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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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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