Photo credit: Mandy Edgar.
"Most ten year olds had Take That on their walls, I had murder scene pictures. It seems strange to me now that my parents didn’t question that. . . "
M.J. Martin (born Michelle Martin) was born in November 1981 – the only child of Gerard and Elizabeth Martin. Her early years were spent growing up in the Glasgow suburb of Springburn – an area reliant on the nearby railway for local employment. Her father Gerard was a train driver and her grandfather was an engineer with the railway. She attended a Roman Catholic Primary School where she was "made to join a choir" which - despite her resentment of it at the time - would offer the vocal training she would later use to pursue a career in music.
She read the newspaper daily from the age of around four or five – her parents often favoured the Scottish Sun and the Daily Star.
Early Life and Growing Up in Glasgow:
M.J.'s grandfather had a spare room with a bookshelf full to the brim and when M.J. was bored she would read the backs of all the books and by the time she was six or seven could recite the blurb on the back of every book by memory.
She recalls being asked to do a book review for a school project, and while others in the class had chosen children’s books, she had chosen "Flowers in the Attic". The teacher had presumed she hadn't bothered to do the work and had picked up her parent’s book at the last minute. The teacher - to prove her assumption - had then made the mistake of asking M.J. to outline the plot in front of the class. M.J. was never asked to outline any plot about any book again at Primary School.
As a child she was also fond of collecting true crime magazines. “Most ten year olds had Take That on their walls, I had murder scene pictures. It seems strange to me now that my parents didn’t question that.”
“My parents never restricted my media content,” explains M.J., “When I was five I was watching 18 rated horror movies without supervision. It was explained to me everything was fake and it wasn’t anything to be scared about.”
By her early teenage years, the area had suffered from massive social decline. The once unassuming suburb became rife with gangs, drug abuse and crime. Her father had suffered a nervous breakdown and had left his job.
Her adored grandparents had both died within a couple of years of each other and both her parents had descended into chronic alcohol dependence. Her home life was erratic and often violent.
Police eventually informed Social Services and M.J. was put on a Social Work Supervision Order. She had a good rapport with her Social Workers however and claims they even bought her cigarettes and gave her books on coming out and lesbian sex.
“My parents never restricted my media content. When I was five I was watching 18 rated horror movies without supervision. It was explained to me everything was fake and it wasn’t anything to be scared about.”
Teenage Years: Rock Music and Early Influences
When she was twelve years old, M.J. had developed a passion for Britpop and asked her father for an electric guitar for Christmas. She recalls, "He was in prison for domestic assault but still came through on his promise". She still has her first guitar.
Guitar came naturally to M.J and she had learned to play quickly without tuition. Within a few months her band 'Eclectic' were already finalists in a national competition and her song writing abilities were becoming recognised by others – so much so M.J. claims she was left to jam in the corridor of the music block at school during lessons and passed music without ever sitting an assessment. She also became heavily involved with Scotland’s first multi-cultural radio project, Radio Kranti - pioneered by Subash Singh Pall.
Later, M.J. would go on to front Glasgow rock band Eric and the Bunny Boilers. The band had massive success, including playing at T in the Park, supporting Spandau Ballet, having a number one in the BT Broadband New Music Chart, being featured on BBC Radio One and appearing in the soundtrack for the Placebo: Androgyny DVD among other things.
Despite the band's growing success, M.J. became uncomfortable with the pressures of being well known. At the peak of the bands' success they were suffering a public backlash from others in the industry - in particular from male fronted bands. "We were ill prepared for the pressures of fame," says M.J.
When M.J’s father died suddenly at the height of the band’s popularity, she felt unable to return to the industry, leaving behind the offer to support major rock bands, including Blondie.
“I was arranging my dad's funeral over the phone on the way to play the In the City festival on the tour bus, and all over the internet people were ripping apart the way we looked and were making nasty things up about us – people I had never even met. I knew then I wasn’t happy to continue with the music side of things.”
"We were ill prepared for the pressures of fame..."
Around the same time M.J. penned the fatalistic poem Dear Daughter Don’t as homage to her father, and a means of dealing with her grief. It was she says, “To write something to myself from my dad, things I would have wanted him to say, advice I wished he’d have given me but didn’t.” Dear Daughter Don't was her first venture into poetric literature and although her poetry was popular with her peers is one of only a handful of offerings to date.
M.J. has openly expressed her distaste at traditional poetry and the politics behind what she describes as, “A rigid approach to creative content by the entire industry.”
Meanwhile, in her personal life M.J.’s relationship with her long-term girlfriend came to an end. Eric and the Bunny Boilers also unofficially disbanded.
“As a writer it’s my job to make people feel things. I had to tap into a lot of personal unpleasantness to do that. By the end of the book, I was on Prozac and in therapy.”
M.J. had thrown herself into yet another project, the idea - initially a book (which M.J. says she then destroyed because it was “absolutely awful”) was later revamped and re-written into a controversial pilot episode for a new series drama for television, Ninety Eight Percent - currently in production by Bad Pony Media.