(All photos courtesy of Gary Husband)
Gary Husband is the living personification of “Fusion.” Seen in music as the combination of jazz and rock elements, fusion opens the music and musicians up to boundless possibilities resulting in the creation of something truly unique. Husband’s playing does precisely that.
Many musicians are multi-instrumentalists. But their instruments of choice are usually closely related. But rather than guitar and bass, keyboards and guitar, or something similar, Husband is a legendary virtuoso on keyboards and drums, the very definition of the music’s melody and rhythm. The combination of skills has made him one of music’s most sought-after talents from some of the legends of jazz, progressive rock, and fusion.
Not everyone can say they have shared the stage or studio with two of the great guitar heroes of all time in John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth. Those names alone would make a career for most musicians. But that’s just the tip of the Englishman’s musical iceberg. Add names like Jan Hammer, Robin Trower, Jerry Goodman, Mike Stern, Jack Bruce, Jeff Beck, Lenny White, and Wayne Krantz (among countless others), and you get an idea of just how far Husband’s musical tentacles have stretched over the course of his career.
Husband’s artistry is deeply imbedded in his genes. His mother, Patricia, was a dancer and his father, Peter, was a musician. He was classically trained as a pianist, yet amazingly he is largely self-taught as a drummer, with the exception of a few informal lessons with Geoff Myers. His professional career began as a teenager, with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra bringing him on as their full-time drummer when he was only 16.
Husband met the likes of Bruce (the legendary bassist from Cream) and Holdsworth (who had already played in legendary prog/fusion bands like U.K. and Soft Machine) in the late 70’s, laying the foundation for a lifetime of musical collaborations. With Holdsworth, Husband became best known for his drum contributions to the classic albums I.O.U. and Metal Fatigue. The latter album contained a blistering drum solo on a tune called “The Unmerry Go-Round,” which is what caught the attention of CirdecSongs in the summer of 1985.
Husband made it on to the radar of guitarist John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra), ultimately becoming the keyboardist and second drummer in a band ultimately dubbed John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension. The two have shared the bandstand and studio since 2005, recording albums like Now Here This, To the One, and Black Light. Most recently, the final show of McLaughlin’s 2017 tour (purportedly his last in America) was recorded and released as Live in San Francisco, featuring guitarist Jimmy Herring and his band, Invisible Whip. Together, the two bands formed the New Mahavishnu Orchestra, to the delight of sellout crowds nationwide. The band’s playing is nothing short of incendiary.
In addition to dozens of sessions and subsequent albums as a sideman, Husband has also celebrated a prolific solo career since 1998. His records run the full jazz gamut, from the traditional or “straight ahead” to the most burning forms of fusion, where he has served primarily as keyboardist. In addition to leading bands, he has also recorded several solo piano and synthesizer albums.
As a keyboardist, Husband employs a sense of touch that nicely combines his classical and jazz influences, converging into a sound of haunting chords and intense single-note lines. As a drummer, he has a style practically unto his own. Like legendary prog/jazz drummer Bill Bruford, Husband does not let something as trivial as the song’s time signature dictate where his notes will go. His backbeat is in a constant state of re-adjustment, with the remainder of the band seeming to make their sound fit in between his notes. It is exactly the kind of sound needed by the likes of unconventional players like Holdsworth.
Most recently, Husband was set to do an Asian tour with Stick Men (featuring Chapman Stick legend Tony Levin, touch guitarist Markus Reuter, and drummer Pat Mastelotto), lending his keyboards to the band’s high-energy mix. Unfortunately, the tour was cancelled after only one gig due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Doing their best to make lemonade out of a very large lemon, Husband and Reuter retreated to a Tokyo studio to record Music of Our Times, an achingly beautiful improvised suite with Husband on grand piano and Reuter handling touch guitar and electronic soundscapes. The album is due for release this month.
With that project complete, Husband has done what every other musician the world over has done: he went home to wait out the virus. Like everyone else, he hopes to get back on the road as soon as possible as he and others like him are losing out on their principle means of making a living. In the meantime, Husband has made available a series of products from The Gary Husband Drum Videocasts Series, a collection of education and motivational videos. They can be found online.
Husband’s facial expression in photos implies a smoldering intensity that could convey some form of arrogance. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Husband is kind, gracious, and forthcoming, completely devoid of pretension but full of honest and open introspection. He also conveys a wicked sense of humor, which is not something every musician can put across. He answered CirdecSongs’s questions with a degree of affability and pleasantness an interviewer can only dream of. A journalist’s worry that too many questions were being asked was countered with Husband’s concerns that his answers weren’t thorough enough. He is a great sport, and a true gentleman.
From his home in England, Gary Husband participated in a CirdecSongs interview.
CirdecSongs: Let’s address the proverbial elephant in the room. Tell me how the Coronavirus is affecting you from a musical and business standpoint.
Gary Husband: I’m trying to look at the positives, to be honest. They are not at all plentiful on a global level for any of us, but I feel some are there. I feel there’s an opportunity to reflect – to look outwards with clarity – but to look in, too. That’s increasingly kind of a rarity, thanks to our high speed, excessive pressure lifestyle … certainly in the case of musicians as much as anyone.
To be able to reassess and re-evaluate a bit – with some greater clarity – and have the space to involve ourselves with, we should be prioritizing more. To have the time to realize the beauty around us, too, as opposed to just dealing daily with all the pressures, meeting deadlines and demands, etc. To have the space and opportunity to be compassionate in a time of intense concern like this – to be supportive and protective of our loved ones, to try to be helpful to those needy we might encounter. Of course, this is an incredibly, intensely difficult time for so many right now.
The life of a musician is no exception. But we do have the opportunity to realize how blessed we are to do what we do. So blessed, even through the most struggling, angst-ridden turmoil of world events and in society. Music is coming up in us reflecting that, and (our) creativity is active. Artists of all kinds are finding hardships as much, again, as anybody. Obviously financially – as if that isn’t hard enough at the best of times these days – but we still have a most beautiful function available to us in life, should we choose to realize it and act on it; To be able to have the chance to light and warm the hearts of others through what we do.
One good thing to come of this is your duet album with Markus Reuter, which stemmed from the cancellation of the Stick Men tour. What was your mindset heading into the studio for this project?
Open! I mean yes, we were in a state of profound disappointment. But creatively open. Best way to broach any such opportunity! I knew it’d be improvisational and interactive, because we formed a decision to do this only two days before we did it, so it would have to be. And somehow, thanks to Markus’s great handle on live sampling, this lovely innate way with interaction, and his on the moment live looping capabilities, we just found our way, really quite magically.
The mood took care of itself, because the mood was kind of austere everywhere, it seemed … in people, on the streets, in hotels, bars, etc. We just seemed to connect and reflect onto how it was affecting us individually, and play on that essence.
You know, another strange aspect to this was the fact that for quite some time, and really since the passing of my brother Allan Holdsworth, I’d had a strong yearning to make a real “down” kind of album. I’d been feeling for a good while I just wanted to make the saddest album in the world. At the core of this was without doubt the passing of Allan, which as I’m sure you can imagine was so immense on me that I’m still struggling with it. What materialized in those recordings – in the most unlikely and unexpected way – seemed to completely satisfy that yearning and need for that expression.
Another point of interest possibly is that it really was quite some time before I really could grieve that loss. It wasn’t until my partner and I went on holiday to Cagliari in Sardinia for kind of a little birthday escape in June 2017. We’d taken a room with this beautiful little balcony overlooking the sea, and I remember just sitting there watching the tide rolling in early evening, really feeling Allan very much. And that was it. The next I remember, I’d succumbed for a few hours right there, to this incredibly intense outpouring and release of grief, and while watching the white horses on the water coming in, time after time, differently every time.
So ever since that, I knew that if I was going to do a further musical tribute to Allan I was going to call it “White Horses.” And since Markus handed me the little job of coming up with all but one of the titles for our “pieces,” I knew exactly which one was suitable to be entitled that. I quickly ran the idea past Markus, and he was fine with it. And so I was given the outlet and means to satisfy both these real, personal inner yearnings through this album project.
But I’m delighted with it. We really did get a most beguiling and atmospheric result there. Nothing discussed or planned. We were really just, as I say, playing how we were feeling and reacting to the mood everywhere, and each piece just transpired, one after another. But that’s the beauty and real magic of this process. In just a couple of hours, we were done! We met up again later for dinner, spinning and dizzy from it all, and shared our feelings about how it had all worked out. Wonderful!
Music … it never ceases to amaze me what a wholly magnificent and mysteriously magical process it is! I’m humbled by it every day: wonderful magical music.
I first heard you back in the 80’s playing drums for Allan Holdsworth. I was privileged to see you playing with John McLaughlin. There have been plenty of brilliant stops in between. You seem to have a knack for being associated with legendary musicians. How have you managed to repeatedly find yourself associated with so many brilliant artists?
Well, it would never be an intention to come over as conceited or complacent because I am hopefully one of the least complacent people you could ever wish to meet. But I consider it’s all worked out this far along in my life quite naturally and in a fairly balanced way.
I think firstly, it’s about a lot of deep contemplation and inner analysis: where you set your sights in music personally, what exactly we want to express, and in what forms our musical aspirations take shape. What of all the influence around us really corresponds to us and resonates with us? Because to me, it’s all about what we going to say in music – what our expression embodies and how it can convey through what we’re doing.
Then (it’s) about how much we are prepared to work over many years into decades at getting nearer to that. And eventually, the work of getting the attention of the musicians you really feel you could be strong working with. And what you see in the case of me has been about those very things.
I am not one of these people who’ve had lucky break after lucky break. I had one or two very great musically significant breaks very early in my life; one being given the chance to audition for the Syd Lawrence Orchestra playing big band drums; and the other, the chance meeting I had with Allan Holdsworth. Any kind of general working life as a musician for me in London – or the UK actually – never worked out, so I became quickly aware I had to carve out other plans. I was aware I had to cast my net a lot further and become much more focused on international possibilities. So when I speak about being balanced, I mean simply that the more successful aspects of my career are sort of proportionate really with the work I have put in and the way I could try and influence it to work out.
And I feel it takes a relentless determination to make it work for you as you dream it, yearn for it, and to strive further forward in your ideals and get yourself noticed! Believe me, if you’ve been as out of work as I have during the course of my career, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. And all this has been contributory because, quite simply, if I hadn’t have persevered so diligently with these aspects, the chances of a Jack Bruce, Allan Holdsworth, Billy Cobham or John McLaughlin knowing who the hell I might be or what I can do would have been pretty slim!
So in a kind of sequence over the many years, one opportunity made another happen, one consequence followed another and so forth. It’s my faith we really have to make our own chances and opportunities and really actively make our own luck happen in life to a major extent. And of course, work and develop what you can so you’re the best musician you can be and to a level with enough to say that great musicians want to play with you.
I’ll give you an example: I used to stalk John McLaughlin! Why? Because he was such a hero to me from so many years back! Anything he did went straight to my heart and resonated so powerfully within me. I had an intense mission to play with him for many years. So I took advantage in whatever ways I could of any opportunities I could find to make myself and my playing known to that man! And I’ll never forget this one occasion. John may remember this also. Many, many years before I got to play with him, I found out he was rehearsing at a studio in West London. Nomis, I think it was called. Anyway, this is around 1983 and I had not long since recorded a track in LA with Allan entitled “The Unmerry Go Round” which later came out on an album of his called Metal Fatigue. It starts out powerfully and very soon on in the track there’s an extended drum solo.
Anyway, I bullshit my way into the rehearsal premises armed with a cassette machine and pair of headphones with this track lined up. I wait around for quite a while until I finally see John taking a short break and going for a coffee. He collects his coffee, and on his way back to the (rehearsal room) he stops at a pinball machine and starts playing a quick game on it. Now, I’ve met John a good many times before this, so he recognizes me and asks me what’s happening, what’s going on, etc. He’s still playing the game while we’re talking, so to answer his question I tell him I want to play him something. He asks me what, and I just go right ahead and plant the headphones on his head and thankfully he accepts the headphones and hears the track! He’s still playing, and listens through to the thing almost until the end! He then hands me the headphones back and starts walking towards his rehearsal room. Just before he goes back in there, he turns back and asks me, “Was that you on drums with Allan?” Yes, I replied … quite recently. “Hmmm,” he said and then added “that’s really something!” And you know, THAT’S what I’m talking about! Laying sand, they call it.
I never gave John a chance to forget me! Next thing I took him was my piano interpretations of Allan’s compositions album, which I’d recorded as a pianist. And it’s my faith that turned this into something eventually, Cedric! That’s how heavy my mission was to get to John. As a result – or at least to a large extent I think — it’s the case I’ve been working with John since 2005 and am still working with him.
How would you describe your career arc to date?
I can’t, really. I can describe it as me having been blessed. I feel all musicians are blessed to do what we do, but in terms of the trajectory of how it all worked out for me? All that “in the right time at the right place” stuff? I think it’s been a fairly comprehensive spread of everything up to now, all in balance. From bad experiences, fantastic experiences, mediocre ones; periods of some work, no work, or moderate work; a real lean patch with hardly anything, then a great couple of months! Hills and valleys … pretty much what I’ve always been used to, and how most musicians experience it.
What I can say is that I feel I am playing better than I ever have right now, and on both my instruments. After these great many years I’m still getting nearer and closer to saying what I want to be able to say and in the way I want to say it. The writing side, too. And I’m happy to be able to be able to recognize this and be able to say that, because if it weren’t that way, I’d be hanging it up and not wasting people’s time.
For the neophyte just learning about you, what would you say is the best entry point into the musical world of Gary Husband?
Difficult to answer, Cedric. It’s kind of complicated with me – especially with the two main instruments thing – because it tends to pull people’s estimation of what I do in two different ways. I guess my ideal would be if they hear the drums output and the piano/keyboards output and hear, or recognize, it’s the same musician. I’d like that, because then they’d be in touch with what I feel to be the totality of my expression. It’s that way because the voice applied and spread between the both of my instruments make the complete whole for me.
That said, I guess I would say the recordings I’ve put out myself under my own name, and then albums with either Allan or John, because I’ve always been invited to really just be myself in those situations.
In what musical role do you feel most comfortable? How do you get that role to work to your advantage?
Well, I feel I’ll always be at my best in an open, creative and interactive environment. Not fixed and not regulated in terms of what I am given permission to bring to it. I thrive with new challenges that bring about discovery, and the opportunity for me to stretch myself. Like this new album with Markus Reuter, the duet project with drummer Benny Greb we recorded recently – which can be heard on Spotify – that was great to do, too. All these things.
What I love is that every different musical experience stays with me, contributes to me expanding and developing further my own way and makes me integrate new dimensions and possibilities inside what I do. Out of these I find new things, new ways. It’s all wonderful, all positive.
Explain the difference between playing a highly complex composition as opposed to in an improvisational setting.
Well like all of us, I do a lot of really intense prep work at home with complex, demanding things particularly. Learning and memorizing technically tough things, simultaneous lines and such, if it’s the case of keyboards with John. There’s also a lot of work on sounds, on approaches, like how I can double lines and harmonically voice things at the same time.
Going into improvisational mode within this material is new every time, of course, and really, as I see it, just involves a shift of gears. Going between keyboards and drums is the same as I do onstage with the 4th Dimension for instance … just going into different application mode. In purely improvisational circumstances, that’s certainly a shift of gears, and is to me most crucially about listening. It’s a real naked, interesting and challenging proposition: dealing with total freedom! Fascinating, and occasionally really fulfilling … the conversational interaction and the many forms and shapes it all manifests. I really enjoy total freedom when there’s a rhythmic connection involved. That’s an area I particularly love.
What appealed to you about playing with Stick Men?
Well, it was a great and kind invitation and a way new different area of music for me. And so there’s a big challenge with it! If it intrigues me – if it’s great music – which theirs is – it’s really interesting for me to find how I can integrate what I can do and bring to this very new area and how I can adapt myself into that situation effectively. And once the prep work is done, you’re able to be flexible within the compositions and arrangements, and be open for spontaneity and flexibility to be available in performance. People know I’ll do a lot of work towards it beforehand because it’s, you know, just about the priority and responsibility to do that work. Then we eventually go for it as a group and see what happens.
What draws you to playing with a particular musician?
Their commitment, depth, sincerity, feeling, individuality and dedication usually! It’s probably one of the most inspirational situations we can imagine for ourselves, to be around and work with great artists. And I’ve been blessed to work with a great many who are imbued with these qualities, ranging from well known individuals to marginally known to almost totally unknown.
What, for you, are the personal highlights of your career thus far?
Oh I have many, I’m lucky to be able to say. But I guess there are quite different forms of highlights. A particular highlight for me is when I feel I’m really on it, personally, up onstage or in a recording, and able to connect strongly with a coherent, consistent flow and fluidity in my playing. That’s one big one, for sure. A great connection and mutually enjoyable interaction with others is another reason to celebrate. There are many aspects that constitute a highlight to me, and they can take place in a club, a recording situation, a small room, a rehearsal location, or a big venue. I’ve recordings of rehearsals I’ve had that have been so on it and happening it’s unbelievable!
When I saw you play, you seemed to be accessing your abilities from an almost spiritual plane. While I’m not looking to endorse any form of spirituality, what would you say is the driving force behind your musical mindset?
Do or die! (laughs) The act of performing … wow, what a struggle and battle it can be! Or how liberating it can be! Unfortunately — or fortunately, maybe — we have no control over it. Maybe we can influence it a bit sometimes, but I’m really not sure if ultimately that’s in our power, either. Other times, it seemingly involves next to no effort whatsoever, where it all just takes care of itself inside and everything’s clear, accessible and attainable. But it’s kind of you say that, and I’m glad it appears that way to you, but I really don’t know anything about it other than the commitment to try and reach the deepest place and the most effective I can be as a player. Striving to get that connection, inner and outer. Every opportunity I see as a huge opportunity.
What interests me greatly is what I perceive to be a spiritual connection to music: when you’ve found yourself confronted with the experience of feeling like you’re not even responsible for what’s coming up inside you. I don’t think you can help questioning a connection and meeting point! And I’ve had some experience of being in those states on occasions. I’ve definitely experienced jet lag and sleep deprivation bringing that about. I do actually remember the sensation of leaving my body on a couple of occasions while playing solo drums, I believe. I remember feeling that I was entirely motionless, yet so connected. And the drums were screaming! Really something!
What are a couple of the biggest challenges you have had to endure, aside from the current one of course?
Oh, dealing with certain health issues, trying to become daily a better person … the usual kinds of existential quests I would say. This COVID-19 one’s a biggie, and I’m finding it as big a struggle as everyone else trying to deal with this. On another score, I haven’t achieved such a great amount of success with my own projects and solo endeavors yet, but I continue to work and move toward improving that situation all the time.
How much time do you spend listening to other people’s music? What has excited you the most recently?
Some players and some music have stuck out to me. There are also players I’ve initially taken to, but what concerns me a bit is the fact I don’t go back to it and revisit the recordings. And I have to question why this is with me, because I love looking at the front line of inspired younger musicians who are pushing and responsible for some daring and audacious stuff.
I’ve concluded that, in one extreme I have to say, I never enjoyed virtuoso, technically flashy players. All my favorite drummers of old were one thing, but a Buddy Rich or someone was something else. I adored Buddy Rich and was of course absolutely in awe of what he did and his charisma and everything he exuded, but I didn’t play the recordings to have the musical experience I got so much from the work of others. What’s followed through – and this is obviously a taste and personal thing – is that I don’t invariably enjoy a lot of “big chops” guys. Or when I do, it isn’t for long. It’s already by nature very big and in your face. But then all of it turns out to continue being that, and then it ends. And when it’s gratuitous, I’m just gone.
So in that area I’m not getting my fix, or anything like enough dimension. So now I make up for it in a grand variety of different stuff in my listening sessions. I miss a real sense of interaction the way I like it on the larger scale, you know, in the stuff I’ve been coming across. Though it’s certainly alive and well between Brian Blade and Wayne Shorter. I really love edgy imaginative things. I saw one of the most incredible concerts a few years back of Arto Lindsay’s band with the amazing Melvin Gibbs. This was so happening! It got me on all levels! I won’t forget it. I still have a few minutes of it that I couldn’t not record on my phone!
I’ve always been a harmony junkie, the interest in which I hope is evident in some of my piano work endeavors. But I really get my fix in that area by immersing myself in my favorite Eastern European classical music of old, and even more frequently in screenplay and movie composers now more than I do now in the realm of contemporary electric jazz or whatever. That wasn’t quite so much the case before. I kind of got it all in the same package before in the case of Miles Davis, Weather Report, Tony Williams, Mahavishnu and suchlike. So I get my interactional, improvisational and god-timing fix from a lot of previous day jazz gods – the old characters and game changers – and Northern and Southern Indian maestros.
Whom do you want to make music with, but have not yet had the opportunity?
Well, at this time for me now, and especially with my writing endeavors, I would like to be focusing a lot more on my own music and musical projects to at least an equal extent as working with others. I found a guitar player that excites me very much in Germany recently by the same of John Schröder; and I have another big favorite one, a very creative fellow by the name of Alf Terje Hana, in Stavanger, Norway. Those connections would involve an electric project. I had a dream a while ago of doing a trio recording with Miroslav Vitous and David Liebman, and that it came out on ECM records! I acted on it by writing music for it and contacting those musicians, and they were both up for it. But I have not achieved establishing a good recording situation for it yet. That’s another thing in progress. It’s one thing to plan a direction and act on some inspiration, but quite something else to find the right musicians for it. So, this much has been established in the way I want to move forward.
Another big exciting endeavor for me recently has been in developing and arranging material by a composer named Martin Krampl. He really set me free and facilitated me with the opportunity to explore writing for piano, violin and cello – a real classical piano trio. I feel really quite proud of this work and the resulting performance, and this album will be released soon, entitled Mountains To Climb. I always have a hunger to meet new musicians. There are ones I’ve also had a hankering to play with for a long time. The late Wallace Roney was one (Roney passed away from complications related to the Coronavirus – ed). We actually talked about that. He was wonderful. What a fan I was and am of him! I’ve wanted to play with John Scofield for a long time, too. That would be something! I’d love to try and bring that about. I’d also love to play with Dave Holland. There isn’t a shortage of wonderful musicians I’d love to play with, that’s for sure.
Assuming things get back to some semblance of normal soon, what does the rest of this year look like for you?
Damn concerning! We have had a European tour booked for some time with John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension supposedly happening in July, and it’s getting harder to hope that still happens. Even work involving travelling towards the later end of the year is hanging in the balance. Yep, it’s the same for all of us involved in travelling and performing live.
The economic landscape for musicians was difficult enough before COVID-19. How has streaming impacted you on a business level, contrasted with the label deals of decades back?
Well, we are having to construct everything in a very different method now. In the old way, old thinking, and the old method, streaming is a total disaster for us. Of course, it doesn’t work anymore. (Album royalties have) been taken from us. And when you realize how much the streaming companies are earning, it’s demoralizing, infuriating and pretty much just completely counterproductive for us.
What we are facing is to look and build the infrastructure of how we can successfully do this – and survive doing it – all over again. We are needing to be open to other aspects involved in the broadcasting of what we do, such as revenue created by advertising and the like. Our music itself isn’t supporting us in the way it did anymore, but what we can see and learn from the current YouTube generation is very insightful in terms of showing us alternative and hopefully effective approaches enabling us to carry on. We’re having to be extremely proactive and creative in a lot of different ways now.
You get to play drums or keyboards in your dream band. Who else is on the bandstand with you?
In my absolute dream band? Both my instruments, and with Miles Davis! And have John Scofield or Wayne Krantz with a Jimmy Haslip, Jimmy Johnson or Etienne M’Bappe in there too! You know, strongly relating to this question, back in 2004 I had the chance to interrogate myself about a dream band and audition a project of mine to celebrate three prominent and influential figures in music by interpreting their music – or evoke them – in a different way. I won the application, which was incredible, and the project, which featured Randy Brecker, Elliot Mason and Jerry Goodman on trumpet, trombone and electric violin (respectively), with an electric rhythm section of Jim Beard, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Matthew Garrison and myself were blessed with this opportunity of a funded tour! It was a beautiful time, a fantastic experiment, and a gift to be able to stretch and be very imaginative. That (project) was brought about by the Contemporary Music Network of Old, in England. They are a fantastic organization within the Arts Council of Great Britain. That was a highlight by the way, and we even had the concert filmed. I’m planning to make all that stuff available on my YouTube channel in the short term. The group’s name was Gary Husband’s Force Majeure.
What’s the funniest thing ever to happen to you in a musical context?
Oh man, there have been countless of these over the many years! One I’d enjoy to mention was while onstage with John (McLaughlin). We were in the middle of a tough uptempo tune in A-flat minor. The structure was slightly and deceptively different the second time through to what it was the first time through, and this thing really needed a lot of concentration to hang with it and play on it. So, it’s my solo, and I’m in the deep end! Really challenging! And if you know much about how John likes to walk around a lot while the band is onstage, you can probably picture the scene. So I’m playing and John’s listening and dropping in rhythm guitar things behind my solo. At one point he’s right at the side of me, bends down to my ear and asks, “Did you have breakfast in that hotel this morning?” I’m like … what?!? Eventually I manage to answer back in between a couple of phrases. “Yes! WHY?” I shouted out. John nods and walks another couple of circles around me, comes back, bends down again to my ear and says “Yeah … it SUCKED, didn’t it?” (laughs) I mean … oh man! I’ll never forget that!
What don’t we know about you that would really surprise us?
I can’t bring too much to mind, Cedric! Apart from possibly that I REALLY wanted to be a pro Formula 1 driver when I was pretty young! I resisted the idea eventually, because my mother asked me not to become a pro F1 driver! She said, “Why when you’re doing so well with the music thing do you want to risk killing yourself in a race car?” Well, I got her, and carried on the music path. Why I was drawn to racing, I don’t know.
It always makes me remember the accompanying interview Steve McQueen gave around the time he was promoting his brilliant film Le Mans. In it, he said something so powerful right near the end. He said, “I don’t know if there’s any race car driver in the world that can tell you why he races … but I think he could show you.” I mean, what a fantastic thing to say! From that moment, and also for his performance in and production of that movie, I became a huge fan of Steve McQueen’s. I also became a huge fan of the French composer Michel Legrand who composed the most beautiful and resonating score for that movie!
If you could offer only one piece of advice to an aspiring musician, what would it be?
Go the distance, play with your heart, draw on everything you have, set your sights high, and keep your dreams and aspirations even higher!
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