In the late afternoon sun, at a quaint sushi bar patio set within a busy entertainment district, sits a man proudly as he overlooks the familiar landscape which gave birth to his foreseen musical forthcoming. Not far, are the gritty clubs where he and two high school mates once decided to embark on their plight to penning a new chapter in Canada’s rock history. With the evening prior celebrating the band’s long-awaited return to their native soil, The Tea Party’s illusive Jeff Martin revels in the aftermath of a capacity-filled performance. Armed with an insatiable passion for his craft and a creative tongue for delivering the many tales leading to the band’s success, he pulls back the curtain and reveals the rise of one of music’s truly great trios.
“Everything has come full-circle,” he acknowledges. “When The Tea Party started here in Windsor, we had the biggest local support for our original music. This caused us to go elsewhere to see if it would translate, so up we went to the ‘Big Smoke’ – Toronto. When we did get our break, in signing with EMI and creating the first couple records, it became somewhat like ‘tall poppy syndrome’. Surprisingly, the local radio station 89X refused to play our music while the rest of Canada was playing it like it was ‘on fire’. There was also a bit of backlash from musicians, who were our peers here at the time, and after some success their thoughts were, ‘You know, who do they think they are?’ But it’s very refreshing today, that all we get here is nothing but unconditional love and support.”
Reminiscing through his introduction to music at an early age, Martin recalls evenings spent with his father, a mentor and accomplished musician in his own right, in the darkened grottoes of downtown Detroit’s crude neighbourhood nightclubs. With the infamous Soup Kitchen having ushered in an era of gifted Chicago-based blues legends, as well as other captivating local artists, the duo would often study the greats who performed nightly. Recalling one irreplaceable evening when the legendary Albert King invited ‘the boy’, then 11, on stage, Martin describes tearing through “I’ll Play the Blues for You” alongside its creator as transforming.
Perceived as an adolescent fantasist, Martin still holds the ‘lack of attendance’ record at his local high school. Conversely, he excelled in poetry and mathematics as they together related to music. As well, he spent most of his youth perfecting his skills on his instrument and those of Middle Eastern and Indian culture. Though his post-secondary education in musical studies at the University of Windsor was brief, due solely to a personality conflict with one of his professors, he attributes the moment of his departure from the program as the turning point toward a career in rock music.
In light of his recent about-face, Martin along with Stuart Chatwood (bass) and Jeff Burrows (drums), formed The Tea Party in 1990 after an epic jam-session at the Cherry Beach Rehearsal Studios in Toronto. In 1991, the trio independently released their self-titled debut album, which subsequently lead to their signing with EMI Records in 1993 and the creation of the epic ‘Splendor Solis’. Though the world’s ears awoke to the sounds of ‘Moroccan Roll’, a term coined to describe their culmination of blues, progressive rock and Indian and Middle Eastern influences, Australia truly took to the new sound and quickly adopted The Tea Party as native sons.
Martin speaks of his love affair with the ‘Land of Oz’ adoringly. “Australia was the first country outside of Canada to embrace The Tea Party. To say that they embraced us is an understatement. They owned us. In fact, there is no Canadian band, even to this day, that can come close to the success that we have had there. Reason being, is that the country’s capital cities are like cosmopolitan melting pots and perhaps the exotic aspect of our music just rang true to them. Also, bands in Australia have to be able to ‘cut their teeth' live. All the greats like INXS and Cold Chisel had to go through the pub seen before they earned respect. We did the same. Lastly, I also fell in love with a beautiful women Nicole, who is now my ex-wife, but still my best friend and the muse of everything that came.”
Referring more specifically to what propels Martin to create music or lyrics, he explains that the widely perceived notion that he is profoundly influenced by, or is a reincarnation of Doors' front- man Jim Morrison is misconstrued. He affirms without hesitation that Ian Curtis from the late 70s post-punk era group Joy Division made the most profound mark on him lyrically. Noting the decade of the 80s as the pinnacle era of music, he adds that groups including New Order, Echo and The Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs became a vast part of his high school listening collection.
Martin, however, does concede to the strong similarity between The Tea Party's material and that of music legends Led Zeppelin and often speaks with admiration for guitarist and friend Jimmy Page. Realizing their irrefutable achievement and significance, Martin respectfully expresses, “I believe that what The Tea Party is doing is on par with Zeppelin, but certainly not better. It is my intention, however, to use that influence and take it further.”
In the very near future, audiences will be able to critique the statement for themselves as the world's ears will once again awake to the thunder of The Tea Party. With their latest studio release in a decade, 'The Ocean at the End', produced by Martin, the record promises to continue from where the band left off. Having already opened up the vault in late June with 'Water's On Fire', the debut single, and subsequently in late July with 'The Black Sea', the group will gear up for a month-long national tour of Australia beginning October 9 in Perth to expose fans to the upcoming material. Speaking on a personal note and having been privy to hearing a board-mix of the record from stem to stern, fans should get ready ... 'The Party' is just beginning!
To discover more about Jeff Martin and The Tea Party visit: