As the co-founder and artistic director of the all-conquering LuckyMe record label and arts collective, Martyn and his partner Dominic Flannigan have been responsible for some of the biggest records to come out of Scotland over the last decade.
Way back in early 2002, LuckyMe sprung from a tight-knit family of musicians and DJs eager to channel their combined output and place Glasgow on the electronic music map.
Back then, their brand of bass and electronica was shiny and new, and the city was more than receptive to their ambitions.
Martyn and Dominic quickly made a name for themselves putting out the very first records by production whiz kid Hudson Mohawke, who has gone on to work with Kanye West and Drake.
They were also instrumental in launching the careers of Rustie (now signed to Warp) and Machinedrum (now on Plant Mu).
In 2007 LuckyMe expanded into a looser collective, delivering in-demand art direction, photography and full-scale events.
These days Martyn and Dominic have broken out from their Glasgow base to host showcases all over the world, and count Canadian producer Lunice and US innovator Machinedrum among their regular international number.
We spent some time with Martyn to find out how it all started and learn what’s in store for 2014…
When did you first get into music?
I got into DJing through hip-hop, DMC videos, scratching, stuff like that. I moved to Edinburgh when I was 18 and I met Dominic because we had the same part-time job. It was funny moving from somewhere that didn’t really have much of a music scene to a city like Edinburgh. It was hardly New York but it had a lot going on – clubs and record shops.
Dominic moved to Glasgow to go to art school, so I used to go through there a lot. That’s where he met Ross – Hudson Mohawke – and we started a small club night in a vegan bar. It was the first incarnation of LuckyMe.
How did LuckyMe evolve from a club night into a record label? Was it a natural progression?
Basically Dom and Ross had a rap group together, where Hudson was the DJ and producer. At that time the music that Ross was making was insane! I’ll always stand by him for making my favourite music. Then from that came the seed of a record label. We wanted to get his music out there.
Was it hard to get things off the ground?
We were really naïve back then, so not really! We were inspired by the late nineties/early 2000s independent hip-hop scene and we just wanted to do things the way they had. The first releases we did were through other people, then we eventually linked with Rubadub, the Glasgow distributor, and they helped us do our first proper vinyl release.
LuckyMe has since become an international phenomenon. Did you have any aspirations back then?
It was kind of a hobby – I never thought we could do this properly. There was no precedent for doing it. Although there are a lot of great labels and great artists in Scotland, within the hip-hop sphere there aren’t many Scottish household names.
It became easier to see where things were going during the Myspace boom. It was a time where you felt connected to so many people, especially artists. If you look around today at the big names, many of them definitely came to prominence or notoriety during that early Myspace boom – and we were a part of that. It was very easy for us to put music to people. It wasn’t like you had to give a lot of music away, it was just that people would pick up on things and they would spread very easily.
Have things changed a lot for you since then?
Yep. Obviously there are loads more ways to get your music out there these days, and it’s become the norm to be able to access people’s music very quickly. But back then there was a real novelty to it all. Myspace was a very early social network – albeit it not a particularly good one! For most people it was their first experience of a social network so it had a really massive impact.
What’s been the biggest high point of LuckyMe so far?
There have been so many! We did a Sonar stage in 2010 and it was amazing. In fact, any of the showcases where we bring together a lot of our artists from different places are always great. We’ve done some great showcases in New York and a big one at South by South West last year. Those are high points for me personally.
Another high point would be seeing the ascension of Hudson Mohawke. He’s amazing. We were around him from the start, watching him make music we thought was unbelievable, so to see where he is now is brilliant. Now he’s a Warp recording artist and a Good Music recording artist but he’s definitely still family.
How does the A&R side work?
We haven’t signed many people off the back of random demos. It’s generally been friends and people people we know. Everyone who’s come in from further afield, like Lunice, has been a friend of a friend. You meet people along the way.
Have you been inspired by other labels?
Oh yeh, hugely inspired by other labels but I always worry who to mention! Warp definitely – Dom is an A&R guy there. Stones Throw is another one. Also a lot of the Scottish indies like Chemikal Underground and Rock Action – they were on home turf and doing really good things.
How have your tastes in music changed since you first started LuckyMe?
There’s a lot more music out there! But isn’t there always? Me and Dominic grew up with a lot of different stuff at home and we’ve never just been into one thing. I’d DJ hip-hop records and go to punk and rock gigs, and happy hardcore raves up north… That was just what happened. Scotland is very open like that. You’d be exposed to so much. I’m still very excited about new music. Last year was such a good year for hip-hop artist albums I thought. As much as people have written off albums as a format there was a lot of good music in that format last year.
What really grabbed you?
The Boards of Canada record for sure. Hip-hop-wise I liked the A$AP Rocky album, ummm, there’s always so much! I listen to a lot of different stuff all the time – our own artists, old music, all sorts.
What’s new for the label?
We’ve just had a digital release by a guy called Sevendeaths. Also, we have a new S-Type record coming out later this year and something by Parc En Ciel. We also have the Cashmere Cat EP coming on 11 February. Again, it’s very varied catalogue-wise. It’s important to be varied.
Which new producers should we be looking out for?
Obviously all our artists! And there’s a guy called Imami, Inkke from Glasgow, Joseph Marinetti, who I think we’re going to hear a lot more of this year. He’s fantastic. He’s known Dom since they were kids and I used to work with him seven or eight years ago. We’re hoping to get something done with him this year as well. Apart from that, I think Claude Speeed is someone who’s going to make a huge impact this year.
LM018 release Cashmere Cat – Wedding Bells EP is out Monday 10 February.