DENIS SEMCHENKO for Rave Magazine
Rock & roll fan DENIS SEMCHENKO sits down with rock & rollin’ man JEFF MARTI N for a chat about his new project 777, crankedup Les Pauls and Sufi poetry.
When I meet Jeff Martin at a swish Fortitude Valley cafe district, he’s very much “in character”: bandanna, Aviator sunnies, beads and a singularly intense presence.
A true-blue, seasoned rock & roller, The Tea Party’s former linchpin certainly cuts an imposing figure – and minutes later, turns out to be an amiable conversationalist.
We locate a table, order beers and proceed to talk about the Canadian supremo’s new band, 777. “Jay Cortez, who’s the bass player, was in The Armada for the last half of its incarnation,” he drawls in his deep, resonant baritone. “Malcolm Clarke, who’s the drummer now, I’ve known him since the late ‘90s – first time I met Malcolm was backstage when The Tea Party played the Belvoir in Perth, which is a big natural amphitheatre. I remember he had somehow gotten backstage and was drinking all of our rider [laughs], and I thought, “this kid’s cool!” Then I got to know him as a musician.
“Of course, Malcolm and Jay’s reputation precedes them because of their work in The Sleepy Jackson and The Exploders – they’ve always been this incredible rhythm section,” he continues. “In 777, I’ve given them an artistic license to express themselves in a way they feel fits. For Malcolm as a drummer, he’s never been more powerful on the drumkit, so that’s how the band came about – we started jamming about eight months ago and started the recording process six months ago … Ever since, it’s been an amazing ride.”
With Jeff ‘s previous power trio The Armada shelved until further notice, it’s 777 time now for the gravellyvoiced esoteric rock stalwart and his friends. “The problem is geographical rather than anything else,” he points out. “With Wayne Sheehy – who was my partner in The Armada – living in Ireland, it made sense at the time when I was living there, but now that I’ve started a whole new band in Australia, it’s just more and more difficult. I also think Wayne and I wanted different things; Wayne wanted to go more towards the world music thing, where I was just getting a taste for playing rock & roll – playing the Les Paul and turning it up.”
Jeff’s cranked-up Gibson is, of course, all over The Ground Cries Out – right from the moment the surging title track literally leaps out from the speakers. “Kate [Jeff’s muse] and I rented a cottage in Byron Bay for a month a year-and-a-half ago, and with Kate being a photographer, she was coming and going and being very busy, so I was left to my own devices in this beautiful cottage in the rainforest,” he recounts the song’s inception. “I had set up a little studio and I brought all of the music I wanted to listen to – music from Iran, Iraq,lots of music from the Middle East. The Ground Cries Out started with a Persian drum loop, which you can hear in the background, and kinda grew from there. I was also reading a lot of Rumi, the Sufi poet, at the time, and one of his poems is titled The Ground Cries Out – it’s about
bringing an inspiration from an organic place – so it all came together like that.”