by Jarred Keane | for thedwarf.com.au
Prolific Canadian muso Jeff Martin (The Tea Party) took some time out with Warp’s Jarred Keane to discuss the past, the present and his brand new project: Jeff Martin 777. Returning from a recent trip to Canada, Martin chats from his home in Byron Bay ready to embark on the publicity trail.
What was it like to return to Canada, not just going home, but in terms of touring there?
“I haven’t been back there since the demise of the Tea Party, and especially with the new power trio, I had set the bar pretty high. But yeah, once the band started, from the start really in Vancouver, everyone just embraced the band with open arms, and it occurred to me that I need to go back to Canada more often.”
And what about your family, let’s talk about young Jeff Martin, who is there in your family?
“Basically, what’s left for me in Canada is my mother and father. They helped me, but they’re getting on. It was nice though, I hadn’t seen them for about a year, so it was good to see them again… and to have my mom do my dirty laundry…(laughs)”
You’ve covered the origin story before, how you heard The Beatles’ ‘Within You, Without You’ as a teenager and that stuck with you so deeply that you sought out exotic instruments and sounds. You even reference that same principle in this album, “Within, Without, the Ground Cries Out”. But can you tell us about some of the pilgrimages you made as a young man to Asia, the Middle East or North Africa?
“Well, what I did, success came pretty much immediately with the Tea Party, and the 90s were the Halcyon days, especially for Rock music. The cheques were a lot bigger, so what I did with the money, I felt very blessed when it came to me and I put it into travel, to taking these musical sabbaticals to places that as a youngster I could only dream about or connect to through records. I decided to take on these cultures first hand. I lived for a time in Luxor, Egypt and spent a lot of time in Turkey (in Istanbul)… ah I spent some time in Morocco… I’ve always come from a point where, if I’m going to express something in my music, it’s gotta come from a point of truth.”
You frequently refer to “souls” and other esoteric religious concepts, where does your own religion stem from and how dogmatically do you adhere to beliefs in trying to be a good man?
“Trying to be a good man… (laughing)… Yeah well, um. I started off like a lot of people did – a catholic boy. From a young age Catholicism just didn’t make a lot of sense to me, being riddled with guilt as you are. From my exploration of music from India, from the Middle East, I started to explore other aspects of the culture. My understandings of those things [Belief/God and the Soul] became more open. I spent some time living with a Sufi family and seeing the Whirling Dervishes in Turkey played a huge part, and especially with The Ground Cries Out, y’know that title comes from a poem by the Sufi poet, Rumi.”
Could you explain what the Ground Cries Out means? The song, what are you trying to say in it, and also, what emotion do you most want your fans to feel when listening to your music?
“Joy. I want to make people happy. I would love for everyone who listens to this album to feel the same joy that we felt in making the record. What you have to understand is that, I now live in Australia, I live in paradise, my life is very good. While I can still access the darker side of the psyche for the sake of storytelling with songs like the Cobra and The Pyre, there’s a lot of joy in this record, there’s tongue in cheek because y’know, it’s only Rock n Roll. For me, this record, emotionally and as far as my spiritual development is concerned, for me, this is my most successful record.”
Is it about any struggles you’ve had with your wife, or other, past lovers?
“No, I don’t really have any struggles mate, y’know, everything in my life, as far as my private life is concerned, it’s a beautiful situation. ‘1916’ is basically, it was the year that my Harp Guitar was made. So I was using that guitar, and the harp part as well, and it just stemmed from a jam in the studio and those lyrics, I was just scatting on the floor. Those were the words that just came out. What we discussed before, this is a Rock n Roll record; it’s meant to be fun.”
But are you then saying that you are not emotionally invested in that song?
”No, I’m emotionally invested in everything. Obviously everything has to come from a point of truth or experience, but I’m a storyteller y’know, these are stories. So, while they may come from some spark of my personal life, but you can’t take it too far y’know, it’s not like, yea you’ve got to be careful, you can’t blur the lines…”
Jeff Martin’s new album The Ground Cries Out is in stores and available online now.