- Tue, 2006-06-13 14:38
Martin Craft is an Australian who grew up in London, Canberra and Sydney and writes, sings, produces, mixes and plays the instruments in his recordings. A classical music school drop out, he formed his first band, Sidewinder, at 15, and spent 8 years touring and releasing records. After they split, he moved to east London leaving music to one side, and worked behind bars and cooking in cafes for a few years. 679 records found him and dusted him off and they've already released a couple of 7"s and an EP, and now his remarkable debut solo album, soul music for the modern times, captivating, expressive, intelligent and beautiful.
I Like Music caught up with Martin aka M.Craft to talk about his music, Canberra, London and the importance of melody.
“I Like Music because… it moves me." M.Craft
ILM: You release You Are The Music EP on Monday (June 12), can you give me your own personal description of it?
M.Craft: It’s like a disco song, like a weird kind of homemade disco thing. It’s probably best when you’re very drunk.
ILM: There’s mixes from Ali Love and King Creosote – how do you decide who to have remix your songs?
M.Craft: They’re not really remixes they’re cover versions, I’m not that fond of remixes to be honest. When told about the idea of remixes, I thought I’ll just see if my mates want to do a cover version instead. I was on tour with King Creosote and we got on really well and I gave him the song and he was really keen on it, and Ali Love is an old mate of mine.
ILM: So people who already knew your songs and wanted to do their own take on it?
M.Craft: Yeah, exactly. They both did their own versions in their little home studios, and for me, it’s much more interesting than doing a remix. Remixing tends to turn music into a computer game, which it isn’t. So I’m not very fond of that whole tradition.
ILM: And your debut LP Silver & Fire is out now, an organically grown album. Which track did you have the most fun making?
M.Craft: Recording? You know I couldn’t really single one out, they’re all pretty special. I don’t want to make records where there are three good songs and then a whole load of boring ones in between. Every one of them had its own life, that’s why they’re all so different in a way. None of them were really wanting to be anything than just what they were. So I can’t actually single one out. There were some which were a nightmare to record and didn’t make the final cut. I don’t want to say a clique, but they’re all my babies, and I love them equally.
ILM: You’ve just finished a tour. How was that?
M.Craft: Yeah, it was just a little tour around the country, no big deal really. But it was good. There was a lot of sitting in the van and a little bit of music.
ILM: It’s quite tiring isn’t it?
M.Craft: Yeah it’s actually really tiring; surprisingly so. For people who’ve not done it, it probably sounds like a walk in a park, but… Fun though, without a doubt.
ILM: How about as a punter seeing others play live? Any highlights?
M.Craft: I saw A Silver Mt Zion play last night at Koko’s, that was actually amazing. They’re like a requiem to the world and they really sound that way, it’s really brooding, dark, it’s wonderful, quite an amazing band. There’s always good stuff in London, it’s a pretty vibrant city for shows and music. I’m going to see a show tonight at Festival Hall which is called MaxiMinimalists which is all minimalist composers, and on Thursday night I’m going to see the Rakes play down the road. So you have the whole gamut of different styles and things to do in London.
ILM: Your songs have a timeless quality, a soulful mix of pop and classic song writing, how do you achieve that timelessness, and what's the M Craft process of glorious songwriting?
M.Craft: It took me close on two years to make that record, which is pretty ridiculous really, so it kind of needs to be quite laboured over. Before that stage, just melodies…I love beautiful melodies, I think melody is slightly missing from a lot of music and I think that’s what makes me feel there’s something timeless about it. I’m just in an antiques market at the moment and I just went past a stall and they had a little music box playing the melody to On A Street Where I Live [M.Craft sings the melody] and the woman wound it up and played it and everyone in the 10 metre vicinity started whistling or singing along to the melody; it’s such a distinctive beautiful sweeping melody. So I’m a real melody man.
ILM: Is that where it starts – a melody will come and then you’ll come up with the lyrics to fit the melody?
M.Craft: Yeah kind of it starts with this outline, a whole outline of the whole thing. A basic shape just kind of comes somehow and then the rest gets filled in. It’s nothing that mystical or magical… well I guess it is, because it’s unexplainable, it’s just my little party trick.
ILM: You’re from Canberra, Australia and now live in East London. Best and worst thing about Canberra and best worst thing about London?
M.Craft: The best thing about Canberra is the travel agents and the worst thing about it is Canberra. The best thing about London is the amazing mixture of people and cultures and creeds and the vastness of it all and the very strong heartbeat, and the worst thing about it is the fact that there’s a curfew and everything closes so early and it’s actually quite conservative in its lifestyle, there’s not really a very bohemian spirit in this town. There is but it’s very hidden in the crevices and cracks. Sometimes I wish you could just wake up at 10pm and go out and grab a bite of dinner and a bottle of wine at midnight and then go and see a concert at 1am and go for more of that Meditteranean lifestyle.
ILM: It’s quite bizarre isn’t it, because there’s a buzz in London, but it ends early, it seems wrong?
M.Craft: My theory is that’s the way that they keep it such a powerful city. Because everyone goes straight out after work and gets totally hammered but at least they’re in bed by midnight, so they can wake up the next day and get back to their jobs and make this amazing financial and business centre tick.
ILM: You founded classic Australian psychedelics band Sidewinder – what do you miss or relish about not being in a band?
M.Craft: That’s a long time ago. I started that band 15 years ago now, when I was 16. I just think you’ve got to graduate from it, y’know. I think everyone should form a band in high school and then either you get lucky and it works or it doesn’t. There’s a time and a place for being in a band, it’s like a high school gang y’know, so I don’t miss it at all. I prefer standing on my own two feet as an adult, but it’s pretty fun as a kid. I like working on my own. I think artistic moments happen to people really when they’re alone in a way, and it’s difficult to be one of a gang and really channel those moments.
ILM: Can you describe your favourite place on earth?
M.Craft: The place that springs to mind, is the big redwood pine forest outside of San Francisco, it’s amazing with these huge giant ancient trees towering up in to the sky, and on a sunny day the dappled light you get coming in through the leaves is beautiful.
ILM: You could write a few good songs there with the inspiration there then?
M.Craft: Or you could just take a whole load of mushrooms and enjoy the experience?
ILM: What advice do you have for budding artists just starting now?
M.Craft: I’ve never been successful, so I’m the last person who should be giving advice. I feel like a total failure to be honest. It’s been so hard for me, I’ve done this slow. But I’m sure I’ve learned a lot and I don’t regret a thing really. I think if you put nothing above you then there’s nothing below you. None of us should be afraid of failing and the darkness really. Everyone always seems to be looking up towards money and success and comfort, lightness and easiness, but actually the trick is it can be interesting if you can look down, but you can got lost down there.