by Mixdown Magazine
When The Tea Party came to an end, Jeff Martin did what he did best: made Jeff Martin music. Exile & The Kingdom was a solid acoustic-based album, and The Armada was a return to the same neighbourhood as the Tea Party sound. But with the formation of Jeff Martin 777, the Canadian native/Perth resident has finally thrown his arms open to welcome back the sound of his former band. The Ground Cries Out is the first result of this new trio, which is rounded out by Sleepy Jackson alumni Jay Cortez and Malcolm Clark, and they hit the road in April and May.
The Armada was such a “big” sounding name and band, whereas the name Jeff Martin 777 really seems to imply that this is Jeff Martin back in a trio.
Management and myself thought The Armada confused people, more on an international scale, because a lot people didn’t know that it was me except for the fans. The decision was made that “Jeff Martin the name” was almost a brand, y’know? So we wanted to make people aware that it’s me, but that it is a band, a power trio. And that number  symbolises a lot of things for me with my studies, the occult philosophy and things like that. It just made sense. And hopefully it’ll come to a point – because this is supposed to be the first of many records – where perhaps if this one does as well as we hope it will, on the next one everyone will know and we can just get rid of my name (laughs).
And it really does feel like a band. It definitely is. The writing process for this record is pretty much exactly the same as everything I used to do with The Tea Party. I’d come to Jeff Burrows and Stuart Chatwood with the schematic of the song – the melody, the lyrics, the riffs – but as a band we would compose the songs together. That’s what me and Malcolm and Jay have done. The dynamics could be different because the personalities are different, but it’s that same process, that collective that I enjoyed so much in those years, and now I’ve got it back again.
When you think of The Sleepy Jackson you certainly don’t think of the kind of big, dark grooves that go so well with your writing. Who knew!
With all respect to what Mal and Jay did in the Sleepy Jackson, it was a different kettle of fish, totally. And Malcolm Clark as a drummer is an extremely powerful drummer, but he was never allowed to explore that in the various incarnations he was a part of. On this record and with this band, I give Mal and Jay complete artistic licence to express themselves the way they want to do it, y’know? And what Mal’s bringing to the table – which I had with Jeff Burrows – is he’s a very powerful drummer who has almost become my muse, y’know? He’s like Bonham, Keith Moon and Animal from the Muppets all together! He brings these really sexy grooves to the music, and that’s what rock and roll’s supposed to be about, man.
The music on the album is definitely a continuation of The Tea Party without directly sounding like a copy.
That’s what musicians and songwriters should achieve. I’m certainly never going to do something that’s going to be out of character. What I’m trying to do as a songwriter and as an artist is just to evolve what I’ve already established. It’s funny… when the Tea Party first came out, obviously we were compared to The Doors and Led Zeppelin, right? And fair enough, but as time went on, and especially now even, if any rock band comes out that has a hint of Middle Eastern melodies, they get compared to The Tea Party. And I think that’s a testament to sticking with it, evolving and making it a trademark.
How did you dvelop that hybrid of rock, blues and Middle Eastern music?
I have this condition – I think it’s a blessing rather than a curse – called synesthesia, where you see music in colours. Especially as a producer, making those layers in the recording, for me it’s all about colours. And also being a Libra, it’s all about balance as well. This studio that we built in Perth, it’s a rock and roll wonderland, especially with my collection of instruments and guitars. And what Mal and Jay have brought, and even my guitar tech, what he’s brought to the table, we have everything at our disposal. Every sound you ever thought of in rock and roll, we’ve got it. So for me that’s just an amazing pallet to be working with. It’s just left me with so many variables. But ultimately I do believe that when a song is complete, it was always there in the first place in the aether, and it’s just your ability of drawing that down. And also, too, it’s panning. Panning of guitar sounds has almost become like an arcane science of sorts. Then you go further. There’s the amplifier, the microphones, the microphone placements, what compressors to use and everything else. I’m fortunate that all the years I’ve been doing this, and all the accumulated wisdom of working in the best studios in the world, it’s all there to grab and place as I want.
What gear did you use on the album? Did you have a primary rig and use the other stuff for colours?
Oh no, mate. My arsenal of guitars ranges from a ’59 Les Paul to Danelectros, my Telecasters with B-Benders in them… my Matchless Super Chief amp, which was a big part of the Tea Party guitar sound, but I also have this little amp which… well, in the ’50s and 6’0s there was this amp called Supro, but before there was Supro it was just the Jensen speaker company, and I have this small little amp with a 10-inch speaker which is probably my main amp that I use for recording. It’s small, it’s only about 15 watts, but the tone when you really push it is just unbelievable.
Not many people in rock play B-Benders.
I certainly got the idea from Jimmy Page. He started using it at the end of Led Zeppelin and he used it in The Firm. And I love the possibilities of it. I play it very differently to him, though. I’m a big fan of what he did, as well as The Byrds, Gram Parsons, the Burrito Brothers, y’know, and any time I can throw some B-Bender into a rock and roll mix, I will.
By Peter Hodgson
Rock ‘n’ roll troubadour Jeff Martin returns with his brand new band the 777 Project, comprised of J Cortez (Sleepy Jackson / The Armada) on bass and Malcom Clarke (Sleepy Jackson /The Basement Birds) on drums. Their new album The Ground Cries Out is a true dark blues, Middle-Eastern, rock-inspired masterpiece with all the good ol’ Jeff Martin overtones you’ve grown to love. Get your diaries out, as Jeff Martin and the 777 Project hit the road soon on the following dates:
May 1 – Hi Fi Bar, Brisbane, QLD
May 3 – Live at Joe’s, Eumundi, QLD
May 4 – The Northern, Byron Bay, NSW
May 5 – Fowlers Live, Adelaide, SA
May 6 – Prince Bandroom, Melbourne VIC
May 7 – Gaelic Theatre, Sydney NSW
May 21 – Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA