Australian guitarist Graham Greene’s latest release “The Guitar Vinci Code” is a true tour-de-force. It was one of Rock And Roll’s favourite releases in 2016, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, you should definitely check it out. Greene has had a long and successful career in the music business, and is now getting ready for a string of live gigs. Rock And Roll decided it was time to check in to see what’s in store for the Guitar Shaman from Oz!
Q. Your 2016 EP “The Guitar Vinci Code” made Rock And Roll’s favourite list for 2016, how has the response been to this release?
The response has been one hundred percent positive, which is most gratifying. I was happy with my new focus on the latest CD, but you’re never truly sure until you get feedback from fans and critics. All the reviews so far have been more than favourable, so I feel encouraged to continue with what feels natural and right to me.
Q. I just have to take a moment to also compliment your wife, Donna Greene, on the album artwork. She’s done some wonderful work, but this is just exquisite! Did you give her any input for the artwork, or does she just work her own magic?
Thank you! Donna is a woman of many talents, and graphic art is but one of them. For this album, she pretty much did her own thing based on the vibe she got from the music. She always asks my opinion, and we sometimes collaborate on album art, but this one was all Donna. I was thrilled with what she came up with – I reckon it suits the vibe of the album perfectly.
Q. I recently watched a wonderful documentary clip and interview with you on YouTube that made me wish for a two hour documentary about your life and your work, how did that come about?
I was approached by a guy called Pat Parent, who had seen me perform a few years ago. He was doing a mature-age course in film and TV and had been given the task of producing a short documentary, and asked me to be the subject. I said yes, so we did some filming and a couple of interviews that he edited together to make what you saw. There was a lot of unused interview footage and audio left over, including an interview with Perry Ormsby from Ormsby Guitars so we may yet do a longer edit. Pat has moved back home to Canada since then, but we have kept in touch.
Q. You’re getting ready to hit the stage for some live gigs, tell us a bit about that, and what it feels like to get the band back together and get back on stage.
I’ve been edging toward the live thing for a while now, but it has been over the last six months that I really started to think seriously about it. When I finished The Guitar Vinci Code, I knew that I wanted to present the new stuff live. We hadn’t played anything from Down Devils Road either, so it was time. Jim Awram (bass) and Troy Brazier (drums) have been my rhythm section for many years now, and when we get together, magic happens. It didn’t take us long to find our feet and settle in to our familiar groove, and the songs are sounding huge. Now that we’ve got our parts under our fingers and are honing the live set to a fine edge, I’m feeling that anticipation building for the first gig!
Q. You have a pretty extensive heap of tunes to choose from for the live set: could you reveal some tracks that you will be playing?
Well, we‘ve tweaked a few of the older tunes from Leap Of Face and Club Voodoo this time around, changing some parts and extending others to give them new life and make things a bit more interesting to play live. Jim and Troy both have more room to shine, which is a huge bonus when it comes to the overall impact of the band live. We’ve added ‘Off The Deep End’ and ‘CJ’s Blues’ from the back catalogue – it has been at least ten years since either of those pieces have been played live – and, of course, there’s the new stuff. We’re playing four of the tracks from The Guitar Vinci Code, including the title track, and three from Down Devils Road. I am bringing my acoustic guitar on stage to play the intro section of ‘Through The Dark’, which may just become one of my favourites to play live.
Q. I’ve seen you blog about the various tracks on the EP, some really interesting “Behind The Scenes” information. Including about your choice of guitars. One of my favourite tunes on the release is “Petra”: it’s such a dramatic and emotional track, could you tell us a bit about that track and how it came to be?
Petra started out as just that simple but relentless signature guitar/strings riff and rapidly grew from there. I’d get to the end of one section and an idea for the next would pop into my head. Sometimes I would have a basic idea for the melody parts as well as the backing, but mainly the phrasing as opposed to the actual notes, if that makes any sense. Once I had the basic tracks down, the rest just flowed – I could see in my mind’s eye the narrow canyons and massive red cliffs as I wrote, and felt inspired by the natural majesty. I guess I did a pretty good job of expressing that feeling through the music, which is my favourite thing to do.
Q. A lot of your tunes on The Guitar Vinci Code are very vivid and really evoke stories in my head when I listen to them: do you have “storylines” in mind when you write the tracks?
I don’t know if I have storylines as such, but more mental imagery, sometimes static, sometimes movie-like. Once an idea starts to evolve, it will throw up images that evoke the feeling that I get from the music. In Dinosaur Bones (from Club Voodoo), for example, the images I had were almost cartoonish and playful, perhaps like that Disney movie, Land Before Time. In Petra, the vibe was more real and expansive – crossing burning sands before winding through narrow canyons to discover the towering majesty of a city carved in stone. Other tracks, of course, are less focused on imagery and instead follow a vibe or a feeling, be it a sense of fun, drama or quiet contemplation. It is truly amazing just how many places music can reach, and when I lose myself in the creative process… it feels like going on an adventure.
Q. Most of your music is instrumental and manages to evoke so much emotion without words, and you really have a way to give the guitar an expressive voice of its own. Do you ever get a craving to write lyrics for your music? Or do you feel that’s superfluous?
I have written a number of songs with Donna for Resonance Project that I am very proud of, in particular our work on the Tale Goes On EP. I had a reasonable amount of input with lyrics and vocal melodies for those songs, and I usually include at least one vocal track on my full-length solo albums. Words can guide the listener through a song and supply intimate details of both the song and songwriter while telling a story. What I try to do with the instrumentals is create an image that can be seen from many angles – to tell a tale that has many entry and exit points that provides a different route for each individual listener. I am always fascinated by people’s perception of my work, because that is something I have no control over – it’s like having my life told back to me with things I never noticed.
Q. For all the guitar-gear lovers out there, can you reveal what kind of gear are you using for the live gigs?
For the 2017 live shows, my stage rig has expanded a little to include my Taylor acoustic guitar, which is mounted on a stand to allow me to move between acoustic and electric with a minimum of fuss. My main guitars will still be the three signature series Ormsbys – the GG6, GG7 and GG6FG – with the addition of a couple of spares including a beautiful Ormsby SX Standard that I’ve been using during rehearsals. I have a separate pedal board for the Taylor, so my stage footprint is a bit larger now. I use a Korg X5 keyboard for a few things, and my amp rig is the Mesa/Boogie Road King 212 combo with ¾ back 212 extension cabinet that I’ve used for the past ten years.
Q. You’ve been quite prolific in recent years: are you working on new music?
I have actually been holding new ideas at bay while in rehearsal mode, as I’ve really been focusing on getting my chops up for the live shows. It’s frustrating when a new riff or melody intrudes at the most inopportune times, but now that I’m in a good place with the live sets, I’ve started messing around with some of the ideas that have been floating around in my head. Once we’re up and running with the band, I’ll probably get back in the studio and see what happens.
Q. Apart from the live gigs, do you have any other musical ventures coming up?
Apart from the odd guitar clinic, no. Getting out to play my stuff live again has been a long time coming, and so that’s taking up most of my musical energies for the time being. I’m really enjoying the band thing right now, and there’s an excitement there that I haven’t felt for quite some time. There will be various promo things for The Guitar Vinci Code that we’ll be doing as well as the live work, so there’s plenty to keep me busy this year. I’m ready to go, so watch this space!
Huge thanks to Graham for taking the time to do this interview!