CB: So, let’s talk more about this tour you’re in the middle of with Jay Cortez, who is also the bass player for The Armada. Describe the dynamic between you two.
JM: Jay’s an anchor. That’s the way I view his talents and even our friendship. The man is very solid as an artist. It’s kind of like (pause), it’s a little narcissistic to tell you the truth, my friendship with Jay, because he’s a lot like me, musically speaking, not necessarily personality wise. Musically, the man can do anything. You put an instrument in his hands and he will make it sing. It doesn’t matter what it is, he’s going to make it sing. The guitar is my instrument which is best suited to my voice especially with what we’re trying to achieve as a duo and what Jay brings to the table - with all the colours around my voice and around my guitar – it’s like a beautiful cocoon. So, what’s happening on stage, I think it was said in Brisbane at a show in front of a thousand people, a reviewer came to the show and said “It was basically like witnessing a two man Led Zeppelin” or Pink Floyd or something like that.
CB: You would have loved that!
JM: Yeah! So it’s going great and I’m excited for people to come to the show because it’s something really special. It’s a little bittersweet because I won’t be able to do this again until the new record is out in 2011 so I’m certainly encouraging people to come out as much as I can.
CB: Do you find that you have to rework any of your songs to allow Jay to play around what you do or to be able to add anything else to the songs?
JM: Well, first of all, every night the songs are getting reworked. That’s inevitable because there’s no strict parameters on what we do where the arrangements are concerning. Everything is constantly in a state of flux. Even the old Tea Party songs, they’re constantly evolving and Jay just circles around. That’s what he does. It’s very ethereal what he does with the music.
CB: Do you find yourself facing any challenges with that amount of freedom of the direction that you may take each night? Is it even that thought out?
JM: It can’t be. The moment you put that much thought into it, it can become contrived and I can smell that in music a mile away, so it’s not something that I allow into the fold. It needs to be sensual. It needs to be sexy. It needs to be dangerous. Even if it’s two men with acoustic guitars onstage, it needs to be fucking dangerous. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re making dangerous music. Every night.
CB: You make it sound so exciting! Speaking of danger, you have released a bunch of live recordings from select shows…
JM: Yeah I have in the past. I’m going to be a bit more diligent now with the live recordings because basically, as a producer and as an engineer, that’s a world where I’m very strict as far as sound recordings and if I do release another live record, which is quite possible from the last Armada tour (we recorded a couple of nights in Sydney for a live DVD). I will be mixing that next week and I’ll see if the sound quality is up to scratch with my standards and hopefully it will be, we can release that. But I’m just going to make sure that whatever is released live from this point on, the sound quality has to be as impeccable as the actual recordings.
CB: Do you find that you’re more aware of your playing and that you’re conscious of the fact that it’s being recorded, that you’re thinking more or do you just let go?
JM: No, I would hope not. You have to let go, I mean, if you go into the mindset and you walk onstage and you know that the tape is rolling and you’re thinking about that, the performance is going to be very cold, very clinical. It’s the whole shamanistic thing, that goes back to my early days with The Tea Party, I make a point of getting outside of myself onstage and letting everything about me be honest and open and it has to be fluid. Otherwise it’s not a Jeff Martin performance.
CB: So, it’s kind of like transcendence through music, right?
JM: Exactly. As far as people have their religious experiences, you know, everyone is wanting to be part of the divine or understand what divinity is, and I’m not saying that I am, so let’s just make that sure that we get this right – but when I’m onstage and when the night is beautiful and everything is just happening, it’s the closest I will ever come to god. It’s just unbridled transcendence. It’s never perfect, but it’s fucking close.
Published on Soulshine: Music. Life. Soul. on 6 May 2010