Martha Davis...and The Motels, "A Post Industrial Family On A Field Trip"
Singer, songwriter and super goddess of the 80's Martha Davis and The Motels are known for their hists " Suddenly Last Summer", " Only The Lonely", and all the other favorites.
During a very in-depth interview from the very genuine and warm songstress from her very cool 72 acre ranch in Oregon surrounded by her baby alpacas and an array of chihuahuas, we spoke of her new single release, her new album set to be released, her experiences in the 80's, her musical view points and a host of others things.
Martha was by far one of the friendliest, funniest, and coolest people I've spoken to ever! She was confidently brilliant and creatively intimate, yet intriguing enough to want to know more. Her new single is superbly orchestrated, and very much the "Motels"
Eileen Shapiro: I just saw you on the Jimmy Star Show With Ron Russell.
Martha Davis: You did, did you see my babies?
Eileen Shapiro: I did, what are they?
Martha Davis: They're alpacas.
Eileen Shapiro: Do they grow any bigger?
Martha Davis: They don't get much bigger. They're smaller than llamas. They are like the little baby brothers of llamas and very, very cute. Your friend Fran, and I don't know if you know this about her, but she spins wool. She has a spinning wheel. So basically next year when we actually shear these guys, I'm going to give the wool to Fran, and Fran is going to spin it into yarn, then we can have a knitting party.
Eileen Shapiro: That's so cool. I want to pet them......I absolutely love your new song! It's very "Motels". It's so relevant. As a matter of fact all of your songs would fit today.
Martha Davis: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Eileen Shapiro: Did you write your new song?
Martha Davis: Yeah. There are songs on the album that are a combination of songs that I've written, and then ones that the whole band ganged up on it and we did together, which is really fun. This band is the best "Motels" band. Even old Motel alumni say the same thing. We've been together now 14 years, so it's not like we got together and just went, "Oh, great new band". These guys are just great. Bands are like marriages. Some of them work, most of them don't and it's really odd when you find four other people that you completely are in sync with musically, and emotionally. We laugh our asses off. We have the best time. It truly is a wonderful, wonderful band, The energy and the appreciation that we have for each other is just wonderful. So we have a really good time, they are amazing musicians and the musicianship has come up a thousand percent I think from anywhere the Motels have ever been before. Aside from myself and Marty Gerard who was originally in the band that was signed with Capital, the rest of them are younger. So we're like the old people. These kids grew up loving 80's music. So it's really weird, they probably have more appreciation for our music, I know that I do....
Eileen Shapiro: The best music ever is 80's music.
Martha Davis: It's really fun. There's a great description of us that Clint actually came up with, and it's on my bio, it's, "Post Industrial Family on a Field Trip". It's like Marty and I are mom and dad, with the kids. It's a good crew.
Eileen Shapiro: You don't hear of too many bands that stay together too long these days.
Martha Davis: Its really difficult. You know how hard it is with a one and one relationship. Think about four people. What's even weirder is I adore each one of their girlfriends and wives. I mean their girlfriends are great too. The girlfriends are artists and singers.
Eileen Shapiro: Do you plan to tour any further? Maybe in support of your new album?
Martha Davis: Yeah, there's going to be a lot of stuff coming up. We've been spending a lot of time just re-organizing, and things are going to be starting to change very drastically. Just even the visuals on social media and stuff. You know there's a new manager there's a label now. The new record was actually put out on a label unlike me dropping it onto the internet and watching it disappear. We're doing one where we actually are going to promote it for people to get all eyes on it, and to give it a fighting chance. So there's a lot of work being done just structurally. You know what you have to do these days. You have to somehow capture the attention span of people, and that is a short window. So that's what we're trying to do and next year there will be a lot of tours. There's already some dates booked, but we are for sure probably in Los Angeles, and it would be nice if we could have a few in different places like New York, Los Angeles in Boston. Places where we can debut the album and do just something interesting. We're working on all that stuff, and I'm big on teaser campaigns. I'm working on teaser campaigns because I love them. That's the exciting part. Because I live up in Oregon on a farm, and Marty lives in Seattle and the rest of the boys live in LA it took a long time to make this album because of logistics. It's been about a three-year process making the record. We spent most of this year trying to get these odds and ends done. It's an exciting time. I really like this album and I'm really hoping we can get some attention.
Eileen Shapiro: You actually have talent and can sing, so that in itself should get you some attention.
Martha Davis: I didn't think about that. I think it's timing and connections.
Eileen Shapiro: Are considering touring the U.K. ?
Martha Davis: I would love to. We haven't been there since the 80's.
Eileen Shapiro: The music scene is really good there.
Martha Davis: I have no clue. I'm kind of clueless anyway. I'm one of those people, I do a lot of music, but not a lot of listening to music. I'm always wrapped up in writing stuff, not listening, so I have no clue what's going on. The guys in my band are always making fun of me. I ask "who's that"? And they're like, "really"? I listen to NPR and I listen to classical music, and I've sort of always been that way.
Eileen Shapiro: I would have taken you for a jazz fan more than classical.
Martha Davis: It's weird, I don't listen to jazz. I love radio. Up here in Oregon we have a really good station. I don't know if there's a part of me that's just keeping my sacred world, not hearing a lot .....when I started doing music it was just me being in my room, and having this guitar that I got handed to me by accident when I was eight years old. I would just find stuff and create stuff. So it's always been just this personal, crazy little journey. Maybe there is a part of me that just wants to keep it like that, not thinking about the pop scene as it is.
Eileen Shapiro: What was it like for you the very first time you heard one of your songs on the radio, how did you feel?
Martha Davis: It was awesome. I was just talking about it the other day. We had just gotten off the plane in Boston, and we were getting in the taxi. In the taxi they were playing , "Dressing Up" from the first album. It's a tremendous feeling because as you know there is the overnight success story of rock in roll, but that's not really true. I started in '71 and that was ,75, so you put in a good eight years of running around like a maniac, trying to avoid the police while putting posters up on telephone poles......
Eileen Shapiro: The late '70's and '80's was a great time for music. All of the artists from the '80's are still touring which I'm happy to say.
Martha Davis: People love the '80's. I think one of the things that was great about the 80s for me is that nobody, no two people, no two bands were alike .Devo was not Blondie, Blondie was not Oingo Boingo. Everybody was so distinct and different. It's funny now when I hear new bands or kids today, they're kind of emulating people from the 80s, but the whole point was not to sound like anybody. If you've been in it long enough and are watching, music has these cycles. It's not just music, I think there are artistic moments across the board that happen. For the longest time I had this feeling that people were just superstitious. Every time a century we come to an end and a new one would start, it was just this innate superstition in people that would shut them down and make them conservative. Then the arts would start to blossom. If you look at 1910, the 1920's, the arts were happening at that point. The Modernist Movement and all that stuff, you see this amazing blossom in music and culture and art. You watch these different times where it sometimes goes dormant. It has shut down a lot of times, it's just the fact that the powers that be, or the corporate overlords decided that their bounty comes along and they decide, " we need 10,000 more of those, and pretty soon there are no Nirvanas, just a wash of stuff that doesn't even come close. So you see it manifest that way, but then it does blossom,..... and I think 80s was a blossom. The 60's definitely....the music that I was lucky enough to have, between Bowie, The Who, across the board. I think right now we might be in a little bit of a lull. But you know that there are people out there that are really creative and wonderful. You have to search them out. It will bloom again.
Eileen Shapiro: I interview a lot of Indie artists who are amazing but might never be heard.
Martha Davis: It's understanding the workings of the machinery and trying to stay true to your art and be successful. I totally fell into that in the 80s. I wanted to be a lot quirkier then " Only the Lonely" it became very MOR sounding to me. Even with that song it was the first time we had a hit, it definitely was not what I was envisioning for myself and then as time goes on, you get a hit so they say, " Oh, I guess this is working, that's what we're supposed to be doing", it became more and more in that direction MOR. By the time I did my solo album, which was supposed to be a solo album, it was supposed to be a Motels album, but that party had ended.... so the record company scrambled around and I'm singing Diane Warren songs.....I was like, " holy crap, this was not right at all". More than anything I'm a writer. That's the main thing that am, the singing was a lucky kind of accident. I ended up having to just say please get me off this label. I called my lawyers and said, " please I can't do this anymore". It was just so far away from what I wanted to do.
Eileen Shapiro: You had a unique sound. You always knew a Motels song.
Martha Davis: I think that just absolutely comes from me. I mean I spent a lot of time in a room alone. I write songs and I don't really listen to a lot of popular music. David Bowie was my God, he was my king, he was my lord and master. I'm so pissed that I never got to meet him. I was so crushed. We were on Capital together, and they said, " no problem, we'll have you meet David".
Eileen Shapiro: That's sad that you never did,
Martha Davis: Never did. I wrote with Earl Slick, I was so close...and so far away. But everything is written in the confounds of my own little creative brain. I have an aversion to try and sound like what's happening now. I laugh so hard because it all kind of started with Cher and "Believe". They had the pitch corrector and then the next thing you know everybody has it on everything all the time. Now everybody sounds the same. It's very strange.
Eileen Shapiro: If you could have your ultimate stage fantasy, what would you need to happen?
Martha Davis: First of all it would be an entire piece. I don't do albums anymore that are collections of pop songs. There has to be a journey involved. It's not a rock opera but my in mind there's a story there. In fact when I started this album, I had a story. I started storyboarding for the rock opera. What happened was when I put down the order of which I saw the songs being played, from my little story in my brain, the guys in the band said, "you can't start an album like that". I said, " Well, whatever, I know what the story is". So if I was going to do my perfect world story thing, I would do a very beautiful, cinematic piece, take the entire album and make it a story. It would look and feel completely different than a rock show. It would be like watching a beautiful Noir movie. It would be all intriguing the way you would be drawn in, to such a degree that you'd feel like you were in a dream, with less light and flash and bang that we see today.
Eileen Shapiro: All of your songs seem to have that sense of compelling intrigue, they are all kind of dreamesque.
Martha Davis: Well that's where I want them to go. I don't ever want to give away a lot of information in them because first of all I don't have it. I have taught myself well, and my teachings have taught me that I should do one thing that's most important, and that's get the fuck out of my own way, which is what I really do when I write. It's a very stream of consciousness process. I'm not writing words necessarily for literal meaning. I'm writing them because of the beauty of the sounds of words. That is something that my mother gave me. She was a Phi Beta Kappa English major at Cal Berkeley, and loved the literature. Henry Miller was our bedtime story. Sitting there with my sister, and listening to mom and going, "Janet, what's a cunt"? My sister saying, " I don't know, shut up, mom's reading". It would be, "Tanya the warmth of your cunt.....", because she loved his writing. These beautiful stream of consciousness writers that I was introduced to, I didn't even know it at the time but looking back, somehow all of that seeped into me. So there's a lot of me just stepping out of the way and letting the subconscious in because to me that's a true voice. What we say with the frontal cortex when engaged is a bunch of bullshit because we're changing it to make it make sense to whoever we are sitting around with at the time. So if we can turn off that actual filter that supposed to keep us politically correct or incorrect and just get down to the nitty-gritty, that's where I want to be when I write.
Eileen Shapiro: I knew you were cool. I don't do a lot of research on people I interview, I like to come in fresh, but I somehow knew you'd be cool.
Martha Davis: It's nice to actually get to know somebody as opposed to coming in pre-knowlegable. It's like the difference between reading a book and watching the movie. When you watch a movie everything is spelled out for you but when you read a book you can design the characters. I don't want to take myself too seriously, I'm too dam old for that.
Eileen Shapiro: I think age is only a number.
Martha Davis: It is, but it definitely makes it harder to read the set list.
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