Jeff Martin 777: Led Zeppelin, Egypt And Aleister Crowley
by By Trevor Morelli (CHARTattack)
Jeff Martin can’t wait to hit the road with his new band, Jeff Martin 777. There’s just one small problem: he needs to figure out how to play his own songs first.
Sitting in a Vancouver hotel room a few weeks before the tour starts, surrounded by guitars, the former Tea Party frontman pondered how to re-arrange the complexities on the band’s The Ground Cries Out debut LP so they work on a single guitar. It’s no easy task, but he’s rejigged songs many times before.
CHARTAttack recently had a chance to talk to him about this dilemma, Led Zeppelin’s influence, the teachings of Aleister Crowley, the crisis in Egypt, and how they all come together on The Ground Cries Out.
Here’s how it went down:
CHARTattack: It’s been over two years since you released an album with your last band, The Armada. What’ve you been up to since then?
Jeff Martin: I’ve been producing. I produced a band called The Eternal from Melbourne and they’re doing quite well in Australia. I also produced a band called A Thousand Needles In Red. I did a single for them.
I’ve also been doing a lot of other things on the side. Back in the ’90s, it was no skin under the cuff to give a band a quarter of a million dollars to do a recording. Nowadays, that’s basically the budget that the label has for the entire year, if you know what I mean. Is that a necessary thing that had to happen for the music industry to move forward? Maybe it was.
The guitars on The Ground Cries Out continue your style of using open tunings and intricate compositions. Is it fair to say that this album is not easy to play live?
Well, it’s the blessing and the curse. With the new record, I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished as a composer.
The live guitars pissed me off. The composer in me decided it was cool to do four or five different tunings in one song. As I sit and talk right now, I’ve got three six-string guitars and two 12-string acoustics that I’m using to distill the songs into one tuning to play live.
It’s nothing new. It’s the same thing I used to do with The Tea Party. I’ll take it to planet fuckin’ Neptune and then have to come back to Mercury. That’s the challenge and that’s what makes it fun. It keeps the alpha waves moving in a forward direction.
Songs like “Queen Of Spades” and “1916″ contain arrangements reminiscent of some of Led Zeppelin’s acoustic songs. Was that intentional?
Yes. With this record, I had to — out of purpose — rebuild a studio with Malcolm (Clark, drums). We rebuilt Malcolm’s studio to world class standards. It’s the best kept secret in Perth (Australia). Nobody knows it’s there. It had to be done. I’m not the type of cat that could ever record in an apartment with just put some drums in the corner. Everything needs to be of the quality of the zenith of Led Zeppelin.
I produced the record, recorded it and mixed it, but the final thing is mastering, where it all becomes pixie dust magic. George Marino, who remastered the Led Zeppelin catalogue on CD, did the mastering. We used these Duntek speakers that were very specific speakers used in the ’70s. I wanted a precise drum sound so Malcolm used a John Bonham reissue kit, massive drums in a big room.
“The Ground Cries Out” is the first single from the record. Why did you choose that title for the album as well?
I spent some time in Egypt in 1999. I lived in Luxor for three months. I got to know all of the people — high class, middle class, and lower class.
While I was there, I bought an old synthesizer. It’s like a regular piano scale except that it has all of the quarter tones built in, so it’s cool as shit. The melody for “The Ground Cries Out” was the only thing I played on it, and then I put the song away in the vault.
Now fast forward to today and the events of the last month. Egypt is the most powerful of the Arabic countries and the people have cried out. If there’s a more relevant rock song on Canadian radio today, then someone please tell me what it is.
I’m so proud of the people of Egypt. It’s been a groundswell and the ground has cried out. Thinking about the Sufi way of life — the most tolerant, loving part of Islam and a very prominent part of Egypt — the song is really a celebration of what they are going through right now.
Seven is traditionally considered a lucky number in some Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Is that why the new group is called Jeff Martin 777?
That’s actually not really it at all. It comes from Aleister Crowley.
Jimmy Page was interested in Crowley; I think his was more to do with the artifacts and perhaps maybe the fashion, but I could be wrong.
My thing is his teachings. There are some that are quite poignant, especially with what I’m going through day to day, and there are other teachings that have no right or space in my psyche. There’s a book that he wrote called 777 and that book for me is the schematic for my life.
I don’t want to freak people out. That’s my own heavy and it doesn’t really go beyond my headspace. When we get on stage, it’s all smiles and all we want to do is make people happy. If people want to go deeper, they can go to our website (www.jeff-martin.net) and look into Crowley’s teachings and things like that.