Interview with Wayne Camilleri
Renowned Maltese musician Wayne Camilleri has been playing guitar for over 20 years. During that time, he has performed with several popular local artists such as the 18-piece ensemble The Big Band Brothers and currently plays in the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s Rockestra production. He has taught guitar for several years and offers classes for all ages and abilities.
- Are you self-taught or did you learn music formally?
I was self-taught. I tried lessons when I was 15 and realised they were not for me. I still wanted to learn the guitar though, so I had a go at learning it by myself. Back then it was harder since there were fewer resources available, since we did not have the online resources we have today. You had to find a cassette player and jam to your favourite song. Although this was more difficult, it provided me with proper ear-training, so I continued learning that way and even bought books to help hone my skills. As time passed, my interest in music and guitar playing continued to grow. Even though the more advanced techniques were harder, I realised I felt a real sense of satisfaction with each new skill/riff/lick that I learned.
However, non virtual music programmes provide human contact. This allows better guidance throughout the learning process, since a teacher can point out any mistakes immediately
- What is the most common challenge you feel music students face?
I think students find it difficult to commit and invest time to practice. In the beginning everyone is excited to play an instrument, without realising what it takes to perfect their skills. They underestimate the level of difficulty involved in music and so lose interest quickly.
- As a music teacher what flaws do you see in the way music is taught to aspiring musicians?
I feel that there is a misconception that learning music theory is the most important part of the process. Although it is essential, it is not so important in the beginning. At the initial stage, musicians should be going through the basics of playing. I would also suggest playing with musicians who are better than you, since they will help you to rise to their level as you jam along with them. Through jamming you will train your ears to respond quicker and to carry the song to its end. Musicians will learn music theory on their own as they go along, which is why they shouldn’t worry so much about it in the beginning.
- Do you feel that the bar has been lowered now that technology allows people to record their own music at home?
I don’t think the bar has been lowered. We now have a greater variety of musicians to choose from, which means we have a better chance of finding something good. Many local musicians are publishing their work online, and there you get a continuum in terms of quality. Having many platforms to showcase your work is always a good thing. Nevertheless, you have to work hard to publish a decent final product.
- Do you see the underground music scene growing stronger?
Yes, the underground scene is getting better. I used to have gigs in which only 6 people would show up, but nowadays audiences have grown larger since more people are checking out the artist’s work online. Larger online audiences result in more criticism of one’s work, so artists push themselves further to create better content.
Musicians nowadays do not rely on other people to record their music. They are becoming self sufficient in producing, releasing and disseminating their material. They can do it themselves. If you’re surrounded by people who are committed and work hard, you will get a good following.
- What do you think is missing or lacking from the current music scene?
Prices to organise events are rising, for example. We are starting to see that some venues are supporting the local scene, although we still lack an open-air venue where we can perform till a decent time. DJs get to play excessively loud music at late hours with no problem, but the process to get a permit to play late is still a hassle. Even if the permit is processed, a complaint can still end the event. This is unfair to the musicians who would have practised their set list for weeks, possibly in a hot and stuffy band room with other band mates. This has been the situation for quite some time now.
- I am aware that you are working on an album. Could you tell me more about it?
Yes, at the moment I am in the middle of recording my first album. I have my own demo tracks done and dusted. I’ve also got the drum and bass tracks sorted from the various musicians I’m collaborating with. The next step is to lay down the guitar tracks. Everything has to be done as soon as possible since September is Rockestra month and I will be very busy. It’s a great feeling to work with other musicians since I can enjoy sharing other people’s ideas instead of solely having my own. They understand what I want but they always add their own personal touch to it. I feel that this is what will make my album special to me, and hopefully to my fans.
- Why is music so important to the world?
Music is entertaining as it acts like a time machine. It helps you reflect on your life, and by doing so transports you into a different world. Even if your music isn’t the greatest it can still create that feeling. People call out musicians who play covers instead of original music, but I don’t agree with that. Covers of songs can still have a meaning to the musician, and I know this as I do both. The songs you play, original or not, bring back memories of all sorts, and this always comes out in your performance.
- What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Throughout my life I’ve learned that you should never take a compliment at face value. Always be analytical with your work, regardless of how proud you are of it. There is always room for improvement, some mistake that can be tweaked. Most people will not recognize your own mistakes, so it is your responsibility to criticize your own work. It’s very easy to fall into a comfort zone – it’s something that happens to everyone, but it should be avoided.
Make sure you understand that learning music is not an easy-going journey and requires patience and dedication. Many people who quit were expecting quick results, which is rare, if possible at all.
See the beauty of it. Music is magical, it can change your mood, it can bring out the person inside you in ways a Facebook post cannot, so always take it seriously.
Musicians should also surround themselves with music that they love and feel passionate towards, as this is what influences their style and performance.
Finally always carry a humble attitude around. Never feel like you’ve made it at any point. In a lifetime we can only ever scratch the surface when it comes to music, so you will never “make it” so to speak.
TIMOTHY BORG IS AN 18-YEAR-OLD A’ LEVEL STUDENT STUDYING BIOLOGY AND CHEMISTRY. WITHIN THE PAST TWO YEARS, HE HAS TAKEN CREATIVE WRITING AS A HOBBY. HIS STYLE VARIES FROM POETRY TO CREATIVE STORY WRITING. APART FROM WRITING TIMOTHY PLAYS ALSO THE ELECTRIC BASS.
© 2018 TIMOTHY BORG ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Background photo photographer: Stefan Stafrace