Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

Travis Mataya: musician, artist, writer, introvert, and frakking brilliant. As long as I have known him I have always respected Travis’s ability to analyze a situation, a song, a fellow musician, or ideas at a higher level. Let’s see what this cool cat is all about!

You and I met because of guitar.com though not actually on it if memory serves. I met your wife there and then you via her. Give us a little bit on your musical background. How you started and what instruments you play.

TM: The first thing I ever played was a Smurfs drum set my parents got me when I was two-years old. Today, however, I prefer to just program them. As a grade-schooler, I had music class every day, I played clarinet, and I sang in both the church and school choir. In middle school up to high school, I was a trumpet player, but I ended up quitting when marching band became mandatory. I really hated the dorky uniforms and didn’t need to give my bullies any more ammunition, however, I did wind up being forced into performing in a parade at some point. I started playing guitar in my late teens. And unlike most guitarists, I’m honest about this: I initially just did it for the chicks. I was a socially awkward geek and needed all the help I could get … it definitely worked!

I’ve had a few garage bands and have done everything from performing on stage to playing on sidewalks, and doing session work in state-of-the-art studios. And I’m technically a music school drop out; it was due to financial limitations. But I’ve been lucky to have taken lessons and learned from amazing guitarists like Jake Willson and Nicholas Scott. The story of my life has been meeting players better than me and becoming inspired to reach higher levels. And I can’t stress how important that has been in my musical development.

And aside from the aforementioned instruments, I also play piano, bass guitar, and occasionally attempt musicalesque sounds with my vocal chords.

One of the things that strikes me most about your music is the variety of genres in which you write. Why do you write as varied as you do, what inspires you, and what is your song writing process is like?

TM: I don’t have any commitment to specific sounds and don’t like to be creatively limited; I have more the mentality of a video game or film composer than a typical musician. I will often start with a cinematic idea and then transfer it into music. And my writing process, like my style, varies. Sometimes it’s just instantaneous from my brain to my fingers. But most of the time, I’ll have a vague idea and play with different rhythms, scales, modes, chords and arpeggios until I get the feel I’m looking for. From there on out, I’m just a session musician for my subconscious.

What, for you, makes a great song?

TM: Balls. I know that sounds a bit weird. But from Mozart to Michael Jackson, I think greatness comes from having the cojones to attempt something bigger than yourself.

What traits do you respect in a fellow musician?

I respect a personality and that extends beyond music. I really can’t stand people who only want to talk about music or their specific instrument. And I really respect musical knowledge both in theory and history. But ultimately, self awareness is probably the most respectable trait. There are far too many people running around thinking they’re being artistic, complex, or creative by sounding exactly like their favorite commercially successful band.

What have been consistently good bands for you to listen to and what are you really into right now? 

TM: I don’t really listen to anything consistently; I’m all over the place. In terms of bands, it’s easy to list off the classic big names, but for some reason The Hooters have followed me throughout my life. Also, I love Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, and often I will geek out to Rhapsody or get my polyrythmical fix from Meshuggah or Tool.

For the last few years I’ve been into Jazz and absolutely love Gregory Porter. He reaches me on a visceral level. It’s real magic if you ask me. He transports the listener into his world, and it’s a great place to visit.

Hiromi is another artist who is just something really special. I’ve gotten to see her perform live, and I’ve never recovered from the musical insanity I witnessed.

What’s the story behind Happy UFO Land?

TM: Happy UFO Land is a place in my mind. I wanted to recapture how it feels to be a kid with a wild imagination. It’s really musical surrealism: Imagine the perfect suburb with everything being absolutely cliche except for those classic 50’s style UFOs parked in the sky. The song is the soundtrack to an afternoon stroll down that street.

Also, I chose a theremin for the lead because it’s one of my favorite instruments of all time; it’s really underused in music. For me, it’s the best at evoking a sense of wonder, weirdness, and imagination. I also created a UFO hovering sound and applied audio filters to give it a realistic Doppler effect as it’s heard passing over the listener’s head.

What’s your home studio like?

TM: It’s a large room with wall mounted monitors, a giant desk, a server DAW, Lambda interface, a Boss drum machine, Pod 2.0, and a bunch of amps, guitars, and mikes. I also have guitar posters hanging up on the walls, a vintage Wurlitzer 200A (The same model Ray Charles used to play), and a steel guitar in there.

How did you get involved in the Lewis Martin Pederson project and what did you do on it?

Well, he hadn’t recorded an album since the days back when he was signed to a label, touring, and performing on TV. And he asked me to help him. Initially he just wanted demo, but it snowballed into a full album; he just had so many songs! I did all the engineering and was responsible for all the drums and lead guitar; I also played mandolin and bass on a couple of songs.

What did you learn from that experience?

TM: I learned that I have what it takes to sit down and record a full album by myself: Something I’ve never felt comfortable with before.

Any links where people can buy your music?

TM: Nope, anything I put on the Internet is purely for sharing with anyone who wants to read, listen, or look at it.

You also do art and writing in addition to your music. You even shared a tutorial on how to draw a dragon on your blog “Dragons Are Delicious.” Anything you would like to share on that front?

TM: I’ve always been an artist as far back as I can remember. As a kid I’ve won some big awards, been published, and had my work on display. My father was an artist, and I really just wanted to be like him; he was also a musician! But it’s something that comes very naturally to me, and I don’t need to think about it — which is really good because I’m often a very lazy painter.

Did your father have any impact on your style of art?

TM: Somewhat, he was responsible for me getting into comic books, but our styles are completely different; he’s much better with ink than I am.

I was also privileged to read an excerpt from your science fiction novel. I have to say the bit I read got me really intrigued. What would you like people to know about it and what are your plans for it?

TM: My ambitions with it go right to the moon. I remember hearing Alan Moore speak about how writing was literally magic: Meticulously arranged symbols that when read can have a real and very powerful effect on someone. And that’s really what I want to do. But it’s tough to talk about a WIP as I’m way too paranoid about people stealing my ideas, unintentionally even. But that’s currently my biggest project, and writing is really the way I would like to leave an impact on the world.

What are books you would recommend that exhibit that magic?

Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I think it really can affect the reader without them even knowing it. It’s not until after you’ve read Vonnegut do you get this sense that you’ve grown a bit as a person and gained some brilliant, new perspective.

Moby Dick is another one. It can be a really tough read with all the out of date Whaling information, but it’s a story that matures its readers and follows them throughout their entire life.

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is another great example. It’s like a maze for the intellect. And if you can navigate your way to the end, you will be rewarded. It puts you into a complex, surrealistic world and gets you to believe it’s normal, even routine. Ultimately, it imparts real character depth to anyone willing to put the work in.

At your funeral your friends are only allowed to drink one beverage. What beverage is it?

TM: Hi-C’s Ecto Cooler.

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This week we are joined by Scott Woeckel. He is prolific and varied in his pursuits and talents. His answers are incredibly thoughtful and I really enjoy his perspective on one of his goals for his band Everyday Ghost. There is a lot to experience here so let’s jump in.

First, thank you so much for doing this. You have quite a lot going on it seems. I want to ask you about most if not all of it, but first let’s discuss Everyday Ghost. Can you tell me how EDG got started?

SW: My pleasure. and thank you for having me! EDG got started after I got back from Seattle in February 2011. My good friend and long time musical associate Wood Fowler had passed away suddenly up there and I just got to thinking about where I was going with my music life and everything else you think about when a death hits so close. So, what had originally started out as a recording project turned into a full blown live band when Charlie Peterson found me on Craigslist looking for a pedal steel man. As fortune would have it he’s one of about two of the truly great pedal steel players in the great city of Los Angeles. He’s a complete source of inspiration, and the first day we met, we played EDG’s first gig on a Saturday night at T-Boyles in Pasadena entertaining a rugby team as a duo. Add in a couple of extremely talented guys on drums and bass, and we started booking shows around some of my old haunts.
How long have you been together?
SW: About a year and a half now.
What’s the reception been like?
SW: It’s been mostly really good. There’s always gonna be bad gigs, and clams, and with a new band it’s a rocky road sometimes to go through those growing pains to get to the really good stuff. But I don’t think we’ve played a show yet where someone hasn’t come up to us and said they really liked this or that tune. I think the biggest compliment has just been people coming back to hear us play again!
What’s your song writing process?
SW: It’s eclectic. Whenever I write a song though I hear a soundbite of Thelonius Monk running through my head which says, “Keep it simple as possible, so people will dig it.” Aside from trying to keep things simple, I’ve got songs that have started from all elements of music…a melody, a chord voicing or progression, a rhythm, a lyric. I could start writing a song from the ending just about as well as the beginning, or the middle, so long as I keep it simple and the song I wind up with at the end holds together as a whole and conveys to me what I want it to convey. The best ones are always fast, they come together in a day or two at most…the ones that tend to be unsalvagable train wrecks are usually the ones I toiled over for a week or more. So these days I just try to capture the inspiration when it’s there and capture as much information as possible while it’s there.
Any plans to record?
SW: Yes! Lot’s of plans to record. I still have a record to finish, and I’ve written a lot of new material I’d like to be on it, so I’m hoping to get back into the studio in the coming months and start tracking!
What is your goal with EDG?

SW: A difficult one to articulate, but I think the main goal driving EDG is to foremost and primarily acknowledge that we are upright, and sucking air. Therefore, as musicians, we must play…regardless of any particular material goal, such as to be rich and famous. I think a lot of the music we’re doing has the power to touch hurting souls, and maybe even lift them up and let them know they aren’t alone. And if we can achieve that through this music, I would consider that a goal worth pursuing.

Let’s switch gears a little. Tell me about the work you’ve been doing with Brandon Schott. 
SW: I’ve had a great time working with Brandon in support of his awesome new record “13 Satellites”. Brandon is an inspiring and unique talent, and I’ve been honored to work on a few videos with him and just be a part of it. Brandon has a way getting things in motion and done, and just seeing how hard he’s worked for so many years and through so many challenges, I hope any small part I’ve played will help him toward the recognition for his art, which he deserves.
What have you learned from that?
SW: I think I’ve learned it really takes an army working behind you these days if you expect to make any kind of major impact or dent in today’s musical landscape. There’s just so much stuff you have to do to simply keep from being forgotten about from one day to the next. It takes care, marketing, and a lot of financial planning, and the help of a lot of good friends to put a solid record into contention out there on your own.
What is the Moonflower work you’ve been doing?
SW: Moonflower is a really cool studio project that has spawned into all kinds of things. That band is the brainchild of James & Martine Dryden, they wrote all the material and have been kind enough to let me play a little double bass and guitar on a few tracks, as well as a little tenor sax. James is one of the best audio mixologists out there, and the record “Hey Daddy’O” is done, it’s in the can, and hopefully will be released very soon.
One of my favorite songs you wrote is “Small Town Love.” How did that song come about?
SW: Thanks! That’s a really personal tune, I wrote it after what amounted to a realization that I was no longer the small town boy I used to be and recognizing I had become alienated from that whole world. I come from a place where very few people have had the opportunity to truly pursue their dreams, and I tried to reconcile all those conflicting feelings in that song.

Small Town Love

You play guitar and sing, but you also play saxophone. How did you first get started playing sax?
SW: Well, my guitar playing is highly inspired by horn players, as opposed to guitar players. So I was always on the look out for a sax to try, and I did pick up the clarinet in college which gave me a little taste of the world of winds, and even studied and played with Harold Land for a few years, but I was poor, so I didn’t really get an opportunity to try a sax even. So a few years ago I picked up a sax, and started teaching myself to play, and the rest has just been expensive. Saxophone is an expensive habit. And it’s extremely addictive, and challenging, and worth every moment. I will say I’ve always held saxophonists in high esteem, but having walked in their shoes, I have an immense new respect for the instrument and even more awe when it comes to the great masters.

“I think a lot of the music we’re doing has the power to touch hurting souls”

What attracts you to jazz?
SW: Freedom. It’s one of the few genres of music that demands a certain sense of spontaneity, sophistication, rhythm, and musicality…and if you can put all that together in collective or individual fashion you can travel to some really amazing places. And not just musically, there is a space in jazz thats akin to “the zone” you feel in any great athletic sport, but it’s bottomless, and boundless. There are moments in jazz when you are playing from that space where you couldn’t play a wrong note, in the wrong spot, at the wrong time, if you tried. Having experienced that space, and knowing it’s there is a very spiritual connection, and I feel it most strongly expressed through the jazz idiom. That being said though, I think the space is the same for all music. In other words, I believe you can still be playing “jazz” in that spiritual-spacial-zone, even while reading down a Beethoven sonata for instance. And I think it’s that knowledge that allows me to move fairly freely through various genres of music, and instruments without ever feeling stuck, or committed to playing, say, one style of music.
Check out Scott’s sax skills: Stella By Starlight
Are you able to tell me anything about the new Plasticsoul record?
SW: All I can say is a few of the tracks that will be on that have been stuck in my ear since the first time I heard them live. Plasticsoul is my favorite LA band, and if you’ve heard “Peacock Swagger”, I imagine the new Plasticsoul record will be similar, but I believe it goes to 11. That’s one more.
What are your hopes/plans for the future as far as your involvement with music?
SW: For the most part to just keep doing it. I’m never bored, and music could easily occupy all of my time. I think the most important thing for me is to keep learning, searching, growing and expanding my abilities and keeping the music as fun as possible. Although I’ve been involved in the music industry for over three decades now, I still feel like a beginner. There’s always something new to learn, and it’s amazing the places music can take you. You just never know!
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream and why?
SW: Strawberry, and I have no idea!

Thanks again to Scott. Remember to follow Everyday Ghost at https://www.facebook.com/EverydayGhostBand

Also check out The Tremors, one of Scott’s previous bands. Country, rootsy, folky, bluegrassy, alt-rock about guns, drivin’, drinkin’, & heartache: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tremors

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