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Ghost Into The Fog
Red Martian is the best neue-shoegazer band you’ve never heard of.
Formed in 1999, Red Martian came out of the DIY punk scene in Seattle, WA. Drawing influences from My Bloody Valentine, New York Dolls, and Iggy Pop, the band continues to produce hard- hitting, whirring guitar sounds that breathe new air into the genre. Having previously released five CDs, six vinyl LPs, and four acetate limited-edition EPs on the band’s own label (Bughlt Records), Red Martian is proud to be back with its sixth studio album, Ghost Into The Fog.
At first, the hushed, brooding vocals juxtaposed with filtered guitars and arena drums recalls the tight-knit rock style of Interpol, but Red Martian’s punk ethos places the band into entirely new territory. Frontman Stephen Jones explains that, “...our music style is fairly anti-commercial without really trying to be. We're just trying to be honest and play things as they are. We call our style 'neue shoegazer' as a rebirth of the late ‘80s early ‘90s progression of post-Paisley Underground.”
On the band’s latest effort, Ghost Into The Fog, these genre- bending tendencies are especially apparent. Observe the alternating time signatures on “None,” or the melodic bass lines on “Use” that make Red Martian so difficult to categorize. What makes the release of Ghost Into The Fog especially exciting is that it features the production work of legendary rock producer Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Regina Spektor), who helped push the band into a brand new sonic direction.
Until now, the band has largely lived out its career existing somewhat under the radar, however touring extensively across the globe and recording tirelessly. “Our main goal,” explains Jones, “...I’d say is just having our music out there for fans to enjoy.”
Interview with Stephen Jones of Red Martian:
Tell us about your name? Where did Red Martian come from and how you came up with it?
Stephen: We had these two Mars themed books at home when I was a kid called The Greening of Mars and We are the Martians. I remember reading through them and just being fascinated with the possibility of future life on Mars. When we started the band and chose the name I was thinking in terms of what Martian society and culture might be like after we do that. I thought Martians would be socialist vegans.
During the past 16 years, you've released six albums. What is the major difference between releasing an album in 1999 versus releasing one in 2015?
Stephen: Cassette tapes are back! If we're talking about the actual medium for an album I still think CDs are interesting when they're packaged nicely, though the first thing we do when we get them is rip them to various formats. The CD itself is sort of a doomed album platform. It is just too perfect at what it did and I think people find imperfections or the mechanics involved in playing a record or cassette more interesting. Plus, with vinyl you just have this great canvas to present with.
What is funny is that Ghost into the Fog is actually our first standard CD. Previously, we had always done something weird like 3" mini CDs. So many people used to get those jammed in their slot loaders.
I still think that there are plenty of people that want a physical album as well as a digital version, or if they're hardcore enough, no digital version.
So, tell us about the band. How did you all meet and how quickly did you all mesh together and have you all been together the entire time?
Stephen: In Seattle you can imagine there are lots of bands and a lot of them all practice a the same rehearsal spaces scattered around town. Most bands then also share the same space. I've seen as many as 5 groups and 3 drum sets in something that is almost 300 sqft.
Sometimes you hear cool music next door or down the hall and when you're outside you talk. Next thing you know you just joined some else's band. The current band has been together since 2003.
After 16 years, did you find it hard to keep a band together? What got you through all the "rough patches"?
Stephen: Well, people grow up, get jobs, move away, lose interest. If their heart isn't in it, they move on. Our previous drummer is still active, I believe.
This new album is entitled "Ghost into the Fog". What is different about this release and why is this album so special to you?
Stephen: Lyrically it is, for the most part, about loss and being lost and going through phases of feeling something and feeling nothing, so it is very personal. Almost embarrassingly so. When I was working on the home demos for this album the songs were basically writing themselves. I brought them to Paul and Casey and we just started playing everything really loud and basic. They all put their marks on it. I met Gordon Raphael when he was in town recording at Bear Creek Studio. I had repaired early 70s white faced Arp Odyssey for him and when he stopped by to pick it up, he asked me to "play something" for him. So I played him my home demo of the title track and he asked to produce the album.
Your sound is definitely old school Punk. There was some mention of influences of My Bloody
Valentine, New York Dolls, and Iggy Pop. What music do you like from today or do you like any of it?
Stephen: I would add John Lydon, d. boon, Joe Strummer, Tom Ellard and Ralf Hutter in place of New York Dolls!
There is a lot of very good music out there today, but there is also this over saturation of garbage. Maybe we're part of the garbage too, though. I get hit with all sorts of music all the time and it isn't that I'm trying to keep up with everything, I'm just always listening wherever I hear music. I usually am pretty accepting of what I hear though I think I hear a lot of overproduced stuff or how songs are stitched together as pieces rather than played all the way through. When we recorded the guitar, bass and drums for Ghost into the Fog we did it all in one room (with some partitioning) to an Otari 8 track. No edits. If we didn't like the take, we tried it again. Maybe that is a stupid way to record these days, but Gordon was pretty adamant about that and capturing the sound of the band rather than creating the sound of the band.
I do like electronic music, though that is fairly ubiquitous in pop music now. I like beats and melodies and imperfections in those.
If you could perform with any artist or band, living or dead, who would you want to share the stage with?
Stephen: d.boon - He was a true poet.
So, what is in store for Red Martian? Do you have a music video in the works or an upcoming tour to promote the album?
Stephen: We've been talking about doing two videos: NONE and USE. Still in the planning stages but I would expect them to be basic and artful. Going back to your question about the album in today's world, we just completed sequencing for our next album entitled RETRAILING which is entirely electronic music. It will be released in a very special CD package with the first 100 copies being given out at the Seattle Retro Game Expo: Arcade Armageddon concert we're playing Saturday September 19th. Both Ghost into the Fog and RETRAILING will be issued on vinyl later this fall.
We have also talked about putting together a tour across the upper Northwest/Midwest with the hopes of doing an in studio at some point in Minneapolis at KUOM/Radio K. They are actually featuring MINAZO as Track of the Day on September 21st. It will be 10 years in November since MINAZO passed. We hope to also commemorate him by releasing that as a 7" single with USE as the B side.
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