Seattle-Budapest Grunge Magazin | Alapítva: 2015-ben | Alapító: Pintér Miklós

Kevin Martin: Had Layne or any of those guys ever backed us up

“I just want to put them out individually, on 180 gram vinyl, re-master them for vinyl and that’s all I want,” says Kevin Martin, lead vocalist of Candlebox about reissue opportunities of previous albums of Candlebox. Read our in-depth interview about the past, present and future of an amazing singer, father and husband from Seattle who lives in Los Angeles today.

„Seattle is not the city that I moved into in 1984”

How are you Kevin? How is the European tour going?

Well. It’s going well. Better than expected, you know! We didn’t spend a lot of time here in the 90’s. We’re just trying to reinvigorate an audience who maybe forgot about us. Some nights there are a couple of hundred people and some nights there are fifty, but it’s just about getting back over here.

I was at a Stone Temple Pilots/Walking Papers show in Berlin yesterday. I realised that Dean DeLeo, the guitarist of Stone Temple Pilots (STP), did a FaceTime call with his daughters maybe because of Father’s Day.

Yes, Father’s Day was Sunday.

So, tell me. How is life as a rock star and a father as well? How can you manage it being here in Europe?

It’s funny but I don’t tour as much as STP so it’s a little bit easier for me. My wife and son were in New York because my wife was there on business and we FaceTimed. It’s just so much easier now with phones. You know, get on Wi-Fi and make a call. Like I said, I don’t go out for like six weeks at a time. I’m very much like two weeks max and then I go home. I like to be with my family, as much as I love these guys and playing live, I like to be at home.

You live in Los Angeles today. I know you weren’t born in Seattle but you are still a Seattle guy to me. How is life there? What’s the difference between LA and Seattle?

I moved there in ’84 when I was fourteen years old and I actually lived there the longest. But, I hate LA. I’ve been trying to leave LA for twenty years. It’s a really difficult city to set down roots because it’s transient and big. I have a small group of friends that I see every week and I don’t venture much outside those friends. Musician wise, the only people I keep in touch with are Matt Sorum or Robin Diaz. I don’t really have any relationships with any other musicians. I guess that’s just because I’ve known Matt since 1996 when we lived relatively very close to one another in Los Angeles. Seattle is not the city that I moved into in 1984. It’s still beautiful, it’s just bigger. My family’s still there; my mother, brother and sister still live there. Twice a year, I still go up for maybe a week. Seattle and LA are completely different cities. Seattle is outdoorsy and cool while LA is wealthy and stupid.

The first Candlebox album turned twenty-five last year and on this tour you played ten songs from that album. You missed only one.

Well, we are running into issues like curfews and timing. Like tonight, there is no curfew but the past four shows there have been and I want to make sure that I get those five other songs on from the five other albums. It’s a collection of music for twenty-five years. We’ve been skipping “Rain” because it’s the last song on set and we just don’t have time. Tonight, I’m deliberately not putting it in because I want to play “The Bridge” which is one of my favourite songs from the Disappearing in Airports album and we’re going to close the set with that. Tonight, we’re sprinkling in a couple of songs from Disappearing, one from Happy Pills and one song from Love Stories and one song from Into the Sun and I don’t think anything from Lucy.

Why not?

It’s not a good record for me. It’s like an emotional train-wreck, that album, for me. I have a hard time doing songs from that album.

Kevin Martin (Photo: Andrea Küttel)

„I don’t have planes take me all over the world”

You have a lot of fantastic songs. I mean, “A Kiss Before Dying” and…

Thank you.

…”How Does it Feel” and “I’ve Got a Gun”. These songs are very powerful and energetic. They also sound like they come from Seattle in the early 90’s but you don’t seem to play them. I feel like “I’ve Got a Gun” is the biggest song off of the new album. It was number one on our annual list on Grungery in 2017.

Thanks. To be honest with you, we haven’t practised it. When we did play it a couple times on tour, maybe two years ago, this was around my birthday so April 2017. It’s a difficult song to play live because there is so much movement in the track and we don’t run tracks as a band. We don’t run Pro-Tools or anything. There are a lot of defining moments in the song that require a little bit more guitar work than we are capable of and I’m not a good enough guitar player to carry that stuff so I would have to spend more time with an electric guitar and learn the bass foundation so the other two guitars can do the movements that are required. I feel that they are responsible for the song. Those guitar patterns lent the lyrics to me. When I heard them, I knew exactly what I wanted to sing because it feels like a gun.


It feels like a machine gun. I’m not avoiding it, I just can’t give it what it requires, I think, or what it deserves live. “Kiss Before” is in Drop C and requires a baritone guitar and I just got back so we may play it next year, I don’t know yet. I love that song, always have. It just requires a guitar that can go down to Drop C. That’s why it’s so heavy. And what was the other one you mentioned?

“How Does it Feel”.

Oh, “How Does it Feel”? That song was about George Bush. It was so about that part of America and, hopefully, we are past that but then again now that we have this fucking clown that’s running The United States-maybe we should bring it back. It’s about these guys that become king of the mountain but they are just standing on sand and sand just disappears so quickly. Yeah, we should play that live because it’s a pretty good song. Hopefully, once this year is over with the debut album being twenty-five years old which ends July 20th. After that; August, September, October all those dates, we can start bringing that old stuff back and the newer stuff back, I suppose. Maybe next year, we’ll be able to play two hours where we could throw 17-18-19 songs in a set and those are songs we should revisit.

There are a lot of projects like The Gracious Few where you played with members of LIVE and Kevin Martin and The Hiwatts which was a fantastic album as well. My heart is bleeding for songs like “Enemy”,Appetite”, “Honest Man”, etc. Do you plan on playing any of these songs? 

Carlos, our sound guy and tour manager, loves the hard stuff and he always asks me, “When are you going to play the Hiwatt stuff?” I would love to, I mean, “Enemy” is one of my favourite songs and “Identify”. You know, it was a different time for me and I think I like to keep those things separate. Eventually, I probably should just do one tour where I play a collection of songs from all off the bands I’ve been in. I mean, Adam {Kury} (Candlebox) and I have a new band called Le Projet with Morgan Rose (Seven Dust) and I love those songs. I’m just not prolific enough.

I don’t think so.

I mean, I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately, “Where am I right now?” You know, I just turned fifty and, “How much longer do I really want this career?” I’m playing to people who want to see me in the UK and I love that but I really miss my wife and my son at home. I’m not Dave Grohl; I don’t have planes take me all over the world. I work really hard. There’s nothing wrong with the success of those bands but you know, for me, I’m very happy where I’m at and I just don’t know how much longer I want to do it. Hopefully, I’m not having a midlife crisis… but I might be. That’s what it’s all about, questioning everything. I don’t know maybe I should do a tour of all my favourite songs from all the records I’ve ever made.

It would be interesting. It could be a five-hour show or something!

I don’t know. Maybe three songs from each record or something. We did that in South America a few years ago. It was a two and half hour set. It was like twenty-seven songs.

That’s extremely long.

It was fucking long.

For your voice too.

It held up fine. But I was beat by the end of the set. But I was destroyed, just destroyed but it was a lot of fun! I don’t know how Eddie Vedder does 26-27 songs every night but he does it. I mean he’s a baritone. We have a different voice. I was fucking wiped out but we had a blast.

„Pat Smear stopped me backstage. He was like, “Why aren’t you singing today?”

You play some amazing covers from Seattle bands. I mean Temple of the Dog’s “Say Hello to Heaven”, Pearl Jam’sAlive”. I was there at Naptune Theatre in Seattle where you performed “Bone China” from Mother Love Bone. I showed it to Toni Wood, Andy’s mom. She was amazed at how similar you sounded to Andy.

Oh man, I loved Andy. He was the greatest.

How the relationship with the old times in Seattle and these bands? I know you were close to Chris Cornell and Andy Wood when you were younger. Did you get any tips from them?

Just from Andy. I mean, Chris was an interesting person. Eddie and I only met briefly when he first moved to Seattle when they were just starting the Temple of the Dog record. I don’t really have a gauge on Eddie but I know Jeff (Ament) and Stone (Gossard) very, very well. Chris just happened to become a friend because I was working with his wife, Susan at a shoe store.

A shoe store?

Yes, she managed a shoe store called {John} Fluevog, Susan did.  Plus, she also had a management company called Susan Silver Management. So, her office was out of the back and through the shoe store. So, on First Avenue there’s also a hotel there called The End of the Market, with apartments you can rent out or hotel rooms and Fluevog was like on the corner. Susan had one of the apartments there as her office so she’d walk through the back and get the flyers for whoever was playing that day. So, that’s I met Chris. That’s how I met Andy. That’s how I met Layne (Stanley). It’s how I met Jerry (Cantrell) and I was sixteen years old working in a shoe store. It was really amazing for me to meet guys that I admired musically and at the same time I was playing drums in a band. I never thought it would turn into friendship because I was so much younger.

That is a valid point.

I mean, what 21 year old guy wants to hang out with a sixteen year old kid? So, we were just basically acquaintances through the store and then as the years progressed, and Candlebox became what it did, Chris and I became relatively good friends. We were able to have conversations about things. Layne and I became really good friends just through parties and stuff. We rehearsed next door to them at the Music Bank. He and I would sit and shoot the shit all the time about singers and rock and roll. Andy was the one who would come into the shop and would love to talk about music when he did come in. I mean, I was a huge Malfunkshun fan and Andy inspired the shit out of me! I’ve probably stolen, I don’t know how many, phrasings from him just the way he sings, the way he moved through music lyrically and melodically was what I was most attracted to as a singer. More so than Chris, I mean. Chris was just powerful. Layne was just a snake but Andy was just able to move through shit so brilliantly as a singer and he was always making music, constantly. I think I just connected with him on a visceral level musically and we would talk about all kinds of band shit and stupid stuff. That’s why we did those songs. “Say Hello to Heaven” was the day after Chris died.

You were in shock.

I was.

I remember your speech before you sang.

I was dumbfounded. I did not know that side of him. I would like to think it was something different than suicide. I mean, like a Michael Hutchence (INXS) moment or something. I mean, people have dark sides that we don’t know about. I don’t know but I was absolutely stunned and still am. Even when I went to see the Chris Cornell Foundation Concert that Vicky (Cornell) put on. I was still kind of confused watching the show like, “This is just weird and How did this happen?”

I was there.

Were you?

Yeah and I totally had the same feeling there.

I was like, “I can’t believe this is happening”. I’ll tell you a funny story. Pat Smear (Foo Fighters) stopped me backstage and we were talking where the Foundation had all the guests and stuff. He was like, “Why aren’t you singing today?”


And I was like, “I wasn’t invited and I don’t know”. That was very hard for me when he asked me that question because a lot of people asked but I didn’t know Vicky. I only knew Susan and had never met Vicky so maybe she doesn’t even know I exist. It’s possible but when Pat asked me that I was like, “Wow, fucking weird”. And maybe that’s why the whole show, for me, was really bizarre. Amazing performances.

Well, some performances were amazing but others were shit, sorry to say.

Whatever! Brandi Carlile, I think, fucking destroyed it. That was beautiful and I really loved Stone’s speech. Making sure that everyone knew that it was because of Susan that every single one of those bands was capable of doing this. That was a very profound moment for me, Stone’s speech. Yeah, I was shocked and I still am. You know, I haven’t listened to Soundgarden since. I can listen to Temple of the Dog because the relationship’s different but I haven’t listened to Soundgarden.

Kevin Martin (Photo: Andrea Küttel)

„Had Layne or any of those guys ever backed us up”

So, something happened in Seattle in the early 90’s and you formed Candlebox at that time before the big Grunge boom. I feel like something is off because a lot of people don’t realize that you were there from the beginning. Why do you think Candlebox wasn’t considered a part of that first boom?

We were younger! We were five years in age younger. I mean, we all had bands. In Seattle, all those guys grew up together. Every one of those musicians, and even the managers, all those people grew up in that community. Especially in 1987, when Soundgarden released Ultramega OK. Everybody at that time knew something was going on. The people who were going to the bars, because you had to be 21 years old to play in a bar, you couldn’t go in there if you were 17 or 19. You couldn’t go to a bar and play. There are very strict rules in Washington State, especially in Seattle. Rightfully so, that’s probably why the drugs were so rampant because kids couldn’t go and get fucking drunk so they would just get into drugs. I think everyone realized something was going on. You had Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver both managing bands. Then you had Jonathan and Bruce that started Sub Pop. You had Marc Arm who was the godfather of the entire Grunge movement in Seattle. Everyone had some sort of relationship with him, or was in a band with him, or he knew somebody who needed to be in a band and he made … I think, he should have managed everybody even if I love him with Mudhoney and he’s far better off doing what he’s doing. Being around that, seeing it happen and seeing the shows and realizing, “Fuck! I have to wait another five years before I can play the Central or the OK Hotel or RCKNDY or The Off Ramp”.

It couldn’t have been too easy on you.

Why can’t this be like in LA where you can go play the show because you are in the band? You go in, play the show and leave. That is what it was. No one saw us. And then, we played a show with Sweetwater which was the It band in Seattle at the time after everybody was doing their thing. I was hanging at Luna’s shoe store where Malfunkshun was playing or Blood Circus…This was a great shoe store on Broadway that had shows down in the bottom of it and it was fucking rad, you know! But nobody saw me. Nobody knew me because I wasn’t a singer, I was playing drums in another band and all of a sudden, we play this one show with Sweetwater and it was totally sold out and we destroy the place. Then, everyone was like, “We love Candlebox”. So, it was like this airplane came and dropped us in the city. That’s the mentality of Seattle and by the way, had Chris ever said in an interview, “I’ve known Kevin since he was sixteen years old and they’re a legit Seattle band”. Or Layne or any of those guys had ever backed us up. It would be a different story but that’s never happened and it’s never going to happen. You know, you think why has Alice in Chains never opened for Pearl Jam when Jeff, Stone, Jerry and Sean have been friends forever? It’s a weird city. It’s very clique.

Interesting, yeah.

And as much love as there is for the Deep Six crew which is all those bands who…you know, I mean once I met Ben (McMillan) the singer for Gruntruck, I think that was his name. I was huge fan. I loved Gruntruck. I loved everything that they stood for musically and we had done three nights at the Paramount in 1983 and one of those nights I went down to this bar called the Frontier Room on First Avenue and he was sitting there and a friend of mine’s like, “Have you ever met Ben?” He’s gone now too. He died of cancer. And I was like, “No. I’d love to”. He took me over and I wanted to shake his hand and he was like, “How did you sell out three shows at the Paramount?” I was like, “I don’t know and he said, “Me neither!” He wouldn’t even shake my hand! That’s the kind of animosity that city brewed which is really stupid because it was so small… And we all could have really just brought one another up but those three bands; Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana were the ones, you know. They were the kings. No one was going to get anymore help. Even the shit talking between Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It was weird. I mean Krist Novoselic lived behind me in 1996.

This was after Kurt’s death.

Yes. I lived on Capitol Hill. One day, he came over and knocked on the door and was like, “Hey man, I’m Krist”. I’m like, “Hey! I know who you are”. “This is going to be a weird question but do you have any sugar?”  I was like, “yeah” <laughing>. I mean, he literally came over for sugar and then we started hanging out.

He didn’t know who you were?

No, he knew and I had literally just moved into the house and Anne Wilson lived next to him. It was a very bizarre moment for me and he was a lovely guy. We just didn’t have that opportunity at fifteen-sixteen-seventeen to be in that clique. We were freshman and they were seniors.

„Henry Rollins made me want to do that”

When do you feel Candlebox was on top? I mean you got this Madonna contract, you sold 4 million records with the debut album, you played in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Wooodstock Festival in 1994. So, when would you say your career took off?

Well, I’ll tell you this. The most successful part of Candlebox is the last record, in my opinion.

The last record.

Yeah, Disappearing Airports is the best record we’ve ever made. So, I f I were to base it on my personal success level of what I’ve achieved, I would say that’s my personal {success}. 1995 was the height of our success, financially, Billboard-wise, record sales and all that shit that goes along with people paying attention to what you’re doing… That would be 1995. I remember when we toured with Henry Rollins in 1994, after we did Woodstock, we’d done the Metallica tour that summer and then we came over here with Henry in September. We did three weeks with him in Europe and that to me was the greatest moment of my career because I grew up listening to punk rock. My first concert was Black Flag in San Antonio, Texas when I was twelve years old. That was my first concert and I loved Henry Rollins. He was my favourite performer.

Your first concert was Black Flag? Come on?!

I think it was Black Flag, The Dead Kennedy’s, The Butthole Surfers and, I think, The Big Boys were on the bill. It was crazy and that was my first concert. I loved punk rock music. That’s where a lot of the songs like “I’ve Got a Gun”, and shit like that, or “Enemy” come from.

Let me just ask you what concert was the biggest for you as a musician?

Right. It was Black Flag and to tour Europe with him. I couldn’t talk to him. I was just like,”Fuck! That’s Henry Rollins!” That’s why I do what I do because of this guy. You know, I saw this show and I was like, “I have to do that”. That’s another moment in my life, the absolute peak moment of my career. Touring with Metallica, that’s absolute huge. Touring with Aerosmith, Steven Tyler. He is a huge influence on me but I would say for career moments. Touring with Henry Rollins and watching that guy perform songs that changed my life every night. It made me want to break shit and really break down a wall of shit that people put up in front of themselves. You know, Henry Rollins made me want to do that. I could also say meeting Andy for the very first time was one of the greatest moments in my life. I don’t know I can pinpoint it but the success for me is Disappearing in Airports because it’s the freest record I have ever made. I love every song on it and if I could have put all of the B sides on it, I would have. I mean, I love that record. We, as a band, we did that record in twelve days.

Twelve days?! Only twelve days?

Six days drums, bass guitars, guitar solos. Six days vocals.

That’s very spontaneous.

That’s it and we took two weeks off in the middle of it. So, they did all the music. I took two weeks off and then, I went back to Pennsylvania and did the vocals.

Maybe that’s the power in it, only twelve days and there’s no thinking.

No thinking. It’s all just music and your heart telling you where to go with the songs. That’s why “I’ve Got a Gun” came out the way it did, you know. I got death threats about that song. Email death threats. It’s great.

The drummer of Candlebox is Dave Krusen again since 2015. He played on the Disappearing in Airports album as well.

He’s such a great drummer. I loved watching him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame too. Because you’re like, “Is he going to come in on time?” It’s just him, it’s his playing and you could see Eddie’s face. He’s just like, “Oh God!” Love playing with that kid.

A lot of fans think so that Dave Abbruzzese is “the” drummer of the Pearl Jam. He was really amazing but it wasn’t Dave Abbruzzese on Ten. I do believe that one of the main reasons why Ten is one of the best albums ever is the creativity and power of Dave Krusen playing on drums on it.

Yeah, not even Matt Cameron can play the songs like Krusen does. You know Matt Cameron and Dave Abbruzzese are mechanic drummers. They are so precise and so good at their craft. Matt Cameron is one of the greatest drummers of all time. I mean, the drum beat on <Soundgarden’s> “Jesus Christ Pose”. I tried to learn to play that. There was so much movement required <on that song> that I just don’t have but Dave Krusen’s heart when he plays is just all over the place. It’s just drenched with his heart. I love that about him. I mean, Disappearing in Airports. We had no songs. I had sent the songs to producers but I forgot to send them to the guys. So, when I got there they were like, “What are we fucking going to record?!” I was like, “I sent an email!” They were like, “We never got anything!” They didn’t even know what we were doing on the first day and the fact that he could just go, <mimicking drum sounds>”Oh, that’s what I’ll do!”That’s maddening to me that any drummer can be that spontaneous. Two takes. Every song was just two takes.

„We made the mistake in the 90’s of not spending more time over here”

We are living in the age of re-issues. Don’t you plan to re-master and release your albums in the near future?

We can’t get Warner Bros. to release the licence to us.

Is it about money?

They want us to purchase the rights from them. Which the reason is, if they licence them they have to cut us a check. They have to pay us and they don’t want to do that. They would have to write us a check for 150,000 USD by licensing the records to us because we own the rights to record or print those songs. So, it’s a catch 22. I’ve said, “Don’t write me a check. I don’t fucking care!” I just want to put them out individually, on 180 gram vinyl, re-master them for vinyl and that’s all I want.

So, what’s the plan for the next year then?

We’re doing a record in August and hopefully come out in the fall. I don’t know what the plans are with the record label for release so, we’re just supposed to deliver a record but we’ll start that and we still have some tour dates in the States all the way through the fall. We’re taking December, January and February off just for family stuff. Everybody’s got family and then will pick up later February or early March on tour dates again. We’d love to come back [to Europe] and play next year. So, better than expected, really.

Do you think you’ll come closer to Central Europe on your next tour? I mean Hungary, the Czech Republic or Poland?  

Yeah, we’re talking about it. We’re talking about Spain, The Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, and Switzerland… We mean to. The nice thing about us going and playing Denmark is that it is a huge market for us as well as Belgium. We are hoping that by playing those two festivals it will get those fingers out there to those countries saying, “We need to get Candlebox over.” If I were over here, I wouldn’t be considering stopping music. It’s just hard to have a career in the States only and we made the mistake in the 90’s of not spending more time over here. Now, I’m trying to fix that.


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