Every once in a while you get lucky in searching for new music on the Internet. That is what happened when I found Martin Stacey's debut album Bliss in Undertow at CDBaby.com. Stacey's debut album is full of excellent musicianship. As a multi-instrumental artist and composer Stacey has created an inspired work of art that Mark Johnson wanted to ask some questions to help dig deeper into the lyrical content of the album.
Martin, welcome to the Sea of Tranquility. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule promoting your new album Bliss in Undertow.
Mark – Martin, tell us about the story of your musical career, so far.
Martin – Well, I have always had an innate ability to create & express, coupled with a very powerful draw to music, but I guess that my journey didn't really begin until I met my brothers in Opiate- a metal band from Indianapolis. I ended up being the lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and primary songwriter for the band for about 8 years. Eventually things fell by the wayside with that & I decided that I needed a change. I moved out to the West Coast to try & make something of myself- by myself in October of 2011. This is my first go at a solo career. It's daunting, but absolutely rewarding!
Mark – How would you describe the theme or concept of Bliss in Undertow?
Martin – Bliss In Undertow is what I have felt ever since I decided to seriously pursue a career in music. I know it might sound pretentious, but it's how I view my current position in life. I'm caught in a pull that is much bigger & stronger than myself, and this is the happiest I've ever been. I think everyone has a choice to make. Either you can be pragmatic & try to control everything with plans & safety nets, dreaming of glory days & what might've been, or you can let go & give in to the surge of your passions & let them take you where they will. I think that it can be done, but you've got to be strong, cunning, resourceful & resilient to survive.
Mark – Your song "Awakening" reminded me of an interview question I was once asked, "What makes you wake up in the morning?" So I'll ask you, what motivates you to create music?
Martin – Everything. Life. Death. Existence in general. Sadness, joy, triumph, anger, love, hate, orgasms, electrical storms, all of it. Music has been inside me since I was a kid; nagging & clawing away at my brain until I couldn't focus on anything else- my mother will attest to that. What motivates me to do it is that I literally can't do anything else. It's a need that I can't even begin to define. Hell, half of the music for the next album I'll probably put out is already written just from dreaming of melodies or themes or phrases & waking up in the middle of the night to record them… It's always there. I'd say that sometimes, I wish that I could shut it off, but I'd be lying.
Mark – What are your hopes for the future?
Martin – For the immediate future, I hope that I can assemble a band/crew that can help me pull off live what I did in the studio. I want to tour. I love the road. I love performing. I love sharing my music with people… LOTS of people. Oh, and new tunings… weird open tunings… with 7ths in them... Fripp would be proud.
Long term, I want to be able to support myself with the music that I write on my own, maybe do some session work with some bigger names, and even write music for some movies. I love film scores, and I think I'd be good at interpreting moods, scenes & even people, with music.
Mark – "Bleed the Echoes Dry" is a cool title for a track. The song includes a reference to "forgotten dreams". What goals or objectives have you let go that you would like to get back?
Martin – Hmmm… maybe I could finish that full-length album that Opiate never released & actually put it out for everyone who never got to hear it… Also, I've wanted to build a recording studio that I could just live in ever since I realized that people could just build them…
Mark – "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" is an excellent addition to this album. It must be a song that you learned to play years ago.
Martin – Heh, thanks, but it actually took me quite a while to figure it out- it was tough! I've always loved the song, ever since I saw "Somewhere in Time" (which also happens to be my favorite Iron Maiden song/album). I put it on there not only because it fit really well, but also for my mother. She had a lot to do with my musical influences with which I grew up; specifically in the classical genre.
Mark – "Intangible" seems to be a statement on the isolation we may feel in the 21st century.
Martin – It sort of is… as the ability to communicate with anyone & everyone at a moment's notice grows, so does people's (mostly unsatisfied) need for attention (hence twitter, instagram, spotify, tumblr, reddit, etc). I'm as guilty as the next guy. I was trying to hit on that old adage about how you won't find something until you stop looking for it… and in this case, it really is intangible.
Mark – "In" features some great piano work. Which is your favorite instrument to play?
Martin – Thanks, I actually came up with the structure for that song years ago on a guitar, but I felt that piano gave the melodies a more suitable voice in this case. I don't know if I have a favorite… I love drumming, I'm far more versatile on drums than any other instrument, but guitar is my most comfortable instrument to write on, while I think my voice is my most expressive instrument.
Mark – Is the world heading on a course of no return which we can no longer steer away from anymore?
Martin – Yes, definitely, but really, pollution, overpopulation & sapping of resources aside, it always has been. Civilizations rise & fall; power is redistributed from one hand to the next, things change. Humans, when they become comfortable, hate change… and inevitably, things will do just that. Something honestly has to; it'll likely be catastrophic. There are too many of us lying blindly, complicit- sucking down fear & propaganda like diet coke- to actually consciously cause it. Now, don't get me wrong; it's not that I like the idea, but I honestly think that we're going to need for something ridiculous to happen before we get off of our asses. Life will prevail- but probably not the way we knew it. I'm just trying to leave my mark before it all topples… but I don't honestly think we'll see it in our lifetimes.
Mark – In what way are we our own undertow?
Martin – Alright, this is going to sound like a motivational sermon, but that is one loaded fucking question, so bear with me!
We are our own undertow means that we're all the key to our own fates. Happiness, depression, love, hate, fear… it all comes from within. It's all chemicals. The good stuff is there, all we need to do is recognize it let it affect us instead of bitching about the price of a laté. The undertow is a state of mind as much as it is a choice. Either you can choose to sink further & further into misery, letting tedium & stress & nonsense suck you deep into a miserable, fat, pimply mound of self-loathing, or you can let your true passions pull you under & DECIDE to be happy. The undertow that engulfs your life can be the shit we all spend so much money trying to get to, or it can be what we make it! There are no quick-fixes. It's YOUR brain. Ya gotta make the effort & learn to control it.
Mark – Which musicians inspire you enough to want to work with them?
Martin – I would love to work with people in genres that I haven't delved into as much- Enya, Pat Metheny, Kaki King, Timbaland, Zoe Keating, Danny Elfman, Sade, Tori Amos… There's a huge list, but I would really love to make something with people who are involved with genres that are totally outside of my comfort zone… something truly unique & original, possibly inspiring others to do more. Oh, and I wouldn't hate it if Arjen Lucassen called me up to be on an Ayreon album either!
Mark – Is there a topic or concept that you would like to create that has not been written about before or in the right way?
Martin – Well, who am I to judge what the "right way" is? I have no idea if there even is one.
A concept that has been at the back of my mind has been about someone developing Stockholm Syndrome to the point where they end up taking over the original scheme & actually get away with it! I'm sure it's been done, but I like the idea. A musical concept I would like to create is to make all of my own samples & sounds out of things I actually create- i.e. the TARDIS noise from "Doctor Who" being made from someone scraping some piano wire & putting some echo & compression on it, or the way the guys from Asche & Spencer made their own keyboard sound by striking each individual note on a piano & marimba in unison, & recording each tone onto an old shitty tape reel, but touching the tape all the while so that each note has it's on personality! AND I'VE GOT A BIRTHDAY COMING UP!!
Mark – What is next for Martin Stacey?
Martin – L.A. if I can help it… Touring, promoting, endorsing, bring it on! If Ray Charles made selling out cool, why can't I ?!
Mark – Are there any other comments that you would like to add?
Martin – Well, I'd tell all the lil kiddies to stay in school, but then, I'd be sending the wrong message, wouldn't I? (heh).
Mark- Thank you again for providing some answers for your fans. The Sea of Tranquility wish you well with the launch of Bliss in Undertow and all that you do in the future.
Martin – Thanks for the opportunity! May the Sea of Tranquility continue in success as well.
(Click here to read our review of Bliss in Undertow)