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09/05/2012 EXCLUSIVE: Martin Stephenson interview (Part One)

Date Published: 09-05-2012


After all the trials and tribulations of the last few days, it was wonderful to finally get to sit down and chat to Martin Stephenson.

It was the first time we had done anything except for exchange emails, but it was like we had known each other for years...

JON: So, tell me, why did you decide to take one of your old albums - Boat to Bolivia - and re-record it?

MARTIN: There is a promoter who goes by the name of Simon Moran, and he’s a well-known promoter now, in fact at the moment he’s doing a Guns ‘n’ Roses tour, but I knew him in the ‘80s and we were on a kind of parallel and he became really successful in the UK. He ended up owning Warrington Rugby Club. He’s probably one of the top promoters in the country and he remembered me from the 80s and came to a gig I was doing at the end of last year, and he asked me if I fancied doing a Daintees tour and re-doing Boat to Bolivia.

And I said it was quite a good idea so we decided to have a go and he did a really good job of it actually because he’s got the power to promote things really, really well, you know.

JON: I like the new acoustic version

MARTIN: Oh the new acoustic version...yeah that was an interesting journey to do that, because sometimes when you’re young and they put you in a studio with a producer they tend to try to control you and it’s really good to hear a song that’s not over-produced. It’s a bit like art, you know, I like the sketches and I like all the pencil lines before the covers go on.

JON: I know exactly what you mean. I prefer the way you’ve sequenced the tracks on the new version.

MARTIN: That’s nice to hear somebody liking that. That’s nice, you know.

JON: I listened to it the other night – I got Boat to Bolivia years ago - but I listened to the new version the other night and it totally changes the context of them, if the song before and the song after is different.

MARTIN: Yes. I mean albums in a way, are like photographs really. I wish I had more of a documentation-type perspective when I was younger - I would have had an easier time, but the kind of vibe the people gave you in the studio in the early ‘80s, it was like the be-all and end-all , you know, the vocal take your life was on it, you know. It induced a lot of stress in the music, and there was the pressure because of the money was being spent, and you felt a lot of pressure, you know.

JON: And also you were young and didn’t know as much about the way the world works as you do now, I’m sure

MARTIN: It’s still a mystery.

JON: Are you going to be doing this with any of your other old records?

MARTIN: Yeah we did try out at the Jazz Cafe about year and a half ago – we did Gladsome Humour and Blue and we did it at the Jazz Cafe and it seemed to go down quite well actually, ‘cos that’s a whole different trip that album. That was done with Paul Samwell-Smith out of the Yardbirds.

JON: That would be interesting. Are you likely to actually go and re-record it?

MARTIN: Yeah, well what I did last year was – there is a recording studio on Hackney Road and it’s called The Premises and it’s the only solar powered studio in the UK actually, or one of a very few. They’ve got a little bee hive on the roof and they’re a bit left-field, you know.

I went in there, now when I did Boat to Bolivia we got the mike sound and everything – they set the mikes up around the vocals and everything. And we didn’t use headphones, and I was sitting with a banjo player called Jimmy Cole who played a high strung guitar as well, and we sat down and we looked at the price and it was £50 an hour, so I said ‘right, let’s get to work’, and by the end of the first day we had cut 28 songs.

The first twelve was Boat to Bolivia and the next twelve was Gladsome, Humour and Blue so that was it. So I looked at my budget and the budget for that was about £1,200 so I came home and tried to do the third and fourth album at home, and I tried to match the quality which I kind of got close, so the first two – yeah the budget was £400 odd, and £600 each and then the third and fourth album was zero budget.

And we continue tomorrow, as Martin and I find we have more in common than age and being friends with Rob Ayling...

 

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