Oi Polloi

Interview: edmartin

Published: Tue Nov 22 2016

For this month’s Pica~Sounds we’ve got Leeds-based record hoarder/radio DJ/music oracle Ed Martin AKA edmartin AKA edv3ctor.

But who really is lower-case aficionado edmartin? What Greater Manchester area did he grow up in? And what music would he want on his mini-disk player if he was stuck in Oldham bus station for a week?

I hassled him via e-mail for all the answers…

Right, first things first, can you give us a little introduction to who you are and what you do?

I’ve become known as edv3ctor or edmartin (all one word, lower case). I'm the son of Jamaican immigrants who are now returnees. I try to do as little as possible and just be me—when the real world impacts, I rotate pieces of black plastic and pour coffee to keep the wolves at bay.

Some people call me ‘Eddie’, which I consider the 12 year old me, I may insist on people calling me Edward soon as I have ideas above my station.

You grew up just outside of Manchester didn’t you? Whereabouts? What are your memories of growing up there?

I grew up and had the majority of my schooling in Heywood. My memories of growing up in this small backwater is tainted by childhood nostalgia: playing on railway embankments, building dens, playing football on cobbled streets, first sweethearts and developing my love for Man City.

In hindsight — the reality of casual racism, the fear of National Front boot boys and the fact that I was part of maybe only two or three black families in the whole town shaped the man I am today!

What sort of music were you into growing up? Can you remember the first gigs you went to?

Growing up in the 70’s you couldn’t escape what was in the mainstream: glam rock and pop, but with a family background like mine, you couldn’t help but love reggae, disco, soul and funk. Punk and then post-punk really took hold when I discovered John Peel and art school.

The first gig I ever saw was The Crusaders featuring Randy Crawford at The Apollo in Ardwick in 1976. My second was Kool and the Gang at the same place. The first was a jazz gig with me getting bored as all I wanted to hear was ‘Street Life’. I now realise what giants of the jazz world Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper are and were.

What venues were big in Manchester then?

For me, the scrawny little kid sneaking into jazz funk all-dayers at The Ritz and The Apollo for gigs. I was fortunate that my mum let me go to these gigs with an older friend of the family. Later on it would be The Gallery for the residencies The Chameleons played and I was a member of that place you may all remember… The Hacienda, when it first opened and no one went!

A lot of people talk about the Hacienda as if it was Shangri La or something. Was it as good as everyone said it was? What are your thoughts on nostalgia?

The idea was great, they wanted to give something back to their city, or at least have a club in Manchester like some of the clubs in New York at the time. I had some great experiences there, New Order for one. The early club nights like Nude were pioneering in their eclectic music policy, pre the house music boom. It all got a bit aggro after that, as is well documented.

It’s okay to look back to move forward but I don’t subscribe to that theory of things being better in my day, they were just different times. 

When did you leave Manchester?

I left Manchester in 1986 for London and Middlesex Polytechnic to do a printed textile degree. My friends and I were blagging entry to these places just through a sheer will to get out and about.

How would you compare Leeds to Manchester? Do you think most cities are becoming quite similar?

Yeah, most cities have become homogenised with high streets looking identical. Not just boarded up shops, banks and pubs dotted between pound shops, betting shops, chemists and one-stops, but the development of gentrified sectors where so-called independent businesses operate are being called 'quarters'. This is happening in Leeds, which I've always maintained is about 10 years behind Manchester in terms of 'progress'.

Leeds is just developing its own ‘Northern Quarter’ now. This is not a slight on being on the ‘wrong side’ of the Pennines, it’s just an observation and is part of my interest in the urban schemata and culture. Besides, I consider myself ‘trans-Pennine’ as I obviously have a soft spot for Manchester and have been accepted and treated well by our Yorkshire cousins.

Something I find quite interesting is how certain things spread out. Take something like jungle or rave, do you remember when you first heard about that stuff? And how long did it take to get to Leeds?

While residing in that London place, I was transfixed by the rave sounds coming out of pirate radio, going to rage at Heaven, nipping up North for the Hacienda and being lucky enough to hear this transformation from rave to hardcore to jungle (I’ve always loved hip hop so naturally I gravitated towards the breaks). This sound to me, evolved out of the Northern sound pioneered by the early Warp stuff, LFO, Nightmares on Wax, Unique, A Guy Called Gerald and 808 State.

Around the time the jungle sound was morphing out of hardcore and rave I was hooked. I put away the cassettes and starting looking for some of the early jungle releases. On my arrival in Leeds from London in the early 90’s, I used to go into Wayahead Records (now defunct) and ask for particular tracks or badly sing a melody of a bass line, the then boss soon grew tired of this and one day asked me to work for him sourcing and buying these tunes to sell in the basement of his shop.

This shop was legendary. We had carte blanche to order in what we wanted to sell and in the process blagged loads of promos. 

In some small way, through my passion for this sound, I helped put some of this shit out there for other like minds who were also craving the same thing. This was around 93-94, maybe earlier. It’s a bit foggy shall we say?

Don't get me wrong, there were other shops selling bits of this nascent sound, but nobody really took it to the level we did at Wayahead. A legendary time, and one where I made friends with people I still hold dear to this day.

Nowadays finding a track is easier than ever thanks to things like Youtube and Discogs. Do you miss the challenge? Do you think it’s too easy to be ‘into things’ these days?

Yeah there’s also Shazam, so there’s less hard work to do. A lot of modern day formats tend to lead to what I call superficial listening—shuffling and skipping through tracks as opposed to getting really excited about an LP coming out, buying it, sitting down and listening to it and devouring the artwork and reading the sleeve notes. Old fashioned—maybe, but insightful and sometimes inspiring and long lasting.

For that, check out A Certain Ratio’s Sextet or the 12” of ‘Flight' on Factory Records. Just the label on the record with the picture of a tower still rings true to me to this day. As for the challenge of finding tracks, I like the fact things are slightly more accessible if you put in the work of looking for stuff, as for the ease of being ‘into things’, I tend not to be so faddish, I’m more into style than fashion.

I read somewhere that you used to play a bit on a pirate station in Bradford. Can you tell us a bit about this? Where was it ran from? How long did it last?

The pirate radio thing came about through this guy who bought hip hop from myself and TK (my compadre who also manned the counters in Leeds with me). It was run out of a dark estate in god knows where, behind metal doors and pissed stained alleys, not for the faint of heart but that only led to the excitement.

We couldn’t do it every week so sometimes we’d supply a couple of minidisc pre-records for them to broadcast. I still have the recordings somewhere! Think it only lasted a couple of years and it’s well documented how the pirates helped develop the underground sound of the day. For me, radio is still the best, whether on the internet or the FM dial.

Does this sort of thing still go on, or has the internet put an end to it?

Yeah I think there are pirates still operating out of Leeds but the growth of the internet station is seeing a shift in listening and broadcasting styles. For me ‘live’ is always best, it's the energy and the attitude that it transmits.

I think its mint that everyone still listens to the radio loads, and the format has hardly changed in fifty years. Why do you think the radio is still so popular?

Radio is a form of magic—I really believe that. it goes back to listening to the charts on Radio One as a kid, then Radio Luxembourg when I thought I was getting more sophisticated and then onto one of my main inspirations—John Peel, who really opened my head up to all manner of sounds.

Radio lets the imagination run wild, whether it’s the football commentary, making pause button mixtapes or getting details from a pirate station for an illegal rave back in the day.

How do you think ‘going out’ has changed since you first started? Has it changed?

I think things have become less tribal—as in, I think people are open to listening to more than one genre, style or tempo. Maybe we're all just one tribe now: music lovers, heads, call them what you will.

I sometimes refer to myself as an original junglist but I’m about much more than that now and hate to box myself into any one thing or style. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bass line and a heavy snare crack, but I love to find the source of a lot of the sample based music I listen to, DJ and broadcast.

In some sort of Desert Island Disks style scenario, imagine you’re trapped in Oldham bus station for a week with only a MP3 player for company. The MP3 player is from 2003 and only holds three songs. What would you want to be on it?

For starters, it’d be a bit odd to be stranded there, so it’d have to be something to enliven me somehow.  That’s a tough one. A song, some strong beats and something atmospheric as I’d be staring longingly into space somewhere imagining I’m in Jamaica sitting on my mum and dad’s veranda. So, U Roy, ‘Tom Drunk’ for the vibe of necking ice cold Red Stripe, and Joyce, ‘The Band on the Wall’ to remind me of my favourite Manchester music venue and my love of Brazilian music in one fell swoop. The last tune would be Shut Up and Dance, ‘Hooligan 69’ just for the memory of dancing to hardcore, in a warehouse, in summer, in England.

I read somewhere that you’re into hunting down and meeting your heroes. I’m quite a fan of this too. Who’s been the best person you’ve met?

Hahaha, not quite ‘hunting down’, but if I happen upon a hero or heroine, I try to pass on my regards as to how they’ve influenced or inspired me. So I told Goldie why I think Timeless is still timeless. Last time I met him he seemed genuinely interested in my thoughts—so yeah, props to the man.

What else do you get up to outside of music stuff? Don’t you do paintings?

Well I haven’t painted in that sense for quite some time. I ‘paint’ in other ways now. If anything, I have on-going projects where I attempt to bring people together and share my love of music and art in inclusive and experimental ways. I’ll get back to splashing on canvases at some point in some way soon.

You’re a pretty snappy dresser too. Seeing as we’re a clothes show, I suppose I better ask… what clothes are you into?

As a football lad growing up in Manchester I couldn’t escape the infamous ‘Perry boy’ style that was prevalent at the time—my thing has evolved from that into utility and work wear —the emphasis being on ‘wear’ and ‘worn’. I’m into brands like Patagonia and 6876 as much for their attitude and outlook as their style. I don't really consider a 6876 a brand, i think they're more 'experimental' than that.

What sort of stuff do you reckon you’ll play at Pica~Sounds?

I'll probably keep it eclectic and all encompassing, as I’ve said; I’m more about any one style over another. The art is keeping it interesting and challenging for myself and the listener/dancer/headnodder. Manchester is the home of the ‘head’, open minded, always on the lookout for the different, so I think one or two people might appreciate what i play.

One last question, why don’t you use capital letters in your name?

I think it looks way better without domineering capitals! I write my name like that having been inspired by the American writer bell hooks.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now, any wise words you’d like to pass on?

Spread love and positivity not hate or negativity. That seems glaringly obvious to me. Music is a good vehicle for this as these are tough times-socially and politically, it's like a rewind to the dark days of the 70s. I don’t want to end this on a sour note so I’d just like to encourage peeps to keep doing good stuff and project positivity in whatever way they can. Thank you Pica~Sounds!

Ed will play Pica~Sounds at Common on Thursday the 24th of November. Proceedings start at 18:00.

Can't make it? Here's a mix Ed did for KMAH Radio...