We're not talking video games here.
Today, we start a new series on the Jemsite network, interviewing guitarists and musicians who may not have star status YET (yet being the key word!) but their current situations have shaped them to be who they are--determined, fond of their craft, and heroes in their own right. Perhaps you'll see in these upcoming entries the next Jimi Hendrix, Melissa Etheridge, or Duane Allman. Or perhaps they'll become household names by doing what they do best--doing their thing.
For our first interview, we highlight one Czech-born Mike Poss, who didn't let his native communist country of censors and politics keep him away from his dream of being a rocker. Read all about him and then head on over to his official website for the goods on this daring dude.
Q: Your bio on your website says you were born behind the iron curtain in a communist country. Can you tell me about your background and how it
Well, since I was born in Czech (former Czechoslovakia) a country in Central Europe, which was a part of the Soviet-block in the past, it certainly formed my view of the world and my understanding of the value of freedom and democracy. But, I do not want to play the role of some anti-communist revolutionary. That would be unfair to the real political fighters who spent a part of their life in a communist jail, however everybody who played rock-n-roll, had long hair and dreamed about freedom was a kind of political opposition. I was lucky that I spent my childhood in Ghana, Africa. My father was an agricultural expert so we lived in Ghana for 7 years. I grew up with African musicians and that was a great experience. After coming back to Europe I was frustrated with the political situation, but I am part of the lucky generation that experienced the changes to a standard democracy.
Q: How did rock n' roll influence you and what did it mean in a communist country? Was it a way of rebellion? Was it forbidden?
That was a curious time that people from West would never ever believe. Bands were prohibited, persecuted and the state had a system of various examinations and certificates if you wanted to be a musician. You had to hide your hair if a photo was made or you were on TV, your lyrics were censored etc. The situation became better in the late ‘80s and the whole system was broken down in 1989.
Q: How did you start playing guitar? Why did you decide to focus on guitars and not another instrument? Why did you have dreams of being a rock star when it was very unlikely in your place?
My father was a rambler guitar player and used to play at the family parties and I loved it. However I started with piano and went to lessons for 7 years. When I was 14 I realized the piano was too big and I needed to amaze chicks at school parties. Guitars are quite sexy. I started with a normal acoustic and than got my first electric guitar some years later. And, of course I had dreams about being a rock star. My heroes were Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker and others and I wanted to play and look like them.
Q: You say rock music has become merchandise and has lost its political sense. What do you mean by this statement? When would you say was the glory time of rock and why? Why is there no glory now?
Yes, rock-n-roll is a normal entertainment business today in our country. The same like in US or Western Europe. Of course there are still bands and musicians who bring a strong message, but this again becomes a part of the business. It was not that case in the history of our country. Bands had no promotion, even were prohibited, but the concerts were hopelessly sold out and the interest and passion of the fans was exciting. People understood that this is an expression of cultural freedom inside of the box. Lot of them would have given anything to see their favorite band. That is not true today. You can see any kind of music live, on TV, on DVD and it has lost its taste of forbidden fruit. Certainly I would never ever want the time to turn back, but I miss this type of enthusiasm.
Q: What are you looking to do in life with your guitar playing? What do you play? Who is your favorite?
I am no more naive and I know that the prime league is not played in Czech. So to get a deal with a real prime class band you have to move to US or UK. On the other hand there are new communication channels to reach your fans around the world like YouTube, Lastfm and others, which is great and enables you to play for many people even you do not live in Los Angeles or London. My favorites ? They are so many ! Vai, Satriani, Johnson, Firkins, Moore, Eklundh, MacAlpine and maybe another hundred names.
Q: Why are you waiting for the big guitar job to come? Don't you just want to keep playing guitar as a hobby on the side? Why do you want to find work with it?
Again - no chance to do so on such small market like Czech if you want to have a dignified life. So you have to move, but there are so many good players out there and I am not a teeny talent, I am an old man already :-) Since I am a lawyer by occupation and have a retail expertise I earn money by that and play guitar as a hobby. However the dream of childhood is still somewhere deep inside - big stages, huge stacks behind me etc. :-)
Q: What you are doing now?
As for my current musical activities I have been working on a new concert program of Czech legendary song writer and singer Paul Vane for a couple of weeks. We would like to have the show ready for stage when the spring/summer season starts. I am also going to record some funny instructional videos soon and put it on YouTube , because I was asked by many people to do so.
Q: What is your situation these days?
As I said above - I play live with local bands, and I help in studio with guitar parts. I make some records from time to time and put them on YouTube and Lastfm. This will probably be my musical future for the next few years. I am not frustrated by that, I like it. To be a part of the "big business" I should have been born in some other place but in fact, if I see what happens in the world I am a lucky man.
Q: What has guitar playing taught you about life?
To be a good player you have to have discipline. You have to practice things you do not like so much and go quite tough in the beginning. That is not bad preparation for anything you do in your life. You also learn to stand in front of many people which is good training. Writing music is creative work that develops your thinking, logic and intuition in one.
Q: Any last words?
I want to encourage people to play guitar or any other instrument. In the time when anything can be done electronically without any effort and you can fake playing instruments, it is very important to develop the real expression of people's emotions and the real human essence. Playing an instrument is one of them. And it is also an excellent communication tool. Even you do not know the language of a man from a faraway country you can understand his music.