Morning Becomes Eclectic

Nic Harcourt
KCRW California

NH: It's Morning Becomes Eclectic, it's 27 minutes after eleven and a very good morning to John Martyn and band.
JM: Good morning all...
NH: Thanks so much for coming in
JM: Well I'm hoping so, partly dull they all may be...

NH: Got a brand new album, which I believe is going to be released domestically as they say next Tuesday on the Thirsty Ear record label,
JM: So they say...
NH: So they tell you.
JM: I'm the last to know these things.
NH: Currently available on the Independiente label.
JM: Yes, now we're talking, Independiente!
NH: That's the one, it took me a long time to learn how to say that properly, I'm telling you.
It's called Church With One Bell, and you are actually performing in town as well, you're going to be at the Troubadour tonight!
JM: This very evening.
NH: Looking forward to that. This album, it's all covers...
JM: Yeah, the church next door, it was going to be bought by these idiots. I did not fancy idiots living in the church next door.
NH: Is the church next door to where you live?
JM: Yeah. I just kind of phoned the record company and said: 'Can I have, buy the church please?' They tried for me to pass and said, 'Give us a record of covers and we will buy the church.' So they sent us lots of songs and we sat round and waited 'til we all smiled at the same time, and we thought, OK we'll do that one... Every time we smiled simultaneously, that seemed like a good idea.
NH: I was going to say, how did you pick the songs, but it sounds like a fairly simple process.
JM: Very simple!

NH: Some of the people that you have covered on this album, I mean, it's a diverse range of artists. Obviously, if they made you smile, then you have a pretty broad base of musical taste and style...
JM: Death Don't Have No Mercy is not exactly a laughable, you know, it's not exactly a thigh-slapper.
NH: But it made you smile nonetheless...
JM: Yes.
NH: I know you are going to play a couple of songs for us from the album. But you're also going to play another couple of songs. Actually the first one you have ready: She's A Lover. Tell us a little bit about this song?
JM: It is about an ex girl-friend of mine, which was released on an album called And, which was on Go! disks, which has now become Independiente.
NH: So that's not that long ago either?
JM: No, about seven of eight months ago.
NH: OK, you are going to play us a couple of songs, and then we will come back and talk a little bit more.
JM: (sighing) I'd like to go...

[She's a lover plays in a live version, changing halfway into Solid Air]

NH: Live music from John Martyn with his band: Spencer Cozens on keyboards, Arran Ahmun on drums and Jim Lampi -I hope I'm getting these names right- on the Chapman stick. You ended up zigging these two songs together, She's a Lover into Solid Air.
JM: Snolid air, yes.
NH: Solid Air, written quite a while ago, actually written for a friend of yours, I believe, at the time. You wrote that for Nick Drake.
JM: I did indeed.
NH: Is that a song that you have in your repertoire these days for a particular reason?
JM: People expect it of me (laughs).
NH: Really? So that's why you play it, because of the connection and the expectations.
JM: Well, I like putting the two together, as well. It's the same.
NH: It was a seemless transition there, I actually thought all of a sudden: Oh, he's playing the other song now. I can understand why you do it. Beautiful stuff from John Martyn, he will be performing tonight with the band at the Troubadour. And the latest CD is called Church With One Bell. Let's talk about the current album again.
As I said, you covered a diverse range of artists, including people like Randy Newman, Ben Harper, which I think is like a single, Excuse Me Mister.
JM: (yawning) It is indeed.
NH: And Portishead as well, I'm interested to know what attracted you to re-interpreting the music for Portishead.
JM: I don't know, just like I said, all the band smiled at the same time, so I'll do that.

NH: If a song catches you, is it because of the melody? Is it because of lyrical content?
JM: Mostly melody. I mean, obviously good lyrics will always help...
NH: Sure. And so you can see past the electronic stuff, or the various genres...
JM: Portishead uses a lot of samples and stuff, it's not really in my bag, but I mean, I have been into samples, a few...
NH: So what is going on with the band right now. You have obviously put this band together to tour.
JM: We've done quite a bit really. We came primarily to do the Fleadh, the Guinness Fleadh. Or the Fledh,
NH: The Flee-ad!
JM: It's very funny, the scalpers were selling tickets at Chicago: 'Get your Fled tickets here! Tickets for the Fled!'
NH: For those who don't know, the Fleadh (or the Fled, whichever you prefer, I guess it depends on how much Guinness you have been on); is a series of festivals that has been held over in -
It means 'festival' in Irish, doesn't it?
JM: It does indeed, yes, it means 'We shall get together'.
NH: They kind of put them together and started doing them in London, a number of years ago. And then they did the first one in New York last year (1997, ed.), and it kind of travelled a little bit this year.
JM: Yes indeed, we get to travel about.
NH: Where have you been?
JM: Me? I have been all over the shop. Not necessarily to..., I play music just for fun, really.
NH: So did you come over to do the Fleadh festivals and then...
JM: That's right, and then I got into a couple of things around it, so we won't get too bored.
NH: Are you rapping up tonight, in LA?
JM: Yip, that's the end of it.
NH: Usually that's the way it works; you sort of get across to the other side of the country and go home. What's going on for the summer for you?
JM: Let me think, I'm recording all the way through August, and in September I think we are doing a bit of Europe, and maybe we are even going to Aus.
NH: Going down under...
JM: Yes.
NH: Say no more. Let's hear some more music. I know you've got a couple of other songs for us, the next one up is Excuse Me Mister, from John Martyn...

[Excuse Me Mister live]

NH: A Ben Harper composition, terrific version of that song, Excuse Me Mister. I have got a request here by fax, not a request for music but a request for a question. Which is kind of interesting to get that in.
'I wonder if you can ask John Martyn a question on my behalf and that is: on what album or albums, if you can remember, does Museum appear?' Which I guess is a Donovan track, that you may have covered at one point ore another?
JM: Never heard of it.
NH: Never heard of it. There you go, there's the answer to that. Hang on a minute (trashes the fax paper) There you go. Done.
JM: Wrong... (giggles): Museum?!1

NH: How many songs have you recorded over your career. You must have recorded hundreds...
JM: Well, 27 albums, ten at a go, 270 I suppose.
NH: Do you remember them all?
JM: No (laughs). Well, not all of them, but I remember a good number of them.
NH: You did a lot of albums in the seventies for the Island record label. In fact, if I am correct, you were the first white guy signed to Island by Chris Blackwell back then.
JM: (yawns) I was indeed...
NH: You have had a varied career. Made a lot of records as you said, over the years.
JM: 'Checkered' is the word.
NH: Checkered. I was going to say that, but I thought 'varied' was a little more diplomatic.
JM: Okay, checkered, who cares.
NH: And actually 'checkered', you checked out of the scene a couple of times as well, taking some time to...
JM: I have indeed. I intend to do it again, very shortly, (laughs) two minutes actually...
NH: You are going to another rest?
JM: No, I am going to take some time out in the early part of next year, just to kind of learn computers and that kind of stuff. I want to catch up with some Apple Mac stuff for mixing and editing, I have got all this gear and I never use it.
NH: So you have the stuff but you need to be trained.
JM: Exactly, I need to be trained, precisely.

NH: Well, John Martyn performs tonight at the Troubadour. A little later on, we are going to give our listeners a chance to win some tickets to come and see you tonight. We have got one song left for us too, this is the Portishead track that's on the album Church With One Bell. I want to thank you for coming in. We will come back and say thanks again at the end, because I think we just should squeeze this in, it is Glory Box, right?
JM: Hope so...

[Glory Box live]

NH: Church With One Bell, currently available on import, on the Independiente record label. The song you were just listening to: Glory Box. Great version of that song. I want to thank you guys so much for coming in.
JM: Thank you for having us, dear boy.
NH: We really appreciate it. You live next to a church, the one in the photo on the front?
JM: I shouldn't have it, I live in the church!
NH: You live in the church now! That's where you are setting up all the Macintosh computers, and everything, there.
JM: No, no, I keep those separate. My reverence does not stretch that far. It's a very peaceful place to be, it's very cool.
NH: Thanks again for coming in, we appreciate it, have a great summer, good luck tonight at the Troubadour.

1The sender of the fax is probably referring to Beverley Martyn's third single Museum from 1967 (Deram DM 137). The flipside was by a different artist.