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  World Of Music

Interviewer: Vasja Ivanovski, Skopje, Makedonija

- Something about your musical beginnings, what got you into music?

It was accidently hearing a band live. When I was about 12 years old I was visiting in San Francisco. One day I was walking around Golden Gate Park and I heard a sound I'd not heard before, live music. That was pretty much it. I became a musician on the spot as far as I was concerned. It was the impact of seeing a band live that caught me. There is nothing else quite like that. Recordings are great but they just aren't the same experience as the real thing.

- Your early influences were...

In the early seventies, in the beginning of my career, it was a Boulder, Colorado guitar player named Tommy Bolin. He was among the most charismatic musicians I've ever seen to this day. In retrospect, a bit limited in scope as a player, but in style and phrasing there was no one like him except for Hendrix and later, Robben Ford. He was the kind of guy who recruited guitar players at every show. I was electrified the first time I saw him. Of course on a larger scene there were the more well known players: Beck, Clapton, Page, Blackmore. They all influenced me to some degree as did Joe Walsh, Leslie West, Billy Gibbons and B.B. King.

- Who would you regard as your biggest influence so far?

In overall importance, it would be Robben Ford, because of the harmonic depth and nuance he teaches -- the expansiveness and subtlety of it. He made it ok to push the envelope harmonically - to use notes that others couldn't fit in to blues. He found a way to sell it, to make it work. He's the guy who comes closest to playing the way I feel inside.

- Is there anyone you would like to work with?

There are many. I hear so much inspirational music everyday, even sometimes in TV and radio commercials that I cant take in all the change and innovation. There is hardly anyone I wouldn't want to work with. But the idiom I enjoy the most is a mixture of several styles and, is kind of obscure. Its musician's music I guess. I like rock's dynamic range because you get everything from a whisper to a thunder, but I like jazz's harmonic structure and the depth that gives you. I like the simplicity and rawness of blues but I don’t like to be locked in a pentatonic frame all the time. I think Keb Mo is a pioneer and someone I'd be honored to even sit in with. Although I don’t have much country or country-blues in my style I think I would enjoy playing with Norah Jones. Bruce Hornsby is someone who moves me. His bands are incredible. I've always wanted to jam with Clapton just because I think it would be fun.

- What unfulfilled ambition do you have?

To create a work so powerful, so new, so revealing, that people get inspired to become musicians.

- What was the first record you bought?

I bought three albums the first time. Young Rascals - Greatest Hits, Steppenwolf (can’t remember the album title) and The Byrds - Greatest Hits. I think I was 13 at the time and these were just names I recognized. I really didn’t know what I liked until later and The Young Rascals are still cool in my book!

- What was the last record you bought?

Eldar, the debut release from an 18 year old Soviet piano player. He is mind boggling. He is one of the new crop of prodigies that will take things to the next level. Julian Lage, the guitarist currently with Gary Burton, is another one.

- Five desert island albums of your choice would be...

While I'm a guitar player, that doesn’t seem to much influence my choice of listening music. As far as just plain spiritually moving music, there is a CD called Prayer Cycle featuring a variety of artists such as Alanis Morissette, James Taylor and some people whose names I can't easily type. It’s pretty powerful stuff. In the pop vein I like a variety - Peter Gabriel, So, wouldn't be a bad nomination for an enduring record, I think. The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's has an even bigger footprint. I can see all kinds of possibilities that are suggested by that record. Shawn Colvin's A Few Small Repairs is one of the most eloquent pop statements I've heard. I don’t get tired of that CD because of the songs, her voice and the great playing and production. There is a recording of Jascha Heifetz, my favorite violinist, playing Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D which I have loved since I first heard it 30 years ago. Listening to that performance has inspired me to practice my guitar a number of times.

- Beside your material, which covers you usually do on stage?

Old blues and R&B. Take Me To The River, Love and Happiness, various B.B. King things. It’s just kind of whatever the mood dictates and what the assembled musicians know in common. I play quite a bit with my friend John Lee Sanders and we do a lot of his great original material. He's an extraordinary writer, not to mention a fantastic singer, keyboardist and sax player.

- What do you think about contemporary blues scene?

Depends on where you are. In the US we're kind of stuck in a retro phase. No one really fresh has emerged in the past 10 years in my opinion although there are some amazing talents, just no one that changes the entire context of a style. I think there is a certain stagnation which is characterized by trying to keep the music contained within some particular past decade as though it were a museum piece. I understand the respect and homage paid to past artists but blocking forward motion of the art form isn't the answer to preserving the past. However, soon someone will certainly come along and blows the doors off the idiom and thus start a new movement.

- Is it hard to get blues gigs in the States?

In the last 5 years I have really only done a small number of select gigs and just for fun, not to support myself. I've been making my living for some time as a studio owner/engineer/ producer. In the San Francisco bay area there is what I consider a pretty healthy blues circuit of maybe 20 well known clubs that have live music nearly every night. Of course, club gigs still pay what they did 15 years ago so making a living can be tough. I don’t know much about other towns but I've heard that in LA, a huge city with what must be thousands of night clubs, there is apparently almost no work. I don’t understand that. New York is supposed to be tough too but I think it has to do with the enormous number of musicians feeding at the same trough. I think Nashville is a fairly hard nut to crack too until you get inside the clique.

- You have shared the stage with some big names, any particular experience worth mentioning?

Any time a musician has relaxed and played to their true full potential, even if it’s for two seconds, its a blessing. When I was playing with harmonica player Mark Ford we used to have these magical moments when everything would come together and something unique would happen. That’s memorable. Of course there were times with Miles Davis when I was struck by the awesome-ness of that experience. He had a way of bringing more out of a musician than the player knew he had inside. You would be playing and think you had finished a solo only to look over at him and realize he didn’t think you were finished yet at which point you had to start searching deeper for something else to play.

- What fact about you would surprise the fans?

Perhaps that I was born with two thumbs on my right hand. Or that my third and fourth toes on my left foot are "fused". Its true actually.I don’t know if its surprising but I have no formal musical training whatsoever. I've never taken a music course and I don’t read notation at all. I can stumble through a very basic chord chart but thats about it. I play by ear and what little theory I know I've picked up along the way from other musicians.

- What is your current stage equipment (amp, etc.)?

Its pretty simple, compared to some of the rigs I've tried over the years. I play a Fender Robben Ford guitar through a Carl Martin compressor pedal, into a 1995 Fender Concert Reverb Amp, 1-12" speaker. In the effects loop of the amp I have an Alesis Nanoverb which I use mostly for a discreet delay. My reverb, most of the time, comes from the amp's internal spring unit. For many years, until just recently, I also used a Boss SD -1 overdrive pedal for extra kick on solos. At that time I didn’t use the channel switching in the amp. For some reason I made friends with the dirty channel of the amp recently and I have dropped the SD-1 pedal from the signal chain.

- Guitarists tend to build their guitar collections, what about you?

Not really. I think the most guitars I've owned at any one time is about 6 or 7. There have been times when I've owned one guitar only. I have no urge to collect guitars for show or nostalgia. I only want the ones I actually use. I've tried many different guitars over the past 35 years but once I got this Robben Ford model Fender I kind of relaxed on my search. If I never find a guitar any better suited to me than this one I will have still been blessed. Actually I have two of the RF models and they are as different as night and day. Supposedly they are physically identical except for color but they sure don’t sound that way.

- Something about your future plans?

I have just released my third solo CD called "i" (available direct. Just email me at It’s an instrumental work and I either played or sequenced every part on it, hence the name. I'm just starting another instrumental project as well and I am planning a blues CD with my friend Mz Dee who is a wonderful singer. My band will continue to do locals dates and I'm booked a few months ahead in the studio.

- Any tour in Europe in prospect?

At present, no. But I hope something happens in the near future because European audiences are rightly known by musicians as astute and knowledgeable listeners. It would be a very nice thing to get a chance to come to Europe and perform a set or two of original music. There's not a much bigger thrill than that.


Vasja Ivanovski
Skopje, Makedonija

Davor Matosevic - videos
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Rock Otocec 2010
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Web portal Pljuga
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Andjelko Jurkas (HR) - Bez rocka trajanja (Knjiga + CD)
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Gary Talley (USA) - Guitar Playing for Songwriters
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