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Graham Greene - Tribute Interview - 2009

In this issue, Metalmare is dedicated to one of the living Australian virtuoso legend “Graham Greene”. He achieved many awards till today (recently was announced as “the best instrumental guitarist in 2008” at the star music awards in Hollywood) and also some weeks ago had his third signature guitar series... But the only problem is his ...birthplace! Being an Australian and his decision to stay there, caused him not to be in the mainstream halls. Between us, I feel that he liked it that way. Hopefully his name is being spread more nowadays. The dedication is made more or less like an interview, in order to be easier for you to enjoy the reading! I strongly believe that we have to check and dig for diamonds like this one. Mostly nowadays that internet is another tool that can help us. So, you can only search for the mainstream or you can also search for the ...quality unknown!

The experiences that I have faced through my life have shaped the person that I am and the music that I make...

Graham Greene - 2009



I know your story but I want you to tell it to the readers in your own unique way.
Well, I grew up in the Australian outback, away from most things that people in the city take for granted – we had no TV, no commercial radio, and all of our food and other supplies came in by ship, as the roads weren’t good enough to allow trucks to get to where we were. In fact, when I was about five years old, we lived in a settlement that had a population of about thirty, and the electricity was turned off at 10:00pm, coming back on at 6:00am. There were no shops, so sometimes having dinner meant going hunting with a rifle to get meat to go with the vegetables we grew ourselves. Even in the remote outback, we had music, in the form of an old upright piano and a tenor ukulele, which my mother could play beautifully while we sang the old popular songs from the war years. It is my Mum that gave me the gift of music, along with the knowledge that even in the hardest of times, you could bring a smile to people’s faces with a song and a joke. It was these formative years that set me up for a life in music, although I didn’t know it at the time. When I was a teenager I went to boarding school in the city (Perth, which is where I still live), and I learned piano and clarinet along with my regular studies. At this stage I had no interest in modern music, preferring classical and ragtime music. My favourite composers at this time were Beethoven and Scott Joplin. At age fifteen, everything changed. I heard the album “Deep Purple In Rock”, and it struck a chord within me that still resonates. I discovered the guitar, formed my first band while still at school, and my life’s path was pretty much set from that point. I knew that I was going to play and perform, and I worked at my new obsession until I was good enough to get a gig in a working band. I turned pro in 1982 and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have to admit that your story is quite interesting and impressive like a fairytale. But I am sure that there weren't only good moments and the path was not always cleared for you. Can you tell us some difficult situations that you had to get through?
My musical road has not always been a smooth one, that is for sure. My first big stumbling block came when I broke my neck in a car accident when I was 18. I survived with all my faculties intact, but it was a long time before I could pick up a guitar again. The accident came back to haunt me at the beginning of 2003, when I lost the use of two left-hand fingers due to nerve damage in my neck. After many painful tests, the doctors told me that the only option they had was to perform exploratory surgery on my spine, which I decided not to risk. I opted instead to find my own answers, which came in the form of a funny little naturopath called Laurie Shortland. He found where there were some nerves caught in the vertebra of my neck and freed them, which stopped the constant pain and gave me back the movement in my fingers. It was then a matter of teaching my hand to play guitar again, which was a slow and frustrating process. After this experience, I have never taken my gift for granted and am grateful for every note I play. It changed the way I look at my music - and my life, for that matter. One of the hardest times of my life was when I was recording my last album, Leap of Face. My mother passed away just as I was getting into the writing and recording, which was a very difficult thing to have to work through and stay focused. I managed, but it wasn’t easy. Then, just after I’d finished the album and was about to go out and play it live, my father passed away. I was always extremely close to both my parents, and there were days when I felt I couldn’t go on. However, I found the strength to continue in the knowledge that I had to continue the musical legacy that my mother had given me, and live a good and productive life to honour the two people who gave me that life. It was my duty as a son and as a man. The experiences that I have faced through my life have shaped the person that I am and the music that I make – both of which are a never ending tribute to those who went before me. That, I believe, is what being a real man is about.

The way you are playing and composing makes me understand that you have heard a lot Steve Vai and also Satriani. Am I right? Which other performers are you listening to?
By the time I heard Satriani and Vai, I was already well on the way to developing the style that you hear today. For sure, they influenced some of my playing, but my main influences came long before in the form of players like Blackmore, Page, Beck and Clapton. I know that my current style may sound more American than European, but my main inspirations through the early years were those English guys. Players that I admire now are people like Eric Johnson, Steve Morse and really anyone who has a unique and identifiable voice on the guitar. When I listen to music in the car, the radio is always set on a classical music station. There is always something new to learn from the true masters like Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Paganini, Bach – there are too many...

Your compositions are not that technical but they are emotional and have certain personality. Do you think that this is the reason why you stood out from the rest?
I have always valued composition and melody above vulgar displays of technique. I have heard my instrumental pieces referred to as “songs without words”, which I think is pretty cool. It’s okay to play fast and pull off the occasional bit of guitar gymnastics, which I do, but to me, doing nothing but shred is kind of like talking a lot and saying nothing. Most of my tunes are arranged like songs, with structure and melody that doesn’t strain the mind to listen to. This way I can appeal to more people than just guitar players, and as I said before, making people smile is what it’s all about – not my ego. A good friend of mine recently told me that she can always tell when it’s me playing on a track. To me, that is the highest complement you can pay a musician. Hearing that, I knew that I was achieving what I was after as a guitarist and musician.

my instrumental pieces referred to as “songs without words”, which I think is pretty cool...

Graham Greene - 2009


Why do you think that European and US market didn't support you enough like they should have done? Do you think that this situation will be changed in the future?
It is very hard to make an impression when you live at the other end of the world! (laughs) Being an Australian guitarist is being a very small fish in an incredibly large ocean, and sometimes it comes down to luck and perseverance to get anywhere at all. Fortunately, things have already started to change on that front. In October of last year I won a music award in Hollywood. I was named the 2008 Star Music Awards’ Best Rock Instrumental Artist, which was at once humbling and a great thrill. It meant that someone was hearing what I was doing and thought that I was good enough to cut it with the big boys. Not too bad for a boy from the Aussie bush.

Tell us more things about the organization for the children protection that you are supporting. What are your emotions about this and can you tell me if you see any difference?
The Stop Child Executions Campaign is something that is very close to my heart. As a parent and grandparent, I cannot relate to a government that executes its own children, as is the case in Iran. My music and songs that I have written with my wife, Donna have been used in promoting the campaign and we do what we can to make people aware of the inhumanity that still occurs in our so-called civilized world. We have managed to save a few lives through our efforts, although not as many as we would have liked. People can visit the campaign’s website (www.stopchildexecutions.com) to find out what we’re trying to do for the kids. They may even like to sign an online petition while they are there. They might just help to save a life.

The third Graham Greene signature guitar is already a reality! I am wishing you more to come! Tell us more things about that one.
I first met Perry Ormsby in 2004, and I have to tell you, he makes some of the finest instruments I have ever played. My signature series GG6 and GG7 were unveiled in 2005, and the new model – the GG6FG – came out last year. All three guitars are built to perfectly suit my hands, my playing and my music, and it is an absolute pleasure to be working with such a talented luthier. Over the years, I have held endorsements with some major manufacturers, but this is the first time I have actually felt like I am part of a partnership. Perry listened to everything I had to say and then built me the perfect guitars. I am also happy to count Perry among my closest friends, and am immensely proud of what he has achieved in his chosen career. He was recently asked to build a very special bass for Kelly Garni, the original bass player in Quiet Riot. The bass is a personal tribute to the late great Randy Rhoads, Kelly’s childhood friend and band mate, and is going to put Ormsby Guitars on the world map!

You met your wife Donna on stage. I thought that you would never go on stage again! (laughing). Just kidding. It is very nice what you have and keep on that way! Please tell me more about your project "Resonance Project" that you have with Donna.
(Smiles) Some people may wonder how we can live together as well as work onstage and offstage together, but it’s really easy – we are two sides of the same coin, and it is a perfect personal and musical balance. We put Resonance Project together to tour to Vietnam in January of 2008, where we were invited to perform at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi. We played to 15,000 people and a VTV1 viewing audience of some six million. The main focus of the band is the songs, which Donna co-writes and sings brilliantly. Of course, there are a few instrumentals in the set, but with the band I get to be more of a sideman and let Donna take the spotlight. It’s less pressure for me, and a whole lot of fun besides.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Right now I’m working on an album with a guy called Jac Dalton. Jac is originally from North Carolina in the US, but is now an Australian citizen living in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. We were introduced by a good mutual friend, and it was instant chemistry. I’m having quite a bit of creative input with the songs, which are coming up great – Jac has a terrific voice, and is a gifted songwriter. I’m flying to Adelaide in a month or so to begin recording, and we’re hoping that the album will be out in international release before the end of the year. The tracks are being mixed and mastered in Nashville by Gregg Brown, a hotshot Nashville producer. After some promo touring around Australia, it’s looking good that we may be heading to the US for a few dates playing support spots for established acts, so I’m hoping that it’s the beginning of some great things. Anything can happen in this business of course, but my fingers are crossed. So far, so good!

In this moment I have to stop and thank you so much for your efforts in this small dedication/interview. Feel free to add whatever you wish!
The last year of my life has been very eventful, with many things jumping into my path, sometimes most unexpectedly. I am blessed to be working with the people I am at the moment, and it has shown me that you never know what may be waiting just around the corner. Whether you are a musician or a plumber, the important thing is to do that which fills your heart with joy, and share it with all who are willing to receive. In sharing this joy and passion, we may help to lighten a heavy heart, put a smile on a sad face, and maybe help to make this world a better place. After all, if we make the world a better place, we do it for all mankind. I think that’s pretty noble sentiment. The same sun and moon shine down on all of us, and regardless of our different spoken languages, we all understand that most universal of languages – music. Many thanks mate. Peace!




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