Interview: Michael Fath

Dan McAvinchey: Since we last touched base a few years ago, you've stayed busy recording, releasing two solo CDs: "Yesterday's Child" and "All Of
Me". What were your visions for each CD prior to the recording sessions?

Michael Fath: My 'conscious' vision for "Yesterday's Child" was that of the culmination of my 'progressive rock fusion' days/projects/era, or whatever you may call it, recorded with one of the best rhythm sections in the mid-Atlantic (Chris Neubauer/bass, and Andy Hamburger/drums). My 'subconscious' vision for that record was one of the very slight/possible hope that a record of this nature would actually do something in a market that is long since gone! I was, of course, right in my assessment of the latter, the market is long gone - at least on a commercial level! Nevertheless, "Yesterday's Child" is the very best I've done in this genre, and I am quite proud of it - especially in the very short time period it took to do the entire thing. One thing unique about this particular CD - I dedicated every single tune to an important guitar player and personal influences of mine.

"All of Me" is my debut straight-ahead solo jazz guitar recording. My vision is that it will be the first of many of these types of records, as I've been playing 4-5 nights a week for the last several years doing this very type of music, and actually have made more money than with any previous record deals, clinics, touring, etc. Mainly though, and along with my jazz projects (trio, 9-piece horn band), I am very much committed to this genre and absolutely adore this music - always have!

Dan McAvinchey: In your career you've released CDs covering hard rock, metal, classical, country and a number of other styles and sub-styles.
Are your new fusion and jazz recordings something brand new for you, or a return to your roots?

Michael Fath: These are definitely a 'return to my roots' type of thing. When I was in my early 20's (I'm in my late 40's), this was all that I studied. One can listen to any recording I've done (even the slammin' metal/fusion stuff) and hear harmonic structures that were unique. My current trio is a 'straight-ahead' one, where all I'm playing is a Gretsch archtop with very clean tone, but I do plan on doing some heavier fusion stuff in the future.

Dan McAvinchey: Of all the styles you've recorded in, which would you say is the most fun for you, and which is the most challenging?

Michael Fath: All of the things I've recorded, which are 20 records to date (neo-classic, jazz, metal/fusion, roots acoustic, classical, hot-country, etc.), have been tons of fun and challenging, but to what degree?

For example, I was very nervous of how the critics were going to accept "Country Squire", because it was a huge leap into 'unknown territory' for me, and while I was tracking that particular record, I had it in the back of my mind that I was going to get slammed, no matter what, and it did keep me 'on-edge'. As it turned out, I recorded that disc with my usual 'free-wheeling' style, and everything turned out just fine! One thing is true, however, and that is if you are not comfortable with a particular style - you have no business recording. Period! It will sound too contrived and fake, and I do not like to take long in the studio. I really like doing records in just a couple of days!

Jazz, harmonically, is the most challenging style of music. Technically, I'm always looking for unique approaches to excellence!

Dan McAvinchey: You appear to be one of the few guitarists who is a jack-of-all-trades (styles), master-of-all! A lot of guitarists out there
would love to know how you managed to pull this off.

Michael Fath: I've been playing guitar for 35 years, and still find it very challenging, and exciting. I work at it every single day, and realize that the real fun and spirit of this entire process of being a professional player is the 'journey', not the 'end-game'. Sometimes I feel as if I am just getting started. The most important aspect of learning different styles of music, is one's genuine love for that particular style, and this takes time! Also, I had a mentor in the name of Danny Gatton, who, quite possibly, was the best of all in mastering different styles on a world class level.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your goals for your new web site with Will Landrum, Rock Guitar School?

Michael Fath: Rock Guitar School was designed to create one of the most informative, along with one of the most unique, educational sites for rock guitarists. We offer things that you just cannot find elswhere on the entire Internet. This will be our same philosophy for Jazz Guitar School.

Dan McAvinchey: What kind of a performance schedule do you currently maintain, and what's the best part of the country to catch you live?

Michael Fath: I play 4-5 times a week, usually club/restaurant gigs doing solo jazz, in the Washington, DC metro area. I am performing with my trio doing club/concert dates, as well (some very well known venues: Blues Alley, The Smithsonian Jazz Cafe, The Kennedy Center, etc.). Once I sign with a particular agency and management, I will be doing the jazz festival circuit, here in the U.S., and outside of the country. My schedule is located in the 'Events' section of

Dan McAvinchey: If you had to do it over again, from say 20 years ago or so, what are one or two things that you might do differently?

Michael Fath: I do not participate in 'revisionist history', and don't look back and 'regret'. I am a very spiritual person and believe that everything that I've done, for the particular reasons that IÌve done them, was for a purpose. I am 'here and now' as a result of all of my past. Hopefully this doesn't sound too 'wacked-out', as I'm anything but.

I have two beautiful daughters, ages 15 and 12. Maybe I would have had more children!

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Dan McAvinchey: Would you consider yourself 'traditional' or 'old-school' where recording is concerned, or have you checked out the possibilites of
some of the new digital recorders, computer-based recording, or the other gizmos available to today's recording artist?

Michael Fath: I am very 'old school' when it comes to recording, or even playing live, for that matter. I love the 2" tape machine, which is, of course, analog, and would rather always record in this fashion. The new digital stuff is amazing, however, and I see it as our future, for an entire littany of reasons.

Dan McAvinchey: What is on the horizon for you as far as future recordings?

Michael Fath: My new jazz trio is very hot, and we are doing our debut record this summer - mostly originals, some standards. I am going to record this band basically live, as we have a certain groove that is 'quick and deadly'.

My 2nd solo jazz CD will be done this late fall - and I have plans for many of these, as 3/4ths of every record will be the standards that are famous in jazz - which is part of the process of being a jazz player! Also, I recorded "All of Me" in a ridiculously short period of time, so I can crank out these types of records. One thing I failed to mention is that my own particular approach to solo jazz guitar utilizes all of my previous influences. Do not be surprised to hear a country or rockabilly showpiece right along side of a Charlie Parker tune (thanks again, Danny Gatton!).

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Washington DC area guitarist Michael Fath has recently released two CDs which represent something of a departure for him from his previous recordings. The first is a rock/fusion CD entitled "Yesterday's Child", and the second is a solo jazz recording entitled "All Of Me". Fath has played on dozens of recordings, has toured extensively throughout the United States, is a former columnist for Guitar World Magazine, and currently runs his own instructional web site with Will Landrum called Rock Guitar School (with Jazz Guitar School coming soon).

Dan McAvinchey spoke with Fath to get an overview on his current recordings and to find out what lies ahead for the multi-talented guitarist.