Pictures provided by Tyler Hill Photo, Holy Ship!, and Mark Martinez.
Mark Martinez’s social media handles really convey it best: Subset Gets It. Wildly talented and infectiously kind, if you have ever been to an event he’s thrown, played, or attended, you know. From the old days of Bassment at Webster Hall to his legendary renegade sets on Holy Ship to Seattle’s monthly Noise Complaint series, the man knows how to put on one hell of party. A master of his craft behind the decks, you’ll find him dipping into every conceivable genre to deliver a musical journey that is unique and eclectic every time. Mark’s Midas touch resides on the notion that “your vibe attracts your tribe,” combining an authentic magnetism with all those years of hard work and passion. So when digital festivals and live streaming became more prevalent, he of course found a way to make them into something special.
For the past several months, Mark has taken his talents to Twitch, having just clocked in 600 hours on his channel. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he produces eight-hour streaming sessions dubbed “The New 9-5” featuring an incredible selection of DJs, artists, dancers, aerialists, green screens, and the best visuals you‘ll find anywhere on the platform. If you’re lucky, his cat Pocky might even make an appearance. In a time where we are feeling the pangs of isolation and the absence of live music, The New 9-5 offers a much-needed source of community – a perfect space to decompress, be silly, chat with each other, and enjoy people’s talents. This endless hard work has been more than enough to get him recognized by the powers that be at Twitch, having just been made a partner.
And rightfully so; Mark and his crew are constantly pushing the boundaries of live streaming with innovative production and an endless supply of charisma. Definitely come check it out. And don’t be too intimidated by the chat. You’ll pick up on all the inside jokes quicker than you’d think.
Festival Squad: First and foremost – how are you doing?
Subset: I’m doing pretty well. This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions, as I’m sure many have experienced. I’ve been in and out of ruts, hitting major pockets of anxiety and depression here and there. Nothing new, but this year has added a new twist to these challenges. But right now…I’m feeling pretty good. I feel like I’ve found a balance in my life that has been eluding me for years.
FS: Thank you so much for everything you’ve done in the last few months. I get such joy out of seeing you perform and engage with everyone during your live streams, and I know a lot of other people do as well. I really look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays and getting to hang out and vibe with everyone in the chat while I’m at work. Live streaming has become the new normal, but you have absolutely taken it to the next level by combining music, dancers, and other creatives into The New 9-5. Tell us a little about this. What was the inspiration behind this project?
S: I appreciate that, it’s been a wild journey over the last few months. When I first started streaming in March, I never expected it to evolve into what it is now. Initially, I just needed a creative outlet and something to do with my time. My first streams were very basic – my focus was on sharing music. I’m used to DJing every week, and I was going to lose my mind if I went much longer without DJing. I encouraged my partner Elle to dive back into her passion for crafting and share that on our streams as well.
I quickly got absorbed in the different ways I could evolve my streams. I had been in a creative rut of sorts for years, and this new medium gave me the inspiration to learn new skills. My goal was to keep things interesting, which was a tall order given the amount I was streaming at the start of quarantine – sometimes 40-50+ hours a week.
As things grew, I saw the potential to use this as a platform for other artists, and we started bringing in live painters, crafts, guest DJs, and live performers. All of the elements were cool, but there was a lack of cohesion. At the end of May, my performance coordinator Lydia and I decided to be more intentional with our streams and began to plan themes, both visually and musically, that would tie everything together.
Lydia and I have just recently worked on Destructo’s Sunrise Sermon and DGTL LiB with our DemiDigitalRenegades crew.
FS: From a technical standpoint, how is everything set up? How do you get such crisp images of the performers, incorporate other artists, and tie those amazing visuals together – all while DJing?
S: Oh boy, this has been a constant struggle. When I first started streaming, I was using my old MacBook Pro, and quickly tapped out what I could do on that machine. I then started using Elle’s Razer laptop, but even then I quickly grew past its capabilities. Next, I borrowed the visuals PC from Q Nightclub (where I’m the Creative Director), since it’s obviously not needed right now. Finally, I realized it was time to build my own beast of a streaming PC, and I have been refining the processes since then.
I have a dual monitor setup, one in front of me (and below the camera line) for monitoring OBS, chat, web browser, etc. The second is a touchscreen monitor to my left that I use for controlling visuals via Resolume and for capturing live performers. My keyboard is in front of my DJ controller and my mouse to the right of it, so I’m able to control everything and chat with viewers while DJing.
The process for live performers is pretty dialed in at this point. First, Lydia calls the performer on Discord to check their screen and ensure that they’re ready to go live. When the performer is ready, she notifies me in our WhatsApp group chat, and then I call the performer on Discord. I screen capture their video, crop it, and apply a chroma key to remove their green screen. Every screen is different, and many of them require a lot of processing to get them nice and crisp. I’m also able to send them the audio from my soundcard via Discord to have them synced with the music.
If we have other live painters or crafters, I do the same process but via Zoom call. Guest DJs stream to our private RTMP server, then I bring their stream into mine and add visuals/frames/performers.
Visuals are all controlled via Resolume – in addition to my touchscreen monitor, I use my Traktor Kontrol F1 to control FX.
It’s a lot of work to do all of this while DJing and chatting in the stream, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. I knew I had to be self-sufficient, and I’ve grown to love the process.
FS: On the subject of visuals, everything really got turned up to 11 with the addition of the virtual stages and theme days. How did this aspect of your streams develop and what goes into putting these together? What is your favorite part about building them?
S: At the end of May, I finally got to see Lydia in person for the first time since we started working together on streams. We camped out in Utah and had long talks about the streams, and we were on the same wavelength about being more intentional. We had both worked on producing Seven Lions’ Visions streams together, and I had just worked on Destructo’s Sunrise Sermon and DGTL LiB. All three of those events were very intentional in their design, and were a massive inspiration to us.
S: When I got back from the camping trip, I hit a rut for a few weeks, then found more inspiration from streamers like LP Giobbi and Stickybuds. They both do amazing work with their layouts, and I started to see what I could build for my own streams.
To build my stages, I buy vector images from Shutterstock, deconstruct them, combine them, and figure out how to make them work for the stream. Sometimes the stages come together pretty quickly, others take some planning and manipulation to translate to the screen. Recently, I started making different parts of the stages audio-reactive, and that’s my new favorite thing to figure out. I had a boombox recently that had audio-reactive speakers and a 6-band EQ, then a safari stage where I DJed on top of a jeep that had audio-reactive windshield wipers. Figuring out how to incorporate one of those elements in each stage is a new and exciting challenge.
FS: An early highlight of your Twitch career was that absolute monster of a marathon set that started at 30 hours, extended to 36 hours and finally ended a little past 48. Two full days. How do you prepare for and execute a set like that? What was the most challenging part of it?
S: Honestly I’ve been preparing for this in some way or another for the past 10 years. I’ve been playing marathon sets for ages, hitting 14-18 hours regularly at post-festival decompression parties. My music library has steadily grown throughout the years, especially since quarantine began, and I didn’t need to do much to prepare.
The most challenging part, obviously, was fighting through the waves of exhaustion. There were a few times, around 30 hours and 40 hours, where I wasn’t sure I could go much longer. The viewers helped keep me going though, and the energy in chat gave me a massive boost right at the end.
FS: What was your mental and emotional journey like throughout those two days? Did you have any epiphanies or special moments you can share with us?
S: The first 20-25 hours didn’t feel any different than usual streams. I had clocked a couple 20-hour streams before that, so it felt like business as usual. The wee hours of the morning were rough and at times lonely even though there were always people watching and chatting.
At one point, I got off my feet for a few hours and sat down while I DJed, and after a few hours of that, I felt the exhaustion pretty hard. Someone suggested I get back on my feet, and when I did I got a new wave of energy.
Funny enough, that sitting session sparked some silliness that eventually evolved into the custom stages. I was playing some incredibly bizarre music and had some creepy visuals on the screen. Someone suggested that I add a creepy clown to the scene. I went and found a PNG of a creepy clown on Google and added him into the scene. We gave him the name Francisco, then for the next 2+ hours we took him on a journey. I gave him a graduation cap as he graduated from college (his degree is in Eclownomics), took him into space, deep in the sea, to a farm, and all over as he traveled the world to celebrate his graduation. I hadn’t played with adding other elements to the screen before, but this showed me the flexibility of adding other images into OBS. It would be another month before I did much more with this, but that was the start of it all.
FS: A few times The New 9-5 has expanded out to five days as the 40 Hour Work Week, with a full schedule of DJ sets, yoga, art, and dancing. What were some highlights of those productions? What did you learn throughout the process?
S: Oh man, so many highlights. AC Slater‘s throwback Trouble & Bass era set was a special one for me. AC and T&B were both hugely influential to me when I first moved to NYC in 2010, and they helped shape my taste in music the early stages of my career. Getting to host AC for a set from that era meant so much, and the set was absolute fiiiire.
Our live painters and workshops were all incredible. My friend Lina lead yoga 4 times over both 40HWWs, and it was fun to evolve it with her and start our days on a wholesome note. Fuckery Meditations with Lizzie Rose and comedy/storytime were Eddy Sato were two of my favorites as well. Damn, so many good memories from those weeks.
The first 40HWW was the first time we brought in green screen performers, and it helped us to figure out best practices. I quickly realized I was overloading myself though, and put the 40 Hour Work Week on the back burner as we shifted our focus with the streams.
FS: Recently you’ve also been experimenting with some really unique concepts on Wednesday nights. How are these different than your 9-5 streams and where do you see this evolving?
S: Our Wednesday night streams are meant to be more cinematic and focused on artistic expression. For our most recent one, Lydia’s troupe Tonic Tribe coordinated costumes and routines that told a story that was intertwined with the visuals and music. A lot more planning goes into these streams to bring all of the elements together for a cohesive vision.
We hope to continue these at least once a month to give us an outlet for getting deeper with storytelling and trying out new concepts.
FS: As this blend of music and performance continues to be an ongoing project, how can people get involved if they are interested in sharing their art or dancing or otherwise?
S: We’re working on an application for live performers, we’re always looking for more talented people to add to our roster! Aside from that, anyone interested in being involved join our Discord and shoot me a message.
FS: Congrats on the new weekly show with Dirtybird. What a great testament to all the amazing working you’ve done so far. How did this come to be and what can we expect from this new venture?
S: I spoke with Barclay [Claude VonStroke] and Aundy back in May about helping with live streams, but the conversation fell off. Last Thursday, Dirtybird hosted my stream and was in my chat, which took me completely by surprise. I bumped the months-old email conversation the next day, and was on a call with Barclay 30 minutes later. Not only do I have a weekly show, but I’m helping out with the technical aspects of their entire weekly lineup. I’m glad I get the opportunity to use the skills I’ve developed this year to help other artists and brands bring their vision to the virtual realm.
My new show Off The Clock will feature many of the same shenanigans that we have each week on The New 9-to-5 – custom stages, live performers, and tons of new music. I’ll also be bringing in guest DJs every week starting in September. I have the first 6 weeks of guests booked out already, and I can’t wait to share that lineup!
FS: You recently hit a massive milestone of 500 hours streaming on Twitch. We’ve seen you go from spinning sets on your deck to adding performers to building those incredible custom themed stages (real ones remember powerwashing 🙃). How have you grown during this time, both musically and personally? What do you have planned for the next 500 hours and beyond?
S: Haha oh man that powerwashing stream. My dreams of being a touring powerwasher were dashed when quarantine hit.
Putting in this much time DJing, especially to a lot of the same people, has pushed me to expand my musical horizons and hunt down new music consistently. The biggest expansion for me has been in what I call my Guilty Treasures crates, which is all the funk, soul, pop, rock, and even Disney tunes. This is stuff I always loved but never got to play out live, but it works perfectly in a stream setting. I’ve spent a lot of time in musical rabbit holes.
As I mentioned, I had been in a creative rut for years before this. I never really had a solid place in the music industry, jumping from one project to another trying to figure out what I could contribute. This is the first time in ages that I’ve felt like I found my calling, and it has me feeling more creative and driven than ever.
However, I did dive too deep initially. Streaming consumed my life, and my mental health and relationships suffered because of it. I’ve since found my balance, and grown a lot as a result.
FS: So I had just submitted this article to my editor when you revealed that you have made partner with Twitch! Congratulations. That is so huge. I love that I’m kind of struggling to keep this interview up to date because everything is growing so fast. It’s amazing. How did you accomplish this and what does it mean to have become a partner? What will things look like moving forward?
Haha yeah, it’s a wild time right now.
S: I first applied for Partner back in April when I met the minimum requirements. My channel was barely a month old and I was denied. I spent the last few months improving my streams and building my community, waiting for the right time to reapply. Around a month ago, I put together a highlight reel of all the new stages and performers we had in July. It took a whole month of following up and gentle nudging to make it happen, but we did it! It’s been a perfect storm of events lately – from running streams for Dirtybird and Seven Lions to playing on Blond:ish’s Abracadabra TV and an upcoming set for The Funk Hunters‘ Detour Drive – I had a lot to follow up with and show them my dedication to being a creator for their platform.
Becoming a Partner isn’t a magic bullet, but they provide tools that can help build our communities. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, continue leveling up the streams each week, and find more ways to reach new viewers and engage our current viewers. Oh, and more emotes. So many more emotes.
FS: You are by far one of the busiest people I have ever seen. Hosting multiple events, always performing a set somewhere, organizing things through the Instigators…that was before we got on lockdown and it seems as if you’ve barely slowed down. How do you stay so creative and motivated? What advice do you have for others looking for the means or opportunities to be creative?
S: It’s a rollercoaster. I think the best advice I can give to anyone is to allow yourself to be unproductive and uninspired, and don’t beat yourself up over it. Almost no one can be creative and motivated 100% of the time, and you have to give yourself the space to recharge and to feel the full spectrum of emotions that come to you.
Try new things, fail at them, learn from them, take time away if you need to, and then get back at it.
FS: It’s clear to anyone who has been around you or witnessed the amount of love and attention you invest into everything that community is very important to you. What is needed for building a strong and successful community? How does music fit into that?
S: Music is the siren, it’s what draws us together, but building a community requires patience, attention, and respect. I think the most important thing is to treat everyone as equal, truly listen to everyone, and be consistent in your ethos. You have to walk the walk.
FS: Continuing with the theme of community building, a question you frequently ask is “what are people thankful for?” I’ve seen this printed on t-shirts, as a regular post on Facebook, and in the form of a totem you bring to festivals. Why is gratitude so important to you and how can people practice this in their own lives?
S: I wasn’t always grateful. I was selfish, took everything for granted, and expected more from the world than I contributed. When I started practicing gratitude, I saw my life turn around and found a happiness that I didn’t know I could possess.
I believe gratitude is one of the major keys to happiness, especially in a world where we’re consistently driven to compare ourselves to others. Focus more on what you have to be grateful for, big or small. Shifting your focus to these things is essential to keep a positive mindset, even in the hardest times.
Keep a gratitude journal, start every morning by writing down three things that you are thankful for. Ask your friends and family what they are thankful for. The more you do these things, the more gratitude becomes second nature.
FS: Asking it to you then…what are you thankful for?
S: The opportunity to grow from my experiences, the creative outlets I have, and my friends and family that keep me feeling loved and inspired.
FS: Lastly, this is always something I like closing my interviews with, especially with someone like you who has their hands in so many different things. What is something you are passionate about that is not music?
S: I’ve recently rekindled my passion for online gaming. I used to be a PC gamer for years, but I put that 15 years ago. I’ve enjoyed getting back into gaming, and it’s helped me through some difficult times over the past couple years. Current game of choice is Valorant.
FS: Thanks for your time 🙂 I really appreciate you.
S: Thank you for the insightful interview, I appreciate you too!
Find Subset on Twitch every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as a scattering of other appearances throughout the week. Whether on the decks or behind the scenes, you’re almost sure to find him up to something. Green screen shenanigans, long streams to get you through the day, workshops, dancing, surprise guests, and more. Always more.