Bricks In The Wall

Matty T Wall reflects on the path that led him to the blues and beyond (and before).

By Bob Gordon

Matty T Wall well remembers the first time he picked up a guitar and the effect that it had upon him.

“A kid brought a Fender Stratocaster to school,” he recalls, rather fondly. “I think I might’ve been 10-11 years-old or something like that. I thought, ‘this is the coolest thing I have ever seen!’ It was like it was from out of space, it was crazy. It was an incredible looking instrument and from then on  I really desired to play it. It was probably another year or so before I got a guitar of my own, but that’s what set it all off.

“My dad’s a big music fan so he’d always be playing Clapton, Dire Straits, Hendrix and stuff at home and we’d watch videos of them when I was a kid. So, seeing a Stratocaster in the flesh from something I’d previously only seen on video was just one of those moments.”

Like many guitar-wielding teens who grew up listening to their dad’s classic rock collection, heavy metal was soon waiting… down on the corner or out in the street. The whole Wall family was hooked on dad’s rock classics, but in the same year as the Stratocaster revelation, there was another power-load.

“A friend at school gave me a little green cassette tape of AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” Wall says. “Being that age it was just the coolest thing to hear, that stuff. It was awesome. That got me onto the more harder styles of music and then my older brother would be pushing that and listening to Metallica and Sepultura and so on. I followed his lead as well.

“Pantera is a favourite, that’s for sure. The first time I heard Vulgar Display Of Power I was blown away. (Laughs) It was incredible.”

Even so, the young Wall maintained a diversity in his listening tastes. Heavy-based music with upfront guitar solos was still the desire, but there are more ways to skin a cat, after all. 

“I was playing a lot of Metallica, but I was also listening to things like Joe Satriani at the time,” he says. “Then heard I heard this album at a friend’s house; we both played a lot of guitar together. His dad brought home Gary Moore’s album, Still Got The Blues. That’s fiery-playing blues, so it really appealed to me at the time because I’d been listening to harder music. Hearing blues guitar like that was just… wow. Doors opened for me after hearing that.”

Inevitably the Moore-inspired blues introduction led Wall down to the crossroads and Robert Johnson. In some respects, one form of the devil’s music had been replaced with another (albeit, the original).

“Yeah well,” he laughs, “if I may talk music theory here for a second, the Flat 5 is one of my favourite notes of all the scales, and that’s the ‘Devil’s Note’, apparently. It feels very expressive to me, for playing music. It contains… a lot.

These days Wall fuses metal, along with other genres, into his blues playing.

It’s not so much that he consciously channels other genres into his blues style, however, as being an organic filter for what he’s heard and what he’s making.

“I’m just trying to be as honest as I can with the influences that I enjoy,” Wall explains. “So yes, I love metal; yes, I love classic rock; and yes, I really love blues music. So, letting all that come through, it’s going to come out in a way that’s personal to me and that’s a good thing.

“I do think sometimes, ‘is this too heavy? Is this going to sound too metal for blues fans?’ But at the end of the day, I’ve just got to be true to myself and the things I enjoy listening to. Hopefully, there’ll be people out there who enjoy it as well.”

When asked if he regards himself as a ‘musician’ or a ‘blues musician’, Wall laughs heartily. “Artist,” he states. “How about that?” When prodded as to whether that breaks down to ‘musical artist’ or ‘blues artist’ he’s philosophical.

“I true to keep the core as blues as I can,” he says. “So, let’s just say, blues artist.”

Joining this blues artist in his band are WA music elder statesman/drummer, Ric Whittle, and with youthful-yet-well-seasoned-bassist, Stephen Walker. Importantly, he’s equally aware of what he brings to the pair as a songwriter as what they’ll give back.

“I like to have fun musically,” Wall notes, “so different feels, different time signatures, all that sort of thing. Especially with the new material we write, there’s a lot of interesting things going on and hopefully that keeps them happy and occupied, but also that’s another element that I can throw in there.

”Playing with musicians of their level gives you a lot of confidence; you can really step out there and express yourself and know that things are being taken care of. Especially in a trio format; it’s very bare, so we need to make sure everyone’s holding up their piece of the puzzle.”

And as those pieces are being held, it’s with the constant playing and the miles travelled with his amazing engine room that Wall feels an increasing freedom as a songwriter.

“Definitely,” he concurs. “It’s almost like you’re always trying to better yourself. I’m pretty competitive by nature, so I’m always trying to better what I’ve done before, trying to do something different. I take a leaf out of a lot of other artists’ books and try and make songs that are always sounding different. So you won’t get two songs sounding similar.”

Wall’s current album, Blue Skies, received a nomination for ‘Blues Album Of The Year’ at the Independent Music Awards, a worldwide competition, with winners announced at a ceremony held at the Lincoln Centre in New York last month. It was an unusual, if unexpected, thumbs-up.

“It’s still a little surreal,” he admits. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, even though it was a little while ago… but it’s great that people out there enjoy it. You work really hard on your songwriting and to get the production going, and get everything rolling. The idea is, you want that emotional response from the listener. If they’re enjoying the music, then it’s doing what it was intended to do.”

Blue Skies has since rated in allaboutbluesmusic.com’s Top 20 blues albums of the year.

Wall and band have become a welcome fixture at many major blues festivals, starring at Bendigo and Bridgetown alone in the last month, and with several appearances confirmed around the country in the first quarter of 2017.

“I think the blues festival circuit, worldwide, is a big thing,” Wall says. “If you go to a lot of places, there’s a blues festival there. It’s become a thing; it’s great. The really good thing about blues festivals is that you can have so many different types of genres in a festival that are still bluesy. A lot of people who go there do have an open mind. You only get a small percentage of people that are really set on what blues ‘is’. Most of the people who go are just there to enjoy themselves and listen to good music.”

Despite the miles behind, it all still lies ahead. Wall is very conscious that in many ways achievements simply provide new opportunities to work even harder.

“I’ve tentatively booked some time in the studio towards the end of 2017,” he reveals. “I’ve just got to dial some more songs in. I’m really looking forward to that one. It’s going to be another step up from what I’ve done before, because the more attention that’s put on you, the harder you’ve got to work.”

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