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Interview – Matt Taylor – March 2013

| 1 May 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Matt Taylor recently performed ‘Blues To Aus Blues’ a special solo show in Perth which covered his life and musical journey, focussing on how he became the originator of AUS BLUES – a truly Australian strain of blues music.

First published in Xpress Magazine’s 20th March issue, Taylor talks about his love of the blues, the show itself, and whether he might take it further on stage or in other media formats.

Read the original story HERE 

Here is the full interview, presented for the first time.
100% ROCK MAG: Thanks very much for your time.

Matt: Pleasure.

100% ROCK MAG: So we’re here to talk about your Blues to Aus Blues show, showing next week at the Blues Club.

Matt: Yeah.

Matt Taylor 01

100% ROCK MAG: Can you start by giving us a quick overview of the show?

Matt: Well basically it’s my life story, and since I was a teenager it’s been the story of the blues. There wasn’t much blues in Australia before the British blues boom in the early 60s, and I was a little Beatles fan, and all of a sudden I discovered The Rolling Stones, and was wondering about all of these guys, you know, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, who were they? Jimmy Reed. And that really just started the blues adventure off for me. And I’ve just… it literally tells about the first twenty years, and it’s basically about how the American blues, bit by bit, goes into Australian blues.

100% ROCK MAG: Hmm… so I believe you developed the show over a three month period…

Matt: Yeah, probably, three or four months I’ve been working on it, and I was just in Geraldton the other day, and I did a very short version of it, and that went over quite well. This will be the full two and a half hour show.

100% ROCK MAG: And are you only playing your own music in the show, or featuring stuff across the board?

Matt: A lot of British and old blues I play, especially in the early part, just to establish what blues is, and what it was like. And also during the show, if I’m explaining how I Remember When I Was Young came about, I’ll explain the bombabomba, how I first heard it with Jimmy Reed, and how Chuck Berry had used the bombabomba to tell stories, and then when I recorded Remember When I Was Young, it just seemed the right rhythm to use.

Matt Taylor 02

100% ROCK MAG: What was your criteria for inclusion of certain songs? Did you do the story first, or did you write the story around the songs that matter?

Matt: I virtually just sat down and told a story, then got the most appropriate song for that particular [bit]… I tended to stick to the songs that tell stories, and even a song like, Remember When I Was Young, says, ‘I heard the black man blues, it really blew a fuse inside my head, with some friends we made a stand, formed our first blues band, it was a real good thing’. So that really is telling the story anyway. And I go into a little bit more detail.

100% ROCK MAG: And I believe it’s a one man show too.

Matt: Ah yeah. I didn’t want anything to interfere with it. I didn’t want anyone making comments or input. It’s hard enough to remember the whole two and a half hours as it is. I didn’t want any outside interference. And if I can’t pull it off, I can’t pull it off, but…. It’s my story and it’s the only story I know in absolute intimate detail, so that’s the one I have to tell.

100% ROCK MAG: Well it’s kind of fitting, isn’t it, because most traditional blues certainly would have started with just one guy singing in a field, or playing guitar on a porch, or a harp or something.

Matt: Well I think it’s a wonderful way to… I love the thrill, I think. It’s harder for me to do solo than what it is to do a band. I can do a band, it’s just like water off a duck’s back, but you can’t afford to stuff up at all when you’re solo. And all the pressure is on you, and you know, I quite enjoy that pressure. IF you can pull it off.

Matt Taylor - Western Flyer album cover

100% ROCK MAG: And having nowhere to hide?

Matt: Nowhere to hide at all. There are no rocks, no brick walls…

100% ROCK MAG: Well after fifty years you’d think you’ve got it down pat by now?

Matt: You’d think so, but you’ve never really got it that pat. I’ve… like during a story you know, I will tell about The Matt Taylor Band with Dave Hole, for instance, and I actually had to go through old tapes to find out what songs we did. And I found a song that I haven’t played for 25 years.

100% ROCK MAG: Wow.

Matt: And I just learned it off. Especially with Western Flyer, you know, I never realised I wrote so many songs about Western Australia in Western Flyer, so… I learned all them off and do little bits of each of those. So, in many ways it’s the tale of three cities. It starts off in Brisbane, then it goes down to Melbourne and then it ends up in Western Australia, in Perth.

100% ROCK MAG: And is that why you chose to stage the show in Perth?

Matt: Oh, well I live in Perth, and I’ve got a great thing happening with the Blues Club, so it was a no-brainer really that I should do it here. I’ve already had a few people from over east who have heard about it and they’ve said ‘When are you going to do it over there’. It really needs to be done in those three cities, in Brisbane, because that’s all the early stuff, and then Melbourne is where all the successful stuff happens, and then… Perth, where you know, you settle down and you really develop what I call Oz Blues.

Matt Taylor - Fair Dinkum Aussie Blues

100% ROCK MAG: Well that’s what I was wondering. It seems to be the sort of thing that’s just made for a national tour at the very least.

Matt: Yeah, yeah I think…. I think I will do it. There’s a couple of places in Melbourne that are quite interesting, but I want to do it here first. I want to make sure I can do it for a start, that I’m not going to bore people to death. And so I’ve got to keep the story interesting and throw in enough music. But erm… you know, the whole idea of what it’s all about gets through to people.

100% ROCK MAG: So the press pack that I read said that you were motivated to produce the show by realising that when you go a lot of its history will be lost, are you feeling a sense of your own mortality?

Matt: Oh yeah, look I was fairly sick lately and I had to go and play in Melbourne and for the first in my life I had to sit down and play. Yeah, I became VERY aware of my own mortality. And the other thing too is so many of the guys in the story aren’t with us anymore. And I think it’s lovely… like you’ve never heard of Paul Johnson, and there’s no reason why you should, but he was one of the earliest guys in the blues thing. And you know… it’s like the Egyptians. As long as you mention their name they’re still alive and still with us.

100% ROCK MAG: I’m sorry to hear you’ve been crook, mate, that’s no good.

Matt: Ah yeah, but I’m great now.

Matt Taylor and Chain 2007

100% ROCK MAG: Good stuff. Is the show more a reminiscence, or a celebration of the blues and your experiences in it?

Matt: That’s a very interesting question. I’ve tried to be as truthful as I can, and I think… I just want to… just explain to people that music just doesn’t appear overnight. It evolves over a long period… you know, when I heard the blues it had already evolved for sixty-odd years, when I first heard it. So I got what I heard and I resolved to take in the Australian environment, and the Australian experience, and maybe someday someone will hear all of my music and take it somewhere else, you know. That’s the beautiful thing about music: it doesn’t rust. It’s evolving all the time. And I hate it when people say ‘Oh that’s old music’. You think, look, whatever you’re listening to now has that old stuff in it, and if it wasn’t for that old stuff you would not be listening to what you think is new and modern.

100% ROCK MAG: Do you think the young musicians today respect where the music has come from?

Matt: It’s amazing. I just did that show up in Geraldton I was just amazed… I was the oldest musician there by far, and I was just amazed at how much they did know.

100% ROCK MAG: That’s good, that’s promising.

Matt: Yeah, it’s wonderful. There was a young girl there, unfortunately I can’t remember her name… Little something or other, she’s only nineteen or twenty and she was playing boogies and bombabombas, and I just watched it and I thought, that’s fantastic. It will just keep going on. If you want to tell a story a boogie or a bombabomba is just a perfect bed to tell the story on.

Matt Taylor with Kevin Borich

100% ROCK MAG: So there seems like there’s a great reason for this history of yours to be preserved for posterity, have you considered filming the show, or a CD, or a book or something about the story?

Matt: I’ve had a book written about my life, which is fairly easily available, and some people at the Blues Club have talked about videoing [the show]. And there’s even another friend of mine who said ‘Look, I want to take a look at it and see if we can turn it into a… you know more like a play than just me sitting down entertaining.’ But I want to pull it off first. I want to see if it’s got legs first, and then yeah, I’ll think about all those things.

100% ROCK MAG: It certainly has the potential to be a theatre stage show so to speak, with back drop and photos, and whatever.

Matt: Yeah. Well I remember going to see the John Lennon show, Glass Onion….

100% ROCK MAG: Oh yeah, that’s John Waters…

Matt: Yeah, John Waters, and I really enjoyed that. I don’t think my story is quite as successful as John Lennon’s but, you know, we’ve both left an enormous amount of music behind, and in a hundred years no one knows who was successful and who wasn’t.

100% ROCK MAG: Yeah, true that.

Matt: The music stands alone in a hundred years.

100% ROCK MAG: So if you could magically go back in time and be part of the recording of any one record, which would you choose?

Matt: Of mine or other peoples?

Matt Taylor 03

100% ROCK MAG: Anything.

Matt: Erm, I remember hearing House of the Rising Sun for the first time, and that virtually just nailed me to the wall. And I read later when Bob Dylan heard House of the Rising Sun he decided to go electric. So er… you just realise. There is little points in history like that, like… up until about 1970, I probably would have said that House of the Rising Sun was the best single that was ever recorded, but of course there are just so many brilliant songs, and it’s like watermelon, if you’re eating watermelon you can’t imagine there’s a better fruit. But you know, if you eat a mango it might change your mind. That’s how I am a bit with music. If I’m listening to some music that I just think is absolutely wonderful, you can’t imagine there being anything better, until the next song you hear and you feel the same way about that. But something like House of the Rising Sun, that actually changed people’s minds. I think that’s really wonderful.

100% ROCK MAG: Does the blues mean the same thing to you now, fifty years on, that it did at the start of your career?

Matt: Probably not. It’s a lot different now ’cause I use the blues, these days, to write songs, and I call it Oz Blues because I don’t stick to the exact rules of the American blues. I remember Albert Collins saying to me, ‘Matt, you play blues, but it ain’t like no blues I ever heard’. And I took that as the best compliment I’d ever had.

100% ROCK MAG: Absolutely.

Matt: Because he knew it was blues, but he couldn’t think of where it came from. It was the absolute Australian experience that had caused that. And the Australian musicians I played with, all of them added something to it. And…. You know, during the show I talk about a lot of amazing people. Many of those, like Jimmy Breslin, the original guitarist in the Bay City Union, he’s not with us anymore, but if you go on YouTube and put in Moose Malone, and you see The House of Blue Lights, here’s Jimmy in his last band and it’s just fantastic, you know? So they were all there. Unfortunately people like Paul Johnson never really recorded, though I know Broderick Smith has half a dozen songs he recorded Paul Johnson doing and he treasures them.

100% ROCK MAG: So it certainly sounds like listening to House of the Rising Sun or Robert Johnson, or Chuck Berry, still gives you that visceral thrill.

Matt: Oh it does. [emotionally and emphatically] It’s like, if people want to hear Oz Blues, on YouTube I’ve put fifty-six songs that I just go in my back room, get the camera, record it, and what I basically do these days is, I just find songs that, you know, I may have written twenty-five years ago, re-learn them and just video them and put them on YouTube and forget them.

100% ROCK MAG: Wow.

Matt: And er… you’ve got to put in Matt Taylor Oz Blues, because if you put in Matt Taylor you get the Justin Bieber impersonator.

100% ROCK MAG: Oh god…

Matt: I know, it’s the most horrible thing that can happen to a human being, isn’t it? You have a Justin Bieber impersonator with your name.

100% ROCK MAG: There’s nothing blues about Bieber.

Matt: That reminds me of a funny joke. We used to… I’d say look the blues is in all modern music, and then I’d make a joke and say ‘Maybe Barry Manilow hasn’t got any blues’, so for a joke, the guys in the band bought me the Barry Manilow life story. They found it in some second hand bookshop for two dollars or something, and I opened up the first page and it says ‘My first great love of music was rhythm and blues’.

100% ROCK MAG: Oh there you go…

Matt: It was even in Barry Manilow. It’s in everyone.

100% ROCK MAG: That’s great. Thank you so much for your time Matt, appreciate that.

Matt: Nice speaking to you Shane.


Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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