With his unique approach to music Dylan Howe provides a bridge between Jazz, Classical, Punk, Hard Rock and Concept Art music taking it all in his stride .
In a recent interview with us Steve Hackett said it must be possible to find a possible link to ally all these musical differences and prejudices. In Dylan Howe we may have found that answer. Tim Price talked to Dylan in his Essex studio.
Dylan, it is now some 40 years since you first hit the public spotlight on the inside cover of Beginnings, then pictured with your musical parents who are still very happily together. Since those early days you did you ever feel pressure that you were destined to take on the same career path?
Not as a child no, I started playing drums when I was about 10, it grew out of the fact that in our house there was a studio up there with a drum kit and I used to gravitate to the drums quite a bit, messed around on them then I suppose the earliest playing was with my Dad anyway, up there in the studio.
Your drumming playing style is very much in the mould of Bill Bruford and Art Blakey; you hit a dead snare drum sound, how would you describe it?
Obviously I am going to be influenced by the first sounds I heard which would have been Bill and Alan (White) and being exposed to Yes from an early age was going to stand anyway, so their playing was always going to be an inspiration. I like all kinds of music and over the years have got more into jazz, With Bruford his approach is his own really, he likes to have a clangy snare drum and uses a lot of jazz vocabulary in a rock context.
Bill Bruford was a serious jazzer and he first gave you drumming guidance when you reached 15 years old, you now credit him on your new release in the CD liner notes as a supporting influence. Tell me about this latest recording, entitled ‘Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin’ as there are some serious jazz arrangements going on here.
Yeah, (laughs) well, I was looking for something to do with my Jazz Quintet, or Quartet, and looking for a way to do things away from just Blue Note interpretations and that sort of thing, so it was nice to go into music that I was into early on in my own teens, so the two albums by Bowie (Low and Heroes) which were both instrumental on the second side with an ambient element could be treated and rearranged in a way where I was trying to find a mix of electonica and jazz improvisation, providing an alive broody feeling. I don’t think there was anything else out there, at the time, which justified the Bowie Berlin Trilogy as things go, that always interested me and that is how it all developed.
Your second Dylan Howe Quintet album ‘This is It’ primarily credits you as a bandleader.
Yeah, that is what I do really but then I then was getting going really as an arranger; those first couple of albums are primarily in the vein of a group in a room playing those tunes.
In all you made four Dylan Howe Quintet albums (including two which were live recordings) so what is the difference between that “brand” and the Subterranean project, as I am a little bit confused?
Basically it is about the live performance, the Quartet had just done a large UK tour and at the end of that we recorded a couple of nights at the end of the tour, that all sounded good, but in the meantime, I thought I would like to do an extension of that but with something more personal to me, more of a pure Jazz album, with principal adaptations of Stravinsky on piano and drums. That rearranging developed into the Subterranean concept, so, this new one is the first time I have taken the reigns as a producer,
I have made a record rather than recording. I spent a lot of time overdubbing, editing, fixing and adding all the elements rather than just having a couple of takes in a room and that’s done, it is more about using the studio as a laboratory, focusing on making a record which could stand up on its own. Well, that was the plan but it took time, and that had to evolve in its own way.
Exactly, your first work on the Subterranean project was in 2007 wasn’t it?
Yes, that was a demo track, that was the first tune, and that was good which gave me an indication that this idea could work, then over the course of the past 6 or 7 years I have been busy with session work and albums so I would get involved with my passion for the new project when I could.
I suppose the main recording session was done a couple of years ago in one afternoon, and I done many overdubs since then and so it is a process of getting to where I want it to be from what I have been hearing in my head and that can take a while, but I am happy with where it is at.
For this album you went out for Kickstarter Funding. How has that gone and did you get all you were asking for?
Yeah, that was the end of last year November 2013, and luckily it was successful and so I could use that funding to manufacture the album, we asked for £8,500 and I got over that, which was really quite a result, it is not a thing I have tried before. When you start you think, oh my god, why did I start this am I ever going to make it, but there are a lot of people out there who have supportive interest and so it was great.
You have certainly done well, but for the purists in the room, is the new album and band called Subterranean or Subterranean’s (with the s) and you got the title from Bowies last track of his Low album, right?
Yes, of course, the name of the studio recording is ‘Subterranean’, itself a creative take on the last track on Bowie’s first Berlin trilogy album, Low, and the first track on my album which is Subterraneans. The name of the tour is also Dylan Howe’s Subterraneans.
So, on The Subterraneans UK tour, which starts on September 5th, will you only be playing these Bowie and Bowie/Eno compositions or any of your previous works?
That’s the thing; on this tour we are only playing the music from the new album, nothing else, that is the whole concept really, the music of Bowie’s Berlin period.
Consequently, is the Dylan Howe Quintet still active in the background or is that now finished with?
Not really, I am not sure what to with the Quintet as at the moment I am just concentrating on this tour I am about to start.
These original Bowie/Eno instrumental pieces about life in East Germany in the Cold War period provide great depth. Your rendition of Warszawa at 11.08 minutes involves some massive saxophone work and you can now compete with Philip Glasses renditions of this Berlin Bowie music, which have proved to be amazingly popular.
Yeah, I have some extremely good musicians on the album, on the studio version I used Julian Siegal on the saxophones but on the tour this will be played by Andy Sheppard
Do you speak and understand the German language?
That is an interesting question but no, actually I don’t.
Apart from your own works, your stock as a drummer is currently running very high on the back of the Wilko & Daltrey project Going Back Home, this is a recent album of eleven hard n heavy tracks, how did you get involved in that ?
Well, I have been playing with Wilko for about 4 years or so, we had been talking about doing an album with Roger for a couple of years, we did it developed last year and in the end we did it quite quickly, we did some gigs and it basically caught fire!
What was it like working with Roger Daltrey? Had you met him before this album with Wilko, and can I refer to this recording as a session for you?
Well, I had introduced myself to Roger a couple of times but basically I am in the band now really, so it was a recording session but I am not a session musician on it.
The Wilko relationship started with the Blockheads, didn’t it?
Yes, that came of Norman Watt-Roy and I playing for the Blockheads 15 years ago, and Wilko was between drummers and Norman mentioned me and we started playing together again.
What are your next steps and plans for 2015 and beyond?
Well we have the Subterraneans tour coming up and that takes us almost to the end of the year, so for next year hopefully Wilko will be fit again to play and we can go out on the road next year, so there is a lot of stuff in the book.
Wilko keeps going on doesn’t he and refused to take any medication?
Wilko has now had the operation and is free from Cancer which is fantastic news on Wilko!
In 2008 and you were part of the Steve Howe Trio, and you played an amazing set accompanied by a talented Hammond C3 keyboardist, Ross Stanley, who is on your current tour and album, I think it was a wise decision to maintain his services.
Without doubt, essentially Ross is a part of my band.
As that Trio you both played an incredible live version of Siberian Khatru, delightfully intense, almost as if the song was written always to be played in this style.
Well, when we played the early Yes in that trio we planned a much jazzier feel, and it worked out well.
Back to the Beginnings, there are certain classical composers which had an early influence on the Yes music, is that a view upon which you can expand some light?
Yes, of course, it is apparent in all their playing there is an obvious thing, and I am surprised that not a lot of people see it, those albums. Close to The Edge, The Yes Album and Fragile they are very apparent, not stolen, but are deeply influenced by the works of Stravinsky, which lead onto Ritual and other stuff, but essentially the Firebird Suite is what started it off and they were influenced by it, musically and harmonically.
In 2010 you had already taken time to educate those who want to delve deeper into this musical ocean when you released the Dylan Howe/ Will Butterworth duo album exploring the works of Igor Stravinsky under Rites of Spring Part 1. That sums you up.
It is important really that these classical influences are listened to and then comparison can be drawn to the two incredible works of Stravinsky which are The Rites of Spring and Firebird Suite, these two works had a major influence on all Jazz musicians, especially around that time of 1910 to 1913 which is now a turn of the century ago.
Dylan, I thank you very much for your time taken for this interview and am inspired about your creative spirit bringing new life into music from whatever form. As with the city of Berlin, Dylan Howe, you cross all barriers.
According to Collins English Dictionary the word subterranean has two definitions and adjectives:
1. situated, living, or operating below the surface of the earth
2. existing or operating in concealment
The plural extension of this word has no listing in the dictionary but Subterraneans was a mostly instrumental song written by David Bowie in ca. 1975 invoking the misery of those who lived in Berlin during the Cold War period of the early 1960’s, for so many this way of life continued until October 1989, when the Berlin wall fell.
25 years since the wall came down and 40 years on since the original composition, Dylan Howe has released a new masterwork entitled Subterranean, and could it be the second adjective which Bowie was referring to: existing or operating in concealment. Dylan Howe now takes his band on the road in order to open up these concealed works in his own style playing a set of Bowie’s Berlin inspired works from Low and Heroes, going under the name of Dylan Howe’s Subterraneans (featuring Andy Sheppard)
For those who want to know the detail of the Bowie / Eno work in Berlin start on page 257 of Paul Trynka’s revealing book: Starman, David Bowie, The Definitive Biography and all will be revealed (literally)
Dylan Howe is on tour with Subterranean here is the link to the dates; Dylan Howe Tour.
TOUR DATES AND TICKET LINKS:
05 Fri // COLCHESTER / Fleece Jazz BUY
10 Weds // LINCOLN / Drill Hall BUY
11 Thurs // NOTTINGHAM / Bonnington BUY
12 Fri // DERBY / Robert Ludlam BUY
13 Sat // HULL / Hessle Town Hall BUY
26 Fri // BRIGHTON / The Verdict BUY
29 Mon // LONDON / Kings Place BUY
Interview Tim Price with Dylan Howe / September 1st 2014. Wolverhampton to Dylan’s Essex Studio
Discussing the new Dylan Howe album and tour: Subterranean (New Designs on Bowie’s Berlin).