The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar?
Well it was the 60’s and everyone wanted to play guitar, when I finally got one it was almost like I had played one in a past life, it came very easy, I played for hours and hours every day. My mother was bereft as I ignored all school studies, but I still passed the exams. I’ve also played Flute, trained by a lady player in the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, that ended when my girlfriend at the time turned up mid-lesson and caused a scene, it was too much for the tutor, it was too much for me….
What was your musical training?
Finally my parents realized I was serious about guitar and sent me to Bill Sullivan, a great tutor in Liverpool, he listened to me play, took down a 1947 Gibson 175 off the wall and said “I’ll Teach You Jazz” (One of my friends went through the same process and Bill taught him Classical, shows what a great teacher he was, seeing the potential in students)
How did your interest for fretless guitar start?
Well I had read about the Vigier Surfretter in 1998, a review in a magazine, and it sort of stuck in the back of my mind. In 2003 I came across the compilation CD “Fretless Guitar Masters” and it was a complete revelation, I just could not believe how good it was.
How did you decide to create a website like www.unfretted.com?
I just realised I had found something I was really passionate about, the Fretless Guitar, I’d already bought one, a Godin Fretless Multiac SA Nylon and the next step was to provide a resource for fretless guitarists. Ned Evett already had fretlessguitar.com but that was limited in scope. I wanted to open up the world of Fretless Guitar, bring the players together, so there was no other option that to start the website unfretted.com, it might just have been the best thing I ever did,
In 2005 you have realized the double cd “Village of the Unfretted? How did it start the idea and how did you choose the 35 guitar players involved?
This could be a long story… Unfetted had a forum, and the core members started a thread called “Village of the Unfretted” basically a story where you could add tales and characters with a fretless theme, it was very funny, sometimes strange, but always entertaining. Someone at some point said we should make a CD to accompany the story, seemed like a great idea, well it snowballed and then we thought, it might be impolite not to invite all fretless players to take part. Well I expected about a 35% positive result, well bowl me over when we got 95% positive response! So it became a double CD with two and a half hours of music, space was so tight I had to reduce my contribution to 1:50 to fit it all in.
In 2014 you have written your book “Fretless Guitar The DefinitiveGuide”, why did you decide to write a book about this argument?
Well no one had written about this before, I’d always wanted to write a book and here it is! There are not many copies left and I know in future this will change hands at very high prices. (Village of the Unfretted CD has been listed on ebay at £52 even though I still sell it at £15)
If you have to convince a musician to play a fretless guitar, which ideas and arguments would you say to convince him?
Oh well, first I would discourage him / her, its not an easy path, don’t go down a road you cannot walk to the end. If you really want to embark on this trip you will open new vistas, new sounds, new tones, its a hell of a trip!
I have seen that most part of the fretless guitar’s scene is divided into two parts: one devoted cto contemporary/atonal/microtonal music and second one devoted to .. “world music” mostly from east or indian world. In our west country it seems there is still a division about this…
That’s a complex question. I don’t really see it as a division.
The contemporary / atonal / microtonal is a very exciting area, it is pushing the boundaries, and I love it!
The “World Music” side is very different, it is taking traditions form Turkish and Arabic Makams, Indian scales and Asian music. Traditional instruments have been able to play this music and its transition to the fretless guitar means the scales of this music can be played on a modern instrument. The great take up of the Fretless Guitar in Turkey can be sited as an example, there are some great players there, and some great luthiers.
When I started playing my fretless guitar a lot of people asked me why I want to play microtonal music.. but this not my case, I play fretless guitar but inside the twelve tone intonation, like a violin. In our west countries it seems there is still this contradiction ….
HaHa! Most people just asked me why no frets? and could not comprehend why I wanted to make things so difficult.
Even if you play within 12T there are subleties you can introduce, that slightly flat “blue note” the third in a chord flattened by 14 cents to produce a pure intonation...
I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer?
Is it possible that the fretless guitar can be seen as a result of musical "globalization"?
Mmmm… I don’t think Fretless Guitar is a result of Globalisation, but I do think the fretless community has been brought together by the global internet. Originally we might have been following our course individually, alone, but now we can link up with other like minded musicians.
I don’t think there will be a uniform vision for the fretless guitar, take the CD “Village of the Unfretted” there are so many distinctive styles and some people thought that was a weakness, personally I thought it was the strength of the album.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island ...
This is going to be weird…
25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago - to remind me of pre fretless bustle
Oze - Ned Evett,
Feel My Pain - from Tim Donahue’s Madmaen and Sinner’s album
From Istanbul - Nicolas Meier
Weedwacker - Jack Mazzenga
BTW you get six disks on Desert Island Discs :)
Yes, but I like number five. Your next projects? When we will see you in Italy?
Completely re-writing the Unfetted webite to make it compatible with mobiles / tablets / iPads etc.
A project introducing the fretless guitar to the wider community
I love Italy, will book a flight tomorrow!
I wait for you in Venice!