Merry X-mas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, Froehliche Weinachten!
Today Martel has reached St. John’s, Newfoundland. He has posted his first letter to his granddaughter Kit. Please visit the new blog! Below is the foreword to the illustrated novella which will accompany the Deadcoast album ‘Martel.’ It outlines the premise and gives the reader a general idea of how to navigate the often complicated world of Martel. I hope wherever you are in the world, you have found some warmth. We will be posting his letters over the course of the next year, hope to see you all in 2014.
here is the new blog http://skullsandbonesnovel.wordpress.com
At the end of the world, on a final rocky point, on the western tip of the La Costa da Morte lives the wayward sailor Martel. He has given up the sea. He has given up fighting the wind. He has found land’s end…
At least, this was land’s end when people believed the world was flat. Many years ago latin monks named the place Finis Terrae “The end of the earth.” Over the centuries a small fishing village grew here called Finisterre. Perhaps this is why Martel chose this landing. God knows, in his strange chaotic mind, the world may still be flat. He lives a hermetic life now in a rented flat by the lighthouse. He is known to the locals only as “El Ingles”, and the villagers leave him alone. It seems he wants it that way.
But now we know the world has no end. It’s all just roundness now, contemplates Ana, who lives in the village. She is in her final year of highschool. Her family has been living in Finisterre for ten generations, she thinks. She counted once. Her father was a fisherman, and his father was one too, and the one before that, but before that, no one knows. That silliness of the past was a fisherman’s tale, started by latin monks many, many years ago when this was the farthest west anyone could venture. We know better now. But, “This might as well be the end. La Costa da Morte, this feels like a deadcoast,” she mutters into the wind, as she walks home one day. There is no work here, only history, she thinks. The village is slowly ebbing away, everyone young must leave.
Ana and Martel form a silent bond as they both pass each other nightly on evening walks along the break-wall. Ana views Martel, or ‘El Ingles’, as a kindred spirit. They both long for a home which they have left, or will be leaving. One day Martel goes missing and Ana investigates his home. There she finds a box of letters inscribed “Skulls & Bones”, post dated from 1957-63 from Martel to a girl named Kit. As Ana discovers, Martel wrote these letters during his time at sea in the Merchant Navy. She’s fascinated by the letters and the scrappy pen & ink illustrations of his stories that are all there in the box. She also uncovers his Captain’s log. Through reading the letters, Ana discovers that Martel wrote these letters to his estranged granddaughter Kit, who lived with her father on Canada’s pacific coast. Ana unearths Martel’s intent, which was to give Kit guidance and care that he was unable to give her during his life at sea.
Martel’s letters reflect his state of mind, where, much like the ocean, sees time, people, events and places surface and submerge at random. He is a man who feels shackled by history, which dates back to the first Martel fleeing France for the New World in 1757. They have been sailors ever since. He believes the family has been fated to repeat the past. Ana finds herself swirling in a vast and mysterious world, lost at sea with Martel. She identifies deeply with him. Martel never had the courage to send the posted letters to his granddaughter Kit. Ana reckons Kit must be in her mid 50′s now living somewhere on the Pacific side of Canada. She makes it her mission to deliver these letters to Kit. She will find Kit somehow, with hopes that perhaps Martel will reappear.
Martel and Ana unknowingly breathe purpose into the sails of each other’s lives. They illuminate that life is always only a series of beginnings, never endings. Our collective story is eternal, and a journey of struggle that is a beautiful victory in itself.
A Navigation for the Reader
All letters addressed to Kit from Martel are numbered in black and white on the homepage. There are seven letters in total:
1. Skulls & Bones
2. The Tall Shadow from Saint-Malo & Louis Davore-Martel
3. A Stratovarious & Le Chi-hua-hua de Gucci
4. A Fool’s Tattoo & The Reeperbahn
5. Mastifay & La Désirade
6. A Singapore Sling & Le Chi-hua-hua de Gucci
7. A Dying Californian & The Pacific Gyre
The story of Ana uncovering the letters are marked in red, and are numbered in roman numerals preceeding the letter. All letters correspond to Martel’s travels which can be viewed here http://www.whoismartel.com
Within the map are the corresponding songs from The Deadcoast album ‘Martel’, numbered 1-18, which follows Martel’s voyage through the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The map is also littered with hidden materials; the flotsam of reckless travel from the beloved Martel. Please explore. If you feel lost, you are in the right place.
A Journal Log of Martel’s life at sea from 1957-63 will be released over the course of the album cycle on twitter. For your daily dose of sailor wisdom and notifications of posted letters follow the man here http://www.twitter.com/whoismartel
All letters will be collated into the final book, “Skulls & Bones: Letters at Land’s End from a Sailor to his long-lost Granddaughter”. Single bound chapters are available at all Deadcoast shows. For information about live shows please visit http://www.jaymalinowski.com
A Message from Jay…
I started writing these letters and formulating the stories while I was walking across Spain. I had just finished recording the double album ‘Martel’. After walking over 800km I found myself on the western coast, which is strangely enough called La Costa de Morte or The Deadcoast. I was watching a local football match in Coruña and saw the people and their lives as very similar to a life my grandfather described in the Maritimes.
The premise of these letters, and the album ‘Martel’, have been based on my family history on my mother’s side, specifically the maps and family records left behind by my Grandfather, John Huntington. He was a man who truly loved Cape Breton, and told us stories of his life there in Mira Gut whenever he got the chance. I believe growing up on an ocean has a deep affect on a person. I grew up on the Pacific, and so from there I started exploring my fascination with the ocean, and put my music, letters, and drawings into the perspective of our shared love for the Atlantic and Pacific.
Martel was also influenced by my friend’s father, Ian Cameron, who now lives in Spain and spent his twenties in the Merchant Navy. The journal entries and twitter account come directly from his entries during that time. It’s a fascinating look into a world which has vanished. Ian was the first person to introduce me to reggae as a kid, after he spent time working in Kingston and brought back Burning Spear and Toots records. I listened to his stories of being a sailor and found a deep similarity with being a touring musician. He graces the back cover of the Martel album.
The ocean is freedom, solitude, and hope for change, but it is also a treacherous place of destruction. Martel is a collection of many stories, he is an Everyman character, and has sailed his entire life looking to uncover an answer to his restless spirit. However, in the end, he has found only the skills in which to navigate his comedy of errors. With my grandfather’s notes, Ian’s journal entries, and my own experiences, I have tried to convey this grand narrative through song, story, and drawings, to the best of my ability.
I hope that uncovering Martel’s struggles and triumphs in the maps, songs, and stories can help shine a light to somewhere the reader hasn’t yet been, and build a bridge from the past to the present. Martel is like everyone else in this world; we are all trying to get by; we all wish to be truly understood and free, and we all yearn for a port to call home. Martel came from a personal place, but I believe his spirit is universal.