MARTIN Stephenson thought his destiny lay with a table tennis racket rather than a guitar when he was growing up.

The songwriter and frontman of the Daintees played the sport up to county level in the north east under the guidance of his inspirational coach, Jim Sixsmith.

He said: “I wasn’t any good at football – I was too small – so my life was table tennis.

“I wanted to play all the time and when I was 11, I suddenly had a guru. It wasn’t a man up in the Himalayas. He was my table tennis coach.

“He listened to The Doors and a lot of psychedelic music from the early 60s. He was like a musical encyclopaedia.

“He also showed us how to share and connect. It was like Dead Poets Society. He taught us how to laugh at ourselves.”

So when Martin ventured into music during the self-obsessed 1980s a lot of his philosophy came from those lessons.

“I resisted material things and greed,” he told Weekend.

“During the 80s that’s what it was all about so I felt like an alien.

“I was a nightmare for my manager. He was trying to get the band as big as he could and I was saying no to so many things. He thought I was mad, but looking back I was just trying to protect the spirit of my band."

Martin has been inspired by everything from folk to rockabilly but it was the punk rock phenomenon of the late 1970s that really motivated him.

Everything changed when he heard the Sex Pistols, aged just 15.

“Up until that point I didn’t think I could touch a guitar,” added Martin.

“I thought it was a magical thing for magical people. I thought Jimi Hendrix lived on another planet.

“But the punk movement was like a bush fire. It was the energy of it.

“Before that, prog rockers had hold of everything – they were the big stars.

“For me, it was like being reborn. I stopped playing table tennis. I was playing at county level, but that was it. It was an amazing time.”

Since then Martin has always kept that punk rock spirit by shunning the mainstream in favour of projects close to his heart.

That is probably the main reason why the 52- year-old has passed the test of time with 40 albums released since the Daintees’ 1986 debut offering, Boat to Bolivia.

Martin, who now lives near Inverness, is well known for the diverse influences in his music One of the most memorable was in 2003 when he travelled to North Carolina to explore the roots of bluegrass mountain music, inspired by the life of 1930s musician, Charlie Poole.

He said: “The music industry is like a stock market. It feeds, sells and regurgitates but to me it’s all about connecting with people.”

Martin is promoting his new album California Star and will be playing at the Pyramid centre on Friday, October 18, with guitarist Jim Hornsby.

He added: “We’ve been doing a lot of stuff together. I’ve known him for 20 years so there’s a nice vibe.”

■ Tickets for Martin Stephenson’s concert are £10 from or by calling 442345 or £12 on the door.