Barrett Martin: Musical Artifacts and Seattle Punk
BM: I always kind of liked indigenous world music because of its musical primacy and its natural organic quality. I think as a child it started with my dad's collection of Latin Jazz and other exotic sounding albums that I was too young to remember. I remember him playing Hawaiian music, for example. Then my parents moved to Australia for several years and when I would go visit them I would hear Aboriginal music, and later when I went to New Zealand, I would hear Maori singing. I kept traveling on my own, to West Africa to study Wolof Griot drumming in Senegal, and Ewe drumming in Ghana. Another year I went to Cuba, and the year after that I did two extended tours of Brazil.
I eventually went back to graduate school and did my master's degree field work in the Peruvian Amazon working with the indigenous Shipibo people, which was an all-vocal culture with no drumming whatsoever. In graduate school I also worked with the Iraqi master musician Rahim Alhaj, and I learned some basic Arabic music theory, which deeply influenced the way I thought about music. Generally speaking, my growing interest in world music came from me visiting those places and experiencing the music first hand, in the field. I studied anthropology and ethnomusicology in graduate school at the academic level, but in reality, I just love to listen to a great Salsa band, or a singing Shipibo shaman, or a Fela Kuti record, or whatever musical mood strikes me on a given day.
AAJ: How would you say that your study of indigenous and folkloric music has influenced your own playing?
BM: Well, certainly all the different drumming systems I have studied have influenced the way I play the drum set. I've added a lot of rhythms and grooves that I would have otherwise never tried in the conventional Western way of playing. As a composer and songwriter, I think my exposure to world music, and jazz before that, has given me alternative ideas to the rock and pop structures. I mean, all the different scalar possibilitiesArabic maqams and Indian ragas, for example; African, Cuban, and Brazilian rhythmic sub-structures, and the way a melody can work over the top of a complex series of changesall of that has influenced the way I think and write about music, forever. I mean, when you really think about it, all the greatest songwriters and composers eventually investigate world music because they see how infinite and wonderful it is, and they want to keep learning and growing. From Bartók and his Hungarian folk melodies to Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, the greatest writers always get into world music eventually.
AAJ: Do you have any suggestions for people who are trying to succeed as musicians?
BM: I get asked this question all the time, and all I can say is this: if you know you are going to be a musician no matter what, then you stay on the musical path no matter what. Literally, no matter what happens to you, the good and the bad, all of these things forge your spirit and character into becoming a great musician. Your life is your music. You don't just do music for a period of time when it's easy, you do it through the thick and thin. Those are the musicians I admire the most, the ones who stuck it out. At an essential, mystical level, you are the music and the music shapes you over time. It's a lifelong pursuit, perhaps a many lifetimes pursuit. Being a musician is a sacred responsibility, so remember that. You are doing the highest art.
AAJ: Are you satisfied with where you are now as a player?
BM: Satisfied yes, but I'm always trying to learn new things and evolve my playing and composing. On any given night, in any given city in the world, I can go out and see a drummer better than me. It's not hard to do. I just go to the best jazz club and I'll see someone much better than me. On the other hand, each of us has a particular style and way of playing and I don't see a lot of drummers who play the way I do, very few actually. I just try to get better at the way I play drums, evolving my style of playing, improving my technique and taste. That's all anyone can do, whatever instrument they play.
Walking Papers, Walking Papers (Sunyata Records, 2012)
Screaming Trees, Last Words: The Final Recordings (Sunyata Records, 2011)
Mad Season, Above (Columbia, 1994)
Screaming Trees, Sweet Oblivion (Epic, 1992)
Skin Yard, 1000 Smiling Knuckles (SST/Cruz, 1991)
Thin Men, A Round Hear (Ensign, 1989)
Page 1: Jason Tang
Page 2: Stephanie Savoia