|Johnny & Mary||
As soon as he could walk and talk, all Bruce Mathiske wanted to do was to play guitar. At an early age, he was sent to piano lessons being considered the most "musically correct" instrument at the time. Bruce's yearning for the guitar continued and on his seventh birthday, that persistence was rewarded with a thirty-dollar, second hand, nylon stringed guitar. Born in 1963, on a wheat farm in the Mallee region of Victoria, Bruce first heard guitar being played by his cousin who would sing and accompany himself strumming along with chords. Bruce's mother, an accomplished pianist, would sometimes take both the boys along when she played at a local dance. His father, although not able to play an instrument, certainly had the love of music and a fine voice although his timing could waver. Each week, Bruce would be driven into the nearby town of Swan Hill for his lesson and soon the family would move there due to financial difficulties on the land. He continued his lessons, played in his "mate's" rock band from ages thirteen through to seventeen and then moved to Bendigo where he started his apprenticeship as a Boilermaker. This also gave him the opportunity to find a more developed teacher and study classical guitar. Bruce continued playing in weekend bands and practising classical until the day he finished his apprenticeship.
At the age of twenty-one, Bruce and a mate from Swan Hill formed a Duo and moved to the Gold Coast where they played in restaurants and beer gardens. This enabled Bruce to find a Jazz Guitar teacher in Neville Kahn. It was Neville who really opened Bruce's ear to new music and receive a Diploma in improvising, arranging, composition, theory and sight-reading. During this study period, Bruce found the Chet Atkins style, playing bass, rhythm and melody simultaneously and thought, "If I can use that technique with my rock, classical and jazz influences, I've found what I'm looking for." During this six-year period, Bruce would practice ten hours a day (every day), then at night play in his duo or band. Other influences from Barney Kessell, Leo Kottke through to Hendrix and Val Halen would all have something to offer in adding to the melting pot.
In the mid 1980's, Bruce moved to Sydney and began to make recordings and become a regular feature at Festivals throughout Australia and although based in Sydney, Newcastle was the first to really embrace Bruce's talents. After reaching a fair amount of success in Australia, the signs from the industry were pointing him in questionable directions. "Maybe you should sing more"; "Play your electric guitar, everyone does that and it seems to work"; "You can't play solo, you must have a band"; "How about a Phantom of the Opera medley, that's very popular now?"
In 1994, a friend/manager of Bruce’s organised an overseas tour taking in Denmark, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Germany and Luxembourg. On his six tours since, he had added Japan and the U.S.A. Through his acceptance and incredible response overseas, Bruce has found his voice on his Solo Guitar Orchestra and is now one of Australia’s very few acts touring the world performing EXACTLY what he wants. In 1997, Bruce released "I WISH" on his own label. This wasn't an album directed at a market, it was an album Bruce wanted and needed to record. Since then it has been constantly played on A.B.C Radio National (where "Barcen Heads Bay" became one of their most requested songs of 1998), and Bruce has been performing on Radio and Television and the response in Australia has been fantastic. This led to an approach by a major record label. Having been down similar roads before, when the company insisted on "complete artistic control" Bruce politely declined. Bruce has played with guitar greats Charlie Byrd, Martin Taylor and Chet Atkins and last year was the first Australian musician invited to give workshops and perform at Yale University U.S.A. This year sees the release of his C.D. "Nightmare" and Bruce will be touring Major Australian venues and regional arts centres/theatres before heading off for another overseas tour which will include a two-week season at the Edinburgh Festival.