NEWCASTLE guitar virtuoso Nick Raschke says he was “born without an ambition gene”. But what the veteran musician lacks in aspiration he makes up for with pure talent.
There was probably no other path for the 50-year-old to follow. His mother Sharon Raschke was a musical child prodigy. The renowned musician died from cancer in January, 2016.
“Mum was the youngest qualified music teacher ever, at the time,” Raschke said.
“She was about 11 when she got her full music teacher qualification, she played from about 18 months old.”
Raschke grew up in a home where music was at its centre. His mother’s piano students would come and go while he soaked up the music they made.
When Raschke eventually picked up an instrument, at 11, it was a old guitar with just one string.
“Mum heard me play along to a Beatles song with just one string,” he said. “I taught myself over about six months as a kid.”
“I spent six hours a day playing because I was obsessed with it … I wasn’t trying to be good, I just couldn’t not do it.”
He progressed to electric-guitar, forming his first band The Embers at about 15.
“The other school band had booked a gig at the Mary Ellen, and they chickened out. I talked them into letting us go instead,” he said. “And we got a residency, it’s was pretty good.”
The Embers stayed together for about four years, playing mostly covers of bands like Sunnyboys, The Beatles and The Easybeats.
The had a huge following in Newcastle in the late-80s, often performing on both Friday and Saturday night at The Grand Hotel.
In 1989 he formed the The Slots. They performed a blend of originals and covers at venues across Newcastle for about nine years.
“I could never nail it down, describing our sound, it was pretty angry and forceful. There were no ballads,” he said.
The Milestones, Raschke’s current band, formed about nine years ago.
“It happened by accident. Someone cancelled at Maitland at the Grand Junction, and I got a call,” he said.
“We threw a few songs around, and we have never had a rehearsal yet, which is kinda terrible.
“We mainly have fun and there’s nothing much (in the set list) after about 1970.
“We just enjoy jamming and doing good harmonies and not taking ourselves too seriously in that band.”
Raschke said he feels guilty he hasn’t written more songs and says it comes from a reticence to document his internal world.
“I always say if something is worth writing about you should probably keep it to yourself,” he said.
“I’m very private … once you put it in a song, there it is forever.”
His son, Mitch Raschke, is in the band Introvert, who last month played Groovin the Moo, and are currently receiving airplay on Triple J. His younger son, Isaac, 18, is also a musician with a passion for bluegrass.
Raschke said he has been happy with his decision to not pursue the big music dream.
“I just love Newcastle,” he said. “To have gone away would have meant I wasn’t here.”