Chopping it up with Josh Martinez [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Tour life can tend to force a man to neglect certain maintenance routines like regular sleeping and eating, showering (hopefully not) and often times the up-keep of good haircut. Right in the middle of his recent tour Josh Martinez stopped in Vancouver to rock a crowd at The Portside Pub and naturally with so many close friends and fam in attendance he wanted to look his best. Luckily for him our very own KassKills is a double agent, working as a hairstylist by day and HipHopCanada’s West Coast editor by night. Killing two Camobears with one stone, Josh took a seat in the chair at Vancity’s Holt Renfrew Salon to get a clean up and chat a bit about his newest release Blotto, tour life and more. Check it out after the jump.
Josh Martinez: Q&A
Interview conducted by KassKills for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Have a seat in he chair. What would you like to do today?
Josh Martinez: Ok, so a number two maybe on the sides and faded up with just a little off the top.
HipHopCanada: Sounds good. You’re living in Portland currently? What is the music scene like in Portland versus Vancouver?
Josh Martinez: There are a lot of similarities, besides size. Portland is a lot smaller, quite a few less people. There are a lot of similarities culturally in the sense that there’s a respect for quirkiness and acceptance and openness to new ideas. I came from the east, from a number of places out east and it’s always been very difficult out east because you’re dealing with a number of established culture powers-that-be and they don’t really always get hyped on your stuff unless it’s been green lit by them personally. Portland and Vancouver music wise there’s a lot of really talented hip-hop in the city but nobody really knows the other groups that are in the city. There’s some crossing of forces but everybody kind of seems to keeps to their own. That makes it really hard to create that city unity. Seattle has really kind of mastered that. Seattle really figured out how to take one of it’s own and elevate, you know? From Blue Scholars to Macklemore, you see that everyone kind of gets on board. They’re proud of their city even though it’s not necessarily their genre. Macklemore is not necessarily Nacho Picasso’s demographic but it’s clear that they support each other. That’s what I really found is lacking in Portland and in Vancouver and that’s sort of what I came to Vancouver looking for to be apart of. There’s all these great artists out of Vancouver and Victoria and it’s like, how do we all get behind each others movement? And let’s get more than just our friends out to the shows.
HipHopCanada: You’re in the middle of tour right now, what cities have been really most memorable?
Josh Martinez: The good thing is that I’ve played in these cities for a decade and getting people out comes really organically. I hangout and make myself accessible at these shows because it’s a part of my job. So the connections I have are in these small towns, medium size markets because it’s so much easier to win a crowd over in a sense that a lot of people aren’t even coming to those spots. You have this hometown hero thing by making a lot of these places hometowns.
Saskatoon was pretty wild though. It’s always been the strange hip-hop hot bed. Calgary was off the chains. Kelowna was really dope; I played with Evil Ebenezer and Prada West out there. They’re are all places I’m familiar with on my tour route, I just haven’t been in a while – in the Canadian wilderness – especially in the season changeover to winter. These are cities I kind of call home bases or a least weeklong getaways. I’m staying a people’s houses, hangin’ with their kids, eating home-cooked meals and staying in boutique hotels. It’s been dope. People are excited on the new record, which is good because it’s been a long time since I’ve put out a new record.
HipHopCanada: On the new record you worked closely with Stuey Kubrick – who is kind of Vancouver’s best kept secret. Can you talk a bit about your relationship and working with him on Blotto?
Josh Martinez: I’ve worked with Stuey from the beginning. He introduced me to Evil, who is his best friend. Stuey is kind of this weird double threat. He produces any kind of video but he’s hugely into guerilla filming and documentary filming. He didn’t care about permits, he didn’t care about permission, he’d just do it and put you in these crazy situations and it was so off putting at first. Like, who is this kid and why is he making me do such uncomfortable things in public with strangers. But it adds this element of danger and risk and also a weird joy. Scoop people out of their regular lives like ” I need you to pretend you’re looking off in the distance and you have an axe in your hand”. He also has a fascination with misery like, dark under currents. Sort of Alfred Hitchcock-y with an element of real darkness and real creepiness. He’s an absolute maniac when he’s behind the camera; so focus driven. When he does his thing, it’s a thing to behold. From a video point of view, he’s been responsible for most of mine. Creatively we get along like a house on fire, I love working with him. So moving forward creatively he is also a producer and make beats. He makes beats and visualizes a video to the beats. Stuey is an incredible editor from a video point of view and also a song-writing point of view. He pulls in ideas from all over the place and gives it to you like, “write this, do this.” Direction is awesome. Some artists don’t like taking direction but I do. Stuey is great at giving direction.
HipHopCanada: The definition of Blotto is to be extremely drunk, can you tell us about the significance of the title or the last time you were blotto?
Josh Martinez: This record is really about a time and a place. Pretty well when I left Vancouver and moved to Portland, I was going through a lot of personal shit, a long term relationship that I had been in ended and I felt hopeless and I didn’t really know what to do. Going to Portland was like, I’ll just go and see what happens and just kind of figure it out. During that time of confusion, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, my girl left cause I was a scumbag and it was my own making. So when it’s your own making you really don’t have anyone to be mad at but yourself. I was a mess, I didn’t really have stability and I was ruthless, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was just trying to get through sleeping without having nightmares. It was a weird journey and a bit of a dark journey trying to find myself but also make changes to the kid to become a man. A lot of what I learned about growing up is stopping doing the things that hurt more than they help.
Part of this record to me was an honest admitting that I had lacked honor. I was living opportunistically. There were lots of things that would come up and I would just get into them not really knowing how long it would last and just decided to dig in. And I had an amazing time. My life through my 20’s was such a blessing. I was traveling all over the world, I was playing music for people and they liked me, they really liked me. So I just dug into it. A lot of the reason I wrote this record and called it Blotto was to kind of describe that state that everybody’s had at some point where it seems like problems are so deep and there’s so much going on that’s out of your control and it’s hard to live with. It forces you to think about your actions and how to live a better life and for a lot of that experience, I was blotto. Blacked out. And not necessarily thorough drugs or alcohol but…a state of mind. A lot would go by and I was just surviving. I wasn’t really growing; I was dealing. That was a weird state because I’ve always been an overachiever. I got to a point where I had to slow down, be by myself and be that guy. For a while I didn’t really like that guy and I focused on being distracted. When I was done with that I felt like I wanted to give back an element of joy and control and happiness and stability.
HipHopCanada: What are you listening to on tour?
Josh Martinez: We’ve moved almost entirely to podcasts right now. It’s such an easy way to spend hours and hours in the car. We’ve been backlogged in one called This American Life. It’s a brilliant sort of author-driven, writer-driven podcast. Interesting stories from people. It’s about nothing and everything at the same time.
We listen to an odd combination of like, current pop/R&B like Ciara, The Dream with a really strong Drake subtext. We’ve been into The Lumineers, Fleet Foxes on the folk side of things. Comedy. We’re talking like seven hours in the car, playlists get old fast. Even your really thick playlist gets old. Also, 90’s R&B. Strong Aaliyah content, TLC, Boyz 2 Men, New Edition. It’s a funny combination, all over the map.
I listen to a few tours CDs I get given to me on the road.
HipHopCanada: Really?! I feel like artists rarely listen to the demos aspiring artist give them.
Josh Martinez: I try. I like to try. There was one tour I was one, I won’t name names but there was a thing call ‘floaters’ we did which was essentially when you get the demos and we would listen to them and it would only be a matter of time. If it were good or really terribly bad we would listen for a lot longer but if it was so bad it wasn’t funny and it really wasn’t special the chant would start. “Floater! Floater!” and everyone would join in and they someone would roll down the window and the CD would be outputted it’s ejection chamber and you’d have to watch on the highway how long it would take to fall once we threw it out the window. Floaters.
HipHopCanada: At least you gave them a shot. What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to get your attention?
Josh Martinez: Definitely there’s been signing of body parts. There’s the general girl on stage, that cliché. One of the craziest things was a guy asked me like “my girlfriend totally wants to sleep with you and I’m ok with it – will you sleep with her?” I was just shocked. I didn’t. No. I love experience and pursuing it at all costs but somebody’s girlfriend who is a fan – it was a little too weird. One step over the line.
HipHopCanada: That’s awesome. You’re all done. How do you like your cut?
Josh Martinez: It’s greats. Thanks!
Interview conducted by KassKills for HipHopCanada
Photography by KassKills and Victoria Buffalo Robe for HipHopCanada