TONY MARTIN “On Thorns I Lay...”
By Colonel Angus
TONY MARTIN is a legend! There, I said it and I won’t back down from that statement. Although many BLACK SABBATH fans fail to recognize his contributions, when you look at the stats, aside from OZZY, Martin is the second longest serving vocalist in Sabbath. Aside from tenure, his work with Tony Iommi is awesome. Just listen to “Eternal Idol”, “Headless Cross”, and “Tyr” and try to discount those albums (I dare you!) as anything but great additions to the SABBATH catalogue. Time has been kind to those releases (and the additional records during his second stint) and a new breed of SABBATH fans are discovering those lost gems.
Not only does he have that on his resume, he has collaborated or lent his vocal talents to over 75 releases. During all of this, he has managed to release a few solo albums with “Thorns” being his latest disk. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Martin and while I could have asked a hundred question, I wanted to focus a good amount of the questions around his latest release not just because he is promoting it but also because I feel it is one his best works. “Thorns” is a great disk and I had many questions about the creation - so without further ado, Mr. Tony Martin:
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us!
TONY MARTIN: You're welcome :)
WC: Why has there been such a gap since your last major release let alone solo record?
TM: My career took me into the studio and I have been there for the past 25 years ... I became a singer/songwriter recording and writing guest appearances and sessions for artists ... My voice now appears on something like 76 albums and projects ... It’s not a bad thing, just the way my career took me and it’s how I make a living from the business. My solo albums made an appearance from time to time along that journey and then when work came in, it got put to one side again ... so it has taken a long time to get to this point. But it has been worth it because I could make sure it was going the right direction.
WC: Scott McClellan co-wrote the album with you, how did that collaboration come about?
TM: Well, Scott approached me on Facebook and started sending me riffs he has put together. I mean a LOT of riffs!!!! I had to find out who this guy was and I approached him and wondered what his intention was. I didn't really know at the time what it was about... so I asked if he wanted me to sing on these things. He said I could use whatever I liked ... so the deal was I could only make any of it work if I was able to make it sound like "Tony Martin". That would mean editing all the riffs and making "Songs" out of them in a way that would fit my voice. So I took the riffs and the first track that I worked on was "As The World Burns" .Well THAT went well..!!!!! So I said we should keep this quiet until we know what I can make out of it and he agreed. The thing was, I had already started making the album a couple years before and it was going to be called "Book of Shadows" ... I had already done that track and “Crying Wolf” and “This Is Your Damnation” so I wasn't sure if it was going to be a separate thing or what I would do. I said to Scott that if he was interested I could make a "Tony Martin" album that included BOTH things but it would have to be a Tony Martin album and the rest is history :)
WC: When collaborating with others, how do your abilities as a multi-instrumentalist effect the outcome of a song?
TM: Oh it doesn't! I allow people to do what they do... other than I put the structure in a way I can sing over it... or if the key is not good for my voice I would ask that it is changed but as for instruments I change very little about what they do. It’s important... otherwise why are they there?. I would have the same issues and it is the same reason that I insist it MUST sound like "Tony Martin" ... otherwise there is no point.
WC: On “Thorns”, your lyrics cover a lot of ground. Do you keep a book of lyrical ideas or do you start from scratch with each release depending on your collaborator?
TM: I love words.... I collect words ... just pages and pages of words... no rhyme or reason, just words... They tend to lie around the studio and if I need inspiration any one of them could spark a theme or a story. And sometimes in THIS case Scott gave his riffs names so even THAT can give rise to the idea... doesn’t always happen, but it can.
WC: Were there any tracks left off “Thorns” that we might see elsewhere down the road?
TM: Well there were too many tracks to fit on a vinyl so the label asked me to write MORE songs and they would release a DOUBLE album later in the year! Scott has sent another 39 sets of riffs !!!!.... so yeah there is more to come!!
WC: You stated “This new album is probably the most “Tony Martin” a Tony Martin album has ever sounded!!” What did you mean by that statement?
TM:Just simply it’s where I work best ... and I allowed myself to include all the crazy stuff that resides in my head on the album. It really IS crazy in my head... all that stuff bounces off the walls up there!!! So to be able to put it all on one album is just SO me!!!
WC: I am a big fan from the start and really enjoyed your first solo outing “Back Where I Belong”. It is a different sounding record compared to “Thorns”. Production aside, what are your thoughts on that record when you compare it to your new disk?
TM: It is very different, ain't it!? It was intentionally that way ... since I wasn't in SABBATH anymore and had not a cats chance in hell of re-creating the SABBATH sound I went FAR off into another place in my head and took comfort in that 1980's 90's kind of commercial rock thing...... GREAT playground but it didn't fly.
WC: “This Is Your Damnation” is such a different song compared to the rest of the album. Similar in that “Unbearable” was so different form the other material on “Scream”. Are there are other styles of music that you want to explore?
TM: Oh dear lord!! I have been involved in all kinds of music along the way ... from Reggae to rock!! I think I would keep this style that I am collecting at the moment with Scott for now but yeah, if other things come at me I am always interested to make something happen.
WC: When listening to the new record, I’m amazed that you still sound like you did back in 1987. What do you do to maintain your vocal abilities?
TM: I didn't really. My voice is down about 5 notes from where I was in the SABBATH days ... it’s a new range for me ... so I just adjusted and fit into this new range. There is no point trying to reach the stuff I did when I was 20 years old. Age has its limits but it shouldn't stop you completely if you respect it. So I keep the STYLE of singing but just DOWN from where I was.
WC: Do you have any plans to tour for “Thorns”? And if so, do you think you will try to make it to the States?
TM: Of course I would love to ... it’s just not possible to plan anything at the moment. It does mean that it gives me time to work some things out. One of the DOWN sides to being a singer songwriter is that I don't have a "Band". I have to hire the musicians along the way and that depends if they are available and things like that so I have to start from scratch every time. It is one of my regrets in life that I didn't keep a band going but that is just where my career took me so I try to deal with it as best I can... I am already writing the next album as I said, so hey, maybe, we will have 2 albums to tour LATER along the way. I really don't know at the moment. But yep, it is in mind.
WC: Is there anyone you have not collaborated/recorded with that is on your bucket list?
TM: Nope! Hahaha :) ... I am lucky to have worked with so many people already and if the opportunity comes along I will try and work with anyone really. So I don't have a list of people that I am waiting to work with.
WC: Do you have any desire to release an autobiography?
TM: I have been asked that many times ... and I did truly consider it ..... but I am just not disciplined enough to actually do it. My style is such that I ramble on and on about stuff and I was told that you can't write a book like that. So I stopped... Maybe YOU guys will be the way my story gets told instead :)
WC: I just read that your era of BLACK SABBATH will get their albums re-released? Will there be any bonus material we have not heard before? Will “Cross Purposes Live” get a proper release with all the tracks on CD and DVD?
TM: No bonus material that is NEW... Tony Iommi told me that he can't do ANYTHING new under the Sabbath name. IF we could find something that already exists, that might be a possibility but I don't know what constitutes that range of stuff because in MY head if it wasn't released then it is new ... even if we did it at the time. So I have NO IDEA!
WC: What was the last release you picked up for your own pleasure?
TM: You will think I am crazy if I tell you!!! Honestly???? ... Elvis Presley!!!!! Can you believe that!! Well, I can but hey ... there it is.
WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?
TM: ANY slave to tell them it wasn't done in my name!!! King Henry the 8th to tell him he was a KNOB!!! And either Adam or Eve to warn them what they was about to release on the world!!!
WC: Any last messages or words to the fans?
TM: Yeah, actually .... I take this whole song writing, singer, fame thing seriously. It is such a pleasure for us to be invited into your homes and cars and headphones. It carries a responsibility and all the stuff we create COULD be just for us but in reality we LOVE that other people get pleasure out of it.... as we do .... SO... Thank you. It means a lot and lets rock our way out of Covid!!!!!
And thank YOU for taking the time to ask the questions to find out ... we need you guys to let people know what we do so that is important, too.