24 HEURES Sept. 7-8, 2002


by Nic Ulmi


The Californian songwriter talks about pain, his grandma and 12th century. Interview.


"Formed in a garage in 1192", claims La Batie's press-book about Idaho. Blast it. This band from Califonia would have been born before Christophe Colomb's landing ? Only fixed member (and sometimes only member) of this atmospheric rock team, Jeff Martin stares at the miskey. "They have changed the 9 to a 1. It was in 1992", he explains tapping on the date. It's been 10 years that these torn-silk melodies, these suave vocal scratches and these sonic sparkles (guitar, piano, old keyboards) have taken place in minds with the mysterious persistence of a cult band.


Funny and silly


And if the press-book was true ? If Idaho was born in crusades' times ? "Musically speaking, there have been some beautiful things in the 12th century. I would have been a monk writing bewitching and a bit revolutionary choral music", the songwriter daydreams. It is true that the bittersweet beauty of his songs seems to root in a timeless thickness."I don't know if I believe in reincarnation. But when I write, I feel like a medium. As if, just behind me, there was an intelligence older than my 38 years. Sometimes I feel like a composer from the past is taking a part of my time..."


Jeff Martin suddenly stops his reverie. "I don't want to sound pretentious. Most of the time, I am not satisfied with what I do. I'm my worst enemy". Thanks, we had understood. We had picked up the vibration that a tortured perfectionist emits. "The fans show a very strong attachment to our music, but we sell few records. In 2000, I was about to stop Idaho and to move into movie soundtracks and production. Then, Liberation ranked Hearts of Palm one of the 5 albums of the year and I restarted to take courage."


Why does this music seduce more Europe than America ? "My mother, who lives in Provence, has a theory. In Europe, people have suffered more. In the United State, before the September 11 event, we were bathing in a fake impression of peace." Do Idaho's songs drench in pain ? "For me, they are like a therapy. The one who listens catches this feeling and uses it to take its pain away. It's a transfer. Having said that, I wonder why I would not make a funny and silly record one day. Someday, I'll be ready"


We Were Young and Needed The Money (Idahomusic/Irascible), that comes onto market today after the splendid Levitate, gathers tunes that have been dismissed before because they were considered a bit too pop. We think Idaho could have turned out well by digging this goldmine. And by following his grand ma's way "She helped me to go on stage when I was 4 or 5. I was already creating melodies on the piano. She set up Hollywood-style parties et she made me play in front of people. Sitting there, I was feeling like in front of a window opened to a perfect world." And now ? "I'm at the crossroad. I must choose between my monastic tranquility and fighting for some recognition. This tour will show me where to go"


many thanks to Arnaud for the translation of this article


the photo of John Berry & Jeff Martin is credited to Georges Cabrera \ September 2002