TONY MARTIN "Uncaged"

By The Sun Jester

Initially coming to worldwide prominence in 1987 as lead singer for Black Sabbath, Tony Martin appeared on the Sabbath albums The Eternal Idol, Headless Cross, Tyr, Cross Purposes, and Forbidden. Following his time with Black Sabbath, Martin has been involved with projects as diverse as singing for Mickey Moody's version of Whitesnake, M3, Black Widow, Rondinelli, Forcefield, and Empire, among others.

Martin is firmly within the tradition of multi-talented classic rock vocalists who can tackle hard rock, ballads, bluesy material, and acoustic music. He first paired those talents with Italian axe-master Dario Mollo on 1999's The Cage and followed it up with 2002's The Cage Two. This new album, The Third Cage, is their first collaboration in ten years.

 Wormwood Chronicles are grateful that Tony consented to answer questions about this new album, as well as touching on aspects of his career and the future of music.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  Share with us your memories of first meeting Dario and what it is about your creative partnership with him that differs from your past collaborators.

TONY MARTIN :I met Dario when I was working on another project called the Giuntini Project, I had been invited by a producer called Kit Wolvern to go to Italy and work with them. Dario was the then engineer/owner of the studio and part way through the Giuntini Project they played me some other songs and asked me if i liked it and wondered if I would be able to do something with it. I took it away with me and after the Giuntini Project was over i tried a few songs and it kinda came together so we set about making a new project out of it.

WC: What tracks, in particular, stand out for you on the new album?
TM: Well the ones that stand up for me tend to be the ones that either I battled like fuck with and won, or the ones that came together like a dream, "Cirque du freak" took me ages to get right, ..... but "Violet Moon" came together in the studio on the spot!!.. I didnt even write it down, I started singing and those words came to me, but i like "Still in love  with you" too. I'm not too into the 80's style rock ones, although "One Of The Few" kinda makes me smile...

WC:  At this point in your life, what gives you greater satisfaction? Writing and recording, or performing live?

TM: I would LOVE to be on the road but it just doesnt work for me. Recording seems to have become where people want me most.

WC: How would you describe the "Third Cage" album?

TM: I think its as mixed up as it could be without being MESSED up..... it's the strongest of the 3 Cage albums but I have no idea where you place it..... that's part of the problem with this project. It covers so much ground it's difficult to label in some ways, but it is valid and current and also reminiscent of the classic rock styles we have known before.

WC:  While I think your vocals are as strong as ever on the new album, many of your contemporaries, older and otherwise, struggle with vocal problems later in their career. How happy are you with your singing at this point and do you have any particular secret to keeping sharp vocally?

TM: Oh, I struggle with 'em, too! it gets everyone with age, I just choose the things that I can still do!!! .... The thing is, if YOU are writing the songs, then you can choose which way the melody and the lyrics go, thereby avoiding the things that give you trouble..... I was reaching high G5 notes in Sabbath,,..... haha....  can't do those anymore!!.. but it's nothing to be ashamed of ... and live,  it's possible to take a lower harmony and sing WITH it instead of trying to get those notes that break on you and missing them. So many singers still try to go for the notes that they used to and miss 'em, there are other ways to do it.

WC:  Describe the songwriting process for you and Dario. How has your approach to songwriting changed, if any, over the years?

TM: It's still the same..... and not just for this project. All the other things I do work the same way, Someone sends me a whole bunch of riffs and I arrange 'em into something I can work with, then write the melodies and the lyrics go on top. Then I send them back and in this case ,Dario re-records the music parts as I arranged them and then mixes it all together. Up to now, it's been a really easy way of writing.

WC:  What kind of music are you listening to these days?

TM: Oh, everything from Rammstein to Elgar!!!!!!!!!!!!! . Not many things turn me off .  i don't have TV in my house,  (by choice) ... only radio .... so i listen all day . I hear the great things in younger bands and I understand how and why they are there . I love everything from Radiohead to the Foofighters .... and classical stuff. It's all good..... a few get boring after a while ..... but mostly i can live with it.

WC: You've been involved with a wide spectrum of musical projects over the years, worked alongside some of the greatest musicians of our time, played thousands of live gigs, written thousands of songs, and traveled the world. What new worlds are there for you to conquer?

TM: The personal ones.  I've missed out on family and relationships ... But also I still have a few ghosts to lay to rest in my career which i would like to acheive,, and in a distant kind of way I'd like to see the time I did with Sabbath get more recognition. But mostly i would like to get a  "Tony Martin"  Album recognised.

WC: "Wicked World" is a stunning opener to the album. Was that one of the first songs that came together for this album?

TM: No... the first was "One of the Few" and then "Cirque du Freak", I think . It took 4 years for me to write these songs, mostly because I had other commitments but still, it gave me time to get them together. "Wicked World" was later to arrive but at the time,  I thought it was relevant. I am so disappointed with the video for it, that just makes me nauseous!!! It completely missed the story potential and the performance of it ... it just ended up as a thousand clips of epilepsy inducing shots. Which is a shame, be cause the song was really quite powerful. Again, it was not at all representative of the album... the rest is almost sedate compared to that track.

WC:  I've read recent interviews where you have voiced your opinions about the current state of the music industry. You've mentioned that it is important that music lovers and artists alike nurture a new attitude towards music that will last into the future. Can you describe what that attitude is?

TM: Absolutely! Music is a worthelss art now.... it's become cheap and something that people think is OK to TAKE. We are in a unique bubble in the music industry where we gave away our rights as inventors and creators and producers and manufacturers.   In the contracts we made with the industry, we were supposed to have secured things like price and copyright but those are in complete disarray. We are not allowed to fix the price of our products and the copyright thing is almost a waste of space.  In "normal" areas of intellectual rights ,for example, if you invent and create a Ferrari  or you invent and create a vacuum cleaner or a drug to fight cancer ...... all of those inventions are protected.  Music is not.  It's at the mercy of those that consume it. It's only the physical barrier that has prevented the misuse and abuse of music up to recent years. By that,  I mean not many people could press a vinyl album!!. But NOW , everyone can transfer a music file in a second from one place anywhere in the world to another person the other side of the world. Technology is not really the issue .... it's the attitude that it's OK to do that without regarding the rights of the person that created it.  Unfortunately, the human condition naturally steers us to the VERY easy state of getting something for nothing and it takes a conscious act to over come that.

 Music is WIDE open to abuse...... and so the attitude we need to nurture is one of ownership of the music we consume. To regard it as something worth protecting and keeping, NOT to pass around without regard.  I believe the artist is at the front of the change, and then there needs to be a NEW contract with the consumer  i believe it involves a more personal sell ... to the fans...and a commitment to them and in return, they become part of the protection of the product.

WC:  Any thoughts about Tony Iommi's recent cancer diagnosis?

TM: Well as anyone would, I am saddened by the thought , but in the small way that I "know" Tony, I know him to be resolute and a fighter, he's not one to give up easily. He is not flippant or contemptuous of things in life, and is very aware of the seriousness of these things. I know he will be determined to get on top of it as soon as he can. It has to be said, it's not clear which type of that cancer he has yet, they are both treatable and one is controllable and can be something that is possible to live with as I understand it. So it's not yet a death sentance. Never the less... I have sent my regards to him and of course, I wish him well.

WC:  "Eternal Idol" was recently reissued as a two disc set with Ray Gillan's original vocals for the album on the second disc. Do you ever expect to see albums like "Headless Cross", "Tyr", or "Cross Purposes" reissued?

TM: Not really.

WC:  What was the last CD/release you picked up for your own enjoyment?

TM: The most recent thing I bought actually was a song by a soul singer called Ruby Turner.  I was gonna lie and try and say something with some street cred but that really is the latest thing I bought.....  hahaha....

WC:  What was the last gig you caught just because you wanted to see the performer?

TM: Oh man!!!!!  Meatloaf! I'm not sure being this honest is gonna endear me to my fans.....  oh well.

WC:  Is there any kind of "Spinal Tap" moment you've been involved with where things went haywire that you could share with us?

TM: ARE YOU KIDDING?!!!!!!! ALL OF THEM! Oh yeah ... I have been lost under the stage!!! AND had stuff go wrong...AND had girlfriends try to be managers..AND ...I got arrested by one of our own security guards because he thought I was one of the fans ..AND... been the butt of the band jokes.  It's all in there over the years. It's a lot of years. 40 years i have been in the business. .... and ALMOST everything has passed my ears and eyes.