Mr. Big's Eric Martin on "To Be With You," Getting the Band Back Together, and Power Rangers
If you've got a subscription to Guitar World, you no doubt know who Mr. Big is. Comprised of some of the biggest names in the shred lexicon -- guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Pat Torpey, and vocalist Eric Martin -- the group issued hit rock records until the radio took off in search of grungier pastures.
The band's biggest hit, "To Be With You," is far from the most rocking tune in the band's catalog, but Mr. Big frontman Eric Martin is truly fond of the song. "[That song] put stamps on our passports," Martin says. He took some time out of preparing for Mr. Big's American tour to discuss getting the band back together, burying the hatchet, and how it got involved with the Power Rangers.
Mr. Big is scheduled to perform tomorrow night at the Marquee Theatre. See Luckyman Online for more information.
Up on the Sun: You guys put a new album called What If out in January, and its cover was pretty funny, featuring a pig flying.
Eric Martin: That album cover, it's like a band inside joke. All our albums...there's seven of them, and they all have funny little covers.
It's something quirky that we do. What If was something -- well, everybody in the band has a different take on it, but for me, every time I would bring a song in, I would say, what do you think of this? One guy in the band would say, 'eh, it doesn't thrill me,' but one guy would say, 'what if we did this?' And we got to thinking, what if was a positive statement, and invention or something about the power of imagination...what if Mr. Big got back together? It was like, yeah, when pigs fly.
For years, every time I would try and promote a solo album, tour, do my solo thing, people would say, 'we don't really care about that, we want Mr. Big to get back together.' I would say, 'nah, those days are over.' I think because of fan appreciation, how the fans kept the torch burning for us, we got the band back together. And I'm happy that happened, because there's no better band I would rather be in. It's a great rock 'n' roll band. We broke up years ago, but you kind of loose the taste for hate, and realize, oh my god, this is pretty much the best band we've all been in.
Was it difficult to bury the hatchet?
No, not really. After five or six years go by, the taste for hate and all the baggage -- it's gone. That's settled. Nobody had to do any therapy. Everyone just kind of missed how much we played. Had fun on stage, and making records.
There was a little bit of something between me and Billy Sheehan. We are very passionate about music, but we butt heads. Maybe that makes for a better band, but backstage it was crazy. Fans never got to see the almost killing each other style. But like I said, I forgot about all of that kind of stuff. "To Be With You" made us famous, and put stamps on our passports, and we went all around the world and it was great, but constant touring, people lost wives, family life was null and void. We basically didn't have any outlet, we were on the road a lot.
I'm not trying to get all boo hoo on you, but we were together a lot, and we kinda picked each other clean. I don't know what happened between us, when we got back together, I mustered up the courage to email him. I've said this before, but I definitely want you to hear this, I emailed him to rekindle our friendship more than get Mr. Big back together. I thought, 'both of us have a lot of friends, [but] everybody likes me except you.' I would like to get us back together as friends, and rekindle that fire.
I actually asked him if Yamaha, the company he's endorsed by, if they made a bass guitar for a little kid. If was trying to find a bass guitar for my son. He's a left handed guy. Billy goes, no, but we were kinda talking about it. Around Christmas time of 2007, a bass guitar came to my house, a left handed bass, Billy found it in a pawn shop in Japan, and doctored it up. It was kinda surreal. There was a little video tape with it, and it was surreal to watch my six year old son watching a video with Billy Sheehan saying, 'here's how you play bass guitar.'
It was an olive branch, and I called him up and said 'friends for life, man. A permanent get out of jail free card.' I know that sounds really Oprah, but we got our friendship back together and we were on a mission from god. We got Mr. Big back together.
I remember watching a show on VH1, one of those countdown shows, with a comedian joking about the "just to be the next to be with you" line in "To Be With You."
I saw that! I taped it. This guy, I wanna find out who that guy was, he acted in Queer as Folk, remember it because he was like, 'who would wait in a line to be with this girl?" I was like, 'hey Mr. Queer as Folk character, I would, I did.' It is kinda funny, just having them talk about it is funny and cool. I'm honored to be slagged on VH1.
It was a true story. Totally simple love lament. There was this girl I was in love with, beautiful goth chick from the late seventies, dark black hair -- everything was black -- and pale white vampire skin. She would read poetry to me in her father's car, parked in the back of the house, with no wheels, and weeds growing up in between it. How can you not fall in love with that? This girl had a lot of boyfriends who treated her like shit. I wanted to be the knight in shining armor, wanted to be with her. She wasn't having it. It never came to play. True story, though, a simple little love song. 'Waiting on a line of greens and blues...' I had a mood ring when I was a kid. I threw that in to be quirky.
Did she ever hear the song?
She did. I ran into her several years ago. She was working at a clothing store in San Francisco. I said, hey, you know that song is about you? She said, 'oh, I know - my husband tells everyone.'
I saw Power Rangers: The Movie in the theater. How did you come to be involved in that theme song?
[Laughs]. You know, I didn't have kids then. But when my kids were born, I was cranking that - they were watching power rangers, and I was like, you know your dad did that theme song? I was in the Power Rangers Orchestra with Matt Sorum from Guns 'n' Roses..[producer] Ron Nevison was elected to do this [Power Rangers] project, and he picked my name out of a hat. It was the first time I ever sang the lyrics 'the ability to morph and even up the score.' My kids love it, and I made a lot of kids happy. It was a really weird movie, didn't you think?
Well, I didn't think it was weird at the time. I'm sure if I went back and watched it now I would have a different take on it.
You're obviously a young man. You went as a fan. Did you even put that together, that's the singer from Mr. Big singing Power Rangers?
No, I didn't put that together until last night around 1:30 a.m. when I was working on this interview.
[Laughs.] Right on.