My Firsts: Walter Martin | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 21st, 2024  

My Firsts: Walter Martin

Martin on the First Album He Bought, His First Celebrity Crush, and the First Times He Got Drunk and Got Fired

May 06, 2016 Walter Martin Photography by Sebstian Kim Bookmark and Share

My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.).

For this My Firsts we talk to Walter Martin. Martin is a co-writer, lyricist, and multi-instrumentalist in The Walkmen, who are currently on hiatus. In the years since The Walkmen decided to take a break Martin has released two solo albums, 2014’s We’re All Young Together and Arts + Leisure, which was released this January. Whereas We’re All Young Together was a well-received album of children’s music, Arts + Leisure takes inspiration from Martin’s world travels with The Walkmen, his earlier time working in art museums, and his “shaky grasp of college art history.” The album was originally going to be an “art-themed comedy album” but grew into something deeper. Martin performed and recorded most of Arts + Leisure himself in his Brooklyn recording studio, with a little help on the drums from The Walkmen’s Matt Barrick. Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins) mixed the album, which was released on Martin’s own Ile Flottante Music label.

Read on as Martin talks about the first album he bought, his first favorite song, his first major disappointment, his first celebrity crush, and the first times he got drunk and got fired.

First roommate?

My first semester in college was in Colorado and I was the only guy who wasn’t there exclusively to ski and smoke pot all day. My roommate Liam was definitely there for those reasons. He and his friends thought I was a “narc” and accused me of breaking their three-foot bong. I didn’t touch your stupid bong you pricks!

First album you bought?

Men at Work’s Cargo LP in third grade. I still have it. I loved them so much. And I thought the picture on the inner sleeve of them sitting on toilets was so cool. I used to play “It’s a Mistake” so loud in my room in hopes that a girl in my carpool would hear me listening to it and think I was cool.

First favorite song?

My first favorite song was “Gloria” by Laura Branigan. It spoke to my soul. To this day when I hear that song I feel like it is mine and mine alone.

First major disappointment?

I was very disappointed that I wasn’t good at real tackle football with pads. I was a very coordinated kid and really good at football but when I played for my school in sixth grade and I had to wear pads and run real playsI hated it. Hey coach! Fuck your stupid plays and lame strategies, we just want to play football!

First actor or actress you had a crush on?

I remember seeing Christie Brinkley in National Lampoon’s Vacation driving that Ferrari and being like “holy crap, that’s a really hot babe.” I was also totally in love with Daisy Duke, as I think everyone was.

First time you got drunk?

First time I got drunk I was 16 and me and a couple friends drank Cisco, which is cheap, sweet and very alcoholic. It was so fun. I punched a lamp and sliced my hand open (I still have the scar) and then I threw up all over the place. I loved it.

First instrument?

My first instrument was a Suzuki nylon string classical guitar I got when I was 12. I still have it. In an attempt to make it more rock ‘n’ roll looking I drew F holes on the body with a ballpoint pen and in the right light you can still see them.

First band you were in?

My first band was called The Resurrectionit was me and my friend Stewart when we were 12. Our first original was called “Bad Attitude” and it was about how we hated cops and we had bad attitudes about various things.

First professional recording session?

In tenth grade, my high school band The Ignobles (with Matt and Paul from Walkmen) recorded our first official release (a cassette) at American University’s recording studio. Our “manager” had access to the studio. Yes we had a manager, but I forget why. I guess because his phone number spelled D-O-G-B-U-T-T and he let us rehearse at his house. Oh yeah and so we could tell people we had a manager.

First time you performed in public?

My friend Stewart and I performed at a friend’s birthday party in fifth grade. We’d been learning guitar together and we played “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash and “Birthday” by The Beatles. We had the chords all wrong for both. In the photos you can see candy cigarettes behind our ears.

First time you got fired?

I used to work for a movie producer/screenwriter as his assistant and it paid really well but it didn’t last long. I’d type up his handwritten pages for his screenplay and things like that. I’m a terrible typist and he thought I was a total idiot. When he fired me he called and said, “I think I’m going to make a change,” and he explained in a very friendly way that he was hiring someone else to replace me. It wasn’t until about a week later that I realized I’d been fired.


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