Jeff Martin back with new band
By DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency
The Tea Party is well and truly over for Jeff Martin. Thanks in part to the likes of Sarah Palin.
Five years after dissolving his Can-Rock trio, the singer-guitarist claims to have no interest in a reunion — and even if he had, their name has been tainted by the U.S. political movement.
“Isn’t that terrible? God, it’s terrible,” laments Martin. “I don’t feel good about that at all. It’s the worst part of the American psyche — politically, anyways. Just the ignorance and all that stuff, it’s a shame. They’re taking something that was so meaningful in American history and turning it upside-down. So yeah, that’s a reason not to do it.”
But fans need not feel sorry for Martin — or themselves. The 41-year-old rocker isn’t crying over spilt Tea. Instead, he’s picking up where he left off with his new band 777 and the CD The Ground Cries Out. In stores now, the disc resurrects Martin’s trademark sound, swirling Zeppish bombast, Morrisonian vocals and lyrical mysticism into an incense stick of exotic blues-rock.
Before heading out on a barnstorming bar tour (“lock up your daughters,” cracks Martin) to bang the drum for the disc, the musician — who now makes his home in Australia with his wife and son Django — brought me up to speed on life after the Party, the power of the power trio and the math behind 777.
Your first solo album Exile and the Kingdom was acoustic-based. This one is definitely a return to form. How did you get here from there?
To make it as concise as possible, at the end of The Tea Party, I left that situation and the music industry in general with kind of a bitter taste in my mouth. I lost the passion for it. So what was important for me was to go somewhere and recalibrate and see if I could find that passion once again for making music. The way I went about it was to just deconstruct and distill my music down to the bare bones — just my voice and acoustic guitar — and find that spark again. And through that process — it was basically like a phoenix rising from the ashes — I just built things up again to the kind of music I wanted to do again.
Did you think you might have been done with music?
The thought had crossed my mind. You have to be in the right headspace if you’re going to do something like this — run the whole rock ‘n’ roll gauntlet and do press tours and all the touring and everything. It can be laborious to build those relationships again, to get through that wall and get to those people. But I’m very fortunate to have the legend or the myth of The Tea Party behind me. Coming back to Canada after quite some time, all I’ve experienced so far is a lot of love. It’s like open arms. It’s a nice way to come back.
Your old fans will find much to connect with here. But since it’s so similar to The Tea Party, I suspect some will wonder why you didn’t reunite with your old bandmates?
Well, for one thing, they weren’t in Australia. But also, the artistic endeavours of The Tea Party toward the end were not where I wanted things to go. There were too many cooks in the kitchen. In my version, if things are going to be done properly, there has to be a captain of the ship. That’s why this band works. It’s no dictatorship; it’s just that someone’s got to be steering the boat. That’s the way it’s working out. And that’s why I think the music is what it is again. What I have with Malcolm Clark and J Cortez is the same feeling I had with Jeff Burrows and Stuart Chatwood. But it’s something more. There’s something different going on, something a bit stronger. There’s almost a joy in the music, believe it or not.
What is it about the power trio format that works for you?
Freedom. For a brief moment in time when Exile and the Kingdom came out, I tried a five-piece band. And it felt like I was suffocating. What I love about a power trio like The Tea Party is we were able to have signposts in a show, and how we got to those signposts changed every night. That’s the type of band I’ve always respected. There has to be a certain level of musicianship to pull off that type of show.
You need that psychic connection as well.
Absolutely. That’s the beauty about this: J and Malcolm have been playing together more than 15 years. And Malcolm the drummer is such a big fan of The Tea Party that when we started jamming six months ago, he knew Tea Party numbers better than I did. He was correcting me — ‘That’s not the way you played it live in 1997.’ I was like, ‘How do you KNOW that?’
What’s with the 777?
I’ve been a self-taught student of Aleister Crowley since my early 20s. The misconception of Crowley’s work because of idiots like Ozzy Osbourne is that it is ‘the dark side.’ That’s the furthest thing from it. It’s about free will and focusing your will and things like that — kind of a western version of Kabbalah. And the book 777 that Crowley authored in the 1920s is a spiritual manual for me to a certain degree. So that number is very powerful for me. And it symbolizes what’s going on with this band as well, with three distinct personalities coming together. So it’s a talisman.