Biography

Biography

The year was 1992, the internet hadn’t fully taken off yet. The first mass produced GSM cell phone was released and compact discs out sold audiocassettes for the first time in the United States based on the number of units sold. 1992 also marks the year that a band of two guys in southern California Jeff Martin and the late John Berry recorded an album that would take the slowcore movement by storm and forever change the musical landscape of what it means to make it in an industry when the odds are stacked up against you. This is the story of what it means to take the road less traveled and to keep pushing forward no matter how hard the terrain ahead is going wear you down and their name IDAHO. “Something about being a Los Angeles band called IDAHO had a nice juxtaposition about it. The wide open spaces of the west.” says Jeff when asked about the name. But the band didn’t actually have a name until after being signed. When Caroline records said they wanted to go to press about the news of the contract they needed Jeff and his bandmate John to come up with a name. “John and I were friends with a fella named Mike Coulter who had just dissolved his band IOWA… John jokingly asked Mike if we could steel his band name. They had a chuckle followed by John thinking that IDAHO would have the same effect. While Its easy to get bogged down in the fine details the music Jeff and John had been recording found its way in the hands of Kim White who knew Brian Long, a childhood friend of Jeff’s that he met in 5th grade at Brentwood elementary. The two had lost touch over the years.

Jeff and John in the garden at Jeff’s parent’s house where Year After Year was recorded. Photo by Mark Norris ’93

1993 saw the release of the vinyl single Skyscrape/Star by label Ringers Lactate which contains the only released studio version of Star. The single would be followed by the Palms EP being put out by Caroline Records. Those releases would lead up to the release of the quintessential debut album Year After Year. A music video shot on Super 8 film by Jeff’s high school buddy Kip Koenig for the song Gods Green Earth  would be produced. The later part of 1993 found the band touring to support the album in the U.S with the Red House Painters. Then followed by a U.K. Tour with Sundial & Radial Spangle. While recording music together for Jeff and John was nothing new as they had been making music together since the early 80’s. Year after Year was essentially a record recorded by the duo taking turns on drums and other instrumental layers heard through out the record. with Jeff being the helm of lyrics and lead vocals and his signature 4 string guitar. For live performances however they turned into the following 4 piece to help bring there music into a live setting: Jeff Martin – vocals, bass, guitar, John Berry – guitar, Doug Smith- guitar and Chris Gaw, then Jeff Zimmitti on drums.

Jeff Martin, John Berry, Jeff Zimmitti and Doug Smith. Photo by Sheryl Nields ’93

In 1994 John would leave the band due to personal situations that needed to be dealt with. Jeff would now take focus of the project going forward and began recording the next album. While it should be mentioned that Jeff and John still remained friends and kept in touch. In interviews at the time it shows that Jeff was open to the idea of working with John again in the future. On October 4th 1994 Caroline records would release IDAHO’s sophomore album This Way Out. An album essentially recorded by Jeff with the help from a few musicians to track drums as well as producer Marty Brumbrack for back up vocals on Fuel and Crawling out. The album would feature a more upbeat vibe to some of songs along with a different contrast to their first album Year After Year. The song Fuel from the album was featured in the soundtrack to the 1994 film Floundering. IDAHO going forward would for all intent and purposes become the brain child and mostly solo project of Jeff Martin.

Marty Brumbach and Jeff mixing This Way Out ’94

On October 10th 1994 a UK only EP and vinyl single was released for the song Drive It. The CD contains 2 exclusive tracks A Ten To Noon and Red Snake. A vinyl single for Fuel was also released featuring a song Jeff wrote and recorded with John Berry in October of 1992. IDAHO/Jeff would go on tour to support the full length album with a full fledged band consisting off Jeff Martin – guitar and vocals, Dan Seta – guitar, John Goldman – bass and Mark Lewis on drums . The 2 tours the band would go on in 1994 would find the band playing a few shows with Low and a November tour with Lisa Germano & Pale Saints.

1995 would find the band on tour with the Cranes from February to March with the following lineup: Jeff Martin – guitar and vocals, Dan Seta – guitar, backing vocals, Mark Lewis – drums and Jim Brown on bass. The band would also play a few scattered shows throughout the remainder of the year with new bassist Terry Borden. IDAHO would release The Bayonet EP on Fingerpaint Records on both CD and vinyl. With the vinyl version containing extra tracks. This would also be the first outing that Jeff Martin would include the rest of the band in much of the songwriting. Jeff’s first co-writing since John Berry left. It wouldn’t be until February 20th 1996 that Caroline Records would finally release the 3rd full length album Three Sheets To The Wind. What differs for the process for this record is Jeff went into the studio with the same full band line-up he had used for recent tours. This would be a new process then what Jeff had grown accustomed to while working on This Way Out. This is the only full length album IDAHO would release that would be more of a group effort in that essence . By June of 1996 however IDAHO’s contract with Caroline Records would be up.

IDAHO would be on tour for most of 1996 playing with the bands Lotion, Lifter and Mineral.  Jeff and his band mates even continued to support the album even after the Caroline Records contract was dissolved. Bringing an end to a three album run with the label.

Jeff, Dan, Terry and Mark. Photo by Amy Lehman

IDAHO now with three full length albums under their belt, several singles and a couple EP’s. Jeff and Dan would persevere on towards the unknown. It also worth mentioning that the person who signed them Brian Long left Caroline Records not to long after as well. Caroline Records released a UK only single for Pomegranate Bleeding containing the other tracks Shame and a song titled The Right Escape which was recorded in 1994. With this line up an EP was mixed and being shopped around for someone to release it and 3 hours of stuff was recorded during rehearsals with this line up which Jeff hoped to take from and make a record.

1997 would find IDAHO taking a step back from playing live as Jeff and his band mates toured most of the previous year. IDAHO’s line up was also back down to just two, Jeff and Dan. The band released The Forbidden EP through Buzz Records on March 25, 1997 and was self produced by Jeff Martin himself.

“I had finished The Forbidden EP. High school pal Kip Koenig asked me to score his indie film How To Make The Cruelest Month and I whole heartedly obliged. So between coming up with themes for the film and creating ideas for the next IDAHO release, I whiled away the days up here in my then new Laurel Canyon hide-out” says Jeff.

In 1998 IDAHO now Jeff Martin and Dan Seta would release Alas through Buzz Records on October 13th. The album was engineered by Jeff Martin and Bill Sanke and mixed by the duo during the summer. Jeff would get a line up together for a show in Los Angeles, two shows in Portland then back to California to play at the Bottom Of The Hill venue in Los Angeles. The tour line up consisted of Jeff Martin – guitar and vocals, Dan Seta – guitar, Jerry DiRienzo – bass, Christy Schnabel – keyboards/vocals and Joey Waronker on drums. IDAHO would also play 2 shows in New York with a four piece lineup consisting of Jeff Martin – Guitar and vocals, Dan Seta on guitar and John Goldman on Bass and Joey Waronker on drums.

Bottom Of The Hill, SF ’98

Unfortunately for IDAHO between 1998 and 1999 Buzz records goes bankrupt and the label doesn’t end up paying what was owed to them from the Alas album.

In 1999 IDAHO would be featured on a compilation disc released in June by Badman Records called The Shanti Project. Named after an organization that helps support people with HIV and Aids with some of the albums proceeds benefiting the organization. The album would be good exposure for the band since it featured other bands IDAHO has been associated with over the years, The Red House Painters and Low. 1999 would also find IDAHO kind of disappearing in the background as much of the upcoming album to be titled Hearts of Palm would be recorded.

Jeff’s Schimmel piano which is used on many Idaho songs. Laurel Canyon ’00

2000 would be IDAHO’s come back year for many reasons not only because it would be one of the busier years for the band when it comes to playing live but it would also see the return of founding co-member John Berry. 2000 would also be Dan Seta’s last show playing with IDAHO, taking place on July 5th in San Francisco at the now legendary Bottom Of The Hill venue.

On July 11th 2000 People Like Us Should Be Stopped : Vol 1 was released on IDAHO’s own label in cooperation with John Berry’s label Retrophonic. Starting in August of 2000 a tour was commenced to support the album. With John Berry making his come back with a full tour of shows across the states and a second leg of playing shows in Switzerland, Belgium and France. 2000 was great way to start the new millennium for IDAHO.. To make it even better the release of the next album “Heart of Palms took place on October 10th 2000. Recorded at Jeff Martin’s house in Laurel Canyon and Bill Sanke’s studio in downtown L.A.

Bill Sanke at his Neotek mixing console during HOP mixing session ’00

The album was mixed from mid 1999 to early 2000 by Bill Sanke at his downtown L.A. Studio. In a interview Jeff mentions if the album ever gets pressed on vinyl there’s a track that didn’t make the cd that he would like to see included. It should also be noted that two presses would be done for this album one in a digipak card stock wallet and one in a jewel case with lyrics.

The band would remain on tour till December 2nd 2000. The line-up for the tour consisted of Jeff Martin – guitar, keyboard, vocals, John Berry – guitar the return of John Goldman – bass and Bryan Kertenian on drums. To tie it all together with info from an interview around this time here’s what Jeff said

“Retrophonic is the label and distributor owned by IDAHO co-founder, John Berry. John Berry, the original guitar player, offered to help me with some of the business, and he and his girlfriend Dale Stewart ended up really starting this label with me, and they’ve run everything, they’ve created lots of wonderful things : they found this distribution in America, created this tour. John was working on the business side of it, and it just made sense that if Dan couldn’t come on this tour, then John would fit in. So he did the best he could, he wasn’t ready for this tour, but now it works, he’s doing nice things. So John will probably help when we tour. But he doesn’t have a creative involvement in the music. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months, but I’ll probably go home and do a record by myself, an EP and put it out in the spring.”

Jeff with John Goldman in Dijon FR ’00

Sometime in 2000 SNC Empire released a split 7 inch vinyl record with the tracks Happy Times by IDAHO and Indian Summer by Cobalt. Limited to 400 hand numbered copies on black vinyl with 200 copies on red vinyl it was 3rd in a series of records being pressed by a German label featuring a band from Europe and a band from the United States. A big moment for Idaho for the year of 2000 would be a national newspaper in France Le Liberation (a paper started by Jean Paul Sartre) voted Hearts Of Palms one of the top 5 records of the year along with Radiohead and Johnny Cash. “It was kind of a big deal for Idaho in France and sort of put us on the map there” states Jeff

The next full length album Levitate would be released on October 2nd 2001. Another joint venture between John’s label Retrophonic and IDAHO’s own label. A small tour would commence across the States with some shows taking place in Canada to support the album. With 15 show dates scattered between September 20th – November 30th 2001. as Jeff recalls ” John and I with Doug Smith who played guitar for the Year After Year tour in ’93 now played drums. Dale Smith who designed We Were Young And Needed The Money played bass on the later tours in 2002.”

Jeff in front of Bill’s Ampex 24 track machine during Levitate mix ’01. Idaho are possibly one of the last bands who utilize magnetic tape.

2002 would be another big year of touring with a first leg taking place in the States in January with a few dates in April. A show in Belgium in July and more shows in the States during the month of August. Then more shows overseas in Switzerland, France, Germany, London and Italy to name several . A couple of shows were planned for Canada with a show in Chicago to follow there after but the band was denied entry into the country so all three shows were ultimately canceled. Jeff explained it likes this “John’s plan was to tell the border patrol that we were going into Canada to record, not to play shows which many bands said to avoid taxes which prompter the agent to look us up on-line only to find that we did in fact have shows… Subsequently John was banned from coming into Canada basically forever…..

The view from Doug’s drum set Hamburg, Germany – Astra Stuben ’02

This was all in support of the compilation album We Were Young and Needed The Money. An album that spans the history of IDAHO from 1992 – 2000 featuring 15 previously unreleased songs. Around this time Jeff would score music for the film titled Warm Light Of The Sun. In October of 2002 the label Misplaced Music would release a 7 inch vinyl split single with 2 songs by the band Dakota Suite and Straw Dogs from IDAHO which appeared on We Were Young and Needed The Money.

2003 would be more of a hiatus year for IDAHO with no live dates and one press article being an interview with co-founder John Berry. One thing did a occur that stood out to Jeff during this time “This is the year that I ran into the old A&R man for a woman I wrote with and played Keyboards for in ’85 named Tony Childs. Aaron Jacovitz said he could rep me out as a composer to commercials and maybe even TV/film. He said it could take a year to find me work but he was sure he could. I auditioned for numerous spots like Valvoline, City Bank and Nike. My first job was scoring a Doc Martin spot for director Doug Pray (Hype)”

2004 would see the release of German compilation of previously released songs Vieux Carre on September 27th through Kalinkaland Records. The month of December would find founding members Jeff and John on tour in Europe to play shows in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany and France. Jeff on lead vocals, guitar and piano with John handing guitar, bass and samples.

It was also during 2004 that Jeff would compose music for the television show The Days which would air on ABC. The show would unfortunately only be aired for 6 episodes and was ultimately canceled by the network. “Composing music for network TV is like insane musical boot camp, I wrote more music the 6 weeks that show aired then all the rest of my repertoire combined” says Jeff when reflecting back on that whole experience. Also in 2004 “For Granted” from the 2001 album Levitate would be featured on an episode of Joan of Arcadia which aired on CBS

2005 would see the show Inconceivable airing on NBC which Jeff also composed music for. 10 episodes were filmed but NBC pulled the plug after only airing 2 episodes. 2005 would also see a release of yet another classic IDAHO album The Lone Gunman. Recorded on and off between May of 2003 and July 2004. The album would be a culmination of stuff pulled from Jeff’s unused scoring library and slightly tweaking them. With the other songs coming about during that process. Released through IDAHO’s own label in the States on October 25th 2005. A European version was released through Talitres Records with the bonus track Some Dogs Can Fly. A special edition of the album was released in Japan through & And Records replacing the orange on the cover with yellow with some exclusive tracks not found on the other versions. In an interview from 2008 Jeff mentions if he ever represses this album there are some songs that didn’t make the final version that he would like to see included. Jeff’s friend David Schlussel wrote and directed a video for Live Today Again in the fall starring Jeff and budding actress Jocyline Donehue. For some trivia Jeff says he almost drowned while shooting this.

On April 29th 2006 Jeff would preform a solo show in Los Angeles California at the Compact Space Gallery for about 8 lucky fans.

Compact Space Gallery ’06 Jeff solo

In late May Jeff and his crew would be flying out for three shows in Spain sharing the bill with John Parish. The IDAHO lineup for the three shows in Spain consisted of Jeff Martin: guitar, piano, vocals, John Berry: guitar, Bill Sanke: bass and Bryan Kertenian on drums. These Spain shows would be John Berry’s last shows on stage with IDAHO . In a interview from 2006 when asked about the lack of touring and the surprise Spain shows Jeff  said this “I never toured as much as most bands do, but when I did tour, I didn’t feel it was taking the music to a bigger or better place. The sacrifice was too much. After the deal with Caroline ended in 1996, I paid for everything. Touring became expensive and taxing. It also got harder as I got older. I seemed to have bad luck with personnel. Adverse situations between band members. People crying. People fighting. Hysterics. It was just too much. And again, My perfectionist problem came up, for live I could never afford to bring a sound guy. We almost need the Radiohead treatment, but we can’t do that. At the Spain gigs, the soundman didn’t know what I was trying to do and he butchered the sound. I was getting electrocuted by the mic. There’s another side to IDAHO that’s almost like an arena rock thing that you can’t hear on the record. There were some grandiose moments, but afterwards my voice was toast. Next time I’ll go out, I’ll just go alone and play piano.” 2006 would also find The song “For Granted” from the 2001 album Levitate used on an episode of Jericho which aired on CBS. A few songs that would end up on You Were A Dick were also written and recorded in 2006

In 2007 Jeff continues to write songs for the as of yet LP that would be You Were A Dick. Jeff begins to rehearse with Bill Sanke on bass and Bryan Kertenian on drums for an upcoming early 2008 Europe tour

2008 would be one of the bigger years of touring for a band that by this point, IDAHO clearly had been more of a studio based project where Jeff would make and record the music. IDAHO would however accomplish an amazing feat for them though, by playing roughly 27 shows between January 30th through February 28th with shows in Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria. Jeff wanted to share this about the tour. “While driving into Paris one afternoon on tour the band was stopped by the border police at a highway check point. We’re pretty sure it was because drummer Bryan Kertenian was driving whom we always joked looked just like one of the terrorists who flew the planes in the World Trade Center. We were asked to get out while they scoured through every square inch of the van. They lowered their machine guns eventually after we won them over with our obvious charm. They asked us for a CD of our band and Bill handed them one of another band’s we had played with the night before. We agonized as we watched them proceed to slam the sliding door over and over on one of my tenor electric guitars unwittingly…when Bill would gesture for them to stop the others raised their guns not understanding what he was yelling about….. pretty comical in hindsight”

About to take the stage at Le Sirius in Lyon FR ’08

On February 11th 2008 IDAHO would release The Forbidden EP Alas Special Edition with the label Halfpipe Records for U.S. distribution with a special booklet. A CD version without the booklet would be released through Talitres Records for distribution in France. This was put together in celebration of IDAHO’s Alas album reaching it’s 10 year anniversary and combining it with The Forbidden EP which came out prior. What makes this release special is the additional bonus disc of five additional songs written and performed with John Voscamp of Peglegasus. Also included are cues from the film How To Make The Cruelest Month (Sundance Film Fest) which Jeff composed music to back in 1997.

Jeff wrote the music for Doug Pray’s Art & Copy in 2008 which won an Emmy award. “Doug became a fan of IDAHO when I wrote the music for a Doc Martin short film he directed a few years before that. That song (Grown in California) ended up on The Lone Gunman ’05.The experience of going to the Sundance with Art & Copy in early ‘09 was the catalyst for my film making infatuation. In ’09 I made a short film called the Serpent & The Shadow which was accepted into 5 film festivals the following year. In ’10 I wrote the music for the indie flick Almost Perfect where some of the song ideas for You Were A Dick came from. ” says Jeff when I asked what kept him busy during this time period.

16mm frame from The Serpent and the Shadow

In early 2009 Jeff landed the composer job for an ABC TV pilot called See Kate Run which was made by the same creator of The Days ’04 which Jeff had previously scored. Jeff and his childhood friend Christy Schnabel were to be featured in every episode as street musicians playing music that would be highly featured throughout the series. They were flown out to Boston to shoot a scene in the pilot performing a song Jeff wrote called Everything. Alas the show was dropped before the pilot ever aired.

Still photographer Lara Porzak shot a video using Kodachrome super 8 film back in 2003 for the IDAHO song Cherry Wine which appears on IDAHO’s “The Lone Gunman” which was released in 2005. She put the footage away and only just relocated it in 2011. It was shot up in Napa, California. The shots in and around the barn were taken at the vineyard where the now “cult” wine Scarecrow is produced.

On June 28th 2011 You Were A Dick would be released through IDAHO’s own label. it would be the first full length album since 2005’s The Lone Gunman. A pre-order package via IDAHO’s bandcamp page was put up for sale containing the CD version of the album, A 180 gram vinyl cut directly from the high resolution 24 bit Master. The cd was limited to 800 copies and the vinyl was limited to 300 copies respectively. People who preordered the CD/vinyl package also received a very limited now rare CD data disc containing lots of stuff including the short film “Serpent & The Shadow” and various audio files. Talitres would release the album for France distribution. &And Records would release the album for distribution in Japan with a green background instead of blue as well as containing 3 exclusive tracks Absolutely Perfect Part # 1, Part  # 2 and Part # 3.  You Were A Dick would also be the first album to contain hand drawn artwork by Jeff Martin himself as well as handwritten lyrics included with the vinyl version.

A Video would be produced for the song The Space Between and released on IDAHO’s youtube channel on April 20th 2012.

2012-2015 were quiet years for IDAHO. “I spent much of ’12  through ’15 working on an autobiographical doc called “The Two of You” which is really what lead me to reaching out to someone else to ultimately make a documentary about IDAHO. ’15 would see me really start writing and recording for the yet to be released new record. In the old days with looming deadlines I would have to finish songs much faster. So many songs I have recorded in the last few years have gone by the wayside. That said they will probably show up on the next “Unreleased” album. I made 2 short docs ’14 and ’15. One about a young Alfa Romeo mechanic who works on one of my old cars and another about a master Black and White film printer. Says Jeff

In October 2015 in Paris Jeff recorded at studio 107 to do a live set for a French radio show called LABELPOP SESSION IN PARIS this would also be the first time fans would hear new songs and fan staples like Cherry Wine and The Space Between.

On September 20th Jeff Martin of Idaho would preform in Tilburg Netherlands as part of the Incubate Festival.

The Broadcast Of Disease was released on November 10th 2015 on IDAHO’s own label and sold through the artists bandcamp page. What made this release special was the liner notes written by John Berry and that fact it contains a collection of songs that predate IDAHO being recorded between 1983-1989. To also coincide with the release Jeff did a first by offering a limited run of 24 giclée fine art prints for IDAHO’s The Broadcast Of Disease album. The picture was taken of Jeff Martin by his then girl-friend Chloe King in early 1987 at the Chelsea Hotel in NYC where they lived. Jeff recorded a number of songs at the Chelsea that year…. two of which are on the Broadcast Of Disease. The print measured 23″x 17”. Printed on thick 310g Etching Rag paper and signed and numbered by Jeff Martin.

On January 10th 2016 Jeff posted the following on IDAHO’s Facebook page :
“John Berry passed away peacefully in his sleep a few hours ago. He had a uniquely bright spirit that I know is still shining brilliantly  in some other plane. So much love headed towards you right now….. We had quite a wild ride…thanks for showing me how to make music from the core.”

People Like Us Didn’t Stop Vol.2 came out via IDAHO’s own label on June, 30th 2017 and features a collection of live tracks recorded from 1994 to 2008. The CD was a one time pressing of 250 copies. Here’s Jeff with more on this time. “I mean I really did take a year off from music in ’17. That year did see me write a pilot called Lonesome Road which my girlfriend helped me cast.
I spent all of ’18 into ’19 filming 2 different versions of this and got some interest from Hollywood but ultimately, and hopefully not too late in my life, it finally dawned on me that music is my gift and will now require all of my attention. I did write some great music for Lonesome road which will find it’s way into IDAHO songs. Dan Seta came back and rehearsed in late ’19 along with former touring bassist John Goldman but Covid put a stop to that.
I’m rehearsing alone to backing tracks for now and writing lots of songs that will be released on the next record after the new one.”
When I asked further about the pilot Jeff said “The pilot is called Lonesome Road. Its about a vintage car mechanic who has a dark past and finds a way to get out of his shitty life that is pretty shady and goes against his moral code. If we can sell it to someone I want it to feel like IDAHO’s music but we’ll see” “I think I’m really ready to immerse myself in IDAHO again after so many years of just dabbling.”

Hearts of palm / LP Reissue 180g Vinyl ’18 (“It definitely was not 180g”, says Jeff though press releases and Talitres state otherwise so lets go with Jeff.) It was Limited edition up to 682 copies and was re-mastered for vinyl from the original 20bit digital tapes in April 2018 by Bill Sanke. The original artwork was reimagined by Jonathan Schute and was released in late November of 2018. (This is now sold out)\

In 2019 ground work began on a IDAHO documentary and is already well underway. Taking on this extensive project will be Mark Davis and Jen Jansin of Tin Boat Productions.

In early 2020 Lois Vuitton used Impaler from the 2011 album You Were A Dick for a social media add which ran via there Instagram page. (possibly other platforms but is not confirmed)

On April 19th 2020 Veni Versus released a compilation of unreleased songs from several slowcore, dream pop and drone rock artists. The goal was to help raise funds for the World Health Organization aka WHO. Jeff as IDAHO would contribute the track Be My Friend, making it the first new song to be released in roughly 10 years.

So what does the future hold for IDAHO? Well times are uncertain right now but there’s a lot positivity and excitement in-store for IDAHO fans. As you can expect to see the new album on a not to far away horizon. A possible We Were Young And Needed The Money Vol. 2. Jeff has also gotten into contact with the right people at Universal Records which hold the rights to the IDAHO albums released through Caroline records. Jeff is currently exploring avenues and options for releasing those the right way but those could be awhile off yet. For sure coming up though in the IDAHO vinyl realm in the not too distant future would be another co-venture with Talitres Records for the release of Levitate. Originally released back in 2001 and as Jeff says it will be “painstakingly remastered from the original 20bit DAT”. I’m sure though once this pandemic is behind us Jeff would for sure be interested in taking IDAHO back on tour after a long hiatus of abstained touring.

 

—  Brandon Foster & Jeff Martin