March , 1992
Part II: Doing ‘Justice’ to Its Genre
The following Is the second installment of a two-part feature on the country-rock group Exile. Band members Paul Martin, lead vocals-guitar, and Mark Carroll, lead guitar, were interviewed for the article.
JAM This album, Justice, has a lot of totally different mood changes in regard to sound. I mean, you listen to "Even Now" and then the next song is very different musically, and the song after that is very different from the one prior.
MARK: Well, it maybe to our advantage or it may be our downfall, but we kind of like the variety of influences that prevail in our music. And we have been unwilling to conform to the point of just having one certain monotonous sound. We really like to mix it up and let our influences come through.
PAUL: Yeah, this band kind of got pigeonholed in the mid-'80s with this sameness it got going. A lot of the songs got to sounding real similar, and when I pined the band we were going to change producers and do an album for Epic, and, you know, radio had already been complaining about the sameness of it. And the whole idea was really to stretch out, anyway. Then, when J.P. left we really changed, you know, because all of a sudden both our lead vocalists (including Les Taylor) were gone, so we really had the opportunity to do a most different thing.
JAM: I mentioned that I was interviewing Exile to some friends of mine in a rock band and they thought the name sounded like a rock act, not a country group.
PAUL: Sometimes we sit around and wonder what we can do to make us more of a focal point or whatever in the country-music industry. And, you know, sometimes we feel that the name is a stigma, because it has established its name in the pop field and then went country, and it doesn't have very much of a country overtone to it whatsoever. But what's so funny is that people come to see us, and they might know us for "Kiss You All Over" or from one of the country tunes, and almost everytime in the autograph lines someone will say, "I didn't know you did all those songs" or "I didn't know you were the same band that did I Wanna Kiss You All Over."
JAM: Everyone talks about how great your live show is. You know, a lot of your reputation rests there, but do you think Justice is a fair representation of what the band is all about at this point and time?
PAUL: I don't think it captures (the live show), because of the fact that, you know, the studio process is just kind of sterile. It's a fact.
MARK: That's what live albums are for.
PAUL: I think what would really be good for this band is for us to do a live video-type thing. But, you know, when you're doing an album, you're doing an album for an album that wants something the radio will play, so there's a lot of compromise there.
Not to be bashing anybody here, but, for example, Hank (Williams) Jr. For years he's been a big draw, a major draw and very consistent. And one of the things I've noticed is that he puts out all these really country-sounding songs — he has these big hits with these songs and then you go to one of his concerts and your lucky to see him perform one of those songs. He does, you know, like "Walk This Way" or 'Tush." His show is almost like anti-country and loud, very loud.
We've done shows with him, and when it's over your back scratching your head, saying, "I don't understand." ...To me, that's an example of live to studio, but I think we can capture the sound that's on the record. That's what's good about this band playing on its own records (unlike many other artists), we can capture the sound on the record, but we also try to add energy to it as well for the audience.
This band has been real consistent over the years about copping the sounds that come from the records. But in years past, when I used to go see this band play before I was in it, the element that always was missing was the excitement factor. It's kinda like, "We've done this so many times."
JAM: You two weren't intimidated or hesitant to speak out since you were the new guys, so to speak?
MARK: The three guys who had been with the band for awhile saw the changes not as a detriment, but as an opportunity to remedy some of the things they might have thought were problems at the time, so it was an opportunity, really. And they encouraged us to speak out from the very beginning.
PAUL: We were all laughing about this the other night. I mean, I was in a heavy-metal band about 10 years ago, and Mark and Lee were playing next door at this other club on this one weekend. TIvy were over there playing this great jazz stuff, and all the guys I was playing with felt bad, because we thought they were going to kill our crowd.
JAM: Could you ever see yourself playing in a country band during the time you were in a metal group?
PAUL: Yeah, 'cause I started out in country band. My mom and dad played. I started out on drums, and they (his parents) met at a radio station and that's all they'd ever done. My dad has this studio, and I grew up playing country and gospel, but once I got up to about 12 or 13 it was like, "I wanna rebel! I wanna have my own rock band!" So that's where it really kinda happened.
At a point in my life, when I graduated from high school, I had this real heavy-metal type band, and I would do that on weekends in clubs and on Sundays I'd be playing piano for a gospel group in some church somewhere. But I have to have my fill of all kinds of music, because I get real bummed out or bored if I'm playing one style of music all the time. It's all universal to me.
JAM Do you feel you get to get all your jazz influence out in this band, Mark?
MARK: Sure, I mean, in the Ernest Tubb thing — that thing we just rehearsed ( a song titled "Walkin' The Floor Over You") — we were kinda jazzin' it a little bit. Our diverse influences are subtle in the way they affect Exile music, but they definitely make Exile music unique. It's essentially country music, but it's got subtle elements of other things.