banner ad
banner ad
banner ad


| 28 April 2021 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Mat Ferguson needs little introduction in the Perth music scene. He’s played with a dizzying array of acts and remains a full time professional musician, a drummer and percussionist adept in rock, reggae, pop, jazz and just about any other style you can throw his way. We sat Mat down, armed with a glass of red wine and a few pages of questions, the mission – delve deep into his career and future plans.

Mat, you’ve played, toured and recorded with a dizzying array of musicians across a myriad of styles. What attracts you to a project?

Hi Shane it’s great to be with you. This is a great question and it’s pretty simple. In the early days work was hard to get so I would simply say yes to everything. By doing so I got meet some amazing musicians and learn so much about music. Not only did I get to learn to play multi genres but I picked up on nuances, things like how hard a shuffle swung, or where to open the hi hats during a chorus of a rock song, these were the little lessons that made a big difference. My curiosity and ambition to work and learn attracted me to projects. Even to this day my willingness to say yes keeps me working.

Do you recall the moment when you started hitting things and thought, “this is fun, I want someone to pay me to do this”!?

I was at Music Mart with my Dad when I was 4. I remember jumping on a kit in the store. Not only did I love it, every time I went into the store I went back for more. By the time I was 8 I knew I wanted to be a musician.

What are the practical realities of being a full-time musician in a town like Perth, Western Australia, renowned for being the most isolated regional capital city in the world?

There are some real advantages and disadvantages. Compared to the rest of the world our clubs are easy to get to, it’s very clean, mostly safe and the pay is ok. However, cash flow can be a struggle due to different venues having different pay cycles, and so does every musician you work for. So having savings is essential.

The other factors include driving high standards – a couple of bad gigs may stop you from opportunities in the future, also relationships often needing high attention – out of sight, out of mind. Another factor is burnout – to keep working in a small town you often need to play for many artists and for me that included drum and percussion gigs. Often this means learning many songs, extra rehearsals all with different chemistry. This can be tough and mentally draining. Like everything, balance is required, but not always achievable.

Mat Ferguson with Spirit Of Alba

COVID changed the playing field for many of us, but for musicians it seems to have been harder than most. With venue capacities still below maximum, has it made being a professional muso harder?

For a lot of us – however, due to a lot of my gigs being duos on percussion and trios on drumkit, I have managed to do shows at many venues. These artists include the Ghost Buskers, Dean Anderson, Matt Burk, Cam Dobie, Rachel Mullen, Jason Ayres, Mike Nayar and Kim Thair. I have been so lucky and I am incredible grateful to the hard work our front liners have done to keep the venues open and our venues safe.

Mat Ferguson with The Wirebirds

There seems to be some hypocrisy with big letter events such as the football allowed to have twenty or thirty thousand attend, whereas gigs are capped at ridiculously low numbers. Do you have a message for the powers that be about the way they’ve played favourites with the corporate money spinners there?

I think when it comes to entertainment I feel there is a natural distrust that we are not going to follow the rules and be compliant as fans. I guess with the perceptions created from the festivals from the 60’s to the late 90’s we have created this persona where a lot of it is not relevant these days with our “woke” society. I think the last thing the music community wants is to make our people sick and the musicians who come into town. I have just played Fairbridge with Spirit of Alba. It was incredible to watch the respect of the crowds, event staff and musicians support each other. This is the respect we would like to receive from our governing bodies.

What are some of the original outfits you’ve played in?

Currently Graphic Fiction Heroes, Spirit Of Alba and The Date.

You’ve also played a lot of covers along the way. Do you view that as a necessary compromise to pay the bills, or is that as much fun as playing songs your band or you have created yourselves?

I am finding all my projects very rewarding. Often I am getting to play with many great musicians, styles, set ups and songs that I have always wanted to do. I am learning so much and playing some great music. So I don’t feel like it’s a compromise as it supports my growth and direction.

Mat Ferguson with The Date

Playing with so many different acts and in so many different musical styles must mean you have to remember a LOT of different tracks. Has that always come easily to you?

No act comes easy, however the more you delicate yourself to learning and reviewing songs pre and post [gig], it helps to get results quicker and support cemented memory, especially with some gigs being months apart. I remember a show I did with Chris Gibbs with Craig Skelton at the Cornerstone a year after our last show. All I can remember is how tight and energetic the show was. Total trust and total commitment.

You first came to our attention playing with Chris Gibbs in his eponymous band and Graphic Fiction Heroes, not only as drummer but also as co-songwriter on a number of tracks. Do you write for a specific project, or are you constantly creating new music for later use?

I have written earlier as singles, with Zen Burger and Vellocet Drive, and Circadian Rhythm. Though I knew I could be a great writer at the time, I was immature. Working with Chris Gibbs has helped to refine that process – an apprenticeship of sorts – and by the second EP it was very evident on how much I have grown. “Bundle of Joy” and “The Dream” were my two major contributions. With being the drummer with a lot of acts, it was all so hard to get my material through until working with Chris, but my end goal was to do my own record in which I am working on now.

Mat Ferguson with Graphic Fiction Heroes

Of all the tracks you have written and/or played on, is there one standout which you think should have, could have, would have been a proper hit single if the music industry was a fair and decent thing?

Yes “Rome”, “The Scene”, “The Dream” and “First and Last” by Graphic Fiction Heroes and composed in collaboration.

“Building an Empire” and “Fragile”, played on with Chris Gibbs.

“Got My Heart” played on with Jason Ayres.

“Merry Go Round” played on with Emma Reid.

“I Love You Two” played on The Date – PS, this one is my favourite drum part.

Playing live and recording in the studio are very different things. Do you have a preference?

No – I just can’t wait for next time.

What is your most recent recording project, and when is that/did that get released?

Mana, a single by the Date. These guys are releasing a track per month. Each year for the last 3 years I record all the tracks in the Christmas break so they can keep pumping out the tracks.

Who would be your main five musical influences?

My family
My musical experiences
Listening to as many records as I could
My teachers
My mentors

Mat Ferguson playing with six string legend Paul Gilbert at a guitar clinic

And in a similar vein, who do you listen to at home?

Prince, Sting, Incubus, Audiovent, Santana, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Meshell Ndegeocello, Roachford, BB King, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin
Oh the list goes on…

Can you enjoy an artist simply as a tune, without analysing and dissecting the drumming and percussion?

Absolutely, I am all about the tune first. As a songwriter it helps you to hear the bigger picture.

If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be?

It would have to be Sting… keeping my cool would be tough though.

Mat Ferguson with Jason Ayres

The music industry is a cruel and harsh mistress on a good day. Why do you keep at it?

If you look after the music, it will look after you. Music is both joyless and sad with many ups and downs, so it is the true reflection of life as you see it. So why keep at it… well, it is my greatest company.

If you were made ruler of the world, what would your first orders be?

World Peace. All weapons would be sold and food crops to be traded for farms and jobs. Those that can work will get paid to run farms and those that can’t will be fed. Then I will start looking for my successor.

If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

It would have to be Abbey Road. Just the songcraft and engineering – to pull off so many great songs with complete engineering with limited resources makes this one of the great records in history. I would just get the coffees for the month and be happy.

Mat Ferguson with Mike Nayar

What, for you, Mat, is the meaning of life?

A series of mostless joyless interactions.

If you won the lottery, Mat, what is your #1 pet musical project that you’d like to make happen?

Well, funny you ask this. I am doing it now! I am currently completing 10 songs with different singers and rhythm sections, of all-West Australian musicians. This album is written by myself, and after over 10 years of working on it, pre-production and recording dates are booked. This will be out next year. If a million comes my way great, however a Go Fund Me page will be out shortly!



Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad