Last year, Martin Stephenson And The Daintees released quite possibly their best album to date. California Star was reviewed by Louder Than War here, and is now being re-released for 2013 with backing by Absolute Marketing / Universal. In fact the whole Stephenson back catalogue will now be available again for all those too young, (or too ignorant), to have heard them the first time around which means everyone will be able to acquaint themselves with one of Britains greatest yet most underrated, singer songwriters. In the light of that Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates had a little chat with the Martin about his career so far.
We’re also delighted to be able to premiere a new video by Martin Stephenson & The Daintees for the title track off his last album & new, 3 track EP which you can download for free here. So with no further ado here’s the video & below the interview.
For me, California Star was finally an album to rival Martin’s classic album Boat To Bolivia. It’s text book Martin Stephenson, the story-telling songs that no-one can fail to be enthralled by and the music that any serious music fan can do nothing but marvel at.
Coupled with that, Martin remains a busy live performer and one which, whether solo or with The Daintees, should never be missed. As ever, he remains one of the truly nice guys of music and was only too pleased to share a few thoughts with us.
Louder Than War: How’s life in the Cromarty Firth?
Martin Stephenson: Clean & serene pal, a good place to hide away and work
What made you move up there?
Martin: Divorce, but earlier musical visits as far back as 89 formed the idea.
The last couple of years seem to have been a bit of a whirlwind. What’s it like to be back and widely accepted again?
Martin: In honesty I don’t really see it like that, I just continue, I’m not really into attention but I enjoy making and sharing music. Saying that, I feel blessed for the path I have been given.
It’s 27 years since Boat To Bolivia, how does that feel?
Martin: Timeless I suppose, as it was the vision behind our first songs, to be timeless, as we found ourselves landed in the early 80’s. So our main objective was not to be shaped too much by the technology of the day, we were more fans of the 60’s recording process.
How were your thoughts when Kitchenware closed down last year?
You’ve worked a few times with Paul Handyside (singer in 80s guitar group Hurrah!), are you in touch with many other artists from the Kitchenware stable?
Martin: Ah now, there is a different energy all together, Paul is a sacred brother to me, I love him, he is truthful and a very good artist, I’m a big fan of his guitar playing.
I recently reviewed last years California Star for Louder Than War and said it was possibly your finest work. Do you know when you’re recording something special?
Martin: No idea, probably the opposite, your songs are your children, so you simply try to be a good parent and do the best you can for each song, of course they all have different kinds of power.
You’ve publicly acknowledged your recovery for alcohol, what made you make the decision to stop?
Martin: Having daughters and seeing how unreal the whole drinking culture is, along with drugs in general, addiction, I got really tired of felling shit and not being straight, I love simplicity and being reliable, truthful, I enjoy being with folks like that, hate head games, bullshit, love is the one.
Cheese & Onion or Worcester Sauce?
Martin: Oooh that’s a tuff one, more WS these days if forced to make a choice, but originally always C&O.
I’m always fascinated how much time you spend with the audience before and after the show. How important is that to you?
Martin: Most important as I see the audience as the highest level, as my teacher, I am in service and love to entertain folks.
What do you think of the music of Helen (McCookerybook, partner and fellow Barbaraville label mate)? Voxpop Puella was / is stunning!
Martin: I adore Helen’s music, her whole journey, she is a beautiful, gentle and very
eccentric soul, I have learned so much from Helen, the first thing I learned when I heard her was not to sound angry and cold, Helen & Jonathan Richman were my guides.
Does song writing get any easier with time?
Martin: I think so, it’s only as hard as you wanna make it, I enjoy helping others with it, it’s great to help folks get through obstacles, I love songs, all kinds.
Eliza P is an interesting artist for you to work with. How did you meet each other? Are there any new artists around that excite you?
Martin: Liz is a genius, satire is her gift, we met at a gig by chance, she was married to a comedian, her songs are so clever and beautiful, I am very excited to help her make her first album Ecclectic Kettle, would you review it for us?
You invite me round for tea – what are you cooking?
Martin: We are going to the curry house, though I make a nice Russian beetroot soup
You may not remember this so I feel I have to remind you. You played at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre around 1989, Paul Handyside was the support. You played for ages – the venue staff were getting twitchy and you even asked if the audience ‘hadn’t any f*cking homes to go to’! You jumped down to the front of the stage and beckoned to the audience who came and sat around you in a huge circle. Some yob started passing a spliff around the ring. Happy days.
Martin: I remember, Paul had been hurt very badly by a girl and was travelling with me to recover, his music healed him, I love Paul.
Martin: ‘Me and my friend Cecil’ a bedroom recording from 1980
You seem a genuinely nice bloke, is there anyone or anything that really gets your goat?
Martin: Well you know, Tories, thieves, liars yeah! Tories.
Are there any other musicians you’d like to work with? I’m thinking Ian McNabb would be a good partnership?
Martin: I like Ian, he is a good lad, maybe one day. Chris Layhe, the bass player out the Icicle Works, is a great guy, I would work with him too! Peter Coyle out of Lotus Eaters a great pal of mine, very special guy. I like Nick Heyward, I would like to do something fun with him, like love conscious. Trippy stuff along with Dubular out of the Transglobal Underground, John Cooper Clarke would be great fun, I’d love to produce a Rockabilly album for him!
Barbaraville and llama’s – discuss.
Martin: Heed this advice for all that it’s worth! Steer clear of the village on the Cromarty Firth, named…Barbaraville!
Did you know there was a Barbaraville Romany Gypsy camp near Hatfield that was set up by Barbara Cartland?
No man, that’s awesome!
What does the future hold for Martin Stephenson and The Daintees?
Future holds the past, “all we have is now” – Paul Handyside! Blessed be and thanks.
Once again the 3 track California Star EP can be downloaded for free here.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.