By: Rick Landers
When you open up a can of Matt Mills music, you’ll discover a a variety of flavors that will take you from some finely nuanced flamenco guitar to the world of high velocity shred.
Mills and I first met over a decade ago, when I sat down with him to wade through modes and scales and metronome speed drills. We would run forward and reverse with the modes, but what I particularly recall is Matt emphasizing the importance of articulating single notes and the need to not lose track of those individuals, as they tend to cluster with velocity gains.
Matt’s repertoire already included rock, classical, jazz, the blues, but his flashpoint was always his jaw dropping acceleration that he’d unleash as nonchalantly as a mid-afternoon yawn.
We talked about his college days when he spent time in self-mandated marathon practice sessions. His focus and his patience would eventually yield some gold, when Guitar World magazine would name him as one of the fastest guitar slingers around.
Schecter Guitar Research would discover him and he’d travel around the country giving guitar clinics to guitar enthusiasts, and he’d push out a few albums of his own, as well as two recent singles, “Flamenco Fusion Fire” and “Dream Space”.
Several years later, Mills would shift gears – well, sort of – and explore slower time signatures when he returned to the territories of classical and flamenco guitar.
Still, he’d inject occasional flurries of adrenaline into his acoustic instrumentals. And today, Matthew Mills is pursuing his musical aspirations by laying down a legacy of fused styles that is as much reinvention, as it is his own musical exploration.
Rick Landers: The last time we met you we’re on the bill with Joe Stump, shredding on an electric, but the latest I’ve seen is that you’ve been doing acoustic shows. What brought this on?
Matthew Mills: I have always wanted to perform in a acoustic format. Back in 2000, I had purchased my first Ovation acoustic guitar I had been listening to a ton of acoustic playing from Al Di Meola, John Mclaughlin and Paco Delucia. Their music and improvisation moved me to a point to where I to wanted play and perform only acoustic guitar music.
The albums, Friday Night in San Francisco and Passion, Grace and Fire, were just mind blowing on every level; technique, emotion and composition. I would listen to those often at the time, back in 2000.
I would have done more with my acoustic playing, but my electric playing was starting to get some attention. Around 2002, the band I was in got a rather substantial record deal on a power metal label, but due to personal problems between band members, the record deal fell apart in 2004. I spent the next four years trying to reform the band.
Eventually, I did get a great line up of new band members and recorded the album, but the album was released world-wide on a small label. I also released a bunch of neoclassical solo recordings under the name Matthew Mills.
Then I had got the endorsement with Schecter Guitars, which led to more clinic performances and promotion of my neoclassical rock solo albums.
In 2008, I had a small write up in the July issue of Guitar World magazine. I never forgot about my acoustic playing, I would just play at home in private.
In 2011, my son was born and I felt the need to express myself in a different way. I had released five solo electric neoclassical albums and a power metal band release [Forgotten Realm], along with numerous guest solos on other metal albums.
I felt it was the right time to record and perform in a acoustic format.
Rick: Are you playing your own compositions or are mixing it up at all?
Matthew Mills: I am performing all my own my material, except for an Al Di Meola piece called, “Mediterranean Sundance”. I have to pay tribute to the master!
Rick: Have you found your shred fans disappointed or are they on board?
Matthew Mills: Well, I have to admit some fans have been confused by all the acoustic music. I still love the neoclassical style, but I need to express myself not only through neoclassical music, but through flamenco and fusion influenced music.
I think that an artist needs to explore many different directions, sometimes to keep it interesting to themselves and their fans. I am always happy performing and composing on the guitar.
Rick: What acoustics are you playing and what kind of amp are you running?
Matthew Mills: I am using an Ovation Legend from the ’90s, a Boss Reverb pedal RV-3 and a small PA system called Power Werks. It’s a pretty simple set up, but electronics on the Ovation are amazing!
Rick: You’ve always been melodic, even though in the past you were shredding with intensity – Do you find the acoustic-shred hybrid that you’re doing more attuned to who you are as a guitarist?
Matthew Mills: That’s a tough question at the moment. I love playing both acoustic fusion and neoclassical electric music. I love both for different reasons, but I have been playing a larger amount of acoustic music in recent years.
At the moment, maybe I do enjoy the acoustic approach more the electric guitar, but who knows? Things can change and I am open to that.
Rick: How about telling us about how you first got into guitar and if you became guitar obsessed or was it a more gradual embrace?
So, I started playing music from Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC.
I later fell in love with playing classical music, which gave my technique a huge boast. I think that a lot of concepts came faster to my friends growing up.
I felt I had to work twice as hard to catch up to their level. I am still always trying to improve my technique and improvisation.
Rick: Are you still doing clinics for guitar companies?
Matthew Mills: I have currently taken a break from clinics. I hope to start back up in future.
Rick: Have you released an album of your acoustic work yet?
Matthew Mills: Yes it’s called, Acoustic Visions, which is available on ITunes, Amazonmp3 and other online dealers, and I have two singles from future releases called “Flamenco Fusion Fire” and “Dream Space”. Both acoustic recordings. You can also find the recordings at my Matt Mills website
Rick: If our readers want to see you perform, what’s their best bet to see you live?
Matthew Mills: I perform often so I would say check out my Matt Mills site for details. My calendar is very up to date with show dates.
Rick: As a guitar instructor, do you find there are some typical mistakes guitarists make as they develop and what can they do to improve their progress?
Matthew Mills: The best advice I can give is to be open to learning from multiple sources and gathering as many different types of approaches to playing as possible.
Rick: Do you offer guitarists lessons on-line or do you prefer a one-on-one in person kind of an arrangement?
Matthew Mills: I mostly offer one on one in person lessons.
Rick: Have any new projects in store for us – a tour; new video or album?
Matthew Mills: I am hoping to release a couple of new albums this year, one acoustic and one electric.