Barrett Martin is planning to release his third solo album, Zenga, this summer; just one of several albums to be released through his independent label Fast Horse Recordings in 2008.
The former Screaming Trees/Mad Season drummer joined me on the B-Sides Concept Album Program, a weekly look at the world of music that is part of the BC Radio channel on Blog Talk Radio and he talked about his upcoming album as well as some others he'll release this year.
"I'm working on a new solo record right now that's actually turning into a double album," Martin said. "Rahim Al Haj is playing on a couple songs and I'm working with a lot of jazz musicians. Some of them are old friends of mine and some of them are new people that I'm working with. I'm noticing that as the songs are coming to me and as we're recording them, they're coming from all over the world as far as influences go and it's just because of those past travels and those experiences that just sort of build up in your being and then they come out as this form of expression."
The double album, Zenga, is set for a late summer/early fall release. Martin, ordained in the practice of Soto Zen, drew his inspiration for the album title from those studies.
"Zenga is actually a painting tradition in Zen that I've studied," he said. "The funny this is I actually painted my own album cover and I painted the album cover before we started recording the album.
"Zenga is a spontaneous expression of shape and color, often times it 's depicted with a circle, the Zen circle which is called an enzo. That's one of the main themes of that style of painting but really you can paint anything."
The album is likely to feature roughly 20 compositions, many of which stretch beyond six and seven minutes. In addition to playing several instruments himself – Martin has played upwards of a dozen instruments on his previous studio records The Painted Desert and Earthspeaker – he has assembled a quintet of jazz musicians and guest musicians to contribute to the record.
"I'm working with the best musicians I've ever been fortunate enough to work with," he said. "They're a series of jazz musicians and a handful of world music experts. We're just having a blast in the studio."
Martin hopes some of the musicians who have helped him create the record will be able to go out on the road in support of it, a first for him as a solo artist.
While some labels would balk at releasing a double album in this age of digital downloads and declining music sales, Martin had no trouble convincing his boss to release Zenga as a double because he is his own boss at the label he founded, Fast Horse Recordings. He said he didn't have a horrible experience as an artist on major labels during his years with Screaming Trees and Mad Season, but he doesn't miss them, either.