Martin Luther: Rock On

Playing a Jimi Hendrix-type in a ‘60s-era movie (that may be a 2007 critical darling) is a big surprise for singer Martin Luther. Known around the underground for his 2004 release, Rebel Soul Music, musician Martin Luther was known for being a Black rocker, who has toured with The Roots and worked diligently to carve his name into the rock/soul scene.So how did a guitar-slanging, rebel soul singer get cast in a musical featuring music by The Beatles? Across the Universe (in limited release until October 12, 2007), is a trippy film featuring stunning special effects that chronicles a group of friends through the turbulence of war and the ‘60s. The movie, directed by Julie Taymor, features U2 front man Bono and actress Salma Hayek in cameos. Martin Luther is cast as JoJo, a role that allows him to flex his singing and acting chops as a primary cast member. In spite of the media whirlwind surrounding the film, including appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America, Martin Luther is still working on new music for his loyal fan base. Martin Luther describes to us how a spur of the moment email response lea him to acting, and how fans of his singing haven’t seen the end of him Alternatives: I didn't know you were an actor. How did you get involved in the role of JoJo for Across the Universe? Martin Luther: You know, I just spoke with Black Thought the other day. Used to ride with them boys worldwide. We conquered audiences, not just winning them over. We wrecked a few spots…code red! Blood on the floor and all that! Anyway, I hadn't seen or worked with the Legendary Roots Crew in a minute nor had I been around New York or in Philly. I was leaving New York back in mid-2005 after having just completed a UK tour and money wasn't lovely. Right before I bounced to Cali, an email came to the label's inbox [Rebel Soul Records] requesting me to audition for a role in a musical/movie. I said, f**k it! Why not?I was game and the people caught a vibe from me. They requested a few callbacks and shortly thereafter, life started to change. I got the part of JoJo in a projected headed by Julie Taymor, based on Beatles’ music. I have to mention her name for her fantastic contributions to the arts.AHHA: As a performer, of course you have to act a little on stage and in concerts. But how was it preparing for a movie role?Martin Luther: I had quiet desires about acting. Not really wanting it to happen until the music was much more affirmed. That was me thinking like an artist and not a businessman with regards to the new millennium media savvy. I say that because possessing talent or not does not determine the probability of a product generating profit. And profit is revenue minus expenses. The business doesn't really differentiate discerningly. Either you are making it happen or trying to weather it in boxing, singing, modeling, rapping or telling the news. My previous pursuits were nationwide commercials and some indie projects. Then Dave Chapelle and Michel Gondry's Block Party movie happened and just reminded me of the power of the medium of film, which I studied in college – at Morehouse in Atlanta. So I quickly resolved my issues about being in front of the camera and ended up shooting a major motion picture within a year’s time. AHHA: Tell me about the process of making films.Martin Luther: It was a fantastic trip because of Julie's fearless style. She's bugged out so her works are very rich with expressiveness and meaning. It was like disappearing from my music life for six months. Eventually, I knew I would have to return but not before doing an episode for a TV show called Love Monkey and then being asked to audition for some major network TV shows as well. AHHA: It sounds like the roles keep coming in! How much more acting are you looking to do?Martin Luther: Well, if the acting keeps knocking, I'll keep answering the best I can. I am going to work on the skill and craft and not just rely on instinct as I'm learning about the true gift of channeling and performing for camera. I have much to learn but I'm a great student.AHHA: What can the fans of your music expect from you in the near future?Martin Luther: I’m back in the laboratory now. [Composer and producer] Kev Choice just sent over some of the latest tracks from his lab and some mixes of our collaborations. He's a movement by his self! He is a wickedly fluid music and beats producer/emcee and has been dueling with crowds from Oakland to Toronto and is now working up some monster songs with me for my new album, Serial Thriller. AHHA: When is Serial Thriller coming out?Martin Luther: When? As soon as it's right and ripe with that raw shit. I'm a lil’ bit Hip-Hop. I'm a lil’ bit rock n’roll!