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Non-Prog Interviews

Joe Matera

Interviewed by Bruce Stringer
Interview with Joe Matera from 2012
MSJ:

Congratulations on your first full-length CD release, Joe. Can you tell us a little about the process of how it came together, working with musicians who were overseas?

The process was quite a lengthy one with this album. Once I had recorded demos of all the material slated for the album, I sent them off to my drummer James Strickler over in the USA along with some of my ideas of what I wanted drum wise. I have to say James, who not only played drums on this album, but co-produced it with me and plays bass on several tracks as well, at all times went – and goes - beyond the call of duty. He is always on the same page as I am, and is a true professional, a skilled musician and a brilliant musical partner-in-crime. He also mixed the album, as well. I can put forth my ideas to Jimmy and he will instinctively know exactly what I am after and wanting to achieve. He hears the track once and listens to my ideas and comes up with a complete drum part. Then he will record drum guide tracks and then send those back to me. Then I will send the tracks to my bassist, who on this record for three tracks was my very good friend Tony Dolan (and on one track my other good friend Rich Davenport) over in the UK who will lay down a bass line. The process with Tony is similar: I will send him just a few ideas of what I am after and leave it with him. And he comes up with the right part I’m seeking, always. Once I have those done and dusted, I will start recording my final lead guitars and all my guitar overdubs. Once that’s completed, the tracks with guide drums will be sent back to James and he’ll re-record the drums proper.
MSJ: When did you start the album?
I started writing material for this new album late last year after I released my Slave To The Fingers EP. The first song I wrote and recorded for the new album was the track “Slide.” Then from there, I went through a prolific, inspired period of writing another five songs in a spate of a few weeks, though the melody ideas for the lead guitars took a lot more time, where it was anywhere up to a few months or more. The reason is that, I am really focused on making sure the melodies are interesting, captivating and paint a picture, an image and not boring, long winded and sound like one long guitar solo. It’s all about the bigger picture, the song, the arrangement and the emotion I’m trying to express.
MSJ: Did you work to a plan regarding which songs would end up on the CD and which would be dropped?
No, I usually write and record material for the sole purpose of eventually releasing them at some point. For this album I wrote all the material from scratch except for the sole non-instrumental “Fallen Angel” which I originally wrote and demoed back in early 2001 and “Built For Speed” which was recorded during the sessions for Slave To The Fingers.
MSJ: At what point did you involve the guests?
The guest soloists were brought in at various points during the recording sessions, and timing wise, it was subject to their hectic work schedules. For example, for the track “No Way!,” Rick Brewster recorded his solo for the track before I made some further changes to the track and before it was finished. For “Endless Summer,” Fred Mascherino recorded his solo over a rough of the finished song while for “Outland,” Mick  McConnell recorded his solo while the track was still midway through being finished. He only had the completed rhythm guitars, parts of the lead guitars with just guide bass and drums. Each of the guests added their unique contribution which fitted perfectly with the music at hand and with what I envisaged. My only brief to them was it had to have their own stamp on it, was to complement my melodies and guitars and for them to take the spotlight and shine through in their moment.
MSJ: When you are beginning the writing process what comes first – melody or chord pattern?
It can be either, as it depends on the moment and inspiration. This can be from noodling on the guitar and coming up with a riff or a chord progression which will spark further ideas such as melodies or it can be from a melody that pops into my head and from that, I will write the rest of the song. Usually the chord progressions are written completely first and arranged so I have a strong foundation to build the melodies upon and this can be a forever refining process. I will do it until I get it right and to how I want it and hear it in my head.
MSJ: Can you tell us about the gear that you used?
I used a couple of my favourite guitars, mainly an arctic white Fender Stratocaster and a black Haywire Joe Matera Signature model, both of which are fitted with DiMarzio pickups. They were plugged into a Laney LV200 65 watt combo amp which was mic’ed up with either a Rode M3 or a Shure SM-57 depending on the track. I used a Boss OS-2 and a Boss DD-3 and that was basically it for my main tone for this album.
MSJ: I understand that you’re about to embark on a European tour to support the release. As you are predominantly a solo artist, what will you do about backing musicians?
Yes I am. The tour kicks off on September in 22nd in Linz, Austria and then I head to the UK where I will be performing two shows on September 27th and 29th. I have a wonderful backing band lined up for the UK shows which is comprised of Englishman Rich Davenport (See Red) on rhythm guitar for all my original instrumental material where I will be playing lead (and doing lead vocals on “Fallen Angel”). He will switch to lead guitar and lead vocals when we perform his original material during the set and I will switch to rhythm guitar then.  The rest of the band is made up of David Nuttall (Toy Dolls) on drums and Geoff Walker on bass.
MSJ: What are you listening to at the moment and has that affected your CD’s direction at all?
At the moment I am listening to a number of albums, HIM (Finnish rock band) one of my favourite bands whose sense of melody mixed with hard rock guitars against a dark lyrical backdrop, have always impressed me and continue to do so. Also the new albums by Australian legends The Angels (Take It to the Streets) and fellow Australian instrumental artist Kim Humphreys’ newie; Guitar Penitentiary. Both of these albums are some of the best work of their career by the respective artists. I don’t listen to music to influence my recordings. I listen for enjoyment and appreciation of music and the artists themselves. Most of my influences will seep out naturally and I’m sure whatever one listens to, it influences them in some way. It has too, just as life influences one’s day to day existence.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
The last CD I bought was Gary Moore's Corridors Of Power, the re-mastered and re-issued version. I particularly love Gary's "hard rock" albums from the 1980s rather than his "blues" outings of the 1990s. He was an amazing guitarist who had such a distinct style and manner of playing. He is sorely missed.
MSJ: Who are your favourite bands and which players have inspired you the most?
I have numerous bands and players I consider favourites. They run the gamut from Cheap Trick to Def Leppard to Blondie to The Angels and ABBA. Yes, I know you might be thinking ABBA? Well I believe much of ABBA’s classic material is a textbook on writing and arranging pop songs. “SOS” is probably one of the best pop songs ever written and recorded.  When it comes to players who have influenced me, in the early years it was Ace Frehley, Angus Young, Hank Marvin, Tom Scholz, Rick Nielsen, then over time players such as Rick Brewster, Dave Gilmour, Gary Moore, Gary Richrath and Jimmy Page inspired me.

Guitar playing to me is all about melody: as long as a player has a sense of melody and song then that’s my deal. If you listen to guys like Rick Brewster or Tom Scholz, those guys wrote solos that were like mini-songs themselves. Their solos are hummable, catchy and memorable – something I aspire to with my own music.

MSJ: What's your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
The closest thing to a Spinal Tap moment would be... back in 1990s I was in a band called “On The Prowl,” and we used to do regular gigs at a nudist camp! And before you ask, no, us band members always kept our clothes on, but it was an interesting mix of people to play to, especially to an audience comprised of completely nude people dancing away. To say it was a hilarious eye opening and totally non-sexual experience would be an understatement.  Definitely not what most people would be expecting, as a friend of mine found out when he insisted on tagging along as a “roadie” to one of the gigs one time.

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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