Gary Novak is an American drummer who appeared on the album "The Sixteen Men Of Tain".
- 1 Gary On Allan
- 2 Allan on Gary
Gary On Allan
Modern Drummer, May 1999
KM: So what was the major transition from Chick Corea to Alanis Morissette?
GN: I played with Allan Holdsworth in between. He has a record coming out pretty soon that I'm on. He's very cool. We played in Poland over the summer. . KM: Holdsworth is a very humble musician, very self-deprecating.
GN: Allan was amazing. Not only is he the greatest guitar player, he is the funniest guy in the world. Anything goes. We played mostly new music, but before that gig the only experience I had playing odd-meter music was with Billy Childs and the band Freeflight. Chick writes some difficult figures, but most of his music is based on four or six and he plays around it. Once you get used to playing the music, it plays itself.
Allan's music has got some weird quirks in it because the blowing changes are never the same as the melody changes. His compositions are all the way through, it's not melody/ solo/melody. He doesn't have any format for his compositions, so it's pretty difficult. It was the most challenging situation I've ever been in as far as odd meters.
We rehearsed for one day and then played. And Allan doesn't read. You can get a vibe of where the music is going by looking at the paper, but to a certain degree, you need to just play 8th notes and find where the “ones” are. Often I was just reacting, not even thinking what the meter was. After two months of that I don't get freaked out anymore seeing bars of 21/16, 7/8, or 9/8.
KM: How did your setup change from Corea to Holdsworth?
GN: I had to add a crash for Holdsworth. With Chick, I had three ride cymbals and a crash. I used to play a five-piece kit all the time. For the Alanis gig, I can't use K Zildjians—they aren't loud enough when you play live. I need that quarter note or half note of sound. It has to be balls-out. My smallest crash now is an 18". I use three toms up top now, and one floor tom. I need four toms because there are times when I need two hands on the drums, and I need two snare drums because there is looped stuff that is real high-pitched.
KM: Technique-wise or mentally, was there a period of change you had to go through when switching gigs?
GN: Oh yeah. There is always a changeover when I change gigs. I go into serious listening mode, I'll immerse myself. If I've been playing with Holdsworth for a long time, and my next tour might be Bob Berg for three weeks then I'll listen to nothing but Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones. You have to reaquaint yourself with the vocabulary. The touch and sound is different. The only way I can get that is by listening to those guys.
For Alanis it was Zeppelin. She lets me play, so there is a fine line between overplaying and trying to create energy. There is more listening and paying attention to what is idiom-correct. As a jazz drummer it can be easy to overplay; you have to have musical maturity.
Allan on Gary
A cursory listen to any of Holdworth’s ten recordings since his 1979 debut as a leader, I.O.U., reveals a player of astonishing technique -- the stunning streams of notes, unparalleled harmonic sophistication, singular chordal voicings produced by seemingly impossible reaches on the fretboard along with his orchestral scope as an arranger and his improvisational daring. But on his latest release, The Sixteen Men of Tain, the reluctant guitar god has trumped himself. Fueled by the rhythm tandem of former Chick Corea drummer Gary Novak and in-demand LA upright bassist Dave Carpenter, Holdworth has come up with his jazziest offering to date for the small, mail-order-only Gnarly Geezer Records (www.gnarlygeezer.com). The typically mind boggling legato chops are very much in tact on Tain, and the swinging, interactive dynamic underscores the Trane connection.
Guitar.com: What was your attitude going into this project?
Holdsworth: After doing the  album None Too Soon, which was like a bunch of old jazz tunes [by the likes of John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Django Reinhardt and Bill Evans] I wanted to pursue this direction but with my original music. The interpretation of my music varies depending on who’s playing it. I had been playing with Gary Novak and Dave Carpenter, and I could hear that their interpretation was pushing into a different direction and it sounded really kind of natural. So I basically wrote the material that was on the new record with that in mind because I knew how Gary Novak would interpret it. He plays with a lot of energy but he can also play pretty soft. It’s different from the way Gary Husband’s interpretation would be and I was enjoying it. Also Dave Carpenter, who always on the live gigs would play electric bass I knew he played acoustic bass and I thought that would help even further to create the kind of sound I was looking for.
Guitar.com: I always felt your music was defined by the drummer. And I often wondered what these same tunes would sound like with, say, Billy Higgins on drums and Dave Holland on bass.
Holdsworth: It changes everything. The music actually stays in tact but the presentation of it changes it so much as well. Playing with Gary Novak and Dave Carpenter was just something I was enjoying. Plus, it was a lot less loud less volume. We toured with that group on and off for a couple of years and I really wanted to record it but I didn’t have a record deal. So at the end of one of the last tours we did together I felt, "I really would like to record this now while we’re still playing it." So we went into my home studio and recorded the basic tracks then, a couple of years ago. And I just shelved it. I stuck it off to the side and waited until such time as I could get a record deal to finish it. I’m glad I did that, actually. Because if I had waited until a deal came around [to record the basic tracks], it would’ve been different. I probably would have ended up doing it with different people. So I’m glad it happened how it happened.
Guitar.com: How has your recording studio evolved?
Holdsworth: Where I used to live, I just converted the garage. I didn’t have a place that I could really record, it was just somewhere that I could mix. I could record guitar there because I made these special isolation boxes with a speaker and a microphone. I didn’t make a lot of noise, so I could get the sound I wanted at pretty low level. That was how I did it then. But when I moved to where I am now in San Diego, a good friend of mine who’s also a carpenter helped me convert the big garage into a studio. With this one, there was actually enough room that I could record drums too. It’s still small and it wouldn’t work with someone who plays perhaps at different levels volume-wise. With someone like Gary Husband, you really need to put him a nice big room to get the drums to sound the way they should. And because Gary Novak can also play very loud but typically plays a lot softer, I was able to do it there.
Guitar.com: Gary Novak seems to be a key to your latest recording. He’s got that ability to play straight ahead and authentic or he can play very aggressively.
Holdsworth: It’s a very interesting thing to play with different drummers and get the actual feel of the whole thing. Gary has a pretty amazing way of just making it feel good. It feels better than it does with other guys even though you can’t really put your finger on it. Yeah, he’s amazing.
"The interpretation of my original music can be played in so many different ways, almost like different kinds of styles," he remarks. "And as I began playing with Gary Novak and Dave Carpenter a couple of years ago, I could hear that the interpretation of it was pushing into a different direction. And it sounded really kind of natural. So I basically wrote the material that was on this record with that in mind, because I knew that Gary Novak’s interpretation is a different kind of thing from the way that Gary Husband’s interpretation of it would be. He plays with a lot of energy but he can also play pretty soft, and I was enjoying that. [Novak] has a pretty amazing way of just making it feel good. It feels better than it does with other guys even though you can’t really put your finger on it."
His new album "The Sixteen Men Of Tain" is full of this "love affair" his sonic landscapes loaded with a romanticism and passion that so many current musicians lack, particularly in the overcrowded ranks of modern day guitar heroes, but this accessibility is more coincidence than premeditation.
"It wasn’t a conscious effort, it was just a nice accident. Because what I wanted to try and do after the last album that I did with Gordon (Beck)"None Too Soon" we played old tunes, so in a way it was my album but I didn’t think of it like it was my album. The last band album I think of was "Hard Hat Area" which was with Gary, Skuli (Sverrisson) and Steve Hunt and right after that album I was thinking I wanted to write some original music, but just put in a different setting, a slightly different setting. And in a way this also happened by accident because I was playing with Dave Carpenter, who introduced me to Gary Novak and we played a lot and we did two tours of Europe with that group and I also knew he played acoustic bass.
So after the end of the touring I felt like I needed to record it. I had lost my record deal so my manager loaned me the money to pay the guys to do the record. So we recorded it like one weekend and then I shelved it, and sat it on the back burner until I got a record deal which was about a year and a half later on this new small label. Then I went ahead and finished it. Since then I did another album with Gary Husband and Jimmy Johnson and I’m holding that one back cos this one only just came out! I just wanted to have something that had original music, something that had intensity but was softer. The fact that Dave Carpenter played acoustic bass was nice because I was like "maybe it would be nice if you played acoustic bass on this record."
You love the saxophone and recorded with trumpet player Walt Fowler on ‘16 Men Of Tain’. Do you ever think about recording some more with a horn player?
Yeah, I’d love to do something more with a horn player. It was just always like a budget problem. It’s hard enough trying to pay the guys in the band to do it anyway. A lot of times guys do it for next to nothing already, so..It’s just because they want to do it. So it’s kinda difficult with a horn. The last one it was nice because Gary Novak and Dave knew Walt Fowler. So it was nice to talk Walt Fowler into coming down and doing some stuff on that one which sounded great. I like trumpet and guitar actually. I like it a lot.
Bill: This particular rhythm section of Joel Taylor and Ernest Tibbs seems more interactive than others you’ve played with. Joel in particular has a real loose swing feel that seems to open the music up a bit more than usual.
Allan: Yeah, I really like playing with Joel. I started liking that approach more open approach after working with (bassist) Dave Carpenter and (drummer) Gary Novak. And then I carried on working with Dave and Joel, which was great too. And when I found Ernest, I was lucky. We needed a bass player for a few gigs and Dave Carpenter wasn’t available, and it was like the last minute deal. Gary Willis was in town so he ended up doing two of the three gigs and then Ernest came in and did the last one. He got the music from Joel, came to the gig and played really great, and we’ve been working together since then. I love working with Joel and Ernest. The vibe that they give as a rhythm section is totally different from other rhythm sections that I’ve played with. Like you say, it’s loose. And I like that. What they do together as a rhythm section also really affects what I play as a soloist, which is cool.