Once he was Australia’s ‘best kept secret’. Joe Matera, guitar-wielding troubadour whose musical prowess informed his secondary career, as a music journalist who could dig prodigiously beyond the norm. That's how I became acquainted with him.
Twenty years ago, were both working on the British based magazine, ‘Classic Rock’, a dream of an organ for ageing rock hacks such as myself and the younger, hungrier, Matera. Stylistically, we were opposites, in truth. Joe's prose was firmly guided by his day job...that of a sublime guitarist, who was emerging through the backwaters of Australian rock. Unlike myself, he understood the passions and problems of the working musician, be it in an unfolding band or powered by a reputation that stretched down the decade.
Musicians loved his direct knowledgeable interview style. I came from a different angle, one of, if you can forgive the northern English vernacular, ‘a Mancunian gobshite’. I figured there was room for both and soon we would write a schizophrenic column, ‘Manchester to Melbourne’, in which the character and music of the two cities, seemed curiously suited. It ran for a couple of years. It was great fun.
You will find a sizeable overview of Joe’s writing in his newly published collection, ‘Backstage Pass: The Grit and The Glamour’ (Empire Publications). Within these pages Joe gently interrogates all manner of musicianly ego from Lemmy to Pink, J Mascis to The Doors’ game-changing keyboard wizard Ray Manzarek...indeed, all rock life seems to lurk mischievously within these pages. It’s a book that casts a nod to the golden age of rock’n’roll writing. I would suggest, given the distance between such days and the PR-led guff that passes for rock writing in many of the larger newspapers, it’s a vital place for an aspiring writer to linger.
I caught him performing live almost ten years ago, locked into a chilly north of England circuit and displaying a professionalism that seemed beyond the grasp of the crowd. But there he was, a half a world away from home, pouring himself into a self-penned set of illuminating variation. He cut a dash, too, with his trademark bandana and workaday Levis. In the best possible sense, Springsteen-esque, welcoming locked to the rock tradition. Within the concept of recent times, it's a welcome and challenging musical place to be.
Since then, Joe's career has scattered gloriously; a succession of arresting singles and albums, performing alongside and collaborating with such a wide body of artists from Steve Harley to The Korgis and others. And therein lies the rub. Unusually for a music journalist, Joe clings to no motions of cloying hipness. He genuinely steps beyond that constricting arena, happy to profess his love of, among many others, The Bay City Rollers and The Glitter Band alongside proto-metal acts such as Venom...indeed, catch him in a reflective mood and he professes a deep love of Gerry Rafferty, Slade, Roxy Music or Cockney Rebel. This isn't merely reflected in his book. Such disparate influences heavily flavour his churning discography. A secret no more.
- Mick Middles