Caleb Goman for Your gigs
Caleb Goman gets mystical with Jeff Martin as they talk Led Zeppelin, the occult and the mysteries of rock ‘n’ roll.
A virtuoso guitarist and songwriter, Jeff Martin is touring Australia with his new group 777 on the back of their album The Ground Cries Out.
yourGigs (yG): I understand you’ve been pretty busy of late. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to?
Jeff Martin (JM): I just spent the last couple of weeks in Canada doing shows across the country. Obviously with myself and J [Cortez, bass] and Malcolm [Clark, drums] we are a power trio and for me to go back to Canada as a power trio there was a little trepidation because with my past, The Tea Party [Martin's previous band] set the bar so high for power trios. But the way we’ve been received and the reviews and the responses have just been overwhelming.
yG: Are you based in Australia now?
JM: Yes I am man, I am happily a permanent resident of Australia.
yG: What is it about working in a trio that you like?
JM: When you spend 15 years in The Tea Party the freedom of the three-piece is something that I cherish and I also exploit. As a guitar player I don’t want to be pinned down by more members. I just want to be able to fly and that’s the beauty of playing with J and Mal because they have been playing together for 15 years and with those two it’s like they are reading each other’s minds and I’m allowed to just go, which is something I haven’t been able to do since The Tea Party.
yG: The album The Ground Cries Out has a very Led Zeppelin vibe. Not just musically but structurally in the way it takes you through to different places and genres whilst keeping the identity. It reminded me a lot of Houses of the Holy.
JM: I think that is the highest compliment, I really do, because if I had any intention it was that I knew what type of record I wanted to make. And I wanted to make something just like you explained to me. For me, the benchmarks were Houses… and Physical [Graffiti, Led Zeppelin] where they touch on all of these different styles, yet you can always tell it’s the same band and that’s what we were hoping to achieve. It’s a record for rock ‘n’ roll fans in that there is something in there for everybody.
yG: It definitely has that ’70s classic rock vibe.
JM: We recorded the drums and bass to tape. Our studio in Perth, it’s Australia’s best kept secret. It’s the best of both worlds. Obviously my style is a lot of the old analogue tricks but we also have the latest Pro Tools. I’m always weary of that side of the coin because with Pro Tools it’s very easy to get tempted to get into editing performances and things like that which I don’t allow at all. Everything that was done on this record had to be one take. If Mal was going to do drums he had to nail it from beginning to end and he had to own it. It’s the nuances that make real rock ‘n’ roll music. It’s humanistic. It’s not quite perfect but it’s not imperfect.
yG: The track ‘Blue Mountain Sun’ has a very Nick Drake vibe to it. Was that written in the Blue Mountains?
JM: Yeah it was written on the drive to the Blue Mountains and it’s funny you mention Nick Drake because we were on our way to an acoustic show at Katoomba and we were in the Tarago and the sun was shining. The only stuff we were listening to was anything acoustic that Led Zeppelin did and we were listening to Roy Harper and Nick Drake, and at one point ‘Bron Y Aur’ by Led Zeppelin came on and J taps me on the shoulder and goes “Martin, you can do better than that” and I was like “Is that a challenge?” So I was sitting there thinking about this melody in my head and a tuning that I always wanted to try and once I got to the hotel at Katoomba I just sat there writing this song looking out the window.
yG: The group is named 777. I’m assuming it’s a reference to the book by Aleister Crowley? Are you a fan of Crowley’s work?
JM: I’ve been a student of Crowley’s work probably since I was about 18 years old. That book in particular, 777, for me has almost been a spiritual manual and that number is very important in my personal journeys in life. When I had to think of a type of symbol or name for the band that just made sense and I’m hoping in the near future that once everyone knows that’s it’s me and I’m part of this band then we can drop the Jeff Martin from the name and it’ll just be known as 777.
yG: How did you get into Crowley? I know a lot of people hear about him through Jimmy Page.
JM: No, I actually got into Crowley through ['70s folk guitarist] Roy Harper. I met Roy when I was a very young man and Roy became pretty much my teacher to a certain extent and obviously he told me about Page’s fascination with it and it all sort of made sense. And it just seems that that aspect of life is where a lot of my inspiration comes from.
yG: It does seem to open up a lot of channels.
JM: It opens up the imagination. But we are kind of bordering into getting into my personal life. These things are not something that you should broadcast, you know what I mean? I don’t want to influence anybody to go into things they don’t understand. That type of journey in life is a very personal thing and I think that people need to discover for themselves. There are moments in the music I create where it feels natural to bring those ideas in and other times it’s only rock ‘n’ roll so let’s have some fun.
yG: The album definitely represents both of those moods. There’s the more reflective, deeper side as well as the more stomping, rocking tracks. Was that the intention?
JM: If I have to distil this record down to one thing it’s that I want people to experience the same amount of joy listening to this record as the three of us had making it. It was one of the best times of my life making this record and I hope that’s what gets across because at the end of the day that’s really all I want.