Irish Clairvoyant Putting the ESP in España

A conversation with world-famous clairvoyant and best-selling author Zak Martin at his home in the south of Spain

Ciara Gallagher

Irish-born Zak Martin is regarded as one of the world's leading psychics. He was recently voted Britain's number one psychic and named as one of the world's top five psychics in an international poll. He is also a best-selling Harper-Collins author whose books have been translated into twenty languages.

Originally from Dublin, Martin has carved out a unique and at times controversial career for himself, not just as a psychic advisor to famous pop personalities and movie stars, but also as an accomplished writer, painter, musician, songwriter and anti-war activist.

Before he moved to Spain, he appeared regularly on British and Irish TV and radio chat shows and in newspaper social columns with his wife, Rachel Murray, a Miss Ireland finalist and former fashion model with the Nan Morgan agency (she made headlines in Ireland when she dropped out of the contest to fulfil a modelling contract in Japan, despite being the favourite to win). The couple, now separated, have a daughter, Galéna. Martin's current partner, Nieves Lopez, is a native of Granada. They've been together for five years.

I get requests to help with missing persons cases - which sometimes turn out to be murder cases, but more often turn out to be people who go missing intentionally, for reasons best known to themselves. I met Zak at his beautiful private villa in Granada, and interviewed him over ice-cold tinto de verano on a balcony that looked out onto a spectacular panoramic view of the city and the magnificent, snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains. I began by asking him why he had decided to make his home in Granada - a silly question, I realized as soon as I had asked it.

ZM - Are you kidding? Take a look around you. This is one of the best locations on the planet. Over there is the Alhambra, the Eighth Wonder of the World. Up there are the Sierra Nevada and the ski resort. And half an hour's drive south is the Costa Tropical, the Spanish Riviera, which has some of the best beaches in Spain. We get 320 days of sunshine a year here. I can't think of a better place to live.

CG - Is good weather important to you?

ZM - Yes, very. I grew up in Ireland, obviously, where it rained all the time. But it wasn't just the rain itself I didn't like, it was the clouds and the general gloominess. Some people actually enjoy weather like that, but I find it depressing. I like sunshine, and lots of it, and I get it here in the south of Spain. The temperature today is 35C, which suits me perfectly. It's a dry heat, so it's quite comfortable.

CG - Is the good weather the only reason you decided to move to Spain?

ZM - No, there were other considerations. Granada - the "Magic City", as it is described in ancient texts - is a very special place. It's steeped in mystery and mysticism, and it radiates positive psychic energy that even sceptics can feel when they come here. The Moors built the Alhambra in Granada - it was the Jewel in the Crown of their empire - because they considered it to be a magical location. I think they were right, but I'm not out to convert anyone to a belief in mystical forces. What I will say is that I've never met anyone who visited Granada and didn't want to come back. And you will, too.

CG - Do you stay here all the time, or do you ever go back to Ireland?

ZM - I haven't been back for a few years now. I keep in touch with relatives and friends via the internet, and they visit me here occasionally. I read the Irish newspapers online and I watch the Late Late Show, so I'm up to speed on current affairs. But I don't really have any reason to go back to Dublin now. Most of the people I knew there have either moved out to the sticks, or emigrated to other countries. Too many are dead. When I lived in Dublin I couldn't walk the length of Grafton Street without meeting at least six people I knew. Now I could walk up and down Grafton Street until the cows came home without seeing a familiar face. And the landscape has changed dramatically since I left. There are new bridges over the Liffey, new buildings, new streets, and new pubs claiming to have been there since the Vikings invaded...

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - So what exactly do you do here? You're known in Ireland for helping the police to solve murder and missing persons cases, and I know you've also worked for Scotland Yard and other police forces on unsolved cases. Are you still involved in this type of work?

ZM - I get requests all the time to help with missing persons cases - which sometimes turn out to be murder cases, but more often turn out to be people who go missing intentionally, for reasons best known to themselves - but I only accept cases that I have a strong initial impressions about - when I feel that there's a good chance that I will be able to solve them. And I only respond to requests that come from the police.

CG - You don't respond to requests for help from the families of people who have gone missing?

ZM - Only if they've discussed my possible involvement with the police, and the police have agreed to cooperate with me. I don't want to be stepping on police toes in the middle of an active investigation. I'm only going to be there if the police want me to be there. Also, I pick up impressions by handling objects connected with the case, and by talking to witnesses. I only have this kind of access when I'm working with the police - or should I say when they're working with me. But as I said, I only take on one or two cases of this kind every year now.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - You find this kind of work heavy-going?

ZM - Yes, it can be quite harrowing, especially if it's a child that's missing. The parents are always hopeful of a positive outcome - a hope borne out of desperation, of course - and they are encouraged to stay optimistic by well-meaning friends, but in reality - in 99% of cases - the outcome is tragic. And most of the time I know this from the outset. I get a lot of satisfaction from solving a case, especially if it includes putting criminals behind bars, but apart from that it's not work that I would describe as pleasant or enjoyable. I couldn't do it full-time. My main work these days is as a personal and creative advisor, mainly to people in the entertainment industry.

CG - You advise them on their personal lives? Or on their careers?

ZM - Both. But mainly on their career. There's always some overlap, of course. For some of my clients the overlap is total: their career is their life. There's no separation between the two.

CG - What kind of things do you advise them about?

ZM - Everything from image to public relations - basically I show them how to get where they want to be, career-wise. I help them to achieve their goals.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - So these would be up-and-coming artists trying to get recognition?

What most people don't realize is that becoming famous as an artist is only half the battle. In fact it's the easiest part. The hard part is holding on to that success. ZM - Occasionally. But most of my clients are already at the top of their profession, and they come to me for advice on how to stay there. What most people don't realize is that achieving success - whether as a singer, a musician, an actor or whatever - is only half the battle. In fact it's the easiest part. The hard part is holding on to that success, and building on it. The "slippage" rate is always at least 99%. The public is fickle. It has a short memory. Most people who become famous are only famous for a couple of months. A year or two if they're very lucky. Think of all the performers who won TV talent contests five years ago. Or even last year. Where are they now? A few manage to gain a foothold in the business, but most quickly fade back into obscurity. Just recently I came across the facebook page of a singer who had a string of hit records around the time I moved to Spain. He's now working as a parking meter attendant, of all things, and he's trying to revive his career as a pop singer. I wish him luck, but what he may not realise is that it's a lot harder for someone who has already been famous to make a comeback than it is for a newcomer to become famous. People don't read yesterday's newspaper. And record companies don't even look at artists who have "been and gone". They're looking for fresh, new talent. In order to have any chance of success, the person I'm talking about - I won't mention his name - would need to reinvent himself. He is doomed to failure if he tries to pick up from where he left off. Which, unfortunately, is what he appears to be trying to do.

CG - Are you saying that if he came to you for advice you'd be able to help him to revive his career?

ZM - If he was prepared to follow my advice to the letter, yes, I could probably devise a recovery strategy for him. But people aren't always willing to follow advice, and I have a feeling that this particular individual would be in that category. You can lead a horse to water, etc.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - So you advise aspiring artists on how to become famous, and you advise stars on how to stay at the top of their game. That's an interesting job you have there! How did that come about?

ZM - Well, when I lived in London years ago I created a venue called the London Psychic Centre in Baker Street, and it became a kind of mecca for actors, musicians, models and so on. I got to know most of the bands that were breaking at that time. And being a musician myself, I was able to relate to them, and advise them on aspects of their work that no one else could advise them on. Things like which songs to record, which offers to accept or reject, which designers to get to design their clothes - that sort of thing.

CG - You're obviously very good at what you do, but where does the psychic bit come into it? To a casual observer it might appear that what you do has more to do with understanding how the entertainment business works, and how public relations works, than with anything psychic or paranormal. Wouldn't it be more accurate for you to describe yourself as a publicist or an image consultant than a psychic advisor?

ZM - There is a psychic aspect to my work. But you're right; ninety percent of what I do is based on psychology and my knowledge of the entertainment industry and the contacts I've made in it. And in my criminal profiling work I rely mainly on conventional psychology and standard profiling techniques. My qualifications are in psychology. But I am occasionally able to make intuitive leaps to arrive at conclusions not indicated by any of the apparent facts. I call it quantum perception - which is also the title of one of my books. In other words I have a psychic edge. But it doesn't matter to me whether my clients believe I'm using ESP when I give them advice. The important thing is to get results.

CG - Getting back to music, I know that you played in a band yourself, back in Dublin. Did you ever consider pursuing a career as a musician?

ZM - I played in at least half a dozen bands! Bands tended not to stay together for very long back then, because there was little or no opportunity for them to perform in front of live audiences. Musicians became frustrated because they "weren't getting anywhere", and they often ended up blaming each other for their lack of progress. In fact the reason they weren't getting anywhere was because there was nowhere to get. For all but a very few bands, the "road to fame" turned out to be a cul-de-sac. The music industry in Ireland, such as it was, was hostile to rock and pop music. Ireland had hundreds of great bands, precisely because they spent most of their time rehearsing. But to answer your question, I do actually have a career as a musician and songwriter. It runs in parallel to my career as a psychic. It's just that the psychic aspect of my work attracts more interest and more media attention.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - What I meant was, did you ever consider focusing on music and making it your "main thing"?

I knew Philip very well. He could give the impression of being easygoing and "devil may care", but behind it he was always very focused and single-minded. The wheels in his head were always turning. ZM - Well, it actually was my main focus at one time, but you have to remember that things were very different when I was a teenager living in Dublin. As I said a minute ago, there were hardly any venues for rock bands to play at. And there was certainly no money to be made as a musician, unless you were in a showband; and I definitely wasn't going to be in a showband. No offense to showband musicians, but that just wasn't my kind of music. The situation was so bad that many bands actually paid to be allowed to perform at some venues. That's how desperate they were to play to live audiences. Bands rehearsed in garages and parish halls, and there was really nowhere for them to go beyond that. There was only one major record company, and they didn't want anything to do with rock bands or pop music. In order to have any chance at becoming successful, Irish bands had to go "across the water". As did Irish writers, painters, playrights, actors, comedians and so on.

CG - But Thin Lizzy became successful in Ireland, didn't they?

ZM - A lot of bands became successful in Ireland, if by successful you mean they built up a large local following. But yes, Lizzy became a hugely popular band, after years of playing long, gruelling gigs in smoke-filled basement dance clubs, but they only achieved commercial success when they left Ireland - and even then it was with Whiskey in the Jar, a traditional Irish ballad, because it was felt that no one would take an Irish rock band seriously. The country simply didn't have any facilities or infrastructure to cater for popular music. Ireland was a backwater in the popular music revolution. If you wanted to make a record, you had to make it at Eamonn Andrews Studios, and the master tape had to be sent to the UK to be converted to a disc. Nowdays, of course, the country is awash with recording studios. Lizzy broke the mould. They showed that it was possible for an Irish band to generate enough interest, and enough momentum, to break out of the stifling Irish music scene and achieve international success. But for a long time it remained a very tough nut to crack.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - You knew Phil Lynott. Can I ask you what you thought of him?

ZM - I knew Philip very well. We were both from Crumlin, we were both only children with no father - my father died a few months before I was born - and we were both tortured at the same school - not at the same time, but by the same sadistic teachers - so we had a lot in common. He was a nice guy; but he was quite a complex character. He was a lot smarter than most people gave him credit for being. He had a good head for business. He could give the impression of being easygoing and "devil may care", but behind it he was always very focused and single-minded. The wheels in Philip's head were always turning. He was exceptionally perceptive when it came to reading people, and he didn't suffer fools. And of course his reputation with women is well-known and, I have to say, well-deserved. The women loved him, no matter how badly he behaved; and of course behaving badly was his forte.

CG - Did you ever play any gigs with him?

ZM - No. He had already formed Thin Lizzy by the time I started gigging - he was older than me - but I did spend the occasional night jamming with him, either at his apartment or at mine. I lost contact with him for years, but then I bumped into him one day on the London Underground - I was living in Wimbledon at the time and he had bought a house in Richmond - and we connected up again. He invited me out to his "pad", which turned out to be a mansion. I used to meet him for a drink in the Bailey - that's a pub just off Grafton Street, for your non-Irish readers - whenever we were both home for Christmas. We had mutual friends in Robbie Walsh and Robbie Killeen and a few others. Philip was very keen to keep his connection with Crumlin. He used to make a point of telling interviewers about his "Crumlin heritage", and I used to wind him up by telling him that he was only a blow-in. He hated that. But in fact he was as Crumlin as you can get.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

CG - What can you tell me about Sinéad O'Connor? I read her biography, So Different, and your name is mentioned a number of times, but it's never made clear exactly what part you played in her story. It's all a bit mysterious - or maybe that was the idea? What exactly is your connection to the bald one?

ZM - There isn't much to tell, really. A friend of mine, Columb Farrelly, formed a band, and Sinéad was the lead vocalist. I provided advice on the band's image, media strategy and so on. And I wrote some of their material and helped them to get gigs. Sinéad was offered a record deal by Ensign Records - which of course she accepted - and the rest, as they say, is history. But let's just say Sinéad and I didn't get on like a house on fire. And still don't. But she has a great voice, obviously.

CG - I get the feeling that there's a lot more to the story than you're willing to tell me. I guess being "discreet" - or do I mean secretive? - goes with your territory.

ZM - Yes, you're right about that. Being discreet, I mean. I'm a walking - well, sitting - reservoir of other people's secrets.

CG - Have you ever thought of writing a book and letting some of the cats out of the bag?

ZM - That's often been suggested to me, but no. I take confidentiality very seriously. I'm like a lawyer in that respect. Everything I'm told in confidence becomes privileged information. But speaking of writing books, I have just finished writing my first novel.

CG - Really? That's great. Congratulations! What's it about?

ZM - It's about two hundred pages. Sorry, that's an old Spike Milligan line I can never resist. No, it's a crime novel about an art heist. It's set in Ireland, mainly in Dublin. It's called The Flycatcher.

CG - It sounds intriguing. I look forward to reading it when it comes out. Does it have a psychic theme?

ZM - No, not at all. It's just a down-to-earth crime thriller. Writing a detective novel has always been on my bucket list of things to do, so now I can cross it out and move on to the next item. Becoming dictator of a small South American country shouldn't be nearly as challenging...

CG - Did you find it hard to write?

ZM - I enjoyed writing it, but it was much harder than I thought it would be. It's only a medium-length book, but it took me over a year to write. That's the annoying thing about writing books. You can spend years writing a book, agonising over the plot and the wording and carrying out extensive background research, and then, when it's published, somebody comes along and reads it in an hour, sitting in the hairdresser's, or lying on a beach.

CG - I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, it does seem a bit unfair.

ZM - I think that's why James Joyce wrote Ulysses. For revenge. To turn the tables on his readers and make them do all the work for a change. There's a great quote about writing by the German writer Thomas Mann: "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

CG - That's very good. I must remember it and quote it to my editor next time she's working me to death.

I took my leave of Zak Martin and his beautiful home as the sun was sinking down behind the distant hills, painting the sky in magnificent hues of pink blending into fiery red and glorious crimson. Sunsets don't come any more spectacular than this, I thought to myself. Stretched out in front of me, just a few of miles away, was the ancient city of Granada, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It was time to go, and I hadn't got around to asking some of my best questions. I had planned to ask Martin about his involvement with the anti-war movement and his support for Palestinian independence (American pop singer Madonna and journalist Abby Martin have publicly supported his campaign), his holistic clinic, his thoughts on the Madeleine McCann case, his friendship with Princess Diana and his reasons for believing that she was assassinated. But now it was already getting dark. Twilight doesn't linger in the south of Spain as it does in Ireland. Darkness descends like a giant indigo curtain ten or fifteen minutes after the sun disappears beneath the horizon. My questions would have to wait for another day, or go forever unanswered.

Zak Martin at his villa in the south of Spain

I don't know whether Zak Martin has psychic powers, or even whether psychic powers exist. But whatever he's doing, it seems to be working. Most of his clients - who include some of the world's most famous movie stars and recording artists - have been coming to him for advice for years, in some cases for decades. Police forces recommend him to other police forces, which has to be the ultimate endorsement of a profiler's detection skills. The fact that he has no interest demonstrating his psychic abilities to visiting journalists may simply be because he doesn't feel he has anything to prove. There's no doubt that he's an exceptionally intelligent and perceptive individual. Whether he also possesses paranormal abilities almost seems irrelevant.

And yes, he was right: I do plan on making a return visit to Granada.

Ciara Gallagher

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