John McGrath

Guitarist, Sound-artist, PhD & Author


John McGrath is an Irish guitarist, composer and author based in London. His music explores the boundaries of the ancient and modern as traditional elements meet improvisation and experimental tendencies. He has been interviewed / featured in The Wire, Aquarium Drunkard, Burning Ambulance, The Skinny, Bido Lito!, BBC Radio, Radio New Zealand, Sideways through Sound, and Sydney's FBi radio and has had his music synched on various television shows and sounded at Tate Modern and FACT. John has performed the UK premiere of Rhys Chatham's "Die Donnergotter" in addition to "Guitar Trio" alongside the composer. He has also performed with Dustin Wong, Sharon Gal, History of Harry, Black Snow Rodeo, Magic Youth Club, Specific Ocean, Cavalier Song, Howard Skempton and the aPAtT Orchestra. A vinyl recorded as part of the Never Records installation at the Liverpool Biennial was reworked in a live performance by Philip Jeck. McGrath has been commissioned to write for the IMMIX ensemble and performed a number of new works alongside large arrangements of his work with the group. As a solo performer John has performed at a number of festivals and has supported Richard Dawson, Laraaji and Sun Araw.  He has a monograph with Routledge entitled, "Samuel Beckett, Repetition and Modern Music". In 2014, John was awarded a PhD in music from University of Liverpool, which was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. He is a lecturer at University of Surrey.



"Dublin born guitarist John McGrath’s debut EP of solo acoustic instrumentals combines static drones, glitches, and contemporary techniques with rich harmonics and intricate fingerpicking.  His versatile, experimental approach, reminiscent of Jim O’Rourke, Christian Fennesz, and Marc Ribot, pushes at the boundaries of new guitar music and the UK avant folk scene.." -The Wire



"Bringing a touch of the 21st century to the guitar soli scene, Irish guitarist John McGrath combines loop pedal technology with Takoma-style fingerpicking on his new EP, Lanterns. The results are very cool, suggesting an alternate reality where loop maestro Dustin Wong worked on acoustic rather than electric guitar. Over four tracks, McGrath adds neat harmonic and percussive elements to his sharp solo playing. But it’s more than a gimmick — the songs here are uniformly strong, especially the oddly named, but quite lovely 'Ghosty’s Spinach Song,' which closes out the EP." - Aquarium Drunkard


"John McGrath's reputation is still bubbling underground, however his appearances in various guitar ensembles and scratch orchestras, as well as his Lanterns EP, have made him known for dexterous guitar work and the ability to work folky melodies in with complex arrangements. With the help of fellow composer Chloe Mullett, McGrath's work with Immix is less of an overhaul and more of a tasteful augmentation of his music, as if to highlight the ornate nature of his work that is more subtle in a solo capacity. Bringing to mind the likes of Owen Pallett and Grizzly Bear, John McGrath is an artist capable of balancing classical and folk textures to great effect." -

The Skinny


“his clutch of haunted icy soundscapes sounds very much like wandering around half-remembered wintry dreams.” - Bido Lito!


"a deft masterclass in cyclical finger-picking fused with subtle glitches, warped drones and rapping Autumnal taps." - Peter Guy, Liverpool Echo


"One of the most innovative solo guitarists on the scene right now is John McGrath ... utilising seriously warped effects over John Fahey-esque musings." - Deep Hedonia


"like Bert Jansch remixed by Four Tet, combining extraordinary technical mastery with warm drones and harmonic effects." - The Cube