The guitar has long stood as the benevolent God of all instruments. Bursting with possibilities in its versatility and power, in the right hands, the guitar can implode your skull or warm your lonely heart. Here are some Australian guitarists who can do all this and more with just a hunk of wood and six strings.
To be able to harness the full potential of your instrument is a lifelong pursuit, these 20 Aussie guitarists have it down to a fine art
Paul Mason – The Ruckus
A faithful Sydney axe slinger, Paul Mason is a name whispered in musical circles throughout the city. His pinpoint, jazz infused stylings are lent in luscious amounts to funk/punk outfit The Ruckus who have spent the last year exploding into venues with a unique sound and an unforgettable presence. Mason is an all-rounder and the perfect condiment to squirt on any musical meal.
Hugo Ludermann – Bin Juice
In recent times, a dazzling scene has emerged across Australia bringing with it some of the funkiest mutha funkas this side of the equator. At the forefront of this movement, you’ll see Sydney beasts Bin Juice alongside their trusty string plucker, Hugo. The funk robot burns groove into your skull with precision and gooey soul. Every tiny sound that exits Ludermann’s amp causes some form of uncontrollable body movement and it feels so good.
Nai Palm – Hiatus Kaiyote
Anybody heard of this girl? Of course you have! If you haven’t then crawl out from under that rock and pay attention. Hiatus Kaiyote are currently sitting pretty and the top of Ausralia’s musical food chain and teaching us all that there’s always room for innovation in music. Nai Palm not only drips vocal honey in Hiatus’ future-soul jams but plays the guitar with such connection and knowledge, it’s as if she’s playing a whole new instrument. Nai Palm’s guitar playing and Hiatus Kaiyote’s music needs to be seen and heard to be believed and even then, it’s pretty unbelievable.
John-Luis Moretti – Pretty City
An often overlooked facet of guitar mastery, but never lacking in importance is the harnessing of effect pedals. The power that can be extracted from a finely tuned delay pedal is truly shocking, as can be heard in the guitar stylings of John-Luis Moretti. Creating a sound that is more a crushing tidal wave than a puny slab of wood with his guitar is no small feat and gives Melbourne three-piece Pretty City the golden fist with which they deliver crushing musical blows single after single and show after show.
Kirin J Callinan
What would Matt Bellamy’s guitar playing sound like if he was attached to a constant IV drip of LSD? Kirin J Callinan is not only the answer to this question but has probably written a song about it. Dishing out some of the most mind bending tunes ever conceived by man ain’t easy and requires a mastery of the guitar and its endless sound palette. To attend a Kirin show is to be forever altered in your idea of what a guitar is even for. Warbling, fuzzed out, echoing, visceral master jams fly left right and centre from Callinan’s guitar and it’s as bizarre as it is beautiful.
Sam Frank – Thunder Fox
Through generations of rock music, guitarists have sat at the centrefold as some of the most recognisable and characteristic members of bands. Axe wielders from Slash to Angus Young have carved their sound and looks into the minds of millions. Sam Frank could be the next. Sam sprays a warm jet of funk scratchings and psychedelic riffage and embeds the ticking time bomb of a Frank guitar solo inside you, ready to burst within your gut and fill you with sticky soul food. Currently taking the reins as lead gat hoister in Sydney Funk crotch-moisteners, Thunder Fox, Sam Frank is an unmissable concoction of gritty blues and frisky fingered soul. Delicious.
Cosmia Jaala – Jaala, Mangelwurzel
Another certified weirdo with guitar chops to end nuclear warfare is Cosmia Jaala. When she’s not drawing an Egyptian heiroglyph poem on her body in the shape of various cocks, the Melbourne dweller can be heard squeezing note after note out of juicy musical mangoes. From sweet, reverberating Jazz chords in her band Jaala to all out fuzzy assaults in her troupe of genius maniacs, Mangelwurzel, Jaala possesses a full, multi-coloured spectrum of guitar chops.
Shane Parsons- DZ Deathrays
Brisbane ass-whooppers, DZ Deathrays have been climbing higher and higher on the mountain of musical domination, scaling their way to the icy peaks with hard riffs and unforgettable tooonnneeees courtesy of one Shane Parsons. Treating unsuspecting listeners to a good, strong mind-bend with other-worldly sounds and genius riffage is a good way to become a legendary guitarist in no time. Nice Work, Shane.
Stu Mackenzie – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
What even is this band? Having released about 70,000,000 records in the space of 3 years, it’s a wonder Stu Mackenzie’s fingers aren’t writing on the floor in a bloody mess from too much shredding. Yet, here we are, still weeping joyous tears over the beauteous psychedelia and eclectic transcendence that spring constantly from Mackenzie and co.’s creative minds. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard has served as a machine for Mackenzie to oil with his creative juices and they never seem to run dry. So much riff, so many six-string flavours.
Gareth Liddard – The Drones
Pure, unadulterated, infectious, violent, visceral rock n’ roll. Words put together recklessly while in deep thought about The Drones and their fire spitting string fingerer, Gareth. The half man is also half android sent to our present day to blow our minds with a brand of guitar mastery that could only be from the year 2999. At least that’s the word around town. If you don’t buy it, get down to one of the Melbourne shredders shows and have your mind sufficiently blown by a guitar sound supreme.
Luke O’Farrell and Piers Cornelius – The Laurels
Music has long favoured chemistry between two or more creatives. In the case of The Laurels a magical partnership has become known between its two fretboard walkers. The molten lava that is The Laurel’s signature garage rock is heated by a very specific set of guitar skills. Luke and Piers use their combined noise making expertise to create a literal fire tornado that melts faces and hearts simultaneously. Seriously, look outside, it’s a fire tornado.
Alex Laska – Kingswood
Some say rock n’ roll is dead, others want to punch those guys square in the head for saying something so damn thoughtless and misinformed, shame on them. Kingswood have spent the last few years violently shutting the naysayers up wielding their thick, fluffy brand of old school, down and dirty, rock n’ roll. With Alex Laska on string fiddling duties, what could go wrong? With one of the warmest, most flavoursome guitar sounds you’ll ever hear and a gorgeous set of pipes to boot, the long-haired angel is truly a wizard of the guitar.
Anybody who’s not a bloody idiot knows that rock music young and old is steeped heavily in the glorious tradition of the Blues and Jazz. CW Stoneking sounds as though he was sent from heaven by Muddy Waters and the three Kings to spread the gospel of the blues and its glittering history. Smoky voiced and drunk, Stoneking delivers some of the most blazing blues licks with just a hint of Dixieland jazz. With fingers like a unicorn’s diamond hooves, CW Stoneking is one of Melbourne’s very own guitar heroes.
Celia Pavey – Vera Blue
Currently shaking off the unpleasant stink of The Voice, Celia Pavey is showing her true musical voice with Vera Blue. Boasting an angelic voice and luscious long locks, Pavey is also a master of fingerstyle guitar. Just have a little stroll through the flowery botanics on Pavey’s side of YouTube and witness her following in the footsteps of folk guitar heroes like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon with fingers like dancing swans and sounds that sparkle in your mind, the perfect accompaniment to such pretty pipes.
Legend has it, the reason Donny Benet is missing half his hair is because he once set his fingers alight from shredding too hard and didn’t even notice so proceeded to unwittingly comb his locks, the rest is history. Donnt Benet may look like your dad but that’s probably because he is. Anyone with that kind of funk under his fingers had the ability to reproduce by simply playing a sweet tune on his guitar.
Dan Willington – The Alpha Experiment
One of the few down home, white knuckles face melting shredders from this list, Dan Willington is the quintessential musician with his fingers in so many musical pies, he’d be full just from licking them clean. From producing to drumming and everything in between, Guitar is where Willington truly shines, especially in the Northern Beaches Jazz Fusion troopers The Alpha Experiment. This is one guitarist not to miss if you want a masterclass in sheer precision and versatility with just a little kiss of soul to glue it all together.
With a frantically frisky set of fingers and an unassuming yet undeniable virtuosity, Harts has made his way into even Prince’s good books. With licks that burn into your skin like a lightning strike an infectious funk that sits, grooving in your ear like a bot fly, it’s no wonder Harts has drawn comparisons to Gods of rock like Jimi Hendrix. Did we mention he also plays keys, bass, drums and sings?!… dick…
Lachlan Caskey – Last Dinosaurs
Another warlock of effects pedal mastery, Lachlan Caskey alongside his equally talented brother, Sean has strummed Last Dinosaurs into musical prominence. Currently scorching the globe with some fret-savvy digits and an ear for spicy musical flavours, there’s seemingly nothing Caskey can’t do with a piece of wood and some strings.
Having recently parted from Aussie music darlings The Preatures, this is a man with something to prove. An by good golly gumdrops, Gideon Bensen has the chops and the charm to take it all the way. After slamming out some delicious old school rock lick in the Preatures, Bensen now spends his time experiementing with more elctronic sounds and boats an extraordinary versatility with his instrument. He’s pretty good on guitar too.
Liz Hughes – Phantastic Ferniture, Aphrodite
Here’s a name you should be hearing a lot more of lately. Liz Hughes may be best known for her delightful guitar adventures with Phantastic Ferniture where she harnessed the electric magic of her six-strings with grace and style. However, Hughes also has a set of pipes on her and has occasionally been seen busting out some Nai Palm-esque jazz/neo soul stylings with her side squeeze Aphrodite do not underestimate the skill and versatility of this gal, she will literally burst your spleen with pure riffage.
While you’re here, check out our list of the 9 most famous guitars in the world, or check out our piece on self-taught guitarists here.