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Chris Grundy Interview by Mike Lloret

AJ:       Chris, anyone who speaks with you for a minute or two can tell that you're from Australia, but could you give us a little more background on yourself?

CG:       I was born in Melbourne, but moved to Sydney at a very young age. I basically grew up in a nice leafy area called the Hills District, about 30 kilometres Northwest of downtown Sydney. Private Catholic schooling, went on to study to be an Optician after school, and did it for a while, but was always thinking about playing music, probably since I started playing Guitar at the age of eleven.

AJ:       Eleven's pretty young, I'd say. What sparked your interest in the instrument?

CG:       My friend was a singer and he was enjoying it, and my Mother asked if I wanted to learn an instrument, and I chose guitar. We had a band together during school days, but he went on to do shows such as Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and The Phantom of the Opera. We are still in touch, and will one day get together and do something. My parents were very supportive, encouraging without being too pushy as far as practice went. And my first Guitar teacher taught me a lot about how to play 'nicely' from a young age.

AJ:        Who are your favorite musicians, especially guitar players, and why them? Who do you feel has influenced you, and in what ways?

CG:       Growing up the youngest of four boys, I didn't get much air time on the old record player, so I was 'forced' to listen to the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Peter Frampton, David Bowie, Santana, at a very early age. Dad is a big fan of classical music, so there was plenty of that too. Mum and I just sat back and took it all in. The late seventies and early eighties saw a lot of Aussie bands pushing forward and this was an era that I still love to this day. Bands such as Midnight Oil, INXS, The Angels, Icehouse, Dragon, Mi-Sex have been my favourites for over twenty years. As far as Guitarists go, a few that I mentioned, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Frampton, Santana, have all been a big influence. As have Gary Moore, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Marvin from The Shadows. But, by far the most influential for me are Phil and Tommy Emmanuel. Household names in Australia, I was lucky enough to get a few lessons off both of them at different times. And still, to this day, I am blown away every time I hear them play.

AJ:       You play a lot of different kinds of music, from a genre point of view, but it seems to me that you have a distinctive style. How would you describe your style of playing?

CG:       Note after note! It is less important to play fast than it is to play well. Don't get me wrong, I love the flashy stuff, but an audience in a pub will get very bored, very quickly if that is all you can do. I play some tunes from the earliest instrumental guitar bands from the fifties, and their simple melodies have just as much impact as any of the more modern tunes by say, Joe Satriani for example. But the more modern Satriani tune has its own place in the musical timeline. Things became a bit more technical, but still, can be beautiful too. I love a good melody, and basically, so does everybody.

AJ:       I know this is a common question; I've heard numerous people ask it. Why do you only do instrumentals?

CG:       I can't sing! Seriously, from seeing probably hundreds of shows of the aforementioned Emmanuels, I have just loved the idea of playing instrumentals. There are so many beautiful tunes out there, and yet to be written, and not many people playing them. So I decided to do it here in Japan. It is a great feeling to give an audience something different, that is not too far from what they are used to hearing.

AJ:       Well, I think you're probably wrong about not being able to sing, but I see what you mean about instrumentals. Ever thought about teaming up with a singer, so you could have the best of both worlds, so to speak?

CG:       For sure. I have been lucky to do some gigs with some of the great foreign singers about the town, as well as some Japanese. I hope to find the 'one' that we both feel the same way, and are heading in the same direction. Without planning it, I have more often than not worked with female singers.

AJ:       I've seen you playing with others a couple of times. How about telling us a little about your sessions with other musicians.

CG:       I really enjoy playing with other people, as well as the opportunity not to be the one out front. I have done some work with some touring pop singers/bands such as Sunland, Solveig Sandnes, Claudia Vasques. This is very enjoyable. I also have a very part time project with a didjeridu player from Australia called Charlie McMahon. He is considered the top 'Didj' player in the world and we get together whenever he is in Japan. And just the other night, I guested with a well known Japanese singer/guitarist, Kondo Fusanosuke. That was a real treat.

AJ:       What are you working on at the moment?

CG:       Having just finished some new tunes at the home studio, we are pushing the new material to many record companies, in the hope of getting some interest. The feedback so far is positive, so keep the fingers crossed. I try to spend as much time as I can composing and learning all the new gadgets at home, this is on going. Plus, I still teach guitar, and this is something that truly is very rewarding.

AJ:       What are your plans for the future?

CG:        I hope that things continue the way they are going. I feel like I am always progressing and becoming better and more knowledgeable. I hope this will be the same for my songwriting, and that I can do some writing for other artists, as well as play as a backing musician. I want to be more involved as a backing musician and work with as many artists as possible. Managing is somewhere in the future too. But I will always be playing instrumental guitar along with whatever else I am doing. One day, I might even get good at it!

AJ:       Well, you're very humble, anyway! I'm curious about why you're interested in more experience as a backing musician.

CG:       It is something I can do easily. It is a different kind of pressure. Doing my instrumental stuff, if I fluff a note, I can laugh and not worry too much about it. As a paid backing musican, you have to be perfect, but there is less to worry about, because you are not the main focus of the music.

AJ:       Let's talk a little about computers. What computers are you using at the moment?

CG:       There are three floating around at the moment. An old monster that was good for its day a few years back. An iMac for music stuff, and a laptop that is quite new.

AJ:       What led you to choose the iMac for "music stuff"?

CG:       It was a hand-me-down from my brother, that's the only reason. But, it does the job for the moment. We all know that our computers this year, will be upgraded and a better new model next year. Remember the Atari TV game machine. I didn't think things could ever get any better than that!

AJ:       What do you think about how computers have changed recording?

CG:       When you can take a standard laptop, an audio interface and the right software, plug in and record, that is very convenient! I think there are a lot of people with limited musical knowledge, making great music with the help of different programs. This can be percieved as a good and bad thing, but I think the more possibilities, the better.

AJ:       In what way do you mean it could be perceived as a bad thing?

CG:       More competition.

AJ:       You do your own recording, right? What's your home studio setup like?

CG:       It's a mess, but manageable. The system is based around a dedicated zip disc recording machine called a Boss BR-8. This is the MIDI clock, and controls the computer, as far as syncronisation goes. The computer, which is only used for sequenced tracks, is a 3-year-old iMac. Mac used to be the standard for music work, but I don't think that is the case anymore, so I will possibly update the PC in the near future. Aside from that, various guitars, keyboards, drum machines, monitors and outboard gear make my kitchen look a lot smaller than it really is.

AJ:       As a musician, you must have some views on the internet and its relation to music. MP3s, Napster, Kazaa, websites with downloadable music and online "previewing" (prelistening?) combined with online ordering, etc., etc....Has all this stuff changed your life as a musician? How?

CG:       The internet is just amazing. Emailing is great. Viewing websites for whatever is great. Then comes the question of free downloads and filesharing through these sites like Kazaa. As someone who hopes to make a steady career from music, I have to say I hope the record companies can get on top of it, and control it, all for a very fair price to the customers. But a stroll through HMV Shibuya on a Saturday will prove that people still like to buy CD's, and I like that.

AJ:       What sorts of trends, either in technology or music or both, do you see in the near to middling future?

CG:       I hope that the CD will stay the main medium for published music, for a while anyway. It will definitely change, to what I am not sure. But the feeling of picking up a new CD from your favourite band, and rushing home to put it in the player and crank it loud, is still a special thing. I hope people continue to enjoy that buzz, or is just me?

AJ:       No, I'm sure it's not just you. In fact, that's just what I did the other night with the promotional CD of yours you gave me. And I'm looking forward to doing it with a commercial CD of yours, soon. Thanks for taking the time to talk, and I'll see you at your next gig. I hope some of the TPC folks will go along, too.

Chris Grundy website at:
email :
phone : 070 5570 8884
phone : (International) 81 70 5570 8884

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Algorithmica Japonica

October , 2002

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

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