Stickybuds usually has one goal in mind when he takes the stage - to give the audience an opportunity to dance, connect with friends, and have a great time. Tyler Martens aka Stickybuds the glitch funk pioneer hails from Kelowna, British Columbia, a small city known for leisure and recreation. While he’s a household name in Western Canada and a low key legend the world over, Stickybuds doesn’t come to the Northeastern U.S. often; his last performance here was in Boston in 2014. Elements Lakewood Music & Arts Festival, itself a space dedicated to recreation, dancing, and connecting, has done the region an extraordinary service by hosting this mighty vibe conjurer for Memorial Day Weekend in Lakewood, Pennsylvania.
He’s among a rare class of DJ producers whose sound is accessible to almost anyone. He’s performed at Burning Man and in Ibiza clubs, in Hong Kong and across Australia. His singles have hit #1 on Beatport’s Glitch Hop charts almost a dozen times. Though Tyler has brought the glitch to a worldwide audience, perhaps his proudest achievement hits closer to home. Stickybuds has been a resident performer in the Fractal Forest of Shambhala Music Festival in his native British Columbia for thirteen years. Despite all these accolades, Tyler has astonishingly never released an album; that's about to change. Today marks the release of his first single - "Crooked Politicians" (video below) - off his first album "Take A Stand".
Stickybuds has a smoother step than your favorite hip-hop and breaks DJ. His sound design cuts as deep as that of any premier glitch hop prism splitter. He’s got enough dub, drum and bass, and reggae gems in his bag to impress even the baddest bush doctor. Tyler bundles these elements into a signature sound that isn’t replicated anywhere in the world. His performances feature obscenely good stem mixing, as he seamlessly stitches together tunes while repurposing everything from James Brown and Rare Earth to Burro Banton and Cypress Hill. Tyler’s utilizes turntables, too, and generally pans between Stickybuds originals and remixes, contemporary glitch hop heaters, and some of the nicest drum and bass this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Ahead of his rare Northeastern get down at Elements Lakewood, we were privileged to correspond with Tyler about music, careers, health, and reggae music.
The Rust: How did you first engage with bass music?
Tyler: I started going to raves in Kelowna, which is the town I grew up in. I was in high school, and I believe the first one I attended was in 1999. From then on I really enjoyed the music, and eventually decided to teach myself to dj about 5 or 6 years later.
The Rust: What do you feel was the most pivotal moment(s) in your career?
Tyler: There have been a lot of little things along the way. Sometimes a very small encounter or interaction can snowball into something so much bigger down the road. Learning how to collaborate with people has generally been a very big part of my career; producing tracks, sharing stems between friends, getting dubplates cut, making these complicated and awesome relationships along the way has all really helped sculpt the direction of my music in so many different ways. Just reflecting on that, it's pretty profound to me how much joy and how many amazing things have happened from these relationships. I produced a track with my friend K+Lab called "Clap Ya Hands Now" last year. It was picked up by Sony and put on the Spider Man: Homecoming movie trailer and broadcast literally around the world to millions of people. That was wild and just completely came out of nowhere. Another pivotal moment was playing my remix of Mista Savona's "Clean Air Clean Country" at Shambhala in 2011. That song was such a passion project for me and took 2 years of bugging Jake (Savona) for the stems so I could remix it. That was the start of a long relationship that has really transformed who I am as a person and a musician.
The Rust: How did you come to know and love reggae music?
Tyler: It's been a gradual transition over the last 15 years I guess. I loved just listening to it - the feel and positivity that is encapsulated in a lot of the reggae music is infectious, combined with an unmistakable style of musicianship and lyricism. Then when Jpod and I used to dj together as Stickypod Connection (circa 2006 - 2009) we found this torrent that had hundreds and hundreds or various reggae acapellas that we started dj'ing with during our mashup sets. That also led to a deeper understanding of the music and culture as we started to pay attention to what some of the artists were talking about. There are definitely some messages amongst certain artists that promote hate against certain groups of people, so we made sure to not play any of that. We made sure to focus on the vocals and artists that promoted unity and positive messages. Then from there I started to work with people like Mista Savona and Ed Solo, and doing remixes for world class reggae artists like Sizzla, Burro Banton and Blackout JA.
The Rust: Have you ever played a BangOn! event before? Is there anything about Elements Lakewood that you’re particularly stoked about?
Tyler: It's pretty rare that I make it out to the East Coast United States so I'm really looking forward to seeing the scenery, meeting some new people, and playing a festival I've never played at before.
The Rust: How does the practice of harmonic mixing guide and impact your sets?
Tyler: To me it's just such an important part of the equation. Especially for the style of dj'ing where acapellas and stems are used to transition through multiple genres throughout a set. Mixing music harmonically helps keep people engaged as you move throughout tracks and genres. You can take the vocals from the track you were playing, or are about to play in four tracks and bring them in for a second, and it sounds cohesive because it's all in the same key signature. You can do so many tricks, but it also takes a lot of prep work beforehand, at least for how I do things.
The Rust: I read that you're very goal-oriented. What are your goals at this point in your life and career?
Tyler: I'm finishing my first album right now, so that's at the top of the list. It's been a lot of work, but now that the deadlines are in place and the singles are coming out right away it's really pushing me to get everything done. I've been learning a lot, and I'm stoked to focus on singles again when I'm done this, but it's been a very fulfilling project. Another goal that's been nagging on me was taking control of my health. I've quit smoking and have been trying to exercise more and drink a bit less alcohol. It's tough being in a party scene but I feel like I'm starting to be able to control that part of my life more and become better at saying no, or not giving into temptation, and embracing a more healthy and balanced self.
The Rust: An interview from five years ago in your hometown newspaper said you plan to retire in six years to a tropical beach and just dabble in music production. How do you feel about that now?
Tyler: Haha, well.... If I really wanted to I could go live on an island now and retire, but that's not what I want to do at all, at least not right now. I have a wonderful girlfriend, two cats, and a really happy home since we just moved to Calgary recently. There are tons of opportunities to explore, and for the most part I feel free to do whatever I want, and to me that's becoming a better artist. I don't want to remove myself from Canada or the scene here, but there will come a point where I want a secluded and chilled out life out of the rat race. So whenever I hit my threshold I'll be pursuing that at some point. I know my partner isn't ready for that yet, so, I'm happy and grateful to be doing what I love here in Canada still.
The Rust: You’re electro reggae funk sound (“ghetto funk”) is truly one of the coolest, most original things in electronic music. Can you describe how you cultivated this sound, in the beginning, and over the years?
Things have just organically culminated into what they are now. Harmonic mixing allows me to take all sorts of different musical influences and combine them as long as they're in the same key. This opens up an endless amount of possibilities for me to combine any sort of music I love. Then combining that with the relationships I've made over the years, my producer friends and music partners, as well as my own push to try unique things...it's just a big mixed bag. There isn't a name for it. Ghetto Funk is a label that a lot of us released tunes on back in the day and they are dear friends of mine, but I have never called the music I play that. I don't know what to call it. It's just music, party music. I know it's easier to sell yourself when people can easily sum you up in a few words, but I don't really care.
Neither do we. If there's one thing Stickybuds has proven, it's that you don't need to sell yourself to be successful and have an impact. We encourage all dancers and denizens at Elements Lakewood be they wobble chasers or four-on-the-floor fiends to peep Stickybuds on the Earth Stage at 9:00pm on Saturday, May 26. If you don't have tickets, single day tickets and weekend passes are still available.