Sunday, June 28, 2009

Martin DeBourge - Interview with a true vocal artist

I have known Martin via internet for a couple of years now. I have always found him a approachable yet quiet soul, deeply devoted to his family and his music. This interview gave me an indepth view into just what makes Martin tick. This resulted in a two part series : Martin DeBourge - a true vocal artist and The Music of Martin DeBourge

Thank you Martin, you will always be a favorite of mine!

Martin DeBourge Interview:

When did you start singing?

To be honest, I still feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this singing role. Many times I feel like a student of voice that has yet to discover where I can take the human vocal chords.I've been singing for as long as I can remember. Although my childhood wasn't necessarily centered around music, it was always around me. Whether it was my parents playing the radio in the car, grandparents playing their old records or the jukebox at the local pizza joint, the music always impacted me. In my pre-teens it definitely served as an escape from my surroundings. Once I heard Lou Gramm from Foreigner, I was gone. When some friends from school turned me on to Iron Maiden and other metal groups, I was even further gone!
I hadn't even seen my first concert before I was putting my own band together when I was 16. That's probably an indication as to what I would discover about myself later in life - that I find myself more at home on the creative and recording levels rather than a "gigging" band member. Although, when the formula is right, live performance can be extremely satisfying. However, musicians are an interesting breed and getting four or more people to click on a personal and working level is no easy task.
So until that allusive concoction comes together, I'll continue to be a singer doing what I do

Who have you performed with? Done Vocals for?

After a handful of bands growing up, my first very serious work was with Southern California's "TORMAN MAXT". I recorded the debut album with them "Just Talking About the Universe... so far". That's where I really cut my teeth so to speak. The band is still together, and the guitarist Tony Massaro is a good friend to this day.
After Torman Maxt I tried my hand at genres outside rock music. I joined a choir, did some tenor solo pieces and attempted to expand my horizons. After meeting my wife Hande, the creative spirit in me was re-awakened and I found myself itching to get back into music that packed a harder punch. Since that time, it's been a kind of whirlwind with work I've done for other bands. Recently, I've been diving in to session work with PAUERSPHERE out of Illinois (tech-metal) and MACH X out of Southern California (progressive pop metal). I'm also pretty excited about an album I'm on tap to record with DAMIEN THORNE out of Chicago. They're a great group of guys that are kinda legends in their own right. Considered one of the first thrash metal bands on the Roadrunner label, I'm definitely honored to be a part of their forthcoming album.

Have you written any music?

Well, when you say "music" I have to qualify my answer. As a vocalist, my predominate role is to write vocal melodies and lyrics. Melodies are indeed musical, and in fact crucial to the overall compositional makeup of a song, but unfortunately many guitarists and consequently listeners put little value on the singers written melody. I've even worked with guitarists in the past who point blank swore that a melody that I wrote "pre-existed" in some magical fairy tale way. Frankly, once a vocal melody is written for a track, it no longer remains the sole writing effort of that guitarist - it has now become a collaboration. Working with the right musicians, it's a rewarding process. With the exception of one or two bad experiences, for the most part I've been very fortunate to work with some great people.

What other musical talents you have?

Well, I can hold my own behind a mixing board, but that's about it as far as beyond the vocal realm. I tend to dive deeply into the voice, which is frankly a lost art. Many times, a vocalist thinks they just have to get in front of a microphone and let loose these supposed natural talents. I'm of the persuasion that the voice is a powerful tool that needs constant maintenance, tuning and exercise just like any other instrument. So, I focus a bulk of my time working on that craft. I didn't wake up one day with a four octave range. I had to work very very hard on it.
In the 90s it was fashionable for singers to also play an instrument - it seemed the "lead" vocalist or front man was somehow a dinosaur approach to music. As a result, less attention was paid to excelling in vocal performance and more attention was paid to being "OK" at both. I made up my mind that I would be the best I could possibly be at what I do and not detract from it by learning another instrument. It may not be the "hit maker" way, but I was never very interested in making hits anyway.

Judging from your MySpace and blog,ETHNOMUSICOLOGY, you are a deep thinker. Have you attended college?

Wow, you've really looked into this! I'm honored that you would take that time to research a little about me before the interview. As far as being a "deep thinker", I'm afraid that would require intense focus, and that's frankly something I lack when it comes to critical approach academically.
To answer your question, I did SOME college, but nothing to the extent of a degree and nothing in the fields that interest me most. I suppose that has more to do with being brought up in a poor family with little importance on education. I would like to return to it someday, but attempting to instill those values in my own kids is taking precedence. Just because my parents didn't see the practical sense in prepping me for higher education, it certainly doesn't stop me from wanting to learn as much as I can. I am always consuming whatever is presented to me to learn.
We as Americans are in a unique position to go after any pursuit of knowledge we desire. I believe it is a travesty to let that go to waste. We are not told what books we can read, what subjects are off limits, etc - so it's a shame that we as a society sometimes put more value on knowing who the starting line up is for a favorite sports team rather than reading something... anything! I suppose this comes from being able to quickly locate our credit card (that we can't pay down) but have no idea where the library card is... or if we even have one.

Of all the songs you have done, what is the one song that best describes you? Could you include the lyrics?

Great question... and I wish I had a great answer! Because I focus on the recorded medium, I'd have to answer that from a different angle. With all the work I've done, I think the Torman Maxt album I recorded was more a personal extension of me and where I stood at the time, not really comprised in a single song. Catapult over a decade later and I find myself pouring out my soul into this album I am working on called "QUESTER". The individual songs as they make up the whole will be a defining reflection of who I am, and will "best describe me". When that album is done, please come back and ask me again, and I will certainly barrage you with lyrics!
I read recently that FRANK ZAPPA considered all of his work as one huge composition. I think I can identify with that concept, although his talent is numerous levels above me.

Any public performances coming up?

Since I don't really "belong" to a group at the moment, I would have to say that the only way to maybe catch me live in performance is with a cover band in my local area here in West Central IL.

You say you collect turntables, how many do you have and which is your fav?

I love turntables because I'm somewhat of a purist and a history buff. So the format has always intrigued me. I only have 8 players currently. I suppose that's 7 more than a lot of people have, but it's a lot less than I'd like to have! Because of my limited resources, I don't focus on higher end models - the piece actually has to mean something to me for it to end up in my collection. I don't own a table simply because it's the latest and greatest.
For example, a floor model Zenith I have reminds me of my grandparent's house where I was required to take an afternoon nap while listening to old country music emit from the warm speakers next to my ear. Another Whamco toy model reminds me of the cheap knock off players my cousin and I would listen to Aerosmith as kids thinking this was the most mind blowing sound we ever heard. But my go to player, the one that get's the most use has got to be my Marantz.

You mentioned working on an Album, can you tell a little about it?

You saved the explosive question for last!? Probably best since this is really my central focus these days. It's a very detailed, intensely personal concept album. It's a slow going process because I'm paying attention to every detail while at the same time sweating blood and tears over the expressive element it can't help but being.
It's a progressive metal album I am writing with a guy named DEREK COSYNS out of North Carolina. Derek has played with Alethian, Bloodline Severed and Whisper from Heaven. I've got BRYAN BELLER on board for the bass. Bryan has played with Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Dweezil Zappa and Dethklok (the Cartoon Network spin off band). I've also got some special guest appearances. One in particular that I am crazy about is SHAWN PHILLIPS on surbahar. Shawn has an interesting history and brings a certain royalty to the album that I am freaked out about having. He gave Joni Mitchell guitar lessons, taught George Harrison the sitar, sang backgrounds on Lovely Rita from the Beatles and has a slew of albums that span 40+ years including work with Donovan. So you can imagine that I find myself a bit humbled in the presence of some of these contributors.
I'm shooting for a mid 2010 release

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