Get to Know a Musician: Joe Matera
It’s time for another installment of "Get to Know". Today we are talking to solo rock guitarist and journalist Joe Matera from Australia. Joe has played guitar for over 30 years in rock bands, professional theatre and his own solo act. SongFreaks got a chance to talk to Joe about his musical influences, playing in theatre and his best experiences interviewing big names in music.
SongFreaks: In various interviews you have mentioned that Ace Frehley of KISS was your inspiration to take up the guitar. What was it about his style and image that captivated you and inspired you to play?
Ace was one of my many influences, but definitely a major first influence in so many ways, from the playing side of things to the stage presence. I was an impressionable teenager watching KISS on television one day when he and the band first caught my attention. The stage costume, the smoking guitar, the pyrotechnics, the cool riffs and soloing, everything about him was bigger than life, which for a shy 15 year old was like a light going off inside of me. To me he was the way a real rock star was supposed to be, where they are meant to inspire you, and in this case he certainly did that for me. I just wanted to go out and get a guitar and do the same thing.
SongFreaks: Outside of playing you have an accomplished career in music journalism. Have you ever had the chance to meet and interview Ace Frehley, and if so what was the experience like?
I have indeed interviewed Ace, it was a few years ago now, it was over the phone. I told him he was one of my musical heroes and he was very humbled and a pleasant interviewee. In no way did he come across as any having an ego or anything like that. It was a very pleasant and revealing chat. Later he visited Australia, and I so wanted to meet him, but unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow. But just talking to him was more than sufficient.
SongFreaks: Who was the wildest/most fascinating and best band you have interviewed and why?
There are so many, I’ve interviewed literally hundreds of bands and artists over the years. I suppose the best moments are those like the time I met and interviewed John Mayer on his first ever visit to Australia. He was an unknown at that point. He played to about a handful of people at a small inner city venue. Nobody was giving him any love until the last song when he played this blistering version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Lenny. You could have heard a pin drop. He literally won the audience over. Six months later, he was huge, and returned to Australia as a major headline act. I interviewed him successively over the next number of years behind each album release and he once told me, I was one of the only guys he really only enjoyed talking guitars to.
Another moment was Nickelback, I spent a period of three days with them on their debut Australian visit in 2001, just before How You Remind Me hit big. Again, six months later, they returned to play sell out shows and already their entourage had grown! Another moment was meeting and hanging backstage with Lemmy from Motörhead. I had interviewed him a few months prior, and had won him over (something that I was told was very hard to do) enough by my interview that he personally asked to meet me and come backstage when the band was in town next. Lemmy is the real deal and he is a sweet guy, really intelligent and witty, and he is one of the coolest guys around who speaks from his heart. A real Rock Star in every sense of the word. Respect!
SongFreaks: Best concert experience you have ever had either as a spectator or performer?
The best moments for me are the moments I am onstage performing. There is no other feeling like it. It’s more than an adrenaline rush, it’s something words can never describe. You have to experience yourself. It is quite an addictive thing. Once onstage, it’s hard to get off. In fact it takes hours (sometimes days) to come down from a having performed a great show, but that is the nature of the beast. So for me every time I get up there and perform and play for an audience, each time is a special moment for me.
SongFreaks: Can you describe to us your newest EP "Slave to the Fingers"
The EP CD is my latest release that features five of my original instrumental compositions. I signed with an Austrian label in 2011 called W.A.R Productions who signed me to a deal. The CD is out through that label in Europe and elsewhere. The CD is very melodic, with tasteful guitar playing which appeals to a wide audience. It is not a shredding album, the guitar playing is very focused on the song, and the big picture. It has met with a lot of positive press and reviews and garnered good airplay. People from as far away as Sweden to Mexico have purchased my CD. I think the instrumental genre is an overlooked genre and one that should be given an even playing field when it comes to mainstream radio. I mean over the years it has had its peaks, Joe Satriani brought it to the mainstream in the late 80s and before that as far back as the 1960s, bands like The Ventures and The Shadows were on the hit parade and radio, so I think its long overdue for a resurgence of some kind.
SongFreaks: You have played guitar for not just rock acts but in theatre as well for stage productions like Les Misérables and Chess. Is the preparation and performance aspect in such a production strikingly different from that of a rock gig? Also, did anything take you by surprise from these performances that you then took with you to improve your own shows?
They are very different in all aspects. With stage shows, an emphasis is on reading music and following the conductor. You have to have your eyes on both the conductor and music in front of you, and there is no connecting with the audience as you’re usually in the orchestra pit below the stage, tucked away in the dark. But is a great experience in its own way, and one I am very pleased to have had. When it comes to a rock show, it’s basically done by ear and from connecting with music at hand and the other band members’ energy you’re playing with, and working that chemistry and then feeding off the energy of the audience.
SongFreaks: Finally, what is on the horizon for you and your musical career?
I am about to embark on my first ever solo tour of Europe in September. The CD has been doing extremely well over there, getting great reviews, radio support and my fan base is slowing building with loyal fans. I am looking forward to playing the live shows and meeting all the fans there. In the months prior to that, I am preparing for the tour. I am also working on a new material for a new album, so stay tuned for details about that. Aside from what I have just mentioned, there are many other great things in the pipeline for me musically, but fans and those interested in what I am doing, can stay up to date via my website www.joematera.com and Facebook page.