Idaho - Interview

28/03/2001, par Loik Amis | Interviews |
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JEFF MARTIN - IDAHOI have to say that Idaho is one of my favorite bands. Their two fantastic gigs in La Guinguette Pirate, in Paris, were a big event, as it was the first time the band played in France, after almost ten years of a quite confidential career.
It was on a rainy Saturday afternoon, still under the shock of the Friday evening concert that we met Jeff Martin, a deliciously kind person, shy and self-assured at the same time. It was an opportunity for us to make fools of ourselves in front of a hotel groom, to speak English like only French people can, and especially to talk about the situation of Idaho and their new album, Hearts of Palm, which is at last released in France these days.


This tour has been long awaited. Why hadn't you come in Europe before?
Our first record company, Caroline Records, didn't believe that it was important. They didn't want to pay for that, and were very careful about their spending with us. When we started, there was a little bit of buzz about this slow emotional music, with bands like Red House Painters and all. There was interest, but I don't think it was really happening on a large scale. There wasn't a lot of recognition. There was really no one in charge who could mastermind a European tour, they didn't think it would be effective. At that point, I wasn't very involved in the decision making about that, so I didn't really pushed the issue. And Buzz records couldn't afford to bring us all here. Frankly, I was surprised, I never knew there was interest in Europe. How am I supposed to know, our record don't really get imported here, and I just get some e-mails of people who say they like Idaho.

QThere were articles about Year After Year in France.
That's true, the first Libération article happened then, but I didn't know that it symbolized anything, on a large scale.

In what state is the band today?
It's in a very interesting state right now, it's in a state of change. Dan Seta is not working with me anymore. He didn't really leave the band, but he's so busy with his work, he's married now and he has to buy a house. I think he would just like Idaho to be a hobby. Because that's how Idaho has been treated for the last three years. I've been working very hard on it, but Dan would come over after work and just do some guitar and I would take his guitar in the computer and do a lot of stuff. The way we define Idaho is very different now. For him it's just a hobby, like a little project, and for me it's what I do. It didn't make sense to keep the relationship going, because I want to tour a lot and he can't. I frankly can do with the records alone anyway. He's very talented but I want to go a different direction anyway. The sound of Idaho is not depending on Dan, although he did affect it nicely. Other people have too, like Terry Borden, our bass player on Three sheets to the wind, who's very responsible for the sound of the record. People have input, and that's always going to happen, but I'm not going to have a partnership-type relationship with anybody anymore. I can be innovative and make original music by myself, and that's the way it will go on. John Berry, the original guitar player, offered to help me with some of the business, and he and his girlfriend ended up really starting this label with me, and they've run everything, they've created lots of wonderful things : they found this distribution in America, created this tour. John was working on the business side of it, and it just made sense that if Dan couldn't come on this tour, then John would fit in. So he did the best he could, he wasn't ready for this tour, but now it works, he's doing nice things. So John will probably help when we tour. But he doesn't have a creative involvement in music. I don't know what's going to happen in the next few months, but I'll probably go home and do a record by myself, an EP and put it out in the spring.

Since Year after year, your music evolved a lot. There was more feedback, distorsion and rock things. It's more constructed now, with more arrangements. Is that a conscious direction?
I think I'm maturing a little bit, and my tastes have changed. I felt a little bit lost in my life at that time, and the music was a little bit more desperate. That was a long time ago, everybody changes. I don't think that there could have been more records with that same set of textures and feelings. It was too much, it was a very heavy record. I'm not struggling with the same issues. I'm a much older and wiser person now. I think it's a beautiful record. If John and I did a record together, it might sound a little bit more like that. But a lot of that is John Berry's. That sort of dark romantic side of the music is a lot of his input, and it's a little bit more like John's character. The songs of Year After Year, like Skyscrape or God's green earth, those are my songs and they're a little bit more like what I sounded like later, but some of the heavier songs are John's songs, that I've arranged and completed with the vocals and the bass guitar.

Idaho is a sort of cult band in Europe. Do you like that situation, or would you like to get more audience?
Yeah, I would. I never knew that there was really much interest in Europe. I still don't know really the extent of it, but I would definitely like the recognition to step up a little bit, who wouldn't? I'd like to sell some records, I enjoy coming to Europe, I'd like to live here someday maybe. There's much more open-mindedness in Europe for music like we're making. We have a following in America but it's very small and I don't feel as comfortable performing there. We don't really fit in to the climate there. It makes me very happy to come do this tour and see good response and I realize that's it's a vast territory that we have not explored and we should come over and play all over Europe. I need to perform more because it doesn't feel natural to me. Just even on this tour, we started all pretty uncomfortable with the whole thing and it didn't sound good to me at all, and now it's getting okay. It'd be great for us to make it a habit to come over here and play. But I think if Idaho got too successful (and with the way the music is, I don't see that happening soon), I don't know how I would handle that because I like the isolation, this sort of anonymity that comes with playing music that's not mainstream. I like my privacy and I don't want to get to the point where I would have to deal with the corporate side of success or with the external responsibilities that go with selling more records.

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