INTERVIEW: chatting with guitar virtuoso Bruce Mathiske
He's a world-renowned guitar virtuoso and composer, and for many the name Bruce Mathiske has no need for introduction - 18 studio albums, countless live performances, and a reputation for blistering fretwork, this Aussie icon has blended his jazz and classical influences with sheer natural talent and passion that has ultimately seen him in demand all over the world.
2018 has been a busy one for many, but perhaps especially so for Mathiske - after a few years taking time out from the road, he can be found currently taking his acclaimed new album 'Six String Anthoogy' across the country. And while Mathiske is undoubtedly back and better than ever, it has certainly been a challenging and earnest journey that has led to this particular run of shows - but a bullet couldn't stop this dynamic musician (quite literally), and in the midst of his current run of live shows, The Soundcheck grabbed a few moments to chat influences, the industry and the evolution of this unparalleled artist. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Bruce! Thanks so much for your time! Your firing fretwork is something I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy over the years, and you’re the gift that keeps on giving with your brand new release ‘Six String Anthology’ out recently. How did this concept come to life?
BRUCE MATHISKE: While taking a break from touring I really focused on composing on a larger scale. During that time I met legendary conductor/educator Richard Gill who suggested after hearing one on my new solo guitar compositions that I write a piece for each of the 6 guitar strings. After a while I liked the idea and the album kind of wrote itself.
TIANA: Your back catalogue is eye-watering, with eighteen studio albums and sold out concerts all over the place. After so much time, what do you find yourself enjoying more these days, the composition,recording or live performance aspects? Or are you a general all-rounder when it comes to the process enjoyment factor?
BRUCE: I do love all of it. I love to create and I’ve learnt that it is totally separate from the touring side. Once the creation is complete (not that it’s ever complete) I love to then share it with audiences.
TIANA: It’s always a question I have in the back of my mind when speaking with guitarists, and particularly one of your calibre…the first time you picked up the guitar, was it a moment that just felt completely and utterly right?
BRUCE: The guitar has always felt great but it really is simply all the hours spent practicing. I don’t like to call it work because I like the grind of it. I like spending time on the basics and making sure I get good enough that all people hear is the music, not the technique.
'SANTIAGO' (BRUCE MATHISKE)
TIANA: What sort of music were you listening to as a kid? I know you had quite a jazz interest and, of course, classical studies…but aside from your major influences, what bands/artists were you really digging when you were younger?
BRUCE: Because I lived on a farm (before the internet) I wasn’t exposed to great players. I played with mates in rock bands covering The Rolling Stones, Status Quo, Dragon, Daddy Cool. Later when I moved to bigger places, I found a great classical teacher, Then a great Jazz teacher, I didn’t mind what music, I just loved (and still do) to play and learn.
TIANA: When it came to choosing the pathway as a solo acoustic guitarist, I believe quite a brutal event helped shape your musical journey, copping a bullet to the head when you were 18 years old. How different do you think your life would’ve been without that experience? Not necessarily something you would’ve hoped would happen, but you seem to have spun it in an extremely positive direction…
BRUCE: I think that settled me down a bit. I was a little bit carefree and reckless and maybe it took the gunshot to make me see things differently. I used the guitar and doing scales for rehab as my left arm was paralysed so I think ultimately that gave me great technique also.
TIANA: Over the years, aside from the stunning original compositions, you’ve also covered some songs with the undeniable Mathiske twist – are there any other cover versions hiding up your sleeve, or any songs you’d love to cover in the future?
BRUCE: That’s interesting because I have focused on composing so much I’ve forgotten how much I like arranging the works of others. It’s a great challenge to make it complete on solo guitar. You’ve reminded me to get on it.
TIANA: For someone who has been so dominantly involved in the music industry for so long, what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry, particularly in Australia?
BRUCE: I feel there’s too much focus on the industry and opportunities and not enough time spent on working on the craft of music itself. Everyone wants to be famous or follow the latest American trend but I hope we all remember we do it because we love it and hopefully find our own unique voice.
TIANA: In terms of your guitar collection, how many have you actually accumulated?
BRUCE: I’m not actually a guitar enthusiast. They collect guitars. The guitar I have a present is the only guitar that I’ve ever owned that I felt was irreplaceable. It’s the FRANTO (A nylon string acoustic made by Frank and Strato).
TIANA: What music do you find yourself listening to these days when you have a rare moment of downtime?
BRUCE: Everyone expects something arty and obscure but my favourite album is The Wall by Pink Floyd and currently in my car CD plyer is Muse and Mumford & Sons.
TIANA: And finally, while 2018 is already shaping up as a huge year for you, what’s next for Bruce Mathiske?
BRUCE: I really want to celebrate my latest compositions and I’m trying hard not to embark on the next project which is my normal pattern. I really want to enjoy just playing my Guitar.
'SIX STRING ANTHOLOGY' IS OUT NOW VIA ALL THE USUAL MUSIC SUSPECTS - PLUS BRUCE IS CURRENTLY ON THE ROAD BRINGING HIS FRETWORK ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.
TICKET + MORE INFO BELOW!
BRUCE MATHISKE 'SIX STRING ANTHOLOGY' TOUR DATES
TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE
FRI 25 MAY - MILTON THEATRE - MILTON
SAT 26 MAY - THE MUSIC LOUNGE @ TOWN HALL - WOLLONGONG
SAT 16 JUNE - ZENITH THEATRE - CHATSWOOD
THU 21 JUNE - LAYCOCK ST THEATRE - GOSFORD
SUN 23 JUNE - CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL - NEWCASTLE
FRI 29 JUNE - CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC - YOUNG
FOR MORE BRUCE MATHISKE INFO, CHECK OUT:
BY TIANA SPETER