The Tea Party kick off The Ocean At The End national tour in Perth on Thursday, October 9, at Crown Theatre with support from The Superjesus. BOB GORDON catches up with vocalist/guitarist, Jeff Martin.
When The Tea Party reformed three years ago, it wasn’t necessarily so that they would continue onward and upward.
Their 2005 break-up can now be viewed as a hiatus, but the rifts were so deep that it truly was the end of the band. In typical rock’n’roll fashion, however, The Tea Party have truly returned with a new album called The Ocean At The End.
“There was an agenda, that the three of us knew that we needed to set out and achieve in order to come to what has become The Ocean At The End,” says vocalist/guitarist Jeff Martin, sitting beyond his studio console in an old Fremantle gallery where he now resides.
“And the first matter on the agenda? Can the band, the three of us, get back on stage and be that band. Can that magic once again happen? For lack of a better analogy, can we get on stage and be one of the best rock bands in the world?
“But how about this, how about those insurmountable differences that we had in the beginning of that seven-year hiatus that slowly but surely dissipated… which led to us getting back together but it was still there. Can we get over that and can we find that beautiful friendship and mutual respect? Love, that brotherly love. It’s so important, in order for the Tea Party, as a collective, to create great music. We can’t just do it by the numbers, there has to be that there. Over the course of that Australian Reformation tour in 2012, the laughter came back in, the camaraderie, the trust.
“Thirdly, I had to prove not only to myself but also to Jeff (Burrows, drums) and Stuart (Chatwood, bass) that I could be the captain of the ship again… but without going into detail, I let myself down and I let them down. Especially the last two records of The Tea Party before our hiatus, because, and it’s the worst excuse in the world and the saddest excuse in the world, but our manager Steve Hoffman who, 38 years-old, got a form of cancer, that just took his very, very healthy life away from him. Steve was the guy for me, he was like my Peter Grant for Jimmy Page and he kept the world away from me so that I could just create… those records like Transmission (2007).
“Of course, he gets sick, he’s got to concentrate on fighting for his own life and of course he’s not going to have anytime whatsoever, even though his passion was the three of us and the band, he couldn’t take care of us anymore. So therefore what happened, the floodgates i.e. the industry, it was open and it was open season on me and that was something never was I ever used to.”
Without his old friend and right-hand man, Martin, in the early 2000’s, suddenly had A&R personnel offering songwriting ‘tips’ and co-producers starting to line-up for Tea Party albums. It wasn’t only creative control that was being lost.
“I certainly don’t want to sound arrogant but here it comes,” Martin says, taking a deep breath. “With everything that I’ve achieved in my career as a musician, as an artist, you’d have to be standing on a very, very fucking tall mountain to be talking down to me.
“There it is. I’ve said it. I have the people that I respect in my life, musically, artistically. For instance (he points to the recording desk in front of him) this console, it’s historic. The Edges Of Twilight and Transmission were done on this. And its mine. I own this. It’s like my soul.
“I would step away from this console for Daniel Lanois; I would step away from this console for Jimmy Page. I would step away from this console for Sir George Martin, there’s probably a few more. But it doesn’t quite come to my mind right now.”
As it turns out, Martin partially stepped away from his console for co-producer Bob Rock (who had just produced Metallica’s infamous St. Anger LP) for the band’s 2004 album, Seven Circles.
“Shouldn’t have,” he says. “Should not have. That’s one of the things about Seven Circles – too many cooks in the kitchen and it was just all wrong. All wrong.”
With the boxes all ticked, Martin, Chatwood and Burrows convened as the power trio they once were and now are and created The Ocean At The End, a marketplace of sounds that have had some journalists refer to it as a greatest hits, such is its rambling nature.
“We’re not going to make a linear record. We are three great individual rock musicians, together, and we all have different influences and it culminates on this record… and that’s what I want people to hear.
“I wanted The Ocean At The End to be The Tea Party’s Houses Of The Holy,” Martin says, referring to his beloved Led Zeppelin’s iconic 1973 album. “You listen to Houses Of The Holy and if you’ve never heard Led Zeppelin before, and you listen to that – man that’s all over the fucking shop. But the sound is the thing that is the cohesive. So the sound of The Tea Party is quite evident on every single track of The Ocean At The End, but our influences are quite diverse.”
Armed once again, with a Tea Party album that he’s 100 per cent happy with, Martin realises that it’s the beginning of the road for The Ocean At The End. He’s pretty confident about how this next year will play out.
“It plays out well,” he states. “Do this tour. Be a good band. Then mid-November tour Canada, the capital cities. Come back home mid-December and enjoy the holidays, a couple months off and then most probably – because management’s coming over in a couple weeks when Jeff and Stuart come over – they’ll be in touch with the various promoters of the summer season everywhere in Australia in March. Chances are Tea Party will become a headliner on some type of festival in February or March and then after that it’ll be Europe and then it’ll be South America and then after that… I got nothing (laughs).”
That’s doubtful. It’s Jeff Martin, there’s always something.
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