Sunday, November 19 , 2017, 2:45 am | Fair 42º


Jeff Moehlis: The Guitar of Martin Barre

The former Jethro Tull guitarist is coming to SOhO

Martin Barre, former guitarist for Jethro Tull, will play at SOhO on Sept. 13. Click to view larger
Martin Barre, former guitarist for Jethro Tull, will play at SOhO on Sept. 13. (Martin Webb photo)

When you think of Jethro Tull, the first thing you probably think of is the guy with the flute. But pretty soon you also think of all those cool electric guitar parts and sounds, and when you think of that you're thinking of Martin Barre

Barre joined Jethro Tull in time for its 1969 album Stand Up, which steered the band away from its blues origins to a new sound that incorporated elements of English folk music. Other classic albums followed: the harder rockin' Benefit, the multiplatinum Aqualung, the prog rock concept album masterpieces Thick As a Brick and A Passion Play, and many more. Barre's tenure with Jethro Tull lasted until 2012, and since then he has focused on a solo career. His most recent album is 2015's fantastic Back to Steel.

Barre will be at SOhO on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Tickets are available online by clicking here. Early reviews of this tour say that it is not to be missed! So if you're a fan of Jethro Tull and are curious what Barre has been up to lately, don't waste your time sitting on a park bench. Get yourself to SOhO!

Barre talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and his illustrious history with Jethro Tull.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming concert?

Martin Barre: It's a new band, it's fresh. The musicians have got lots of motivation and energy. We've made the music really revitalized. There's nothing retro or '70s or '80s about what we do. It's sort of a blues band, a rock band — really dynamic — and we make everything we do really exciting. We take material from the Tull catalog, but we've sort of reinjected it with a lot of new energy, and we've re-examined it and taken it apart and reconstructed it. Essentially, we love playing, and we have a great time touring and playing to audiences.

JM: Your latest album, Back to Steel, came out last year. I have a copy of it right here, and I think it's great. How did that album come together?

MB: I've done about eight solo albums, and they're fairly low-key because historically when Tull was on the road I rarely got much time off. And then when I found I had like two or three months free, I'd get in the studio and start writing and recording. Mainly it was instrumental, but I always gave it a hundred percent. I took it very seriously, but I knew in the back of my mind that it was a bit of a detour, and at the end of it I was back to Tull, back to touring, back to making a living the way that I have done for 50 years.

But now, it's really vital that the music I write, the music I perform, is mine, and I'm looking for an identity that is really me. I'm not here to sort of repackage Jethro Tull. I'm here to promote a new band, and it just so happens that I'm in it. So it's really important that my music writing and the albums that I'm producing become part of what we do live. I want people to enjoy what we do with the Tull music, hand in hand with what I'm doing in my writing. They seem to blend. The audiences over the last six years — you know, I've been solo for six years — they've really enjoyed everything we do. It's really good, because it's important to me to have my own identity.

JM: You first toured the U.S. with Jethro Tull almost 50 years ago. Are there any stories from that first U.S. tour that you're willing to share? Or is it better left unspoken?

MB: [laughs] Well, the joke would be that there's some amazing stories, but because it was 50 years ago I've forgotten them all. I loved being in America. I could tell you funny stories, and they're like everybody else's stories. They usually involve crazy musicians, crazy bands, groupies, crazy concerts. We went through all of that like everybody else did. We played with Led Zeppelin, we played with Beefheart, Zappa, the Grateful Dead. We've sort of done everything, and had an amazing time. I loved every minute, and crazy things happened. You'll probably have to wait for the book. I just loved every minute.

The very first tour we did of America, we started in New York and went up to Boston. It was snowing. We went over to Detroit, and it was all amazing for us because we'd never been to the States before. And then eventually, three months later, we ended up in San Francisco and L.A. It was incredible. It was almost a different planet for some guys from the U.K. I can remember the smell. I can remember the early days on the West Coast better than I can remember last year, because it made such a huge impact on me. I just love the culture. I took to the American culture, and I even married an American lady — I'm still married to her. I'm sort of an honorary American.

JM: You're probably sick of talking about it, but I have to ask about the Aqualung album, which was a huge success for the band. Looking back, what are your reflections on that album?

MB: Funnily enough, it was a hard album to make. We had a lot of problems in the studio, technical problems. We had a hard time getting good takes on the songs. We were struggling to get takes that sounded good, that were together. There was a lot of stress and anxiety in that record. But there were great songs, and sometimes out of all that heartache and stress something good comes out of it.

JM: Some bands that have a hit album just record the same album over and over. But for Jethro Tull, the next one was totally a change in direction, Thick As a Brick. Were you on board with that change in direction?

MB: We never consciously thought we must do something different from album to album, but it just came naturally. I think we progressed as musicians. Our experiences on the road gave us the inspiration to go in different directions. We met other musicians, we played with bands we loved, we heard new music and we took it in all the time.

Essentially, Jethro Tull worked 365 days a year. We never stopped working. We never took time out from playing music and listening to music and living music. So it was always evolving. As I say, there was no conscious decision to make one album different from another. It was just the way we were. There's no way in the world that any of us, me or Ian, would look at the last album and think, "We need to write something a bit like that." It'd be the last thing in the world, because I hate that concept that you're reinventing music that you've already done. Once something is recorded and performed, you move on. Forget it. You're over it. New year, new music, a new life. It's always been that way.

Click here for the full interview with Martin Barre.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, The opinions expressed are his own.

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