Martyn Pepperell on Japanese Boogie, freelancing and New Zealand's creative scenes

Martyn Pepperell is a name a lot of you will know, and if not chances are high you would have definitely read his writing or heard him DJ. Martyn is one of New Zealand’s most active freelance journalists, broadcasters, DJs and concert promoters. His work has been published and presented by the likes of Dazed & Confused, Dummy Mag, i-D, Noisey, Red Bull Studios and The Spinoff, just to name few. He has DJed alongside an endless list of the best local and international acts, such as Le1f, Lontalius, The Internet, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Vince Staples. He is a local legend. This Friday we are excited to have him DJ at our third instalment of The BOOG. At THE BOOG, Martyn will be drawing deep from his crates, with an emphasis on Japanese Boogie. 

Hey Martyn! While you’re usually the one doing the interviewing, we thought as you’re DJing at The BOOG this Friday, we would flip the tables and ask you some questions. You are a man with a million roles, working as a freelance writer, musician, DJ, copywriter and creative arts consultant. What are you currently working on today? And in coming months? (Notes of any special projects is great!)

Hi Imogen, thanks for having me. Today is a fairly standard working day for me. Generally, those involve meetings, work calls, research time, transcribing interviews, and actual writing. I'm trying to get about four features off to editors before the end of the week, so it's all systems go. Upcoming projects, well, obviously I'm excited to play at The BOOG this weekend. Next weekend I'm headed down to Dunedin and Christchurch to play a few DJ gigs and join the judging panel at RDU 98.5 FM's annual Round-Up band contest. After that, I'm off to Singapore, Helsinki, Paris, Berlin, London, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles for a holiday. 

Having multiple jobs is a juggling act, I was talking to Chloe Swarbrick about this last week. You have been doing it for a while now, what’s your approach to having multiple things on the go? What keeps you organised and onto it?

The main thing is really just making lists and deadlines, ensuring you cross a few things off your list every day, and meeting your deadlines. When you're a freelancer, if you don't work, you might not eat, so paying the bills and expenses is always a good motivation. With that being said, when you're doing creative work, sometimes you really do have to wait until you're in the right headspace to get it done and dusted, and sometimes that right headspace doesn't arrive until 1 am. It's far from ideal.

When someone has multiple jobs, like Chloe and like many of us at Neck of the Woods, I love asking; What do you write as your job title on your customs forms when leaving or coming back to NZ?

Heh. Boring answer time. I generally just put down administrator, cause, in all honesty, I do a lot of admin. NEXT QUESTION!

Let’s chat about music. You play as both a radio DJ and tour around the country playing gigs. Personally, do you think the combination of both radio work and gigs helped you establish yourself as a DJ? Would your advice young local DJ’s to do the same?

Well, a lot of the time I play in lounge bar environments, or places that are sympathetic to hearing a bit more than just the Top40 or whatever the current trap, rap and RnB hits are. Generally speaking, the kinds of people who run or book for these sorts of places usually have a level of engagement with local music culture and media. I say that to say this, if they've seen your name in print or on websites, or heard your voice on the radio or on a podcast, chances are they might give what you're doing a second look.

Name recognition and branding never hurts, but you also have to have something to offer that makes sense in the context of where you're playing. If you're interested in broadcasting on radio or podcasting, and DJing, you should 100% try mixing it up and see where it leads you. A lot of DJ's in Auckland have been involved with stations like Base FM, George FM, bFM, and kFM over the years, so in a lot of ways, it's a well-worn path.

Above: Hitomi Tohyama - 'Exotic Yokogao', our Tuesday Tune picked by Martyn.

The BOOG this Friday; what can we expect from you? What tracks have you already got lined up?

Over the last few years, I've been particularly interested in Caribbean, Japanese, and South African boogie, disco, and funk, so that's generally where I try to kick things off. That being said, like a lot of us, I'm a sucker for the original US and UK boogie sounds, especially the likes of Loose Ends and Five Star. Between the music, vibe, and their outfits, Loose Ends really were - and are - the total package. I'm going to see them play in Los Angeles in September; I can't wait. I also love a lot of what the modern funk and boogie artists in California like Zacky Force Funk, XL Middleton, Dam Funk, and their peers are doing, so that's a thing as well. Dam Funk and Nite Jewel's Nite Funk EP is pretty special - but yeah, if the vibes right, I'd love to roll out the Japanese boogie vibes for my whole set.

Boogie seems to be popping off in Auckland at the mo, with The BOOG and hints in other club nights. I haven’t noticed much in Wellington, just a little. Do you think Wellingtonians are into Boogie?

Sometimes it's hard to see what is going on from a distance. Laundry Bar in Wellington has a regular boogie night that draws a great crowd, and sometimes the DJs play boogie on Thursdays at Five & Dime. Earlier in the year, we hosted Egyptian Lover and Awesome Tapes From Africa at a sold-out show in Wellington, and the boogie vibes were in full effect. Wellington also has a history of great local boogie production from the likes of Magic & Steel, D:UNK, Lord Echo, and Pierre Omar. 

You've shared some great Japanese boogie tunes with us in the lead up to The BOOG. Last month Bianca Paulus rolled up to The BOOG with a crate full of South African boogie. What sets apart international boogie from American boogie?

I guess it's a reflection, but not quite. Places like Japan, South Africa, and Brazil heard and saw US and UK boogie music and culture, fell in love with it, and combined it with their local influences to create their take on it. The Japanese stuff draws from the melodies and production sound of acts like D-Train, Shalamar, etc. However, they have their own musical ideas they throw into the mix as well, and with Japan being a major technology hub, they had early access to some very crazy drum machines and synthesizers in the late 70s and early 80s. Hiroshi Satoh, Miharu Koshi, and Hitomi Toyhama are just a few of the many names worth looking into.

You grew up in Wellington and have lived in Auckland too. Both creative scenes have changed and grown hugely in the last five years, especially when it comes to music, art, and creative collectives. Who or what would you personally pin as your favourite up and coming artists, writers or creatives?

The past five years has been particularly vital hasn't it? I'd extend that beyond both cities to the whole country. Nadia Reid, Aldous Harding, Lontalius, FIS, Tlaotlon, Chaos In The CBD, Borrowed CS, Groeni, Raiza Biza, Jess B, Jahra Rager, SWIDT, Friendly Potential, Inky Waves, Meer, Randa, Arty Films, Researchintospeed, Surly, Elan Vital, and Abdul Kay are all names that jump out right now, but it's easy to forget or miss deserving talents.

I know a lot of young creatives entering the freelance world today struggle with the budgets, deadlines, and competition. What advice would you give to them based on what you have learned over the last ten years?

This whole thing definitely isn't easy, and the landscape looked very different ten years ago. I've had to evolve, adapt, diversify, and really stretch myself at times. Some years have been harder than others. This year has been okay, but I've also been sick three times this winter, which is pretty stressful when you're freelancing. I suppose the main things I'd say is this, don't be afraid of having some kind of part-time job alongside doing freelance creative work, or even just doing it on the evenings and weekends while you have a day job. Having the title of being a freelancer isn't worth it if you're stressed out, broke, and behind.

That being said, if you absolutely have to do it, save up a chunk of money first, that way you'll have a buffer. Try to find ways to minimalise your living expenses as well, that's a key. In terms of the actual work, be professional, communicate clearly, meet your deadlines (or at least explain why you aren't going to be meeting them, and when you can hand your work in). Also, stay open to feedback and critique, and don't be afraid of regularly pitching and presenting yourself to prospective clients. The work isn't going to turn up if you don't ask for it sometimes.

Come to The BOOG this Friday to hear Martyn's Japanese Boogie, alongside sets from DJ Scizzorhands, Ian Beatmaster Wright and Lucky Lance. $10 presales / $15 on the door.