Matteo E. Basta is an Italian singer/songwriter that has forged a name for himself in his home country as a talented musician who has in recent years discovered the Weisseborn and utilised it to great effect. As well as finding out more about Matteo I was also interested in his coalition with Italian luthier Ermanno Pasquaato of Hermann Guitars and their joint guitar seminars and exhibitions promoting the instrument and not forgetting of course who he ended playing Weissenborn on gondola in Venice.
So thank you for talking to us today, could you start by saying a few words about who you are where you are from.
How long have you been a musician and is it a full time occupation of you?
I have been playing and studying guitar since I was 7 years old. I started in a private music school then with private teachers and also by myself but I also attended and graduated in Classical Guitar at Conservatory of Trieste and specialised at the well known conservatory of Saint Cecilia at Rome. I can’t think of my life away from wood and strings. I regularly perform and teach guitar in public and private schools.
So how did you discover the lap steel and more exactly the Weissenborn?
As most of the modern/nowadays Weissenborn player I started listening to Ben Harper and then I discovered a world of virtuoso Weissenborn players.
The Italian connection; How did you meet Ermanno Pasqualto of Herrmann Guitars?
I met Ermanno because I wanted to buy a Weissenborn guitar, maybe made in china and very low budget, maybe a second hand guitar, but then while I was searching on the web for more information I found his website and his wonderful guitars with an affordable price. So I decided to contact him, I really wanted to go in his workshop and try a Weissenborn for the first time.
I take it you play Herrmann Guitars Weissenborns exclusively now?
Yes of course we have a deal but not an exclusive deal even if I only have at the moment his instruments.
I don’t trust in religion and a lot of other things but I trust in what a man can do with his own hands, and I love the passion and dedication that Ermanno puts in his job which is the pure art of sound.
What Weissenborns do you own of his?
I have a relic Weissenborn style 2, a lap steel guitar, a Weiss Dobro and a ukulele.
You and Ermanno seem to do regular seminars and guitar shows together do you not?
Well, our collaboration was first based on mutual trust.
We started doing expositions in several guitar shows through Italy where I was involved in the instrumental part of the exposition, playing and demonstrating the differences between instruments, sounds, styles and techniques.
Then we continued trying to combine our professions together, luthier and teacher, organising several seminars in Italy but not only Italy, we have started exporting them in Europe at the moment in Slovenia and Germany.
What do you do at these seminars, do you teach lap steel playing or do you just perform and showcase the instruments?
It depends of the seminar we are going to do. Most of all in the first part we talk about some Weissenborn history and little curious connections about music and culture around the world. In the second part Ermanno talks about some specifics of construction and their evolution through the years. During these explanations we help the audience showing them different models, instruments not assembled at all and pics from different books that shows how the building process developed through the years.
What slide players inspires you, it looks like you a fan of Ben Harper and Ed Gerhard?
Yes of course as I told you before. For me they were the first point of connection with this magic instrument! Thanks to them, but especially Ben Harper, the Weissenborn guitar came pretty famous again around the world.
Then I discovered a world of Weissenborn players like Roy Smeck, Bob Brozman, Jerry Douglas (dobro player), Martin Harley, the young Thomas Oliver, Jeff Lang, David Lindley, Daniel Lanois (on the pedal steel), and many others.
Is the Weissenborn popular in Italy, do you know many other Italian Weissenborn players.
I’m not really sure we can say that Weissenborn guitar is popular in Italy between famous artists rather it is played more frequently by amateur musician.
I know some of them which I had the pleasure to meet, talk and collaborate with. Some time ago in my hometown Trieste I organised a little music festival in a very cute club (Round Midnight) called “slip’n’slide” where I invited some of them.
So lets talk about “Midst Of Nowhere”……
Tell us the meaning or inspiration behind the song in the video “Midst Of Nowhere”. And What tuning is it in?
Well, the song was written in collaboration with my dear friend Giulia Zamarini. We started, as usual jamming and playing around the main tune (the chorus) and some words, then we chose a direction and that’s all.
That night we were very inspired and both in a fantastic mood, so that’s the reason why we have chosen metaphors as “learned the sound of the desert in the midst of nowhere”, “sometimes I see blue bears and lions flying high”, “love to run and dancing in the rain”…
It’s a song about contrasts and about making important decisions (or just let them slip away), about the power of friendship, about the consciousness that we can hold our entire life in our hands or not and the will of good proposals/good intensions “but (maybe) not today”
The original tuning is a standard E major (EBEG#Be) with a capo up to F major (but maybe in that video I used a D major and capo on the 2nd fret up to E major probably due to a sore throat).
I think it’s a good compromise of tuning if you need to combine both strumming and melody.
Tell us about the Weissenbro in the video, did Ermanno build it?
Wow, the Weissdobro is an amazing guitar combining both a dobro square neck and a weissenborn guitar (that’s why -Weissdobro-).
The sound is so close to a Weissenborn as to a Dobro too but with much more harmonics.
The way of playing is so similar as every Weissenborn or Dobro and it differs as always on which tuning you decide to play in.
This one is the only prototype in the world (there were other luthiers that have built similar instruments) but of course this one is a Herrmann Guitar.
How come you needed up recording a music video in Venice and on a boat, and a moving boat at that?
This live performance was shot and recorded some time ago for the IndieMood agency.
They created this wonderful thing called IndieMood Sessions where musicians are invited to play one original song on a boat through Venice’s channels.
People around the world look at Venice as the most beautiful and lovely city in the world and each one in his life would like to go to visit this enchanting city in all it’s beauty. Each house, each vintage shop, each bridge and channel and how you can forget to make a “gondola-tour”…YOU CAN’T!
But however you decide to live and visit this lovely city, you will never see it from that perspective and with that atmosphere, trust me!
Was it shot in one take and did you get any interruptions from passers by?
Yes it is a one-take recording at the third try since we stopped twice ’cause of the boat traffic.
Are you a lap steel specialist or do you play conventional guitar too?
First of all I’m a singer-songwriter so in my concerts I usually play acoustic guitar but I include Weissenborn guitar as well as some lap steel and ukulele in some songs.
Are you a solo act or do you play in any bands?
For most of the shows and most of the year I’m a sad and lonely player (arhh) and perform full-band just in some special events as festivals.
Do you have any lap steel music released available to buy/download?
At the moment I don’t have specific CDs or Eps released with lap steel guitar.
I’m recording an album where some songs are written and performed with Weissenborn guitar and in other songs I will add just some lap steel solos.
I’m writing with Ermanno Pasqualato a book of tips, technics and original compositions for beginners accompanied with audio tracks. It’s a sort of easy start manual, some short and easy tunes, a practical approach for the Weissenborn guitar.
Can you recommend 3 other videos that Weissenborn fans should check out of yours?
Describe your ‘style’ in only 5 words.
Of course I need to include the word FOLK, sometimes i mix genres close to the CHAOS, but the sound could be also ELEGANT, SURGICAL about details and OPEN to all kind of contamination.
Explain your attraction to the Weissenborn, why do you love it so much?
I think there’s something about the vibrato that catch my heart and soul.
Some people say that cello is so close in frequencies to human voice, and that’s why cello is so romantic and attractive and I can say that weissenborn guitar give me the same lovely and peaceful feeling.
What current projects do you have on the go?
I’m recording my first album with a lot of folk music and acoustic instruments, pretty much different from the passed two Eps (closer to the pop-rock world). I’m already planning an Italian tour with the help of my Italian agent Marco Valva booking & promotion for the 2018 season and after that we will start a short European tour and hope to do many gigs as much as I can.
Plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
Finish my album first and in the meanwhile finish to write my first book about Weissenborn guitar.
Please can you let people know where they can listen or watch your music or any social media links they can follow you on.
People can easily:
– reach me on FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter as Matteo E. Basta
– listen to my music on:
– watch my music videos and live performances on:
Many thanks for talking to us Matteo it was a pleasure 🙂 All the very best and stay in touch with us won’t you?
Thank you Aron and TWiE for your accurate questions and of course let’s keep in touch for future works, releases and collaborations, thanks for the hard work you do in spreading the word about all Weissenborn info and world news: talk to you soon.