Yesterday he performed at the Acoustic Franciacorta Festival: on stage with him Adrian Fix (percussionist), his son, and the “Prince of Fingerstyle guitar” Andrea Valeri!
Let’s start from the beginning. How was your passion for music born? Do you remember the first time you held your guitar in hands?
Yes, there was always a guitar in our house – my father played a little – so when I was 8 or 9 years old, I would pick it up and try to play simple tunes, just on one string. When I turned 11, I became very interested in pop music. The music that I was hearing on the radio (in the early 1970s) was very good guitar music, with lots of interesting riffs; acoustic and electric guitar. Cat Stevens, James Taylor, The Beatles, also Led Zeppelin & Deep Purple! So, when I was 11, I wished for my own guitar.
How were you seduced by fingerstyle technique?
In my teenage years I had a guitar teacher who played many different styles. He showed me a little bit of classical guitar as well. So, I was already playing some ‘Fingerstyle’, but I didn’t realise that it was something different and special. When I was 18, I was introduced to the style of Chet Atkins (by Tommy Emmanuel), and that had a very powerful effect on me, because then I realised how it was possible to play popular tunes with bass, rhythm, and melody – on one guitar.
Has the traditional Australian music conditioned your compositions?
Yes, I do compose music inspired by the vast landscape of Australia – music that has a lot of space in it, and I borrow the rhythmic ideas of our indigenous music.
Your discography boasts over 20 works among albums, EPs, singles, VHS videos and songbooks. Do you consider each work, especially each album, as a ‘phase’ of your life that shows a kind of ‘musical evolution’?
I see each CD in the same way that many people see a photo album. Each one represents a stage in my life, and I enjoy looking back to see what I was thinking about, and feeling at that point in my life. So for me, music is full of memories, just like photographs.
You have performed in several concerts throughout the world (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, South Africa, etc), what was the warmest audience you had the pleasure to enchant with your music?
That is very difficult to answer! I’ve had great experiences in many countries, including my homeland Australia. Just in this past two weeks I played some concerts in my home city (Brisbane) where the audiences gave standing ovations. That was a particulars wonderful experience, because sometimes it can be hard to receive recognition in your home town!
Lines & Spaces (2014) is your last album. Tell us something about this project.
Since Lines & Spaces there is a brand new CD – just in time for the concerts in Italy – it is called ‘FIX’. It is a duet album with my son Adrian. This is the first time that we are touring together, and it is incredible to play music with your children. He is 23, and plays percussion. So, this album is intended as a souvenir of our concerts together. We recorded it very quickly and spontaneously, and I enjoy listening to it because it sounds very fresh. Andrea Valeri is a guest player on ‘Primo Incontro’; a song we play together in concerts. I’m also featuring the 12 string guitar – it is a sound I like very much, and this year for the first time I’m bringing this guitar on tour in Europe.
In 2009 you launched ‘Classic Fix’, 12 tracks of classical music. How did you arrange for guitar solo?
I chose tunes that I grew up with, pieces with strong melodies that many people will recognise. I was also wanting to do something unique and original with the arrangements. It is not for the classical purists! I wanted to have some fun with familiar pieces by Bach, Mozart and Rossini, and many of the pieces I changed the groove.
In your early twenties Tommy Emmanuel became your mentor. You spent several years working and studying with him. In 2013 he reviewed your DVD/Book ‘Play with Feeling’: “A beautiful ballad, more than any other musical form, has the ability to touch people in the heart. A simple melody with few well-placed notes played with passion and feeling can bring a tear to the eye of a listener. Performing ballads on guitar often doesn’t take great technical skill; the ballads in this book are very simple tunes, no flashy runs, not so many notes, but lots of spaces between the notes… and its in these spaces that the real music lies.” What do you love most about Tommy’s music?
He has an incredible technique, and his tunes are so well written and interesting. He plays so well that the technique becomes invisible; and so you just hear a beautiful song played with much passion and feeling. He is a self-taught musician, but he has an amazing knowledge of chords and harmony – and that makes his arrangements exceptional.
Maton Guitars produced the Michael Fix signature model: EBG808C-MICFIX, a guitar designed to your specifications. Would you like to tell us what are its peculiarities (sound, wood, etc)?
It is not so different from the standard Maton guitars – mine has a cutaway, an Ebony fingerboard (and bridge) and is made from all Australian timbers; Queensland Maple back and sides, spruce top. The big feature of the guitar (of all Maton guitars) is the pickup system. It is so easy to amplify the instrument. The pick up has a microphone inside the guitar, as well as a piezo under the saddle. I don’t have to do anything special with the sound – just plug it in, and turn it up!
Could you please send a message to the young guitarists who want to follow your steps? Just some advices by a great specialist.
I would advise to listen to many styles of music – and not just guitar music. There is so much incredible music in the world from all cultures, in all genres, and performed on a vast variety of instruments. I think also for a young player: to find a good teacher who inspires you is also very important – to have a mentor is a wonderful thing, and eventually you will become a mentor to young players yourself!
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