by Stu Lynch for Beat Magazine
Canadian rocker Jeff Martin has lived a somewhat nomadic existence since leaving The Tea Party in 2005. A solo career with extensive touring was his first port of call, before a move to Ireland saw the formation of power-trio The Armada, co-founded with Wayne Sheehy, with J. Cortez on bass. Martin moved on to Western Australia in 2008, retaining the services of Cortez and recruiting Malcolm Clark to form yet another three-piece under the moniker Jeff Martin 777 (triple-seven). This culminated in new album ‘The Ground Cries Out’.
The multi-instrumental songwriter, guitarist and producer is all to happy to reveal his decision to relocate to Perth was to provide stability for his family, amid the frantic nature of the music business. “My son Django was turning four, and it was getting to the time for him to go to pre-school, and because my son was born in Perth, and my wife’s a Perth girl, it just made sense with Django’s father being the rock ‘n’ roll gypsy that he is,” Martin nods. “It was time to put some roots down for his sake.”
Martin admits his excitement about Jeff Martin 777, a powerful collaborative effort, was underpinned by a certain “telekinesis” between Clark and Cortez, an understanding with which he was immediately at ease.
“What came out with the jams that we did in Perth about six or seven months ago when we started playing – you’ve heard that old rock story,” he grins, “it was just magic when we came together. It was the real deal, especially for me, as playing in a band like The Tea Party in a three-piece, we set the bar really high. So if I was going to do a three-piece again, it would have to be big.
“That’s why this record has come about,” he adds, “and the chemistry you can hear on the album – it’s almost flawless. It’s just a really big, great, rock ‘n’ roll record, and it’s fun, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
A mesmerising live show, incorporating Martin’s unique ‘sitar-guitar’ sound, has been the mainstay of his career through various incarnations. As he prepares to unleash material from The Ground Cries Out on a fresh audience, he emphasises that the band will ultimately succeed based on a solid live showing, and is keen to expose the qualities within the set-up.
“If there was a purpose behind this record besides expression,” he muses, “then it was to get out there and play this live. I want to showcase Mal and Jay’s talents to the rock ‘n’ roll world here in Melbourne, and in Australia, and put this band on the map, because I think if word gets out there about this band and what people will see, it could be very quickly one of the biggest bands in Australia”
With a reputation such one stemming from being in The Tea Party, you might expect a certain reliance on an older crowd of grungey enthusiasts to attend Jeff Martin gigs. However, he insists this is not the case, and that the current scene provides plenty of scope to garner new fans.
“What we find, especially with the 777 shows in Canada and even what I found with The Armada playing here is that the audience is young. It’s a young rock audience, and that’s great.
“I guess there are still a lot of Tea Party fans that will come out,” he agrees, “but I find that there’s a lot of new blood, and that’s a really great compliment to the music and to the integrity behind it.”
Any mystical scholars out there will note that the numerical addition to the band’s title is taken from English libertine Aleister Crowley’s book 777, one of many spiritual influences on Martin’s personal and musical endeavours. Martin explains the effect of Crowley’s work, and the inspiration behind using this to represent the band as a whole.
“It’s almost like a schematic manual on how to live your life using catalytic processes. It’s a big part of my psyche, and how I manage to file things in my life, so 777 is a very powerful number.
“We needed a symbol for this band, and the individuals coming together and the power that it’s making. It’s not a solo project,” he reaffirms, “it’s a band, and what I’m hoping is that once people get to know 777, we can drop the ‘Jeff Martin’, because it’s not just about me, it’s about the three of us.”
Six years on from the demise of The Tea Party (and a few years before Sarah Palin and her vile cronies adopted the name for their nefarious ends), some Aussie ‘Party fans might be surprised by the changes to Martin’s style and repertoire. There is still the thread of Middle Eastern music that has ran through all previous works, but this has been explored further and there is the addition of a South East Asian element, as provided by J. Cortez.
It is clear Jeff Martin is not dwelling on past glories but looking to the future. He is as settled geographically as possible for the time being (with another grueling tour on the horizon), and on a musical front, is sure his latest venture can eclipse all previous efforts.
“Once people really get to know these songs, they’ll become the new classics. I’m just a firm believer that if music comes from a point of honesty and integrity, it translates. It will find its audience.”
He’s not short on confidence either.