Having grown up with and tour managed The Martinez Brothers, Jesse Calosso now has releases on Tuskegee and Cuttin Headz, and is working with Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, Jerome Sydenham and others for a promising musical future. B I Empey learns more.
Steve Martinez Sr. and Vincent Calosso came of age during New York’s golden age of clubbing in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They were regulars at legendary spots like David Mancuso’s The Loft and the Paradise Garage, running in the same social circles and haunting venues revered in New York clubbing mythology.
The party had to end sometime, as both Martinez Sr. and Vincent Calasso felt the turbulence which accompanied a lifestyle of excess. But even after distancing themselves from the scene, neither lost their love for music.
Calosso and Martinez Sr. might have predicted their sons would gravitate toward similar scenes. But the two fathers couldn’t have imagined their kids would become critical players at the center of the dance music world, and ultimately alter the course of New York City dance music forever.
Today, Martinez Sr.’s sons Chris and Steve Martinez Jr. are one of the most well known DJ duos in the world—The Martinez Brothers. Vincent Calosso’s son is Jesse Calosso, lifelong friend and former tour manager to The Martinez Brothers, who after releasing on both Cuttin Headz and Tuskegee is now ready to break out on his own, working with acts like Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler with plenty more projects in the pipeline.
We spoke with Calosso about his rich musical history, learning everything he could from The Martinez Brothers, his first trip to Ibiza, and the release of his EP, Not Valid, which drops, November 3rd on Cuttin Headz, making Calosso the first artist to release multiple solo EPs on that label.
Let’s start at the beginning with your first experiences with music.
I’ve always been interested in music. In elementary school, I played flute for a little while, but as a kid, your attention span is so short. But I learned a little bit of music theory.
So that, and obviously my dad.
I’m interested in your family’s story.
My mom was Dominican. I’d hear salsa music playing in the house when she was cleaning. Her favorite is Marc Anthony. [laughs] My dad [Vincent] is the big influence. He would tell me about clubs back in the day. He was a heavy, heavy clubgoer—at The Loft constantly, at the Garage. He had a whole crew from New York. The Martinez Brothers’ dad [Steve Sr.] would be with them; the characters were this typical movie bunch with all different personas.
My dad is Italian and Puerto Rican. He’s always loved music, and grew up around salsa but he also grew up around Frank Sinatra. Still, to this day, he's playing Frank Sinatra.
It seems like your family has shaped your musicality to a huge degree.
Well, growing up with my older brother Anthony, it was hip hop music—Wu-Tang, Fabulous, all the classic ‘90s shit. He’s the reason why I’m a DJ. For years, he was asking my dad for turntables to DJ. Finally, my dad was just like, “Fine!” and bought him turntables.
We had know the Bros for a little while, I was about 16 or so and the Bros were about 15 and 17. My dad [told my brother], “Yo, we’re gonna have the Bros come over, show you how to work this shit and see what’s up.” I had no interest in DJing! I was just there with all this equipment in my living room.
So, The Martinez Brothers came over and were showing my brother to mix and beat match on vinyl. I was just there watching. At one point, they looked over and asked me, “You wanna try?” I’m like, “Why not?” I tried it and naturally loved it. Me and my brother would practice all the time.
How did progress go for you after getting your first taste of the decks?
I was practicing a lot. The Bros noticed my DJing was getting good. They told me it was time to start working on production because they go hand in hand. I knew that! I was coming up with all these ideas and I wanted to put them down somewhere, but I was going to college and I still hadn’t taken music too seriously yet.
But then, I went to Ibiza for a month. The Bros were just like, “Yo, you gotta come out here and see what this is about.” It wasn’t a culture shock for me—I’ve gone to clubs and partied before—but never to that capacity. When you go to Ibiza for your first time you’re seeing these massive venues, all these people. It’s just like, ‘Where the fuck am I?’
I got to Ibiza on a Sunday and the next day I went to Circoloco and the Bros were playing. It was just craziness! The same week I went to Amnesia for the first time for Music On. That was another ‘What the hell?’. I thought that Circoloco was crazy—now, I’m in Amnesia not knowing what was going on.
You start to meet all these people, all these new friends and DJs. It’s all just very inspiring.
Any particular experience that comes to mind, feeling that inspiration and connecting?
I don’t know, but I will say Seth Troxler—dude was so welcoming! The scene over there is crazy with all of the artists they bring in, and he’s still interested in knowing me and talking to me about stuff. Such a cool dude, straight off the bat. He’s still giving me advice to this day.
Having the full support of both the Bros and Seth, the two big American talents on Circoloco’s lineup—that was amazing. The first year and a half I spent in Ibiza, whenever I was introduced to somebody they’d be like, “Yo, this is The Martinez Brothers’ boy!” It gets to a point where you’ve got to make a name for yourself. That’s when everything clicked for me musically.
I went back to New York that September. I got so immersed in music that I knew I wanted to do music professionally. Everyday I working on stuff and sending stuff to the Bros.
It’s an expression of yourself, wanting to be known as an person who creates and contributes rather than someone who’s just along for the ride.
So around the time was when you released your early stuff.
I did two tracks on Tuskegee. Those are in a more rough place than the first EP. Seth has always been in my corner from day one, he’s the best. My first two records, “Serving Size” and “Whatever Right Now,” were still rough, unfinished records. But Seth wanted them for Tuskegee’s sampler! He wanted to show young talent like Bas Ibellini’s “That’s Right.”
The first EP was gritty, unpolished. It sounds like I made it in my basement, and that’s exactly where I made it! I didn’t use much hardware. It was a lot of me sampling and using Machine to play everything. But I kept working.
After the first EP, you tour managed for The Martinez Brothers. What was that like for you?
It was a big influence because I got to travel, touring with the Martinez Bros for a year and a half when I was tour managing them. I was fortunate to go to all these different places with all these different DJs. Hearing how they play, new sounds—it all sticks with you. When you do get a chance to get in the studio, stuff comes back to you. That was big for me, it opened my eyes to a lot of things.
Being exposed to the world and touring with The Martinez Bros, where are we now with your current work?
Now, coming to this current EP, everything is gear—the TR-09, TB-03, 727—a lot of gear. I used a lot of drum machines and other equipment this time.
My boy Jean-Pierre helped me with engineering because he’s a whiz. He’s a DJ from New York who’s been around in the techno scene. I’ve gotta give Jean-Pierre so much props on this EP! When it was done, I brought it to Jean-Pierre to help get it sounding proper. All that stuff makes this EP sound cleaner than my past work. We put a lot of work into this one.
When you talk about the first EP being rougher, it’s neither a good or bad thing. It’s a manifestation of your process; sometimes it’s a struggle, sometimes it’s rough.
Exactly! I have so much more freedom in Ableton. I can use all this hardware. Like, The Bros have so much gear! Whenever I worked on [this EP] in New York and Ibiza, I brought some of the Bros gear with me. In New York, when I worked at Jean-Pierre’s studio in Queens, we’d bring some pieces from the Bros, drum machines and stuff.
Me and the Bros got close with Jean-Pierre over the past year, and we’ve been working with him a lot. Now, he’s a big part of the crew. Chris and Steve work on a lot of hip hop music apart from the house stuff, and they’d bring stuff to Jean-Pierre’s studio to get things sounding a certain way. Everybody’s always learning something everyday, and we can learn a lot from Jean-Pierre. We’ve definitely influenced each other’s sounds.
Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of your new EP, Not Valid.
The first track done was “Not Valid.” The Bros had been playing it out for the last year, and they wanted to put it out when I was finally working on other music [for the EP].
Two of the records are collabs. “I Wonder [ft. Sebastian Sozzi]” is a jam with Jean-Pierre.That was a fun one. Definitely has both our flair in there...
The other collab is “Meanz," with David Berrie from New York. He’s such a talented dude in the studio. Every week he’s got a bunch of new records to send and he’s always making dope music that’s very versatile.
The first time I heard “Meanz” played out was at DC10. I was buggin’ out! I’m with Berrie, we’re in the booth, and the Bros are dropping the record—it’s sounding great! Berrie told me when the Bros first dropped the record, he didn’t know it was our record. He actually started trying to Shazam it! [laughs]
[Laughs] Berrie knew the Bros were DJing and he still tried to use Shazam to track ID your own unreleased track?!
Yeah! He told me Shazam wasn’t working, but when he heard the vocal come in and he was like “Oh fuck!, I’m over here trying to Shazaam our own track!” Wow bro! [laughs] We’ve been tweaking “Meanz” over the summer. I wanted to get “Meanz" out so I had to put it on the EP.
Your new EP is dropping soon. But let’s hear about what else you’ve got coming down the pipeline.
I’m working on putting something together for Jamie Jones. I sent out stuff for Jerome Sydenham's label Ibadan. Also, I’m working on a collaborative EP with Jean-Pierre and one of my other homeboys Blas Cordero from New York. We’re working on putting together something for Leftroom, for Matt Tolfrey.
The Jamie stuff will be more party, definitely vocal for sure. The Ibadan stuff is a little more stripped, more minimal. The Leftroom stuff is probably going to be more tech house with our New York flair on it. All of that’s in the process right now.
Now, it’s time to hunker down and get music finished.
B I Empey is an independent journalist based out of the western United States. You can reach him at email@example.com