Gary Husband Interview
Gary Husband is a household name for every jazz, fusion and even pop fans today. There are very few people today that can play drums in a heavy setting and can amazingly interpret the music of Allan Holdsworth. He has appeared on monumental recordings of music history and has created a dazzling new record himself. On top of that,he is the backbone of the most interesting pop-jazz bands of our times, Level 42. Gary has been working on a new recording, interpreting the music of John Mclaughlin as well as appearing on the new Gongzilla records. He will be performing in New York this summer for a few exclusive shows. This is what Gary had to tell us .
AL: You play two quite distinct instruments at a very high level. How did this happen?
GH: I guess it is quite rare when a musician specializes on two instruments to the point where both are his or her main instruments. For me, long before drums came along I was studying, very seriously, classical theory and classical piano. I guess the way I play, and hear piano is directly inspired by a lot of that classical background, and a lot of that material. The jazzier, more improvisational side I did not study. No taking down of solos, and no real in depth study of a lot of conventional jazz methods. I developed this, I guess, from listening, and the inspiration I got from musicians and records. I really wanted to follow my heart, and what I heard. As I heard or felt things I developed them. I still work like that, so perhaps, (and I’m glad to say) the kind of lines or harmonic approaches I end up using are not really derivative of anybody in particular except just many influences and inspirations that I’ve had in the past, and still do have. It’s been a very organic process that way. On my next album, Aspire – Gary Husband & Friends I play some acoustic guitar! So I guess that’s going to throw people now, too!!
AL: You’ve recently interpreted Allan Holdsworth’s music. Interpreting is a lot different from covering and you have captured Allan with playing Allan.
GH: Thank you! Thanks for listening. Well, all those versions, really, come from just a process of listening in, looking to see what lot of the bare bones of Allan’s melodies would suggest to me. Just a lot of imagination, and a hell of a lot of application!!!! Wow! I worked really hard on that one. I guess what came out at the end was a selection of interpretations, some very much expanded upon, and very rearranged … some even recomposed really … and then some which are closer to Allan’s definitive versions. Even the selections that remain closer to the originals though, in form, are all dramatically re-harmonized. Guitar harmony does not translate well at ALL into piano harmony. Got to start right at the beginning.
AL: You are working on a similar treatment of John McLaughlin’s music?
GH: It’ll be a similar type of approach, although John’s music is often so much more literal in a sense, than Allan’s. In spite of that though, the interpretations will take on a life and form of their own, as they did with the first album. Luckily, John is very supportive of this idea!! He was very taken with the last album, and I feel very proud of that. He’s a very big inspiration.
AL: Do you easily switch back between the drums and piano or do you have perform with each for a period of time to get into the groove?
GH: It really depends. I cannot say. I guess it works out to be half the time involved in piano, keyboards and writing, and the other half for drums. I hardly think about it. Actually though, I’d like to work on this idea for solo concerts where I have some drums set up around the piano and, with the use maybe of a sequencer, I can be involved with both in the same setting. That’d be great. It takes some intense planning though, as I want it to be real – not some kind of novelty circus approach.
AL: What music are you most proud of? There’s lots to choose from.
GH: That’s very nice of you to say, although … hmmm, I don’t know. A lot of the Allan Holdsworth records I am kind of proud of. There was a lot of development that took place for me as a drummer since I had 100% freedom in the approach. I was able to really compose drum parts for his pieces while he suggested nothing! It’s great to be left to your own imagination and have somebody trust you. The quality control was not always that much on these records as far as my own playing is concerned. Usually thought out, and recorded very quickly. I could have done far better in terms of the actual playing. I’m proud of the ideas though, and I guess I think I have a clear identity as a drummer. I like that thought. I think it with the piano thing too. It’s nice. Other things? Steve Topping – Time & Distance or What It Is or the new one coming up, Late Flower. He’s a great one, at the moment not recognized. It’ll change. I like what a lot of what happened with my trio, (the New Trio) in terms of the imagination and the arrangement side. I enjoyed my time with that little group. Every concert was pretty memorable, very different from the last one, and just always very creative.
AL: Was there stuff you heard growing up that pushed you in a certain direction?
GH: Well, in terms of the old days, I guess everyone was just copping the records. Including me! Big time. All the big band stuff from the U.S., the jazz and fusion stuff. England, as you will know, is much more culturally diverse now anyway – there are lots of things happening … but really not too much out of the area of more dance oriented things or pop. I hear very little improvisational development, or harmony. Bjork, with Vince Mendoza scoring, will do it for me though! I don’t know. I find I am inspired constantly through life’s adventures anyway – just through living. In the old days I was inspired by a lot of pop, classical, jazz and fusion, rock. As well as this you had bands like The Police, where people were actually playing. It’s a little different these days, in that way. I feel more than ever bit of a maverick. For my own survival! I guess I always did anyway.
AL: Tell us about your work with Gongzilla.
GH: Gongzilla is a group I first recorded with on an album a few years back named Thrive. I did a recent one with them, coming out now,The East Village Sessions. It’s pretty good. Not my finest hour behind the drums (!) but I’m seldom happy with my performances anyway. Got some good things though. They will not allow click tracks though, so … there’s no repairing anything, and it’s all done just as it comes! I like this approach, and I don’t like it!
AL: Any advice for those out there who may also want to become drummers and pianists simultaneously?
GH: Well, I’d say don’t force it! If you feel like you have a bit of a split personality, like me, then I guess you go for it. I mean, I suffer, in terms of marketing, and people’s marketing demands. It’s not an easy ride to be selling yourself as a dual instrumentalist, but it’s very necessary for me as I can’t do without one or the other of them. I guess that makes me a true Gemini, but one has got to do what one is going to do! And mean it!