Hi Martin… Nice talking to you after all this time. Can you tell me what has happened since 2005 that we last talked… (I mean from the release of IQ’s “Dark Matter” since now).
M: Well quite a lot really! Since then I’ve left both Jadis and IQ and I’m now planning to get out of music completely. There’s been a lot going on in the outside world as well, and those things are not entirely unconnected.
Why did you decide to leave the band? In truth to be told IQ was your brainchild… what made you take the decision to leave it all behind? I think that it was a tough decision right?
M: It’s not completely true to say that IQ was my brainchild, and for some time now it’s really been Mike’s (Mike Holmes’) band. Although I was still writing most of the songs even at the time of “Dark Matter”, Mike long ago assumed the role of producer on all the band’s studio projects, and also control of how the live gigs were presented.
I have to say that this was all with the approval of the other members of IQ (or at least if it wasn’t, then they never said), but it certainly did not meet with my approval. I seemed to be writing all this material but then having no control at all over how those songs were arranged, or even any say in what keyboard sounds were used on the albums. This was clearly an unsatisfactory situation and the more time wore on, the more irritated I became that my songs were really not being improved at all by the intervention of the other members of IQ. In fact they were making them a lot worse, and I kept going back to my original demos and reflecting on how much better they were than the band’s versions of the same songs. So in the end, I walked – the music wasn’t being improved by going through the whole “band process”, and it just wasn’t any fun anymore.
So, after leaving IQ, you decided to record and release a solo album… Was this something that you had in mind when you were still on the band or was it something that came after you leave ‘em? Is the material of the album new or mainly it consists of ideas that you have gathered all this time for a new IQ album? Could this have been a new IQ album if you never left the band?
M: I think that in many ways “The Old Road” would have made an extremely good IQ album (with the possible exception of “Take It To The Sun”, which was always written with John Wetton in mind). But much of that material was rejected by the band at various times, and two whole songs (which became “Out In The Darkness” and “The Time And The Season”) were offered to IQ at the time of “Dark Matter” but met with little enthusiasm from the other members. Although some parts were recorded for “The Time And….”, it did not make the final cut for the album, and “Out In The Darkness” had so little support, that work on it was never even started.
So I had a situation where I had a whole disc-drive full of great material which was unlikely ever to be used by IQ, but which in my opinion was very much better than the material IQ was writing collectively for the next release. It would have been madness not to record it, and in retrospect, I think that IQ made some very poor decisions in rejecting that material.
OK. I’ll come back to your personal career after I ask you some things about your new solo album. Why did you name the album “The Old Road”? What this old road symbolizes?
M: I came up with the title for the album many years ago, and indeed the chorus of the title track has been in my mind for a while. But as I’ve become more and more disillusioned with much of what’s going on in the 21st century, it became clear that the album was taking shape as a celebration of doing things “the old way” and completely rejecting (or at least being very skeptical of) the fashions and opinions of the present day. I suppose I’ve always been like that really; I never found the need to be part of the latest social group or trend, and I’d rather work it all out for myself.
How the cover artwork is connected with the album title and the whole lyrical concept of the album? By the way, how can I visit the place that you have on the artwork? ;)
M: The cover artwork is a picture that I took of a bridge over an old railway line in the Forest Of Bere, near to where I live. Most people from my area now get to London via the M3 motorway, but until 1955 you could use the old Meon Valley railway which passed through some of the most spectacular countryside in the South of England, not to mention some cavernous and allegedly haunted tunnels.
Of course this particular “old road” was a lot slower than the route that people use now, but I can’t help thinking that it was the better way to go.
If you want to visit the bridge on the cover, it’s on the A32 road between Wickham and Droxford.
The paper sheet says that you describe the album as “unashamedly retro and proud of it”…can you explain with more words what do you mean by that?
M: Well every time I release an album, you can be sure that someone reviewing it will say something like “this is totally derivative and unoriginal”. Well this time I’m saying “yes, I know it is, and actually I don’t care”. I can’t be bothered with trying to push the boundaries of music, I know the things that I like in an album and I know how to write good songs, so I have no interest at all in being experimental. Experiments belong in laboratories, not in my CD player! (interviewer’s comment: I totally agree with that.)
Well… can you tell as some things about the all star line-up of the album? World known musicians are participating on it… such as: John Wetton, Nick D’ Virgilio, Dave Meros, John Mitchell, Dave Oberle, Gary Chandler and Steve Thorne.
M: I can tell you that they’re all fabulous players, and it was a joy to work with them all. “The Old Road” was such an easy album to make, and not only was it made with no arguments whatsoever, there were hardly any discussions either, because all the musicians just knew instinctively what to do. They needed hardly any guidance from me at all.
Did you take care of the recordings and of the production yourself? The final result is stunning and has a nostalgic “old days” feeling. Did you intended to do such a thing?
M: I produced the album, and Rob Aubrey engineered the final mix, though quite a lot of the recording I did at home. I guess if it has an “old” sound to it then that’s down to the way I do things, rather than the equipment used. The album was actually recorded 100% digitally with some of the most modern gear available, but that did nothing to blunt its old-world charm.
It seems that you do not really care about the critics and the “new” fans that they want easy listening songs and not too long ones. The album “follows” the “old path” of prog rock music with long playing tracks and music that needs several listens to get into it. Do you believe that people in a “fast-food – fast-everything” time period would easily “understand an album like “The Old Road”.
M: I’m way past caring what anyone thinks about my music, and I don’t feel that I’m part of that “popularity contest” anymore. So I just made a CD that I liked, and everyone else can make up their own minds about it.
The album is being released by your label Giant Electric Pea, which is also the label that IQ’s albums were being released. Is this going to change from now on?
M: No, why should it? I have no intention of making any more albums, so there would be no point in looking for a new record label.
I also read that you have decided to leave the music scene? Is this something that you will have to re-consider or is it final? This is a pity…which are those reasons that made you take such a decision?
M: Yes, I’ve decided to get out of music completely. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but having taken a close look at the Internet and the way it has changed music, I find the current climate completely unacceptable to work in.
I remember when we have talked back in 2005 (for IQ’s new album back then) and I asked you about the internet and the problems that has caused to music in general you replied me: “The Internet is generally good for us as it’s an easy way for people to buy our CDs without having to search through loads of record shops. I’m not crazy about people downloading music from the Internet, but fortunately that hasn’t affected us too badly so far”. So, what happened and you completely “dislike”, as you say, the “free music” culture?
M: Yes I now completely 100% despise the Internet and the “free music culture”. When I spoke to you in 2005, many of us were still on dial-up, and illegal downloading wasn’t too big a problem, but since the advent of cheap and fast broadband, it’s just spiraled out of control. Our back catalogue CD sales didn’t so much gradually decrease, they pretty much stopped overnight in January 2006, when I guess many people (me included) were getting on the broadband bandwagon. It became quite clear that most people weren’t buying albums anymore, they were just taking them for free from all the torrent and blog sites which had appeared overnight like a bunch of poisonous mushrooms.
Of course the inevitable consequence of this is that the money needed to make new albums has simply disappeared; we only ever really just about broke even in the prog rock world anyway, so this was a major kick in the teeth.
But worst of all, it seemed that music fans, having tasted free music, were now getting nasty, and were in the mood to exploit musicians and record companies as much as they could, believing that we all live in castles and drive Lamborghinis and therefore deserve to be punished.
But of course, the politics of this was all screwed. The illegal downloaders seem to view free music as a deeply Socialist thing –“sharing” they call it to make it sound lovely and nice. But it’s nothing of the sort; it’s people who can perfectly well afford to buy CDs stealing music from musicians who were struggling to live even before the Internet got out of control. So the eventual outcome will be that the only people left making music are going to be the independently wealthy who can afford to make albums with their own money without caring about making a loss. And don’t expect them to be the best people for the job…..
The arguments of the pro-downloaders are just so pathetic too:
“You’ve got to have a new business model” Well I only know of one way of doing business; you make something and then you sell it for a profit. Making something and then giving it away to make a huge loss is not a business model and it never will be.
“Downloading is part of the modern world so you’ve just got to accept it” So is gun and knife crime, so are we just going to let people kill each other and do nothing about that either?
“Musicians will have to make their money from live concerts in future”. Really???!!!! We never did. And if you can find one gig promoter anywhere in the world who has doubled what he pays bands just because he feels sorry for them losing their CD sales I’ll be stunned and amazed.
“Copyright is an outdated concept; musicians should not have the right to own the music they make - it should belong to everyone” Actually this is quite a scary opinion because if you take it to its logical conclusion, will the people who believe this stop with musicians, or will they take this mad campaign even further? It’s not much of a jump from “all music should be free” to “all food should be free”, so will we see armed gangs of downloaders pillaging the supermarkets next? That’s actually anarchy.
As you’ll have gathered, I don’t enormously like what many music fans have turned into; having got their means to access free music they’re now guarding it like a bunch of wild dogs with a piece of meat.
I’ve tried reasoning with them, and when that fails, trying to get their websites shut down, but all I’ve got in return is a load of abuse and even death threats.
So the bottom line is that I won’t be wasting the next 3 or 4 years of my life making more free music (at my expense) for a bunch of people I don’t like.
I know that we are on a terminal point where the music fans have to re-consider their way of getting their music… I mean that if more musicians decide to leave the scene due to the people’s bad habit of downloading their music instead of buying their albums, then no-one will produce music anymore… that will be a total music destruction. (we all then have to listen to Britney, Madonna, and all those boy-gay-bands and to beauty-sexy girls…the music end is at hand!) ;))
M: I predicted the end of the music business about 18 months ago when I said that music had a life expectancy of 3 years at best. Many people laughed at that opinion and said that I was being ridiculous, but if anything I underestimated the scale of the problem. The death of the music industry is not idle speculation on my part; it’s here now –IT’S ARRIVED!!!!!
On Wednesday December 3rd Pinnacle Entertainment went bust. It was the largest distributor of Independent music in the UK, distributing nearly 400 labels. All of those labels (most of which were struggling anyway) suffered huge financial losses, and it is not clear if we will even be able to get our stock back. Most of those labels will go out of business too – they were the backbone of music in the UK, and all the interesting non-mainstream music was there.
For me personally, it means that for all of the copies of “The Old Road” that have been sold in the UK, I won’t get a penny. Although I’m sure that getting out of the music business is the right thing to do, unfortunately I just didn’t do it quickly enough.
Very soon all that will be left in music will be the big stadium acts and the hobby musicians making demo albums in their bedrooms. There will be a huge gaping void in between where the best music used to be made.
And what are you planning to do now that you will leave the music scene? Can you really leave behind the thing that you love so much and has “marked” your whole life?
M: I have no definite plans. But any little job will do; stacking shelves in a supermarket or selling stamps in a post office; that kind of thing. But I absolutely refuse to work with the Internet; as far as I am concerned it’s the worst invention in the history of mankind, and I consider it to be my natural enemy.
Leaving music will be no problem for me; I liked what it was, but I don’t like what it’s become now.
I believe that quality is what our music is missing on this time period. Everything is so similar and so easy-going that most of the fans truly are confused. Which is this “force” that will bring back things to what they used to be… to a time period that music was art…?
M: There’s plenty of quality about if you know where to look for it, but it’s not in the mainstream of music anymore. But generally I think that if people forgot about keeping up with the next trend or technological advance and just concentrated on writing good songs instead, we’d all be better for it. By the way I certainly don’t consider my music to be art; I’m very much a craftsman rather than an artist. So you won’t find any improvisation on any of my albums because I really don’t like that sort of thing, but hopefully what I do is beautifully constructed like a fine piece of furniture.
How difficult is to survive and to succeed in a music world that is ruled by irrelevant people that promote shit-wannabe-good pop music all the time… without caring about music’s quality?
M: To be honest, the “organized” music industry has never really bothered me. If they want to churn out manufactured pop acts, that doesn’t affect what I do. Sure, it would be nice if the big labels invested in more interesting music, but they haven’t done that for more than 30 years anyway, and I don’t expect them to start now. Compared with the Internet, the “Music Business” doesn’t pose any intentional threat to independent acts and I don’t see a problem in co-existing with it. My arguments are really not with the music business.
So, what’s your advice to the new people and bands that are dealing with music in general? Is it worth the trying or not?
M: My advice to all musicians who rely on music for even a small part of their income is GET OUT NOW!!!! And to any young people thinking about getting into music, I would strongly advise them to consider something else instead. Music comes with a dream attached, and that dream has gone. I could never contemplate teaching music now because I just can’t recommend it to a bunch of kids who are going to get their dreams shattered very quickly.
OK, let’s change subject. Which are those musicians that you always wanted to work with and you never had the chance?
M: I’ve been very lucky to be able to work with virtually all of my favourite musicians over the years. Some of those were just one-offs and for instance I would love to have played more than one gig with Steve Hackett (he made a guest appearance with the John Wetton band once), or maybe spent some more time working with Andy Latimer. I did once audition for Camel, but though I’d love to have done it, the timing was all wrong for me as it was just at the time “Subterranea” was being released. Two singers I’d like to have worked with but never did, would be Derek Shulman and Jon Anderson.
What things can make you laugh and cry in your life?
M: My taste in humour is actually pretty unsophisticated, and I don’t “get” a lot of modern “alternative comedy”. Something a bit more slapstick and earthy like Benny Hill normally makes me laugh, but I also like some of the classics like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder.
I try not to cry at all if I can possibly avoid it.
If you could go back in time in any time-period where would you go and why?
M: It sounds strange but I’d have liked to have been around during World War Two. An incredibly dangerous but extremely interesting time in history.
Can tell me, according to you, which are the three best rock (prog, melodic, no matter what) albums of all time, the three best voices in rock music ever and the best line-up that could record the best album in the world… (from all time periods of music history).
M: This is a difficult one for me to answer because I very rarely listen to music, and my record and CD collection is minuscule compared with most people. I can think of very few albums that I like all the way through, so can I choose 3 tracks instead? (in no particular order)
“Goodbye To Love” (The Carpenters)
Karen Carpenter is the best singer of all time – no-one else comes close.
Best band lineup? I think the guys on “The Old Road” are pretty close to being the best you can get.
Thx so much Martin that you took the time to answer to my questions. Do not misjudged me but I hope that someday, when the situation will change for the better in music industry, to have you back again in order to offers us your inspiring music. Thx for the music all those years. Never say never so… who knows maybe we will talk again sooner than we both think… Take care.
M: Thanks Thanos! But I don’t think I’ll be back, unless the Internet contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. I dearly hope it does, so we can all get back to life as it was.