5 minutes...with Mat Jodrell and Carl Mackey from Speedball

5 minutes...with Mat Jodrell and Carl Mackey from Speedball

Trumpeter Mat Jodrell and saxophonist Carl Mackey share a history of over 20 years. Best mates who perform, teach and tour together regularly, they know each other pretty well and have a story or two tell. 

We caught up with the frontline of Australian super group Speedball ahead of their Melbourne International Jazz Festival appearance.

How did you first come across each other...can you remember?

Mat: Pretty sure we met at the Hyde Park Hotel (Perth Jazz Society).  The scene was pumping at that time with so many killer gigs on.  Most musicians would hang out the back near Ron Morey, a guy who used to sell dubbed cassette tapes of rare jazz records with covers all typed out on his typewriter of the album’s personnel and every bit of important information.  Carl was pretty much playing with most of the great bands, and if he wasn’t playing he was hanging.

Carl: I can’t remember the first time we officially met, but I remember the first time I heard Mat play. I turned up to a festival gig in Kalamunda in the Perth hills and was waiting backstage to go on. A trad band was playing and I could hear them but not see them. Listening, I came to the conclusion that the trumpeter, who was playing with a beautiful big sound, great melodic command and swinging like crazy, could’ve only been one of two people. Both were legends of the WA trad jazz scene, either Lloyd Napier or Don Bancroft.  I walked around side of stage to check it out and there was this kid there instead. I asked someone who he was, and they told me, ‘that’s Mat Jodrell….he's 13'. Crazy!

Funniest moment on tour together..

Mat: I think it could’ve been the Perth Jazz Orchestra tour to India.  One of the most fun tours ever, involving hanging with the Indian mafia, some death defying driving through the streets of Mumbai to the Taj Mahal for one of the funniest nights on record.  Can’t go into too many details unfortunately!

Carl: Oh man….that’s a tough one! We spend a lot of time travelling together and there is always something hilarious happening. How about memorable? ….and all I’ll say is that it has something to do with Mumbai, a fast car, the Indian Mafia, the Taj Mahal hotel and narrowly avoiding things turning out really badly. If you ever catch me at the bar at the end of a gig, I may tell you sometime. Then again, I may not.

What would you be if you weren't musicians

Mat: I’d be a graphic designer, a recording engineer, or one of those road workers getting paid a fortune to hold the ‘slow down’ sign.

Carl: I would’ve liked to be a pro golfer. I love everything about the sport. I find a lot of parallels with jazz. You have to practise hard and alone for a long time for a situation that will never be the same when the moment comes for you to deliver your response to it. Or something to do with helping animals or birds. I’m a bird nut!

You both teach at James Morrison Academy in Mount Gambier and spend plenty of time living together. What's your favourite dish the other cooks?

Mat: Carl’s crispy oven potatoes are smokin’ …. his Bolognese is also very serious.

Carl: Mat makes a great curry. My favourite would be one that I think he said is called a emperor golden curry or something like that. It’s killer! 

Who are you both listening to right now?

Mat: Ali Farka Touré, Fela Kuti, always Charlie Haden, Frank Zappa's ‘The Yellow Shark’, and Prokofiev's ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to name a few.

Carl: Freddie Hubbard/Woody Shaw - Double Take, Sinatra - Only The Lonely, Seamus Blake - Live In Italy, Will Vinson - Perfectly Out Of Place

5 minutes...with Mat Jodrell and Carl Mackey from Speedball

Photo L-R: Speedball members Sam Anning, Mat, Daniel Susnjar, Carl and Grant Windsor

What is it about Speedball that makes the band unique?

Mat: It’s highly emotional music from a band of misfits that get along VERY well!  The writing is unique because a lot of the material evolved as a collective, or the writing is done specifically for the members of Speedball and the sound of the band.  The level of empathy within the band is hard, if not impossible to get with other people.  We grew up together, spent much of our formative years together working on music, so the connections are very strong.  

Carl: I think there are a few contributing factors. We all share a passion for passion driven music and like to emote as the first call in our music. We aim to have zero throw away tunes, no filler. We are all great friends and have been for a very long time. When we play, it’s like when we hang. We love each others company and I  think that that comes through in our music.

Favourite post-gig activity? 

Mat: Possibly enjoying a beverage … or two .. with the band, talking absolute rubbish.  

Carl: Straight and chasers with the guys. If the hang isn’t on then I sit up late after a gig. I have too much energy running to go to bed straight away. I’d bounce off the ceiling.

What/who inspires you?

Mat: People who are passionate and dedicated to their craft, whatever that may be, inspires me.  

Carl: From a pure musical, and I guess a saxophone biased, perspective, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker for their dedication to the endless search. As I get older and hopefully wiser, I’m either finding, or appreciating inspiration drawn from closer and closer to home. Most notably, my parents, Ron and Beverley who gifted our household with an appreciation of great music, great art, literature, and a love for nature. Those things remain the source of my greatest inspiration from an artistic perspective. My amazing wife Vanessa, who inspires me endlessly with her immense passion for all that she loves, and sometimes doesn’t love, and who has more talent in her little finger than I could hope to possess. Our spirited cat, Cleo, who reminds us constantly of the joys of 4:30am. 15 human years and still going strong!

What are you reading at the moment?

Mat: Shackleton’s Way by Morrell and Capparell.

Carl: I just finished reading John Pilger’s ‘The New Rulers of the World’, and I have a few other things on the go, including Eckhart Tolle’s ’A New Earth’ and I’ve just started Joseph Heller’s brilliant ‘Catch - 22’ for the second time. Christopher Hitchens said that everyone should read it at least four times, which I take as a pretty sound endorsement, and it was also my late Dad's favourite book. He urged me to read it for years and I finally got to it a few years back. It’s incredible! Can’t wait to get a couple more reads deep.

For those who haven't heard Speedball before, what can they expect when they hear you play on the "We Have Moved" tour?

Mat: Original music that is a lot like a rollercoaster ride.  Dynamic playing with a lot of interaction between the members, a lot of high energy work, but everything in between as well.  There’s also always a lot of humour in the music, which mimics the oddball personalities.

Carl: Five guys having a ball playing together, and doing it with lots of energy. 

5 minutes...with Mat Jodrell and Carl Mackey from Speedball

See Mat and Carl perform with Speedball at The Jazzlab on Sunday 11 June. Book tickets here

Photo credits: Carl (Laki Sideris), Speedball (Hayley Miro Browne)

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