June 20, 2016 Interview – Kevin Martin of Candlebox
A lot can happen in twenty-five years. In that time, six different US presidential leaders can change office, an athlete’s career can begin and end, and a band like Candlebox can attain legendary Rock-n-Roll status. Out of Seattle, Washington, the band had massive success with their 1993 self-titled debut album; an album that preceded the impressive efforts of 1995’s Lucy and 1998’s Happy Pills. The interesting part, their story is still being written as the band enter their twenty-fifth year, releasing their sixth studio album, Disappearing in Airports. While the road has been paved with some detours, including a six year hiatus, some lineup changes, and issues with record labels, Candlebox hold their heads high with plenty left to offer the music scene. Recently we caught up with Lead Vocalist Kevin Martin to talk his journey with the band, the process behind Disappearing in Airports, other projects, Horror movies, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Candlebox has now been together over 25 years, attained platinum records, toured the world, and built a name as one of the most respected in Rock. Through the ups and downs, what has the journey been like for you?
Kevin Martin – (laughs) Ups and downs, exactly. It’s been amazing. To think, that when we started this band in 1991, that we would still be here 25 years later, I would have told you that you were absolutely crazy. It’s a dream when you are a kid that you are going to have a Rock-n-Roll band, people buy records, and you are going to tour the world. That’s something that when you go to your first concert, you think, “I really want to do that.” Here I am 25 years later being able to do it, it’s shocking to me. We’ve had the great moments and we’ve had the really hard moments. Things that have been heartbreaking and things that have almost killed the band several times. Frustrations, financial issues, and all those types of things that are involved with being in a Rock-n-Roll band, I think all of that has really kind of led up to this point. It really kind of made us the musicians we are today and given us the career that we have today. A lot of my friends from Seattle that aren’t able to do this anymore, I am one of the lucky ones.
CrypticRock.com – Right, absolutely, it is a gift, and we did speak about it in the past, about how the band did have a break. Then the band got back together and has been together for about a decade, full time. Has this second chapter been equally redeeming and satisfying for you?
Kevin Martin – I would use more the word exciting. It’s been as exciting, especially now with the new lineup. The guys that I am playing with, and the band in general, is as exciting if not more exciting than 1991. It’s probably because our age now, what we’ve learned about ourselves and our musicality, the creative nature of what we are as human beings, and what we’ve seen over those 25 years. Getting back together in 2006, with the best of record, at the time was exciting, but then the frustration started shortly thereafter simply because people’s lives have changed. Bardi decided he didn’t want to be in a touring band, he just wanted to record the record because he was an attorney and everybody had families and such. You fall right back into the trap. Now, I would say the lateral part of our revival as a band since 2006 is the most exciting in my career. It’s the happiest I’ve been in 20-plus years.
CrypticRock.com – That is really exciting to hear. Since the reformation, you have released a few highly charted records. Now you are back with this new record, Disappearing in Airports. What was the writing and recording process for the record?
Kevin Martin – Unlike back in the day, when you had to use tape and stuff and you had to make sure the songs were in the working order that you needed to be with pre-production and whatnot, timing now is a lot easier to make a record. The interesting thing about this album is, we went in with about four or five songs in solid working order, not in any way, shape, or form finished, but just in working order; it allowed us to really kind of capture the energy that we needed in the studio with what we were looking for in one another. I think it was that unpreparedness which forced the creativity, which gave us the record that we have.
That wasn’t the case back in the day. Back then, we would sit and do pre-production for weeks on end to get ready to go in the studio, and what that did would allow for people to question parts. Maybe sometimes we would make unfortunate decisions about songs rather than letting them be, leaving them alone, and just letting them grow into what they were supposed to grow into. With this record, we didn’t do that; we went in with what we had and we created it in the studio, we wrote three songs in the studio. We forced ourselves to deliver the record that we wanted rather than the record that we thought people wanted from us. That was very rewarding. We are all really happy with this record. I can’t say that I’ve been this excited with an album since the first release.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds really refreshing. It is clear that the record is a bit different; it has a different vibe than previous Candlebox releases. From listening to it, it almost feels like maybe the texture is a little more upbeat, a little happier. Was that sort of an objective this time around or did it just fall into place naturally?
Kevin Martin – I think that fell into place naturally, I would definitely say, with the energy of the new lineup. And again, I think that my opinion of the world is a lot different now; I have a wife and a son that’s 8 years old. Things that I care about now are a lot different than they were; things that I cared about when I was in my twenties or thirties. I wanted to make sure that what I said lyrically on this album at times is tough and causes arguments or am I going to upset people such as songs like “I’ve Got a Gun.” I wanted my point to be understood, not misunderstood. There are dark elements in this album, but I am in a better place as a human being. My mindset is a lot clearer and I think that’s why this album has a little more upbeat attitude to it, and musically as well.
CrypticRock.com – Right, like you said, the lyrics have always been key in Candlebox. You never shied away from topical things whether it be talking about drugs, loss, or anything with life. This record is no different, you do not shy away from topics on this record as well. You go right for it with the lyrics.
Kevin Martin – I’ve always been from the mindset, if you are not pissing somebody off with the art you are creating, then you are not doing your job. I am highly opinionated, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just my opinion. I really want, and have always wanted, people to think about life. If they are listening to my music, if there’s something in my lyric that can make them question a decision they’ve made, or something they are choosing to do, or a decision that they are contemplating. If there is something in my lyric that can make them second guess that, or to have a realization to maybe, “I should rethink my opinion on this,” or maybe, “I should rethink my stance on this,” that’s what I want to do.
I also want people to enjoy their lives in where they are at. If they are struggling with something and there’s a song of ours that can help them through that, I am more than happy to be a part of that. I’ve learned a lot in my life, I’ve seen a lot of things come and go, I’ve seen a lot of death, I’ve experienced a lot of sadness and sorrow. In that, I can hopefully some way, shape, or form, help somebody to understand that there are other people out there that are going through what you are going through, and there are other people that are out there that have experienced it. You are not alone, you are not the only one, and here’s a song about it.
CrypticRock.com – Right, that is what matters most. In the end, we all experience a lot of the same emotions as human beings. Like you said, we all lose someone, whether it be naturally or tragically, it is just part of life and we are all looking for that connection.
Kevin Martin – Yeah, I think we are all looking for it and that’s what music is. You see the out-pouring over the past couple of months with Prince, with what’s going on for him, how many lives did he affect? Somebody said to me recently, “You could be the biggest Metalhead in the world, and you still loved Prince, you can be the ultra Punk Rockstar, and you still loved Prince.” Prince was a musician who musically and lyrically reached so many different people, much like David Bowie, John Lennon, and these great icons that came before us. That’s really what it’s about, and if you stood out as someone, that’s what you are supposed to do.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, completely agree. With Candlebox, you had mentioned the band feels rejuvenated with this new lineup. How comfortable are you with this new group of guys, and how do they fit into the Candlebox family?
Kevin Martin – Very comfortable with them. Adam has been playing with us since 2007, he’s also been jamming with me since 2000. Dave, the drummer, joined Candlebox in 97′, played on Happy Pills, played on Love Stories and Other Musings, played on Into the Sun; he has obviously been a member of Candlebox for some time. So, the two of them, I get along great with. Brian, the guitar player, I met in 2008, he used to play in a band called Foster Child and we’ve been friends ever since. Mike Leslie, I met a couple years back in Detroit and really fell in love with his playing. The interesting thing is, the five of us, it’s really like we are the oldest of friends. I think that’s just because we are so musically connected and loving every minute of what we are doing on stage. That’s very important and exciting for me.
CrypticRock.com – Well that is important. You have to be able to get along on and off the stage, you want to have that, otherwise it is no fun. You want to have fun in what you are doing.
Kevin Martin – Yeah, if you are not having fun, you are wasting your time.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly. Candlebox’s music has always been the type of music that has translated very well into an acoustic format, and with that said, you recently partook in an extensive tour. What was that experience like for you?
Kevin Martin – I love the acoustic runs, those are the best just because they are so intimate, casual, and comfortable. I love telling stories about the songs, where they came from, what they were written about. I love the laughter that goes on in those shows, the creativity of the audiences being a part of the show, and sparking maybe a song that I wasn’t going to play. I throw it in because of the reaction to the audience, so I love that, I love that interaction. It’s so much more honest because of the stripped down nature of it.
CrypticRock.com – It is something different because you are connecting on a different level with your audience, whereas if you were blasting away with the heavy guitars.
Kevin Martin – There’s just that sensitivity that comes with that stripped down.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly. You are actually still on tour right now with the full band. How is this tour going?
Kevin Martin – The tour is going great, I am having a blast. We sold out many shows, things are going great. Playing these songs from the set and the audience’s reaction has been amazing, I have no complaints honestly.
CrypticRock.com – Great to hear, and this tour is going to extend through most the summer. In the past, we had actually spoken about the Gracious Few and you had stated that you would love to do something with it again.With that said, are there any new developments with perhaps doing something with the Gracious Few?
Kevin Martin – Well, we constantly threaten one another with the fact that we are going to do it. I talk to Taylor at least once a month about it. It’s really, I think, upon them to decide if they are taking a break from Live or are going to be available to do something. Of course, I am incredibly busy with what’s going on with Candlebox. I would say, if anything were to happen, it might be the Spring of next year when everything slows down for me and for them. They got a couple businesses that they are running as a corporation, so it’s really kind of on them to let me know when they are free. I would love to in a heartbeat, it’s my favorite project that I’ve ever done.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, that would be exciting to hear some new music from that project. What about solo material. Would you do anything solo as well?
Kevin Martin – I am doing a solo acoustic record, I think it comes out next Spring. I haven’t decided when I am going to release it, or if I’m doing that in September.
CrypticRock.com – Fantastic to hear. Out of curiosity, what can fans except from that record?
Kevin Martin – It’s a little bit more storyteller than anything Candlebox. It’s a little bit more simple cord structured. It is really just more about the melody of the song, the lyrics, and maybe the intricate parts, or anything like that. I just let the acoustic just speak for itself, hopefully, and what I’m writing about again is very personal to me. I am hoping that by the time it comes out next Spring, it will be a nice break between that, Candlebox, and anything else, for sure.
CrypticRock.com – Well you keep yourself pretty busy, obviously you’ve got Candlebox going on right now with the new record and the touring. You also actually started another band with Morgan Rose from Sevendust.
Kevin Martin – Yea, it’s called Le Projet, and that’s a total labor of love. That project cost us money every time we get together to write and record, but we love it and we are hoping that something becomes of it. We got four more songs we have to finish before we have a full-length record. We are trying to figure out when we can do that. Everybody is just super busy right now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be anytime soon that we can do that.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, that is great. How do you manage to keep track of all these things? You are a really busy guy.
Kevin Martin – Yeah, my wife is ready to strangle me.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) You mentioned your family. Your perspective has changed on life naturally, that just happens as you get older. How do you manage being away from home and on the road so much? Is it hard?
Kevin Martin – Yeah, it’s really hard. I fly home as often as I can. If we have a two-day break, I’ll fly home for two days. If I can’t get home, I try to get them out to me. It’s challenging, thank god for technology and Facetime. It makes it a hell of a lot easier. It’s difficult on my wife being a single mother having to get my kid up every morning to school, and she’s got her own career and all these great things that are happening for her. I do my best to be as supportive as I can from the road, and like I said, as often as I can; it gets a little expensive flying home twice a month, but it’s what I gotta do.
CrypticRock.com – Right, you do what you have to do. It is tough, but think about this, there are people who are traveling salesman and they are on the road all the time as well. People do what they have to do.
Kevin Martin – Yeah, it’s life, this is my career and my wife knew that when she met me, but then again, in 14 years, nothing has changed, it’s been that way since day one. We deal with it the best we can. It does cause arguments and frustration, but you know, it’s what we do. She understands that and does her best to be as supportive as she can when she’s not frustrated (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Well it sounds like you have a really special relationship. You had mentioned in the past you love Horror movies. Is there any newer Horror films that you have seen of late that you’ve enjoyed?
Kevin Martin – Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) wasn’t so good, but the one before that was great. I haven’t seen anything recently that’s been uncomfortably disturbing, but I’m looking forward to catching up. When you can’t go to sleep at night, it’s doing its job.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) So true. You said you were also a big The Walking Dead fan. Have you been keeping up with that?
Kevin Martin – Yup, recently watched the season finale. I didn’t look at what anybody was saying about it, I am shocked to see what’s going to happen next season.
CrypticRock.com – That season finale really upset a lot of fans. It was surprising, but it was a good cliffhanger, and it will be interesting to see what happens once it comes back in October.
Kevin Martin – I don’t think anybody has ever seen Rick that vulnerable, and I think that’s kind of why people were pissed off. You look at him as immortal and he’s not, he makes mistakes and they are in a terrible position. Like I said, if you are not pissing people off, then you are not doing your job.
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