I’ve performed with strong guitarists in the past. Inukshuk Pass’s Mark Martin, though, is something else—the guy burns asbestos. Pretty good vocalist, too. Sings kind of a like a cross between Greg Allman and Al Kooper. A nice guy on top of it (but, then, that whole bunch at Inukshuk Pass is nice: Patti Ryan on vocals, her husband Paul Weyandt the world’s worst diplomat on bass player and drummer Dave DeGennaro. And, when she’s on hand, backup vocalist Amber Gay). They all can perform their asses off, too. Got two albums, Chasin’ Trains and Don’t Look Down, to prove it.
To tell the God’s honest truth, the first time I laid eyes on Mark Martin he intimidated me–well, more like scared the hell out of me. It’s the way he dresses. Looks like a slimmed-down Hell’s Angel. Especially when he doesn’t smile (he’s usually a man of few words–doesn’t much speak unless he’s got something to say). I got over that pretty quick when he offered to loan me his guitar at Big V’s.
In November, we were all at the DEMO (Diverse Emerging Music Organization) showcase at Wild Tymes, hangin’ with promoter Steve McClellan (yet another nice individual) and Martin up and volunteered his services for my set. All I can say is too bad the tape wasn’t running. He took off on a solo in the middle of “All Along The Watchtower” that was just ungodly; I’m pretty sure they’re still trying to put the roof back on the club.
Somewhere along the night (I think about three or four Jack-rocks in), completely out of nowhere, I came up with brilliant idea to do a Q&A with Mark Martin. He was cool with it, so, the next week, we hung on the phone a little bit and sent emails back and forth for this interview.
You going to record solo at some point?
I have no plans for a solo album. I love working with Inukskuk Pass.
How long you been at this?
I started playing guitar when I was about 10 years old. I had heard Santana’s first album, the one with the lion on front, and that’s when I think I became aware of the instrument. I, like anyone learning, struggled with getting the sound out at first. It’s not like a piano where you push a key. There’s fingerings and frets and all that stuff just to get a note out of a guitar. I’m glad I kept trying ‘til I got [the] sound, however rough it was. I practiced and listened to most of the music at that time. Right around ’67, ‘71. Mainly Jimi Hendrix and Santana were my early influences.
When I got to High school I had the good fortune to run into a music teacher that was fairly unconventional for the time. Felix James. The guy saved most of us. I owe him my life as I know it. There, I was introduced to other styles such as John McLaughlin, Wes Montgomery, and George Benson just to name a few.
I guess you joined a group.
During high school I was playing with a band called Ryte Now. The fellows in the band were older than me, and we’d play some clubs and after hours parties for rent money for a couple of them. This experience was priceless to me, and I met many great players around the cities at that time. During what was my senior year of high school, I went out on the road with Beaver Shelby, Wendell Thomas, and Dale Alexander in band called Thrust. Again, a priceless experience for a 17-year-old kid. Between 1980 and 1987 I was with several commercial bands doing cover stuff and shows.
Okay. After that?
In 1987 I reunited with my best friends Paul Weyandt, and Patti Ryan. We’ve been together for 25 years coming up, and did many years doing covers in dives around the St. Paul area. Many a good weird story came out of these times. Around 2007, 2008 Patti started writing songs heavily again and we decided, after many discussions to [name the band] Inukshuk Pass. And we’ve been focusing on the original material since. We’ve put out two albums, and are working out the material for a third.
Hendrix, Santana and all that, yeah. What about vocal influences?
I don’t really have any singing influences, as I’m not a singer. Had to sing because of the gigs I did over the years, so I’m a bit self conscious about my voice.
For many years guitar playing was more of a job for me. I mean, it bought groceries and kept me going financially for a very long time. Over the last few years I’ve kind of fallen in love with music again and it’s been great for me. I mean, I look at things from a more mature prospective, and I’ve actually been working on my playing for the last few years.
Photo courtesy Mark Martin