My name is Mike Walker and I'm a Guitarist, Composer, Teacher, Counsellor. I love improvisation. I like to think of it as instant composition. I work in Jazz, Rock, Funk, Folk, and many cross-over genres, like classical composition that explores improvisation or grooves from the above genres.
My full name is Michael Joseph Sebastian Walker. On occasion, I attended St Sebastian’s primary school and I nicked the name for my confirmation name. I was not a good student. I was clever but not attentive. I drew animal experiments, crossing a cow with a hedgehog for instance, on math test paper. I was annoying. I did not play music and had no interest in playing it. I wanted to be a werewolf when I grew up because of Oliver Reed's portrayal of a werewolf. This all changed at around 16 years old.
My Brother had a guitar. An Eko Acoustic as I recall. He was, and still is, an excellent singer. He sang with feeling and used the guitar for accompaniment. So the guitar was often lying around the house and I'd mess about with tunings I'd pick up from Joni Mitchell.
I liked to listen to Joni Mitchell a lot at that time, and had an interest in Jazz from my Sister who was courting a Bass player who listened across all genres from Led Zeppelin to Steely Dan and Mahavishnu Orchestra to Frank Sinatra and Shakti to John Martin. I added Coltrane and Parker and Jim Hall and a gazillion others from the Jazz canon and continued to absorb that stuff when I started playing at about 16.
I think watching my Brother sing in bands was very influential for me. The feel of a song, the reason for singing it, the interpretation, especially from night to night, became something I'd listen out for and something that became a part of my own musical expression.
I'm still inspired by vocals. The connection is everything to me. Joni, John Martin, Nana Caymmi, Frank Sinatra, Norma Winstone, amongst others, become the song. The song sings them, it seems, and this has been a constant inspiration for me.
I am motivated by honest interaction. I love to improvise with other people. I love to hear where they are going. I love to be foxed when they turn left instead of right. I love the freedom in music and the rest it gives me from the noise of this crazy world.
I am enjoying writing both music and words. I have always enjoyed writing poetry, perhaps that’s why I like writing words too. I hope to write an album's worth of material with words, at some point in the near future. I've finished the music for my next album 'The Things That Make The Darklings Sing'.
Darklings are little creatures that come out at night and cause mischief. I first read of them in Keats' poetry and wanted to give them some light, so this music is dedicated to them and is mostly joyful with a little melancholy here and there.
I have also been enjoying running a retreat in the Lake District around September each year. It's guitar specific but I'm thinking of opening it up or maybe doing another one that welcomes anyone interested in improvisation. The place, Yewfield, on Hawksead Hill, is beautiful and a perfect venue to relax and discuss Impro and harmony etc.
I'm in a wheelchair in the picture above. I was knocked off my bicycle in a hit and run. I broke everything on my right hand side, shoulder, elbow, wrist, thumb, leg. I was out for about two years and when I got back into playing I had to re-adjust my picking action. My wrist refused to work in the same way. I had to totally configure a different playing action between right and left hands. It took an age to sort it. I started feeling comfortable again about 10 years after the accident.