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Tea Party returns to the Edges of Twilight

Celebrates iconic album's 20th anniversary with re-release and tour

Celebrity Interview by Jason Clevett (From GayCalgary® Magazine, September 2015, page 28)
The Tea Party
The Tea Party
Image by: Brad Conrad
Tea Party returns to the Edges of Twilight: Celebrates iconic album's 20th anniversary with re-release and tour
Tea Party returns to the Edges of Twilight: Celebrates iconic album's 20th anniversary with re-release and tour
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It was August, 1995, and a packed house at the Silver Dollar Action Centre off Blackfoot moshed, crowd surfed and basked in the musical expertise of three young men from Windsor, Ontario. It was the first of what would be many Tea Party concerts for me. Touring behind the release of the album The Edges of Twilight, singer/guitarist Jeff Martin, bassist/keyboardist Stuart Chatwood, and drummer Jeff Burrows made many of those in that hot sweaty room that night a fan for life.

Fast forward to 2015 and The Tea Party and its fans are reliving that iconic album, with a re-release and a cross-Canada and Australia tour, playing the album in its entirety along with a second set of other favourites. The band hits Calgary September 24th at the Jack Singer Concert Hall and Edmonton’s Winspear Centre on September 25th. Playing a classic album is something that has become a strong touring concept for artists ranging from Korn to Our Lady Peace to Bryan Adams. According to Jeff Martin, revisiting the album – which features multiple world instruments – was a challenge they could not resist.

"There is a hell of a lot going on on that record and, in order for three men on a stage to pull that off, [it] would take some focus and determination. It is something that we were up to the challenge of doing, not only from a technical standpoint, but also this is the seminal Tea Party record. It is something that deserved to be celebrated because I think we feel, and a lot of other people feel the same way, that this record is timeless. It’s not a record that sounds like the ’90s; it’s as fresh as ever. We really wanted to celebrate the achievement we made 20 years ago," Martin told GayCalgary over the phone from Ontario. The band kicked off the tour with two nights in their hometown, Windsor, and have received rave reviews from tour stops in cities like Winnipeg and Montreal. "It was a little shaky at first. There is so much to think about on stage; I can only speak for myself, but there is a lot of muscle memory involved in The Edges of Twilight, so it took me a couple of shows to get into the groove of things. Rehearsing is one thing – when you are in front of an audience and have to perform and keep them engaged and entertain them, if you are thinking too much about what you are doing, it is a difficult thing to do. Now that we have a few shows under our belt, the last few shows the switch went on and now The Tea Party is in full flight. The way Jeff and Stuart are playing as well, it is now an enjoyment. I am walking on stage every night and I can’t wait to put on the guitar... because I know how good it’s going to be every night."

The Edges of Twilight was re-released on September 4th with a bonus second disc featuring demos and other versions of the songs. It is interesting to hear lyrically, and musically, how some songs changed between the demo and the eventual finished version.

"We are very fortunate that Stuart Chatwood is the archivist. I never know what he is going to be putting away. Luckily, for us, Stuart kept all those digital audio tapes and mixes I created in my studio in Old Montreal. I remember Stuart sending it to Jeff and I when I was visiting my father in Windsor. Jeff and I were driving around in his BMW listening to these demos – just listening – and we would look at each other and be smirking because we know what we got up to back then. A lot of rock ’n roll hedonism; that’s for sure," Martin recalled, laughing. "It was a band that was now finding its stride and, for three young men, it was a very powerful rock band, and still to this day is. There are memories attached to the creation of those songs. With what is being achieved on stage, a song like "Turn the Lamp Down Low" – how powerful it’s becoming now on stage – it is one of the highlights for me. I wasn’t sure if we would really be able to do it justice live, but it has become one of the highlights on stage."

"Turn The Lamp Down Low" is featured on the additional material as a different blues version.

"The blues version that we hear on the second disc was an afterthought. It was not the way that it began. It was something that we just tried to do as an outtake, a B-side. The demo of "Turn the Lamp Down Low" unfortunately can’t be found to this day, as far as like "Fire in the Head" and "The Bazaar" and all that. I guarantee you that what I remember from it is that the demo was very close to what it became in the studios in Los Angeles."

The tour is already a success, and the band has started planning the possibility of revisiting 1997’s Transmission as well as adding more deep cuts to future sets. The band has toured extensively for the past four years, but many great songs like "Emerald", "Certain Slant of Light" and "Requiem" have either never been played live, or not in recent sets.

"Because of the success of what is happening right now with Edges, Transmission is something that we have been discussing, and is another record that would be very challenging for the three of us to pull off, so it is certainly worth contemplating doing the 20th anniversary of Transmission. If we do that then obviously "Emerald" would be heard along with songs that we have never played live, like "Alrum" and "Gyroscope". There is so much in the vault for us to explore once again that it makes it brand new all the time. I do miss a lot of those songs; I am very fortunate that we have an opportunity to re-explore them, or explore them for the first time in a live setting."

The Tea Party has performed in Calgary many times, ranging from Flames Central in recent years to venues like Macewan Hall, The Max Bell Arena, The Calgary Stampede’s Coke Stage, and Edgefest at Race City Speedway. The last time the band played the Jack Singer was with a full orchestra for two concerts in 2000 and 2002. Calgary has long held a special place for the band.

"All [shows] have their different moments. The Jack Singer show we did with the orchestra, that tour was so technically involved and complicated to pull off, the Calgary show was one of the nights I wish we would have recorded: everything just clicked."

They have also played the Saddledome and Rexall Place, opening for bands like Def Leppard and Ozzy Osbourne.

"The best experience of touring with bands like that is creating new friendships and getting to know the people behind the image. The boys in Def Leppard were just sweethearts; Joe Elliot and I got along really well. Ozzy, I couldn’t understand what he was saying sometimes, but he was a perfect English gentleman."

The Tea Party has always had a strong connection with their fans, whose demand to see the band resulted in them reuniting in 2012 and releasing a new album, 2014’s The Ocean at the End. The tour has a VIP package with a sound check, merchandise and a meet and greet with the band.

"It’s humbling but, at the same time, so reassuring to know that the fan base in different parts of the world is so strong and continues to support and encourage The Tea Party to push the boundaries and make new music. As an artist, I don’t think you could be more blessed, so we are very fortunate and thankful. There is not a day that goes by that any one of us would take it for granted. Obviously, with the Tea Party’s success, it’s impossible to go out after a show and talk to 3,000 people. It’s not going to happen. To do these VIP packages is a great thing; to really connect one on one with super-fans and get their feedback on different things, and just to show them – especially in our sound checks, in the way that the three of us interact with one another – there is a lot of joviality going on... As serious as the concerts are, the three of us don’t take ourselves so seriously. To use an Australian term, we are constantly taking the piss out of one another on stage – especially during those sound checks – because it’s loose. I don’t necessarily sing entire songs because I’ve got to conserve my voice for the evening, but we play things that we won’t play later on in the evening. One of our favourite songs to do in those sound checks is "Overload" from Seven Circles. It is one of the great rock songs that The Tea Party has done. It’s not something that we put in the set often."

After the tour Martin will take fans on a trip and then head back down under to tour and plan more music.

"I’m going to Morroco in October for a sabbatical and some super-fans are joining me. We are touring Australia in November. I have production work to do in Australia with some young rock bands. These Raven Skies are going to be coming back over to Australia to do a new album with me at some point. Jeff and Stuart are going to be coming over to Australia in February to do some writing with me. I know that Canadian festivals are looking for The Tea Party to play next summer, and we would like to have a few new songs to add to the set, so we will see."

It’s clear in talking to Jeff Martin, and previous interviews with his band mates, that The Tea Party are solidly one again. Now four years back together, after breaking up from 2005 to 2012, the band is as great as ever. Their members have grieved through the loss of friends and family, celebrated births of children, and strode through various ups and downs to re-become the band they are now.

"I think what has changed is the friendship between the three of us is stronger than what it was at its zenith before we took our hiatus. That is very much a blessing. I actually feel the musicianship between the three of us is stronger because of what we went through individually during the seven years we were apart. I think we became even better musicians. Once we got back together, the collective became even more powerful."

It is this stronger trio that will create magic this week on stage. Jeff Martin promises an unforgettable night.

"The set that we do after Edges of Twilight changes every night because we have so many songs to choose from. Some nights we will put in "Psychopomp" or "Save Me", or we won’t. The staple we want to play is "The Ocean at the End" because it is such a powerful song that never fails to elevate the audience. I think what you are headed towards is a blissful experience. It is a hell of a lot of music over two hours. The Tea Party live has always been an emotional rollercoaster for the band and the audience – even more so now. That experience is going to be exponential. I daresay it could possibly be the best Tea Party concert that you have seen so far."


(GC)

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