34. The Martins

34. The Martins

Bassist Martin Méndez and drummer Martin Axenrot watching Jon Lord (not in the photo) for cues during “Child in Time”

Bassist Martin Méndez and drummer Martin Axenrot playing – their eyes fixed on Jon Lord (not in the photo). This is still during “Child in Time”.

Martin and Martin form the rhythm section in Swedish prog-metal band Opeth. Opeth is held in high regard among their fans all over the world. But the rhythm section of a band starting out in the death metal genre back in 1990 appearing on an orchestral concert backing Deep Purple legend Jon Lord might not seem obvious to many of their fans. So how did it all come about?

“Exactly how they felt. They were so impressed by playing with Jon… and he seemed to like what they did too…” was Christer Lorichs’ comment to this photo when I posted it on Flickr shortly after the concert.

Christer is a central piece in this puzzle. A fan of Jon Lord for decades, he got to know the artist after meeting him for the first time while Jon was playing in one of the early versions of Whitesnake in 1979. His daughter Nathalie has been brought up listening to the music of Jon Lord and Deep Purple. And Nathalie Lorichs is the partner of Opeth drummer Martin Axenrot.

When Knut Morten Johansen set out to put this concert together, one of his main concerns was getting a really good backing band together. Of course, as big fans of Jon Lord, Knut and Christer’s paths had crossed long before this – as mentioned previously, Nathalie Lorichs sang backing vocals on Jon’s 2007 concert in the Nidaros Cathedral, for instance.

So, as I’ve heard this, Knut one evening sent an SMS to Christer – could there be a chance of getting Martin Axenrot to join as the drummer for this concert? Martin’s first reaction was very humble – why on Earth would Jon Lord want him as the drummer? Christer convinced him it was a good idea. Martin’s big idol as a drummer is Ian Paice – playing with Jon surely must have been a dream come true.
Nathalie was later suggested to Jon by Knut as a possible main female vocalist. Jon, remembering her voice from the backing vocals from 2007, quickly agreed to the suggestion.

Then, after Opeth’s concert in the Royal Albert Hall in London on April 5, 2010, Magnus Johansen – Knut’s son – on a whim asked Martin Méndez backstage after the gig if he would like to play bass on Jon’s Trondheim concert. Quite taken aback, Martin Méndez nonetheless said “Yes, of course!”, and the band lineup was complete.

At the party after the concert in Trondheim, Jon walked up to Martin and Martin and said: “Can I play with you guys again?” He also said to Nathalie: “Your boyfriend is one Hell of a drummer. Usually I have to wave my whole arm, to him I only have to show my little finger.”

A colour version of this photo has previously been published.

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