It seems like you’ve dabbled in almost every kind of electronic music, from old-school soul tracks to afro-disco jams. You’ve also incorporated live musicians and classical instruments into your sounds. With all of this diversity, what direction do you see your music moving toward in the future?
Martin Solveig: That’s a good question, actually. I don’t really know. At this time I don't really have this sort of clear, big vision like I’m going to go to a combination of jazz and such, I don’t really see it that way. I’m just going to probably keep on throwing loop inside my cubase and ableton and see how it sounds, and if I feel like it’s cool I would go for it.
Jaime Sloane: I’m sure everyone always asks who your musical influences were. But, who are your current favorite artists? What artists do you anxiously wait for them to drop a new release, just like all of us fans do?
Martin Solveig: I could mention a few. I’d say my big classic artists are The Beatles from the start, and then Michael Jackson, Prince, Nirvana and Lenny Kravitz. My current artists are Miike Snow, Foster the People, and Gwen Stefani because I think she’s still very much "now." She hasn’t released a lot lately but I’m expecting.
Jaime Sloane: You started your career at a very young age and were playing club sets by the age of 18. For young DJs and artists who aspire to follow in your footsteps, what’s the single best piece of advice you can give them?
Martin Solveig: Be original, be yourself. Don’t replicate something that already exists because then you will always be behind. If you go your own way, even if it’s just a distortion of something that exists but it has to be distorted in a way you know. Some kids stay, how you stay, when you have this sort of race and they stay in the starting blocks because they replicate something that already exists so you need to bring originality and be yourself and this is what can take you very, very high.
See Martin on his North American Spring Tour: