Thirteen years after the release of debut album, Your Sinclair, The Martial Arts return with not only a new single, New Performance, but also an EP, I Used To Be The Martial Arts.

During the thirteen year gap since their debut The Martial Arts (AKA Paul Kelly) have kept themselves busy with Paul serving as a much in demand musician with the likes of BMX Bandits, TeenCanteen, Carla J. Easton & The Radiophonic Tuckshop but now it’s time for his return, which he discusses with The Fountain.

TF: A single release, how exciting, what as the reception been like so far? 

So far so great – The Martial Arts were a functioning unit quite a few years ago now, so to come back with something new after a long wilderness period feels rather incredible. Other than a couple of demos I quietly slipped out as ‘singles’, this is the first new studio music I’ll be putting out in over a decade. I am very flattered to be receiving the support of the Last Night From Glasgow label after I approached them with these recordings.  The ultimate aim is to make it onto Later, just to grant Jools’ permission to completely drown my music in his boogie-woogie piano. 

TF: Not only that, you also have an EP, what can we expect from that? 

These are four songs that actually date all the way back to 2008/09, when I was intending to follow up the first TMA album Your Sinclair, which was released in 2006. Although making and releasing the first album was a great experience, there were a lot of difficulties in the following years, which gave me a bit of a confidence knock, leading these songs to be shelved while I went off and worked with other bands. By the time I finally gave myself a shake and began looking at making new recordings, I had a rather large backlog of songs, including these older ones, which I still wanted to record properly. I decided to keep them separate from a future album in order to allow it to be made up of mainly newer material when it appears.  I love the four-track EP format so it made a lot of sense to place these songs together as they all dated from the same era, to serve as a kind of re-introduction. Or more realistically, an actual introduction, as almost nobody has heard of The Martial Arts anyway! 

New Performance is a stab at a power pop summer smash, with Joe Kane handling most of the lead guitar, as well as providing the late ’70s Beach Boys synth on the chorus. I Used To Be turned out to be rather massive – I was shooting for some kind of fantasy Dion / Chris Bell / Jarvis Cocker composition, though I’ll leave others to decide if I got anywhere near achieving that. The kitchen sink was thrown at You’ve Ruined Everything – such a histrionic number required multiple layers of backing vocals, percussion and Sean Biggerstaff’s Santana-eque guitar lines.  Finally, as for How Will I Progress, I guess it’s an attempt to steal the Futuristic Power Space Pop crown from The Apples In Stereo. 

TF: And can we expect an LP soon, what are you presently working on? 

Yes, a ten-track album is about 75% recorded with a view to be out next year. I am also currently working on finishing another EP of non-album material, which I hope to release beforehand. The debut album, Your Sinclair, was produced by a top Swedish producer and partially recorded in the studio where Europe recorded The Final Countdown, so the task of having to do it all myself was initially kind of daunting, but it’s looking like I can just about handle the reins myself these days and get the job done in less exotic surroundings. It seems to sound like it’s picked up where I left off anyway. 

TF: And you are performing at the CCA as part of a LNFG gig soon, how exciting? 

Yes it is, and kind of terrifying as I haven’t played a full-band set of my own music for nine years. Luckily I will have the backing of four great musicians, namely Carla J Easton (TeenCanteen/Ette), Simon Shaw (Trembling Bells/Youth Of America) and the package deal of Gus Wemyss and Calum Mair (Sun Rose/Nevada Base). Hopefully they’ll help keep my head above the water, although they are granted permission to push me back under again in the unlikely event that it is an unmitigated disaster.

TF: What has been your favourite gig to date? 

The Martial Arts’ best gig to date was probably Debaser in Stockholm while touring the Your Sinclair album. Earlier that day, Joe, our guitarist of the time, nearly got himself killed by forcing open a locked toilet cubicle door to discover a seven-foot biker type who was extremely displeased. Perhaps after speeding away from the service station, expecting to see him chasing us on his motorbike while holding a knife in the air provided us with a suitable level of we-nearly-died adrenaline to put in a suitably rousing performance that evening. 

Photo courtesy of Brian Sweeney.