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GEOFF ACHISON: MELBOURNE GUITAR SHOW INTERVIEW

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Photo from 2016 Melbourne Guitar Show by Jason Rosewarne

Geoff Achison is not only one of Australia’s most accomplished guitarists, he’s also an incredibly talented songwriter as he proves on his latest studio album Another Mile, Another Minute.  That’s not just us delivering the praise either. Recent tours to both the UK and USA have garnered Geoff a swag of positive album reviews from enthusiastic music bloggers to respected blues media magazines and websites. Always the nurturer, Geoff is about to head off on tour with young new blues sensations The Justin Yap band. No sooner does he get back then he’s appearing at our Melbourne Guitar Show, this time with Perth based blues guitar hotshot, Matty T Wall. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips phoned Geoff up for a chat about all of the above.

Geoff Achison_Another Mile Another Minute CD Cover artWhat was your thinking going into the album, Another Mile, Another Minute in regard to the kind of album you wanted to make?
I definitely wanted to focus on the songs. I said to my co-producers and the band that it was going to be a collection of songs chiefly, which is different to the last few projects we did… which were admittedly live albums. The DVD was the last big thing that we’d done and of course it was all about the performance, capturing how the band plays. This was a bit of a shift in gears to how the band traditionally works. It was quite an intense process. I had a lot of clear ideas , writing the songs which first of all go down on pencil and paper and many many edits with an eraser. Then I have a basic garage band type program which I use to put demos together. I had some pretty clear Ideas of what I wanted to do and I could get some of them down on demo and keep the demos relatively simple because I still want the band to have their input. For instance, I wouldn’t dare tell Gerry Pantazis what the best drum part might be! So the next step was to go into the rehearsal space and make some recordings with the guys bringing in things I hadn’t thought of.

What about the overall sound? What kind of brief did you give to the producers Rob and Ben Harwood in regard to production?
Rob and Ben know my playing very well. They know my music. I guess when we talked about it, I did throw a couple of ideas of albums that I like the sound of but now that it is out there and it has a life of it’s own, I can’t really recall what albums they were. It was probably things like old JJ Cale albums. Actually there’s an album by BB King and Eric Clapton called Riding With The King and Jimmy Vaughan’s Strange Pleasure. Now that we are talking about it they are starting to come back. Those kind of albums which are not straight down the line blues albums per se but the production quality is very organic and warm.

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Pic by Jason Rosewarne

How many guitars did you use on the  album?
I used more guitars on this album than I ever have. I had my two PRS guitars which sound very different, even though they are basically the same thing … slightly different electronics. In the studio the goldtop one has a very different sound to the tobacco one. I also had my old goldtop Les Paul, which we used for a couple of things. Also a guy called Robert Johnston built a Telecaster for me a long time ago and we used that for quite a few of the rhythm tracks. It’s a fantastic, beautifully clean sounding guitar. Then I used a resonator for a lot of the acoustic stuff. in fact the resonator guitar was the axe that I wrote a lot of the songs on. Being a new guitar it inspired me to go to different places compositionally. I suggest to anyone having writer’s block to go and buy yourself a new guitar, something you haven’t played before. A buddy of mine Ray Flegg who played with Scarecrow for many years and various other bands, he loaned me a Strat and an SG and a couple of other solid body guitars. We wanted to have as many different layers of sounds as we could without going crazy. It’s one of those records where the more spins you have of it, you will hear a little something different, especially with headphones on.

 

Is there a track on the album that you’re particularly proud of?
There are several tunes on there I have become very fond of playing live. I’m probably most happy with a song called Dreaming I Am Awake. It’s very personal that tune. I  was very tentative about showing it to everybody. I had played it for Rob and Ben. I just laid all the songs out. I sat on their balcony when I went over to their place and just played all of the songs to them. We got to the end of the session with Roger and Gerry doing bass and drums. It must have been 12 months since I had played the track to Rob and Ben. So at the end of the session, someone said, are we done? I said yes, I think we’re done. Then this voice from the control room says what about that minor key blues? So I was forced to do it and it was a difficult process to get that one out because it is very personal and a very emotional tune. Of course the guys nailed it. I had asked someone else to sing it but Rob and Ben convinced me to push through with it and I am really happy that it was completed. There are others like Delta Dave about our old mate who used to busk in Melbourne. That’s a true story and very different to anything else I have written. It’s one of those tunes that I don’t feel like I wrote it, it just presented itself and I have really enjoyed going out and telling this story of our old mate. I wish I could write more songs like that. I guess it’s a ballad in the true sense of the word.

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Geoff with Justin Yap

The next project for you is a July tour with the Justin Yap band. When and how did you come across Justin?
I do try to keep my ear to the ground as far as what’s going on, particularly where I live in Melbourne. It’s a very vibrant scene here as you know and there are always things going on. As well as our established acts there is always new talent coming through the ranks. It’s thrilling for me to see these kids, even though some of them are in their 20s and 30’s, who want to play blues and jazz and soul and want to improvise. There’s a long and fabulous future for this kind of music. I’m always thrilled when I play a festival because it gives me a chance to catch a set of these younger bands. So I had seen Justin play a couple of times and his group are all great players. Nadia has a great set of pipes, she’s a great singer and they have their whole life ahead of them. The tour has come about because lo and behold, we won the same award. The Chain Awards were announced and we won the same one, so we are joint winners and I was thrilled. The day after we gave each other a call and I don’t know who said it first but it was suggested that we should do a show together. That morphed into a tour and I am really looking forward to it being on the road with these kids.

matty_t_wall3You’re then playing with Matty T Wall at the Melbourne Guitar Show. How did that collaboration come about?
Matty has been at it for a while. This was suggested by my booking agency. They said he is a phenomenal musician. I said, is that the guy with the 3 pickup SG? And they said yes. Wears the hat? Yes! I said I saw that dude at the Bendigo Blues Festival and I was blown away, bought their album and went up and congratulated them. So I jumped on the offer to play with them.  So since then we have been in contact with each other and we’re putting a set together and the next time I see him will be at the Melbourne Guitar Show. We are really looking forward to playing together.

What are your memories of last couple of Melbourne Guitar Shows?
You know it is always fun to be making a contribution to the performances. I think it is a real privilege when you have so many great guitar players out there. You walk around the exhibitions and you see all these people that you know and some of them are the hottest guitar players in town. Others might not be known but I know they are bitchin’ guitar players. And just the gear, walking around and seeing the exhibits … what I love is that you will always see something new. I put little notes in my phone, thinking when I get home I must check that out. You’d think that everything connected to guitar playing had been invented but there are still these improvements you keep seeing. Some of it is just fun. So I love it. There is so much to see that I always make a point of trying to see as much as I possibly can. And then the performances just seem to be getting bigger and better each year.

You’ve just come back from overseas again. Tell me about that
I had a tour in England first and then I went to the US. I hooked up with my longtime cohorts in the UK. I have done many tours there since the late 90s, I think 14 tours. I had a bit of a hiatus because my UK manger retired. Anyway I was thrilled that I got an invitation through Facebook, so I jumped at it and was able to recruit my guys. It was like a big reunion tour for us. Then the States is always great, I go there a couple of times a year. Landslide Records distributes us there now which was cool because we had a team pushing the album and I was getting airplay reports and reviews.

What else is on for 2017?
I am going back to the US in October. I’m doing a big show in Melbourne celebrating my 52nd journey around the sun. I used to be pretty low key with birthdays but I had a great gig for my 50th and someone said you should always celebrate your birthday, you made it through another year. So that will be a lot of fun with a lot of friends.

Another Mile, Another Minute is out now. Check out Geoff’s website for our dates
 www.geoffachison.com

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