My name is Eric Martin and I've been doing this for over 20 years. I played in the band Mr. Big for 12 labored years. Labor of love. We actually just did our farewell tour in Japan in February and that was it. We called it quits. Went our separate ways. Ritchie Kotzen and Pat actually play together now. Pat's backing Ritchie up on his solo tour. Billy's in Japan with a Japanese band I think called The B's and doing great. Making tons of dough doing his thing. I'm out on the road just starting over. Completely starting over.
Making tons of dough.
No, I've got nine people to feed. No, no. This is a total lean and mean tour. Actually this tour, especially with Enuff Z'Nuff, reminds me of back in 1989 when Mr. Big first started because we took out Enuff Z'Nuff as an opener. I don't know if we're making tons of dough at the Bronco Bowl or the Canyon Club. I doubt it sincerely but it's Saturday. You never know. But we're just doing tons of little clubs although yesterday we really had a screwed up time. We had to cancel our show in San Antonio because our bus broke down on the side of the freeway in New Caney, Texas and we were in the bus, nine of us, like the Dahmer party for 20 hours. We had AC and the whole bit but 20 hours on the side of the road and for a couple of miles the bass player Mark and I had to go and get some food for everybody so they wouldn't start eating each other and shit.
Yeah, you got to look out for that.
Yeah. I'm sure a lot of bands are out stopping at Flying J truck stops all over the place. You see all kinds of bands, country bands, rock bands, and everybody goes through those Spinal Tap moments. I just didn't realize that we'd be hitting that Spinal Tap moment so soon into the first couple of days of the tour, but it was a full moon.
Yeah and that has a lot to do with it. So you guys just started the tour?
Yeah, we played Houston when we were supposed to play San Antonio but Enuff Z'Nuff did it themselves. We didn't think it could get worse. Here's 20 hours trying to fix this bus, some computer problem on the bus. It was a monsoon. It flooded the freeway and the freeway was closed so they couldn't get a mechanic out. Then when the mechanic did come out, he pulled his truck alongside of our bus and his truck started sinking in the mud. So here's nine of us out there pushing his truck and he finished fixing our bus. God's country.
If you're of the Christian persuasion, hopefully he was looking out for you.
Yeah. Oh yeah, here's another clusterfuck. Today we're driving over here and we're all gung ho, ready to play this gig, and we blow a tire. We pulled into the parking lot, we blew a tire, and just coasted into this big old parking lot. Big old tire. So this is comical. I think we're Spinal Tap. I do believe we're them and maybe that's our black light. We're them. "I'm going to mess with you now in the beginning." Hopefully it's going to get better. I'm telling you, it used to happen to Mr. Big all the time back in the early 80's. Shit happens. Get over it. Move on.
Your dad was a musician. Did that get you interested in music?
Yeah, my dad was a drummer for a famous band but he was an all around entertainer. He was the one with the lamp shade on his head at parties. Maybe I got some sense of humor from him. Our whole family really was not an untalented family. My brother and two sisters are not professionals but they can carry a tune. My dad actually gave me lessons. The drum lessons. What to do and what not to do on stage. I just painted a colorful picture on how great it was going to be and it was great. Mr. Big was great. Not all the time but it was great. If it was great all the time then we'd still be doing it.
It can't be great all time or it would get kind of boring.
Yeah, we went up and down. We went up once we had a number one hit single.
Why did Mr. Big decide to call it quits?
You came to the right place. Mr. Big Mouth is here at your service. It was just a complete miscommunication breakdown. Stupid stuff escalating over the years. Stupid stuff like a marriage goes through like "I don't like the way you chew your food." It was so stupid to me. I think me and Billy really didn't get to know each other as people. We go to know each other as musicians. We played together and we did our thing. We did our jobs. When we looked like we were having a great time on stage, we were. When we got off stage, yeah we talked. My skills were different from his skills. I had the gift of gab. I know just about everything but only five percent of everything. He was smarter than me. Two or three things that he knows 100 percent of and somehow we just clashed. It just didn't work. The other couple of guys in the band just watched us butt heads. It's probably just the trials and tribulations of being a rock band. It could have been a great thing. You can only stick together for so long. It wasn't really our fault how the musical climate changed over the years but we always had Japan, Southeast Asia, and Europe to fall back on. A lot of our peers were waiting for now to do the package tours. Our problem was we didn't tour America as much as we should have because there were just no open doors back in the early part of the 90's. When we had this big hit in '92, "To Be With You", we were having hits all the way up until last -- we have a hit now in Japan and the band's over. The hits weren't enough to keep it going. I think there were too many grudges. I was a good one for letting things out. "I don't like this, I don't like that." It fell on a deaf ear. It was stupid. I'm telling you, simple shit because I saw this VH-1 deal with Aerosmith the other day. They went through hell or high water and they stayed together. What kind of prima donna rock stars are we to give up? Not give up mega stardom but we had a niche. We had something there. We dropped the ball. Total shame.
You guys weren't cohesive as a family unit.
When we got together, it wasn't a supergroup. When Mr. Big first got together, mainly we were respected. We never looked at ourselves as super players. If we were super players it would be like Jimi Hendrix back from the dead. The mega rock and roll heaven stars. For us, when we got together we pretty much knew and respected each other as musicians. We didn't get to know each other as much as we should have on the tour bus and in the hotels. I remember when Paul Gilbert was in the band, he tried to connect. We connected with each other through our successes and we talked like that too. It wasn't like "well tell us stories from your old days." We laughed and partied but nobody really got into what's different about Eric Martin and what's different about Billy Sheehan and Pat Torpey and Ritchie Kotzen, Paul Gilbert, whatever, that why am I not getting along with them. Why don't we work that out. So watching that Aerosmith thing the other day, people have done it. That's that. There was no knock down drag outs. There were no drug problems. It was just stupid barriers that never got settled and then over the years, like I said, the early to reiterate misunderstandings escalated and we were making our last record which was a record called Actual Size and it did great in Japan and Southeast Asia. We always had a niche but we just went down after that. Then we had this altercation with Billy and we fired him. I think what we were really trying to do is scare him because there was no enthusiasm. It was like, so bored to be in the band and whatever. The next day we talked to him again. I remember the day. Pat and Ritchie and everybody talked to him and he came back. Then the next thing you know it's the farewell and so I was kind of in denial and shock through this whole thing. This is my livelihood and my job. But I'm starting over and it's fucking hard. I could kick back and still squeeze out some of the "To Be With You" royalties and eat Lay's potato chips and sit on a couch and get fat or I could just get out there. The big lesson that I learned though is that I got to know to everybody in this band very well. I'm actually really good friends with a couple of them because when I was in Mr. Big, when we'd home off the road I'd have an Eric Martin Band ready to play local shows. Some of these guys have been playing with the Eric Martin Band for years. I'm a little much more open. I have to be because I don't want this band to break up.
Especially since you married the drummer. Congratulations by the way.
Well, she was the drummer first and then I married her to keep her in the band. Thank you.
Well, at least that won't break up since she's on the road with you.
Yeah, it's difficult though. Drummers in general, Bobby Blotzer, all of them, they don't like taking direction from the lead singer. Especially if the lead singer is your husband.
Tell me a little bit about the folks in your band.
Well, Mark Chole is bass player and he's kind of been in the shadow of Billy Sheehan for years because we've played together for 15 or 20 years in between Mr. Big and I always call him the kung fu funk master of the bass. He's really good and funky and reliable. A sweet, honest guy and a terrible bowler. I just bowled with him. Terrible. Denise is my new secret weapon. Then there's Mark Holley. I have a Mark Chole and a Mark Holley. How confusing is that? He's a guitar player and we've only been playing together now for maybe six months. He's kind of a local guy that used to come and see me play too and I didn't realize it. He was one of those guys that liked doing pushups in front of me going "I can be your guitar player. I'm not as good as Paul Gilbert or Ritchie Kotzen but..." and he's got a lot of motivation. I honor that. I have a new guitar player. His name is Jonnie Axtel and Jonnie was on Atlantic Records too. He was in a band called Psychefunkapus. They got signed at the same time as Mr. Big. He did a lot of touring with bands like Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He's that type of guitar player and that's it. I have a keyboard player that played on the record. His name is Paul Dorr but he had a bunch of other shows booked. Rock and roll is spontaneous and I go "hey dude I got a tour" and he goes "ah I can't. I gotta play all these other shows." He had to do other shows and those shows were wedding shows. He opted to do the weddings and didn't want to go on tour with me and Enuff Z'Nuff. I could tell you a little bit about Enuff Z'Nuff. Chip Z'Nuff is the mayor of the world. Chip is awesome.
Those guys are very sweet. You have a new solo out called I'm Goin' Sane. You've been doing solo stuff while you were in Mr. Big.
Yeah, I did a record called Somewhere In The Middle on Atlantic. That was my first solo record. I have been doing Eric Martin Band records for years before I was in Mr. Big. Somewhere In The Middle did okay. This one is a new one. It came out in Japan and in Europe and then I've been trying to get a record deal and I go ah screw it. If you can't beat them, join them. I got a couple of really good record deals where I got to keep my own masters so I just printed up a couple thousand CDs and sell them on my website and sell them out on the road and they're making more money than we are. I have to dip into the CD pot to pay the guys but you've got to keep them happy. We are so lean and mean. We play our gigs and this bus is really comfortable. It's better than an Econoline van but some days we get day rooms. Most of the time, we've got a refrigerator and during the day we stock up on steaks or chicken and then tonight, KOA campground baby. Because it's got a pool, a shower, and a barbecue. You pull up, put up the tent. This is like Eric Martin's Boy Scout adventure. It's fun with a den mother.
That sounds like fun though. Tell me a little bit about your new solo record.
Over the years I never was kind of allowed to solo records because Mr. Big felt...I thought it was a stupid idea because my music was totally different than Mr. Big's. It was. It used to be. It was more like "Eric, you are the voice of Mr. Big and if you a solo record, it's going to confuse the audience. When I did actually do a couple of solo albums, they were acoustic and on the more mellower side but when I was making the last Mr. Big record, I could see some kind of dim light at the end of the tunnel and it was dim meaning that like it was not going to work anymore. I've been singing rock and roll for so long and why should I alter my sound? Now since there's no Mr. Big, I can basically do what I want since the gloves are off. The record's pretty much a collection of my interpretation of rock and roll songs. Three chord rockers. That's all I know how to play. Guitar players will know what a capo is. You just put a capo over each fret and all of a sudden it makes you sound like you know way more than three chords. You're just playing the same three chords over and over again.
Are there any particular favorites off the album?
There's a song called "Free Of It". Over the years I've been kind of influenced by the newer bands like Foo Fighters and more poppy Sum 41 type stuff. So there are a couple of songs in that ilk but it's still me. Still Eric Martin singer. You can't get away from that Mr. Big scar and I have to wear it for the rest of my life whether I like it or not. I like it. I mean fuck, basically it's pop music but me singing it. "Free Of It" is a really cool song. There's a song called "My Disease" that's got some heaviness to it. The record's kind of mixed. It's more like pop/rock type of songs but there's an acoustic song on it called "Everyday" and a song called "There Goes The Neighborhood" which is really cool. It kind of sounds like a Sanford & Son theme song because you can't take the funk out of the boy here. I'm not reinventing the wheel but I think it's a really special record.
Is it going in the same direction Mr. Big was?
Kind of like Mr. Big but no really hairy solos.
You hit the road with Enuff Z'Nuff. How is the tour going, where did it kick off, and where is it going to finish at?
You're right at the beginning of it. It started in Houston and we're picking up a bunch of dates. It was going to end in New York City but hell no, we're going to work our way back to California. I think so far it ends in Arizona. You may see us. We're probably going to be driving in a residential area near you. We left California and it took us about two or three days and we played Houston. It's going to be all the way up and then hit New York City and then backtrack back.
Doing gigs all the way back home.
Pretty much, yeah. X marks the spot on the treasure map. I have a website. EricMartin.com. You can go on there and already they've got 15 or 20 dates up. It's six weeks. This is going to be the easiest week but the majority of the shows are like five shows a week, day off, five shows a week. I'm 40 years plus and it'll be difficult but like I said earlier, what the hell am I going to do? Sit at home and watch all the new fall TV. While I was on the road I've missed The Sopranos.
That show rules. So you're going to Japan too?
Me and the guitar player, Mark Holley, went to Japan a couple of months ago to promote the record and it takes a while to set up a tour in Japan. In January we're going to go to Japan and then we went to this big festival in Europe a couple of months ago called The Gods Festival and it was like 10 Mr. Bigs. Melodic rock type of things but this one guy, Jeff Scott Soto, who sang for Yngwie Malmsteen and he sings in a bunch of bands and stuff.
I think he sings for Axel Rudi Pell as well.
Yeah, he does. Exactly. Jeff and I hooked up and we were talking about a package tour in Europe so that could be cool. I like that guy. He's cool. A nice guy.
So how did The Gods Festival go?
I find it kind of blasphemous saying Gods Festival but for an hour and a half, it was long as I played, I was God for an hour and a half. It was like a Star Trek convention. It was like a Guitar Trek convention. There's a group of fans that always come to gigs and they're the ones with all the CDs in their bags and like tons of pictures to be signed. There's a handful of them. It was like all those fans I was telling you about that go to gigs. It was probably 3,000 or 4,000 people and they were all those fans. All the trekkies. It was cool. They liked us. I was really nervous to play. It was the first time I'd played in Europe without Mr. Big and I never played there as a solo artist. I was playing Mr. Big songs too. The eyes of London were upon me. It was hard but it came out good and the reviews that I read, everybody was really good because I brought some uniqueness to the show.
Any other thoughts or comments?
I cross my fingers and my toes that the bus doesn't break down and I hope this starting over thing doesn't take too long because already I'm starting to get impatient but I'm pretty much lucky to be out here. After 12 years of being in Mr. Big plus it's kind of weird too because I pull up to this place and it says Mr. Big on the marquee. Mr. Big and Enuff Z'Nuff. Not Eric Martin from Mr. Big. If it's not one thing it's another and I'll have to grin and bear it. Next stop is an Air Force base or hello Cleveland. It's like a Spinal Tap thing.