Collector Stories: DJ Maestro

For the next edition of Collector Stories we met up with Martijn Barkhuis aka DJ Maestro in his palatial 17th century canal house. But while the house isn’t necessarily the palace it suggest from the outside, it sure houses a royal collection of music that spills over every centimeter of floor and wall space. Literally the entire place is packed with records, equipment, bags with more records, a small home studio and a big sofa te relax in between DJ and recording sessions. On the walls hang life-size artist photos, test pressings and proud awards of his famous Blue Note Trip hit-series. Around the room are more piles of records that he once selected to be sold one day, but not today. And probably never. Martijn is a true collector in every sense of the word, no wonder he feels a strong resemblance with Rob Gordon in the movie High Fidelity.

His enormous wall-filling collection of vinyl reads like a who is who in jazz music, as well as a recording database of Blue Note, Verve and Impulse combined into one. While he would probably have enough to complete every missing piece on my want-list, Martijn doesn’t keep inventory. Not even a Discogs list of his treasure trove. It’s all in his head - titles, artists, release dates, composers, purchase date, who plays what, and locates them all with the ease of a seasoned librarian. 

Over too many coffees and non-stop cigarettes we talk about music, collecting, DJ’ing, and I get to hear some of his upcoming work as well as long forgotten tunes. While he gets over his hangover from a long night of spinning records and packs for yet another DJ gig he talks about his recent work with the Nina Simone remix album, his over-night success with the Blue Note Trip compilations and the joys (and sacrifices) of collecting, DJ’ing and life on the road. 
DJ Maestro at KURO Record Bags
How did you get into vinyl collecting?
I started DJ'ing at the age of 15. Obviously I didn't had much budget for buying records, so I went every week to flea markets. Also was a newspaper boy. It was the time that people traded their records for vinyl and putted their vinyl at the garbage in the morning. It happened many times that I came back home after my round with a bag full of vinyl. Must say that I didn't have much knowledge then..
What was your very first record and how did you get it?
Can't remember exactly. It could be Sister Sledge's We Are Family, The Police with Walking on The Moon or even earlier a record by the Smurfs.
You always played vinyl even when vinyl was very uncommon. What draws you to the format?
For me, it feels more real. You have to practice mixing. It costs effort to find the right tracks. And when on stage, a dj that plays vinyl doesn't have the time to show his hands in the air all the time.The dj is actually working. I experience that this it much appreciated by the audience.
DJ Maestro at KURO Record Bags
Does vinyl have a future and how do you see it?
Think for the next decades it will remain powerful But you never know. Maybe some new technology will change it all. But at that time I will be retired.
What’s your favorite record store in the world and why?
I love all record shops with staff that knows what they are talking about. The ones that can advise in some records or artists that you never heard before. When visiting a city abroad, I always ask for local artists and found the most incredible records in for example Helsinki or Melbourne. Here in Amsterdam I have a couple of favorite ones like Concerto, Rush Hour and City Records.
What's the record in your collection you’re most proud of?
That's my series of Blue Note Trip albums which I made. 7 of 8 are published on vinyl, which means 2x double albums, so that's 28 pieces of vinyl. I'm very proud of this series, also because all albums tell a very personal story.
Do you still have a wantlist? And if so, what’s on it?
Not really. There are many records that are missing in my collection, but I will take it easy finding them. I will keep on visiting record shops and hope to find those missing ones. But no rush. I won't buy them for too musch money on Discogs. I'm too much in love with the hunt.
How did the Blue Note Trip project came about?
In 2001 I got asked for this by EMI. They knew me from my work at Dutch Jazz Radio. Still don't know why they asked me, but happy they did ;-)
Your compilations are very eclectic, how did you gain such a wide musical taste?
Besides EDM, trance and hardrock, I love most music styles. My first love is jazz, but I love funk, latin, afrobeat, hiphop, house and for example even gypsy music as well. It's the groove, the melody or just a feeling if I like a song or not.
DJ Maestro at KURO Record Bags
What is the one record you never leave at home when you’re off to a DJ gig?
There's a couple: The Chakachas - Jungle Fever, Nina Simone Remixed, Blue Note Trip parts 1 & 2.
And what is your favourite music to play at home?
I mostly play vocal jazz at home. Nice and easy. Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Mark Murphy, Billy Strayhorn, to name some. Nothing spectacular.
And to DJ?
I am a really old-fashioned DJ. I like to make people dance. So if I have to play One More Time by Daft Punk to get them going, I don't care that much, as long as the floor is filled. Of course I have my preferences, like Fela Kuti tracks or some new twelves I just purchased, but in the end the only thing that counts is the audience and me having fun together. That's what a DJ is hired for.
And finally, everyone has a guilty pleasure record :) What's yours?
Everything by the Jimmy Castor Bunch :)
DJ Maestro at KURO Record Bags

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