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.
Thereís still a big following for Level 42 isnít there?
So it sounds like great things are happening?
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?
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?
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.
Did your teachers ever help you in your quest for sound or was that through your own motivation?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
Well, they do say a bandís only as good as the drummerÖ
With regards equipment, youíve always favoured a relatively large set-up. Can you explain a little about your gear for us.
Without one thereíd be no otherÖ
So youíre constantly inspired.
So coming up, as well as the live Level 42 DVD, you are also on an album called ďDirectionsĒ on Symbol Records
Interview: Mark Pusey
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