New York City Night Life has always been known for its over the top parties and high-end extravaganzas with long lines and big crowds. But for those in the know; there has always been an exclusive scene for the true New York Party Kids. Where you could dance all night till the morning; hang with those who vibe is always good and leave feeling better than you came.
Sub-Culture events has always been one of those scenes; DJ Jon Martin and his team has kept up a reputation of great exclusive event for almost two decades in the Deep House Soul music scene
Having association with legendary nightlife figures such as Frankie Knuckles, David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Tedd Patterson, Little Louie Vega, and Eric Kupper. It’s no wonder why DJ Jon Martin is known for putting the medicine in the music.
A Good Friend to Hip obscene for many years; we at down with the Legend and ask him a few question about is amazing nightlife.
Meet DJ Jon Martin for Almost 20 Yrs has Kept up a Reputation for Great Exclusive Events in the Underground Deep House Soul Music Scene.
First off thanks for all the support and believing in hip obscene since back in the day; you help us get some cool gigs and even built our first web site. You had such an amazing extensive life in the club scene can you tell us how it all began?
Wow – well first, thanks for that! I have always done my best to support those who really “mean it” – and you guys have been really creative, progressive and culturally relevant ever since you started, so it’s my pleasure.
To answer your question, I guess it all began when I was around 4 or 5 and my sister gave me a copy of Chic’s “Le Freak” that had been given to her as a door prize at a friends’ bat-mitzvah. I think it’s fair to say that at the time (1978), there was a big backlash against disco, and she was more of a rock/folk enthusiast so she gave me the record. As soon as I heard it I was blown away – I guess I had never really experienced a “groove” before, and I was hooked from that moment. I started asking for records for birthdays, Christmas, etc. and a few years later, after we moved closer to the city, I found urban radio and never looked back.
By the time I was in my teens, I had a pretty extensive record collection, and used to make slip-cue mixtapes of slow jams on a beat up pair of old second hand turntables I bought at a thrift store for less than $5 each. My best friend in high school turned me on to Prince’s legendary Black Album via a copy of a copy of a copy of a bootleg tape, and in the blank space at the end of the tape, someone had recorded “Baby Wants to Ride” – one of the early Chicago house records by Jamie Principle and Frankie Knuckles. It was so infectious and funky and had such an amazing groove. I went to my local record store and asked about it, which is when I really dove into house, which really was the next natural evolution of disco, so it kinda brought me full-circle.
A clerk at my local record store told me that if I wanted more house music I would have to go record shopping in New York City, so first I went to my local library and tore out the “record stores” page in the NYC Yellow Pages they had. I saved up and came into the city by myself one Saturday, following a map my mom had made for me from the phone book page, and found so many amazing stores with such a vast selection of everything from funk to house … topped off by the club flyers in every store promoting upcoming nights at clubs I had heard about, like Tunnel and Red Zone. At a mere 15 years old, I was the first customer in the Tunnel that night… I waitied for like 3 hours for the club to open but when I walked in I had the whole place to myself. That blew me away. I spent the whole night gagging at the lights, the sound, the music, the people – it was like being invited to be part of a circus – and since this was also early in the “club kid” era there was a sense that you could be whomever you wanted to be, like you could invent an alter-ego. It was escapism for sure, but it at least seemed pretty utopian, which also played into the way I was raised, so I quickly found myself being absorbed into the club world, even though I was still in high school.
In Your Bio it says you are the child of two sociologists with deep roots in the Civil Rights movement and New York’s bohemian counterculture. How did such an upbringing shape you.
My folks were college professors and intellectuals who were able to lift themselves up out of extreme poverty because of the New Deal. They were Democratic Socialists, I would call them “pre-beat” and they were very much about integrity and equality. Some of their friends and cohorts were luminaries like Bayard Rustin and Pete Seeger. My dad was founding Secretary of CORE (Coalition On Racial Equality) and was arrested in Chicago for protesting segregated housing at the University of Chicago.
They taught me to be colorblind, to recognize the importance of “fighting the power” – they taught me chess when I was really young, which definitely helped me understand strategy and logic in a way that has been incredibly important in most aspects of my life. They were generally very supportive of my creative endeavors, even though it was a disfunctional, toxic household in many ways. I honestly believe that they did the best they could, and I’m incredibly thankful for that. My mom had grown up in NYC in the 30’s and 40’s, so I give her credit for bringing us to the city frequently from our house in Albany, NY and subsequently in Central New Jersey, for various cultural experiences like Shakespeare in the Park and classic films by Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini. These trips made me comfortable in the city and eventually made me long for it. I knew from early on that I was destined to be some kind of artist – I just had to get here to find out how and in what capacity.
How long have you been a DJ and explain vibe of music you bring to the dance floor.
I first started in the mid 90’s – my goal is to act as a conduit between the music and the dancefloor, to raise the life energy of the listener by sharing “the medicine” that the artist, songwriter, and musicians put into the recording.
You have such a stellar cast of friends in the night life; can you tell how you meet Frankie Knuckles and how that changed your life?
I used to go hear Frankie play at The World, The Red Zone and Sound Factory all the time. The sets he played were always so uplifting and musical … I met him at Sound Factory Bar the first night he played there and was the last person to leave the dancefloor. He introduced himself to me that night and we quickly hit it off. He was an amazing mentor and one of the nicest, most generous and amazing people I’ve ever known. Frankie made it a point to support and mentor those whom he inspired. Although I had worked in the club scene as a promoter for years, I had never considered actually becoming a DJ until that first night at Sound Factory Bar, so I’d say that’s about as life-changing as you can get.
Also we have to ask you about being apart of New York Underground history; working at the Loft with underground pioneer David Mancuso. How was it being apart of such monumental moment in Underground culture.
It was an honor and a priveledge to be able to work and develop such a deep friendship with David. He really started it all, and was completely selfless about it. I often say that “I stand on the shoulders of giants” because I’ve been so fortunate to be schooled first-hand by the pioneers who created this platform – David, Frankie, Tony Humphries, Nicky Siano. It’s really mind-boggling when I think about it, so I try to show my gratitude by honoring what they shared with me and paying it forward the way that they did.
Now lets talk about sub Culture; when did you come up with the idea and how has it grown?
Sub:Culture was formed in the early 2000s, after 9-11 as a an “umbrella” brand in order to simplify and unify promotions and branding for the 5 parties I was producing and DJing every week. I brought in a few trusted partners – Delmar Browne, Wayne Louis and my husband Craig “Shifty” to help broaden the musical perspective of our parties and we have been going strong ever since.
Since we are on the subject of Clubs and nightlife; explain us in your own words. The difference between the regular club scene and the underground vibe you are apart of.
That’s simple. Clubs are in the business of selling alcohol. While that may be one element of some underground spots, it’s not the end goal or the thing that defines success. Underground is about doing it because it’s in your soul, not because it’s paying your bills. Again, not that it CAN’T, but that’s not the primary purpose.
And Lastly what is next for Sub Culture and DJ Jon Martin?
The last few years have been amazing thanks to the opportunity to be a part of the STARVUE team. There is a big album project that’s just starting to take shape that I’m really excited about. Otherwise, since change is the only guarantee in life, I’m very open to whatever the universe has in store, however I’m able to continue sharing”the medicine in the music” is just fine by me.