Music interview - Geoff Achison: "It is something to celebrate the enthusiasm that audiences worldwide have for the blues"

Australian guitarist Geoff Achison, taken by Richard Mountain. (s)
Australian guitarist Geoff Achison, taken by Richard Mountain. (s)
Share this article

As befits a man who fits the model of the perpetually moving musician, Geoff Achison has not let the grass grow under his feet.

Having just climbed off a 22-hour flight from Melbourne, the Aussie guitarist makes a swift re-fuelling stop at Barnoldswick Arts Centre on Monday, supported by the blues/rock combo The Souldiggers.

An extraordinary musician, Achison injects funk, soul, blues, jazz and even classical into the volatile mix which makes his sets a whirl of sound from Down Under.

His parents were music lovers and when Geoff discovered a forgotten old guitar beneath the staircase at home, "a beat up 1950s Belinni" he recalls, Achison began his apprenticeship.

“It had two strings missing and a neck shaped like a banana,” he said.

“Anyway, for the first three or four years of playing that was my axe. My mum still has it.

“From there I was very much on my own and picked up a lot from jamming along with Freddy King records on an old transistor radio.

“We lived far out, in a tiny town called Malmsbury in Victoria State, which has a population of 900, so there weren’t a lot of guitars around where I grew up.”

Achison gravitated towards the sounds of blues, and along the way, invented many of his own techniques.

“I played jazz for a while but I struggled with the complexity of it,” he said.

“When I heard blues, though, I instantly knew it was where I belonged because it was a very instinctive sound.

“It got straight to the point and I greatly admire the blues philosophy.

“No fancy productions, no fancy chords, just a rockin’ groove and plenty of space for the musicians to play it how they felt at one given moment.”

He added: “The blues was a portal into the realm of musical expression for me.

“In some other universe it could have been drum and bass music.

“It doesn’t really matter.

“As a guitarist and singer, though, I like to play whatever makes sense for the moment we’re in.”

He quickly attracted worldwide attention, landing the coveted Albert King Award for his guitar skills and jammed with the iconic Les Paul in New York and the legendary R@B vocalist Delbert McClinton.

“It is something to celebrate the enthusiasm that audiences worldwide have for the blues,” he said.

“In America they whoop, holler and shout encouragement, but it’s an American art form so it’s ingrained in the culture.

“Here, in the UK, they love the blues but it is more considered, I think.

“So once you start playing they are quiet, listening to every nuance of the performance.

“They’ll burst into enthusiastic applause at the end of the piece but not until the last note has completely died away.

“As a musician I find that incredibly respectful.”

Geoff Achison and the Soul Diggers, Barnoldswick Arts Centre, Rainhall Road, Monday. 01282 813374, 07712 628366