the PhÏLM MARTIN Interview Pt. Two
“He’s a workaholic! A complete spazz! Something you have to remember about Philm.....the guy is incredibly driven, and ambitious. He possesses an inexhaustible talent, and intelligence. He is also the most misunderstood person I’ve ever met. His entire family are really fucked up, dysfunctional people. A lot of alcoholism. He is very ashamed of his family. They don’t understand Art, or what it is to “be an Artist”. All they understand is conflict, and greed. I think his relationship with his family has been his fuel for a long time, because all they do is cut him down, and talk shit about him behind his back. He just wants to get as far away from them as he possibly can. There is a lot of pain in him that he doesn’t want anymore. He is looking for a home that he knows he will never find. He knows it’s up to him to build a home. I think the events of this past summer really put things into perspective for him. The seizure really scared the hell out of him. He quit drinking, smoking, taking drugs, hanging out with parasites, and disassociated himself from his family. The only people he talks to anymore are his band, a handful of very loyal friends. He doesn’t have time to waste on fools. He really is on top of things, far more than he has ever been given credit for. I mean, you don’t get a great education, release four amazing records in eight years, and land a slot in a very important documentary by being a “fuck up”....in addition to the fact that the guy is an amazing painter! He has “paid his dues” a million times over. The really messed up thing about this whole dynamic is that he has accomplished things in fifty years what most people could not do in ten lifetimes. The same people who throw rocks at him, and run his name through the mud, are the same people that are jealous because they have never achieved anything. He has done something with his life that none of his family ever could. He has definitely gone round the bend, and come back with a lot of Insight, and Wisdom....he is part Punk, part Surrealist, part Situationist, and part Mystic. He is definitely an eccentric person, but he is also one of the most objective, critical thinkers I have ever known. The second that guy puts on a guitar, it all makes sense. You see this really heavy, amazing, soulful person appear. The people who love Stardust For Jennifer, are just like them....kids who don’t fit in anywhere, who are just looking for a home, and what they found is this strange sonic, artistic, and literary landscape in which to reside....they are collectively, the smartest band on the planet. Every member of Stardust For Jennifer are very talented, and highly intelligent people. This is by design. Philm knew exactly what he was doing when he assembled this group of people. They are very much his “Dream Team”....plus he always gives “good copy”! (Laughs)
The following interview took place at Philm’s home in the Northern Michigan woods on March 15th, 2020.
Q: How are you?
A: I’m right as rain.
Q: You look, and sound great! You have lost weight! You cut all your hair off!
A: I feel kinda great. It’s weird. Yeah the hair had to go. I go from "Bear" to "Otter" quickly! (laughs)
Q: Your on the mend for sure.
A: I’m trying mate. Some days are really rough, but that’s just life.
Q: So bring me up to speed.
A: I knew you were channeling Eiffel again! Even beyond the grave he is cheeky! (Laughs)
Q: Ok, so I will get to the heart of it all, you had your first Tonic-Clonic seizure on August 30th of last year. That was the last I heard from you. Tell me what’s happened since then.
A: The seizure was really a “wake up call”, it changed my life. I’m actually kind of grateful for it. It woke me out of a deep sleep that was leading to Death. Death isn’t an option anymore....my whole psychic economy has changed. I just put an end to a lot of things that were turning me into a very dark, and unhealthy person. It is a process that has been unfolding in my life for about five years. I got rid of a lot of toxic people, I had to tell A LOT of people to “FUCK OFF!”, the bulk of my biological family as well. It has taken me close to 25 years to figure THAT one out. I’m not going to say anymore than that....well maybe my list of “blocked contacts” has gotten very large. (Laughs)
Q: What were your motivations for cleaning up?
A: Shit just went too far, plus I was bored with it....it all had too much baggage attached to it. It was supposed to be fun, and it just became poison....a lot of bad people, a lot of troubled souls that I could not be bothered with anymore, a lot of wasted time, money....love...just wasted. There were situations I never would have gotten myself into had I have been clear headed. It’s really an “Are you going to live, or are you going to die?” question. I am a survivalist if nothing else. Plus I have Epilepsy, so do the math. I don’t wanna fuss about it, I’m just onto the next book. Most people are stuck reading the first sentence. Erase. Rewind.
Q: So you just went off everything at once?
Q: How do you feel?
A: One hundred million light years better. I took awhile, but I’m pretty much sober. I have to take medication for my epilepsy. I still smoke pot, that’s it. Usually before bed, it helps me sleep.
Q: You seem to have connected with yourself spiritually again.
A: I had too. I was surrounded by so many people that were just toxic, lazy, jealous, controlling, angry, dark, judgmental, self destructive idiots, and one very self loathing closeted gay man who had internalized his own homophobia to the point that the only way he could handle his homosexuality was by doing everything within his power to dumb me down. It is a pattern that has run through almost every relationship I’ve been in....most guys are just looking for a cash cow, and a maid they don’t have to pay. Then there is the fact that every relationship I've ever been in, every guy I've ever loved, just tried to dumb me down. Fortunately, I have enough ego left to not let that happen. It was gross, and at some point I just said “fuck this place”. I'm over relationships. My development spiritually, and artistically are more important. I don’t read much into it, nor care for it to be a subject open to debate. I meditate a lot, and I’m just going to leave it there.
Q: What type of meditation?
A: Just very basic pranayama breathing exercises. Two hours, everyday, just spent focused on your breathing, in silence. Nothing more. It’s better than the Atomic Bomb.
Q: What caused the shift in your consciousness?
A: Well, my life has just become much more insular since I turned 50. I’m much more withdrawn, and reclusive. There is just an awareness I have now, that I didn’t have before. I went trough a lot of shit this past summer....I don’t think anyone knew how bad things got. I just snapped out of it. That whole scene just goes nowhere, and thinks it’s changing the world, and it’s not. It just became absurd, worthless, mean spirited, and selfish. There was no meaning left in anything anymore. Time has became much more valuable to me. Now, I don’t have time to talk to anyone, I don’t have time to make bad decisions, so.....unless your in my band, or one of my friends, I don’t have the time, and can’t be bothered....and I definitely don’t have a problem telling people to “fuck off". T.I.M.E., Time Is Measured Energy. You don’t know how much of it you have, you can’t get more of it when it’s gone, and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Time is the most valuable resource in my life. I’m very cautious of how I spend my time, and even more cautious of WHO I spend my time with. Surface beauty & flattery mean nothing to me.
Q: That’s a pretty heavy statement.
A: I do it all the time. Did you expect anything different? (Laughs)
Q: What’s up with the documentary about Sean Cribbin? “Was I Next”.....?
A: I have only seen the trailer, so I can’t say too much. I think its is going to be a very important film. Not just to the gay community, but to the masses. It’s a very cautionary tale. This whole “online hookup” thing has been played out. Gay men treat one another like shit, it’s disgusting. Gay social media is a tool for very predatory people, and anyone with any self respect will start looking for alternatives to it. I now have one friend who was brutally murdered by his partner, and my band mate Steve's partner who escaped the biggest serial killer in Canadian history! I mean, what the fuck is going on?!?! It’s a prescient question, and one that a lot of people should be thinking about. Look at the behavior social media endorses. Not to mention the things that have gone on in my own life because of the medium. I just cut social media out of my life, save for the band. I don’t exist online.
Q: What was your contribution to this film?
A: I wrote the song “Brave New World” for Sean, and released it before I even knew there was going to be a documentary . I just wrote the song with Steve, and told him not to tell Sean I wrote this song for him. I wanted it to be a surprise. It ended up being the tune for the opening credits to the documentary, or so I’ve been told. I wanted to work on more of the soundtrack with Steve, but the things he sent me were just so fucking perfect, I really didn’t know what to do with it. Plus, it’s really kind of Sean, and Steve’s moment. I just wrote a song for Sean because I knew he was hurting, plus he’s my band mates partner....it was just the right thing to do. I didn’t have a lot to do with the film otherwise.
Q: How would you define your relationship with Steve?
A: Steve is brilliant. He is a Rock of Sanity in a Sea of Shit. He pushes me to be a better musician, songwriter, and person. I really look up to him. He has had an amazing life! There is no bullshit between us. Not a bit. He is as close to me as Eiffel. I’m sure I drive Steve up the wall, but he puts up with me. It wouldn’t surprise me to find Steve around in 200 million years from now, telling me I’m full of shit. He is a great man, amazing friend, and the person I turn to when I don’t know what to do. I know that the idea of a “hero” doesn’t really exist in the World much anymore, but he really is kind of a hero in my life....there have been a few. I confide in him a lot, and he has helped me in more ways than he knows. He makes me laugh, which is something I really need. He is the one person I can count on to tell me the truth. He is a pretty humble person, and would totally dis what I’m saying, but he knows I’m right. I love that guy! Such a beautiful, and heavy soul.
Q: How did Amy wind up back in the mix?
A: That’s kind of an odd story. In the whirlwind of shit last summer, I ended up reconnecting with two people who are very important to me, my friend Sam, and Amy. Sam kinda went AWOL, and Amy stuck around. Both Sam, and Amy have long pasts with me, we pretty much grew up together. Amy has saved my life twice. I’ve never told her this, but she really is the “moral compass” in my life. She always turns up at the right time, and knows me well enough to call me out on my bullshit. Her, and her husband Mike are wonderful people. Mike is one of my favorite guitar players. No one plays guitar like him. No one plays bass like Amy. End of. Two of the most beautiful & strange people I’ve ever known. Brilliant! RIBO IS LEGEND!
Q: What would you say your bands collective opinion of you is?
A: Well, I think it’s fair to say that everyone in my band knows I’m mad ....but they are my family, my mates, so it’s ok. I love, and believe in them, as they love, and believe in me. That’s really all there is to say....and yes, I am a mad. I do not offer an apology for this. I never will. I’m never going to lie about myself ever again. That should make some people happy, and a lot of people angry. I don’t give a fuck either way. I love my band. That’s what matters. I would die for any one of them.
Q: I think your passion intimidates people.
A: I don’t know about that, but it would not surprise me. People are pretty watered down, and can’t handle intensity, or passion in any way, but at the same time. they desire it deeply....the whole "look, but don't touch" routine. You see, everything in my life that I have done, I have worked my ass off for. Most people just think it all just fell in my lap, and that is not the truth of it....everything I’ve asked for, everything I’ve wished for, I’ve gotten....but I also did my homework, and continue to work my ass off. It’s probably not a good idea to bet against me. Fate is just a word to most people, it’s not for me, it makes sense. Fate. This is what I was born to do. Be an Artist. No fucking about. This is who I am. I make stuff. All kinds of stuff. I’ve known this since I was young. If I just keep doing this, and continue to refine what I do, I will be fine....now gimme your money! (Laughs)
Q: What would you say to the World if everyone was listening?
A: I think somewhere the narrative got lost. I mean, we are supposed to be evolving. Not doing a back slide into some strange reptilian consciousness. When are people going to wake up? I mean seriously, what will it take? Politics have obviously failed. People have obviously failed to keep politics, and politicians in line. We are being spoon fed massive doses of fear, misinformation, and paranoia. The environment is in a lot of trouble. No one seems to notice this because our faces are all starring at a screen, instead of looking around, and questioning the World around us. People treat one another as disposable. Clinical narcissism, and passive aggressiveness have literally become “normalized”. It’s really sick. Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia are still alive and well! Will someone please explain to me why women still make less money than men for doing the same job? Or why men, and women of color are still being beat up by cops, or why gays are the new "court jesters"? It’s all the same old villains, and I’m done with it. I have no choice at this point but to tell the truth, and I’m going to tell the hardest truth first...so if you don’t like the answers I’m giving you, maybe you should think about the questions your asking me.
Q: Well said. Rumor around the campfire is that Stardust For Jennifer are being “courted” by a number of labels, is this true?
A: It is true to an extent. There are two very prestigious British indie labels that have taken an interest in us, but whether, or not anything comes of it, is yet to be seen. We have had these offers before from much larger companies, and they would not agree to our terms, so we showed them the door. My whole thing is, I don’t want any of these fools putting their hands in our pockets for copyrights, publishing, or merchandising. All we need is good promotion, and tour support. Other than that, there is nothing they have to offer us that we can’t do for ourselves. The frustrating part of this is that I know we could sell more records if we got out, and played great shows....but it costs a lot of money to put six people on a stage, and do things right. I don’t see the point in playing shows if they are going to be disasters sonically, or visually, It also sucks because there are a lot of people who want to see us live, and we want to play live, but it costs money, and we are not in a position to loose money. It’s sad, but that is what it comes down to.
Q: There seems to be a handful of really great bands in the same position.
A: It’s really the same old story. All we can do is continue to make great music, and work towards the future. I would rather be known for writing great songs, because at the end of the day that is really what matters, the recordings, the songs. They will be around forever. I love playing live, it’s a blast, but we are also not the kind of band who is going to drag all of our gear a mile out into the woods to play some “hippy fest”, and not get paid. I did that shit in my 20s, I’m 50 now. If you want to “see the monkeys dance”, the “monkeys” are going to get paid for it. We don’t play for free, and we won’t “pay to play”. Haven’t artists been ripped off enough?
Q: Please continue, I see where this is headed, you are saying things that need to be said....
A: Well, being an early adapter of the internet, I saw very clearly what file sharing was going to do to the industry. It destroyed a lot of labels, and bankrupted a lot of bands....great bands. It also paved the way for the streaming services who are now ripping artists off. This leads to the bigger picture, and problem....no one thinks that artists should be paid for anything, this whole generation of swine who think art should be free is destroying the arts, which leads me to this....the devaluation of the arts, the presence of cameras everywhere, the self referential confessional weirdness of social media, spying on other people, the elimination of privacy, "plandemics", hyper-sensational warfare, and all the paranoia, and fear it is creating....it’s all leading to totalitarianism. By the time people realize “1984” is already here, it will be too late, it’s already happened. Welcome to dystopia.
A: Well said.
Q: Thank you. I hope I don’t sound too vociferous?
A: Not at all! Someone had to say it! What are you working on now?
Q: Steve, and I have been cranking out tunes that are definitely next level for us. The new record is going to be called “H8”, and we hope to put it out this summer sometime. We don’t have a release date. I don’t know if it’s going to be a full length record, or just an e.p.....time will tell, but I’m really happy with what we have written so far. The cover art Lou is doing is EPIC! I always have fun with my band, I think it’s the thing I adore about this band is that we laugh a lot. That’s really a genius thing, and rare. What I’m doing, and the people I’m doing it with are the people I love without condition. It’s pretty fucking rad....
A: Is there any other artists you would like to work with?
Q: Without a question Robin Guthrie. I think everyone in the band would agree on that. Robin Guthrie really is my hero. The Cocteau Twins to this day have created the most beautiful music ever. Bella Union should sign us! I never thought about them! I’d also like to make an ambient record with Julian Swales from Kitchens Of Distinction. Richard D.James/Aphex Twin, Graham Sutton from Bark Psychosis....there is a few, but I think making a record with Guthrie would be a dream come true....seriously that would be amazing. Ok, the gears are turning....I need to get to work. Oh, and do me a favor! Interview the rest of my band next time!
“Did I mention that Philm Martin is a workaholic?” - Tyler LaBryn
End of Pt. Two
Interview by Grace Freeling
the PHÏLM MARTIN interview pt. one
The first time I met Philm Noir (a.k.a. DJinn M.O.B.) was before the release of Stardust For Jennifer’s third album “....as for Mother” in 2016. Our meeting took place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, at the LaBryn compound, about 15 miles north of the Sault. It is a spiraling mansion, with every amenity you could imagine. The place is a fortress. Robert LaBryn (DJinns best friend, and guitarist) greets me at the door, bouncing around like a cherub on a spring to “Two People In a Room”, by the band Wire. “Ever listen to Wire!? Best band EVER!, How was your drive?” Roberts optimism, and energy are infectious. He is instantly lovable. I’ve heard this about all of the members of Stardust For Jennifer. They are all very kind, open, and loving people. Although, Philm Martin is a tough egg to crack. “Philm is not feeling well, his depression is really bad, and he can be....ummm, “difficult”....when he is like this....please be kind to him”....DJinn is sitting in front of about 10 televisions , 10 different news channels, plugged into a large mixing console, headphones on, attached to a DAW. The guy constantly has his “feelers” out. He listens to news broadcasts constantly making “cut ups”....He says ”it probably goes without saying that William S. Burroughs, and Brion Gysin are invading my brain”.....we don’t speak for many hours as I watched him make this amazing soundscape....I’m amazed by his insight, and humor. He is a really bright light.....then, things turn dark.
Q: How are you feeling?
A: Like shit....this is just going to go downhill from here....
At this point we mutually decided to end the interview. He graciously apologized, and I was treated to a wonderful vegan dinner by their drummer Jöshe. Philm ate silently, and never said a word.... Jöshe, and Robert were like rambunctious teenagers on the other hand....
FWWD: 3 Years. New York City, and The release of “Ghost”, by Stardust For Jennifer.
Q: Congratulations on the new record, it’s really stunning. I have a feeling this record is going to open a lot of doors for you. Job well done!....but I have to ask, what took you so long?
A: Thank you. That means a lot to me. I wish I had a simple answer to that question. Under “normal circumstances”, it should have taken me a year, but everything surrounding this record was anything but “normal” (Laughs)
Q: How so?
A: Well, a friend of mine was murdered, my band mate Steve's partner escaped a serial killer, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, relationships fell apart, new relationships were born, financial problems, family problems, health problems, drug overdoses.....you name it. I’m really surprised the record got made at all to tell you the truth.
Q: Damn! That is a lot of burden for one person.
A: Tell me about it (Laughs)
Q: Any regrets about the record?
A: Other than how long it took, not really. I wish Ruby would have played more on the record, but I understand why she didn’t.
Q: What happened?
A: Well, you know, Ruby is married, has two lovely daughters, she works very hard, and also has her photography, stained glass, and writing....she was/is just really busy. A lot of times it was just a question of distance, and timing. Plus, Ruby is a great artist in her own right, and I would never want to impede on her own creative life. She will always be a member of Stardust For Jennifer. I mean we have played in bands together since we were kids. That girl is a fucking great bass player!
Q: Can you extrapolate on the addition of your newest member Steve Sauder?
A: Well, Steve, and I have known each other for quite awhile, and have a lot in common musically. Where we differ musically, it just makes things more interesting with what he brings to the table. Steve kind of fell off the radar for awhile, and we lost track of each other for a bit. I later found out this was due to the tragic death of his son. Then a couple of years back, he got in touch with me, and we just kind of picked up where we left off. I asked him if he was interested in playing on a song for the new record, and it just kind of gained momentum from there. He ended up co-writing half of the record with me, and we had a blast doing it. Needless to say, I asked him to join SFJ. He was also my second pair of ears. His hearing is much better than mine, and he helped a lot during the mixing process. His contribution to this record.....I can’t stress how important his contributions to this record are. He is a gifted composer, musician, and a dear friend. I’m honored that he is a part of Stardust For Jennifer. I seriously encourage people to listen to HIS music, it’s some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard.
Q: This is the first record of yours that actually have vocals on them, how did that come about?
A: “Only the Storms” is Steve’s contribution to the record. It’s kind of the centerpiece of the whole story. The Australian vocalist Rania Leaney did the vocals, the rest is all Steve, I just engineered the track. It’s sung in Greek, which I think is rad.
Q: You have an actual drummer now, Jöshe?
A: Yeah, but I can’t talk about it. He is with another band who is signed to a major, and he broke contract to ghost drum on the record. He could loose a lot by doing this. He has a wife, and kids. I would rather see him make sure his family is taken care of than risk what he has worked for. He will be joining us as a full time member when his contract is up. That’s really all I can say. Sorry.
Q: Any plans for more vocal based pieces in the future?
A: I would like to, but I’m kind of fussy about singers, and only want to work with singers who have unique voices. I think the next record will have a lot more vocals, and guitars on it. I would love to work with Phil Holec, and Alex Grubaugh.
Q: Alex Grubaugh from Anchors, and Apparitions?
A: The one, and only. I love that kid. Bulletproof talent that one!
Q: That actually sounds like a cool combination.
Q: Any plans to tour for this record?
A: That depends on how well the record does. Its kind of hard to get six people on a stage, and not get paid, or have some kind of backing. I know everyone in the band wants too. If we do tour, it will probably just be dates in Canada.
Q: Why Canada?
A: We just seem to be appreciated there....that and the U.K. seem to like us a lot. I hate playing to hostile crowds. I hate it when people throw shit at us. The only thing that ever got thrown at us in Canada was a big stuffed teddy bear....we all thought that was quiet endearing. (Laughs)
Q: Now everyone is going to throw teddy bears at you!
A: (laughs) Of course!
Q: You had fairly grand ambitions for this record from the get go, from what I’ve been told?
A: That’s fair. Yeah, I was definitely trying to raise the bar....but I’ve done that with every record I make.... I keep trying to make them better. I’ll get there.
Q: Do you mind if I ask you some more personal questions?
A: Not at all.
Q: What are some of the most formative experiences of your life.
A: Abuse, misunderstanding, a broken family, and trauma.
Q: Since the last time we spoke, you seem so much more open....your healing.
A: I’m trying to, and I apologize for our last meeting, I was not well. Please keep in mind I was injured quite badly, and it was a hard recovery process.
Q: No worries mate, it’s just good to see you in better spirits.
A: Thank you.
Q: Do you think SFJ is contributing to a greater cultural dialogue?
A: I know we could be if people would just take the time to listen.
A: Pop Culture is rubbish. People need to open their minds so bad at this juncture in human history. I can’t believe the sugar coated mindless garbage that sells for millions. It's slavery. People will get fed up with it, and start looking for the “others” soon....
Q: Or they will just be further indoctrinated into “the collective”!
A: (Laughs) Well then there is THAT! ASSIMILATE!
Q: Where do your songs come from?
A: Sometimes I just get an idea, and sometimes I just dream them, get up, and write them.
Q: You dream full pieces of music?
A: Yeah, all the time.
Q: How do you deal with it being a dream, to translating it.
A: I just wake up, and knock it out. It’s kind of like being possessed. I sit down, do it, then have no memory of it. I’ll, be sitting there 8 hours later saying to myself “What the fuck did I do! Where did this come from?!”
Q: That’s a trip....
A: Take the trip! (Laughs)
Q: Do your occult studies inform your creative process?
A: Absolutely! Meditation especially I think is an invaluable skill. I’ve haven’t been very good at my practice lately, but I’m slowly returning to that point of zero. I’m trying to get myself healthy....get all the toxins out.
Q: That’s a good thing, and I know it helps you a lot.
A: You’ve been talking to Robert LaBryn haven’t you! (Laughs)
Q: I have!
A: Conspiring bastards! (Laugh)
Q: The titles to your songs seem to act as signposts, or surrogate lyrics.
A: Very astute observation.
Q: So this is “by design?
A: Oh absolutely.
A: Well, people are so accustomed to being told how to think, and feel by lyric driven music, that they don’t really understand how to experience instrumental music anymore. By giving my songs interesting titles, I just subvert that whole belief structure, and process. I'm going for something more literary, and artistic. I’m just planting seeds, I’m not saying “FEEL THIS WAY!” I’m just setting the stage for whoever is listening, and let their own imaginations suss out the rest. I’m not offering solutions, just asking a lot of questions.
Q: I understand completely. It kind of blows my mind that SFJ isn’t HUGE! But after what you said, it makes complete sense. People don’t really listen anymore.
Q: Doesn’t that bother you? You deserve so much more attention than you get.
A: I don’t really think about it honestly. I’m just trying to make the best art I can. I’m not in this for attention. If I were I probably would have signed a bad 360 deal with any one of the majors who offered us deals. This is my career, my profession. I have no desire to be a flash in the pan. I want our music to mean something to people.
Q: You really are a very driven, and ambitious person, aren’t you.
A: Yeah, I get shit about it all the time.
Q: SFJ is also a very polarizing band, but I’m sure you know this?
A: All too well.
Q: Tell me about why you dedicated the record to Sean, and Trenton.
A: Because they are the two bravest men I’ve ever known. They both confronted profound Evil. One lived. One died. I can’t imagine the horror Trenton must have went through. He was such a good kid. Having said that, Sean escaped a serial killer, and has suffered profoundly, but has done so with a Grace that is.....I can’t find the words.....Transcendent. Transcendent Grace.
Q: That’s heavy.
A: That’s right.
End of Part One.
Interview by Grace Freeling