July 12, 2024

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Interview with Matt Clark: I’ve been fascinated by sounds of the city recently

Interview with guitarist Matt Clark. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. 

Matt Clark: – I grew up in Grantham – a small town in Lincolnshire that was predominantly white working class, and not really a hotspot for music at all! However, there was one small record shop – Time Machine, a dusty back room kind of a place that was run by a lovely guy called Dave – that place, and the recommendations of Dave himself were what really got me and a few friends hooked.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

MC: – Well I was really a blues/rock player for years – like many guitarists I was influenced by people like Jimi Hendrix. But I also always loved the more off beat, weird stuff. I loved (and still do) the early Pink Floyd recordings – Syd Barrett was probably my earliest influence that started me on the road to where I am now. I played in various psychedelic rock bands throughout the 90s, most of them with a degree of improvisation and “freak out”! I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually come into free jazz and improvised music. The defining moment, though, was when I discovered Marc Ribot. I’ve been a fan of Tom Waits for a long time, and Rain Dogs led me to find and discover his other work. Once I followed that trail there was no going back!

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

MC: – I don’t really have a set routine. For me, playing guitar is a visceral thing, something I need to do, so really I just pick one up and play whenever I get the urge. It just so happens that I get the urge a lot! A lot of my practising is based on playing random runs of notes that don’t necessarily conform to any scale or mode, but I try and play with as much feel as I can. I guess I’m trying to play something that doesn’t necessarily work harmonically, but because of the way it’s played it somehow works anyway.

JBN: – How do you keep stray, or random, musical influences from diverting you from what you’re doing?

MC: – I don’t! For me all influences are valid and inform my playing. That could mean other musicians, other sounds, whatever I hear. I’ve been fascinated by sounds of the city recently. There’s rhythm and harmony in there, like a vast orchestra. You just have to listen to it.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

MC: – Interesting question..! I’m not sure how much the intellect is involved really, because I tend to play from somewhere deep inside. Most of my compositions are spontaneous – I don’t think about what chord should come next, I just play and see where it takes me. I guess I’ve been influenced by the John Cage/Zeb school of though where you attempt to take the ego out of playing music…

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

MC: – 100%. If I don’t put everything into a performance, I don’t feel I’ve given the audience what they came out to experience.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

MC: – A friend of mine once said “Jazz is a very broad church”, which I think is very true! If you look beyond standards there’s so much to discover. There’s a lot of incredible music coming out of London at the moment, fostered by groups like Jazz Refreshed and Tomorrow’s Warriors. They are all young performers, with such a wide range of influences that they’re bringing to their music – musicians like Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia. There’s also a continual stream of incredible music coming out of Chicago. It’s a scene that started in the 90s with people like Rob Mazurek and Jeff Parker, and it’s still going on.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

MC: – I can identify with that! As I said, it’s a visceral thing for me, it’s just there and I can’t not make music. I think we’re all inherently creative and musical, it’s just that relatively few of us have found a way to articulate it that others can somehow understand. Maybe if society provided us with more opportunities to channel that energy we’d become better as human beings..?

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

MC: – I’d like people to perceive music as more than simply a form of content, a commodity. It’s difficult when you own something digitally, there’s nothing real to show apart from some pixels on a screen and sound that comes from your ear buds! But it’s time to turn the system upside down and realise that those that create the value should be compensated fairly for it.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

MC: – I’ve been listening to Mary Halvorson and Sylvie Courvoisier. I love Mary’s playing. I’m also really into Luke Stewart’s work these days. Thirdly, I’ve been listening to a lot of Shane Parrish’s music…

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

MC: – Wow! So may places! Maybe Monk at the Five Spot with Coltrane in ‘57? I think Monk and Coltrane are where it started for me. I listened to jazz for years before I really got into either of them, but without them I probably wouldn’t have found any of the music I listen to now.

JBN: – You are on the sidelines of life and music and that is your right place.

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Interview by Simon Sarg

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