When it comes to the Bronx, hip hop is often the obvious music association, after all, it’s the birthplace of America’s most popular genre, but Steven and Chris Martinez were inspired by a very different sound growing up. The Bronx-born siblings were heavily influenced by New York’s Paradise Garage scene. Paradise Garage was a Lower Manhattan nightclub during the ‘70s and ‘80s dedicated to dancing, where its DJs played disco, dance, house music, and more.
Steven and Chris, now known as The Martinez Brothers, grew up listening to these kinds of records, but gospel was actually how they got into music. “We were brought up in church since birth. We were in church five days a week watching renditions and mimicking them. Later, when we became musicians we played in church, so that’s how we got into music,” Steven tells us over a snack at Barneys Madison Avenue’s Gene’s Café.
Fast forward to their early teen years, and the two brothers were still making music together, only it was electronic. Their pastor father passed on his love of disco and the club culture of the ‘70s, which spurred the duo’s curiosity to explore house music and its various sub-genres. The Martinez Brothers were already DJing and producing for crowds in their teens under the mentorship of DJ Dennis Ferrer, a New York-based soulful house music veteran and founder of record label Objektivity. This was the first label the brothers signed to.
By 2011, they had their first residency in Ibiza, a great feat in the house music scene. Since then, they’ve become a global name in house and techno music with releases such as Santos Resiak’s “A Better Light” (The Martinez Brothers Remix) and a successful remix of Green Velvet’s “Bigger Than Prince” (Circus), showcasing their abilities as DJs, producers, and remixers. Their most recent release is the must-dance-to song “Bappi,” in partnership with world-renowned DJ Jamie Jones. The track’s credits also include famous Indian disco musician Bappi Lahiri, whom the song is named after.
After taking a spin around the store with the sartorially savvy brothers—their inherent flair and palpable coolness contrast yet complement each other perfectly—we sat down to talk about both music and style, and how the two fit together.
Sri Rain Stewart: Who are some artists that inspire you from the past and present?
Steven: I was actually just hanging with him yesterday, this DJ by the name of Timmy Regisford. He was one of our first inspirations because he had a radio show that would go from 11 or 12 at night until like 5 in the morning. He would do these live broadcasts from this club called Shelter, and that was like our first real inspiration as far as DJs because he one of the first DJs who actually mixed live from the club.
Chris: That was one of the first we’ve seen in the club.
Steven: Danny Krivit, obviously, was another inspiration, [Little] Louie Vega, Kenny Dope, Joe Claussell…
Chris: Basically just all the New York guys. Those guys are our biggest inspiration.
I would get made fun of just for listening to a different type of music in the Bronx. So fast forward 15 years, and it’s like everybody wants to be a DJ.
You started the label Tuskegee with Seth Troxler, which aimed to diversify electronic music, and now you two founded the label, Cuttin’ Headz. Why did you start this one?
Steven: Actually, Cuttin’ Headz we had before Tuskegee; we had the whole concept before it. We actually came up with the name, and it comes from a Wu Tang Ol’ Dirty Bastard song called ‘Cuttin Headz.’ We just thought it fit with us, like cut the head. It had a whole vibe to it. In England when you play a good set, you’re like, ‘Wow, you’re cuttin’ my head off.’
Have you seen changes within your industry since you started out and launched Cuttin’ Headz?
Steven: There’s definitely a lot more DJs and a lot more we’re trying to get into this business [on our label] since we first started. I feel like when we were younger, we were the only young kids who were really into DJing or into house music in general. I would get made fun of just for listening to a different type of music in the Bronx. So fast forward 15 years, and it’s like everybody wants to be a DJ.
Chris: I used to have to put the earplugs low. I remember one time I had it blasting, and this kid was like, ‘What the hell are you listening to right now, bro?’ It was disco. That’s just the way it was. Those same kids that were making fun of us are coming to the gigs now. It was very underground, but now it’s like normal.
Steven: It’s gotten more popular and mainstream and with more global festivals. With the rise of EDM, it kind of just trickled down. A lot of these kids got into David Guetta or Swedish House Mafia. When they were going to these festivals, you would have these stages that had them or stages that had techno DJs and stuff like that, so I think that helped them open their ears.
Let’s talk style—describe your personal styles and their evolution.
Chris: It changes like every couple of months.
Steven: I think my brother and I have a different style.
Chris: There’s a contrast. Right now, I’m into fanny packs and big jackets. But then a couple months down the line, we’ll be into fit, tighter wear. We’ll always kind of flip around and not stay on one style for the whole year. We’ll either add on or simplify. You can wear anything nowadays. That’s the good part. Fashion right now, there’re no rules. It’s whatever you’re feeling.
We’ll always kind of flip around and not stay on one style for the whole year. We’ll either add on or simplify. You can wear anything nowadays.
Steven: I let him kind of do the loud stuff. I’m older too, so I try to be a little bit more sophisticated. I’d say my style is kind of a mixture of the New York street style and the European kind of look. They dress a lot in plain or drop crotch pants.
Who would you consider the more stylish one between you two?
Steven: We both kill it sometimes.
Chris: Yeah, there be times where Steven will have a month where he’s on point with outfits. I’m like, damn, I gotta step my shit up! There will be plenty of moments when I look at this kid, and I’m like, bet. Let me start digging for some fire clothes.
Steven: Trust me, it’s vice versa as well. I wasn’t even into jewelry until he started wearing jewelry. When he started wearing jewelry, I was like, ‘damn, now I gotta get some jewelry.’ I can’t just be out there getting outshined.
Chris: Michael Jackson and Dapper Dan, obviously.
Steven: Dapper Dan was ahead of the game too. Taking high fashion and flipping it on the street with the prints.
And who are your favorite designers?
Chris: Maison Margiela and Alexander McQueen.
Steven: Margiela, Alexander Wang, and obviously Off-White, the homie Virgil. He’s killing the game right now. We went to the Louis Vuitton show in France, and it was like, ‘dude, what are you doing?’ Virgil right now for me is number one.
What’s next for you guys in terms of music and fashion?
Steven: Right now as far as music, we have a fabric [fabric presents is a music series by London’s fabric nightclub] compilation coming out that we just mixed. November, we have our single coming out with Louie Vega, who I mentioned before is a huge inspiration, with vocals by Marc Bassy. That one’s called ‘Let It Go.’ That will be a little before the end of the year.
Chris: We’ve been working with this artist called Fuego. There’s Latin artists that do reggaeton and merengue. Definitely we’re going more left but still with our own sound. Expect a lot of different things coming for 2020. On the fashion front, we’re actually in the process of making a lot of new clothes. We’re going to be working cohesively and bringing our style and putting it out to the masses.