Like 'riding the winds of an Arabian storm' the man we know as Jeff Martin has recently been pushing his new bank of material – The Ground Cries Out – across the globe, highlighting his potent blend of blues, rock, Indian, middle eastern and African stylings. Incorporating traditional guitar, bass and drums together with various worldly instrumentation Martin has continued to showcase his own dark and moody twist on rock. Next month as part of the AIMS/AMAC show in Melbourne you'll be able to see Martin up close and personal in workshop as well as part of the Sunday Jam session – a great opportunity to actually see what the new Aussie resident is made of, and a chance to get your worldy groove on with the man himself.
You played the 'Let It Be’ Concert in Sydney on the weekend?
“It was a great experience I'll tell you that. I've walked around the Opera House many times but it was awesome to be on the stage and play those amazing songs with a pretty shit hot band! The only unfortunate thing for me was that I'd just flown from Beirut, Lebanon and my throat was pretty fucked. But, I did the best I could and all in all it was a great experience.”
What tunes did you do?
“Well I basically took over from Jon Stevens for the show so I did about eight tunes – Get Back, Strawberry Fields, Don't Let Me Down, Oh Darling, Revolution and a few others... they gave me all the hard ones, ha! They're all great guys, especially Jack (Jones/Irwin Thomas) he was quite a trip. I knew of his band Southern Sons, but I didn't realise he was such a fan of The Tea Party and my work. It was full on ‘cos every time I walked on stage he was like 'Ladies and Gentleman, Jeff Martin the man!'.”
The Ground Cries Out , how's that going?
“Swimmingly. It's very exciting ‘cos it's a great pleasure with Malcolm (Clarke – drummer) and Jay (Cortez – bass). As far as musicians and what they're bringing to the new band they're really stepping up to the plate. Malcolm knows the Tea Party music better than I do so we'll be in rehearsals and he'll be correcting me! You know, with what they've done in the past with Luke and The Sleepy Jackson it was more of Luke's trip, but what I'm doing with this project I'm giving Malcolm and Jay absolute freedom to express themselves however they like as musicians… and what Malcolm's achieving in this setting, it's just very, very explosive. I think fans of Malcolm Clarke's drumming are going to be very surprised; he's taking it to a whole new level. This music that’s being created is very intense, but because of the relationship and personality between the three of us, there's a lot of joy too. It's dark and sexy, but it's also so much fun to play.”
Any new favourite guitar tunings of late? Last time we spoke you had a tonne of tunings programmed into the Transperformance guitar of yours...
“Absolutely, that's pretty much the way I write on the guitar, I'm always trying to expand that horizon and I recently got into Afghani music and especially the music that's played on the Rubab. That instrument is actually quite strange, it's in its own league and I've translated that tuning onto the guitar… so lots of new chords and melodies have been coming out. It keeps it fresh and my guitar tech hates me.”
And your trusty Maton guitars are still serving you well?
“My guitar arsenal has gotten to the point in terms of numbers back to the halcyon days of The Tea Party so I've got all these beautiful tools and certainly all the Maton acoustics I've got, they all serve a different purpose. Certain guitars handle different tunings and actions, and I've also been experimenting a lot with the double neck acoustic that Maton made for me too, using two different tunings. Probably not since (Tea Party records) Transmission or Edges Of Twilight have I gotten into my guitar work as much, so it's great and Jay and Malcolm are really pushing me to do that.”
As a Led Zeppelin fan have you followed Robert Plant's solo work at all?
“I really enjoyed the Alison Krauss record and, as far as Robert Plant's voice is concerned now, that's where he can shine the best. It's like when we saw footage of the reunion, they had to drop the tuning a few steps and it wasn't really the same Led Zep anymore… but fair enough, you know, it's a young man's game to a certain extent… but I'm really happy with what Robert Plant is doing these days. It'd be nice to hear Jimmy do some new music again one of these days too.”
And I see you're playing with Terepai Richmond at AMAC/AIMS?
“Yes and we're also doing a tour starting the middle of November and what a fantastic drummer he is! I'm so blessed to be playing with all these amazing guys with sticks in their hands you know. He's a very musical drummer; it's more of an expressive and melodic thing with Terepai.”
Do performances like AMAC/AIMS differ from a regular Jeff Martin gig?
“Definitely. These things and clinics are much more technical but I still enjoy it and I enjoy the challenge of communicating. Let's be honest, there are a lot of musos that come to these things and they think they know it all, and I'm here to tell you that you don't! Ha! No, it's like with everything I've done in my career and how I've pushed the guitar: I want to show that to people so I'm happy to share and see the enjoyment people get when they can be that close and the information is really flowing.”
JEFF MARTIN is part of Australian International Music Show (AIMS) at The Melbourne Exhibition Centre (meeting Room 3, Level 2) from 11.45am on Saturday October 2. He’s also a part of Beat’s very own Christie Eliezer guitar panel, interviewed along with Robben Ford, Redd Volkaert, and Bruce Kulick, from 2pm at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre (Suite 1, Level 5), then takes part in the superjam in the Auditorium at 5pm on Sunday October 3. Finally, he also tours with drummer Terapi Richmond, hitting The Corner Hotel on Saturday November 20. Tickets through The Corner box office, 9427 9198 or cornerhotel.com