with Martin Bowes of Attrition
May 21, 2007
Martin Bowes has always stood apart among my musical friends because his career started when everyone else was in junior high or younger &, by his own admission, he’s not actually a musician. I remember a tour a few years ago where he got up early every morning to call England to talk to his children before they went to bed, which tells a little something about him.
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?
Martin – Well.... I don’t think I’m a professional “musician”.... :) I never had that desire.... I was 20 I think when I realized that I needed to be an artist.… I started out as a visual artist, mainly paintings; but had this nagging feeling about music.… I am not a musician... I now paint with sound.… So I guess I am more a composer/producer really.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Martin – Oh don’t do this to me! It’s been a long time, over 26 years now, so there have been so many ups & downs. I guess one highlight is the longevity itself! Others are the usual... first album.... first tours... & just particular works that I feel mean something... even if they are just personal highlights!
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Martin – Well, I never decided that either!... :) It was something that just happened to me in my mid 30’s.... (Well it had happened before in my twenties, but had ended in tragedy when our baby died....) You know it never feels like the “right time” to have children... there’s always something you need to do first! But it is so wonderful.... I think mine came along at the right time for me.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Martin – Well, it is trickier to fit everything in when you have children, but you can find a way! In a way it is another career having children, so it takes up some of your energy & time... especially when they are very young.... When my first, Naomi, came along I had a year off touring.... The positive effects are the emotional ones. They have given me so much love, & I have to them, & that means so much....
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Martin – I think they like to see what I do... even if they don’t really understand it.… It’s not the music they are used to hearing with friends, although they are just beginning to appreciate it... & in fact they are featured on my upcoming soundtrack album! But really they are not closely involved with my music career.… The negative aspects my career has had has been my time away. Although I don’t tour all the time, we miss each other a lot if I am away for a month or two... I don’t like that....
QRD – Have your children effected the music you make &/or listen to?
Martin – They haven’t influenced my music apart from emotionally... & all my music is about my life & emotion... so in that way they have.… I get to hear the latest pop hits from Naomi who is 12 now, but you just know I don’t go & buy them (unless they are for her). :)
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Martin – I have had that in the past.... I don’t make enough from Attrition alone... although I am getting more from my production/mastering work now.… I solved this 12 years ago. When Naomi was born I started to work teaching music technology at a local college here in Coventry (England). I work half the week so I have plenty of time to do my music & it’s flexible which is important.... But I get a regular paycheck that pays the bills... so I can be as irresponsible as I like the rest of the time!!!
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?
Martin – No I don’t think so.... I started playing live as soon as I started the band in 1980; I couldn’t have toured before that! & I really don’t want to tour all the time. It works out just about right for me. Also I split up with Jordan & Naomi’s mother a few years ago & they live with her most of the time, although I see them every week, so it is not so disruptive when I do travel....
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Martin – Well it depends on the content & on what you mean by community.… My music means little to my local community, but more to the worldwide one. & my children obviously mean a lot locally, but have yet to spread their wings globally.... :)
QRD – Would you rather see your child eventually become a musician or parent?
Martin – I don’t know if they will become musicians. I really don’t mind what they do as long as they are not hurting anyone else.... But they can certainly do both a creative thing & a parenting thing....
QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Martin – Well mine is divided artificially as I have the kids every other weekend & half of the school holidays & other times that we get together on impulse.… So the rest of my time I can get on with music. When I am with them I dedicate myself to them pretty much 100% to make up for my absence on the other days. It works out pretty well. We have a lot of fun together....
QRD – What do your children think of your music?
Martin – “Turn it off, it’s scary daddy!!!!!” :) Actually they started to like “a girl called harmony” recently, so there is hope! & I keep trying to get them to watch horror films! :)
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your children?
Martin – My new album is a soundtrack about the life of victorian serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. There was a victorian song about the woman sung by children at the time & the story goes that if you sing it on Halloween her ghost will appear.… Well I got my kids to sing it on Halloween... & the album will be out this Halloween.… So, yes, we already worked together. They can’t listen to this album at all though!
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Martin – Just make sure you don’t get “old” too quickly.... It won’t do you any good!