Andrew Rubin Interview -Part Two

If you didn’t catch the first part of my interview with young up-and-coming guitarist/ composer/ multi-talented young musician, Andrew Rubin, then be sure to head here: Introducing Andrew Rubin and a New Guitar Concerto! Interview – Part 1

Here’s the second and final instalment of my inspiring interview with Andrew – I promise you it’ll make you want to go grab your guitar and do something new and different!


So you’re a bit of multi-talented individual – you’ve come from a rock background, with your Dark Days project very funky kind of stuff, and The Magician a really interesting, cool piece of work with the animation along with your wonderful piece of music. I think you have a gift for orchestration. Do you see yourself working on these different kinds of projects going forwards?

Absolutely, and that’s the thing is that even though half of me is leaning towards going towards orchestration and scoring and stuff like that, I don’t want necessarily to….. I guess in music I like to jump from genre to genre. Even listening wise, you know. I could be on jazz for a while or even electronic music. I love artists like Frank Zappa who crossed over many different genres and just went wherever their muses took them. I aspire to be that same way, I would love to do orchestration and film score kind of stuff, but I also have a soft spot for writing pop songs like Dark Days. I want to do it all!

What’s next for you? What’s your next project?

For 2017 I kind of two projects going on right now. Dark Days was kind of the first song off of this four or five song EP that I was going to put out, with collaborations with different people. All sort of in a similar vein of two to three minute long, simple songs. And then at the same time I’ve been trying to construct a new classical piece, leaning towards a ballet kind of thing. I’ve been really inspired by Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and that vein. It’s one avenue I’ve not really explored yet, so it’s really exciting.

And so you’re playing some gigs this year too?

Yeah, actually at this very moment, in 25 minutes! Yeah, I’m very fortunate to live on the central coast of California, which has a lot of wineries and a lot of really nice places to play. It’s really nice here, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to play most weekends. And today is my first attempt at being able to perform the concerto with a backing track and doing a live thing today. So it will be a fun experiment.

How do you prepare for gigs?

If you’re going out there doing it by yourself definitely make a checklist! There’s so much stuff to remember. I’ve been to gigs before where I’ve forgotten the head of the PA. Be organised!

It’s important to not lose the aspect of improvising. I don’t like to make set lists, because you have to read the room, and know that you don’t want to put your best song at the beginning when the room hasn’t filled up yet and stuff like that. It’s fun to be spontaneous and have that element of uncertainty. That can lead to really cool ideas and really cool performances. Some of the best performances have been off the cuff, in the moment sort of things and so it’s always this constant balance of structure and letting go with music and performances.

Who are your inspirations as a musician? You spoke about Frank Zappa, who else or what else inspires you?

I think as I’ve gotten a little older I really look up to artists who, kind of like what I mentioned before, like Frank Zappa. I may not know his entire catalogue or all the music that he’s done, but as an artist what he was able to do. Very similar to David Bowie and Miles Davis. Individuals like that who were always reinventing  themselves and never kind of stuck with one thing, I really look up to those kind of individuals and aspire to be to that same way in my own career. God willing if I could be that way it’d be awesome!

As far as musical influences, as I mentioned before, that kind of changes from a classical angle I love Debussy, Stravinsky and Sibelius. And those people that really stood for what they believed in artistically, and did whatever they wanted and didn’t really care what other people thought. That inspires me.

What top tips would you have for folks out there who are perhaps aspiring to start composing or writing or start arranging or doing something different?

Well, I would say get out of your comfort zone and don’t ever say that you can’t do something, or think you can’t do something. Because the greatest things that have happened to me in my time of being a musician have been because I thought “why not?”. I’d have never gotten into orchestration if I hadn’t said to myself “why not try doing this?”. You know, I’m not formally educated in doing that, but kind of by stretching myself and trying it, you never know what can happen. So don’t ever box yourself into a “I’m only a singer-songwriter”, “I’m only a guitarist”, “I only do this” – try anything you want and go with it because you need know what might happen.

So you’re self-taught on the guitar?

Yes, for many years that was sort of my thing, it was just a lot of practice, a lot of bedroom practice just all the time. And when it came for orchestration it was a lot of reading books and self-study, and it wasn’t until about halfway through that process where I actually got a teacher, he actually showed refine it technically – “here’s the correct way of doing things”, “here’s the theory behind this and that” you know.

But up until that point it was a lot of reading books, a lot of listening to music, a lot of intuitive processes. Trial and error definitely.

So what do you do get up to when you’re not writing or playing?

Well, I love hanging out with my dogs. I’ve got two dogs – they’re like my kids. I’ve got an Australian Shepherd and Border Collie. They’ve got lots of energy all the time so they tire me out when I have my down time. So I like to spend time with them.

But I do music so much it’s kind of funny to think of my down time. I’m always like “what am I going to do next?”


Well, after that interview and checking out some of Andrew’s recent work I’m sure you, dear readers, are as curious and excited as I am to see what this talented young man does do next.


Interview with Canberran Classical Guitarist Extraordinaire Minh Le Hoang – Part 2

Today I have for you Part 2 of my interview with the wonderful Minh Le Hoang (and here’s a link to Part 1 in case you missed it). Here we chat about Guitar Trek’s upcoming recording, his thoughts on the recording process and some top tips for students of the guitar.

If you’re in Melbourne don’t forget to catch Minh live in action on 9th May. Details and tickets here on the Melbourne Guitar Foundation website.

And don’t forget to head back this time next week for the third and final instalment of the interview!


Minh Le Hoang

You say you’re going to record a new CD?

Yes, with Guitar Trek. It’s going to be our sixth one. This one is recorded with a new line up, or newish. It’s the last three or four years the latest guy has been with us. We want to record the CD so that we have this line up on a disc.

Since 1987 there have been a lot of changes in the members.

So yes, recording the new disc in late June or early July. In Studio 301 in Sydney and it’s a mixed programme of mostly transcriptions. It’s got some Brahms, Tchaikovsky, some ragtime, and lots of little pieces, attractive pieces.

Do you enjoy the recording process?

It can be good when all the takes turn out how we want it. It’s pretty difficult in the recording trying to get things right – you stop, you listen back, you thought you had it, but you never did!

So often you have to rehearse in the studio and of course you’re playing for yourself, there’s no audience, you cannot generate that performing vibe. It’s harder.

But it’s good. I’ve done quite a few now, so I have some rough idea of how to prepare for it. Basically come into the studio prepared!

Does it feel different doing a solo recording versus a group recording?

I guess so, yes. With your solo you know how you want it to sound and you can fix it as many times as you want.

With a group of course you prepare the work, you know what you want from it, but let’s say there’s four people and there’s only one take – your part may be a bit messy here and there, but the whole take is good, the flow of the music. You have to judge “ah I don’t sound so good there, but the others do”! So you have to decide.

So there’s more room for error with four players for sure. In the studio you may have a perfect take, and then one of the players just drops out, and then that’s it!

But there’s also fantastic energy, and more fun than solo!

As a teacher what would be your advice for someone looking to pick up the guitar for the first time, or again after not having played for a while?

With someone looking to pick up the guitar again I would say find the repertoire that stimulates you the most or whatever gets you to the guitar. I find at times I fall back to the very early Barrios pieces or there’s little Tarrega pieces, some of those Preludes, some Villa-Lobos or something.

Just play those pieces that got you into the guitar. Or listen to some of the old Segovia recordings. I think some of it is fantastic. The players nowadays they just play everything like machines. No colour, not much imagination, just dots. That’s what I hear. Competition players these days don’t do anything for me. You can’t respond to it. What’s missing? The music, you know. They don’t give you the world of sound like Julian Bream or Segovia or an old school South American player. They’re so good.

So just pick up you guitar and play your favourite tunes and work from there. Of course doing it on your own is very difficult. You need to find a good teacher, or one that’s at least inspiring. You can’t really do it on your own, it’s much harder. There’s the feedback. And of course with a teacher you have that weekly arrangement, you must prepare something, you can’t just slack off!

What advice would you give to more advanced students of the guitar that perhaps want to follow a career with the classical guitar?

With advance students, the degree students I’m working with at the moment, we still do our usual lessons but we do talk about other things beside guitar, like where you want to take it, rather than just straight soft/loud, or whatever. You talk about the future, about what they’re hoping to do.

More technically advanced students you start to guide them. They finish here, you may want to pick up something else with another teacher overseas. The last couple of years we’ve been sending them overseas. Germany, Italy, wherever they’re comfortable really. Experiencing the world more. We tend to give them the bigger picture, we don’t just keep them in town that limits their chances.

And of course input from other teachers is very important too. You not just doing the same things.

Of course there are some players that are not going to be at that performance level, or players that will have solo careers only. There are plenty of other things they can do. They can do chamber music, they can teach, they can give their contribution to the community by teaching, by organizing festivals or whatever activities that involve music. It doesn’t have to be full on “here’s my show!” It doesn’t work like that.


Is there a point in time you can recall where you thought “yes, I want to do this” in terms of performing and teaching classical guitar?

The teaching is not something I’ve thought about much in the past, but recently it’s part of what I do, a main source of income of course. The last four or five years I’ve been working with higher level students, so I think it helps me develop as a musician. You learn from the students, some of these advanced players.

Back in high school, when I picked up the guitar, I fell in love with it. So pretty much through high school I thought “This is it. This is what I want to do. I want to be a guitar player.” Back then you never really know if you’re going to be performing or anything, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and so pursued it.