Gary Husband: The Irrepressible Journeyman
Revitalised for the New Year, it was a pleasure to catch up once again with my accomplished music friend, virtuoso pianist and drummer Gary Husband. Interviewing Mr. Husband is always a pleasure as all his musical endeavours are undoubtedly committed affairs of the heart. Over time he has indeed collaborated in some evocative musical company, from Allan Holdsworth and Billy Cobham, to Jack Bruce, Level 42 and his own ensemble Force Majeure. In each musical setting he selects, Gary has an unerring ability to apply his own formidable improvisatory technique, thus providing us with some delightful melodic, harmonic and rhythmic surprises!
In form of a resume since my last feature on Gary for Abstract Logix, I have explored his latest release for Alternity Records, ‘A Meeting Of Spirits’, celebrating the seminal music of John McLaughlin and his future recording plans with Force Majeure. Unfortunately there was a little sad news as I learned of Gary’s potential decision to leave his duties as drummer of Level 42, although hopefully he will be undertaking the band’s forthcoming dates in the coming months. So, it would be fair to warn the more conservative critics amongst us of the sincerity of Gary’s intentions for 2007 as he pushes the boundaries of creativity further, diversifying into a variety of new musical incarnations and spheres..
SLT: Please explain a little about ‘A Meeting Of Spirits,’ your beautifully constructed solo piano album celebrating the music of John McLaughlin, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti. How did you select the material and did your recent experience of collaborating with John McLaughlin on ‘Industrial Zen’ have an impact on your approach to his work?
GH: The work on John’s Industrial Zen album sessions took place well after I had started all the writing for my A Meeting Of Spirits album, so no, the Zen sessions didn’t affect what transpired on the album. I worked in a very similar fashion and approach to that featured on another dedicational album of mine – in fact this album’s predecessor (The Things I See – Interpretations Of The Music Of Allan Holdsworth) where I handpicked a fair amount of old and new favourites and used them as a springboard for a lot of personal musical exploration and adventure. Therefore both of these albums feature a fairly significant share of fresh, original composition of my own. And this was the whole point. In fact there was a good balance, I feel, between certain selections that were almost entirely new, (based on a strong essence of an original), and versions of things that housed a lot of original elements. Also, (just as it was with the first Holdsworth material one) this was a project I chose to do fundamentally and rather simply to say a huge thank you – to express love and strong acknowledgement for all the inspiration over the years. Both John and Allan have been hugely significant influences in the way I write and play myself today, and I’m really proud of both these records and glad I saw them through because these were both a whole lot of work!! Big, big work. But I love work! Particularly when it inherently carries a strong and heartfelt personal message to artists of this stature. There’s not much more I can say beyond that, since the message is really entirely just in the music. It’s a fact, anyway, the cover version approach has been done to death, and that really wasn’t my intention or motivation anyway. The strong personal input was, and the title of the album kind of reflects that – A Meeting Of Spirits – a special journey highlighting this little realm where my work meets his, in dedication and with love.
SLT: What are your thoughts and reflections on the 2006 Level 42 ‘Retroglide’ tour? I attended the RAH concert in October and there was an overwhelming audience response throughout the entire evening.
GH: Oh well there was a pretty strong reaction to just about all those shows. I think it’s a testament to how driven everyone is and quite honestly how strong the show is. I mean, music to me .. you have to TESTIFY!!! Otherwise don’t bother going onstage, you know? It’s a mission to me, every time, no matter what kind of music I’m playing or with whoever I’m playing with. The Level 42 line-up of the last few recent years I actually felt was the best ever, in so far as those I have been involved with anyway. Everyone on that stage delivered. You know, Mark’s a driving force anyway and of course that’s infectious too. Nobody slacks on that stage, so I kind of think it’s inevitable audiences for sure really pick up on that, especially in a live concert setting, and especially in these times being bombarded by so much mediocrity – not being able to hardly find any music on TV other than the endless stream of soap stars trying their luck as singers, or doped-out looking, totally forgettable and totally derivative indie bands by the dozen etc etc. Oh man, how boring and tiresome. The 42 performances, to my mind have been a good kick in the balls reminding everyone how it should be. That’s my feeling on it, straight ahead.
On the most recent tour the band featured Mike Lindup back in the fold, on Fender piano and prophet, and he really did great. It’s HIS gig you know, and he was really on good form playing fresh stuff every night. Nathan King is Mark’s brother (on guitar) and is a really talented musician. Sean Freeman (on tenor) is also a cracking young musician and beautiful, beautiful guy. I probably did the best yet on this tour as a drummer in the whole thing. A kind of Jazz/Funk style, as such, was never my strong point or forte in the beginning but I always enjoyed listening to people who can play very well in that way. So it was always a great challenge for me to do it well, and I’ve been working very hard in all the tours through the years just trying to be better and better at playing that way, and in summary, I think I only became happier with the way I’d been playing the music since around the band’s Live At The Apollo DVD time onwards. That one was good for me, plus the improvement I feel I’ve monitored in the performances and recordings since then.
SLT: Tell me about your musical diary for 2007.. I gather that on 20th January you are playing with Allan Holdsworth at the NAMM show in LA and some further Level 42 dates have just been announced including the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta this March.
GH: Well yes I’ll get to play with my old brother Allan Holdsworth again after six years I think it is now! It’ll be nice. I don’t think if it paves the way for too much to happen beyond that, as you know he has his band with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman so … hmmm. I’d definitely like to do something more with him, but maybe outside of the band format he likes to work in – maybe feature him as a part of something I do perhaps. At this point I don’t know. Actually, Pearl Drums (who I just rejoined) set this up, since Allan is using amplifiers I think named Hughes and Kettner, who are part of Pearl. That’s all really positive since I love Pearl Drums, and since they went to the trouble to want to do that. Thank you Pearl!
Aside from this I have some more recording work and some live playing commitments with John McLaughlin in a new format, (playing keyboards and also perhaps some drums) and probably, and hopefully I’ll perhaps do some more with Mike Stern too. It’s the case though I’ve taken the decision to not carry on in the drum chair for the Level 42 band. This is since I want to adjust things and provide myself with more time. You know I’m a writer and a keyboardist and all this stuff too and there are lots of directions I want to go with that, and that’s a strong part of me that begins yelling out in frustration inside of me if I’m spending a great deal of time on the road as just a drummer. Mark I’m sure in time will find a replacement that suits him of course, but until such time I’ll be honouring the commitments the band has in this new year (including the Jakarta trip as far as I know anyway at this point). It’s been a great pleasure and experience to be involved, always, and y’know I’m already talking with Mark about possibly doing something together at some point – perhaps a joint CD project .. so we’re really not going to cut ties here, that’s for sure.
Beyond that, I’d like to record the Force Majeure band. The live DVD we have Gary Husband’s Force Majeure Live At The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, will probably disappear shortly, as y’know it just wasn’t looked after properly. That’s tough stuff in this day and age, making pretty adventurous projects and knowing how to get them off the ground a bit without losing your car and your house!! However, we’ve all got to continue and do what we can. The music I am still immensely happy with and proud of actually, and I can hear a fantastic album in my head of slimmed down, more concise versions of all those same compositions, featuring all those great guys again. I’d like to interest a company, because I’d need help – financial and promotional help of course, chiefly. Still, all those guys are in the States, and I think if I go there, produce it with Jim Beard, (the keyboardist in the band), it’s really not outside the realms of possibility. It would be a very, very, very strong album.
SLT: Sounds like an ambition worthwhile pursuing Gary. I look forward to the realisation of all these creative strands! My thanks to Gary Husband for his time in offering this feedback. Up to date information on all Gary’s projects can be found on his official website: www.garyhusband.com