By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
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"Turn out the lights, the party's over. They say that all good things must end." So sang Willie Nelson a long time ago, and while Earthwire impresario M. Martin is no singer or much of a country fan, he sounds pretty similar to the Red Headed Stranger these days.
Or maybe a little more like Jim Morrison. "This is the end, my friend," he says, pouring himself a glass of St. Arnold's bock from a pitcher. We're sitting on the covered patio at Volcano on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, talking about the impending demise of Earthwire in its current manifestation and its eventual rebirth somewhere down the line.
The last time Racket spoke with Martin, the shaven-headed veteran punk promoter was clad in a suit in hopes of getting hired on at Halliburton as an IT pro. He was also plugging the inaugural South By Due East festival, Earthwire's response to the annual snubbing Houston acts get at South By Southwest selection time.
"Back then I was still guardedly optimistic about a lot of things," he says. "Most of that optimism turned out to be so much bullshit. South By Due East was a success in many ways, and we're still planning on doing it next year, but in terms of generating revenue it was an unmitigated disaster. The economy's still in the tank. The recruiter who said she was gonna place me at Halliburton is now not returning my calls. In the meantime, I have a bunch of equipment failures, personnel issues; I have a landlord who is imminently renting my apartment out from under me to open a bar
"I am a very persistent man, I'm an obstinate man, but I'm not a crazy man."
Soon, the king-hell funky mini-warehouse will cease being a performance spot/hangout. There will be no more live streams emanating from the corner of Waugh and Fairview, only reruns of earlier shows, and Martin himself will be gone by early summer.
But Martin being Martin, he's planning to end this chapter of his life with a bang. There will be a farewell party -- the Sayonara Bash -- May 3 and 4 at the studio, featuring Chango Jackson, New Jack Hippies, Opie Hendrix, Rusted Shut, Kool B and the Earthwire Poets. And Martin will be liquidating Earthwire Studios' hard assets. The party will also be filmed for an upcoming documentary. Sunday's half of the party will also be a barbecue, much like the weekly soirees Martin hosted during Earthwire's first year.
As for Martin, he's pondering a bunch of post-Fairview operations. "I have a potential partner who wants to open an Internet radio station in Austin, and I'll probably be going there for a while to find out how viable that is," he says. "Also, Earthwire's recording subsidiary has over two years of content that I'm gonna be working with, and I'm gonna try to get some of my best Earthwire shows" -- the rock en español Alternative Scream and the hip-hop Post Millennium Funkamong them -- "weekly showcase slots at clubs in town."
Martin says he is mentally, physically and financially drained from his two years at Earthwire's helm. Rumor had it that he was $5,000 in debt. Martin laughs at this figure. "That was a while ago. I have no idea what I owe now."
Of the mental and physical rigors, Martin says, "It was like being on tour for two years. All the production issues, all the personnel issues, having to deal with all the grief and cops, it just never stopped. DJ Scout -- Kathy Bond -- was more sympathetic than anybody when I announced I was pulling the plug because she went crazy enough just dealing with PM Funkon Tuesday nights every week. For me it wasn't every week, it was every night of the week, and even if I had other people there who were part of the process, ultimately it all came down on me."
When he mentions that Earthwire's mixing board is failing, he could just as well be talking about himself. "Of course it's failing. It's been in continual use for two years, with people spilling beer on it and blowing smoke in its innards I need to recharge my batteries more than I have words to express."
So it's time to look back on Earthwire's two years. What was the epitome of Earthwire? Martin has a ready answer. "The first summer that I had the building, when I was having the Sunday barbecues, there was this one night when -- in addition to the various poets and punk rockers and hip-hoppers who drifted in -- we had a classically trained pianist, an opera singer and a classically trained guitarist who was the sister to the one and the girlfriend of the other. They showed up looking like they were on their way to a Nine Inch Nails concert -- the guys were wearing leather pants and no shirts and the girl was in torn fishnets and a cocktail dress. They did not look like classically trained musicians. We had a Yamaha electric piano back there, and the pianist got on there and started playing, and the opera guy started singing. It was the most unlikely thing in this setting, in this grotty, garage-looking place."