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Introducing Matt Konfirst

Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, Matt was strongly influenced by the metal scene in the early 90’s. Some of his most influential listening experiences came from this time period. (Required listening: Megadeth- Rust in Peace, Metallica- …And Justice for All & Master of Puppets, Slayer- Seasons in the Abyss, Anthrax- State of Euphoria, Death- Symbolic, and Pantera- Cowboys From Hell) It was during this time period that Matt formed a band with some friends from high school called Acriminous. According to Matt, they were wicked heavy but his interest was pulled towards the intricate parts and song structures of bands like Death and in the Metallica and Megadeth albums mentioned above.

Instrumental guitar CDs became his passion (More required listening: Steve Vai- Passion and Warfare & Alive in an Ultra World, Joe Satriani- The Extremist, Steve Morse- Coast to Coast, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Jason Becker- Perpetual Burn, Joe Stump- Night of the Living Shred, Jon Finn- Wicked.) Top that off with bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X and Angra, and you’ll have a good idea of where Matt’s music is coming from. From 1998-2001 Matt attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he developed his playing, writing and recording skills.

Introduced to classical music, Matt became interested in its melodies and harmonic depth. (For cool classical music listens to Bach’s violin partitas and Shostakovich’s String Quartet #8 in c minor.) His current musical projects include solo work as well as involvement with the Earthcubed and Ecclectica projects from Andrew Bordoni.

How did you come up with “War Of Righteousness” as the title of your CD?

The concept behind this disc was the “taming” of North America. Many of the tracks like “Serenity Defiled” and “Manifest Destiny” (which I originally was going to call “Xenophobia”) are attempts to musically illustrate what happens when cultures collide. The title track is a comment on the negative direction the current US administration has taken international politics. Maybe I should’ve called this CD “War Self-Righteousness”. If we were scared after 9/11, we should be shitting our pants now. We’re stirring up a hornet’s nest trying to secure oil when we should be fostering the development of renewable energy resources. It seems like that would solve a number of problems. “War of Righteousness” is my anti-war statement. The final track on the CD is called “The Edge of Tomorrow”, and it represents a challenge to the youth.

In your own words describe your sound, style & influences?

I like to listen to a wide variety of rock and metal, and I think that at some point all that comes out in my own unique way. If I had to compare myself to bands that were already established, I would say my rhythms draw heavily from bands like Megadeth and Metallica, but my leads are more along the lines of Marty Friedman or Steve Morse.

Do you play by ear or did you take lessons?

I did both. Playing by ear is an essential skill to learn, but sometimes I just found it more time efficient to have somebody show me how to do something. There’s no sense reinventing the wheel every time you want to learn something new.

Tell us about your guitars & rig?

Primarily I use an Ibanez RG570. I’ve had the thing forever, and I love how it plays. I also play a custom Jackson SL1 and a Schecter 7-string. Each of them has their own feel, and they inspire me in different ways. My rack has gotten much smaller in recent years (unlike Pamela Anderson). Now I play through a Behringer Vamp Pro with a Marshall power amp, then I run it all through Celestion-equipped Crate cabinets. For reverb, I use a Roland SRV3030D.

How many hours went into recording “War Of Righteousness”?

More than I can count. The nice thing about having your own project studio is the fact that you can work on your recordings when you’re inspired. There are no worries about going over time. No rush. It’s really laid back. The only downside is that you can find yourself overdoing things a bit. Like Steely Dan mixes. They’d start mixing, and a month later they were just about getting the kick to sound right.

Which is your personal fave of all the tracks on “War Of Righteousness” & why?

That’s a tough one, but I guess I’d have to go with the title track. When I wrote and recorded that track I was picturing in my mind a news story that I’d seen on CNN. An Iraqi woman had just had her house bombed by mistake. Her son was inside, and now he was buried under a pile of rubble. She was heartbroken. Her whole world changed that day. I couldn’t even imagine how she must have felt. When I recorded the solos for that track, I just stood in the dark in my studio and tried to imagine the mix of anguish and rage burning in her soul that day.

What is the current scene like in your local area & how do you fit in?

I live in Chicagoland, so there’s a lot going on here, but I would say that progressive instrumental guitar music isn’t a real big part of the scene. There are a few well-known guitarists like Dave Uhrich and George Bellas, but other than them… [shrugs].

What’s your long & short term goals as far as touring, recording, writing etc.?

I have plans for another solo CD, but at this point, things are still in the developmental stages.

Any gripe about the music industry?

No gripes. With home recording and the Internet, it’s possible for artists to do everything themselves. You don’t have the big advertising budgets that you’d get from a record label, but you can stay true to your vision.

What do you feel sets you apart from other guitarists?

I really like all the technical stuff- both compositionally and with regard to proficiency on the instrument, but I think sometimes we guitarists can get fixated on technical ability and lose sight of just writing a good piece of music. Also, when I write, I try to be diverse. One of the biggest letdowns to me is when you buy a CD, and track 1 comes on- the track is just kickin`. You’re like, ‘This f#&king rocks!’. Then track 2 starts and it’s the same song in a different key, and by the end of the disc, you’ve heard ten of the same songs. I try to bring variety into the music- make everything distinct.

Who would you like to tour with and why?

G3 would be killer. Vai and Satriani are two of my biggest influences.

When can we expect to see you on the road?

No plans currently for any tours, but I do have some ideas rattling around for another CD.

What is your fan base like?

I think for the most part they’re a bunch of guitar geeks and freaks, just like me!

Final comments?

Go everywhere. See everything. Experience the world. Don’t just sit at home watching MTV. Nobody has ever said on their deathbed, “I should’ve watched more TV”.