An amazing array of skills
- Toneheadz Band leader
- Electric Violinist
- Keyboard Player
I was really interested to talk about taboos with Tony. He likes to break the genres and not fit into a mould. This really resonated with me as I mix classical painting, digital photography and tech with design. It seems counterintuitive to me to specialise. Limiting not just what interests me but in developing skills, knowledge and ideas.
Tony has played so many instruments to call him a guitarist or a musician of any one type is too narrow.
Tony has worked for a considerable number of years freelance, expanding his playing styles from rock and blues into jazz, jazz/rock, funk, reggae and world music, including a stint in the early 1980’s with an original three piece band ‘A Minute Passed’ (with virtuoso bass player Roger Carey and drummer Mark Thirsk) where he used guitar synth extensively.
Tony plays in a trio known as Toneheadz along with Chas Maguire (bass) and Roger Batting (drums/percussion). Their music has been described as an “exhilarating blend of rock, funk, blues and jazz fusion”.
The first thing that peaked my curiousity was the title for his album ‘Taboo Guitar’. I knew there had to be a reason.
Taboo as in breaking taboos. Tony finds this amusing and mixes styles like an alchemist.
Putting an instrumental solo in a pop record can be amusing, entertaining and a dig at unspoken rules. The big ubiquitous guitar solos of 70’s rock bands and how these are not found in other music genres.
The album itself and the pieces themselves a bit of a hybrid of lots of different things. There may be a Jazz sound for example but it doesn’t comply with all the conventions of Jazz. It is a style that doesn’t fit into a style.
After listening to Tony and his love of all music and how he is able to go seamlessly from one style to the next and blend them together I had another look into his album. Its a recently released album of 12 instrumental tracks.
The melange of styles is there from Spanish style guitar sounds, Jazz Fusion, to more ethereal tracks like Floating with a beautiful piano intro and Tony’s amazing guitar virtuoso.
Tony has one of the broadest ranges of musical taste of anyone I have met but also has some core current influences.
When I asked Tony about his influences in music he wasted no time in listing off some amazing artists. One name that kept getting mentioned the more we talked was Jimi Hendrix. As a teenager Jimi Hendrix was who inspired him to pick up the guitar. Tony up until that point had been studying classical piano since the age of 8.
He admits he held off from doing it because his brother was studying the guitar and it was ‘his thing’. Before finally succumbing to his desire to play the guitar he moved to drums and even the base forming a band with his brother in which he played the base. This was about the age of 13.
Tony’s depth of music knowledge is impressive. He is live a walking encyclopaedia of music.
When I asked him to cast his mind back to what attracted him to the guitar after playing piano, drums, bass and the violin it was the sound. A lot of guys say it was the girls chasing the guitar player. For Tony it was the sound. The sound more precisely of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar played loud. Tony explained to me how the guitar and the amp become one instrument when played loudly. They work as one and the sound changes. It records differently when played at a higher volume.
The other differences were even more subtle and how playing a different type of guitar in a style of music can change. Its back to breaking those taboos again.
The alchemy of these different combinations is all about experimentation.
Tony’s recommended tracks:
- Lila’s Dance (Maha vishnu Orchestra)
- Crystal Planet (Joe Satriani)
- Hamburger Concerto Pt 2 (Focus)
- Questions (Allan Holdsworth)
- Spanish Castle Magic (Jimi Hendrix)
- Lifescape (Chick Corea)
Until talking to Tony I never realised there were so many unspoken rules in music. He pointed out that almost every big song in the 70’s had a guitar solo and this is never done out side of rock. Pop music doesn’t have this. Likewise he said songs can have a Jazz sound but still not fall in the category of Jazz. His own album ‘Taboo Guitar’ sometimes gets classified as Jazz when it is really a collection of pieces that break the taboos.
Play the style of music you want to play. Plus do not be afraid of experimentation and trying new things.
I told Tony how I could not get into my ‘music lessons’ as a young student. It was ‘Mary had a little Lamb’ and scales. Tony who has done a lot of teaching in the past said that I should have been asked to play something I wanted to play and in the style I liked. This would have given me the motivation and the drive to play it.
All I can remember is 6 months of Mary had a Little Lamb when like Tony the sounds I was hearing were those 70’s rock songs and of course Stairway to Heaven.
“Motivation is very important” “I never had this problem because I knew what I wanted to play and went for it”.
It was a big revelation for me talking to Tony and I wish I had him as my music teacher. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the passion it was that my passion was killed. Talking to other that have had similar experiences it is clear the right teacher can also make a huge difference. The passion needs to be kept alive and Tony has so much passion that I can tell he is a great teacher.
Tony, “nothing was going to stop me”. At Tony’s boarding school the music teachers frown upon rock music but they let Tony and his school friends use the music study to jam together. They were free to experiment in a school known for ‘teaching discipline and rigorous academic standards’.
This may explain the different perspectives Tony has. He clearly still loves classical music. When I asked him what he was working on. It was a 17th Century piece written for the lute.