DJ Robbie Martin Spins Up Some Sober & Sexy

by Cornelius Washington
Sunday Sep 6, 2015
DJ Robbie Martin at the Up Your Alley Street Fair in 2012
DJ Robbie Martin at the Up Your Alley Street Fair in 2012  (Source:Steamworks)

Steamworks bathhouse rocks with a new event that addresses sexuality on the level of what it means to be a gay man among gay men. This means rocking with just your physicality, sensuality, and sexuality on nothing but natural testosterone. And few could provide the key musical element for the magic that takes you to the core of what it means to be a human animal other than DJ Robbie Martin.

The 13th Step event, described as "a bathhouse night for sober fuckers," celebrates gay male sexuality without drugs, filters, borders, or shame. Go to the event and express what's really going on inside you with hot men and hot music. Go and get laid, the right way.

Martin discussed the Steamworks event, DJing and his own life transitions.

Cornelius Washington: I've known you since you were 14 years old in New Orleans. I cannot tell you how much you mean to me. I am so very happy that you are back in the Bay Area. Why did you feel that you had to go in the first place, and why have you returned?

Robbie Martin: Well, I adore you as well, Cornelius! And yes, it has been quite a bit of time since we met. Leaving... I left because I had grown discontent with San Francisco. Something wasn't clicking for me after eight years here, and out of the blue I was presented with a great business opportunity close to my mom and dad in New Orleans, so I followed that path. As for returning, well, it was rather unexpected. Recently, I helped my best friend move into Castro Valley, and organically it worked out for me to move in with him again.

CW: Who was the mastermind behind the 13th Step event?

RM: Brian Short came up with it. He's the manager of Steamworks Berkeley. He called me when I lived in New Orleans to ping the idea off of me. I guess with all of the stuff you see on the hookup apps and the number of relapses that begin with an online hookup, I think he wanted to create a safer space for sober men to meet up and hook up. Going to a bathhouse can be triggering for sober people, so I think the idea here is to create a space where men with mutual interests can feel safe in expressing their sober sexuality.

CW: When you create the music for this event, you create the mood, which is so very important. It's the soundtrack to the sexual experience. What is your game plan or intent going in?

RM: The sound at Steamworks has always been tailored by in-house DJs, and nailing the format isn't something that happens overnight, nor is it easy. Think about it. I'm in a booth in a building where at any given time numerous sexual experiences could be happening, at different points in the experience. So the key here is overall mood, and the ability to be present but not call attention to the music. I wouldn't want someone mid-romp to be distracted from his experience. I'd rather have someone exit their bathhouse experience with an overall glow, because each puzzle piece of the bathhouse experience fits snugly and seamlessly, and the music is just one piece of the puzzle.

CW: Sex is the most personal, dynamic and intimate function of the human condition. We express who we really are from our spirit through our bodies, so why do we in the gay community culturally feel that we have to be fucked up out of our minds to do it?

RM: Oh Cornelius, leave it to you to dig into a hot topic! First, let's be clear. I don't think the majority of gay sex is happening while intoxicated. Culturally, nothing has changed except the flavors. Some people enhance their sexual experiences with intoxicants. That's just the way it is. The reasons are that we are all seeking love and connection and getting over our insecurities; breaking the ice is a point of discomfort. Some people take the edge off, and others break all the edges off and fall into a hole.

CW: I think, in the 21st century, the LGBTQ community must re-affirm sobriety if it is to survive and thrive. How do you think music and sex will be integrated to help with that?

RM: This is a challenging question. Sobriety comes with consequences; they're called feelings. And I think feelings are both the causes and results of both music and sex. So I'm not sure how music and sex would be integrated to assist a cultural shift, but I do know they would be both causes of and results.

CW: You've been voted Best DJ of the year for two years by this newspaper's Besties readers poll. What do you do as a DJ that others can't, or won't?

RM: Nothing. I'm not doing anything differently. I got lucky and that's all there is to it. There are several Bay Area DJs who deserved those awards more than me, DJs who put a lot of time into production and traveling and have accomplished things that I could only dream of doing as a DJ and a producer.

I'm inconsistent, I don't have a "sound," and the farthest I've ever gone into the production world is rearranging stuff that other people made. Also, I'm retired. I don't play clubs anymore, because I suck at keeping a crowd dancing until 5 A.M. When I was playing them, I rarely went home fulfilled. Most of the time, I left feeling like I didn't do a good enough job, and that I was trying to fit into a crowd where I didn't really belong. At this point in my life, I like being the background soundtrack, not the focal point center-stage.

CW: Who do you think is underrated in the DJ, producing and music worlds?

RM: The question implies that I stay in the loop, and I'm so out of the loop! Nowadays in the music industry, the lines between roles have become so blurred, it's difficult to categorize any artist or group. I have soft spots for Rod Thomas aka Bright Light Bright Light (songwriter, producer, DJ), Jay Brannon (songwriter, vocalist, and musician), Nicole Moudaber (DJ, producer), Rubicon 7 (band, producers, DJs), Ruby Rose (DJ, producer, actress), and Big Freedia (vocalist, producer, and the Queen of Bounce Music).

CW: How do you feel when you see the beautiful LGBT community dance to your music?

RM: Occasionally, I would cry onstage because I felt very connected, like I was on point and providing a service and an emotional experience, and was really feeling the music. Then I would go home and feel extremely lonely. I don't know how traveling DJs do it, because the high of a dancing crowd followed by being alone in a hotel room was brutal to me.

CW: What event locally, and internationally, would you like to headline, and what song would you play particularly to make me lose control?

RM: I'm doing what I want to do DJ-wise these days. My interests aren't so much into playing a high profile event, but rather, I'd like to have a chunk of time to get into a studio with friends and make something from scratch. That's next on my music bucket list.

And to make you lose control? "If" by Janet Jackson, the Brothers In Rhythm remix. If that didn't work, I would default to Sylvester.

The 13th Step is each first Friday at Steamworks, including September 4, 9pm to 2am. Entry/membership ranges from $5 to $150. 2107 4th Street, Berkeley. (5100 845-8992.

You can listen to Robbie Martin spinning live at Steamworks at

To view Cornelius Washington's photography, visit

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