June 14, 2007
Eric Martin’s Take On Scrap Metal
By Valerie Nerres
Best known as the vocalist for Mr. Big from 1988 to 2001, Eric Martin has also had success as lead singer and songwriter with the Eric Martin Band and the Tak Matsumoto Group (TMG). Most recently, The Nelson Brothers Gunnar and Matthew brought Eric into their new project, Scrap Metal, along with drummer Kelly Keagy (Nightranger) and singer Mark Slaughter (Slaughter), among others. The musicians all play their own hits in what’s essentially an ‘80s All-Star band, modernized for the new century with videos on YouTube and a MySpace page (www.MySpace.com/ScrapMetalBand). AAM caught up with Eric by phone to get more details.
AAM: How did you get involved in Scrap Metal?
EM: My wife and my two children and I went to the Marin County Fair in San Rafael, about 20 miles outside of San Francisco, to see Eddy Monty. The drummer is Chris Frasier, whom I played with in TMG. We're all friends, and I wanted to hang. The Nelson Brothers were also scheduled to play. I'm thinking, “Big puffy blond, long hair.” But I love their music. I'm a songwriter, and their song "After the Rain" was really great stuff. So I went to see them too, and… they cut their hair. Believe it or not, they look better with their hair all chopped up and cool looking. And they're really nice guys. I was just blown away, and I told them that. It was weird because both of them almost simultaneously said, “You know what would be perfect? We're thinking about doing this project called Scrap Metal.” They almost said it at the same time. Gunnar goes, “Eric would be perfect,” and Matthew said, “Yeah.”
AAM: And you're like, “What?”
EM: I go, “Well… okay… I'm doing solo stuff, but I haven't done anything gigantic since Mr. Big.” TMG was gigantic, but it was in Asia. So I did my gigs and was trying to be Father of the Year [to twin boys]. I got a call six months later, “We got it together man, we got a gig, and Kelly Keagy's involved.” I've known Kelly for years. The Eric Martin Band used to open for Nightranger all the time. Kelly's one of the first persons I admired in the music business, and I'm such a big fan of his voice, and his drumming. I thought, “Well, good.” Then he said, “We got Mark Slaughter,” and I was thinking of the guy with the knees cut out of the jeans, and the airplane jacket. I thought Mark was this really shy, quiet kind of character. Quite the contrary: He is The Rat Pack all rolled into one. He's funny, and he's got about 100 voices.
AAM: What are your plans with Scrap Metal? They have different members coming in and out of the band, this person, that person.
EM: Tomorrow's this big rehearsal in Nashville, and then a show on Wednesday. We're all learning all these other people's material. Alex Call is doing "867-5309/Jenny," remember that song? And Artimus Pyle from Leonard Skynard is there. And Chad Sanford, whom I've been an admirer of, wrote John Waite's songs. That's what we're doing tomorrow. But one day Kelly calls me up, and he says, “Mark and I just did an interview that went to 50 radio stations across the country. I just want to let you know that it's kind of official. The radio station people are asking us if we're doing this reality TV show thing.”
AAM: Reality TV show?
EM: I go, “What…? Kelly, look. I'm into it, because I talked to them before about this. But I'm not crazy about having people know my whole personal history… I don't know about that.” And Kelly's like, “Eric, don't think too much.” His point was to just relax and see how things go. I wouldn't mind doing a reality TV show, but I don't want to get a band house. That's so predictable because it's like an open sore for everybody to see. And it's already been done. But if it was like some sort of documentary deal about Scrap Metal on the road… I'm a rock and roller, and I love entertaining the public, but I like being a mystery. My whole life has been a band house. I'd like to see Scrap Metal hang out for a long time. It's a great idea. There's a lot of rock-n-roll people who are just afraid to come out. They’ve got those black t-shirts in the closet, and they can't wait for Van Halen to get back together. Scrap Metal, which is kind of a hit-maker show, is fun. I just loved the idea when The Nelsons first presented it to me. And Gunnar and Matthew are so used to being on TV, and they're really good at it. I've never met such nice guys in my life. There's no baggage in this band, and there's no problems, and nobody's telling anybody what to wear or what to say. It's cool.
AAM: Everybody also has their own other projects going on. If this thing snowballs, will you guy give up your other projects to pursue this?
EM: Everybody's coming up with other shows. Kelly's got 20 or 30 Nightranger shows. And there's a lot of material to learn. All 5 of us had a bunch of hits. And then we've got special guests like C.J. Snare. The first order of business is to get a manager. We've already got the band, we've already got the talent, and God help us if we get a house. But we need a manager to kind of point us in the right direction. Nightranger does great in the summer, so they’ve got their shows, and I'm sure Mark [Slaughter] is gonna be doing his thing, and The Nelsons just got home from some oceanic tour or something like that. I just went to Norway last month, and I'm going to Argentina.
AAM: Will you guys be doing any Scrap Metal songwriting?
EM: I don't know. If it's all up to me, why not? If Mark writes a song, and he wants me to write a chorus or a verse to it, send it to me. I’ve got a pro studio and I'll work it up for you. I'm all into that kind of stuff. Right now, we got so many songs to learn. Today I was learning – God, I love this song – "Everything You Want," by the mad guy, the lead singer from Brutal called Horizon. That guy's gonna be playing with us. He's really good.
AAM: So you're gonna be doing another tour with The Eric Martin Band? You're recording another album?
EM: Yeah, I've got 15 songs tracked, but I'm writing lyrics with my partner, Andre Pessis – we've both written numerous Mr. Big songs. But for Argentina, I found great players there, talked back and forth for a couple of months, sent MP3s back and forth, them learning my material. But this reality TV thing, I'll probably be open to it ‘cause the Nelsons kind of talk me into anything. I'm 10,000 times older than they are, but I'm like the little brother that goes, “Okay, I'll light the bottle rocket.” I just don't want it to take away from the music, ‘cause the music's great, and it can't be toyed with. Let's not make it a parody of our generation, the rock and roll generation. So far, so good. We have a lot of fun. It's like natural high, and as cliché as that sounds, everybody's just got this good vibe. Are we just gonna play one show every six months? No. I'd like to see us play more and not beat around the bush.