mike dickman by Mike Dickman
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mike dickman by Mike Dickman - 2002.........Now....
I started studying guitar when I was 12. I was one of those guys (and probably still am!) who was scared of girls but wanted to do something at dances. Singing, which I seemed to be quite good at, and playing an instrument seemed a way round things. I could impress the chicks, indulge my passion, even impress the guys, and be there without actually having to be in contact with anyone at all except spiritually. Suited me.
Noting I had a pretty fine ear, my father had tried to teach me accordion and the rudiments of reading music when I was about eight or nine, but I couldn't see any value in reading things you could memorise within minutes, and - although this was prior to even Bill Haley, now I come to think of it - I didn't much go for the accordion or for its repertoire and that collapsed fairly soon. Then, during my brief stint at boarding school, I started to learn piano, but I didn't go for that much, either, and so took up the guitar... And found my instrument. I took to it like a duck to water.
The same woman who had taught me piano showed me my first few chords. I worked out a hesitant version of Duane Eddy's Rebel-Rouser all on the E-string! Then my father took a hand again and briefly taught me a little more - barré chords and things relating to scales and to theory.
I studied with classical guitar master, Fritz Buss, for a couple of weeks, but we couldn't find a point in common, which is a pity. I would probably have been a much better guitarist than I am now if we had.
... And the rest I just learned by ear, by looking at photos of my favourite guitarists (no videos in those days), and by guesswork... Not a little from watching friends.
Played as a pick-up member in a few groups, notably with Gavin Carson, but never took any of that very seriously although music was all I ever wanted to do at that age. Discovered the blues around thirteen or fourteen... the link between rock and folk.
My first folk concert was at the first SAFMA get-together, and that was it. I was off... I was about fifteen then, maybe sixteen... Been playing ever since.
I started writing stuff soon after, working at my guitar in all free moments, pulling stuff off discs, developing a style through the usual stages of slavish copying, rip-offs, covers, and finally finding your own voice, which I think I now more or less have.
It's a constant discovery. I don't actually know anything about anything... I sort of eternally feel it out. Kind of natural-born busker, really. I don't really know how to play, I never know what to play, but - by a blessed coincidence of causes and effects - something fairly respectable always seems to tumble out sooner rather than later.
I'm also - probably because of the above-mentioned shyness - quite an arrogant musician. Not in the sense of wanting to be a (or the) star, but in that I've always wanted to be good at what I do, and very much to be myself. I don't make a good group-member, so - brief stints with my only two serious bands, The Flood and Abstract Truth aside - the path of writing and playing for solo guitar was really the only one open to me. I have followed it, with all due respect and to the very best of my not very extensive ability.
Guitarists I love (and who have all, willy-nilly, had an effect on my music) are Bert Jansch, Johnny Hammond, Davy Graham, Robert-Pete Williams, Robert Johnson, Robby Basho, and - latterly - Michael Hedges. I love Keith Richards and David Gilmore as electric guitar-players. And, of course, Mr. Jimi.
I would rather listen to a guitarist I could never copy, than one who's flash and fast. I'm not impressed by the flash and fast.
I've studied Indian and Japanese music quite deeply, and know a little about Chinese and Arabic music as well. Because I happen to be a Tibetan Buddhist, I've spent quite a lot of time with its liturgical music.
I've played many different styles, ranging through rock, blue-grass and other country styles, blues, folk blues, English and Celtic music, what passed, in the 60s, for folk music, and many other, more eclectic styles.
I'm not looking to stun or impress or excite people with my music. What I try to do - what I would like to do - is to bring them to feel the innate quiet at the roots of their souls, and that's what I also want to do with mine as I play for them. Music, for me at any rate, is very much 'prayer' or, perhaps better-said, 'meditation'.
Since 1981, I've lived in Paris, France, where I continue to play quietly for myself and a few friends, have taught English and t'ai chi ch'uan and now translate Tibetan philosophical and liturgical texts and Old French texts on alchemy.
I'm married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and certainly the only who could ever have dealt with me, have four amazing kids (all born in second two weeks of the month of April), a beautiful cat... And a very blessed life...
To be continued... (I hope!)...
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