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GREG HOWARD AND
THE FLYING DUTCHMEN Interview
January 24, 2001 www.greghoward.com
Greg Howard plays the
Chapman Stick, an instrument that was only invented in 1969 (the inventor,
Emmet Chapman, is still alive), and is backed up by three Dutchmen
he met less than two years ago while on tour in Holland. Formed for
a single concert, he liked the sound of the group so much they became
the Greg Howard Band and their debut CD LIFT just came out in December
2000. Obviously not one to play to convention, Howard's music combines
"organic communication and improvisation with state-of-the-art
electric and acoustic instrumentation." In other words, they
I met with the band just before they hit the stage
at the Mint in a small back room. Hubert, the sax and electronic wind
instrument player, had only recently hit the tarmac of LAX, but everyone
was happy to be alive and playing music. Greg started out by telling
me about his crazy day.
Carlye Archbeque: So what made your
day so crazy...just driving around LA?
Greg Howard: Well, we almost drove off a cliff.
CA: How did you do that?
GH: I was up in Laurel Canyon, getting some stuff and I was
with Jan (Wolfkamp) and we almost went over a cliff. It was very
CA: I'm glad you survived.
GH: Me too. Very much so, me more than you probably.
CA: Well I don't know, this is the front page interview.
So how long have you guys actually been together?
GH: We played our first show about a year and a half ago
and then we started to make a record. We've only done maybe eight
CA: How do you guys like playing together?
CA: (to the band) Did you guys ever envision yourselves playing
in a band fronted by a Stick player?
Hubert Herringa: No! Never.
GH: Not in their worst nightmare.
CA: You guys do a lot of improvisation, mentally, how do
you do that? Do you just listen and meld together or is there some
kind of format that you start out with? Mostly, how do you know
when you're done?
GH: You know you're done when everyone stops (laughs.)
HH: When you get a lot of dirty looks.
CA: When the crowd starts to thin?
HH: Yeah. It's like you're telling your story and sometimes
it's too long and sometimes it's too short and sometimes it's good.
CA: So it's like you're communicating with each other?
GH: Yeah, and a lot of times we'll improvise in the middle
of a song and when one of us takes it back to the song [we started
with] then the improvisation is over. It's kind of the way the Jazz
musicians would do it.
CA: You seem to have a lot of Jazz and Blues underlying your
GH: Yeah, I think Jan and Jan more than me. Hubert is more
classically oriented and I'm more of a progressive kind of guy.
I also like Jazz a lot too, but I'm not really trained in it.
CA: When did you first run across the Chapman Stick?
GH: The first time I saw it, I didn't really see it. I say
Tony Levin playing it, but from behind, so I didn't really see what
he was doing. It wasn't till a few years later that I saw him playing
in a regular situation, and decided that it was the instrument I
wanted to play.
CA: What drew you to it? The versatility...?
GH: Yeah, I was a keyboard player and you can do two parts
on it, like you can on a keyboard, but since you have your hands
right on the strings, it's more expressive. It's just more interactive.
You're touching the strings so it's more a part of you than the
CA: Hubert, when did you start playing?
HH: When I was twelve. I started violin and later on saxophone.
CA: That's early, was it a part of a school program or something?
HH: Yeah, I did...but they kicked me out of school!
CA: I've never heard of a violin player getting kicked out
of school. How did that happen?
Jan Van Olffen: He was too good. (Everyone laughs good naturedly
HH: Well I don't know. I was too friendly I guess.
CA: I'm not going to touch that one. (turns to another band
member) and which Jan are you?
JO: van Olffen, I play bass.
CA: How long have you been doing that?
JO: Every since I was twelve, I guess.
CA: And did it get you kicked out of school?
JO: (laughing) No, it kept me in school.
CA: (to Jan Wolfkamp) So you must play drums. How long have
you been doing that?
JW: I studied classical drums, then I got into electronics
and with this band I got into loops.
CA: Are you guys going to stay together as a band after this
tour, or is this just a project for you?
HH: No, it's not a project, it's a band.
GH: Anytime I can manage to get everyone's schedules to coincide
then we go on tour. Everyone is doing other things, but it's a very
CA: Do you all play in other bands? Are you like studio musicians?
JO: We play with this guy or that guy or sometimes with a
GH: Jan (W) has a drum project called "pads allowed"(sic)
CA: "Pads allowed?"?
JW: I was in this country about ten years ago and I saw on
every window in every show, "pets not allowed." So I made
from that "pets all loud."!
CA: Do you like live performance or studio performance better?
GH: I'm really terrible in the studio because I don't do
it that much.
HH: I like a lot to play in the studio because you can have
a lot of control on your sound. When I play saxophone, and I'm live
and the technician puts me on the microphone I'm not loud enough.
I must work and work and then the sound of the horn is not always
best. When I'm in the studio, I have optimal sound and I can play
JO: Both, it's equal. Live gives you a lot of energy, but
you have a lot of control in the studio. The nice thing about the
studio is when you're working for somebody else you can pull out
anything you want to make the song better.
GH: A lot of my solo performances are all improvised, so
for me it's a chance to experiment with an audience so it's really
fun when they're willing to listen to me.
CA: What's the first live performance you did?
GH: With the Stick? I played in a vegetarian restaurant in
CA: How did you like touring with the Dave Matthew's Band?
GH: It was really fun. I can't imagine myself being in that
situation being in this hugely successful rock band, being on the
road a hundred and fifty days out of the year and basically when
they're on the road they have no control of their lives.
CA: They have a huge loyal fan base.
GH: Yeah, they do. I don't really feel like it was the kind
of thing I could do all the time, but it was fun.
CA: You like the small tours?
GH: I like an audience I can see.
CA: (to Hubert) If you could be any other profession what
would it be?
HH: Uh, uh.... (everyone laughs)
CA: Oops, sorry, next (joking).
HH: Something with film I guess... an actor?
JW: Graphic designer.
CA: Like animation, Pixar, that kind of stuff?!
CA: What kind of cook?
CA: Would you own a restaurant or would you work for someone
JO: Have my own restaurant.
GH: I think I would be a monk.
CA: What kind of monk? Buddhist, Catholic, vegetarian, vows
GH: No silence.
GREG HOWARD BAND
debut CD from the new Greg Howard Band, is a collection of soundscapes
blending the sounds of jazz fusion, and progressive rock with elements
of world music and electronic manipulation. The result is a unique
new sound for Chapman Stickist and band namesake Greg Howard, an
artist with a diverse musical background and a dozen recordings
to his credit. Howard's repertoire features everything from the
self-described "groove-poetry" of Code Magenta (his trio
with saxophonist, LeRoi Moore of Dave Matthews Band and vocalist
Dawn Thompson), to the hour-long solo improvisation of "Water
on the Moon," but "Lift" raises things to new levels.
Although the band has
gone through many unofficial incarnations, the new Greg Howard Band
features Dutch musicians Jan van Olffen (fretless and fretted electric
basses), Jan Wolfkamp (acoustic drums, ddrum and loops) and Herbert
Heeringa (soprano and alto saxophones and violin). Louis Gerrits
makes guest appearances on several of the tracks (EWI, tenor and
soprano saxophones). Vacillating between the driving rhythms of
songs like "Restless," and the melancholy sounds of "Nord"
and "Experimental Sunrise," this CD is sure to please
fans of improvisational jamming and an adult contemporary audience
at the same time.
with Tim Reynolds, Dave Matthews and John D'Earth (to name a few)
were just the beginning. With the debut of "Lift," this
new and improved quartet is poised for the recognition they deserve
as a great jam band.
THE GREG HOWARD BAND
The Mint, Los Angeles, CA
January 24, 2001
The Greg Howard Band
is quite an anomaly in the music world. Fronted by Howard who plays
the Chapman Stick, the rest of the band is comprised of mostly classically
trained Dutchmen. The Chapman Stick is a fairly new instrument on
the music scene. Its inventor, Emmett Chapman, is alive and well
and opened up for The Greg Howard Band. Chapman who began the technique
of two handed tapping that you see guitar players like Eddie Van
Halen and Stanley Jordan using today, decided to expand on the possibilities
of the mild mannered guitar and the Chapman Stick was born. Watching
Chapman play it became clear that he had achieved his goal of creating
a new musical language. Playing solo he made careful consideration
of each cord he played. While it would be easy to attribute a more
sensual metaphor to the inventors playing of his instrument, Chapman
is too fine a player to fall into genre of musicians who use their
instruments for pleasure. It is clear that he is talking to the
instrument and even cleared that the instrument is talking back.
Greg Howard, a baby faced
unassuming figure, took to the stage with his players Jan Wolfkamp
(drums & loops), Jan van Offen (fretted & frettless basses), and
Hubert Heeringa (sax, violin, electronic wind instruments.) Kicking
off the set with a beautifully streaming version of the Beatles
"Tomorrow Never Knows" and melding into "Norwegian
Wood" the band started off tentatively but then caught fire
spreading into a full force jam. From there they launched into one
seemingly well orchestrated piece after another. They were so cohesive
though, that it was impossible for the simple audience member to
tell when they were improvising and when they were following a set
The ensemble played several
pieces from their new CD, LIFT, including "The Offering",
during which drummer Jan W. stood as he ran the gamut of his percussion
equipment, creating a tantalizing kaleidoscope of clang. Each member
took time with solos, proving for anyone still in doubt that the
Greg Howard Band is comprised of amazingly accomplished musicians.
Each player took just the right amount of time with their solos,
stepping down graciously when they were done and admiring the next
player. Then the band would explode into another fervent flight
After the show the band,
most of which had flown in from Europe days before, self-roadied
themselves off the stage, mere mortals once again.