First Person Singular

(Matthew Girard)
Sunday, August 19, 2007

I was 15 when I got my first electric guitar. There wasn't anything like [rock camp] then. As a matter of fact, there weren't even quality instructors. I taught myself how to play by listening to recordings. I practiced every day. I thought about music constantly. My rock camp was getting together with friends, whoever's parents would tolerate us, making loud music in the basement. I was fortunate to have a friend two years older and much more accomplished but [who] still would play with us and give me pointers. And I had an older brother. My father was a pilot in the Air Force, so when he flew planes in Vietnam, we lived in Japan. As soon as we got to Japan, my older brother bought all these albums -- Steppenwolf, Cactus, Zeppelin, Cream. Little did I know this was the most powerful, formative music in history. Last year, we did "Sunshine of Your Love" at camp, and it was like listening to it in Japan. Quality doesn't disintegrate. That's why I teach it. I've been thinking about that a lot. Is rock camp full of classic rock because it's the music of my youth and I'm biased, or because it's really the best there's ever been? But I can't tell you the number of students who bring in Hendrix, Zeppelin and stuff they heard Dad listening to. They frequently voice dissatisfaction with what they hear on the radio. When they hear Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the sound of actual singing, they want that. It's coming from them, not the old dude.

Interview by Amanda Long

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