Beto Martinez, guitarist with Brownout, joined Preston Frazier for a Something Else! Sitdown covering everything from the band’s latest studio effort – titled Brown Sabbath Vol. II – to his early musical experiences to his work with Grupo Fantasma …
PRESTON FRAZIER: Congratulations on Brown Sabbath Vol. II. Before we talk about it, tell our readers a little about you. You are originally from Laredo Texas. Was yours a musical upbringing?
BETO MARTINEZ: Thank you. I did not grow up in a musical family other, than my mother loved to dance and often had music on – mostly whatever was on the radio. No one else in my family plays an instrument.
PRESTON FRAZIER: When did you start playing guitar?
BETO MARTINEZ: My first instrument was the trumpet. I joined band in fifth grade and was assigned the trumpet. I wanted to play drums. I didn’t get far and quit after a couple months. When I was really young, about 6 or 7, I heard Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” on MTV. My mom actually allowed me to buy the cassette, and it started a love affair with rock music. I was officially an air guitarist from then on, until I got my first guitar at age 12. I had a cousin, who played, show me how to tune it and how to play “Anarchy in the U.K.” I took it from there.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What was your first band?
BETO MARTINEZ: I am mostly self-taught. I’ve taken some lessons here and there but nothing formal. My first band was called Luv Rhino. I met Greg Gonzalez, my bass player in eighth grade. We were both into metal and he had an air-conditioned garage, so we quickly became sequestered in the garage – basically learning to play together, trying to write songs and play Metallica covers. Once we met a drummer, we started Luv Rhino as high school freshmen. It had a very early ’90s, kinda Smashing Pumpkins vibe and we immediately started playing parties.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Grupo Fantasma has a deep and rich musical history. How has your role in Grupo changed over the years?
BETO MARTINEZ: Adrian Quesada and I essentially set Grupo Fantasma in motion one late night drinking in his apartment in 2000. We were listening to a compilation called Cumbia Cumbia 2, of old Colombian cumbias we loved, and had always talked about playing. The idea of playing some cumbias, even though our bands played funk and jazz up to that point, wasn’t new. Greg and I had experimented with it in our band at the time, the Blimp. But that night Adrian and I decided we should just book a gig and worry about the band and material afterwards. So, we did that. He called and booked a gig the next day, and we then rounded up our immediate group of bandmates and put together the band that became Grupo Fantasma. I’ve been one of the main songwriters and shapers of the sound and musical agenda – along with a few of the other guys – since the beginning. After Adrian left and we parted ways with our longtime management in 2013, I took over a lot of the behind-the-scenes management along with Greg Gonzalez – and even now still am very involved in this aspect along with our current manager. I’ve also, with Greg, produced and recorded our most recent material.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Brownout has had a prominent presence even before the Brown Sabbath projects. How did Brownout differ from Grupo Fantasma?
BETO MARTINEZ: Yes, Brownout has been around since 2003. After we started touring heavily and devoting a lot of time to Fantasma and concentrating on Latin music, a few of us longed to get back to playing some of the funk and breakbeat stuff we had been doing prior to Grupo Fantasma. Brownout was another sort of conversation between Adrian, Greg and myself and we set it in motion initially by learning a bunch of our favorite old-school funk tunes. Brownout has always been primarily funk with a Latin feel and influence, whereas Grupo Fantasma is primarily Latin music.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath was a phenomenal album and the tour (which I caught in Chicago) was a powerhouse. How far did you think that project would go?
BETO MARTINEZ: We did not anticipate a Vol. II. In fact, the initial show we did as Brown Sabbath was supposed to be it. It was a one off. We got such a huge response we decided to make the record, and found ourselves touring it shortly after.
PRESTON FRAZIER: How does Brown Sabbath Vol. II differ from the first?
BETO MARTINEZ: The second album is really a continuation of the first. We had demand from the label and the public for a second record, so we decided to cut the material that we had been paying live that didn’t make the first record. It includes more of the heavier, down-tuned and more epic stuff from Master of Reality and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. We had Aaron Behrens from Ghostland Observatory guest on a couple songs. Alex Maas guested on the first record. Alex Marrero still holds down the majority of songs as lead vocalist.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Talk about the recording process.
BETO MARTINEZ: Initial tracking for Vol. II started with cutting basic rhythm tracks at Circo Peroti in East Austin, recorded by Gian Ortiz. It was cut all-analog, live to two-inch tape. Vocals and horns were then cut at Wire Recording with Stuart Sullivan at the helm. Various overdubs were done between Adrian’s studio, Level One Sound and my studio, Lechehouse Music. These records were really a collaborative effort when it came to sound and arrangements, so we credit production to the band.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Talk about how you and Adrian Quesada come up with the guitar parts, which pay homage to Tommy Iommi’s original parts but remain fresh.
BETO MARTINEZ: I’ve always felt we had to maintain the heaviness of the originals and couldn’t really compromise on that. For the most part that has been my role, along with the bulk of the soloing. I’ve added effects and some slightly different approaches to make it my own, as well. Adrian came in and added a lot more of the Brownout flourish – interesting counter lines and more rhythmic “funk” guitar parts.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What guitars did you use on the recording?
BETO MARTINEZ: The Sabbath catalog is split between guitars tuned to E standard and C# standard. I used my trusty Gibson ES 333 for the songs in E, and my 89 Les Paul Standard for songs in C#. Adrian used his ’60s reissue SG for the E songs, and his Eastwood Airline for the C# stuff.
PRESTON FRAZIER: What’s next for Brownout? Are you working on any additional projects?
BETO MARTINEZ: Brownout is currently writing, tracking and compiling material for a forthcoming, long overdue record of original material. We hope to have that out by mid 2017. In the meantime, Money Chicha – a project I am in with Greg Gonzalez, John Speice and Sweet Lou Holmes – has released a record and several vinyl singles, and is beginning to undertake its first tours. Group Fantasma continues to record as well for a new album in 2017.
PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us your Top 5 most influential or favorite albums.
BETO MARTINEZ: This is a difficult question. In no particular order: Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland; Beastie Boys, Check Your Head; Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds of Fire; James Brown, Sex Machine; Willie Colon, Lo Mato.
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