Gui­tar vir­tu­oso in har­mony with life

Bruce Mathiske (pic­tured) re­turns to the Gold Coast to­mor­row to show off new al­bum which finds the Aus­tralian gui­tar mae­stro at the peak of his pow­ers, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE ’N’ LOUD -

Con­grat­u­la­tions on My Life. Why did you de­cide to make an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal al­bum at this point in your life?

It kind of evolved into it. It started as Some­body’s Life, with a con­cept of writ­ing about other peo­ple’s lives, then it just grew into my life us­ing in­flu­ences from my child­hood, teens and right through to now, with my world trav­els plus a cou­ple of great trib­utes to a cou­ple of gui­tar leg­ends, Chet Atkins and Char­lie Byrd. What did you dis­cover about your life – and your mu­sic – in mak­ing the al­bum?

I dis­cov­ered that my life has been very rounded and di­verse, in­ter­est­ing, chal­leng­ing but also very re­ward­ing. And in a way, this al­bum is the first chap­ter that now paves the way for the rest of my life with some ex­cit­ing new mu­si­cal chal­lenges com­ing up. My ca­reer has cul­mi­nated in this al­bum and so it’s now time to move on to some­thing else. Do you think your play­ing has reached a new level on the al­bum? Or have you be­come more adept at all the ele­ments in­volved – pro­duc­tion, com­pos­ing, ar­rang­ing . . .?

Good ques­tion, yes and yes. All those dif­fer­ent ele­ments have helped each other to make me a much bet­ter all-round mu­si­cian as well as gui­tarist. It feels like it’s only been the last few years I can re­ally hear the mu­sic sing and dance more vividly in all as­pects. How has tech­nol­ogy im­pacted the way you ap­proach record­ing? Is it im­por­tant not to be­come too in­fat­u­ated with ad­vances in the stu­dio, es­pe­cially record­ing acous­tic gui­tar?

Absolutely it is im­por­tant. I make sure I do quite a few takes with­out click tracks etc as mu­sic must be dy­namic, which is soft and loud, but rhyth­mi­cally must be able to move. We tend to play like ma­chines now but mu­sic was never meant to be me­chan­i­cal, so it’s very im­por­tant to not get caught up in tech­nol­ogy. My Life has been de­scribed as your ‘‘mag­num opus’’. Does it feel that way to you, too?

Yes, very much. In a way it seems like all the al­bums I have done pre­vi­ously have lead to this point and it is the first al­bum I have been happy with all as­pects of. You strap on a Fender Strat on the al­bum to cover the in­fa­mous shoot­ing ac­ci­dent that nearly killed you. Does this mean elec­tric gui­tar is the devil (ha ha!)?

Ha ha! I like that ques­tion. No the elec­tric gui­tar is great and I used to play it a lot but I found I de­vel­oped my own in­di­vid­ual voice bet­ter on acous­tic gui­tar. You started play­ing gui­tar when you were seven and took to it like a duck to wa­ter. In hind­sight, do you see what the ap­peal of the gui­tar was to you back then – and is it the same ap­peal as now?

Yes, I still love it as much to­day and prac­tise and play ev­ery day. What I have found, though, is the gui­tar is a ve­hi­cle for my cre­ativ­ity and I love the mu­sic that is pos­si­ble to cre­ate with the gui­tar, whether it be as a solo in­stru­ment or as I’m us­ing now, mov­ing for­ward with an orches­tra. You didn’t dis­cover Chet Atkins un­til later (when you were 21.) How big an im­pact did his play­ing have in open­ing your eyes to new pos­si­bil­i­ties? Has any­one taken play­ing to a new level and in­flu­enced other guitarists the way he has since?

He was the big­gest in­flu­ence I have ever had. It changed my whole way of play­ing. I re­alised then that I could play the styles of mu­sic I loved – like clas­si­cal, jazz and later world mu­sic – but us­ing some of Chet’s pick­ing tech­niques. All self ac­com­pa­ny­ing on one gui­tar. I’ve prac­tised day and night ever since. You draw in­spi­ra­tion from (lit­er­ally) every­where and dis­til that into your own brew. What are you most proud of about your touch/sig­na­ture as a gui­tarist?

A critic once de­scribed me as ‘‘un­in­hib­ited by di­rec­tion’’ so I think the fact I am a genre unto my­self and have my own sig­na­ture and know where I fit in makes me proud­est. I think out of the great melt­ing pot that has been my mu­si­cal growth, there has def­i­nitely ended up a dis­tinct Mathiske style and sound. It’s one thing to play well on a record­ing; it’s an­other thing to de­liver the goods live and con­nect with au­di­ences. What’s the key to con­nect­ing for you? Does in­tro­duc­ing songs/ shar­ing sto­ries with the au­di­ence help?

The key is to al­ways tell the truth and that is both mu­si­cally and on a per­sonal level. That is to say be­cause I al­ways go out there and play the mu­sic that I love to play, I then en­joy it and the au­di­ence en­joys it and I’m shar­ing my best with them. Ed­die Van Halen has said he hated ‘‘store­bought, off-the-rack’’ gui­tars, be­cause they would not do what he wanted them to do. What do you look for in a gui­tar?

A store-bought gui­tar! I play lots of them be­cause they are all dif­fer­ent and one will just jump out and feel and sound at home with you. I cur­rently play Ay­ers gui­tars and I sim­ply played their gui­tars in their show­room and gui­tar No. 6 just chose it­self. US gui­tarist Steve Miller says he has been look­ing af­ter his fin­gers and hands with ex­er­cises and physio since he was a teen to make sure he can play for­ever. Do you do any­thing in par­tic­u­lar to look af­ter yours?

Strangely no, but I am very pro­tec­tive about my ears. I have this great love of mu­sic and that’s both play­ing and lis­ten­ing and it’s very im­por­tant to me. Do you owe it all to a good span and long fin­gers? Could you have been as good a gui­tarist with stubby lit­tle fin­gers? Ha ha!

If you de­cide that it’s what you want to do, I think you are just as good with what­ever you are given. The gypsy jazz great, Django Rein­hardt, hasn’t been bet­tered to this day and he only had two ½ fin­gers.

My Life is out now. Bruce Mathiske plays The Arts Cen­tre Gold Coast to­mor­row at 8pm. Tick­ets are $43.

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