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Gary Husband: There were these three Yorkshiremen...

By Published: February 16, 2009

On Drums

AAJ: You play beautifully yet within yourself. How difficult is it in a dynamic band like this to rein yourself in?

GH: I don't try to rein in anything, really; I like to go to the edge. I feel good there. And that's not a feeling expressed in terms of wild and furious playing. For me it exists in the most understated things, just the same. I try to play as eloquently as I can and with beauty and poetry, but also of course as a constant reaction to everything that's going with the other musicians and from the sound of all of us together.

We all push and pull with each other well—one minute someone's a protagonist, the next we're interacting or being more collectively conversational. And I think all this kind of improvisational balance is reached just through the compatibility between the personalities—the trust and real inner pursuance within each of us. And Richard, Julian and Michael all have those qualities.

For me, I just live it. Every note is important, and I strive harder and harder to make just the best music that I can. For a drummer to be in tune with those principals just as much as any linear or harmonic instrumentalist, I think, is the very healthiest thing anyway.

AAJ: Your drumming on Hotwired is very inventive and driving, but it in no way dominates proceedings. It is very sympathetic to the requirements of the music. Is this something that you set out to achieve at the beginning?

GH: Yep, very much so. The drums are about being inventive, being supportive and inspirational, and raising some good heat when the time comes too. But the drums are also totally as much a musical participant as anything else, and they should always be played that way.

In this setting particularly, and this setting for me incidentally is not new. I've had a lot of input in the bebop kind of realms and so called "straight-ahead" jazz playing with a lot of different people over the years, even though it may be a shock for some people to hear me in this kind of context.

I also feel very much at home on a smaller-based jazz kit too. In fact the first times [guitarist] Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth
Allan Holdsworth
and I played, I was on a pretty small kit. Beyond that, it's just all just about the music—the conversational and interplay aspects, the feeling of it, and how we can get to make some meaningful and spontaneous poetry together.

That's totally my main concern and quest, and was absolutely what this group was about from the beginning. And I'm really happy in the fact that Hotwired, our album, really highlights that in a very nice way. The drumming I almost don't even hear in drumming terms. And you know, when that happens, I feel I'm really succeeding a lot more at being the kind of drummer I always aspire to be.

Gary Husband

AAJ: David Gilmour, guitarist with Pink Floyd, once said that no matter what guitar he held in his hands, he could always get his sound out of it. How much does your own sound depend on the equipment you have at your disposal, and how much of your sound is down to playing style?

GH: I think Dave's bang-on in that comment. I know this is me saying this, but if I revisit the recent album I did with [guitarist] Robin Trower and [bassist] Jack Bruce

Jack Bruce
Seven Moons (V-12 Records, 2008), a few of the things I did with Holdsworth, or a big band session, or even some of the stuff I did with the Level 42 group, I think it's actually quite evident it's the same guy. I think it's evident anyway.

Another story is of an afternoon jam session a few years ago in Ronnie Scott's club in London once with [drummer] Dave Weckl

Dave Weckl
Dave Weckl
and both kits were onstage as I was playing with guitarist Jim Mullen
Jim Mullen
Jim Mullen
supporting his group this particular week. Anyway, at one stage we switched kits, and he got on mine and I got on his—two very differently tuned set-ups. And Dave sounded just like Dave, even on my little cranked up sounding jazz kit, and you know I don't seem to ever bring about a different sound characteristic no matter whatever kit or whoever's kit I might play.

I'll get a rental kit, right out of the boxes, and I'll always get this sound. As far as I feel, it's really like that with all instrumentalists. For drummers it's everything you've been through as a player and everything your technique has been adapted to in the past.

My old big band stuff is in there—it's in the clarity of the way I hit and way I guess I formed, but more significant than anything else. And as Allan Holdsworth says, the sound's just in your hands. It's an amazing thing though, isn't it?

I find all this akin to the fact you would instantly recognize the certain sonic characteristic of a person you know whose speaking voice is instantly recognizable—instantly, out of the multitudes of speaking voices you may have heard over the last many weeks or months in your life.

It's not just the sonority, it's the whole nuance and "music" of the way one person in particular will articulate something. And it really is just unique and that distinctive. Incredible, eh?

AAJ: Absolutely. The sound of the music, and I'm talking about the quality of the recording, is also really great. Listening for example to "Deux Deux's Blues," I thought how up in the mix everything is. You must be pretty happy with the way this has turned out sound-wise?

GH: Oh, I am. I was lucky. I think I made some good decisions as to where and how we recorded it, and I should say it all really worked out for the best. And it was also at a studio not even too far away from where I live. This guy has got a lot of vintage microphones and a lot of nice warm tube equipment, so the recording had quite a ... I think you picked up on it—a very kind of analogy presence to it which was ideal for this kind of music and this album, and I am really happy with it. It's punchy and warm and ideal for what we set out to do—really perfect for this band and this music.

AAJ: Who is this guy you mentioned?

GH: Philip Bagenel, and he's just great. He's been in the business for a long, long time, in a central London studio that he runs with all these massive overheads. But he just works and works, and manages to get by okay. He's got a bit of a history to him too, in that he used to work at a place called the Gaslight in New York and actually did out-front sound for Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra when they first emerged, on their very first concerts. So he has been around.

AAJ: You're bringing this out on Abstract Logix?

GH: Yes, and Souvik [Dutta] is a good friend, great spirit, completely on the level, and he's totally in the business for and towards the music and to the musicians, which is rather wonderful and very rare to find. So I'm very proud to have this record released by Abstract Logix.

He's always been very interested and supportive of ideas I had, and of course he now works for [guitarist] John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
so there's also another tie there too. He's a beautiful, beautiful guy, and I've been excited about the way he wants to work with me on this. And it's really the first time I have ever had so much support from any kind of label.

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