Interview with Martin Barre
August 8, 1997
by John Perry and Steph Perry
Rock Notes had the honor of interviewing Martin Barre and Doane Perry of Jethro Tull. We met with them during the sound check before their performance at the Oakdale on August 8th. Martin has been with Jethro Tull for close to thirty years and still plays with the same energy and excitement that he did in years past. He has two solo albums to date and hopes to work on a third early next year. Martin uses Soldano amps out of Seattle. He said he had difficulty getting his gear to America for this tour and the people at Soldano loaned him brand new amps and cabinets. His guitars are made by Manson of Devon, England. They’re hand-made by two brothers. One makes acoustics for Ian Anderson and Martin and the other brother makes the electrics for Martin. He said that he collects model trains, not guitars. “I look after them [guitars] but they’re tools. They’re not holy. They’re not more important than they should be…I respect them.”
Check out Martin’s latest solo effort, The Meeting, on Imago Records. It includes five instrumentals and six tracks featuring Maggie Reeday and Joy Russell on vocals. The CD is a mix of progressive rock, classical, and jazz. What follows is an excerpt of our conversation with Martin Barre.
Are you familiar with the internet?
I’ve never had the time to learn or get involved with the computer. If I’ve got an hour I’ll play the guitar. If I’ve got two hours I’ll play the guitar and the flute. If I’ve got three hours I’ll play the guitar, play the flute, and go for a run, etc., etc. Unfortunately, the computer comes at the end of my list of priorities. As long as I can survive without it, I will. When the day comes that I have to use it, then I’ll just have to get busy.
We read that Jethro Tull got their big break opening up for Led Zeppelin. Do you have any memorable stories from that tour?
It was great but it was very competitive in those days…To make it in America you had to slot with the big band – the big name. You were pressured by management and record label to blow the big band off the stage…You had your half an hour slot…it was exciting, we did well…But, unfortunately there was a sort of friction…unspoken. It’s a shame because they’re nice people…That tour really made it for Tull. That’s the tour where it all took off.
What do you think of today’s music scene?
I don’t like watching MTV and I don’t really like listening to radio but I’ve got two daughters that are 18 and 16 and they buy a lot of stuff and I pay attention to what they’re buying…there’s an odd good song here or there.
Tull is one of the few rock bands that has stood the test of time. What is the secret to your success?
I don’t know why but the people who come tonight would know why more than me. You might say we’ve diversified with albums, and there’s no formula, there’s no sort of predictability about what we do musically…and we’ve never stopped working…we haven’t lost the momentum…we do what we enjoy, and we write and play the best that we can.
Do you get stage fright?
I get it every time I perform. I’ll have it tonight, but it’s not fright, it’s a nervous anticipation. You never know what’s going to happen.
What is your favorite Tull song?
There’s not an album or song that I dislike…I don’t tend to listen to Tull music unless I’m learning it. I’m too involved with it…Crest Of A Knave, Under Wraps, and Benefit are the three albums that I particularly like.