John Recently had a Q&A session with Malcolm Galloway of Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate.
JWS: How did the band come about?
MG: At school I learned to play the tuba classically, and taught myself guitar and keyboard. Mark Gatland (bass guitarist) and I played music together at school. I was then distracted for a couple of decades by becoming a doctor, but continued to be passionate about music. After a positive reaction to my involvement in a hospital pantomime, I started playing my own songs at solo acoustic gigs, or with Kathryn Thomas on flute as an acoustic duo. I was also going to jam nights at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden, where I met guitarist Ibon Bilbao and drummer Rudy Burrell, both great musicians who helped encourage me to push my music forward.
Mark came to see me playing a solo acoustic set in a pub and we decided to get back to making music together. Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate evolved from being me on my own or with Kathryn, to a variable combination of myself and Mark with combinations of Ibon, Rudy and/or Kathryn. When Rudy moved out of London and couldn’t regularly play with us any more, Mark and I developed a very close way of working together that allows us to perform live with us pre-recording some parts, and playing guitar/bass/vocals (and sometimes keyboards) live as a duo.
JWS: Why have you chosen the self release method of working?
MG: We like having the freedom to make whatever music we want, and to be able to design the whole package ourselves, so that hopefully the artwork and the music come together as a whole. I am extremely conflict averse, so not having to negotiate things with a label is helpful. I’m also not really sure what a label would add for us at the moment.
JWS: You also have a minimalist classical solo career as well, why is this?
MG: I’ve always had a parallel interest in contemporary classical and rock music. I was particularly influenced by the American composer Steve Reich’s music. Some of the music I want to write fits into a song structure, some fits as instrumental bits between the songs on a predominantly rock album. Other music I want to write just wouldn’t fit a HOGIA album. Often my classical pieces are long, and gradually explore evolving patterns generated by the interaction of simple motifs, with less of a melodic focus than the HOGIA songs.
JWS: How do you determine whether something should be for the group or yourself? Is there a criteria you utilise?
MG: I think the two sides of my music are coming closer together. In our new album (‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’) there is a track, Goodbye Cassini, which originally started as a classical minimalist piece, but then evolved into a flute-led instrumental. The Anxiety Machine is an instrumental divided into three sections, which also exists as a much longer continuous piece, which as a longer piece could be one of my classical pieces, or as a shorter version as a Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate instrumental. So far, anything I’ve done with vocals has been labelled as Hats Off… . Generally the solo pieces are likely to be longer, more gentle, less likely to have a song-like structure, and to be more classical and/or minimalist.
JWS: Have any of the songs ever crossed over?
MG: Mark, Kathryn and I did play a concert at the National Gallery where we played both some of the less angry-sounding HOGIA songs and my minimalist music and video art.
Some of my classical/minimalist music has started to use drums, so there is some cross-over there.
JWS: I have listened with great interest to both your own albums and the band efforts. There has been a great progression in the material, how do you choose where to focus your thoughts on, what inspires you musically these days?
MG: I generally have numerous tracks in the process of being written at any time, and usually some of the minimalist music at the same time as the band material. I like to be able to pause writing in one sound-world, and jump into another contrasting musical space. I can then come back to the first piece refreshed. My main limitations at the moment for writing are physical – I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which causes chronic pain and joint problems. My hands and wrists get swollen, which I find frustrating. For example today, I had music in my head I wanted to write down, but couldn’t do much composing due to my wrist.
JWS: You obviously have a love of science, science fiction and of literature as well, how does this influence the direction you take?
MG: I listen to a lot of audio-books, and often a situation, character or even a phrase just jump out as inspiring a piece of music, whether in terms of a narrative or a musical theme. In the last two HOGIA albums there have been several tracks directly inspired by books. I’ve got a folder on my phone of books that I want to go back to as song inspiration. I’ve enjoyed combining songs inspired by real world historical events and those inspired by related themes in fiction in the same album. I’m currently relistening to a biography of Werner Heisenberg as research for a possible song.
JWS: how do you temper your frustrations politically, do you use that as an impetus into your writing?
MG: I am hugely frustrated at what appears to be a rise in racism, homophobia, and other forms of the dehumanisation of others. Most people, if they met one-to-one would get on well, but there seems to be a drive to get groups of relatively powerless people to hate each other, to deflect attention from those who benefit from division. Sadly, I think we need to be constantly vigilant against the resurgence of hatred. This is a recurrent theme in my songwriting.
JWS: Which do you prefer – live shows or recording and why?
MG: I enjoy both. Live performing is very important for me – it brings me a great deal of joy. How we perform the same piece varies a lot between shows, depending on how we feel and the response of the audience. I really love live performance, with that sense of spontaneous communication. On the other hand, in a recording, we have the time and space to decide exactly how we want everything to sound, and shape it in detail.
JWS: If you were to highlight three tracks to introduce someone to your music which would you choose and why?
MG: Refuge, Walking To Aldebaran and Century Rain
This is one of my favourite tracks from the ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ Album. I like the structure – it takes musical ideas and develops them in a fairly complex structure, while retaining a recurrent melodic chorus. Kathryn has some great flute parts on that one. When we play it live, it feels like we’ve been on a real journey by the end. I think the later chorus being faster than the earlier choruses helps give it that narrative direction.
This is an instrumental track that follows the true story of my great-grandmother’s escape from the Nazi’s during the Holocaust. Musically it brings together my rock and my classical side.
Walking To Aldebaran
This is probably my favourite track from our new album. It is more metal influenced than most of our music, although it jumps between metal, prog, classical, experimental and musical theatre-style sections. It is also quite playful. I’ve been enjoying playing this live. It was inspired by Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella of the same name.
Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’s new album ‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’ is out now and available to order from bandcamp here: