Nota: sono stato a lungo incerto se tradurre l’intervista in italiano, ma infine ho deciso di lasciarla in originale in inglese. Buona lettura. EM
I met Matt Phillips in Malta in 2013, during the local summer jazz festival. We spent a few hours together and I soon realized that he could not be easily filed: journalist, multi instrumentalist musician, drummer… a very interesting London-based 21st century multi-tasking living example. A perfect choice for an interview. Enjoy it!
Matt Phillips: a short presentation of yourself and of your work for our readers.
Musically, I’m very much a child of the ‘80s. Lots of cool music was converging at that time – I was into funk and soul, stuff like Michael Jackson, George Benson and Level 42, and there was also a big jazz revival in London so I would go with my dad to see Wayne Shorter, Mike Stern, Ornette Coleman or Bill Frisell playing in really big venues. And then there was also a bit of a prog rock revival too so I would be checking out and playing along to It Bites, Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. So it was a great time to start out as a drummer and as a result I played in jazz bands, rock bands, funk bands, pop bands and prog bands. The bass and guitar came later. These days I’m a drummer, multi-instrumentalist and music writer, contributing to Jazzwise and various other websites in the UK.
In a world that rewards specialisation you are a multi-tasking musician: journalist, multi instrumentalist, author… what are the benefits and disadvantages of this attitude?
Ha! You’ve found me out. I can’t think of too many advantages apart from sheer enjoyment. You certainly wouldn’t want to plan any kind of ‘career’ around so many disparate interests because people aren’t ever quite sure what your bag is. On the other hand, you never get pigeon-holed, so you can move on quickly. Also, things never get boring – I might be writing a gig review one night and then a few days later playing drums at a jazz gig or demoing a new song. But because my own music takes in lots of different styles, I’ve been wondering how best to present it and whether to split it into different projects with different names. But just recently I’ve thought: to hell with it, it’s all going to be Matt Phillips music, even though that’s probably a marketing person’s nightmare!
Which are the musicians that inspired you the most? Your top 10 records list?
Well, my teenage musical heroes were Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, The Police, Ian Dury, Steely Dan, Bill Bruford, The Beatles, Jeff Beck, Miles Davis, David Bowie, John McLaughlin, It Bites, Level 42 and Weather Report.
But some other musicians and singers that never fail to inspire me are Charlie Parker, Jason Rebello, Thelonious Monk, Greg Osby, Will Downing, Mark Hollis, Syd Barrett, Kenny Wheeler, Scott Henderson, Allan Holdsworth, John Martyn, Steve Khan, Leon Thomas, Johnny Hartman, Brad Mehldau, Jill Scott, Keith Jarrett, Anthony Jackson, James Grant, Joni Mitchell
My desert island selection of albums: (You can tell I’m an ‘80s kid…).
Lewis Taylor: Lewis Taylor
Weather Report: Mr Gone
Peter Gabriel III (Melt)
Mark Isham: Vapour Drawings
Cocteau Twins: Heaven or Las Vegas
The Beatles: Sgt Pepper’s
Prince: Around The World In a Day
Steely Dan: Gaucho
David Sylvian: Gone To Earth
Scritti Politti: Cupid and Psyche
That’s The Way I Feel Now: Tribute to Thelonious Monk
Define yourself with 3 adjectives!
Restless, contradictory, oversensitive!
Your goal for 2014?
To get a band together and play some of my music live. I want to get out of my comfort zone and get out from behind the kit. I recorded a kind of concept album ‘Dream Avenue’ in 2009 but haven’t yet been able to play it live so that’s the plan. It’s not easy finding the right people when you record everything yourself and cover lots of different musical styles but I’m looking forward to losing some control over my work and getting more into a ‘band’ vibe. Also I want to get back to songwriting and hope to collaborate with my friend James Broad who used to be in the ‘90s pop band Silver Sun.
Which suggestions would you give to some youngsters that would like to have a try to make a living in the music biz?
My main recommendation would be to love music, all types of music. At the moment it seems that rock and pop are in a rut and have almost run their course, but there’s so much more going on in the music world that you don’t hear about in the mainstream media – blues, jazz, soul, funk, whatever. But if you’re a musician, there’s no substitute for putting the work in on your own, because even if you don’t ‘make it’ you’ll still have a fantastic time honing your craft. If you really love music and do your homework, music will be your constant friend and maybe your career too. But when you’re not busy playing or writing about music, do your research, find out where the music comes from, how it changed, why it changed and maybe even where it’s going. Apart from anything, that’ll be a lot of fun and it’ll sustain you when there are the inevitable disappointments that happen in the music business. But, as I say, this all stems from a genuine passion for music – that’s the key thing.