Q&A: Candlebox's Kevin Martin on Rock, Mashups, and Marrying the Flaming Lips

Those who haven't lent their ears to mainstream rock radio since the heyday of 94.9 Zeta (mid-late '90s) may think that the Seattle postgrunge act Candlebox's days in the spotlight are "far behind" them. Actually, though, the band reunited a few years back, released its fourth studio album, 2008's Into the Sun -- its first in ten years -- and has been touring extensively. Last summer, its musical journey took it overseas to perform for the troops -- an experience that was life-changing for lead singer Kevin Martin -- and on Saturday, it will bring the band to Revolution in Fort Lauderdale, an event sponsored by New Times.

The show ought to be a good time for now-aging '90s rockers as well as for a new generation of fans that the blues-based rock band has attracted thanks in part to 2008's big single "Stand." And just as a new generation is getting into Candlebox's music, lead singer Kevin Martin is getting into the new generation of rock 'n' roll. When County Grind chatted with him recently, he had lots to say about the current state of rock music and some of the bands that he considers to be on the cutting edge. Also, he chatted vinyl, hipsters, and Rastafari, and he revealed whom he'd fuck, whom he'd chuck, and whom he'd marry out of three of Candlebox's former touring companions -- the Flaming Lips, Henry Rollins, and Metallica. Read on.

What do you think of the current state of rock radio? Did it reach its final peak in the '90s, when you were in heavy rotation?

No, I don't think that. The current state is a little sad. I guess I should only base it on rock radio. If you listen to some of the college-radio stuff, there is a lot of great music happening. This year, we saw some great stuff happen at the Grammys with Arcade Fire. I'm a big fan of that kind of music, personally. For me, rock 'n' roll, what Candlebox does, is just something that we've done in the blues-based elements of rock for the 20 years that we've been a band. It's nothing new; it's just our passion. And in its own place, it stands out as a band from the '90s that didn't sound like everybody else.

Unfortunately now with rock radio, everything sounds so much like one another because they want to make sure that people listen to the station; they want to make sure that people are listening to the songs of the bands that they are producing, the bands that they are signing. They've lost sight of the individuality of the artist, the individuality of the art of making music. And that's the unfortunate side. It had nothing to do with the bands of today or that they're any different than the bands of the '90s. Also, it has to do with the technology. MP3s are the worst way in the world to listen to music. I used to have a turntable in my house.

Does Candlebox release stuff on vinyl?

Yeah, we do. This next record, which we're putting out some time this summer, it'll come out on vinyl. It just sounds so much different and sounds so much more alive. And that's how it's recorded. It's recorded analog to digital. Like in the new Foo Fighters record, man. You can definitely hear a difference in the recording of that album. And that's exciting for artists like Dave Grohl and Kevin Martin from Candlebox, 'cause we grew up on vinyl, and we made our first few records... there was no computer involved. It was a lot more exciting. I think for us to put out vinyl on every record is a great accomplishment. And it sounds amazing.

And it might turn the hipsters on to Candlebox, man.

[laughs] Right. You're not going to get many hipsters listening to Candlebox, but thank you for the pleasant thought.

Who are the Candlebox fans? Are they mostly people who were into you in the '90s, or have you seen a new generation of fans since you've come back?

We've seen a lot of young kids, but the nice thing about Candlebox is that the fans who were 20 years old when we started, they now have children, and those kids are coming. And those kids that also are kind of in tune with the rock 'n' roll scene from Seattle and very, I guess, into Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains and Candlebox, they have a lot to do with spreading the word.

They are kids that are constantly gravitating towards learning about new music. And that's the great thing about being able to continue to make it. Making this new record, for us, is going to be something which is really special. There's a lot of growth on this album, there's a lot of change, there's a lot of storytelling, there's a lot of different styles of music that I don't think people are going to expect from us. And that's going to bring us into a whole other arena hopefully, of music and fans.

One thing that's happening with a lot of '90s rock is that it's being recycled via mashups from artists like Girl Talk. I haven't heard Candlebox in a mashup yet, but if you could pick an artist to be mashed up with -- and you can take that question to mean whatever you'd like -- who would it be?

I think Girl Talk is great, man. God, you know, really, honestly, Shiny Toy Guns, Cold War Kids, Florence and the Machine... I think these mashups are really cool. There are so many. There are so many great bands out there that one could only hope that they were mashed up with.

Even Cage the Elephant. I love that band. I think those guys, with their next record, if they continue down the path that they're on, they could probably change rock 'n' roll music. They could be the catalyst.

I had a question about your latest hit, "Stand" -- is there a nod to Bob Marley and Rastafari in the end of that song?

There is, yeah.


I love Bob Marley, and I love the element of "I and I." And that we are one. That's the beauty of reggae music. I think that if you can use those influences and inspiration in your songs, just to get one person to pay attention...

I want to end with a fun question. Are you familiar with the game Fuck, Chuck, or Marry?


OK, here's how it goes: You have three objects, people, whatever, and you have to choose which one you would have sex with, which one you would kill, and which one you would marry. Are you ready?

Like, Oprah, Barbara Walters, and your wife. You've gotta fuck one, marry one, and kill one. Go!

According to your Wikipedia page, you've toured with the Flaming Lips, Henry Rollins, and Godsmack. Fuck, chuck, or marry. Go!

I've never toured with Godsmack. But Henry Rollins, the Flaming Lips, and Metallica...

OK, the Flaming Lips, Henry Rollins, and Metallica. Fuck, chuck, or marry!

What am I saying here?

You've gotta fuck one, chuck one, and marry one.

Whew! I'd marry the Flaming Lips, fuck Metallica, and chuck Henry.

Wow! All right.

That's not even true, man, 'cause I love Henry Rollins. That guy's one of my main influences. But, you know, there's a lot more to that Metallica ass than there is to that Henry Rollins ass.

Candlebox. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $27 to $30. Click here.

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Travis Newbill