Renowned MR BIG frontman ERIC MARTIN embarks on a solo acoustic tour of Europe during March. This includes just two UK dates, one of which is in Auntie Annies in Belfast on Sunday 3rd March.

Eric very graciously agreed to answer a few questions for Rock Radio NI by e-mail. Trying to cover such a wide ranging career in a few questions was quite difficult but Eric has taken the time to give us some great responses covering everything from Mr Big to other future projects, and talking about  "supergroups",  his meeting with Bon Scott  and his “band that got away” amongst other things . He even found time to tell a joke.

 

 

 

 

NI ROCKS – Eric, thanks for taking some time to respond to a few questions for Rock Radio NI. I have to admit that given the range of projects you’ve been involved in I knew I was going to have problems deciding on what questions to ask you. Doing a little further research only made things worse as it opened up other potential questions. But we’ll start with the reason why we’re doing this. You’re playing in Belfast on Sunday 3rd March as part of your European acoustic tour.

Tell us a little about what fans can expect. Will you be playing solo throughout or bringing anyone along with you? And will you be covering music from the early solo stuff through to the recent Mr Big material?

ERIC –  My Mr. Big bro’s have got a bunch of irons in the fire that will keep them pretty busy for while so I’ll be flying solo this time around. I have no agenda really just having fun, getting out and off the couch and keeping my chops up. My little acoustic tour will feature everything from EM solo to the Mr. Big years past and present. Sometimes I’ll meet somebody at the soundcheck or online who knows some of my musical history and wants to jam on a few tunes. The audience loves that stuff and so do I. I toured in November of last year and some of the opening acts joined me on stage. But mostly it’s an intimate portrait of a former class clown.

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NI ROCKS – I read somewhere that you were half Irish – half Italian. The tour starts with two dates in Italy before coming to Belfast. So confess...what you were really looking at then is a chance to visit some distant relatives, drink some good wine and have a few pints of Guinness?

ERIC – Oh yeah all that my friend… From Pasta and finding the pot O’ gold to shaking hands and kissin’ the blarney stone. Ha!! My mother’s father was Italian and her mother was an Irish immigrant named Sarah Quinn from where I don’t know. My Father was of Scottish decent so I’m kind of a mutt as they say. My wife is Sicilian and as much as I love her Italian cooking there is nothing like a pint of Guinness or five. That reminds me of my favorite joke- So the leaders of the big beer companies meet for a drink. The president of Budweiser orders a Bud, the CEO of Miller gets a Miller, the head of Coors orders a Coors, and so on…. Until it's Arthur Guinness's turn. He orders a soda.

"Why didn't you order a Guinness?" everyone asks.

Guinness replies, "if you guys aren't having beer, then neither will I."

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NI ROCKS – Supporting you in Belfast is one of our own guitar legends Pat McManus aka The Professor. Are you familiar with Pat’s music or Mama’s Boys, the band he played in?

ERIC –  Yeah  I remember hearing “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” in the early 80’s I think, and a bunch of other tunes over the years with a handful of different singers. I could be wrong it might have been the same guy and his voice just changed. I’ve had that happened to me a couple of times. Pat McManus is a great guitarist and from the interviews that I’ve seen of him he seems like a down to earth fellow. I would love it if we could play together that night.

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NI ROCKS – “Supergroup” is a term that seems to get bandied around a lot, particularly it seems in recent years, but Mr Big are often referred to as a “Supergroup”. Would you agree that the labelling is more a media thing or is it something that actually registers with the members of the bands?

ERIC – It’s an advertising deal for sure. I sing in a great Rock & Roll band with 3 great musicians. Back in the day when we started out Billy was the famous one in the group because of his affiliation with David Lee Roth, Paul was this new guitar phenom from Racer X, Pat I believe was a session drummer for a ton of artists as well as playing arena tours with John Parr and Belinda Carlisle. He was playing with the Knack before he got the Mr. Big gig.

I had my own band for years and took a stab at a solo career for a couple of albums. My take on the Super Group thing is a band that is thrown together for a couple of albums and disappears without a trace. It’s seems like a kiss of death headline to me.

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NI ROCKS – I don’t think I’d be forgiven by some of my friends in the local rock scene if I didn’t ask about performing with some of the legends of the guitar world. Have you a favorite story about working with Paul Gilbert?

ERIC – I have worked with a lot of great guitar players but none cooler than PG. He’s open minded to anything you throw at him. I love sharing the stage with the Big man but hanging out at his house while he cooks up some breakfast in a Japanese WOK ( He’s got a passion for cooking) and hitting the studio for a one on one song writing session is my favorite thing about working with him.

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NI ROCKS – The re-union of Mr Big in 2009 was long talked about and eagerly anticipated. What was it like getting back in the studio and going out on tour together? It would have been more than 10 years since Paul had left the band. Presumably time had healed the issues that caused the break-up between 1997 and 2002?

ERIC – Yeah I’ve said it before to friends but after 5 or 10 years  you lose the taste for hate and most of the time you can’t remember the bullshit anyway or you can’t remember what the hell happened and how your life got pulled out from under you. My only regret is that I wish I would have reached out a handful years ago because I really missed being onstage with those guys. All those years of constant touring and staying out on the road forever might have sold some records and made us some money but it took a huge toll on our friendship, which completely sucked. So when we all sat down at Paul’s house for a re-union dinner we didn’t bring the past up we just said that we want to make it fun and painless and have a goodtime. How hard is that right?

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NI ROCKS - Does the writing process for a Mr Big album entail each of you doing your own individual thing or is it something that you all sit down together to do?

ERIC –  Every which way but mainly Billy, Paul & Pat will jam out tunes in the studio in Los Angeles where they live, record them and send the CD’s to me in the San Francisco Bay Area to write to ( they had a hundred different song ideas for the “ What if” album). That’s been our process for years.

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NI ROCKS – Your solo work has a huge following in Japan and the Far East, as of course did the Mr Big material and you had a very successful involvement in the Tak Matsumoto Group in 2004. How did writing and performing with Tak differ from your previous experiences?

ERIC –  Playing with TMG was magical. I played in Tak’s group with my dear old friend Jack Blades, he’s an awesome bass player with a heart of gold. Brian Tischy and Cindy Blackmon played on the record but my good pal Chris Frazier did all the TV shows, videos and the touring. Friendship is the key to everything, Jack, Chris and Tak are really good people to hang with; in the studio, on a tour bus and all the great bars in Tokyo.

Writing was a trip. We all flew to the B’Z ( Tak’s real band) huge home studio in LA. Tak wrote the whole album in the studio while Jack and I wrote the melody’s and lyrics in the living room. We wrote a song a day and recorded that day as well. I did guide vocals and we all fixed some stuff at the end of the week. That record sounded like a million bucks… hmm it might have cost that much too. Touring on the record was only 20 or so sold out shows but a fantastic experience and one that I’ll never forget.

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NI ROCKS - You released the “Mr Vocalist” series of albums in Japan that involved you covering a wide range of material. The most recent of these albums is “Mr Rock Vocalist” released last year. How did you select what tracks to cover on these albums?

ERIC – Truthfully I don’t select any of it… I suggest stuff but I don’t have any creative control with the material. I do however write the English words from Japanese to English translations and from a simple synopsis of the tune, the Japanese fans picked all these songs. Uhm.. But SONY picked that awesome moniker. Yikes. It's a hard challenge to pull off but none the less a lot of fun.

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NI ROCKS – “Mr Rock Vocalist” includes a track with Richie Kotzen who of course replaced Paul Gilbert when he left Mr Big in 1997. You also worked with Richie on tour a few years ago. How did that come about?

ERIC – I’ve been friends with RK since he first came to California from Redding Pennsylvania in the middle 80’s. Even after Mr. Big broke up we remained pals.. but it was purely a coincidence that a promoter from South America paired us up to tour together. I was opening with my South American band the Road Vultures. it was great to watch him shine ( Bad pun) on stage every night and knock back beers with him and laugh it up with his bassist Jonny Griparic but the promoter was evil and me and my boys didn’t get paid on that tour. Ahh you live and learn. I did an acoustic tour in Europe last November and RK sat in with me at the famed Bluesiana club in Austria. That was nice of him to join me on his day off. The audience went crazy. We still sing great together.  Check it out it’s on YouTube. He’d get all embarrassed and tell me to shut the hell up right now but behind the guitar and all that hair and man of mystery stuff, I think he’s a real cool guy and an incredible talent.

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NI ROCKS – You’ve recently been drafted into the Avantasia line-up and will be touring extensively with then during 2013. Avantasia has been described as a rock opera and has included a huge number of high profile musicians in the recording studio and on tour. The new album “The Mystery of Time” is due out in March. I presume you’ve already recorded your vocals. What can you tell us about the album and the upcoming tour?

ERIC- Sorry I don’t know anything yet but if I did and I opened my ( Mr.) BIG mouth I would probably be beheaded by Tobias Sammet. The duet that we did together is a huge rock ballad with some powerful soul belting on it. I’m really looking forward to rocking out with him and his all-star ensemble.

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NI ROCKS – If you’d done nothing for the rest of your musical career you would still have been able to say that one of your early bands “Kid Courage” had opened up for AC/DC on their first American show. Thankfully that isn’t your only claim to fame, but what do you recall about those shows and what was your impression of Bon Scott?

ERIC – Even though that was my first major claim to fame, opening to the great AC/DC, I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I never achieved my musical goals. Hell for awhile I could have held up some bar in Thailand boasting about the old days for a couple years, joined a traveling circus or a carnival or even enlisted in the army like my old man wanted me to do. Life deals the cards, it ain’t talent or skill that puts you on top… It’s fate. Some would say it’s the luck of the Irish, so me being half Irish, Whew…. it might have taken a long time but I got there on a chicken wing and a prayer. Thank God!

Wow where was I? Oh yeah the Bon Scott question.

So moving from a small town to San Francisco was a big step, Kid Courage was my first professional band. They sounded like a cross between “The Rolling Stones” meets “the Tube’s”. Weird but cool. I had played in a bunch of bands before this one but Kid Courage made more than beer money so it was worth getting out of my hometown. We opened to all the national and international bands that would come through town in the late 70’s like Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Blondie, Brand X, The Romantic’s etc. but opening for this virtually unknown band from Australia, it was life changing.

I had just bought their record at a local music store the day before they came to the bay area, played it on my crappy turn table, cranked up “ Whole lotta Rosie” and realized I’m in the wrong band.  So here we are both bands sharing the Backstage before the show at the Old Waldorf (Downtown SF), this scrappy looking kid is putting on a private school- boys uniform on while the other guys are hanging out around this pool table. I’m getting ready to go out for my 30 minute set and the singer of the band asks me if I want to play a quick game. I say yeah, he introduces himself as Bon , I’m Eric , blah blah, blah, before I know it I’m a couple beers in and laughing with this dude who is really friendly like a brother from another mother. So I have to go and rock out and he says I’ll wait for you… man I had never hung out with a rock star before and it was weird because he didn’t act like one at all. So it’s funny I couldn’t wait to be done with my show so I could hang out with this new friend. We played some more pool, drank a few more beers and it was getting close to their showtime. I thought that they were going to kick us out of the dressing room like all the headliners do but they didn’t, I never saw a band more comfortable in their skin. Well man they rocked hard on that stage that night, Angus was on fire and Bon was pounding his fist in the air like he was leading a rebellion. Something happened to me that night that made me love what I do and have been doing most of my life.

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NI ROCKS – As well as the “Vocalist” albums in Japan you’ve been involved with a few other tribute albums and of course with the “Scrap Metal” project alongside Nelson, Mark Slaughter, Jani Lane and others. Given the opportunity to front any band over the last forty years or so, which band would you have liked to have been involved with?

ERIC – I had a major opportunity to sing for TOTO but Jeff Porcaro (Drummer) thought I was a little too green and not ready to front the group. Steve Lukather had played on my solo record and liked my singing and asked me to jam with the band for a few days. Also Steve and the other members flew from LA to see me play at a local show in SF. I practiced with the whole band at a studio called Leeds in LA for a few days singing all the hit’s from “Africa”, “Hold the Line" to an unfinished song called “I’ll be Over You” (My favorite Toto song of all time). It wasn’t meant to be but for me it was “the band that got away”.

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NI ROCKS – Having read a few of your interviews it’s clear that you try to juggle your career and your family life as best as possible; trying to work as close to home as much as you can. Your wife Denise used to drum in the Eric Martin Band. Does she still get to play or is she now more focused on raising your kids and helping out behind the scenes?

ERIC – Denise just likes to play one or two gig’s with me a year ( Drummer / wives do not like taking direction from Singer/husbands trust me), She does session work and teaches but mainly likes the manager duties better. I think she would rather be a stay at home mom and be close to our sons, she’s not really keen on the touring anymore. Before I met her she toured with this famous keyboardist/singer named Merl Saunders for 5 years straight, I believe she’s had her fill of the spotlight.

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NI ROCKS – I’m guessing that you listen to a fairly wide spectrum of music. If I was to listen to your iPod or the CDs in your car stereo what would I be likely to hear?

ERIC – I still listen to classic rock and old R&B.. I like listening to new bands but none I can say that I absolutely love.. ok hold on.. I sort of love; The Foo Fighters, a pop rock band out of the UK called McFly, southern rock from Black Stone Cherry. I know this is in the same vain as classic rock but I just watched this video with Van Morrison on a song called “ Day’s Like This”, I know I heard this gem back in the day but it forced me to buy that “Still on Top” greatest hits album. I’m a true believer in the power of music..amen.

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NI ROCKS – Obviously you’ve got the acoustic tour and the Avantasia tour coming up over the next few months but what other plans do you have for 2013 and when might we hear more news from the Mr Big camp?

ERIC – This acoustic tour and that Avantasia tour will be keeping my suitcase packed for months. I see on the books that I’m going to do a handful of dates with a special project called “ Legends- Voices of Rock” with Joe Lynn Turner ( Deep Purple, Rainbow), Bobby Kimball (Toto), Bill Champlin (Chicago), Steve Augeri ( Journey), Fergie Frederiksen ( Toto). I really hope Mr. Big will tour in late 2013… that will definitely put a smile on my face.

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NI ROCKS – Thanks very much for taking a few minutes to respond to these questions for Rock Radio NI. It is very much appreciated. All the best for 2013 and good luck with the forthcoming tour.

ERIC- By the way this will be my 2nd trip to Ireland. I remember that the roads are insane, the food & beer are great and ya do love the Rock & Roll. I’ll sing good and do my best with the 6 strings and piece of wood I’ll be strumming on.

Stay Gold,

E

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You can find out more about Eric’s extensive recording history, forthcoming tour dates etc at his website www.ericmartin.com

 

Check out NI Rocks at www.facebook.com/NIRocks

 

 

The Eric Martin European Acoustic Tour Dates

1st March – Woodstock. Grandate, Italy

2nd March – Il Peocio. Tofarello, Italy.

3rd March – Auntie Annies. Belfast, N Ireland

5th March – Rock City. Nottingham, England.

7th March – Musik Container. Uster, Switzerland

8th March – Blue Note. Nove Mesto Nad Vahom, Slovakia.

9th March – Pesca Cafe. Budapest, Hungary

11th March – Bounty Rock Cafe. Olomouc, Czech Republic

12th March – Futurum Music Bar. Prague, Czech Republic

13th March – Borderij. Zoetermeer, Holland.

15th March – Lakei. Helmond, Holland

16th March – Blusiana. Velden, Austria.

21st March – Ritmo y Compas. Madrid, Spain

22nd March – Monasterio. Barcelona, Spain

23rd March – Aula de Cultura. Zizur Mayor/Navarra, Spain

25th March – Black Stuff. Udine, Italy

26th March – Local. Vienna, Austria.

29th March – Hard Rock Cafe. Bucharest, Romania.

 

Last Updated (Thursday, 17 January 2013 23:57)