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Interview with Gary Husband | Bill Bruford | Nicko McBrain | Bob Henrit | Brian Bennett | Ric Lee | Kevin Godley | Mark Brzezicki | Gilson Lavis | Brian Downey | Bobby Elliot | Tony Meehan | Rob Townsend | Bobby Graham | Ian Paice | Interview with Geoff Dunn | Geoff Dugmore | Nigel Glockler | Dolphin Taylor | Ginger Baker | Paul Robinson | Keith Moon | Pete Best | Simon Kirke | Ginger Baker | Warren Cann | Eric Delaney | Dave Mattacks | Steve Ferrone | Gary Husband | Clive Bunker | Topper Headon | Rat Scabies | Steve White | Don Powell | Woody Woodmansey | Pete York | Henry Spinetti | Jon Hiseman | Nick Mason | Kenney Jones | Interview with Jimmy Copley - Manfred Mannís Earthband/The Straits | Clem Cattini | John Coghlan | Stewart Copeland | Interview with Phil Gould |

British Drum Icon - Interview with Gary Husband

There isnít a single player in the UK who takes their drumming seriously and hasnít heard of Gary Husband. A virtuoso keyboard player as well as one of the greatest drummers this country has seen, Garyís limits are constantly being stretched in a quest for new and more exciting genres of music to conquer.

Garyís list of credits include the likes of Level 42, Allan Holdsworth, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Jack Bruce, Andy Summers, and he's been the driving force for bands and artists of the calibre of Eddie Van Halen, Gary Moore, Mike & The Mechanics, Brian Houston, jungle artists Dillinger, Lemon "D", Gongzilla and many more besides. Where it seems Gary is most at home though, is with his own notable trios and formations. The numerous recordings do well to capture the spirit of the players Gary selects, but there is no substitute to seeing them live and up-close.

This highly inventive and inspired player took time out during a breather after a critically acclaimed tour of the UK to tells us all about the importance of having magic in your playing.

Tell us about the stuff you have been up to as of late then.
Well for ages I had been preparing as of the 1st of December for a group tour that I've just finished, with my own new Force Majeure band, for Contemporary Music Network. [The band has just completed 5 dates around the UK to rave reviews from the music press all of which were almost all sold out]. Itís been really hard work what with the composing and arranging, and all the introspection involved in that. That was pretty intense, and prior to that I was out on the road with Level 42. Thatís still a great thing to be doing live, itís a very strong show and is always well received.

Thereís still a big following for Level 42 isnít there?
Absolutely, thereís a big following from the past, but in order for the whole thing to move on it would require something new to happen and along those lines, I think Mark is actually planning to do a new album. We have a new DVD coming out of the London show from last year [filmed at the London Hammersmith Apollo - details at www.level42.com which should be quite good too, Iím looking forward to seeing that.

So it sounds like great things are happening?
Well, Iím busy so I guess thatís true! If itís not one thing then itís another and Iím really happy with that. Shortly I'll be off playing in Europe playing piano with Bassist Miroslav Vitous ... who you may remember from early Weather Report albums, and before that I've got some performances in Italy with drummer Danny Gottlieb and bassist Dominique DiPiazza coming up. Tonnes of different things are happening and I enjoy when that happens, it suits my temperament you know?

I was at a gig you did with Billy Cobham a little while ago in London where you were on keyboards. Whatís the relationship like with Billy what with you both being drummers, yet playing keys in his band?
It just feels natural to me. My approach is to go into, not a separate space, but to find somewhere I can settle. Itís a little like the flick of a switch to me, and I mean that in no way to sound flippant, itís just I have this kind of dual-carriageway career where two instruments and the role of being an instrumentalist in those idioms is parallel. It isnít split but itís obviously a very different thing. Iíve always been a keyboardist and a drummer and itís difficult to explain to those who perhaps arenít because itís all I know. To me itís a very natural existence.

There are many self taught drummers and not many self-taught pianists and I know you studied classical piano when you were younger, but as far as studying drums was concerned, was education on drums something you delved into?
Well no, quite the opposite really, I studied piano very much academically and had a very strict classical regime. I believe that is honestly the best way to come up in terms of piano. Classical training on piano is second to none, it stands you in good stead for the rest of your life and it really is a fantastic physical training for your hands. Beyond that, I found it a very cold experience being involved in the classical music world and academia. Thatís not to say I didnít always love the music, itís just the classical environment was horrible. It seemed scientific to me, which is kind of against everything I felt about music, so I deliberately tried to see it for what it was even back then, which was just a very solid foundation in terms of technique. The most solid, really.

As far as the drums were concerned, the original desire to play came out of seeing drummers on TV and being inspired by their energy and everything about them. It was something I realised I wanted to do and in a way it was a kind of rebellion against the whole academic world. My approach to drums were pretty much as I heard them played, more pertinently, I needed to be involved in music purely out of passion and not science and academics. I needed something organic and drums were the answer as far as I could see.

I had a set of hand-me-downs from my dad, even if they werenít drums and cymbals Iíd put things up where I thought they should be. When I got my first kit I was in heaven! But to answer the second part of your question, I actually got tuition from a whole lot of different people. My Dad used to work in television so heíd get a lot of session drummers to talk to me. Guys like Kenny Clare, Harold Fisher, Alf Bigdon, Ronnie Verrall, those really big 70ís session guys got used to me just busting their balls, hanging around them and generally being a pain in the ass! I was always like, ďHowíd you do this, what did you do there?Ē. Even hanging around them and soaking in the atmosphere and attitude which is something I believe drummers are very much about, how people think of rock and roll for instance. It often doesnít work so well if someone is just going through the motions and itís not rooted in some kind of emotion and attitude. To me that is what drums were all about. Thatís not to say that drums are not a musical endeavour, itís just saying that drums are rooted in something much more exciting.

I did actually see a teacher in Leeds, Yorkshire where I was born called Geoff Myers who sadly died just recently. I went to him for quite a series of lessons. Through him, I learned about finger technique and control and thatís one of the things that stuck with me. There were many other aspects he enlightened me towards, all very interesting, but there were things that were far more important to me such as the way drummers sat, the passion they displayed and the way they got their sound. Iíd really go through every drummer I met and picked their brains about their sounds. I did the same with drummers on records, Iíd try and replicate it all, and just try to copy them. It was beyond technique for me, it was more about personality.
I was always happy that I never focused in on one player or sound to the exclusion of all the others. I think that the cocktail of everything I picked up from all these people in doing this was beneficial. Eventually I got to the conclusion that everyone sounds like himself or herself anyway! As much as I tried to replicate these other players and kits I was hearing, Iíd always sound like me and it wasnít until after trying to be someone else for so long that I realised I should just focus in on my own sound - try and develop that and make it feel good.

Did your teachers ever help you in your quest for sound or was that through your own motivation?
It was my own quest. I think the important things - really valuable things, and this is true of so many musicians, are those you discover for yourself you know? With the best intentions in the world teachers can point you in the right direction and cram you full of useful things, you know, make you aware of loads of stuff. At the end of the day though, I think that you make your own decisions, as in, how much of this applies to me and what do I want out of it? As long as you have a firm route into what really drives you to wanting to play drums then you can kind of take things or leave things at will. Take the valuable things and leave the things that arenít applicable to you. Thatís where I was so lucky, I had all this hands-on advice from these great players. I was able to take what I wanted and discard what I didnít.

The teaching seems to be something that you are eager to share with others. I know you teach every so often and clinic frequently too, not to mention the DVDíís ďInterplay & ImprovisationĒ and the new DVD with Mark and Michael Mondesir ďThe Power Of ThreeĒ. Is teaching something you enjoy, is it something you do to give back to the drum world?
Thatís absolutely it. Paramount in it all is how I think a lot of younger players are approaching drums. I think a lot of the bug I have about doing clinics is the feeling I can get from inspiring someone. If I can inspire someone young, and thereís the key word in ďinspireĒ, not by blinding them in science, but musically in terms of excitement, (exactly what happened to me as a youngster), than Iím very pleased. Thatís exactly what happened to me, I was turned on by something that wasnít anything to do with technique, I was turned on by something that I realise now was about soul and being stirred in terms of emotion. It was never something I saw as academic. If I can make somebody connect with that kind of feeling through the way I play, and inspire them and make them excited by something they donít know was in them, then in a way thatís my idea of a useful drum clinic to begin with.

Well, the DVD titles attest to this theory, theyíre not ďKiller ChopsĒ or ďAwesome LicksĒ, rather conjurative of principles of musicality, favouring terms like ďInterplayĒ and ďImprovisationĒ over mere technique.
Youíre right. Thatís the message I have. I really enjoy hosting clinics, not because in any way I like the sound of my own voice or because I am a great player from a technical standpoint, because there are people who can do cartwheels around me! But what I do have is the feeling that I really want to translate to youngsters that thereís a great deal of amazing inspiration and excitement to be found in indulging in many aspects and styles of music. In addition to this, I want to encourage really stretching - whenever possible(!) beyond the categories and genres as we know them to be, for thereís a great unknown there, and thatís really what I want to encourage. Searching and looking and discovering. I am nothing at all if Iím not an improvisational player, basically. That's the root and nature of my own musical journey, and personality. Itís something that I get a great deal out of when I see people excited by it, particularly youngsters, who want to know where it comes from. Iím only too pleased to tell them that I donít know! Itís mystical, you canít explain something you donít know. When you sit down to play something the doors are open to your imagination and your environment. I love promoting the fact that this is a very magical and fulfilling thing, and that itís something completely fantastic to be a part of. That word Ďdiscoverí. A big word to me. Then, once we're on that journey, of discovery, we can really start saying something that's unique in us, as musicians and individuals.

Would you agree that thereís maybe a maturity behind this as well? When youíre younger you do have to focus on your technical facility to be able to execute what you hear and what you can imagine. The maturity comes through that?
Great point. I think that itís highly beneficial to pursue whatever you can to harness whatever kind of control you can get together on drums. If you can expand on your own technical vocabulary and form it to such an extent that when you have an idea you can go for it and pull it off, thatís where itís at. There is also something to be said for the innocence in music too. Sometimes you donít know what it is and sometimes the good thing about improvising players is that thereís a big gratification in finding something in you that you didnít know you had. Thatís a big reward in music, discovering something you never knew you were capable of. I would always encourage people to learn as much as they can. There is no getting around it, the development of your playing vocabulary is always going to be beneficial. Youíll draw on it unconsciously as and when you need it, thatís exactly as it should be.

Youíve worked with some pretty outstanding drummers. As well as Billy Cobham, you supported Dennis Chambers on a world clinic tour not forgetting the duet with Vinnie Colaiuta. How do you approach these duets?
Well Vinnie is top of the tree for every good reason. Heís a magical man. When faced sometimes with prospects like this youíd think, ďHow am I going to deal with that kind of intimidation?Ē, and it harks back to that horrible classical world I knew. I had to rid myself of this horrible competitiveness; it was such a brutal world of competition and fighting for the top position. I hated it. What I had in the drum world with Vinnie was very different. I had a chance to say, wait a minute, weíre two different people, weíll play differently. Heís a master, he does whatever he does, which is the most unbelievable musical thing. Iím going to bring what I do to the table and have a musical conversation with this man. As a supporting artist, Iím going to go and do whatever it is I can and be the best, creatively, and inspirationally, that I can be. That was my endeavour and it paid off. Thatís the case in every musical situation, I really try to rationalise it and not be intimidated just because a guy is so accomplished and amazing.

Again with Dennis, heíd come and watch Allan Holdsworth when I was with him in Washington, this was before Dennis had the profile he has now. We played two shows for three nights and he stood there, right in front of the band, through all of the shows! He dug what was going on musically in that thing we had. The next minute heís exploded and everyoneís going crazy over him, rightly so. The point was, I had a friendship with him and from that in terms of what the friendship stood for, it meant a lot more to me than him being an incredible figure. Iím never going to let that get in the way of playing with him. Why canít I have a conversation in drums with him? Itís the same with Billy, the chance to have those drum duets was something very valuable to me, when you have the opportunity, youíve got to believe in yourself you know?

So just because these guys are renowned for having massive technical facility doesnít mean youíve got anything less to say because of it.
Absolutely! Ringo Starr, check him out! Personality, and chemistry of personalities is what itís all about as far as I'm concerned. Look at the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts is perfection in there. There is no better band in the world then when they get together. What are you going to do, put Simon Phillips in the Rolling Stones? No, it would sound terrible; it wouldnít be the Rolling Stones. Not for one second.

Another example talking of personality and Simon in particular, is when he took over the drum chair from Jeff Porcaro when he died. Simonís personality shone through and changed the sound a little. Bands and artists sounds change and evolve depending on who they work with.
Yes, thatís such a beautiful thing too. Thereís no better testament to the greats who have left us, people of Jeff Porcaroís legend, that Simon does it and does it in his own way. I think thatís the most respectful way it can be done. The Level 42 gig, replacing Phil Gould, I mean, come on! That band was great with him! But, what I can do is whip up a different kind of storm for the band, and play more in my own way. You have to take into account that once you change the drummer in a band, you change everything, everything. More so than any other instrumentalist being replaced, you change the band totally when you change a drummer. Since it's always going to be that way then it makes no sense fighting it.

Well, they do say a bandís only as good as the drummerÖ
Indeed they do, and with good reason I think. Iíve played keyboards with many bad drummers believe me, so I know!

With regards equipment, youíve always favoured a relatively large set-up. Can you explain a little about your gear for us.
Yes sure, well I go through phases, like everybody. They come and go like the desire to have a cappuccino! It's the renewal process - the stripping down of your existing concepts and thinking and experimenting with fresh ways to approach things. What it comes out of, here again, is the fact that I do so many different things. To take a nine piece kit to a Jim Mullen Quartet be-bop gig would be silly. To play nice grooving and driving jazz you don't need a nine-piece set. Itís about recognising the temperament of the music you are in and judging what you take into that situation depending on both the demands, and of course, what you want to bring to it. For me, it doesnít really stop at sizes of kits for me either. Some gigs like the Level 42 thing, I play left hand lead to give simply because that music feels better to me playing that way. I think itís got to do with the fact that I do all these different things all the time and thatís through choice. It's like, I need one to give perspective to the other. I need James Taylor to give me perspective on Crowded House, and then Billy Cobham for instance.

Without one thereíd be no otherÖ
Absolutely. Itís like food. We all need food, but not the same food all the time. Imagine just eating greens for the rest of your life! I need to be exploring new sauces; new flavours and I need to experiment. Things that arenít always found together interest me, whatís it like to combine the two? Itís a quest to find new tastes and ideas. Thereís so much there and through that thereís so much to find.

So youíre constantly inspired.
Well thereís so much to be inspired from! Just life, living it, going through good times, grief, intense love ... we deal with so much and thereís light and creativity in everything. As far as players are concerned, there are countless players that have been inspirational to me, and continue to be. There are a hell of a lot of exciting players around, but there are a lot of things that bore me to tears too. A lot of dance music for example! My God, I'm still hearing drum programming that I've been hearing since 1992. Yazz - "The Only Way Is Up"! Remember that one? Yo, you guys! Can you not occasionally find anything out there that you can find to dance to that's a little different sometimes!!??? Man! 

So coming up, as well as the live Level 42 DVD, you are also on an album called ďDirectionsĒ on Symbol Records
There are a lot of different participants on that project, and I recorded a track of my own on drums and keyboards called ďSulleyĒ. He was the guy from Monsters Inc. "Aspire - Gary Husband & Friends" the CD has come out now, and that has some great players on it. It documents a lot of the later music I wrote for a trio I had - the Gary Husband New Trio. Iím happy with it. [He should be! Check out the review on this site] During the tour we just did with Force Majeure, there was a filming at the Queen Elizabeth Hall gig in London, and weíre in the throws of mixing that up for DVD release at some time in the near future. I'm really excited about the way that, particularly, is coming on. Steve Bingle was the catalyst behind this - a great, inspired, passionate and driven guy who also was behind the "To The Power Of Three" project, with Mark Mondesir. RSJ Groove is the name of his company, and this guy should be recognised and wildly applauded for his efforts. Nobody's doing what this guy's doing - over here, or anywhere I can think of actually. The guy's been moving heaven and earth for music and music projects he believes in. Fantastic stuff.

Interview: Mark Pusey

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