Paul Mason shares his musical journey, influences, and the inspiration behind his debut single “Constant Rate” in an exclusive interview.
Paul Mason has carved out an indelible mark in the Australian music scene. His journey has been punctuated with brilliant collaborations and triumphant moments.
From his influential role in Battlesnake to his instrumental contributions to defining moment when he shared the stage with the legendary Sting at the “Evening in Honour of Jeff Beck,” solidifying his status as a maestro in his own right. We sat down with Paul to delve into his musical world.
What follows is a conversation with Paul about his inspirations, creative process, and aspirations. He reveals a soulful approach to his craft, taking us through the journey that shaped his unique playing style and guitar wizardry.
Mason’s debut single, “Constant Rate,” emerges as a high-energy anthem that exemplifies his exceptional artistry. The song’s infectious energy and emotive lyricism, conveyed solely through his guitar, showcase a deep understanding of the instrument.
From playing with his heroes to opening for icons like KISS and The Smashing Pumpkins, Paul shares memorable moments that have defined his career. While he basks in the camaraderie of musicians, he remains focused on continuing his musical odyssey and leaving a lasting impact on audiences.
Paul Mason’s musical journey is a testament to dedication, passion, and the relentless pursuit of creative excellence. As he releases his debut single and mesmerises audiences with captivating performances, the future shines bright for this maestro, and we can’t wait to see where his musical genius takes him next.
Happy: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the music scene like in your neck of the woods?
Paul: I’m born and raised in Sydney NSW , the scene here I would describe as somewhat clicky but very healthy at the same time. I see so many people with some elbow grease and a good attitude find a place for themselves here in Sydney’s professional music community. It’s thriving, and while things can take a little time I think there is a place for everyone here.
Happy: Describe your average work day?
Paul: A good day for me is one spent at home , some excercise in the morning, phone calls and emails about projects or performances I’m looking forward to.
Some practise, some home cooked food, finished off with a movie or some chilled out YouTube binge-ing in the evening , or I’m often playing somewhere . Lately I’m involved in two weekly residences.
A Sunday night at the Baxter inn and a jam night at the marble bar on Mondays. I’m also often playing interstate and touring, so that work day becomes what can you go and see or do or eat before the 3 ish pm soundcheck depending on how much there is to do .
Happy: What about your ultimate day?
Paul: I love music and I love what I get to do playing in so many different settings etc. But I also wanna mention that the beach on a perfect day, a fantastic plate of pasta , add in a dog somewhere and I think that’s pretty up there.
Happy: Tell us about your creative community. Who are some artists or bands that have inspired you, and how have they influenced your music?
Paul: I recently saw the milk carton kids, I was particularly inspired by Kenneth Pattengale and the lyrical and playful approach he had to the guitar. Playing the notes that really matter, their arrangements and vocal harmonies as well as songwriting were fabulous. I couldn’t answer this question without mentioning Jeff Beck.
I’m always inspired by how he plays a phrase on the guitar . It sounds like a voice , I’m consistently inspired by him and impact he’s had as a guitarist and what he’s done for the overarching concept of what it means to play lead guitar.
I’d like to also mention that I’m consistently inspired by the drive and will to succeed constantly demonstrated by my band mates in Battlesnake . They are a constant source of mojo for me . I’m really lucky to have that.
Happy: What did you read or watch last that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?
There’s a show I always come back to . It’s called Kenny verses Spenny. It’s hillarious , silly and captivating. It shows an insight into male friendship what it means to approach life from a happy and silly verses a neurotic place .
Happy: Congratulations on the release of your debut single “Constant Rate.” Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and what it means to you personally?
I’d had constant rate in the vault for a long time . It was the first serious piece of music I ever wrote . It’s a great platform to play the guitar in a melodic way while still being in a high energy rock context . It all stemmed from the opening riff that lead me to hearing the melody that went atop. It’s a great high energy number in my set .
Happy: “Constant Rate” showcases infectious energy and emotive lyricism conveyed solely through your guitar. Can you talk about the creative process behind the song and how you translate emotions into instrumental compositions?
Paul: The emotion in a guitar performance for me comes from the interaction rhythmically between what I’m doing and how that fits with what’s going on behind the drum set. The bass glues all of that together.
Miles Thomas that played the drums on the recording is fantastic, it’s an absolutely fantastic drum performance and Warren Trout that played with me on my single launch does an incredible job of getting the song to that same place.
They’re both incredibly intuitive musicians. Noel Mason my twin brother does a great job of glue’ing myself and that kind of drumming together. The drums and bass were recorded live with me playing along and then I overdubbed the guitars in bits and pieces over time.
It took a long time to get everything done as I’m overly critical and want my guitar parts and the solo to be a certain thing that I might be hearing in my head. Sometimes it can be quite a process .
Happy: Your performance at the Factory Theatre was mesmerising and captivating. How do you approach crafting an intimate and immersive live experience for your audience?Can you share any highlights about the night?
Paul: Firstly Warren obliterated the single, it was amazing . I try to craft a set of music that has as many different emotional tenors as I can.
Different feels across a variety of genre’s as well as opportunity for the band to stretch and enjoy the arc of the set. The opening song of the night was a song by Sting that I’ve always loved. It was really cool to bring that song to life with the band and sing it as well . It’s one of my favourite songs to sing now.
The guys nailed it and it was nice to have a song that I played acoustic guitar on and be that guy for a change. The folky acoustic singer guy, as opposed to the electric guitar slinger guy , both cool guys
Happy: From your influential role in Battlesnake to collaborating with renowned artists like Jessica Mauboy and performing alongside Sting, you have an impressive musical journey. How have these experiences shaped you as an artist and influenced your approach to your solo work?
Paul: Jess as a vocalist is an absolute powerhouse. Battlesnake is a chugging engine of rock and roll might. Sting had this poise and class I had never witnessed before in the same way. He’s Sting! We were all enamoured hearing him in person.
I’ve been incredibly lucky and having those experiences as a musician definitely has increased my hunger to continue to state what I’m about . And helped to cultivate my belief that what I have to offer is valid.
Especially in the landscape of the Australian music scene . I feel like what I do is very unique and has its own thing and it’s important that I don’t let it go to waste . I want people to enjoy it . And certainly the above mentioned artists by osmosis have had a hand in its development.
Happy: Your guitar skills have been described as extraordinary and awe-inspiring. Can you share with us how you developed your unique playing style and approach to the instrument?
Paul: Oh wow that’s really cool to hear thank you so much!
I was hugely influenced in my early years by Mark Knopfler . In my teens I studied jazz quite extensively. I kind of pivoted into the session world out of that and started getting more and more into Jeff Beck while at the same time playing in more rock , pop and rnb contexts.
My approach to the instrument today is kind of a soup of all those things. Hopefully the ability to emote and get a feel across to the listener like the great rock and blues players do.
But it’s hopefully informed with the more traditional jazz approach of knowing what chord I’m playing over or what’s most appropriate in the context of the song or situation, while still being able to leave some kind of a mark that separates me.
Happy: What initially drew you to the guitar, and how did you begin your journey in mastering the instrument?
Paul: My father was an incredible rock and roll front man. He played the club circuit in the 70’s and 80’s and was in a heap of different bands. That was what drew me to it and how I got started. He also wanted us to go into music, I still have this small scale Japanese Strat, that he bought for me.
His stage name was Kenny Ansett. In my teens I went to Newtown Highschool of the performing arts and became buddy’s with a guy called Abraham Rounds , he now plays with Meshel Ndegeocello , Blake Mills. He’s a fantastic drummer and all round musician .
I wanted to be able to hang and play with him properly and on his level, it took years but I eventually got it together. Abe was incredible at such an early age we were all inspired by him and his dad Victor Rounds too is a phenomenal bassist. Both of them really helped me out .
They showed me great stuff to listen to, gave me council , we would jam all the time . I could kind of play but Abe and his dad Victor really got me into into the Jazz thing early on. It was Abe that introduced me to Pat Metheny, we were like 13 .
That completely blew my mind, I’ll never forget that, it was the song “Have you heard” by the Pat Metheny Group. Prior to that my own dad was hipping me to people like Eric Clapton and Chuck Berry , Little Richard , The Shadows , The Beach boys . So I had a lot of early influences to soak up even as a young boy .
Happy: Are there any specific guitarists who have had a profound influence on your playing? How have they shaped your technique and musical style?
Paul: Jeff Beck , James Muller , George Benson . There are heaps , but those 3 guys I particularly love . Jeff for his quirks, incredible sound and uniqueness , James for his incredible way of crafting a solo. And George for his incredible feel, dexterity and vocabulary. Other guys worth mentioning would be John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Mark knopfler they’re big influences for me too .
Happy: Can you walk us through your creative process when it comes to composing guitar parts for your songs?
Paul: It depends on the context, main thing is it has to have a great feel. The tone is also crucial, that can really place a guitar part, in a genre for example. The main melody that also informs a lot of what a guitar part should comprise of.
How busy? How light ? Or heavy? How loud or quiet ? Does it need to be played tight? Or loose and “janky.” But usually I just try a heap of things out, and think about all those things in the process. Do I want something tight and punchy or do I want something expansive and ethereal.
Is it a big 3 piece rock band style kind of a riff or is it a tapestry of many different parts. A huge part of it is what the drummer is up to.
Happy: Are there any specific gear or equipment choices you make to achieve your desired guitar tone? How important is tone shaping in your overall sound?
Paul: Hugely important. The biggest part of it is how in touch with the instrument you are aswell as the amp , or watever you’re dialing in. But once the amps dialed in it really is all about your hands and touch. Having proper equipment is absolutely crucial to getting a good strong sound though.
All my amps have been modified and have different speakers in them then what would have come stock. There are a lot of improvements that can be made. On Jess’s gig I use a kemper profiler stage.
I just messed around with it for ages, have patch changes on every song that kind of thing, for in ears and the hifi sound of her music I love how the kemper sounds . But for basically everything else i do I like to use amps and pedals.
Happy:Do you have any gear that you can’t live without?
Paul: My hands, everything else can be replaced. I have a white strat I’m playing a lot, and I harvested the pickups out of another strat that used to be my main. I really dig that guitar. I do all of Jess’s gigs and all the Jeff Beck stuff on that axe.
But if I had to use something else I’d just happily use that. Once I’d mucked around with the set up, noise cancelling and got some decent pickups in it I’d be away . Stratocaster guitars really respond so closely to what the person actually sounds like .
I’ll cite when Steve Lukather had a play on Jeff Beck’s live rig , Jeff’s white strat , amps pedals the whole rig . Steve states that he didn’t sound anything like Jeff at all , tone , sound , nothing like him not even close. Steve still sounded exactly like himself .
The gear has so little to do with it . It’s all in your hands .
Happy: With your debut single and live performance gaining attention, how do you envision your musical journey unfolding in the future? Are there specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve?
Paul: Absolutely. I’d really like to continue doing concerts, building on what I’ve already been doing. I want Jeff Becks music to never die or go out of style, and I also want to be releasing more of my own songs.
They take me ages to create so I need to streamline things a little more there as well as just work harder at it. But stay tuned I do have a few in the vault . Id also love to play with Sting again.
Happy: Can you share any memorable or transformative moments from your musical career so far? Is there a particular performance or collaboration that stands out as a defining moment for you?
Paul: I’ve been lucky to play with a good handful of my heroes. Just last week we were all invited to the Adelaide guitar festival to do a concert of Jeff’s music. So being in Adelaide I invited James Muller to come and play.
That was amazing . Because as a teen learning jazz , when I heard him for the first time it really was like hearing Hendrix . I learnt from him aswell back in the day .
He’s an incredibly captivating player . Meeting and playing with Sting and Dominic Miller on my own show “In Honour of Jeff Beck”. Opening for KISS and The Smashing Pumpkins with Battlesnake also defining moments.
Happy: How do you want your music to impact and resonate with your audience?
Paul: I think any kind of impact and resonance is just generally a great thing, I’m not super fussed about the how. If I’ve provided not only a great concert that was captivating and emotionally memorable for people but also a great night out , then I’ve done my job.
Happy: Lastly, what makes you Happy?
Paul: Really simple things, Lord Of The Rings by Peter Jackson, pasta, dogs the usual stuff. The beach on a hot day. But in a musical sense what is really awesome and what I’m proud to be able to say would be things like having a team, being in a handful of really cool bands, having my own projects.
Providing income and opportunity’s for people I love and respect. There’s a camaraderie with musicians that is really special, which is a contributing factor to all of us being able to maintain good health mentally, because the music industry is hard and can really screw with a lot of peoples heads.
But at a certain point you do just have to say screw it all and fight to do what makes you happy.