Roman Matin is a Russian guitarist and composer whose name is just beginning to become famous for the American and European audience. The creator of a truly unique style of playing the guitar, the holder of the original beauty of sound, marked by famous musicians and thousands of listeners, Roman released a new album "Music For Electric Guitar" in May, 2008 on the Russian label RoDC.
Matin’s style of playing is a synthesis of jazz improvisation and academic music; his polytonal and polyrhythmic technique, in combination with the lyrical and nostalgic mood music, has won the hearts of listeners, and the new album promises to be a famous one among the American music admirers.
Matin began his composing work as the author of music for films, and proved to be a talented and distinctive jazz musician with the passage of time. The Music of the Russian guitarist was highly appreciated by such classics as Airto Moreira, Charlie Haden, Pauline Oliveros, Lenny White, Alphonse Mouzon, James Spaulding, Stu Goldberg, Ned Rothenberg, Tommy Emmanuel, and multitude of young European and American musicians. Let's try to find out what Roman tells us about his musical thinking, plans and musical preferences.
JazzReview: American audiences are not sufficiently familiar with Russian music and musicians. Therefore, I would like to ask: how strong are national roots in your creative work, or do you believe yourself to be cosmopolitan in the highest degree?
Roman Matin: Rather, I consider myself to be cosmopolitan. I believe that music is international thing. I was brought up learning the art of various countries and peoples. Of course, Russian culture, including its popular segment also influenced my vision.
JazzReview: So, I would like to move again to your vision right away. I remember the words of Paul Metzke about your music: "Excellent classical/compositional approach to playing jazz guitar." One can see deeply, thought-over parts simultaneously with the liveliness improvisation in your playing. Is your art more composition or improvisation?
Roman Matin: My main task is to reach the integrated impact, which is a synthesis of composition and improvisation. I want to avoid some academic dryness on the one hand, as well as stamps and clichés, which are the part of improvisation on the other. It is rather difficult for me to judge, but I think I am a jazzman in the modern sense of the word.
JazzReview: It is known that you give concerts rarely. Do you prefer recording in the studio?
Roman Matin: I think that it is impossible to play the same way twice. I strive for an ideal sound and the best conditions for me to achieve it are in studio. I am a perfectionist - in this way, I agree with Glenn Gould. Meanwhile, the very atmosphere of the show is so alien to me. Perhaps quietness and loneliness is the main atmosphere to create music for me.
JazzReview: Many people pay attention to your unique sound. Frankly speaking, it is very curious for me to know what technology is created, so emotional voice, or it might be a secret?
Roman Matin: (Laughing) No, it’s not a secret. In my records, I use Fender Custom Shop 1953 Telecaster. It is my main and favorite guitar. I recorded my last album on it. Sometimes I use a Gibson Les Paul Standard, sometimes Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster. Among the amplifiers, I prefer Marshall of the JCM 2000 series.
JazzReview: Your pieces are short and quickly followed; one part can last for only a few dozen bars. Maybe you have been influenced by the creativity of the minimalists?
Roman Matin: Yes, of course. Minimalism is close to me in its spirit. I bow before Werben’s brevity. Most, I like Steve Reich among the minimalists. Taking it to account, I would like to create a sense of the endless flow. I am encouraged by Wagner with his endless musical interlaced. I call my plays "toy ones" ... I probably composed them for the princesses of the fairy tales ... (smiles)
JazzReview: Roman, do you have any artistic postulates or the principles about which you can tell some words?
Roman Matin: One of the basic principles is, for me, I would call it the opportunity to create a sense of live music speech. Yes, for me, it is live. It tells about something in every musical phrase. It's not that it just creates my mood, but it tells me something, tells me different stories of sadness, joy...every nuance talks very much about...from this flows my jealous attitude to clean musical language. One note, for me, it is already very much. I see a very important task in saying anything concisely. I am afraid to say what was said once again.
JazzReview: Possibly in connection with this, Anthony Coleman, the classic of modern improvisation music, called your creativity "a kind of Satie-esque." Sati probably had influence on you?
Roman Matin: Of course, the great classic left a mark on my vision. I always bow before Sati’s laconism and his stunning expressiveness and elegance.
JazzReview: Roman, and what other artists have had the greatest influence on you? Your own style is so original that I simply do not know whom to suggest.
Roman Matin: A great number of artists left a mark on my perception. I love Bartok, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Cage, Webern, but, of course, not only academism serves as an inspiration for me. The creative work of Bill Evans, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Weather Report, Tom Waits and Sheila Jordan touch me and I admire them. For me, music can be everywhere, being great it says by human speech, this speech is sent to the heart; I just feel it or do not feel it. The musical genre or the school is irrelevant for me.
JazzReview: You mentioned genre. In its connection, I would like to note that in my opinion, your creativity is difficult to be attributed to any genre. Maybe you can describe its style position.
Roman Matin: Not at all. Only its own style exists for my music. Actually, I think it so often happens that genre in many cases creates clichés and stamps, making a recognizable sound. But, I am only encouraged by the location of the notes in time. It is difficult for me to say what genre is produced. I do not think about it. I only want to tell a story and to do it beautifully. When I play, I am fully absorbed by the process.
JazzReview: I just want to talk about your inspiration. Please tell me, what things besides music inspire you to write? Perhaps this is literature or painting, or maybe other kind of art?
Roman Matin: To tell the truth, the art of music absorbs me almost entirely. Perhaps only the landscapes and nature inspire me, and sometimes it is movies. In the movies, I found the mood is the most important and interesting thing. For example, the post-industrial atmosphere of the films of David Lynch inspires me greatly, and, of course, their inexhaustible humanism. I remember when I first saw "Elephant Man." I was astonished. And therefore, I understand films synthetically. Humanistic idea, black and white ribbon, industrial noise - all this creates a mood for me. In my own music, I try to create a synthesis like that.
JazzReview: Maybe the hiss and clicks of vinyl records are one of such "synthetic" ideas. Please, tell more about your views on it.
Roman Matin: Yes, to some extent I feel melancholy for the era. For me the post-industrial era is in general the melancholy that pierces my soul. This is the melancholy for the time when the criterion of "beauty" meant so much ... Maybe this gives me the sense of spirits or something. As I always wanted to create the effect of convincing speech by my playing the guitar, sometimes I vary the rate for several times in one play, increasing or slowing the pace of narration. I would like to achieve simplicity and naturalness in the synthesis of folk music and electric sound of industrial era. For me, synthesis is a very important task. I admire the sound of Bartok’s folk plays performed by the author recorded in 1920s-1930s. There is an immediate unique creation of the cultures and times. I do care a lot about our modern, so to say, "industrial" look at something primeval.
JazzReview: I must admit, that I find your "synthetic" view very interesting! After that, I don’t even want to touch upon some "landing" aspects, but still, I would like to ask about choosing solo guitar as your amplua. Maybe there is recording with a band in your plans, although I remember Benny Russell’s talking about "the whole orchestra under your fingers."
Roman Matin: We say in Russia, "If one wants to make God laugh at you, tell him about one’s plans." (smiles) I try to find my voice in solo performance nowadays. I want indeed to use all the ability of my instrument to create polyphonic sound, to hold the bass line at the same time. The guitar, for me, is a kind of voice. It is a piano. It is an orchestra! (smiling)