Eric Martin: Destroying Those Monsters.

Eric Martin talks about his current solo album Destroy All Monsters, a new project with Jack Blades, that Mr. Big tribute album and life in general...

It's always good to have a chat with Eric Martin. This interview is pretty loose and laid back – more of a chat than an interrogation, but I hope everyone enjoys it nevertheless.
We'll begin with Eric mentioning the new album….

We should talk about that, eh?
Yeah, we can talk about it, because, I mean I haven't done shit for like 4 months. I haven't done shit. I've been devoting most of my time and energy to my family and friends and I'm bored out of my fuckin' mind. Recently, I've just been getting some new band personnel to play local shows.

I have a pretty good nucleus of a band right now, all new players to go there.

Okay. Mark still with you?
Mark Holley? No, he's not with me.

Oh, that's too bad. He was a good guy.
Yeah he was a really good guy. We still see each other. I just wanted to get someone who was… there's this guy, it's not all set in stone yet, it's all new players and stuff. This guitar player that I have, he sings really good.
Mark's forte was he was more of a classic rocker guitar player, classic rocker, but this guitar player I have is that and much more, plus he was like, not to be vain or anything, but he sings almost as good as me, and we have a chemistry kinda like how John Nymann and I used to have a chemistry. So he's more suited for the job.

You've still got Denise behind the kit?
No, we're still working on a family.
It's hard being in a band with your wife. She played like 4 or 5 songs on the record but mainly now she's just teaching students and stuff as a drum teacher.
And doing my accounting and… pretty much a stay at home mom vibe. A stay at home mom for the future.

Yeah, I understand that completely. I work out of the home and my wife would love nothing more than to get rid of me! haha
Yeah, let me tell you, man, my wife can't wait to get rid of me but I can't wait to get rid of myself. I'm here at the house here 24 fuckin' 7. I'm so fuckin' bored. Recently, I went to… well, this is ironic, but I was telling you the last time we talked that my old friend Jeff Watson from Night Ranger and I were getting something together, well, we're still at the talking and drinking stage of what we're going to do with our lives.

Come on, get it together!
But ironically… I can't really talk about it as much, but I'll tell you as much as I can.
I'm doing a project with Jack Blades.

Oh, really?
I think you're going to be talking to him…

I called him about an hour ago and he didn't answer so I'm going to call back after I finish with you.
Well, I called him earlier, dude, he's so funny, man; I called him up and I go, “Jack, can we talk about the project, I'm going to do an interview with and Andrew, can I talk about this project that we're doing?” and he goes, “Well, the Japanese basically told me that I can't talk about it now, so I don't know about you.”
First, he goes, it's on the answering machine and then I pick it up and like screen it and he goes, “Eric, this is Jack Blades from Night Ranger and Damn Yankees,” and I pick it up and I go, “Dude, do you hear yourself? Do you fuckin' hear yourself?” <laughs> Okay, neighbor. We're right now doing a project for a real popular band in Japan and one of the artists in the band is doing a solo album. Jack and I and a couple of other American players are going to do this solo album. I'm going to sing on it, Jack is going to play bass, and Jack and I are going to write the lyrics, this Japanese guy is going to write the music.

Yeah, it's interesting because basically we're going to get together in L.A. and see if we groove as players. We're writing 3 or 4 songs, Jack and I, and if it works out it's going to keep me busy.
It's like being in a band, it's like being in a Mr. Big situation again. This is how big this situation is.


So this Japanese cat's a really big guy then, huh?
A really big guy.

[News has now been released – it's a solo project for Tak Matsumoto of the B'z. See news update of February 24 for details.]

Awesome. Good for you, mate. I'm really pleased about it. I thought that when you said you and Jack that it might've been a Frontiers proposal to you, but they probably don't have the money to pay for both of you guys.
No. This is a whole different thing. This Japanese company picked me and Jack and 2 other American musicians to be in this side project and that's going to be interesting to write…I think Jack and I get to write a song or two for it but we're mainly just writing lyrics and melodies and stuff.

Got ya.
And I don't even know if we have to go to Japan or not to record it. It doesn't matter to me. I'd love to go over there again.

Yeah. Why the delay between the Japanese and the European release? Is that because the Japanese label had an embargo and then Frontiers…
Yeah.… it always is, if you do anything for the Japanese, you know that if for a month or two then they get it together and they want to just do their own album package and I go, “Sure, let's do it.” Then I had it on my web site and then you put it on your web site, the cover of the Japanese thing. And they kind of freaked out, they wanted that album cover and they didn't realize, I go, “You've got to pay for that,” because I basically had to pay for it.

It's hard doing business these days, isn't it?
You know, I do have something in the works that is definitely a retirement plan for me. There's this boy band out of… they're an Irish boy band, they're huge in Europe.

Westlife. That's it.

They're good…
Dude, they're pretty good. They have a little cheese to them a little bit. But they're really good singers.

They are.
They're all messed up with, I think Simon Cowell from American Idol found them. They're in bed with the devil on that one. They did “To Be With You” on their new album.

Is that right?
Yeah, and they did a really good version of it. A really good version. Kind of folky, poppy kind of thing, but you know, it's a boy band. And then they did a Greatest Hits tour.

A greatest hits tour, the oldest is like 24.

Yeah <laughs>
I just got a copy from England where I just transferred it to our region code and man, their harmonies are as good if not better than Mr. Big. I thought it was great. It's nothing compared to the vibe that Mr. Big got with the original thing, but the singers kicked the shit out of it. There's like 5 singers and they individually they each one of them takes a verse and a piece of the chorus and a little scat and they're kind of like 5 different versions of me. It's cool.

That might result in a good royalty check?
I think so. They sell like 5 million records each time they make a record.

Maybe I should get into songwriting <laughs>.
Ah man, hey look, I write songs for so many people and they always put it on hold and then they say, “Nah, we're not going to do it on this record,” so this one I'm really lucky.

Good stuff.
Yeah. You know, it's like I've had a pretty good year with covers, with this Influences and Connections having Glen Hughes, and Ann Wilson, and Mickey Thomas singing my songs, and then now Westlife, you know. It's pretty good.

Did you read my review of Influences and Connections?
I did. I did. And I read mine too.

You did? <laughs>
It's good.

Did you read the updated one that I did yesterday?
No I didn't.

Yeah, I updated it a little bit.
Hey, look. I'll look at it, but I like your candor and I like your honesty. It's just the way it is.

Not everyone does.
No, look. No matter what you do you spark me to get better and just even fit in sometimes. Sometimes I lose my way and then I realize sometimes I can't please everybody. Not just you, but…I please myself, but then I kick myself when I go, “Shit, the fans like solos, man, give them solos for God's sake.”

I really do like Destroy All Monsters. I upped the points a little bit because this one took a long time to get into.
Right. It's definitely... different. You know what; you've opened up your page a lot more. It's definitely classic melodic rock, but you have a lot of different material on there lately.

I felt really burned out after the I'm Goin' Sane record and even this Destroy All Monsters thing was fun to do but I was so unmotivated to do anything for the last 4 months and I'm bored out of my mind and I want to get back into it again but it's so hard getting back up on the horse every time, you know?

And the fans kinda go, “Dude, what do you do all day?” They go, “Come on, give us something.” And I'm like, “Okay”. It's hard to get up in the morning sometimes. I don't mean that literally, just a cliché kinda thing to say. Well, it's not a cliché, it's just a figure of speech.

Yeah, sometimes I sit here at the computer first thing in the morning and I go, “Fuck, what do I do now?”
I know, and to come up with creative things to talk about and to keep the fans interested and stuff. But your page has so much shit going on. I don't know how you run it. It costs me a couple thousand bucks even to run my web site to get it together and it's still kind of cheesy, but your thing. I don't know the ins and outs of how to keep a web site going, but that's a lot of RAM.

Edit – some chatter about this and that….and back to the interview….

Where's your head at as far as styles and stuff? I mean Destroy All Monsters is pretty modern.
Destroy all Monsters is, I look at it as, it's more modern compared to the classic melodic rock of Mr. Big and that's the only… most people know me from that.

But I like the more… I like the pop rock thing, but I've kind of done it for the last couple of albums. To me, I look at it as simple rock, simple pop music.

Yeah, it is.
It's like me doing it.

It's catchy as hell.
It's catchy. Thank you. But I don't have the luxury of having the Paul Gilberts, I mean, Paul Gilbert to write with… he writes that pop rock stuff but I would love to have a little bit more of the innovative, a little bit more chords than the 3 chords that I write to write with.
I think my next album is going to lean a little bit more towards, believe it or not, I swear to God, I'm so like into Elton John lately I can't believe it.
Yeah, well that type of classic rock, Elton John, “Take Me To The Pilot”, right? And the early Mr. Big stuff. That Mr. Big kinda style. I want to do something like that and actually stick to my guns. I did it on Destroy All Monsters. I didn't want to… I'm Goin' Sane was cool, but Destroy All Monsters was a little bit more… the production to me I thought was a little bit better.

Yeah. I'll tell you the thing I noticed about the album is that from Track 1 to Track 12 it is consistently the same style, isn't it? The same approach, the same…
Yeah, that's the first time I've ever done that to do… the only one was that “I Can Die Now”, reggae thing. I always do that for some odd reason on a record. I'll throw some monkey wrench in there, and people go, “What the hell did you do?” And I went, “I don't know, it's a song I wrote and I needed to put it on there.” But this is the 1st record since like Mr. Big days that I've actually stuck to my guns and I had a thematic thing, you know, just a straight ahead pop rock record. No different type of frills or anything. Will I go in this direction in the future? I don't think so. I think I'll… I don't know if I'm ready to be jumping into the… I don't want to be, I can't be Mr. Big without the rest of them.

People ask that all the time. When is Mr. Big going to get back together? Or, if you could be with one member, and I go, “Hey man, it's all or nothing.”

Yeah, I e-mailed Billy about 2 weeks ago saying let's do an interview for Influences and Connections and he hasn't replied yet.
Yeah, he's not good at that, really.

He's still pissed at me because he thinks I'm on your side rather than just being neutral or whatever.
Hey, look, I'm glad you're my friend, but…It's ridiculous to even… I did an interview today and she asked me, “Do you listen to Mr. Big stuff, their individual music?” And I said, “I have a couple of Paul albums and I have a couple of Richie records. I have Richie's new one, Change. There's this one song on the record, I even said, “I really like, it was called 'Don't Ask'” and I really like that a lot, and I wasn't even going to talk about the other two guys and I went, “It's politically incorrect,” I don't want people to think… I mean, I don't fuckin' hate these guys. We were in a band together and it didn't work out. I swallowed that bitter pill a long time ago, it's like kind of over. If we ever got back together, I sure would like to get back together some day and do something, because everybody is so… I'm so over the problems we had, the stupid miscommunications. It's so much water under the bridge now.

I don't think Billy's over it for some reason.
No, he's not. He's very…he's still bitter. I can't believe… I didn't fuck with his career or anything. Fuck, he's going like gangbusters. He's doing great.

Maybe he didn't like the review I did for the Influences album.
Well, how are people going to think anyway about that Influences album? First of all, you put out a record that you play on. That was your mistake. You try to recreate the old stuff and you don't even get a blessing from your singer that was a member of the band or a blessing of Paul Gilbert.
He was Mr. Big too. You're playing “Green Tinted Sixties Mind” you think he'd get like a quote from Paul, you know what I mean? So already you're putting out controversy, if anybody cares anyway. If you put it out you're alienating a couple members of the band, and you're putting it out, and some songs… some songs are really good. I think it's a good record, but in the age of so many tribute records, to put out a record with minus people on it and minus good spirits, immediately people think that you did it for the money.
I look back at it and I go, what would I do anyway on it? I wouldn't sing on my own… I would've much rather had Glenn Hughes band play.

Glenn did the best track on there.
“Price You Gotta Pay”?

Actually, “Alive & Kicking”.
“Alive & Kicking”. Did he do that?

Yeah. It's not on the Japanese release; it's a bonus track on the Frontiers release.

I have no idea why it wasn't on the original album, because it's the best track by a long way.
I myself, you probably disagree, but I like… I don't like, I don't recognize “Take Cover” because it's got a very slick, but I did like Doug Pinnick's, what was it? It was an emotional, it was an alternative kind of vibe.

Yeah, a few people liked that track actually.
I like that.

The original is one of my all time favorites.
Yeah, mine too.

Man, I love that song. You've got a great vocal on that track.

It's so emotional. I love it.
Yeah, I look at a record, and I go, “I'm honored that all these people did it, but when it says Mr. Big's Influences and Connections, I kind of go, “Well, there's a few of my influences on there.” They're all people that I love.
It's not because it's kissing ass or anything, but I thought Billy Sheehan singing a boogie version of “Addicted To That Rush” was pretty good.
It almost sounded like ZZ Top. He even does that ZZ Top sound in there. It's good, but when people hear Mr. Big, it was more for the muso sense of it than the awesome playing. It's a sign of the times.
I would've loved to have Paul Rodgers do “To Be With You”, a bluesy version of “To Be With You”. Not Paul Rodgers to do his own song.

I must give you a special… I don't know if you've read last year, but every year I do a sort of Best Of 2003 and give out a few awards, right? And this year you're getting the Best Sexual Innuendo Lyric Award for “What's The Worst That Can Happen”.

“Mr. Toad's wild ride….” <laughs>
Yep. Hey, man. That song rocks. Lyrically, that song was… when I was first writing about it, you know, what it's about, I think I said something about social rebellion but it's kind of a song like what not to do. Definitely, when I read it to my mother she said, “It sounds like your life,” because I was that guy, you know, who was so dumb to play with matches and daddy's gun and go, “What do you mean?” I had a problem with listening. Yeah, it definitely has comic relief in it like, “…make out like Bonnie and Clyde” and “show you Mr. Toad's wild ride” and all that stuff.

I just started laughing when I heard that and thought – that deserves a special award. <laughs>
Ah, thanks. It's good to be back on top -- no matter what. Even if I'm wearing the jester hat, I'll take it.

Good stuff. There's some really good stuff on there. Some really catchy lyrics and really catchy melodies.
It's not what you'd expect. People do expect me to sing that energetic Mr. Big type songs because that's the way it is now. I made it famous doing those records. And then me doing something else, and it's not that it's uncharacteristic, because Destroy All Monsters could've been a 415 record. It was something that I had always been doing. It was like Sucker For a Pretty Face or something like that, and with the help of Mr. Big it made me write, I won't say write better, but write heavier songs and more energetic songs like that. It's because of their help. I mean, granted, if I would've had a parallel career as Mr. Big, like you know how Sammy Hagar played his poppy “I Can't Drive 55”, he made it pretty big as a solo artist and then he got in Van Halen and then became a legitimate Rock Star, and now he's back to doing palm tree shirts, and drinking tequila and doing party animal rock.

He's got to give the Hawaiian shirts up!
You know what. I'm not in a contest. I'm writing a record, I'm proud of it, it's kind of poppy and now it's over and now I'm going to tour on it or make a new one but I'm not going to make the same one again. I thought I'm Goin' Sane and Destroy All Monsters was enough of the pop rock thing and now I'm going to take another step up the ladder.

That's cool. You'll always have a really catchy melody and a good voice. I hope enough people get to hear Destroy All Monsters.
Exactly. I hope they do and maybe put away Mr. Big for a minute or 45-50 minutes, however long the record is, and go, “Ah, that's different.” Or get into it. It's so weird, you can't please everybody. I've had kids say, “Who's Mr. Big?” I've told you that before. And I go, “Okay, it was this band I was in.” The thing about Mr. Big that I really miss is that I really miss my premier mileage plus card that I could travel around the world consistently for years. I miss bragging rights. I miss that a lot. Like Jeff Watson, the fuckin' guy's so funny, everywhere he goes he's passing out a guitar pick going, “Jeff Watson from Night Ranger, and this is Eric Martin,” and then he looks at me and he goes, “What should I say?” and I go, “Just say Eric Martin. Don't worry about it, man.” <laughs>. It's okay. It used to be Eric Martin from Mr. Big and that sounded better.

Haha….Maybe, Eric Martin from Watson/Martin.
Even my mother, she'll go, she'll walk up to somebody and go, “Eric Martin from Mr. Big,” and I'll say, “Mom, I'm not with Mr. Big anymore,” and she'll say, “But you were.” Kind of like George Bush, Sr. They still call him the President even though he's not a President anymore. Anyway, I don't know. Kind of a weird analogy.
Anyway, I miss the bragging rights and I miss traveling around the world and I miss being on the big stage and headlining all over the world and opening to bands like Aerosmith and all of that, and it is… I miss that but when I talked to you a year or two years ago, I was going like, “I'm really hoping to get back on that stage as big as that,” Anymore, not really. I know I'm never, I'll have to do another 12 or 13 years of campaigning to get back up their again and sell my soul a little bit to try and be Eric Martin from Mr. Big again. I just want to… I definitely want to come out with a record… I thought I sang really good on this record, but I think I can do even better. I chose keys that were a little higher than the last record, but they could be a little more higher, and I don't mean that like back in the '80s when I'd yell, “Yeah, come on,” and the crowd would all scream, and if I sang a little higher they'd scream even louder, but just a little bit more urgency in my voice. I really need that back.

I tried to get that back with Destroy All Monsters but when you play 3 chord pop rock it lends itself to be more pop.

Maybe you can try something a little different with Jeff Watson if you finally stop drinking.
Well Jeff is such a classic rocker that you can't get around that, there's nothing you can do except play melodic rock. That's him. He is melodic rock guitar player guy. I know you have tons of them, on your page. You write about so many of these people that I don't even know, but now I know. I didn't know, I didn't really pay any attention to Marty Friedman's and stuff like that, but now I know exactly who he is and his Cacophony days and the whole bit. But even some of these European guys that you've written about and you definitely write about… they were like nobodies some of these people back then and now they're somebody.

I appreciate your support.
You appreciate me being me, right? <laughs>

You bet.
For lack of a better word.

No, it's good, mate. I appreciate it. You're a good guy.
Good talking to you, man.
Good talking. Thanks a lot for the review. I don't know if I deserve it, but I appreciate it.

Thank you, mate.
All right, Andrew. Hey, who's your next interview?

Well I'm supposed to call Jack. I might try to give him a call now.
Yeah, man. Try to get the scoop out of him with the Japanese. Just go, “Eric was telling me, he can't tell me, it's some special project that you and Jack are doing and we're doing some sort of trial run in January and if it works it could be really big, and if it doesn't work then we basically go back to our perspective corners.

I'm sure it'll work.
All right, man. I'll talk to ya.

Take care.