banner ad
banner ad
banner ad


| 23 October 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Martin Barre the guitarist of Jethro Tull for over 43 years, his sound and playing was a major factor in their success. Album sales have exceeded 60 million units and they continue to be played worldwide, representing an important part of classic rock history. Martin’s guitar playing has earned him a high level of respect and recognition; he was voted 25th best solo ever in the USA and 20th best solo ever in the UK for his playing on ‘Aqualung’. His playing on the album ‘Crest of a Knave’ earned him a Grammy award in 1989. As well as numerous Jethro Tull albums, Martin has worked with many other artists including Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Joe Bonamassa and Chris Thompson and has shared a stage with such legends as Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Martin has put together a band to play the “classic” music from the Tull catalogue. His band is a total commitment to give the Tull fans and a broader audience the chance to hear tracks not performed for many years.” We were able to grab some phone time with Martin to discuss “new” music and more…

Toddstar: Thanks once again for taking time to speak with me.  I had the pleasure of speaking with you a few years ago and I’m very excited to speak to you about “50 Years of Jethro Tull”, your newest two-disc release that’s been out a couple weeks now. What can you tell us about this collection that fans of yourself, and fans of Jethro Tull might, might not grab the first or second time they listen through the collection?

Martin: What they might not grab? Oh, I don’t know. Well, there’s no mysteries in there, but some of those tracks I’ve been playing with the Martin Barre Band, and then when we were touring in the States and we went to South America and did some UK dates with a “50 Years” tour celebration with Dee Palmer and Clive Bunker. So this was all happening in the same year, but essentially it’s my 50 year celebration, Jethro Tull’s was the year before. The band started in ’68, and nothing happened. There was no big party, no special releases, absolutely nothing at all. I thought, “Well, that’s crazy.” It’s really unfair to fans because I think it means a lot to them that we’ve had 50 years. So, I thought, “Right, I’m going to make sure that my 50 years anniversary is something special.” And so I sort of started planning the album a year before, and it’s a collection of songs we’re playing live, some of my favorite old tracks, and then the acoustics as well, but I just wanted to bring all these elements together. And at first I was going to have famous guests play on it, and I changed my mind. I just thought, “You know what? They mustn’t be the focus of what it’s all about.” So I just got everybody on the CD, they’re really good friends, mean a lot to me, and we’ve sort of grown up through the music of Jethro Tull and touring together.

Toddstar: I keep going back to “Nothing To Say” – there’s something about that one that just keeps grabbing me over and over every time I listen through it all. How did you go about cultivating a huge catalog, down to these songs? Are you these songs that just struck a chord within you, or they’re just things that easily came to you? How did you cultivate this list from the songs you had available to you?

Martin: Well, I really like them. It’s as simple as that. And I have the luxury, seeing I’m the boss of the Martin Barre Band, of making decisions or suggestions about what we play. And I love my solo material and try and promote that, but this last year I’ve turned my attention to the 50th Anniversary. But it’s an easy decision because there are some great classic tracks, there are sort of big guitar riffs, big drumming. They’re fun to play, and they’re fun to play by a rock band. And my guys are exactly that, they’re rock and roll, loud, dynamic, powerful, and all that stuff is so much fun to play live. And it’s a selection of a huge amount of music that we can play. We probably could have done four discs. There’s more to come. A DVD’s coming out next month and it has the complete show on it with Dee Palmer and Clive Bunker. And it’s a live show, St. Louis, May 2019. So there’s a lot more tracks on that as well.

Toddstar: That said Martin, how tempted were you to take some of these songs and maybe change up the arrangements, or go back to arrangements that you had originally considered when writing or performing songs the first time around? Or was it really important to you to really just pay homage to the legacy?

Martin: I think it’s a combination. And some tracks, I mess about with them because I’m that way. But “New Day Yesterday,” I just sort of changed the feel of it because I’ve been playing it with Joe Bonamassa when he toured with us a few years ago. And then “Locomotive Breath,” I just thought, “There’s so many versions of it live.” I want people to play it and go, “Wow, that’s different.” I don’t want anything to be predictable, so some things I have fun with and swap about. But essentially the song, in my mind, is intact and hopefully what I do with it that does it justice. It’s just a combination. I don’t have to stick to the rules. Sometimes I do and it works, other times I mess about. But I can promise you that if I mess about with something and the fans don’t like it, they definitely tell me. Or they would tell. They haven’t yet, but they certainly would say what they think.

Toddstar: Going through the list, and the CD collection itself has about 28 songs, there are some that they’re calling “bonus tracks” on there, and those are live versions. Going through here, are there any songs that when you were going through rerecording them for this collection, you thought, “Nah, let’s not do this one,” but it turned out well enough that you wanted to keep it, or was everything decided on from the onset?

Martin: No, we knew exactly what we were going to do, and we did it. With the live tracks, the electric tracks, I think we were going to do more. We were going to do “Aqualung,” and we’d had a really great day in the studio. It was all down, most of it was first takes, all live, including the vocals. And it was sort of on the bottom of my list is “Aqualung.” Why is it? It’s a long story. But it’s an important track, it’s so well recorded and documented. I just thought, “You know what? We’re not going to do it because it will have more importance than I want it to have.” And I just thought, “You haven’t got to do the big hit,” to try and give the fans something a bit different, a little bit of a left of sense. So it was “yes” or “no”, and literally there and then I said, “Don’t let’s do Aqualung.” And they’re all going, “Yeah, we’ve got to do Aqualung.” I said, “No, let’s make it different.” So there you go.

Toddstar: Yeah, I’ve mentioned the legendary catalog of Jethro Tull and then your solo works, but I think that’s the one song everybody almost expects to see. So I think the fact that you didn’t throw it on here was a great surprise.

Martin: It’s on the DVD, but then because it’s visual, it’s fresh and new. But another live version of “Aqualung” would just join dozens that are on YouTube and I thought, “Okay, it’ll still be there. It’s not going anywhere.” We were happy with what we did and we had loads of fun and there was nothing we recorded that we didn’t use, which is nice. So we were really happy with everything.

Toddstar: I reached out to a friend of mine I’ve known 30 plus years that is a huge Jethro Tull fan. And I said, “If you could ask Martin one or two questions?” And the first thing that came to his mind is “Why, in your opinion, is Jethro Tull still not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and do you think it has anything to do with Chrysalis not sending you guys the Grammy’s?”

Martin: I don’t, no. But I think that’s a separate issue. Having said that, to be honest I had never thought of that. But we were looked upon as being rude, not being there. People didn’t like the fact we weren’t there, but the record company refused to… We could have jumped on a plane ourselves, but they wouldn’t take us over there. They said, “You’ve got no chance of winning. Don’t even bother.” And the drummer who lived in LA at the time, they didn’t even get him a ticket. It was awful. We’re not rude people and things mean a lot to us, so it was a shame. That’s probably one of my big regrets, ever. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ve met the people, we’ve done the VIP tour with the Martin Barre Band, they’re really nice people. It’s a great place. I don’t have a problem at all. If one day they ask us in, that’d be incredible. I would be very, very proud. If they don’t, then I’ll just enjoy going there like all the other visitors and look at all that incredible stuff they’ve got there. I think the fans are more concerned than I am. It’s gone on so long that it’s almost a joke. When you see the nominations for the next year, I’m not even expecting anything. It’s almost a relief when we’re not there because it’s gone on so long. Yeah, I’d love to be in there, everybody would, but I’m absolutely fine with it.

Toddstar: That’s good hear. Because there are some artists who are out there who are still bitter that they’re not in for one reason or the other, whether everybody believes they should be or not. They hear somebody say “yay” or “nay”, I’ve got my own credits to stand on.

Martin: Yeah. It’s a nice thing, but is it important? I suppose it is important because I want to be a part of the history of music, but I’m not pompous enough to think that I’m owed a place in history. If it’s given to you or granted to you, and you can’t expect it. You just have to sit and wait.

Toddstar: What’s your take on – I’ll use the term “tribute band”. My friend also mentioned that, and I know he did when he would travel abroad, he would always try and plan it around things by the Dayglo Pirates.

Martin: Oh yeah, yeah.

Toddstar: What’s your take on bands like that, that try to carry on the legacy of the original incarnation of the band?

Martin: Well, good luck to them. And it’s nice, I’m very flattered that people, young kids, want to play our music. It’s the nicest compliment you can have. I meet a lot of people, but when these young kids and they play guitar and they’re learning my stuff, that’s a fantastic feeling. So I’m pleased that they’re doing what they do. I even go and play with a tribute band in Italy, or I haven’t for a while, but just because they’re nice people and I like to sort of be a guest and help them out. I think it’s an important part of entertainment. And it’s big, the Australian Pink Floyd, the Brit Pink Floyd, but that they sell 20,000 seat concerts. They’re huge, but that they sound amazing. But they’re not Pink Floyd, but people didn’t care. It’s healthy. I think it puts everybody in their place, that however amazing you think you are, you are replaceable. And I think that’s healthy. I think it keeps everybody firmly on the ground.

Toddstar: You talk about bands influencing the young kids today, and they’re not young kids anymore, but there are certainly players who have cited you. You mentioned Joe Bonamassa, you’ve got guys like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson. These guys all cited you as an influence. If you had to go back and pick, who really drove your love of the blues style of playing guitar to make you want to do this, Martin?

Martin: Right. Well, I’ve never really listened to blues, although I’m a big Stevie Ray Vaughan fan and I love Robben Ford. But I listen outside of guitars that I’ve heard, but I think the one guy that influenced me was Leslie West. And I think it’s just because we toured with them in the early seventies, and in that period bands were really unfriendly. There was a lot of competition and there was all this sort of rivalry, which was horrible. But they were the first, but they didn’t care about any of that. They were just really fun people, and the way they communicated on stage, the way they behaved, I learnt a lot from that. Leslie was a great person, a great player, had a great sound, but I didn’t try and emulate him or copy him, but he just inspired me to work harder at my job. And I think that’s the same with any music. I hear her a piece of classical music that’s beautiful, and I think if I could write a melody a hundredth as good as that one, I’d be really pleased. So it inspires you in another way, inspires me in another way. But yeah, there’s so many great guitar players. I would pick Robben Ford as being one guy I listened to. Scott Henderson’s another, Gary Moore another guy. But there’s a lot of guitar solos out there, and I probably stopped listening to them. It’s a danger that everything gets a bit tired. But Gary Moore carried the flag to the sort of rock blues player, and now Joe Bonamassa has taken that flag up and he’s great at what he does. He’s really, really good, but he’s created a niche and you need to leave him alone. Yeah, it’s no good copying him. It’s good to learn from him. So if you’re a kid learning guitar, listen to his solos because they’re really rhythmic and beautifully constructed, exciting dynamics. But you can learn that from a piano player, from listening to Elgar, or Beethoven, or Buddy Rich Band. There’s so much out there to be inspired by.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy Martin, so I’ve got one more for you before we let you go, if you don’t mind. Obviously you want to ride the wave of this collection, again, the “50 Years of Jethro Tull” which has been out a couple of weeks now and take it to the fans, but with everything that’s said and done, you didn’t have to do any writing on this. So everything that’s been bottled up since you released Roads Less Traveled back in 2018… have you got more material for the Martin Barre Band available, ready to be done, ready to be recorded and unleashed on your fans?

Martin: Oh, yes I do. Oh, indeed I do. I work on cassettes. That’s pathetic, but I’ve got a Dictaphone cassette machine. And I’ve got like two hours. My best ideas, I put it on a cassette, and then when the cassette is full I go back and listen to the lot and sort of work on the better ones. So I’m sort of at stage two, I’ve got a lot of cool ideas, wrist chord sequences, different feels. And probably in the new year I’m going to start looking at them, because I always say that the next solo record I do is going to be the most important one, but certainly that’s true of the next one. So it’s a lot of work and I’m really looking forward to it. The temptation is to do it now, but the “50 Years” CD is out, the DVD is going to be out, we’re not on the road. I think I need to pace myself so that at the end of this winter I’ve got a really big project to get my teeth into, and that will be my next solo album. But yeah, I love writing and I just want to get better and better at doing it.

Toddstar: Well, I for one can’t wait for the world to open up and you be able to put some music out proper and tour again. I’d love to see you in Detroit, it’s been a while.

Martin: I’d love it.

Toddstar: And on behalf of my good friend, Adam, who lives and dies by the Tull flag, thank you for all you’ve done in music and the fact that you continue to keep that legacy alive, as well as building on your own.

Martin: Yeah, thank you. And I will carry on. Thank you, Todd. Nice to talk to you again.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad