“I shit you not, I have a text from Janice from four minutes ago. ‘Hey, I miss you.'”
The Janice he’s referring to is Janice Griffith, adult film star and friend of Martyn Bootyspoon (a.k.a. Jason Voltaire). The two met in Los Angeles a few months back when he played the city’s long-running A Club Called Rhonda party, and subsequently created something of a hubbub when a photo of him (and her dog) popped up on her Twitter a few days later. “I got a lot of DMs about those interactions,” he says amusedly.
Truth be told, it’s just another chapter in the wild life of Martyn Bootyspoon. On that same trip to Los Angeles, he also ran into Quentin Tarantino at Amoeba Music, while a previous stop in L.A. found him crossing paths with Snoop Dogg (who he promptly charmed with an obscure Vine reference). Yet Voltaire isn’t some kind of A-lister or celebrity chaser; it’s just that wherever he goes, fun seems to follow.
Born and raised in Montreal, Voltaire has been keeping things lively for as long as he can remember. “My mom knows I was a crazy child from the jump,” he says. “I was definitely the child who would put the mattress on the staircase and drive it down… I was just a wild, hyperactive kid.” The son of Guyanese and Haitan immigrants, he grew up in a lively, music-filled home that nourished his highly social nature. “Growing up in a Caribbean family was the spice of life that I definitely needed,” says Voltaire. “There was a lot of celebrating around birthdays and holidays, and that was an early window into the idea of partying.”
Raised in the suburbs, Voltaire spent much of his childhood “playing video games until my eyes bled,” but once he started venturing into the city and going to proper parties, he hit the ground running.
One of his first experiences was in the summer of 2008, when Voltaire—who wasn’t even 18 at the time—found his way onto a boat party with Busy P, DJ Funk and DJ Assault. “A lot of Montrealers remember that night as being really insane,” he says, “that was the height of the Ed Banger shit.” Voltaire went to the party alone, but he still managed to get backstage and wound up drinking with DJ Funk. More importantly, he also met Sinjin Hawke, who’s now not only one of his best friends, but also the founder of Fractal Fantasy, which released the first Martyn Bootyspoon EP, Silk Eternity, in 2018.
Hawke was also present when Voltaire first came up with the Martyn Bootyspoon moniker. The two were at a party, and after seeing Voltaire’s capacity for socializing and flirting with both people he barely knew and total strangers, he suggested the presence of an alter ego. Running with the idea—not to mention a series of Family Matters and Anchorman jokes (think Stefan Urquelle and Veronica Corningstone)—Voltaire blurted out the name Martyn Bootyspoon. It was ridiculous, but it stuck, and a new persona was born, although Voltaire is quick to clarify that Martyn Bootyspoon isn’t some sort of character. “It’s been more of an avenue of true expression than like a moniker I hide behind,” he says. “I am that rave lothario.”
Artist name in place, Voltaire teamed up with Hawke and another friend, Azamat B. (who now lives in Paris and helps run Rinse France). Together, they started a party called Boomclap, which quickly became one of Montreal’s first regular outposts for bass music of all shapes and sizes. It was a place where Dance Mania, grime, ghettotech, hip-hop, footwork, Night Slugs, acid and Detroit techno all danced side by side, coalescing into a sort of musical template that Voltaire still follows today. It also gave him a foothold in Montreal’s DJ scene, and over the past decade, he’s become a veritable fixture behind the decks.
He’s currently part of the 00:AM crew, which has been throwing some of Montreal’s best house and techno parties in recent years, but he’s just as likely to be found playing hip-hop and R&B somewhere on a random Wednesday night. (Outside of the DJ booth, Voltaire is also a professional visual artist and designer who specializes in motion graphics and animation. His output and clientele varies from project to project, but he’s notably been touring with and doing live visuals for Jacques Greene—another one of his closest friends—for quite some time.)
When it comes to music, Voltaire is no purist. “A lot of people end up tailoring this super cold techno persona, or this post-club, deconstructed persona… There’s just been this weird notion that you can’t acknowledge you are also listening to hip-hop,” he says. “I know so much music and I embody so many different kinds of styles that it would feel weird to hide all of these other things and act like they don’t exist or they don’t inform what I do.”
Some of Voltaire’s biggest heroes are people like Jeff Mills and Armand Van Helden, artists who’ve achieved god-like status in the electronic music realm, but who also weren’t afraid to dip into other genres. In his mind, electronic music takes itself way too seriously. “I’ve had enough of the Ableton template of techno. It’s like when you go to a cafe and there’s a $500 painting that someone painted locally and it’s like, yes, this person’s a really skilled painter, but where’s the real essence? Why should I buy this painting? That’s my approach when I’m listening to promos or other people’s music. Is there any sort of nice, haptic sort of effect that’s being evoked by the piece? Or is it just like landfill, dollar-bin techno?”
Lightening the techno mood is no easy task, but it’s always been one of Voltaire’s specialties, whether he’s yowling on the dancefloor, running amok at Sónar, dropping tunes in the DJ booth or lending hilarious, stream-of-consciousness vocals to friends like Sinjin Hawke and Nightwave. (“The Ballad of Martyn Bootyspoon,” from Hawke’s 2011 EP The Lights, was a conscious effort to capture Voltaire’s essence on record.)
Although he stresses that humor isn’t his top priority, being playful is an essential part of who Voltaire is, both as a person and an artist. In his mind, humor is something that’s been present in dance music for decades, from Dance Mania and Prince to George Clinton and George Kranz. The latter’s 1984 oddball anthem “Din Daa Daa” is a song that Voltaire is particularly fascinated by: “It’s comical, but it’s also this free-flowing expression. [It’s telling that even for rigid] German audiences, that kind of record could be heralded as this important piece of avant-garde electronic music… I think it’s beautiful that something like that can be taken seriously.”
Sexuality is another one of Voltaire’s key interests, and it’s definitely something he also thinks is lacking in the current electronic music landscape. “Hell yes it’s lacking,” he says with a laugh. “With every techno Twitter fight. I’m always like, ‘Guys, come on.’ I feel like people just need some other shit to think about.”
Voltaire has certainly done his part to keep things sexy. His latest EP, which dropped in late 2019 on Dinamo Azari’s Model Future imprint, is called No. 1 Crush and the artwork features a majestic photo of Voltaire naked in a swimming pool. One track is called “Lick My Ear,” and his signature baritone is all over the record, dropping come-hither lyrics that he sees as both poetry and “sexy nonsense.”
Voltaire’s music can be a bit over the top, but it also bangs, and No. 1 Crush reflects his deep admiration for old-school Midwestern club and booty house, and labels like Dance Mania in particular. “Their catalog is cluttered with so many songs that have rhythms that I’ve heard and have thought, ‘No way.’ Sometimes I’ve just had to laugh cause they’re so ridiculous,” he says. “And that’s without even counting the lyrical content. Just in terms of composition, you could tell it was someone who was having a lot of fun, just mashing a drum machine and doing dumb shit to it.”
These days, however, Voltaire is the one having fun, both in the studio and especially when he’s out in the world. He’s now gigging more than ever before, and while his international adventures used to largely take place in the context of touring with Jacques Greene or just visiting various DJ friends in the UK and Europe, Voltaire has now made the transition from “beloved party friend” to “proper artist.” And while he used to worry about running into some competitive gatekeeping from his peers, he’s found the actual transition to be pretty painless. “I had organically amassed all these connections over the years, without ever really having any super serious intent to pursue an artistic career as a producer,” he says. “But now, without even trying to hound anyone about what I’m doing, people have been like, ‘Oh my God, let me support this’ or ‘Let me put you in touch with so-and-so.’ Most artists I know have been really surprised and just very supportive.”
Granted, it’s not hard to support someone who so clearly wants everyone else to feel just as free as he does. “My main m.o.,” says Voltaire, “is the laissez faire, Balearic notion of having a feel-good attitude.” It’s a philosophy he embodies, both inside and outside of the DJ booth, and it helps explain why he’s been embraced by so many different pockets of the electronic music world, including the queer community. Having grown up black in Canada, and also having a queer family member and many queer friends, Voltaire understands what it means to be marginalized, and while he acknowledges that his love of fabulousness has likely helped endear him to that community, he ultimately sees the kinship as more of a “simple taking care of each other sort of thing.”
“I think it’s okay to have fun and be serious at the same time,” says Voltaire. Despite all the wildness and revelry that surrounds his existence as Martyn Bootyspoon, he’s adamant that his work is absolutely not a joke. “It’s serious in practice and in production,” he says. “But it’s definitely fun too. I’ve approached music in a fun manner and if ever get to the point where I think I’m not having fun, that’s when I should stop.”
Martyn Bootyspoon’s Top 5 Tracks to Thirst Trap to
“I’m your No.1Crush,” proclaims Martyn Bootyspoon in his most recent release. It’s clear that Bootyspoon has perfected the art of thirst trappping, so let’s take a page out of the Bootyspoon playbook with these sensual selections.
Omar S and L’Renee – S.E.X. (Conant Gardens Posse Remix)
Love how Rhodes chords sound like the room is on fire. The best really flexing, just knowing how to work vocals into a hot vibey dance track – the intro sneaks in with the percs. It feels like someone’s whispering in my ear with a martini in their hand.
Paul Johnson – So Much (So Much Mix)
The Ghetto House Godfather! This track sounds like you’ve stared into a spinning pinwheel, it’s so hypnotic. It’s an extremely strong forward track with a good bounce, vocals free-flowing over the top. I’ve had to cut myself off from playing this too much, it’s too gratuitous.
Prince – Purple Music
It was between this and Queen’s “Body Language.” 10 mins of Prince wilin’ out on pedal effects and shit. Funk in the front seat of the whip, bouncing bass lick rhythms with really strange inquisitive melodic phrasing. Every time I listen to it I find something else I love about it. Good calling card to summon the freaks on the floor.
Father – Only You
The number of times I’ve been told I’ve reminded someone of Father is baffling but I’m not mad at it. He gets it, the music’s always joyful. Crushin’ in the club kinship vibes – No. 1 Crush shit but on the rap side rather than four-four.
Cardigans – Love Fool
Another dance floor calling card for a more mature crowd. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet  soundtrack bomb, gets me in my feels. The melodic structure has me reeling each time I listen. Imagine your crush entering the room through a doorway of fringed metallic streamers.
Jeremih – Late Nights
Saved the thirstiest for last. It’s Jeremih at his best, with an outrageous song structure that says “Speak now or forever hold your thirst.” There’s a lot to think about here – scarcity, the notion of “XO Tour Llif3” (pre Uzi) – hot innuendos. For me to omit this track from a Thirst Trap Top 5 would be criminal.
Published February 14, 2020. Words by Shawn Reynaldo, photos by Mathieu Fortin.