Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate

Good evening one more time and thanks for sticking with me fellow progheads!  Moving into the February section of the 2016 calendar, my search for all things prog continues to shine a light on fresh, new, and unique music and artists taking root in the prog garden.  I extended my London stay an additional seven days so as to explore one such band that is unique in several ways...

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate has a sound that roams through many sub genres of progressive rock; confining them to one area of the prog garden is not only impossible it would be unfair to the talents and abilities of the band's founder Malcolm Galloway.  But aside from their distinctive sound, Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate does a lot of "extra curricular" work and gives back to the community from which it draws...more on that later.  This tour through London I decided to not only dive into the sounds of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate, but also peel back a layer of the onion and have a chat with the aforementioned Mr. Galloway, the mastermind behind the curtain. So a bit of a melange here as I intertwine an interview with a music review...

The prog buffet is the best place to start and a serving of "Head In A Jar" is the right antidote for what ails ya...  The vocals are piercing as the drums and guitar almost plead with you; keyboards slide through the middle like the creme brulee hiding under a layer of caramelized sugar...one pleasure after another.  There is a sense of urgency riding the under current here; I get a scent of Uriah Heep jamming with Atlas Volt on this cut.  Hats off Gentlemen is definitely forging their own identity...

Closet Concert Arena: First off, the name of the band...unique is an understatement.  Any back story here?

Malcolm Galloway: The band originally started as a vocals/guitar and flute duo with my wife Kathryn Thomas.  We had a gig the day before our youngest son was born and had to give a band name for the introduction.  I'd always had an image in my mind of Victorian gentlemen throwing their top hats in the air and shouting, "Huzzah!"; not because they think something is amazing, but because it is adequate.  It is also a playful reference to Robert Schumann's review of Chopin (hats off gentlemen, a genius).  I'm pretty self-deprecating so the name suits my personality.  But on the other hand it might not suit the sound of the music very well--and is poorly suited to Twitter.  Once the band name is written, most of the 140 characters are gone.

CCA: Malcolm, you are listed in the music credits as as either playing alone or with colleagues...is the band a full time gig for everyone involved or are you the driving force and bring others in for live performances and recording when necessary...in other words; who is Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate?

MG: I'm very fortunate in that I get to play with a group of outstanding musicians.  Our flautist Kathryn Thomas is a professional classical flautist who is regularly heard on the BBC with her wind quintet The Galliard Ensemble.  I met Mark Gatland (bass) in school; we have been playing together for decades.  Rudy Burrell (drums) is an extremely musical drummer and has an excellent ear for song structure.  Ibon Bilbao (guitar) is a much more technical/pyrotechnical guitarist than I am; his background is classic rock and metal.  Live we play in any combination of me solo or with one or more of my colleagues.  For recordings so far, it is initially me composing on a laptop.  Some tracks remain that way multi-tracked while others feature one or more of the band.

CCA: How long have Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate been around and how many albums on the resume?

MG: We've been going for about four years and released two albums; "Invisible" (about invisible disabilities) and "When the Kill Code Fails" (about artificial intelligence).  I have also released a couple of albums of contemporary classical minimalist music under my own name.

CCA: Your sound has flavors of jazz, metal, ambient, and classic prog just to name a few.  Who/what do you consider the biggest influences on your writing?

MG:  Pink Floyd/David Gilmour, Marillion, and Steve Reich are big influences for me.  In terms of lyrics I am inspired Philip K. Dick.

Time to give a listen to a song that wanders off the "standard" prog path; a piece with an electronic bent a la Tangerine Dream called "Freerunning."  The sci-fi connection hits you right out of the gate (thank you Philip K. Dick), and the pulsing drums carry the heavy-laden bass line and strong layer of guitar quite nicely. The terrestrial-like keyboards hover overhead and reign down like shards of crystal...Hats Off Gentlemen defies categorization with pieces like this.  Imagine Geoff Downes collaborating with Pat Metheny and a mellow Carmine Appice and you start to get a feel for this tune...


CCA: You perform a lot of charity gigs and do a lot of fundraising for very worthwhile causes...what is the connection to this side of your music?

MG: There's a lovely atmosphere at an event where everyone has come together as volunteers to make something happen.  We put on an annual "Save The Children" fundraiser at The Fiddler's Elbow.  Even small donations can make a big difference to vulnerable children.  For example; it only costs about 50p ($78USD) for a sachet of rehydration medicine to prevent a child from dying of diarrhea. We've also done events for Ehlers-Danlos Disease charities (my link with that is I have the condition), Brain Tumor UK, and Marie-Curie.

CCA: You play regularly in London and the UK; any opportunities on the horizon to add to your frequent flyer miles? 

CCA:  We are exploring the possibility of playing gigs in France in 2017, and would be very happy to to explore other opportunities to perform in other countries.

CCA: What can fans expect from the band as 2016 progresses?

MG: Next we are on to playing in Camden's Dublin Castle on February 11th, while simultaneously working on our third album as well as the music for the comedy/horror feature film "Rock Band vs. Vampires."

 CCA: That is a fairly full schedule...

 CCA: If you could play a gig with anyone alive or dead, who would you be on stage with?

MG: That's tricky.  It would be lovely to do something with Steve Hackett, David Gilmour, or Steve Rothery; they are very inspiring musicians.  I'd quite fancy a jam with Eminem.  I am though quite spoiled already in having incredible and supportive musicians in my band--and very grateful for that.

Liner Notes time...As Malcolm mentioned earlier, in addition to himself on guitar, vocals, and keyboards, Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate will consist at one moment or another of Kathryn Thomas on flute, Mark Gatland on bass, Rudy Burrell on drums, and Ibon Bilboa on guitar.  Malcolm has shed some light on what drives Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate as well as what separates them from others in the prog garden.  More than simply music, this is a band with a cause--a worthwhile cause.

What makes Malcolm and the rest of Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate unique is their understanding of the role the music plays in the bigger picture...and their ability to make the music a vision one can "see" with eyes and ears.  Hanging in the jazz/metal/ambient corner of the prog garden means there are few direct peer to relate to, but an incredible opportunity to expand on a point of view.

The band's latest release is called "When The Kill Code Fails."  I found a gem quietly inserted into this concept album called "I Still Remember You."  The song opens with gentle drum and keyboards as a backdrop to painful vocals appealing to the emotions buried deep in a heart coming to grips with the reality of who/what he is.  The soft layers of sound continue throughout and belie a dark gripping pleading that leaps through the vocals.  Hats Off Gentlemen emit top notes of Marillion and Alan Parsons Project on this tune...I detect traces of Gentle Giant permeating the air as well.  

CCA: What else do you want the world to know about Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate?

MG: Our live gigs are fun and playful, even if the lyrics are quite dark--defiant rather than bleak. We tend to play our "rockier" tracks live.  If you join our mailing list you get a free mp3-
http://www.hatsoffgentlemen.com/index/.  We also have quite a few videos that showcase more of who we are at https://www.youtube.com/user/itsadequate, including some Lego animated music videos I did with my kids.  We are aware there is a lot of music out there, and we are extremely grateful to all those taking the time to listen to what we do.

And that in so many paragraphs, words, videos, and explanations, is Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate...or is it?  Being of the cynical variety, I tend to doubt that anything is as simple and obvious as it seems.  Here is a an up and coming band, tending its own little acreage in the prog garden.  Upon first listen you find a sound that is distinctive...coming from nowhere in particular yet bouncing through your prog consciousness like Tommy's pinball...stirring up images and emotions you weren't aware of prior.  That, my fellow progheads, is why I so enjoy the search for all things prog.  

The prog garden is quite lush with quality bands that push the envelope and musicians that push the genre in new directions.  It is not, however, flowing over with bands and musicians that understand the frailty of it all...that everything can be taken away in a second so best to enjoy the moment in the moment and give back what you can while you can.  Enter Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate and the prog world's axis tilts just a bit...you can feel the difference in the emotions; much like the difference between velvet and corduroy.

One last music link for your enjoyment; "Solace."  The laser no sooner starts to read the disc than you pick up a Pink Floyd vibe...this is a song that will burrow deep into your emotional lock box.  The gentleness and innocence that lead you down a friendly path of ferns and moss slowly morphs into a dark trail fraught with uncertainty and suspicion.  Hats Off Gentlemen ride the pendulum back and forth from dark to light in a way that might have taken Edgar Allan Poe off his game.

In addition to the links above, you can find Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate on Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/itsadequate and Twitter @itsadequate.  Purchase their music online at
http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/HatsOffGentlemenItsAdequate. After all, if we don't support those who fill the prog garden, the garden will cease to grow and expand...

So fellow progheads, we have traveled yet another tangent road in the prog garden.  Malcolm provided quite the glimpse behind the curtain, and Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate illuminates  a side of prog not often glimpsed--the human side.  Progressive rock is an outlet for so much, providing the artist the opening necessary to walk the listener into the labyrinth that is prog...so just relax, open your mind, and prepare to be transfixed...you're welcome...

...and the search for all things prog continues on its way...rummaging through the garden for still more as yet undiscovered treasures...until next week...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for your kind support. Greatly appreciated. Best wishes, Malcolm