Listen to the Interview with Jeff Martin
An Interview with Jeff Martin, The Tea Party
It is hard to believe that it has been twenty years since Canadian alternative rock band, The Tea Party released their chart-topping album Transmission. The album became a fan-favourite as fans fell in love with tracks like “Temptation,” “Psychopomp,” “Release” and “Transmission.” Now the trio will be touring Australia recreating the album live and have a few surprises for their fans as well.
When Heavy Mag chats to Jeff Martin, he is in his Byron Bay studio and is only too eager to tell the band’s fans exactly what they have in store for them. He laughs when I ask him whether it feels like twenty years have passed since they recorded Transmission.
“It does, and it doesn’t,” he says taking a deep breath. “I know that sounds very enigmatic for an answer but a lot has passed in twenty years since the creation of that record, and it has definitely had a mark on all three of us; collectively and individually. There have been lots of positives, and there has been tribulations and trials as well. So that being said, yeah, it does feel like twenty years since then because a lot of us have done a lot of soul-searching and a lot of growing up, we were twenty-six and twenty-seven-year-old men when we made that record. I’ll tell you this, though, when we started to do the Transmission tour in Canada, back in February, we discovered that there were six tracks on the album that we had actually never performed live, so I guess this is where I say it doesn’t feel like twenty years is because when I listened to that record I realised that the music and the statements that are being made poetically on that record are just as relevant today, both musically and poetically, as they were back then so it feels like no time has passed.”
“It is cathartic,” says Jeff when I ask what it is like revisiting tracks from twenty years ago from an artistic point of view. “Obviously, I am a different man to what I was back then and being the main songwriter from the band means that a lot of that on my shoulders; schematically, the songs and the messages that I am putting out with my lyrics that was some pretty heavy shit that I was putting out back then. It was very heavy, philosophically and poetically. It was a dark place, but there was also beauty in that darkness that was created on that record. Every record that The Tea Party has done I hold dear to my heart but Edges and Transmission there is something musically mystical going on with those two records, and I am so proud of both, and I am so excited about our Australian audience finally getting to see this record done in its entirety, because I am telling you if we play this show like we did back in Canada back in February then you are in for the most powerful Tea Party performance that you have ever seen.”
As we talk about the tracks on Transmission that the band have never played live before Jeff says, “For the Tea Party it is probably different then what it is like for other bands because there is only the three of us on stage but the music that we make on record is very large thereon sonic landscapes which makes it difficult for a three-piece. For me, I can either get the glory or the blame for that because I am the producer, but that is just the way that we saw and heard our music, and that is the way that we wanted to create it as recording artists, but as a live artist, The Tea Party has always had to distil our own music because we don’t have other musicians on stage. We don’t use backing tapes, and we don’t do anything like that. So it is almost like we take a very holistic approach. I say that in rock ‘n’ roll terms, to our music, and we are distilling to down to get to the very essence of what it is to play it live, so it ends up becoming a much more intense experience. Well, it is a different experience that is for sure.
I ask Jeff whether the band knew that Transmission was going to become such a special album for so many people when they were recording it twenty years ago, and he says, “When I let go of the final fader on the mixing console – and you just have to let it go – I think the three of us knew that we had created something special. A song like ‘Temptation’ was just simply put – undeniable. And then there were these beautiful melancholic songs like ‘Psychopomp’ and ‘Release’ that we just knew would resonate with the times that we were all facing back then. And like I said coming full circle, things that we are all facing once again.”
Heading into this tour, The Tea Party have been back in the studio and re-working some tracks from the album that fans will be able to purchase at the Australian shows, and Jeff is only too happy to talk us through them. “The four tracks are the four seminal tracks off the album,” he explains. “They are ‘Temptation,’ ‘Psychopomp,’ ‘Release’ and ‘Transmission’, and the reason that we decided to re-record them was because those four songs, well especially those first three, have been staples of our live set ever since we released Transmission and we have always played those songs. I mean, if we didn’t play them, there would be a riot on our hands at the concert, but those songs have somewhat evolved with the way that we play them, the swagger and everything has changed because when you have recorded a song it is brand new but we thought it would be very interesting to start from scratch – completely from the ground up – and record the songs, playing the same parts, so to speak, but then adding the things that we have added over the years live and see what the results would be. It was more of an experiment at first, we just wanted to see what would happen, we had no intention to release them. So when Jeff and Stuart were here with me at Riverhouse and recording new music that will see the light of day next year we just had a laugh and then just started playing the drums from ‘Temptation’ and then Stuart added some bass, and we just thought: ‘where can we take this’, and it ended up being something that we are all very proud of, so we had to let the fans have it. I think the hardest part was the muscle-memory because there are some pretty intricate parts to those songs and it’s cool because it’s not like a prog rock thing or anything. I can’t stand that word, and I’m not a big fan of the music either because it’s like you’re making music difficult for the sake of being difficult. What I have always insisted on with The Tea Party’s music is the ‘sex’ needs to come first. If it’s not sexy, then it isn’t going on the record. ”
The band have also put together a special limited edition Transmission coffee table book that will be available at the gigs and Jeff says that is all Stuart’s doing. “Most of the glory for that has to go to Stuart,” he says with a laugh. “He is the archivist of the band, and I can’t believe some of the things that he has kept over the years, but I’m glad he has. Just the memories and the experiences make up the photo essay that it is, and when it was laid out in front of me, it almost brought tears to my eyes because it was just like the impact and the veracity of that time, we were accomplishing the artistic fire that was in our proverbial bellies. The band has had many zeniths, and that was certainly one of them… and I believe another one is just around the corner.”
Tickets are on sale for The Tea Party’s ‘Transmission TX20’ Australian National Tour.’
THE TEA PARTY TX20 AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Friday 27 October, The Astor Theatre, Perth
www.astortheatreperth.com or 1300 111 369
Thursday 2 November, Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Friday 3 November, The Odeon Theatre, Hobart
Saturday 4 November, The Forum, Melbourne
Thursday 9 November, The Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane
Friday 10 November, The Enmore, Sydney