Exclusive Interview with Matyas Pribojszki

Matyas Pribojszki How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ When I was a young guy, around fourteen at the end of the eighties I collected and listened to a lot of soul and funk music like the Temptations, Delegation,The Commodores, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Kool and the Gang and many others... I bought this music on vinyl (LP), mostly not in the shops because here in Hungary you really didn't find it normally in the music shops...So you had to find different ways to get at it, and I had a good contact who brought great music from Serbia (Jugoton) and sometimes from the West...One day, when I went to buy some new vinyls again he offered me one, and though we really didn't know what kind of music it was exactly there was a black guy on the cover, so I was sure it would be great. I bought it, took it home and listened to it, and I was so surprised, because it was absolutely different from any music I had ever heard before. This was the great, one and only Sonny Boy Williamson (II)...So that was the moment in my life when I first heard real blues harp sound and playing, and I was in love from that moment, and I have to say I'm still in love with this fantastic instrument.

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included), which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Impossible to write one name, because I have a lot of favourite blues harp giants.It would be great to meet, talk, learn from, and play with. both Sonny Boy Williamsons, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Terry, Peg Leg Sam, Gary Primich, Paul DeLay, William Clarke...and many more...But anyway I'm so lucky because in the last 20 years I shared the stage and did great jam sessions with some blues harp icons like Charlie Musselwhite, Carlos Del Junco, Jason Ricci, Brendan Power, Steve Baker, Paul Lamb...just a few. I'm so proud to call them "friends". I think somehow all the blues harp players are in the same family.

What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I used to play and test all the harmonica brands in the last more than 20 years. I think nowdays all the harmonica manufactures are trying to make better harmonicas. Every company has a great model, like Suzuki Manji, Seydel 1847, but I prefer and use Hohner harmonicas. I'm also an official Hohner harmonica endorser. I use Rockets, and Golden Melodies, because they are so comfortable for me, and I love the authentic sound with contemporary elements, materials. I really love the traditional, old school sound of the Marine Band series, Crossovers, and the low keys of Thunderbirds too.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ First of all, listen to a lot of music. Different kinds of music, mostly Blues, soul, funk, jazz and some modern suff too. The real Music will always give you inspiration, and if you got it then you have to follow your heart and soul. Learning, practicing always helps, but you don't have to learn all the things step by step exactly like the original, because it will never be absolutely the same. Be spontaneous. Everybody has different soul, different mind, different heart, different groove, different problems, different life, different stories, different tone, so everybody has different blues. This is the most important thing. You have to go your own way. You have to tell your own stories through your blues harp too. Nowdays you can find a lot of things throughout the internet, you can find free lessons and everything, and maybe it helps and you can learn a lot of things much faster than our generation. But I met a couple of guys who can play very well at home behind their computer, but they really can't play live with any other musician or in interaction. So please don't forget to play in real situations, alone or with other musicians too. The interaction and the right control are so important. But anyway you can find good harp players and teachers through the web and some of them have great website or skype lessons possibilities too. David Barrett, Ronnie Shellist, Adam Gussow, Jason Ricci, Howard Levy...just a few tips.

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I use and like both, but it depends what I play and what I feel at the right moment. both have their advantages, and when I use both it really helps to color my harmonica playing.

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ It is also impossible to give you only three....My opinion is that the following albums are very important: Sonny Boy Williamson - One way out, Muddy Waters - Fathers and sons, Superharps - James Cotton, Billy Branch, Sugar Ray Norcia, Charlie Musselwhite.

How do you clean your harps?
~ I use the Roche-Thomas Mi- T-Mist mouthpiece cleanser. I clean my harps once every month. Sometimes I open up the coverplate, and the reedplates (screw out) and clean it all inside too.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ I have worked very hard throughout my career,with 11 CD releases under my belt, and I still have to keep working hard because unfortunately it's not so easy if you were born in Hungary, or if you come from Eastern Europe... So, the question: Do you still have to fight a lot to keep yourself in the blues harmonica scene? Answer: Yes, and sometimes I really don't know which way is the best, but anyway I'm still on my own way... Or another question: What do you do when you are not playing? Answer: making my own home made sausages, or go to the swimming pool :-) :-) :-)

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ No doubt about it, Chris "Kid" Andersen's Greaseland Studios is one of the best. I worked with him two times, so I know what I'm talking about. I'm only a blues musician so I can't describe it, but you can find infos at his fb site.

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ I'm not nervous, I just have a special mood, I'm in the "high status"... I'm waiting for the first note, and then I close my eyes and I'm going to another planet... I don't have any special rituals, but sometimes only one little shot from a real good hungarian palinka can also help when I'm going on stage.

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ I'm so lucky, because I've had a lot of really nice and memorable moments in my career. It was an honour to play with one of my blues icons, Charlie Musselwhite! He played an amazing solo on my latest cd as a special guest too. It was also a pleasure to be there in Trossingen at the World Harmonica Festival as a jury member, and invited artist at the gala program, or at the Baltic-Nordic Harmonica Festival, in Estonia. I have played more than 30 countries and I have to say that I've got a lot of great stories, and memorable moments, but I don't think there is enough place and time here to write these down ...Maybe next time in words, personally...

Matyas Pribojszki

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Answers given on August 2, 2016
Photos: Janos Nagy