07 Oct 2016

Candlebox

Candlebox is one of the finest and most popular bands of the second wave of the grunge movement of the early 90s. Its self titled debut was immensely successful and it’s considered a classic of the genre. 25 years later, Candlebox marches on with yet another spectacular studio album called “Disappearing in Airports”. We track down the band’s singer Kevin Martin for his first ever interview with a Greek medium. As you will read below, Kevin shares all the details about the new album, the two new members, the grunge movement in Seattle etc.  Interview: Sakis Nikas  


Rockpages.gr: Kevin, you have a new album out called “Disappearing in Airports”. First of all who thought of the album title and is there any special meaning behind it?Candlebox01

Kevin Martin: The album title was inspired by the painting that it’s on the cover. It was done by a friend of mine, Scott Rivers Fisher…I asked him to a do a painting for me but unfortunately in the process he had a heart attack and died. So, I lost a friend but I gained a piece of art. We decided to use it as the cover artwork and keep the title “Disappearing in Airports” which Scott had given to the painting. It’s really a tribute to Scott and actually a great honor for me to have his art on the cover of a Candlebox record. He meant a lot to me as an artist and as a friend.

Rockpages.gr: When I first listened to the new record, I couldn’t help but noticing that it’s a more straightforward record; it seems that all the songs had a more loose, a more rock n’ roll feeling if you prefer. Do you agree?

Kevin Martin: Absolutely. That’s what we were shooting for. I always felt that Candlebox was a little bit convoluted musically…sometimes it got lost in its…me entering inside the songs. When I wrote with Pete songs like “Breathe Me In”, “Change”...this type of songs, they always had too many parts, in my opinion. On the other hand, when I wrote songs with Bardi…like “Far Behind” and “You” there was a clear simplistic approach; I always preferred a more simple style that’s why I chose a direct path on this record. Luckily it worked. Ι think it’s a very strong record for Candlebox; a lot different from what people expected from us…yeah, I agree. It’s looser, more straightforward, direct and straight to the point.

Rockpages.gr: You have two new members in the band: Mike Leslie and Brian Quinn. Did they spark a new energy to the band in general and did they inspire you on a personal level?

Kevin Martin: Yeah, they are both incredibly talented. Not only did they inspire me but they also inspired Dave (Krusen) and Adam (Kury). Dave has played with us for the last four albums and I’ve been working with him since 1997. Bringing Mike and Brian in, it definitely kickstarted an energy into the band that we didn’t really expect. I think we were concerned with what it was gonna happen…we didn’t know what to expect. So, we were pleasantly surprised. They are both incredibly talented; two entirely different players…Mike is a very loose, blues player…B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix are his main influence and inspiration. Brian is incredibly crafty. Growing up on Iron Maiden and Randy Rhoads and that type of stuff…I was really inspired by his playing. I am sure that everybody will agree on this but he gave Candlebox the edge that we needed on the new record. Mike and Brian complete each other, they give a new perspective to the band but at the same time they don’t overshadow the song with their playing. To me that was the most important thing that’s why I am so happy with both of them.  

Rockpages.gr: I absolutely love the song “Supernova”. It’s not your typical rock song but it has also lots of R&B influences in there. Do you agree?

Kevin Martin: Yeah…we intentionally did that. We were thinking of writing a song in…let’s say, in the vein of “Emotional Rescue” by the Stones and the pop element of “Love Gun” by KISS. We wanted the song to have something really sexy about it and I am a huge proponent of R&B music. If I had to pick my favorite styles of music, next to punk rock I would put R&B. It was always a source of inspiration for me. That’s what I love about the record “Emotional Rescue”. It’s so different than everything that the Stones had ever done up to that point. It’s my favorite record by the Stones which is crazy really if you think the classic ones…“Black and Blue”, “Sticky Fingers” etc. There’s something really magical on “Emotional Rescue” that I just can’t shake. It’s the same thing with KISS…when they did “Love Gun” that album was a big departure for them…

Rockpages.gr: Maybe, you are referring to “Dynasty”…that was the biggest departure for KISS…well, before “The Elder”.

Kevin Martin: Yeah, I know. You can use that album, also, as an example because it had that disco element. But there was also a pop element to “Love Gun” that I really liked. But you are absolutely right…“I Was Made For Lovin’ You” had an incredible disco vibe that we probably stole from it the bridge section (laughs).

Rockpages.gr: Do you remember the first record that you ever bought?

Kevin Martin: Yeah, it was “KISS Alive!”.

Rockpages.gr: Was it the record that made you pick up an instrument and become a professional musician?

Kevin Martin: Not really. For me it was probably “London Calling” by The Clash. This was the record that made me think that I could make a living by playing music. I loved KISS but it was more of dressing up as a character…I acted up as Peter Criss because I used to play the drums in the beginning. He was definitely an inspiration but for me it was always The Clash and their way of presenting a straightforward style of rock and roll music.  

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Rockpages.gr: Lots of longtime fans of Candlebox were really worried last year when Scott, Peter and Sean left the band. What really happened and did that disappoint you or had you worried as well?

Kevin Martin: No…I think…with Sean it was inevitable. He is really a vagabond…we didn’t think it would last so long as it did. He can move to Los Angeles from Salt Lake City and then we can easily decide to go to Nashville and live there for a while. So, we didn’t think that he will stick around as much as he did. He is always a little brother to me but at the same time I knew that he would leave Candlebox at some point. With Pete and Scott…in the last three years, between 2012 and 2015, they were just unhappy. They didn’t wanna tour; they didn’t enjoy making records and they didn’t want to be away from home and their families. So I said to them: “Guys, if you are unhappy with the whole thing, why are you doing it? Go out and do something that you enjoy. I’ll keep the band name and we will continue. If you ever decide to come back you are more than welcome”. I think it was the time to make that change. I wasn’t worried or concerned. I started the band in 1991 having with me different players. Scott was the second drummer that came down and played with us. Candlebox was always my baby, if you will. I think the first three records that we did with Pete and Bardi were stronger because they were involved. Having said that, I truly believe that “Happy Pills” is one of the best Candlebox records. It’s really about embracing the change and going with it, if you will. You should not be afraid of change and that’s the problem with many bands around…when progress is due, you should embrace change.

Rockpages.gr: It’s been 25 years since you first started with Candlebox. Did you expect that you would be having such a long and successful career as a professional musician?

Kevin Martin: Well, you dream about it…you hope you can achieve something as a musician…

Rockpages.gr:…the success came really early for you.

Kevin Martin: Yeah, very early. I think that was probably to our detriment. I wish we would have taken a little bit longer but I also think that it was inevitable at that point because that was the current state of things for rock and roll music back then. If you had a song like “You” or “Far Behind”, you had a good chance of achieving commercial success. But I truly believe that these were really special songs and people really enjoyed listening to them. I wish we would have a longer growth…maybe, by the second record…if you think about all these Seattle bands, like Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains, their debuts were really monster albums! Soundgarden, of course, has been doing it for quite sometime. It wasn’t really when they went mainstream with their songwriting that people started recognizing them as a force to be reckoned with. Same with Nirvana…“Bleach” was a groundbreaking record for them but it wasn’t really until “Nevermind” where things escalated. I believe that by that time they had crafted their songs and people started noticing them. But getting back to your question…do I think that we would last 25 years? I had absolutely no idea. I always wanted to have a band which would be really four friends that will play music for the rest of their lives. But the reality is different of course. So, around 1995-1996 things got weird and it caused a riff between the band members thus making it difficult to write good songs or to make music in general. I think at that point I realized that my dream of having four friends playing together forever, it was just a dream…totally different to what was really the case. I was totally happy when we got back together in 2006.

Rockpages.gr: Being from Greece, it’s hard to imagine those early 90s days in Seattle when the grunge movement was starting to happen. Yes, there were the big names like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden etc. but would you care to describe to us what was going on in the clubs, in the studios back in the day?

Kevin Martin: (laughs) Magic! Lots and lots of magic! I remember seeing Soundgarden for the very first time when Chris Cornell was playing drums and singing…they were three-piece in the beginning. I was blown away by the power of their music. I saw Nirvana and Alice in Chains for the very first time…It was incredible. The city was small and everybody knew each other. It was a very vivid music scene…Mudhoney, Green River, Malfunction…that kind of bands that established a raw sound, a direct rock and roll sound with punk elements. They also took the 70s sound of Heart and the metal direction of Queensryche and took it to a whole different path. It was a magical time for Seattle and at the same time it was the perfect opportunity to expand to the whole world…and that’s exactly what it did. But there were so many bands in Seattle that never made it to the mainstream…bands like Easy, Bliss…all these really cool bands that made people wanna go to the clubs and check out this new thing that was going on in the late 80s and early 90s. It was a great experience and something that we will never forget. The gift that Seattle gave me as a musician but also as a fan is unique and priceless.  

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Rockpages.gr: I really loved your article on Alternative Nation website about the current state of music. Do you think that things would change in the future or they will get even worse?

Kevin Martin: I don’t know, man. I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine the other day. His point was…bands today don’t know any better. The may listen to The Clash, early Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, The Who etc. bands that had something to say politically or socially…they may listen to them but they don’t seem to understand the importance of their music and the depth of their lyrics. This is the world now with the internet...Candlebox04you say something and it’s instantly everywhere. You make a mistake on stage or you write a stupid tweet and everybody knows about it. I think what happened was…people have become really cautious; musicians have become very cautious of their opinion and that’s detrimental of what rock and roll is all about. That’s what I was trying to say in my essay. It’s your job as a musician to not conform! It’s your job to piss people off. If you lose a fan over it…big fucking deal! It’s really important to say what you want to say. Is it gonna get worse? I don’t think it can get even worse than it already is right now. I just wish that all the musicians realize that they should say what they want to say and stick by their word; be adamant about it! Personally, I lost a lot over the things that I said in the past but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned a lot about society and life in general from it.  

Rockpages.gr: In early 2017, you are gonna tour in Europe. You are first and foremost an American band but what can you tell us about the differences between the two audiences…the European and the American ones?

Kevin Martin: I think that the American audience has become very very jaded. We can get anything we want…now with all this virtual reality stuff I wonder what’s gonna happen to the world of music; what’s gonna happen to the world of concerts? Everybody in America seems content of sitting home and enjoying his or her virtual reality. They are not eager of checking out new bands in the clubs and all they do is sit on their couches doing absolutely nothing. What I really like in South American and European audiences is that you don’t have these conveniences that we have here in America. Everybody here is in competition with each other over the best cell phones or the best network or…I don’t know…over everything! We have every option in the world to watch and listen to everything without paying a dime for it. In Europe things are really different and fans still appreciate music and still want to go to concerts. We haven’t been to Europe since 1996 and I am really looking forward to it as I love the passion and loyalty of our European fans. I am excited about it.

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