Interview with Martin about his new album, “The Occupation of Hope”


1.  It’s been three years since your last instrumental album, “The Amber of Memory”; what instigated the recording of a second ambient record for you?

MP:  I really enjoyed the process of recording, “The Amber of Memory”.  It was new territory for me.  I was forced into re-thinking the way I wrote and recorded – I was out of my comfort zone as a songwriter. Deeper themes and concepts became apparent in my composing.  “The Amber of Memory” was a meditation on the theme of “impermanence”, and I wanted to continue in this vein of experimentation.

2.  What’s different about this album from, “The Amber of Memory’?

MP:  The first thing that comes to mind is that every track has its own individual story / identity; each song lives in its own universe – there’s not an over arching theme on this record.  Secondly, it’s a tougher album; it has more of an edge than “Amber”. If there is a vague theme to “The Occupation of Hope”, it’s how we mistreat animals under the banner of scientific experimentation – a pet-peeve of mine.

3. Elaborate on that?

MP:  There is a very special track for me on the album called “Laika”.  It’s the tragic story of the first dog shot into space by the Soviet Union in 1959 in Sputnik 2.  She was a stray mongrel found on the streets of Moscow by the scientists.  She was to be the unknowing first living being to be put into orbit around the Earth – with no plan to bring her back alive – it was a suicide mission. The Russian scientists wanted to see how long a living being could survive in space.  And they wanted to be the first – ahead of the Americans.  For me she is the martyr for animals enduring excruciating horrific suffering in so-called scientific labs all around the world.  Laika died quite early after launch from overheating or asphyxiation – one can only imagine the terror she felt on lift off after being nurtured by the scientists she so eagerly grew to trust.  I recorded the track cinematically – with the sounds of the preparation for launch… and then the actual lift off – and flight.  I felt it was important to create for the listener the sheer terror and confusion the animal must have experienced nearing her lonely inevitable death.  ‘Laika” will always be a very special and important song/recording for me.

4.  There are other tracks on the album that make political and social statements… I’m thinking of “Trinity” and “Mothers of Beslan”.  Can you speak about them?

MP:  Yes.  I felt, with the album’s title, “The Occupation of Hope”, I had given myself some leeway to touch upon some subjects that were historically very meaningful and poignant to me, albeit they could be deeply disturbing and thought-provoking. “Trinity” reflects on the first detonation of an atomic bomb in 1945 in New Mexico, and how the world changed at that moment.  It was like naive children playing with something they didn’t quite understand, and how the consequences would affect the world forever.

“Mothers of Beslan” is about the school hostage crisis that took place in Russia back in 2004.  It was seen as a botched rescue mission by the authorities – including negligence and corruption and excessive force; many school children were killed among the 1,128 victims.  It was a massacre.  In the aftermath, a committee of mothers of the dead children was formed to investigate the tragedy.  The group met with Putin in 2005, and continue to this day to search for answers and the truth.  I found the story heart-wrenching… but within the despair of the mothers, I also felt an incredible sense of hope and resilience. Their determination to seek the truth inspired me greatly, and I wanted to put that to music somehow – to portray their unflinching strength in the face of adversity.

5.  The album opens with an incredible rhythmic barrage, with the track, “Samatva (Soldier of Peace)”.  Can you tell us about it?

MP:  It’s definitely a track born of sheer energy!  That was a fun track to write and develop.  I was listening to some of the great Gandhi’s speeches and something he said really struck me:  “There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything, I feel it though I do not see it”.  That reminded me of the power of music and rhythm.  “Samatva” is a Buddhist term meaning equanimity.  I believe there are peaceful warriors in the world – promoting peace with great energy and fortitude.  Gandhi also said, “I see myself as a soldier – a soldier of peace”. When I heard that, this song started to be born.

6.  Besides interesting rhythms, there is also great beauty in, “The Occupation of Hope” – moments of sublime melody and mood.  Can you speak a little of this?

MP:  There are tracks on the new album like “Orphan”, “Walking With My Father” and “A Last Look”, that I think touch a rich, sensual place.  Melody and harmony for me are still the ruling Gods of music.  There’s another track called, “The Partings That Will Come”, in which I feel that, melodically, I stumble upon something a little mystical.  A suspension of mood is held with a revolving sequence of melodic phrases.  I was writing about the inevitability of parting from the things, the people we love.  And I think this track has a bitter-sweet beauty about it.  I’m very proud of its outcome.

7.  I believe you played all the instruments on “Hope”, right?

MP:  Yes, I plead guilty!  Once I knew I was writing an instrumental record, the ideas came quite thick and fast, and I needed to capture the moment and instinct.  I’m very fortunate to be surrounded in my home studio by a vast array of interesting instruments – both vintage and new.  And as a great deal of my instrumental work is improvised at first, I needed to plug in what was at hand and start recording instantly. I engineer myself as well in the studio, so the progression from first idea/concept to actual execution was quite seamless.  I’m afraid the “one-man band” ethos is still alive and kicking in me, it seems.

8.  I think I can hear a wide array of influences on, “The Occupation of Hope”, from the modern classical work of Arvo Part to the synthesized work of Jon Hopkins.  Am I right?

MP:  I take it as a huge compliment that you mention both these artists.  From the first time I heard Arvo Part, I was mesmerized by his distillation of pure spirit.  He’s incredibly hard to analyze because his work is totally unique and is, at its very heart, religious devotion – a total dedication to sublime reverence in musical form.  Arvo takes the minimalism and simplicity of medieval chant song for his inspiration, and from that comes something extraordinary.  He infuses his music – his composition technique –  with mathematics as well, and as we know, numbers can be beautiful too.  When I do sit down to try and write beauty, Arvo Part’s work is never far from my mind.

9.  How did you come up with the title, “The Occupation of Hope”?  It evokes many interpretations.

MP:  I often have titles of albums written down well before I compose the music… again here with “Occupation”, this was the case.  I know in my reading, if I come across a phrase that strikes me, I get out my little black book and it’s immediately entered. I’m a lover of interesting titles – always have been.  As an avid record collector in my youth, I always gravitated toward esoteric and mystical titles, even if I hadn’t heard the music.  I was prone to buying a record with a great title and cover.  For example, “Tales of Topographic Oceans”, “Selling England By The Pound”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”,  etc.  Same with books and movies; titles stir the initial spark of investigation for me, and rarely have I been let down.

10. What do you hope people will take away from, “The Occupation of Hope”?

MP:  Emotion and spirit, a feeling of honesty;  A sense of something real.

Martin’s new instrumental album, “The Occupation of Hope”, will be released on November 15th.

0 Responses to “Interview with Martin about his new album, “The Occupation of Hope””

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: