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So who is this Michael Dolce chap then? Well read on and you’ll probably realise he’s much like Roy Buchanan in the sense that he’s probably the greatest guitar player you’ve never heard of... and yes, he plays a tele too. Michael lives out in Australia and for over 20 years he’s been tearing up the session scene and been the go to guy for many top 10 artists when they need a world class touring guitarist. Just recently he placed 11th in Guitarist Magazine’s reader poll for the top 25 Australian guitar players. His debut solo album “Everything Til Now” was released just a year ago and has gone down a treat with us here at Live4Guitar because of its focus on the music and not the technique, but don’t let that fool you – Michael can burn with the best of them, so go check him out on youtube.

I recently hooked up with Michael for an extended chat about the past, the present, the future and all things music:

 

So Michael, let’s get this kicked off with you telling us a little bit about your background, where you’re from and how you learnt to play.

Well, I’m predominantly self taught – I had some Mel Bay style lessons when I was 6 and after two books I’d had enough. Then at 13 I picked it up again and was self taught, I listened to the Shadows and that taught me to listen to the little things in music, I learnt to play songs by copying what I heard. Things really changed when I was 16 and I stumbled across Satriani and Vinnie Moore! When I heard Surfing with the Alien I couldn’t believe guitar could be played like that – I just picked up my guitar and did anything I could to sound like that. Then I got really into it, my ears taught me a lot – you know, that if I play this note, these notes sound good after it etc. Around that time Vinnie Moore became a big influence on me (Michael pulls out the Time Odyssey tab book) – learnt every solo on this record man! I need to send you my first demos (laughing) they sound just like Vinnie Moore! I was such a rip off!

 

I have that book too! I remember watching his videos (Speed, Accuracy and Articulation) and being blown away with how clean he was!

It wasn’t just how clean he was, it’s that he managed to have this aggressive humbucker sound but keep the precision. It really appealed to me.

 

So what was it that moved you away from that neoclassical shred thing?

Well, a little later on I took some lessons from a guy named Dieter Kleemann, he opened up the doors – he showed me what was possible and from there it just took off. Suddenly I understood how it was all working and I could look at guys like Joe or Vinnie and understand it. I learnt all my theory and then came up with a load of my own; I knew I had to take my own road then. Dieter went through those Frank Gambale technique books with me and it was all just so logical, essential reading for anyone wanting to learn about note choices and substitutions etc.

 

Yeah, theres nothing quite like having a good mentor, I’ll never stop having lessons even if its just once every 6 months just to keep my ego in check. So the first guy I thought of when hearing you was Brett Garsed, has Brett been a big influence?

Oh definitely, that all came from him playing with John Farnham, he’s all over that Whispering Jack record! I actually mentioned this in a write-up I did for the top 25 guitarists in Australia, I was 16 and watching him on TV just when I had started getting into the Satriani thing, I remember coming out of my room and walking past the TV and there was Brett Garsed on television playing his solo on “Let Me Out” and it caught my ear, of course I didn’t know who he was. I just remember thinking “Who is this guy?!” because when you’re younger you think you’re invincible and you’re the best guitarist in the world! It was a big leap from the guys I was into at the time; Satriani, Vinnie Moore, a bit of Malmsteen and Gilbert, Macalpine, all those (Shrapnel era) dudes,  but the sounds Brett was making was the big turnaround for me.

 

For sure man, for me Brett has just the most unpredictable chromaticism to his lines, like Holdsworth but for mortals. The only guy I hear playing that sort of chromaticism is Michael Brecker – you can’t learn that stuff in a book you just do it. How have you managed to pick that sort of outside sound up so easily?

(Laughs) it was my easy option to get jazzy! I just started playing around and playing whatever felt right. I wasn’t playing patterns I was just playing whatever sounded odd at the time. I’m sure Garsed thinks about it the same way, as we play we fall into things that come under our fingers, sequences that work nicely and feel natural to you. I just play anything around that and blend it back into the things I know. I don’t want to think about it or get too theoretical about it. I remember thinking “well if I just tie the 4 notes or whatever and blend back into something I already know” and that was what I was hearing in my head. It’s really popular in this whole funk fusion community that we’ve found ourselves in, the Tom Quayle generation. Obviously Tom’s playing is really sophisticated and I love it, but I don’t think he thinks about it. You can’t learn that by learning all of someone’s licks, there’s a confidence that you need and you get that through experimenting. I’m very much of the “don’t get too theoretical about it” school of thought, if it works it works.

 

Thats nice, and fits in well with your current run of masterclasses – whats the deal, what are you teaching and what is your approach to teaching?

Well it’s not showing licks or anything like that, I show them concepts that worked for me and then get the best out of the guys. So I’ll get one of the guys to show me their favourite lick and we’ll take it from there and develop it, it opens up doors for them and shows them how to develop their own idea without relying on learning everyone else’s lines. It opens up a whole new world for them, and I think a lot of players are missing that at the moment, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to idolise someone and have a big influence in your playing but I think there are some really top level players out there that haven’t taken it in their own direction; but that confidence comes with time. My masterclass is about encouraging that confidence, you won’t leave sounding like me, you’ll sound like you!

 

Yeah, it’s killing me that I can’t go to one! How is it going then? Are they doing well?

I can’t believe how well they’re going down, we get some world class players coming in and they inspire me! Here in Australia touring is really minimal, I work with some popular artists here but when we go out on the road we can do up to 20 shows but never any more and that’s with names like Delta Goodrem  and Marvin Priest. So far I’ve done 26 masterclasses and I’ve been paid better! (Laughs) but I think the concept is going down really well, I’m trying to inspire people to be themselves and help them see how good their ideas are.

 

So what is your approach to playing then? How do you visualise the neck and playing over chord?

When I was younger and learnt all my scales, that didn’t really work for me. I did it and that was important, but I don’t think I practiced it. I would never play exercises or licks, I would put on a backing track and if I was playing melodic minor I would never learn a pattern; I would learn ONE note and add it to one of the scales I already knew and used – whether that was a pentatonic scale or the minor scale. I think I found it easier because if I added one note here and there it was easier to remember! Plus I find it easier to be a little bit more melodic with it this way; I don’t have to think about shapes, I can just try and musical. Don’t forget that it can be nice to have those outlines, but you should never concentrate on them while playing.

 

Yeah, thats actually exactly how I think now. I get students that think to play a mode or a scale you need to play 7 notes, but really you can sound dorian by playing one note. Put on a minor 7 chord and play the maj7.... melodic minor! How are people coping with your concepts then?

Theres nothing better than doing a masterclass and in half an hour the guys have picked up and are applying these concepts. Music was never meant to be rocket science it’s about creating colours and sounds and music. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in the “what scale fits here” or “which notes are flattened and sharpened here”. I swear by this method, it’s what works for me.

 

My only hope is to wait for the DVD we were talking about last year, It’s a full tuition package right? What’s the progress on that?

Yeah, Well that started and is now sitting on the shelf, I need to sit down and finish it off! You know how it is, work, gigs, masterclasses, tours plus I have two beautiful little girls so I’m daddy daycare for the first half of the week! I can’t really touch music until Thursday. Then Thursday and Friday I’ll be recording jingles and that will fill the day, then there will be rehearsals for a tour or whatever. I am hoping to get it out for January – the next plan though is to do another album!

 

I’m still trying to digest the beauty of the first one! So let’s talk guitars and gear, you’re holding a Mustang on the cover of the album, but you’re rarely seen without one of your teles – how long have you been a tele man?

The tele was never my thing, I was always into Strats and I have some PRS style guitars. I never thought I would play them, but I have a friend who built this tele, he called me up and said “you have to try this one out!” and I was like “no, I don’t like teles at all, no chance..” but he kept at it and eventually I took it home to play for a few days and that was it. It has a beautiful maple neck that just brings out this whole percussive nature to the sound. It sounds like I’m hybrid picking when I’m not, so acoustically this guitar is just the way forward for me. Now I struggle to play any guitar with a middle pickup, I had one on another tele so I could get the strat tones, but it’s coming out!

 

Plus the tele isn’t all that common in fusion!

Yeah, I love that I play a tele because everyone seems to play the strat style guitars, teles are so understated. People see it and expect me to be a country player, but I’m not! (laughs)

 

Well we can’t say fusion without talking Jazz, is it something you’ve dabbled in?

Absolutely, I went really hard on it for about 3 years straight. I wasn’t playing anything else, I was playing standards on a George Benson Ibanez, he’s another big influence, and that helped out a lot. In fact I recommend that because that really helped out with the harmony, and playing over changes. It’s not a specialist subject, the ii-V-I is in pop music and it’s something you will use. It’s all about the right notes, melodies and not the technique. Guys come to see me every Thursday at the Marble Bar in Sydney and we just do old soul and RnB music, loads of those songs are full of that style of changes. I’m all about playing to the moment and making the song sound its best, guys will say “thats not how you play in your youtube clips” but I’m not about putting lick 1, lick 2 and lick 3 into a solo, a lot of guys fall into that trap. I’ll bring guys up and have a jam and they realise that’s a big part of my playing and when I’m up making music I’m playing melody not technique, I hope that leaves an impression, for me, that’s what it’s all about.

 

Thats so refreshing to hear, it does get my goat a little when people say they’re a jazz fusion musician but they’ve never listened to a jazz record.

Sure, you don’t run before you can walk. Even when you see guys play over a blues;  you know what they’re about in the first few bars. I prefer to hear the Robben Ford and Scott Henderson sounds on the blues, hearing the colour tones and creating tension and resolution. That’s what I like to hear in these settings, I’m not putting down the BB King style at all its Just not my cup of tea. I actually played with BB at some record company thing, I played with Delta Goodrem and right after us BB was on and it just seemed that no one was interested, they all sat down and had their food and a chat and I just stood in front of BB like a nerd thinking “oh my goodness! I cannot believe this!” It was amazing.

 

I would imagine that this overwhelming focus on musicality has come from your long background in session playing. I’m sure this has put it all in perspective for you – you make a living playing what people pay big money for. What are your thoughts on the session thing?

Well yeah, a lot of people are only just finding out about me, but I’ve been on the scene touring with big artists for 20 years. I guess that’s how I got lucky making it onto Guitarist Magazine’s top 25 Australian guitar players. They say it’s pretty hard to get any love as a session player, but its part of my job and I love doing it. I hope I get to do it for many more years. I get bored easily but that’s good because I get to play lots of new songs all the time.

 

At this point I start talking about great session players like Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenor, but also Paul Jackson JR and David Williams and Michael is off on one and we begin jamming on some Michael Jackson tunes – he displays a level of musicality that I haven’t seen in a long time!

So, there's only one question left I need to know, for those of us out there wanting to get in your head and pick up some of your mentality to playing, give us 5 albums to check out.

 

1 The Shadows – any best of! – Absolutely essential they are my biggest influence, theres so much to learn from Hank’s approach to melody and song structure.

2 Frank Gambale – “A Present for the Future”

3 Allan Holdwsorth – “Metal Fatigue”

4 Tribal Tech – “Reality Check”

5 Brett Garsed – “Big Sky” or “Moe’s Town”

 

It’s becoming ever more apparent that you have the same influences as everyone else, but you’re hearing a whole new side of what these guys are doing, I certainly need to go do some more listening! Thanks for your time mate and we’ll catch up soon.

Thanks you for your support mate!


http://michaeldolcemusic.com/

http://www.youtube.com/user/dolcegit