Interview with Jason Martin
from Starflyer 59
Reprinted with permission from The Blue Star Journal.
Photos are courtesy of Andrew Boone.
What a year it has been for Jason Martin. His band, Starflyer 59 has enjoyed increasing popularity. This amidst a lineup change. Gone is bassist Andrew Larson. Eric Campuzano and Wayne Everett, both former members of the Prayer Chain, joined the band. Jason also produced and played drums on two 7" inch releases by Pony Express. He was married. He produced and performed all the music for a project with his bride Julie called Bon Voyage. He produced releases by Jupiter James and Upside Down Room. He somehow even found time to embark on a fall tour which highlighted the new band lineup.
The ever-increasing fan base for Starflyer 59 had a nervous summer. Martin had fulfilled his contractual obligations to Tooth & Nail Records. A limited edition, live EP called "Plugged" was released by Velvet Blue Music. What was going to happen to Starflyer 59? Rumors were rampant. "Martin is talking with a major label." "Starflyer 59 is going to sign with Velvet Blue." "Tooth & Nail is going to sign them to a new contract." "A new album is going to be released any day now; it is going to be called "Blue". And those were just some of the more plausible rumors.
Fresh from inking a new deal with Tooth & Nail, the band entered the studio in October to record a new album. The album is to be called "Americana". The release is set for March 1997. Starflyer 59 will tour in the spring to support the new release.
Despite his busy schedule, Jason was kind enough recently to answer some questions for the BSJ.
BSJ: Can you give us the scoop on the "Americana" recording sessions? How did it go?
JM: I think it turned out okay. The stuff sounds alright.
BSJ: I understand 14 songs were recorded with 10 songs slated for release on "Americana". What will happen to the additional 4 songs?
JM: Actually, it was only 13. They will probably show up on a summer EP, or possibly another full length.
BSJ: Do you have a favorite song on "Americana"?
JM: My favorite song didn't make it on the record. I don't think it turned out quite right so, I dropped it. It was called 'I Was 17'. It will turn up on something.
BSJ: Early reports are that "Americana" will have more of a rock sound with fewer ballads than "Gold". Was this a conscious effort, or did it just work out that way?
JM: Well, I wanted just rock 'n roll, but I really liked some of the ballads so, there will be a little of that.
BSJ: Although Gene Eugene had worked with you in the past, why did you choose him to produce "Americana" rather than to produce it yourself?
JM: Just to back off a little from the project and let it breathe, instead of me nitpicking it to death. Also, Gene is cool.
BSJ: Did you write the songs on "Americana" gradually or quickly?
JM: The songs have been written over the past few years. I think only maybe 2 or 3 of the songs were written recently. I find that I like a lot more of the songs I wrote when I was 19 or 20. So, basically every SF59 album is a combo of old and new. To me, it makes for a more interesting album.
BSJ: What normally comes first for you, the music or the lyrics?
JM: The music.
BSJ: Did you write all the songs on "Americana"?
JM: Yes. As long as there is Starflyer, I'll write all the songs.
BSJ: The SF59 sound changed significantly between the "Silver" and "Gold" albums. Would you say "Americana" is another significant change?
JM: Yes and no. Some of the songs on "Americana" could have been on "Silver" and "Gold", but the way the songs are put down and the sounds we used are different. I mean, there is no point in having crazy feedback guitars. I've been there, done that -- it's boring.
BSJ: It seems in every interview I've read with you, you are asked about the 'spirituality' of the SF59 lyrics. I for one appreciate any Christian artist who does whatever he/she feels led to do, whether it is blatantly spiritual or not. I am sure you are tired of addressing the issue of SF59 lyrics not being 'Christian enough'. Will "Americana" have a more direct spiritual theme?
JM: Yes. The theme of "Americana" is basically how unimportant music is, and it should not be your lord - Jesus Christ is. I mean it's hard to explain lyrics because a lot of it is me talking to myself in a song. But, I hope it does encourage people. I'm tired of being sad.
BSJ: A lot of the press releases for the T&N re-signing and the recording sessions have mentioned there will be a lyric sheet in "Americana". Does it worry you that if critics actually *read* your lyrics they might be even more critical?
JM: No. It will just show people what they really haven't been missing all the time.
BSJ: Has the addition of Eric Campuzano and Wayne Everett changed the SF59 sound?
JM: It still sounds like Starflyer, but it sounds like a band. They really play cool, and added a lot more feel.
BSJ: I thought the "California" EP from their project The Lassie Foundation was one of the best things I've heard this year. What did you think of it?
JM: "One In A Million" is my favorite chorus this year, along with "The Cobbler" from Joy Electric.
BSJ: Your wife Julie coontributed some really wonderful vocals on that EP. I thought she really *made* the song "I Can Be Her Man". You and she also did the Bon Voyage project together. Can you tell us what other projects she might be working on?
JM: We've got a band now for Bon Voyage; so we're working on demos to shop around. There should be another 7" in the next few months on VBM.
BSJ: Has being married changed your song lyrics? Will there be no more "lost love songs"?
JM: Yes and no. Some songs were about lost love, but a lot of songs were not at all about the lost love people thought. It was a personal lost love for the better days. A lot of people never understood that, but it doesn't really matter.
BSJ: SF59 fans are always talking about missing Andrew Larson. Do you still keep in touch? What is he doing these days?
JM: We live in the same apartment building. He's doing good. Right now, he is in the process of starting his own business of making leather goods.
BSJ: The SF59 sound is difficult to categorize, and yet, every- one seems to want to do so. Some people call you a "shoegazer" band. You are always placed in the "alter- native" music category. However, I get the impression you resent those tags being placed on the band. Would you comment on that?
JM: Alternative music doesn't exist. Shoegazer music has been dead since 1991. The only shoegaze music we ever did is maybe "The Zenith" from "Silver" -- even that wasn't current when it came out. Now, I hear bands that are doing what I tried to do four years ago -- stuff that wasn't current even at that time. Like the Bible says, "there is nothing new under the sun," especially in Christian music. I just want to be a decent songwriter, not a follower.
BSJ: You have been incredibly busy since starting SF59. First, there is a large amount of output from the band itself, relative to the time you've been around. Then, there are all the production projects you have been involved with. Are you exhausted?
JM: Yes. I've been stressed out lately. I just love music. But, sometimes music just takes over my life. I know it's not right. My walk with the Lord needs to be the most important, but sometimes it's just not. Rock and roll can be a user.
BSJ: Would you prefer to be out front performing or behind the scenes producing?
JM: I'm not very comfortable singing in front of people. In the making of records you can be a lot more creative. It's exciting to see how songs turn out.
BSJ: Do you have any scheduled production projects you can tell us about?
JM: Nothing for sure, but I would like to do the Pony Express and a band on Tooth & Nail called Delta Haymax.
BSJ: Jeff Cloud told me that you and he were "computer illiterate". However, SF59 has a tremendous presence on the Internet. There are at least four web pages/sites devoted to the band and you are discussed at great length in newsgroups and chat rooms. Does this surprise you?
JM: Yes. I still think it is really weird people even care what I'm doing. To a certain point it's flattering, but on another point it's embarrassing. I still think it's exciting that people have been influenced by Starflyer.
BSJ: There are any number of "underground" or "alternative" Christian bands - bands that have some following, but do not get wide exposure in the mainstream CCM media. SF59 would have to be considered as one of the most popular of these types of bands. Why do you think this is?
JM: Starflyer is just not very appealing to "musicians". I don't have the voice or dynamics to make the front page. I used to play in my church worship band. Most of the people were into the CCM bands. They loved the powerful voice, the dynamic lyrics, the musicianship, or whatever. I just care about good songs. But, I don't want to knock those guys. If God is using some of their ministries, it's cool, and if God is using us not on the cover of CCM, that's cool too.
BSJ: During the summer, SF59 fans were holding their collective breathes while you were deciding on a new record deal. Why did you decide to re-sign with Tooth & Nail?
JM: I like Brandon. He gave me a good deal. He lets me do the music I want to do.
BSJ: Rumor was that you were approached by some "major" labels during this period. Would you care to comment?
JM: We almost had a publishing deal with a company called Rondor, and they would have gotten us the deal. We did did this demo with me trying to write big choruses or something, and played this big showcase, but just didn't pull it off. I was kind of bummed because I thought it was going to happen, but God is in control of all things. I guess it wasn't right.
BSJ: How extensively are you involved in Velvet Blue Music?
JM: Jeff (Cloud) is my best friend. So, I'll help with the bands, like producing, and we'll talk about what bands to sign or whatever. But, Jeff does all the biz. I'll just contribute in areas where I have a little more know how.
BSJ: Several rumors were started during this "decision period" that SF59 might sign with VBM. Do you envision a day when that might happen?
JM: No. I think it would be best to keep that seperate.
BSJ: Now for the *really* frivolous stuff. You have been noted for endorsing various brands of motorcycles in the past. Do you still ride?
JM: No. I have a 1973 CB350 that isn't running at the time. Sorry.
BSJ: If you were stranded on a desert island and could take 10 records (albums and/or songs) with you, what would they be?
JM: "Finest Kiss" - Boo Radleys
"Ceremony" - New Order
"Last Night I Dreamed Somebody Loved Me" - The Smiths "Solid Gold" - Luxury
"Ana" - Pixies
"Andmoreagain" - Love
"Bye Bye Color" - L.S.U.
"Ocean Rain" - Echo & The Bunnymen
"Girlfriend In A Coma" - The Smiths
"Grace Cathedral Park" - Red House Painters
I'd need more than 10. These are just some songs I love.