Interview: David Martone

Dan McAvinchey: David, what were you trying to achieve with this album as compared to your first release, "Shut Up 'N Listen"?

David Martone: Every album that I write happens out of inspiration and a love for the instrument that far surpasses many things. This album stretches the boundaries of instrumental guitar music a little farther than most because of its diversity in nature, which comes from my different tastes in music. I stretch farther to the progressive side and at the same time, farther towards more of a jazz side.

My goals and plans for promotion for this album are:

  • World coverage in sales of "Zone"
  • Extensive touring to support the album
  • Clinics in cities that I will be playing
  • Continuing support from guitar industry manufacturers
  • Continuing support from radio stations that have guitar shows
  • Continue to create music for people out there that love music for music in the truest form
Dan McAvinchey: Where was the new CD recorded?

David Martone: The bulk of the album was recorded in East Vancouver. The engineer was some guy named Ernie. The solo instrumental pieces such as "Harmonix", "Bach-Tone", "Missed Birthday" and "Jazzanada" were recorded in the Red Room. The Red Room is basically my teaching/practice studio, which is, of course, painted red/black. The solo pieces were recorded direct to DAT with a Drawmer compressor and some reverb from a DEP4 and a Quadraverb. A Parker Fly was the guitar of choice. It is able to achieve a clean sound with minimal effort.

Ernie had a bunch of ADATs so that is what we worked with. The atmosphere was industrial and dirty, but it brought out some awesome performances on "Zone".

Dan McAvinchey: Relate the story about how you lost your best guitar during the recording of "Zone".

David Martone: During tracking of the beds to "Eight Notes" and "B52" I had something happen to me that every musician hopes never happens to them. My house was broken into. The bastards took my Parker Fly guitar, my Fender Stratocaster, my stereo and CDs and my gig bag full of accessories. The Parker Fly had become part of my being. I was devastated. I was walking around like a zombie for days. I put the word out to everybody in the lower mainland and in the valley, even on Vancouver Island. My girlfriend at the time had some connection with the Hells Angels. I almost felt sorry for the guy because he really got himself into something and he had no idea who he was screwing with.

"Martone" also had gigs at this time and my main guitar was gone. Even relating this to you now enrages me. I did one week of hitting every pawn shop around and calling everyone I knew to see if I could locate it.

Two days later my engineer Ernie at Big Midget called me and told me that he saw some dude in a band playing my Parker guitar the previous night in downtown Vancouver. He said he played dumb to the guy and went up to him to ask him about the guitar (it is a very individual looking guitar), asking him where he got such a weird looking guitar. The dude responded that he just bought it yesterday for $75 from some guy in New Westminister. The guitar is worth $3400! Ernie told the guy and the guy's management company that he had a stolen guitar and that it must be given back ASAP. There was no questioning, and I went to get my guitar back the next morning. It was beat up a bit and they had put all kinds of stickers on it. I spent the day getting it back in working order and was able to use it on my gig that same night. People ask me why I don't fix the scars on it but I see them as war wounds. Now that guitar never leaves my side. That is one reason that this album is full of passion for me.

Dan McAvinchey: I see your brother Paul contributes keyboards to "Zone". What is your writing and recording relationship with him?

David Martone: Paul was a strong force in the writing of "Zone". Most of his input came on "7th Dimension", "B52", "Eight Notes" and "Let's Dream". Paul is very good at coming up with cool lines and phrasing. He changes it into more of a 'proggy' type of sound even though he is not a 'prog' player. He also has a great ear for production ideas as well, such as where to leave space, since I like to fill space with notes. That is why there is a bit more space on "Zone" than "Shut Up 'N Listen". The drum loop influence in the production also came from Paul. 'Pauly', as we call him, also works on his own solo music which is avant-garde pop music. He also sings on that project.

The way that it works with us in our writing process is that we both come up with parts for songs, or 'blurbs', as the Martone boys call them. Then we take them to each other and see what we think. Then we go back to our blurbs and manipulate them more. It's my job to arrange the blurbs. This is the most difficult step of the writing process. The song "7th Dimension" was written this way. It took me more time to arrange all the blurbs than it did to write them. Some of the problems that I encounter are differences in time signatures, keys and tempos of the various blurbs I'm trying to arrange.

After I have them arranged, I play it for Pauly and get his opinion. We then work out the rest of the bugs and once we have an arrangement that we both like, we bring it to the rest of the band. Then, rehearsal of all the sections begins, to prepare for the recording process.

Dan McAvinchey: Is it easier or harder to work with Paul because he is a member of your family?

David Martone: This is a difficult question to answer. I would have to start off saying that I expect the most out of Pauly just because he is my brother, and I want a perfect performance out of him every time. In this aspect I tend to be a bit harsh on him and ride his ass a bit more than the rest of the band. If you were to ask any of the band members that we have played with how some rehearsals get out of hand, they would have quite a few stories to tell. It is easier to perfect parts with him because he is my brother. We do have a common thread of thought that runs through both of us so we can usually tell where the other is going to go before we get there.

I would have to say that it is easy and hard at the same time to work with my brother, since we both push each other to come up with the best parts possible. If one person thinks that their part is better than the others, then we have a problem. I am guilty of wanting to have my part in and not be thrown out -- the same as him. This is where the true 'fun' is -- in deciding which parts to keep. All in all, my brother is my right hand man and if he was not writing with me, my music would only be half as crazy as it is when he is with me.

Dan McAvinchey: Did you try any new recording techniques or effects on "Zone"?

David Martone: I was never a fan of direct guitar sounds but for some reason this album is full of direct guitar. All of the rhythm tracks, clean and dirty, were recorded direct. I find that this gives the punchiest sound out there. The Sans-Amp rack really helped also. It is one of those 'plug and play' pieces of gear which tone just oozes out of. All the lead guitar was done with a Yamaha GW50 piece of junk processor (that I love and could not live without) into my Mesa/Boogie system into a 4x12 and miked with a Shure 57 and 421. Then through a Beringer Eurodesk an on to ADAT tape. Nothing too fancy.

I have a gripe about recording off the floor though. I just can't do it! I hate the sound of my guitar through little headphones. It makes the tome sound as big as a pin head! I hate that! This is why I track in the control room with the monitors cranked! Ernie, my engineer, loves this!

If it does not feel right, I can't play it.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you ever feel overwhelmed as an independent artist? I mean, there is so much you have to take care of yourself.

David Martone: Damn straight I feel overwhelmed as an independent artist. The work is never ending. From the first moment of inspiration of the song to pushing it down everyone's throat is just an amazing amount of work. But this is what makes us better people in the long run. If we have no goals or dreams then what the hell are we on this planet for? If you are going to dream, why not dream as big as possible? This is how things happen. I find that I need to have a balance now with my music. Before, I was just oversaturated and totally consumed. This is great but I was like a horse with a vision that is only straight ahead. I was missing everything to the left of me and everything to the right. These are the things that make the trip more enjoyable.

I have only just recently learned this and it is through Trace Xavier. She has helped me to look at things in a more spiritual way and to 'feel' my way through instead of just plowing ahead like a bulldozer. Don't get me wrong, I think that I have, or am getting to have an equal amount of both types of mentality, and things are starting to feel more balanced. The main thing is the motivational drive that I think we as musicians need to maintain. This is the hard part. Myself, I need to feel little rewards along the way of my career to help my motivation level. These push me to a new level or plateau. The problem is when this drive subsides -- what do I do, or what do we do then? This is where looking to the left and right will help us out. Some will see different things. But this is what is getting me to continue climbing until the end of my existence.

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Dan McAvinchey: Are there any other guitarists you'd love to record or collaborate with in the future?

David Martone: I will be collaborating and recording with a good friend of mine named Navid Nikbakht in London within the next month. We will be doing a very rhythmic world album and will be inspiring ourselves as much as possible. I am looking forward to that.

I would love to work with George Winston but he is not a guitar player. He is a new age piano player. I find his music very moving even though it is simple.

I would also like to work with Trevor Horn. He has produced the Seal albums. I think his productions are stellar works of art and I know that he pulls a lot out of his artists. This would be quite stimulating for me.

I would also like to work with Peter Gabriel. I think his work is intense! No album in history has affected me as much as his album "The Passion" from the last temptation of Christ. This is a pure work of art. I recommend it to anyone interested in opening new doors! I do not care for some of his 'pop' music but can still enjoy it for what it is.

All right! I'll say it. I would like to do some work with Allan Holdsworth. I would like to get into his mind and see how the notes swirl around inside there. I think I would get scared with what I would see inside there. I think I would get scared with what I would see but everybody needs a good scare!

Dan McAvinchey: What musical directions do you see yourself exploring in the future?

David Martone: The musical direction I find myself moving toward is incorporating the sound of piano. I find the instrument emotionally chilling and warming at the same time. I have always had loved the sound of the piano. It's probably because Pauly (Marton) played all of the classical hits and I would just sit and listen on the couch as he would practice. I would do the same with Ben Timpauer. He is another awesome player. I would go over to his house and listen to him play Rachmaninoff. It calms me down from the crazies in life. I have a hard enough time trying to relax so this is the thing that keeps me sane I think.

I am also becoming fond of Latin/Brazilian flamenco music lately. One of my students lent me his acoustic Godin (thanks Albert) and I fell in love with the guitar. It helped me start to play this style of music and it just happened. The only problem it that I have to give it back next week, so by the time you read this, I will have to find something else to use.

I just want to make music, and music consists of many things and no things -- all at once!

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Vancouver-based guitarist David Martone has combined over twenty years of guitar playing with formal studies in music production and engineering and a degree in Music Performance from the Berklee College of Music. His latest release, "Zone", finds the ace guitarist stretching himself towards a more progressive sound compared with his first release, "Shut Up N' Listen", incorporating jazz and industrial influences, while continuing to provide the trademark Martone shred soloing and heavy rhythm work throughout the CD.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Martone over a period of weeks to get the inside view on the recording of "Zone" and the guitarist's current mindset on his position in the indie guitar scene.