Dave Martin: Designing the Modern and Electronic Edge of Celtic Music (Interview)

Also in this edition: Jamie Smith’s MABON and Alison Kinnaird

The many musical sides of Dave Martin

From The Big Fat Electric Ceilidh to his own collaborations with other artists, Dave Martin is trekking the frontiers that combine technology, ingenuity and tradition. And yes he loves his fashionable kilts! 





I am fascinated by fat sounds. You know the kind of thing that hits the floor and sends your neurons flying. This is brought about by beats that only electronic music can produce. Here’s an artist that bridges the gap between tradition and technology.

Dave Martin isn’t your typical Celtic band member. You don’t see him playing any traditional instrument on stage (usually). Instead he has an arsenal composed of a 17″ Macbook pro, Akai APC 20 and 2 Traktor Kontrol x1’s and M Audio firewire audio interface and run Traktor Pro 2 or Ableton Live. He works in both worlds-Traditional Scottish and Electronic music. He doesn’t find the conflict between the two. In fact he enjoys the contrast.

He loves working with different many people from different musical backgrounds. Culture fascinates him. He notes the pleasure to have worked with musicians and artists from Sierra Leone, Egypt, France, India, Pakistan, Poland, Germany, Ireland, America, Scotland, England and Wales which has been really great and inspiring.

There is a great joy in the idea of mixing electronic with acoustic music and performing in weird and wonderful places like castles, churches, multi storey carpark, forests as well as nice venues and festivals. He adds that it is a nice mix going between working and performing with electronic music and also performing and working as a percussionist.

His idea of relaxing is spending time with his fiancé Jen. She is one of the world’s leading contemporary sporran makers-http://www.sporran-nation.co.uk/. She provides designs for the kilts he wears on stage. He likes reading history books with few glasses of whiskey, playing the tabla, walking by the sea, cooking and eating with friends. He is  also a movie enthusiast! He mentions that he has plans of learning the Hurdy Gurdy (one of my favorite instruments!-CMF). He recently found someone who plays and teaches and he is very excited about it.

Today, he is heavily involved with education as a percussionist and electronic musician. He runs workshops in schools and communities throughout the UK and also teaches bodhran and drumkit privately. Teaching and working with young people are two things he is passionate about.

 CMF:The spectrum of your musical influence is really wide. You must have had a terrific background growing up to be this eclectic musically.

Dave Martin: My ears were always open to music and I grew up with my parents regularly having parties with music being played a lot. I can also remember hearing different styles of music that made me feel good, excited, weird, funny – all sorts of emotions when I was growing up. Music from films, the radio, tv programmes, my parents and my parents’ friends. My ears seemed to be very receptive to all different styles. I loved those Hindu devotional programmes. I remember watching on BBC 2 when I was a kid. That’s where I first heard the Tabla! Hearing Gary Numan on the radio and music programmes on TV, punk which I was fascinated by especially the Sex Pistols was exciting. I can remember watching a Beatles documentary which had an impact on me especially with the Sergeant Pepper album. So even at a young age I enjoyed and was very open to all different styles of music.

..and they dance to the beats: Check out his gears!


The Big Fat Electric Ceilidh is an amazing project and I think it beings two sides together: tradition and expansion. What are your plan for the BFEC?

The Big Fat Electric Ceilidh has been amazing to work on and is having such a great impact in Scotland because it is taking this old Highland tradition and is giving it a very modern edge mixing up club culture and ceilidh culture which are both all about music, dancing, having fun, mixing with people. A lot of Scottish Culture and identity can be quite old fashioned in some ways but there is also a lot of really great contemporary work happening in Scotland which is very exciting, ie – the highland dress, music etc and we want BFEC to take the ceilidh scene into the 21st century mixing it all up and giving it a very modern edge bringing all sorts of people together – people who love ceilidhs and people who would never normally go.

We had a show at the Assembly Rooms Edinburgh during the fringe and we were told by the director of the promotion company who organised all the acts, which were pretty major, that BFEC was the highlight of their 2012 Assembly rooms programme because he had never experienced or seen a ceilidh like that before and loved it. He also wants us to come back next year to run it during the whole of the festival. People are loving it because of the modern and electronic edge.

 How did you get involved with the Kevin McKidd project? I think that video is fascinating.

I grew up with Kevin in our home town of Elgin and he was putting this project together to raise money for a children’s charity that he is involved with and I got invited because they were needing a percussionist who has lots of experience in Scottish Trad and folk music. Great project to be involved in. I hadn’t seen Kev for a long time and it was great to see that he was still so connected to his roots and was still involved with music, especially Trad and Folk even though he has been a part of the big Hollywood Machine.

Dave plays percussion in the Kevin McKidd project.

I listened to your own tracks via soundcoud and I really like what you do with electronic music. What is your plan with this medium? Up to what extent are you expanding your experimentation being a percussionist and producer?

I love electronic music and love how it makes me feel when I’m working with it. I’m not bothered at all about CD releases because it’s the live thing that excites me and it is amazing to make and play music that creates a particular vibe where people respond to it and have a good time dancing to it. It is all emotional and that’s exciting, it’s about how it makes me feel and is great therapy. I’m always learning and trying new things, some tracks can sound shit but also some can sound good to my ears. I’m still crafting it though and constantly learning.

I’m also very passionate about drumming and have spent a long long time learning, playing, studying, travelling with it. I have a love affair with world percussion and the different styles and techniques of playing from other cultures and am a junkie for it all especially Indian and North African and Middle Eastern. That really excites me and is also good therapy!!!! It’s great being involved in the Trad Scottish scene as a percussionist and educator.

I also play as a percussionist with a whole host of musicians particularly Scottish Traditional and for these trad gigs I’ll play mainly Bodhran, cajon, Drumkit, Tabla. For other percussion gigs I’ll play other drums like conga, dholak and bongos.

I work a lot with Visual Artists, especially my buddy Graeme Roger and love the relationship between music and visuals whether it is projected images, dance, movement but especially projections. I also love performing and being involved in site specific installations in interesting and exciting places and mixing up the electronic thing and percussion thing.

I’m always learning whether as a percussionist or in producing. I love both worlds and the way they make me feel and with the people I meet and work with and play with. It’s all about variety and trying new and different things because it pushes you and which can only make me a more competent musician. It’s all about learning, connecting with people, variety, being taken out my comfort zone and being pushed in new directions. I wont grow otherwise and I don’t like doing the same thing all the time, that’s one of the reasons I like working in the Theatre and Arts Industries because it’s always offering new challenges.


Music has brought you to different places. In your own words, what are the things about being involved with music that you find enriching?

Learning, developing, honesty, experimentation, working with people, creating, therapy, passion.

I’ve been absolutely blessed by being given the opportunity through music to go to a lot of different places all over the UK and overseas which has been just amazing and in these places I’ve met and worked with some fantastic people and had truly wonderful experiences. That for me is what it is all about. That is what is so enriching about music – it connects you with people from all over the world and is great therapy!!! Wow!!!!

Can you share your performance ritual? What are the things you do, the things you avoid and also important things that you need to take with you on a big night.

Before a gig I try and chill out and relax and in my head go over the set. I will also chat with everyone that they are happy with everything – monitor mixes, knowing the material and talk about the show and what to watch out for and remember ie cues and that kind of things.

I usually wear my Kilt and and my beautiful Jen Designs Contemporary sporrans that I wear with my kilt.

If given a chance to work with other artists can you give me at least five names?

I would love to work with

Bjork – (Amazing choice. I have 4 Bjork albums myself-CMF)

Jamie Catto (faithless)

Trilok gurtu

Imogen Heap (I have two of her albums and she does amazing things with electronic and acoustic sounds-CMF)

Devin Townsend.

What do you think listeners should do to help their favorite artists? I know we are in a transition right now where everyone is given a power to make a difference. So what can fans do so that the music scene won’t die?

It’s important that people pay for music either through downloads or CD sales and go to see shows to support the artists and venues. Venues need the punters and artists need the venues to perform in. We need decent venues that can attract pretty decent audiences and pay artists an acceptable fee which is generally down to marketing and getting the information out to people.

Supporting local musicians and groups is important which can create a scene and vibe, especially in areas around the country that struggle with the amount of venues and good live music that is available to see.

It is hard work to make a living out of music and artists work hard at crafting their music, albums, shows etc and their work deserves and needs to be bought and heard and their shows seen.

Thank you Dave. This has been an enlightening experience for me knowing about your musical direction and plans. There you have folks. Dave martin of The Big Fat Electric Ceilidh. Be sure to catch them when they are performing near you. Let us support the scene because it is something that enriches us emotionally and spiritually. And yeah, pop and (mainstream)rock music are so overrated. Give something different a try.

A new and Intense electronic Ceilidh Experience hitting the country. Mixing up Club and Ceilidh Culture with live original Big Fat electronic music fused with traditional music. davemartin@bigfatelectric.co.uk


Samples from Windblown, the new album by Jamie Smith’s MABON

One of the best Celtic albums to come out this year from a Welsh band that brought us fantastic music through the years.

Visit: http://www.jamiesmithsmabon.com to buy the album.


Reflections… the art of Alison Kinnaird – Part 1

This artist has been getting attention due to her unique works.

Alison Kinnaird MBE has an international reputation as an artist in glass. Working in the ancient and demanding technique of wheel engraving, she creates contemporary artworks which are now in museums, art galleries and private collections throughout the world, including a recent major commission – the Donor Window – for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

This short film looks at this project and Alison’s career to this point. Part 1 of the film traces Alison’s development as an artist. Part 2 of the film then goes on to look at the Portrait Gallery project in some depth and gives some insight into the skills and work that were involved in its creation.



4 Replies to “Dave Martin: Designing the Modern and Electronic Edge of Celtic Music (Interview)”

  1. Interesting piece on Dave Martin, but I also love the Kevin McKidd piece! Didn’t know he sang was pleasantly surprised. And am always thrilled to hear more from Jamie Smith’s MABON.

    I’ve never seen the works of Alison Kinnaird’s work and really loved the video on her work. She’s a fascinating artist!


    1. I really enjoyed this interview with Dave Martin. It is more like a free association technique where we both say anything and I think in that natural way of communicating a great result always arrives. Ah Celtic crafts are the “in’ thing today 😀


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