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A Crown Of Thorns: An Exclusive Interview With Former BLACK SABBATH Vocalist TONY MARTIN

By Jason 'JRock' Houston, Contributor
Wednesday, March 9, 2022 @ 12:07 AM

"I can remember lots of “things”. Some of it is a blur but over all it was an honor to be there. It's just that I am 12 years YOUNGER than them and I NEVER could close that gap."

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I recently had the opportunity to interview Ex-BLACK SABBATH Singer Tony Martin for KNAC.COM. It was great getting the opportunity to interview Tony. In this exclusive interview Tony talked about his time in SABBATH, the fact that those albums have been out of print for years and that he was recently told by SABBATH Guitarist Tony Iommi that there are plans for those SABBATH releases to be re-released as a Box Set later this year. This interview also touches a great deal on the new Tony Martin solo CD, Thorns. We discussed what a great response the CD has gotten from both fans and critics alike since it was released in January. We discussed some of the songs off the new CD, some of the other musicians who played on the album and he also mentioned the fact that he's already writing material for his next solo release.

KNAC.COM: Hello Tony and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with KNAC.COM. many people of course know you as the former BLACK SABBATH singer. With that being said, those BLACK SABBATH albums have been out of print for a while now. Did it ever bother you that both BLACK SABBATH and many fans seem to have just forgotten about those albums that you were part of?

MARTIN: Nice to meet you. Well it does and always has been frustrating to know that 11 YEARS of your life is kinda missing!!! *Smile* It also seems a little mad that that history is essentially erased, which maybe some people don’t mind but it keeps coming up!! Here we are in 2022 and STILL people are asking about it so it must mean something right? I mean I am not the only one that misses it, so how does it get corrected? Well, it all needs re-releasing and apparently that is the intention this year. I am not privvy to the details but I have been told that it is being released in a box set and just to pre-empt your next question I have no input into it other than suggesting things, but I await as you do to find out what it will contain.

KNAC.COM: Can you share with us how you first got the offer to join BLACK SABBATH and if you had to audition for the gig?

MARTIN: Well it all started in 1986! SABBATH had Glenn Hughes, Seventh Star album. They had been having some problems with Glenn and I don’t know what they were, but they contacted me and said they might have a gig for me and to start learning some songs, which scared the shit out of me cause I can’t sing like Glenn Hughes! NOBODY can sing like Glenn Hughes! Only Glenn Hughes can sing like Glenn Hughes! Then within a few weeks they said “Stand down, we have got it sorted with Glenn”, which actually was a relief to me! THEN, 1987 comes and they have a problem with Ray Gillan who had left to join BLUE MURDER! So they call me again and say 'can you get to London to audition?' Ohhhkay! I went to London, did ONE song, “The Shining” and they said they would contact me. Two days later they called and said yep! you got the gig, You have one week to do the album! Well I did my best! ALL of that was as a result of my then manager Albert Chapman who was an OLD school friend of Tony Iommi and Ozzy. They grew up together and Albert had been their tour manager in the early days.

KNAC.COM: What do you remember most from your time in BLACK SABBATH and what was it like working with the Riff master Tony Iommi?

MARTIN: I can remember lots of “things”. Some of it is a blur but over all it was an honor to be there. It's just that I am 12 years YOUNGER than them and I NEVER could close that gap. They had so much more experience and their circle of friends was so different to mine it was just hard work trying to keep up with them! So a lot of it was nervous acceptance and it felt like I was a younger brother that was tagging along in a kind of way if that makes sense? But yeah, what a trip!

KNAC.COM: I just got done listening to your new solo CD Thorns and it's really a solid album, there's not a single throwaway track on the album, just ALL KILLER songs! One person besides you that I think really shines throughout the CD is Guitarist Scott McClellan. Talk a little bit about Scott and how you first hooked up with him?

MARTIN: Thanks *Smile* Yeah, I am really pleased with how it turned out. I had actually started the album a couple years before I came across Scott and it was going to be called Book of Shadows. I had an interest in that unplugged, gothic, heavy riff with choirs and stuff and I thought I was going that way. But along the way this dude started communicating and started sending me riffs and ideas that he had been doing with other people and it just kept coming! More and more, so I thought I better contact this guy and ask what it was. I asked him if he wanted me to sing on one of the tracks which he was really excited about. So the deal was, I cut it up and made it work for “Tony Martin” It's the only way I can make my voice work. He said 'fine by me!' That track was “As The World Burns”! Oh dear Lord! I knew instantly that it was possible to make these ideas work. So I said “DON’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS!” Not your mom, your brother, nobody! I said if he was interested I would love to try and make this stuff work for my solo album but it will only work if I can make it into “Tony Martin” songs, which means disassembling the riffs and ideas and then I would put my melodies and lyrics to it. Slowly I built a full set of tracks into what you hear now. I allowed myself to keep the unplugged tracks that I had started. In the beginning I wasn’t sure but it’s so cool to have all that stuff sat side by side. It reminds me of an old style album where it takes you on a journey, so yeah, enter Scott McClellan! Unknown to many but if you know how to work with his ideas they can make GREAT songs. He has learned SO MUCH from this experience that now his ideas are MUCH closer to songs that I can sing on now than in the early idea’s. GREAT guy to work with, exciting new mind he has and he reminds me some of Tony Iommi. So prolific and able to adapt and willing to take the “song” on board! Ok I’ll shut up now!

KNAC.COM: I'm sure being that Thorns is a solo album that you had a lot more freedom and creative control in the writing and the direction the album took as opposed to when you were in SABBATH. What was it like for you to have that kind of creative control?

MARTIN: Well I have always been a singer/songwriter. So it's not new to me to create. The settings are always different because of the personalities but the process is not new to me. I have only one way of working, that is the music comes first. Then, when I am inspired I set about the “Song” part which is the story and the melody and the lyrics. It is what I am best know for. This album was no different other than I had started in one direction and was completely LIFTED by another! The process is very much the same. In SABBATH I used to do the same thing, I would sit in and jam with Tony Iommi and the guys while they were creating riffs. Sometimes I could happen across a melody that worked but in those days I had an 8-track tape system that I took into writing sessions and rehearsal. So again, I would record the ideas and then cut it up so that I could turn it into songs. Then I would give it back as songs. Then it would be finished and polished into the masters. So yeah, it is a familiar way of working.

KNAC.COM: Pamela Moore, who is an amazing singer in her own right, appears on the title track "Thorns". Talk about why you wanted her to appear on the track and what was it like to work with her?

MARTIN: Oh man, Ok, firstly you need to know the song. The story is of a woman/girl who has been abused in almost every way. She has run away onto the streets. She self harms, her body is covered in scars, she can not BEAR kindness from anyone because every kind word that someone speaks feels like THORNS sticking into her from the inside. NICE! *Sad smile* So it needed a woman/girl to sing the girl parts. I can’t do that. Well, in the process of deciding WHO could do it I had a conversation with one of the labels who said casually "Did you consider Pamela Moore?" WAIT! PAMELA MOORE, I KNOW PAMELA MOORE! She is the crazy woman that hits me up every time my birthday arrives cause she has the SAME exact birthday. Well I knew WHO she was, so then I thought, this could be great if she was willing. I contacted her and asked and she was REALLY into the idea! I sent her the track and some ideas and she came back with THAT! Verrrrrrry cool! Yeah baby! It really finished off the song. Turns out that in some way Pamela related to the song in some ways and that gave it a personal thing. People started contacting me to say that actually the song was becoming an ambassador for that subject of abuse and some professionals in that area were pleased to hear it. Seems that Covid made the situation WORSE for those that are caught up in that nasty thing cause then they can’t escape. Anyway, the song didn’t START out to be an ambassador for the subject but I am happy that people can relate to it in that way if it helps.

KNAC.COM: Talk about some of the other musicians who play on the album and if any of them will be in your live band. Any plans to do any touring to support Thorns?

MARTIN: Mostly they are friends and family. My daughter Laura is on there and my son Joe, then Danny Needham the drummer has been with me for many years doing all kinds of appearances. Magnus Rosen is also someone I have worked with for many years. He plays that crazy bass solo on “Black Widow Angel”. LOVE IT! *Smile* Then Greg Smith makes an appearance on “No Shame At All”. He has been a friend for 10 years almost. We have worked together on some projects here and there. GREAT to have him aboard. He has worked with SO MANY people, including Alice Cooper and RAINBOW. Bruno Sa, keyboards, has been a friend for many years and plays the only keyboard solo on the album. He has been with the likes of ANGRA. Great people and they complement the songs perfectly. I always like to post a “Thank you” to all of them for being part of the story, it is very appreciated.

KNAC.COM: You did a really cool video for the song "As The World Burns". Talk about making the video and if that's something you enjoyed doing. Any chance that there may be videos for other songs off of this album?

MARTIN: Actually, it was assembled by the American record label with one of their video guys. To be honest it has nothing to do with the actual song. The lyrics are of a “bored” Satan who has for generations told humanity that he was there and if they keep doing bad shit he will gladly take their souls, but humanity didn’t listen and so he is saying “I TOLD YOU i was here! I TOLD YOU this is where you would end up. I don’t need any more souls and whores but they still keep coming!" As the souls fall to hell they burn and so he watches as the world burns. However, I am not concerned that the video has a different interpretation. It works in that respect even though I didn’t think of it and it is well made. I do wonder how they got so many images of the devil, but yeah it's a good video, just not related to the lyrics is all. But isn’t that what we all do? In our minds we have our own interpretations of what songs mean and this does just that.

I am in the process of getting more videos together because it's not really possible to tour at the moment. I would LOVE to get back out there and in relation to your previous question about touring, THIS is the only real way of promoting it. So I am trying to get the guys that appeared on the album to submit performances in video form so that we can assemble something visual to go with the album. Not sure how effective it will be but we will give it a try.

KNAC.COM: It's been a while since there's been any new music from Tony Martin until Thorns was released in January. How great was your desire to get a new album out?

MARTIN: Immense! Just dying to get out there again. It was always impressed upon me that in the music business you MUST keep your face out there. Whatever reason, people will fade so it's one of the reasons I do many guest appearances. My voice appears on something like 76 albums and projects now and it's how I kept working and keeping in touch with fans.

KNAC.COM: As I mentioned, this is your first album in many years and yet right out of the gate the album has had such an amazing response from both fans and critics. How surprised were you at the wonderful way people have been responding to the new album?

MARTIN: We never know what we have done. If we knew that we would all be writing hit albums from the start...but what I DID know was that this was the best I could have done. *Smile* So in that respect I knew there was nothing more to get from me and whatever people said then would be it. Therer's nothing I can do to really influence it. I AM SO F**KIN PLEASED! It just confirms in your mind that what you do is the right thing and hooking up with Scott was the vehicle that drove the thing. I have to say it was PHENOMENALLY HARD keeping it a secret for all those years, but we did it and now was the right time to get it out there. Everyone is DYING to get rocking again after the past few years and this was the first in the new year to get going so yep, all good and I think my vision of it is the right one. I'm MORE than happy to carry on working with Scott to get the next album up and running. We have a vinyl release later in the year and we have already started writing new tracks so HOPEFULLY I can keep the ball rolling.

KNAC.COM: I have to say that while I think Thorns is an album that could have been the follow up to BLACK SABBATH's Headless Cross album because I think this album is that good, this is very much a Tony Martin solo album. With that being said I think the world has finally taken notice of the HUGE TALENT that is Tony Martin, the Singer/Songwriter. With this album and the way people have responded to it, do you feel like people have finally recognized your talent?

MARTIN: Oh that’s hard. I hope so but I do know there are people around the world that knew something was happening along the way. It's just the vehicle that is the problem. So previous to SABBATH the bands were not really flying, some interest but SABBATH was full of previous names that I was always going to be compared to. Then the guest appearances after that and the other bands like CAGE didn’t really escape the “ex-BLACK SABBATH“ tag, but THIS just rips it away from all of those. For me it is the right vehicle for my voice and maybe people will start to “hear” my songs.

KNAC.COM: I really love the fact that the first single is "As The World Burns". Great track to kick off the album with. Talk a little bit about that song and what it means to you?

MARTIN: It was almost missed. The American label released “Book of Shadows” first, but I had to get them to run “As The World Burns” real fast because it's more like the sort of thing that my fans would hook on to. “Book of Shadows” is great but Scott isn’t even on that one and I wanted him to get up there first. So yeah, by fortune I was able to reinvent the first release and then the video really took over from that and we were on the way then. It is a great track and as I said, the first one with Scott so very cool. *Smile*

KNAC.COM: How happy are you with Dark Star Records? They seem to be a great label to be on.

MARTIN: I have never worked with them before so this is a new venture. They are actually not the lead label, the main label is Battlegod. They are serving the rest of the world. I wanted to get 2 labels working on the album if I could because of the different access to the world. I was convinced that an American label would serve the 'Americas' better, so I asked Battlegod if they would strike up an agreement with Dark Star and they did. So Dark Star are licencing the album from Battlegod. How long we will be able to keep that going is anyone’s guess. They are 2 very determined labels with their own way of thinking so it remains to be seen. As long as they don’t fuck up the album I am happy to let it run. To be honest I have done this kind of dual thing before and it has always been ok. SABBATH did it with IRS and EMI so I know it works. It's just finding the right people to work together. If they don’t work together then opportunities and potential will be lost.

KNAC.COM: Probably the most different song on the album is "This Is Your Damnation". I really love the fact that you did a track that's a little different than the other songs on the album. What do you remember from the recording of it.

MARTIN: It was one of the unplugged ideas that I had loved but was never sure about because it needs a video to understand what it means and how it works. I almost removed it from the album but the labels both said keep it and I am glad I allowed myself to run with it because it sets up THORNS perfectly. It's a talk in a head of almost anyone that is mindful of things in the world who has tried religion but it didn’t provide too many answers. I just love it. *Smile*

KNAC.COM: When you listened back to Thorns for the first time, what was that experience like? How happy were you once you had heard it from start to finish for the very first time?

MARTIN: I feel blessed and grateful that it finally worked the way I wanted it to. Long journey, exciting to see the artwork that was beautifully put together by Tallee Savage and her husband Matthias. The whole image and feel of it is right there.

KNAC.COM: Thanks Tony for taking the time to do this interview.

MARTIN: And thank YOU! We need you guys to let people know what we are up to so it is appreciated. We don’t take it lightly. I would like to also say thank you to the fans, they invite us into their homes, and cars, and headphones so it makes them part of the story too. LOVE IT. Thank you, keep rockin. Tony Martin signing out :)

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