Originally posted on Swizzle-Stick.com (1999)
By day, Jason Martin is a mild-mannered truck driver, working for his father’s company in Southern California. By night, Jason Martin explores the intergalactic skies through his music, much the way bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and Swervedriver have in the past.
Though Everybody Makes Mistakes is Starflyer 59’s fifth full-length release, Jason isn’t ready to play the role of rock star yet. “I donıt want to get this mentality that I’m really doing something special. I’m not. It’s just rock and roll,” he tells Swizzlestick’s Chip Midnight.
The following is an excerpt of the rest of the conversation between Midnight and Martin.
Can you remember the first record you listened to?
Yeah, a band called Daniel Amos, a Christian band that I used to listen to as a kid.
Is that what planted the musical seeds in your head?
Yeah, I’ve always liked music. It’s not like I purposely tried to do this, this stuff just kind of happened. When I was a teenager I tried to write songs. The next thing I knew, we were putting out a record.
Did you buy your first guitar with the dreams of someday being in a rock band?
Well actually, I started off playing drums in my brotherıs band. He played guitar and wrote the songs. I just started messing with his guitar. When I was 16 I asked for a Telecaster for Christmas and I guess that’s what started it.
Did you learn to play guitar pretty quickly?
Yeah, I had taken piano lessons when I was a kid so I kind of understood what chords were and started shoving my fingers in different spots and figured out where they went.
Do you remember the first song you played along with?
It was probably something from the Pixies Doolittle album. I was really into that. I still canıt play some of that stuff, just a couple of licks here and there.
It’s pretty cool that you were discovering bands like the Pixies on your own when you were a teenager.
I wasnıt allowed to watch MTV. Our parents wouldnıt let it in our house. I donıt know why I mention all these bands, but I was really into the Smiths and New Order. I know the Pixies are nothing like that, but the guitar work on those things, thatıs what really made me want to play guitar.
What was the biggest influence as far as Starflyer 59 goes?
I kind of get asked that all the time. I like a lot of different forms of rock and roll. It’s not like I’m listening to just one band. If something comes out and I like the song, I kind of get into it a little bit.
I picture you as the kid who hung out at the record store flipping through the imports and reading all the British rock magazines.
When I started the band, I was really kind of a nut about that stuff. I used to spend my paycheck every week on the new 12″ and stuff. I don’t listen to as much music as I used to. I donıt know if I’m more picky or less picky. It just doesnıt excite me as much as it did.
Did it bum you out that imports were always so much more expensive than the domestically released stuff?
I thought it was cool because a group of my friends and I were always trying to one up each other. It was like, “Hey, I got the new Catherine Wheel.” You know what I mean? It was stupid stuff, trying to be one up on your friends.
Was there a particular record store that you liked a lot?
A place called Aaronıs Records that used to be down here. Itıs not around anymore. They got everything in there before anybody else. I’d go in there a few times a week and I discovered a lot of bands that way. It was my big music explosion from ı90 to about ı94.
If you had an unlimited budget, how would you record differently?
I donıt know. The guy thatıs been doing our last few records has been doing a really good job. His name is Gene Eugene. We don’t have six months in the studio, so it’s like whatever songs I have, we do. Sometimes I’ll listen back and say “Well, I probably would have used this or that.” But, when you start playing a song live for a year after the record, it kind of takes a new form. I think “I almost wish I could re-record it and do stuff a little bit different.” But itıs all my opinion. The songs are still the songs. It would be nice to have unlimited time and money.
Did you record your first CD before you were on Tooth & Nail?
No. I was on Tooth & Nail for about a month. I only had had a band for a few months when we did the first record. I met Brandon Ebel from Tooth & Nail and he just put us in the studio. We recorded whatever I had right then.
Do you do all the songwriting for Starflyer 59? Do you always record with the same band members?
Yeah, I do all the songwriting. The band lineup we have right now has been pretty solid for the past few years. Weıve had a few different bass players and a couple of different drummers. Sometimes the people that were into it three years ago aren’t into it anymore so they moved on. I’ve got to do a record so we have to find someone to fill the void, you know?
How do you approach songwriting?
I just play guitar occasionally, strum up some chords and try to find a melody to it and build upon that. I have a home studio so I’m always laying stuff down. When it comes time to do a record, I’ll weed through my tapes of this and that and try to hone in on ten or twelve songs.
I sense that you try to change a little bit with each album. Have you ever wanted to totally change styles and record a punk album or a heavy metal album?
No, not really. Each time I write a new batch of songs, thereıs usually something a little bit different about them because I’m at a different point musically. So thereıs always going to be a gradual step away from the last thing I did, because I’m tired of doing the last thing I did.
Iıve read that you donıt own a computer and arenıt a Web surfer. Are you familiar with E-Bay?
My mom is always on there.
I was looking to see what kind of rare Starflyer 59 material people were selling. The live album you did a few years ago sold for $61.
You’re kidding. $61? You’re kidding me. Holy cow. Thatıs pretty amazing. We just sold out of them 3 or 4 years ago. We didn’t have that many of them. Itıs just something we did in between signing with Tooth & Nail. It’s stuff thatıs on the first two albums. I get asked about it a lot. Thatıs outrageous. Thatıs nuts. I just think thatıs crazy. I get a lot of people asking us about it. We printed up 500 and re-ordered 1000 or 500 and someone lost the other 500 of them. The guy never shipped them or something.
Do you have pretty rabid fans? If somebody buys one of your albums, do you think theyıll buy all of them?
I donıt know if they’re going to buy all of them. We donıt have many fans, but the people that are into it . . . weıve been pretty blessed to have some loyal fans.
I know that the new album is just out, but do you have plans for the future?
We have this, it sounds kind of weird, retrospective thing coming out that will have leftovers and some life stuff from about a year ago. Itıs going to be a 3-CD set that should be coming out around the middle of the year. We’ll probably start a new record in the summer. The retrospective will have a couple of songs from each of the records and the EPs. The second disc will have all the b-sides that you havenıt been able to get a hold of. The third disc is going to have 7 or 8 live songs. I feel kind of dumb doing it, but I have all this stuff lying around and I just want to have some reason to put them out and start clean. This will have a good 10 or 12 things that nobody has.
What do you think about the current state of rock and the bands that are out there? Any predictions for the new year?
Music is like playing the lottery. I’m trying to figure it out. If I knew what was going to be big, I’d try to do it so I could pay the bills. It’s a hard thing to pin down. I would definitely do it. I don’t want to sound like the Backstreet Boys but if I could make a living from doing this 100%, I wouldn’t complain.