"The World Is A Ball" makes me think of weather. We did the rhythm tracks at Le Studio, north of Montreal, surrounded by huge snow drifts. Drummer Yogi Horton and bassist Tinker Barfield had come up from New York, (still wearing their Luther Vandross tour jackets), to do some tracks. Walking with Martha and me down a half-buried lane, they were astounded by the snow. "So this is what Canada is like!" Then on to David Lord's studio in Bath, England where we spent the spring and summer of 1985 doing overdubs and mixing. A lot of rain in a beautiful city. We returned to Toronto in the middle of summer to find it buried under a canopy of trees. It seemed almost tropical.
Perhaps the climate changes as well as the obsessively long recording process influenced the making of "The World Is A Ball", for it seems to me the most schizophrenic album we have ever made. Straightforward pop/funk tunes like "Song In My Head" rubbed shoulder to shoulder with angry diatribes like "Stuck On The Grid" and "Don't Jump The Gun", the latter marrying our love of noise, (angry wasp sounds and underwater shouting from a "sub-igloo"), to David Lord's masterful vocal arrangements.
When RCA balked at releasing "Only You" as a single, (featuring the brilliant rhythm section of David Piltch on bass and Michael Sloski on drums), Martha and I took the matter into our own hands. We shot several hours of black and white Super 8 film footage utilizing projected lyrics and primitive, real-time "special effects" like mounting the camera on a washing machine in spin cycle. With the inspired editing of our friend Bob Kennedy, we made the best video of our careers for only a few thousand dollars. RCA released the song as a single and the video received considerable critical acclaim as well as influencing the look of several subsequent television commercials.
However, by 1987 it was time for another change. It was obvious that RCA, (now BMG) and Current Records weren't giving M+M the promotional support needed to maintain an international career. Martha and I were tired of being in Toronto, frustrated with the growing indifference of our record labels and sick of the music business in general. That spring, we packed up The Web, seven bags of belongings and headed back to Bath. We set the studio up in our bedroom and spent the next two and a half years working on new material and going for really long walks.
The creative process for "Modern Lullaby" would turn out to be even more drawn out than making "The World Is A Ball". Having cut our ties with BMG and Current, alone and without any deadlines, we alternately worked hard, recording, erasing, rerecording and doing multiple versions of the same songs and then we'd drift for days through the dream-like cityscape of Bath and its surrounding countryside. Fortunately, Paul Ridout, a native Bathonian who had done much of the keyboard programming on "The World Is A Ball" was on hand, constantly encouraging us, making suggestions and contributing his many talents to the project. With the addition of violinist Stuart Gordon's evocative playing on "Rainbow Sign" and "Fighting The Monster", "Modern Lullaby" reflected the dreamy, beautiful city it was recorded in.
The making of "Modern Lullaby" went on for two more years after our return to Toronto at the end of 1989, with further contributions from bass player David Piltch and percussion tracks by my brother Tim and drummer Mike Sloski. Since our casual polling of fans over the years had indicated that Martha and the Muffins was the name they preferred, we dropped M+M and revived our original name for its release.
After more than three years of work and thousands of dollars of our own money spent, the release of "Modern Lullaby" in Canada was a total disaster. Intrepid Records, the indie label which released it in 1992, collapsed shortly thereafter, its owner fleeing to England, leaving a roster of ripped-off and angry artists. With no promotion and little interest from the media, "Modern Lullaby" disappeared into a black hole. Most MatM fans never had the chance of finding out it even existed. Since 1980, our releases had normally attracted a fair amount of media attention - reviews, interviews, radio and video airplay, etc. but to our shock, almost nothing of the sort happened this time. Much Music, Canada's only music station and until now, a big supporter of the band, wouldn't playlist the album's three videos, there were no reviews or articles in any major publications. Things had changed. We were stunned.
For Martha and me, the birth of our daughter that same year was a life-changing event, (as new parents will attest!), which helped distract us from what had happened. For the much of the 90's, we did film and television soundtrack work. As recording artists however, there seemed to be little point in making albums that no one heard.