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Interview with Martha Davis of the Motels


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Dr Van Helsing

Back in the early 80's when Mtv was first getting started, several bands were featured constantly. One of those bands was the Motels, fronted by Martha Davis. The Motels maintained their staying power in music due largely in part to Ms. Davis' extraordinary singing talent. While other band of that era relied almost solely on "looks", the Motels brought talent along with them as well. Additionally, those that remember those early 80's videos probably remember cheap, quickly thrown together with what was available, productions. The Motels in my opinion were early pioneers of what music videos should be. Take a look at their video for "Take the L". I would put it up against any of today's videos that cost exorbitantly much more to produce. The Motels are what happens when you mesh beauty, talent, and a desire to create something enduring.

I made a request to interview Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn a few weeks back, only to find out she was on vacation and unavailable. Her manager told me that she also represented Martha Davis and would I be interested in interviewing her. I about fell out of my chair when I read that. Before I had even sent her the questions, this interview had already found its place as one of my favorites I have done.

I hope you enjoy the interview and the body of works Ms. Davis has created and continues to create.

Before we get to the interview, I want to promote some of Martha's upcoming projects. She has been so gracious to us in doing this interview and replied to all my emails like I was an old friend that the least I can do is use my access to so many people to let the world know what she is up to.

The quote below comes directly from Martha when I asked her if there was anything she would like me to promote for her.

"I would love to promote the new decade. This last ten years has been tough all round for so many people. What I would like to promote is the end of obsessive fears, and the beginning of an age of creativity and community. Could you do that for me?"

You can keep up with all upcoming shows and projects on

On facebook

Plus we are revamping website

Also there is talks about doing a weekly internet radio show/podcast with myself, Terri Nunn of Berlin and my manager Gaye Ann Bruno, you know just the girls.
January 01, 2010 12:53 pm

Dr Van Helsing

First question, in the early days of Mtv, the Motels were one of the bands that were featured quite a lot. When I was rewatching your videos recently, I was amazed at the quality of their production during a time when bands threw together videos as quickly and cheaply as possible. How much influence did the band have in the production of its videos?

I always loved to get involved in the video process, nothing technical you understand, but the imagery and story line were always of interest to me. We were also very lucky, the fact is The Motels got to work with amazing directors, Russell Mulcahy, and David Fincher two stellar examples. The other important aspect of the those videos was that it was very early in the game, kind of the wild west of the video days. It was a fly by the seat of your pants, make it up as you go, grab your friends and give them jobs, there were no unions involved at that point, everyone just wanted to jump in and make videos. Amazingly "Only the Lonely" and "Take the L," which were make for $60,000.00 for both, very different than a few years later when the costs went up sometimes into the millions for one video.

I recognized you instantly in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I was pretty sure about Fee Waybill but had to wait til the credits to see that Clarence Clemmons was also one of the three most important people in the world. How did that role come about?

Bill and Ted's was sent to me by my agent. I read the script and thought it was hysterical and agreed to do it. They were looking for the three most important people to be pop music personages. They had Clarence Clemmons and me but didn't have the third I said I knew Fee and the rest was future history. (since we apparently existed in the future)

Follow up, are there any more acting gigs in your future?

I'm not actively seeking acting roles, but I'm opened to anything, if it seems like a valid project.

I understand that you are currently working on a children's CD. Will it be all original songs or are you going to cover anything?

The kids record, "RED FROG PRESENTS 16 SONGS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN", will be all originals and should be available by mid January, yippee!!

How did this project come about?

I actually started this project many years ago when my grand kids were young, they are now 19 and 15, so it had to be 12 or 13 years. At the time children's music was pretty much dominated by the big purple dinosaur "Barney" and some other equally banal music. I have always known that children are very capable of listening to all sorts of music and love to be stimulated and challenged, my favorite record when I was five was Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, (my mom had a great record collection). I recorded 17 songs about different animals, my former manager took it round to some labels, and was told it was to 'intellectual' for children; strangely all the children that heard it loved it. Well it ended up languishing in the archives for a long time. Over the last few years I'd noticed there were a lot of pop artists doing kids records...maybe the climate had changed? so I dusted off the old album to try to resurrect it. I ended up almost completely rewriting it instead, saving only about three song from the old album. This is not to say that those songs are gone, they may very well come out the next album, it was just nice to be re inspired. The goal of this album is to engage the children while not driving parents insane by the 400th listen, (any one that has ever had kids knows it's all about repetition) and that is why it is "songs for parents" as well as children.

Beautiful Life must be a difficult project considering the topic it is based on. My wife is the survivor of a parent's suicide and I know how hard it has been for her to face the horror of it. How has this project played out for you?

The making of Beautiful Life was not easy or pretty, not only did I spend a lot of time with my mothers diary (never happy times), but I realized about half way through the recording that my marriage at that time was mirroring that of my mother and fathers, which was anything but functional. So the process was long and sad but in the end very cathartic. I ended up feeling closer to my mother and father, more conscience of my mothers dreams of being a writer, a dream that she abandoned to attempt the 'stay at home good wife, and devoted mother' routine that was so prevalent in the 50's, and so contrary to what she really wanted. I became aware how frustrating it must have been for my father who came from a more conservative old fashioned background. In the end I also became divorced, which was probably the best thing that could happen for my ex-husband and myself.

Please tell me about the possible Theatrical production and movie based on Beautiful Life.

There have been talks of making Beautiful Life into a movie and a theatrical production, but it is way to early to talk about, we'll keep you posted.

I see you are also working on a Jazz CD and Hip Cover CD. Looking at the old videos the Jazz CD certainly looks like a perfect fit for you. What can you tell me about the Hip cover CD?

The Jazz album is something I've thought about for a long time. Over the years I've written alot of songs in that format, like the old standards of the 30's and 40's. Hopefully this year I can pick the best and finally release them. The hip covers is just that urge to cover some great pop songs. They would mostly come from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Songs I loved when I was young.

Ok, I have to ask you, what is KAFUCK and how did you come up with the name?

I can not take credit for KAFUCK, that honor goes to Gaye Ann Bruno, my manager and friend, she was going on about something she was very excited about, " she tried to say **** and it came out "KAFUCK", I stopped her and said "what did you just say?" On hearing it again we both decided it should be included in our vocabulary, and perhaps the worlds vocabulary as well. Watch for our T-shirt line. and our LLC Kafuck Inc.
Note: While talking on the phone with Martha's manager and friend Gaye Ann Bruno, I learned that they are trying to get kafuck into everyday language. Help them out and use it as much as you can.

In addition to the early 2010 dates in California, have any other tour dates been named?

Got lots of things in the pipeline, we'll let you know. January 8 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano CA, January 9 at Brixton in Redondo Beach CA, January 29 at Dante's in Portland Oregon and The New Vault 350 in Long Beach, CA May 14.

Which musicians have you most enjoyed working with?

I of course loved the guys in the old Motels, from the early days in Berkeley to the band signed to Capitol, but probably because I feel more confident with myself, the new musicians I've been working with in the last six or seven years have been some of the best and most fulfilling. The band I have in LA, Eric Gardner on drums, Clint Walsh on guitar, Nick Johns keyboard, and Jon Siebels on bass, are amazing multi talented musicians. They are some of the greatest guys I've ever met and we have a blast collaborating. Now that I've move to the Northwest I've also been working with Mathew Morgan, engineer/drummer, Felix Mercer, engineer/ clarinet, all of the above musicians play instruments beyond the ones I've listed, it would just take too long to list all there merits.

Which ones have been a royal pain in the ass to work with? Obviously 'no comment' is an understandable answer here.

No comment, (thanks for the out).

Who would you most like to work with in the future?

Anyone in Radiohead, David Bowie.

This is probably more of a compliment than a question but, how the hell did you manage to stay so beautiful all these years? I thought Rock Stars were supposed to age badly!

You are very sweet Michael!
Yes I am!

Who were your influences early on?

Well obviously Igor Stravinsky, I use to love Negro Spirituals, first time I ever preformed in the 4th grade, I sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Lonesome Valley, I went through a period of loving musicals, actually I still do, Sweeney Todd is brilliant! In the 60's I loved soul music, still do. One of the biggest influences was David Bowie, he actually combined all of the above influences in his music, I was in love. Usually in my house I keep the classical station on, I just love music.

Thank you again for this opportunity

Thank you so much Michael, love...m.
January 01, 2010 01:01 pm

Dr Van Helsing

January 01, 2010 01:09 pm

Dr Van Helsing

January 01, 2010 01:17 pm

Dr Van Helsing

January 01, 2010 01:21 pm

Maria Rios

Loved the Interview DVH
Thank you very much!!!!!
January 01, 2010 02:05 pm


I liked the interview thanks DVH January 01, 2010 02:10 pm


Thanks DVH! *smiles* January 01, 2010 02:24 pm

Regginea MacFowlen

Excellent interview DVH. Loved it. Thanks! January 01, 2010 02:48 pm

David StClaire

Nice interview DVH sorry just got on buddy Happy New Year January 01, 2010 02:51 pm

Ronan Donnallan

That was a great interview DHV cant wait to see more now that I have the time to relax and actually read them all the way through. January 01, 2010 03:05 pm

Suden Escher

Haha. That was definitely interesting. Thanks for the new word! Kafuck!!! January 01, 2010 03:07 pm

Sahara Storm

The interview was awesome! January 01, 2010 03:09 pm

Akilina Mizirov

I've always been a huge fan of hers, this was a great interview, thanks so much for posting it! Looking forward to the Terri Nunn interview as well, lost my virginity to Take My Breath Away *laughing* January 01, 2010 03:42 pm

Dr Van Helsing

What a coincidence, I've taken virginity to that song. January 01, 2010 03:48 pm
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