Frank Gambale Interview
One of the foremost guitar players in the world today, Aussie Frank Gambale has amazed fans around the planet with his adventurous creativity. Already the chief developer of the SWEEPING TECHNIQUE, his much talked about new tuning invention will enable guitar players to play piano type chords on the six-string and play four chromatic notes simultaneously, thereby offering a much richer sound. We spoke to Frank after his US tour this spring and here is what he had to say about his music and the current state of the industry.
AL: You have given your new recording, Raison D’Etre, a French title.
FG: Why not. It sounds exotic. I like the meaning of the expression. It sounds much better in French than in English language.
AL: Your recent U.S. tour was disappointing to you.
FG: The main problem was it was badly promoted. We had folks who worked at music stores down the street and they never knew I was performing. The other problem is that there is not much interest in this kind of music. Lots of other jazz musicians feel the same way too. When I play with Chick Corea, I get treated like royalty, and the only real responsibility that I have is to perform well. People always seem to come out and enjoy the music. I am trying to figure out about my next musical direction. Maybe I need to do a musical shift, or play music that is more acceptable for people. Hopefully that will go over better to enable me to do more of my personal projects.
AL: How is your school doing?
FG: School is going very well. I have always had success with the educational side of music. I am just struggling with the whole music business and you keep questioning yourself over and over again. Regrettably, I feel that much of my musical life has been overlooked. I am always overlooked by music magazines. I’m too jazz for the rock guys and too rock for the jazz guys and the music I make not many listen to. I have been fortunate to know and play with Chick Corea. To me he is one of the pioneers in jazz as well as fusion. He thinks highly of me and that is all I really need to keep me motivated. A lot of folks out there respect what I play but they won’t buy my records. When I was young, I made it a point to go and buy every Chick Corea record. I would listen to them over and over again and learn from the music. Not many seem to do that anymore. So I started my record label so that I could keep putting out music. I have never made any significant money by making records anyway. It has always been the educational side or performing live, but based on the poor turnout, playing live does not even seem to be a secure avenue anymore either, at least not in USA. Thank God for Europe where people seem to be more into this kind of music. I am not saying that I will not be touring anymore in the US, its just that I am very dissapointed.
AL: Could you please talk about your new signature double neck Yamaha guitar?
FG: The upper neck is standard guitar tuning and the lower one is something I’ve discovered. I’ve played piano since I was 17 and I love to compose with the piano. The liberty that piano players have to put notes in any combination is just not fair. Guitar is much more limited. Harmonically I love to hear piano chords on the guitar and after a lot of work and research I found this new tuning. I think it is a important discovery and as far as I can tell no one has done it. Chords that were impossible with regular tuning are now possible with my new tuning. I have a patent pending and it’s called Gambale Nouveau Guitar Tuning. I think I developed SWEEP PICKING more than anyone else and this alternate tuning seems to be another cool contribution to guitar too..
AL: How is the music on the new Vital Information project?
FG: I love to play with those guys. The compostions are very, very strong . Unlike the past few, the music is jazzier and has a lot of groove. We all brought tunes and I am really happy with the way it turned out.
AL: We all know that Chick Corea and the Electric Band are going to release a new record and tour this fall. Can we get a sneak preview of what is on the new record?
FG: Man, Chick is a pure genius. What else can be said about him. He wrote all the tunes and they’re exceptional . I have always loved his work and in a sense I am in a total awe of his brilliance. He never ceases to amaze me. He wrote all the parts for us but as with other Elektric Band records there’s plenty of room to improvize..
AL: Did you have a pure concept in mind for Raison D’Etre?
FG: I did not have any real concept in mind. The inspiration just came as I continued to work on it really hard. The first part of the record is where I use my alternate tuning. The second part is with standard tuning. About 99% was written on the guitar. I am enjoying the sound of the guitar and its harmonic possibilites and the new tuning has opened up a whole new area to explore.
AL: Do you think the technical aspects of your music create a problem?
FG: I did not set out to make the music simpler. You just have to listen to it over and over I think everyone will get it. The common problem seems to me that people are lazy. I am just amazed as what most of the poulation is listening to . Terrible music that makes you stupider. It slows down the development of you brain. Rather than aspiring for artistic brilliance , the world seems to be going the other way. I could be wrong but that is what I generally feel. People dont have patience for more than 10 secs. How can I develop or others that play this kind of music develop anything meaningful in 10 secs. Some things just take time to unfold. Imagine a record company executive listening to the first 10 seconds of Ravel’s Bolero…one of the greatest compositions of all time, it would have been tossed out as too slow or didn’t get to the point quickly enough. What’s hurry? Where’s the fire? Also reading a book is better than the movie. Your own imagination is stimulated by reading. You are always participating and imagining a character rather than someone telling you their interpretation of it. Not that all movies are bad but books are always better.
AL: What was the last movie you saw?
FG: The Triplets of Belleville and Lost in Translation . They are both great but slow movies and probably the reason why they were not blockbusters. We need to get this music on television or some kind of public access channels. Did you see what happened at the Grammy’s. They put Chick Corea on with the Foo Fighters. What a disaster. It’s like putting Albert Einstein on with a bunch of monkeys and asking them to converse! I just cut my cable in the house so that I have nothing to do with mass media anymore. It is pathetic what is happening on television with reality shows and shows such as ‘American Idol’. An insult to the mind and to music, period. I’ll get off my soap box now that I have vented.
AL: Thanks a lot for your time Frank. We wish you continuing success.