Gary Marks - singer, songwriter, author  
  singer, songwriter & author  
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Questions & Answers with Gary Marks

 

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Interview with Gary about the re-release of, and musical experiences encountered from, his first record, Gathering.

Description of the session/s. What were the highlights? how long did it take? Where was the recording done?

We recorded Gathering in Ultra Sonic Studios in NY. I was living in Boston at the time but I was playing once a month at The Mercer Arts Center in New York City. A recording engineer came to the gig, liked my songs, and asked if I wanted to make a record. I said, "Sure!" I was 21 years old at the time. He said, "Do you have a band?" 
 
Until that point I had only performed solo and didn't like "jamming" with people Honesty, I couldn't find too many players that could play the very long-formed, odd -styled songs I was writing. And I didn't really have an interest in playing other people's music. But I said, "Sure, I have a band," because I definitely didn't want to just do a solo record. There is such a great opportunity to control big sounding things in the studio. I wanted to take advantage of that.
 
So I went back to Boston and began looking for musicians to be in my band. I began to walk around the music rooms of all the universities, believe it or not, listening for potential band members! One day I heard Michael Cochrane playing piano. He was truly great, even as a young player, and I was pretty blown away. So I knocked on his door after he finished playing and asked him if he wanted to join a my band and do a record, which of course was an odd thing to ask under the circumstances. Odder still was that I proceeded to sit down on the floor of this little practice cubical with my guitar in my lap and started playing him my songs while he was still sitting there at the piano, kind of stunned at my invasion of his practice space. Then we started jamming on the songs. After that Michael said if we were going to record we just had to get his buddies John Scofield and David Samuels to join the band.
 
We rehearsed for a few months at Michael's house. I had to scream / sing over the band because I didn't have an amp for my voice that was loud enough to be heard over the rest of the instruments. It was pretty crazy.
 
When we got into the studio none of us had ever recorded before. We had no idea about overdubs so we gathered around in a big circle facing each other and just went for it. Almost every song was a first take. We had a very good day. . . .

I understand that this was John Scofield's first ever time in a studio ? What was that like for him?
 
John was always very low key, very calm, and very funny. So he was really quite relaxed in the studio setting, as was David. Michael and I were a bit more on edge, I would say. John and I always enjoyed each other's sense of humor. David Samuels was also a very brilliant witty guy, so we had a lot of fun rehearsing and recording together, and did so a few times after Gathering as well.
 
Michael was more serious. He became a mentor of mine. I became his piano student shortly after "Gathering" was completed, instead of going off to tour all the "Gathering" songs in Europe. I had only played guitar until then. But I knew piano was another great instrument for song writing, and I wanted to take the opportunity to explore it since Michael's teaching skills were extraordinary. I think he got a kick out of teaching me because I never learned how to read notes, and he figured once you're in your 20's it's usually too late. So he used my ear and my mathematical sense to teach me. He'd teach me pages and pages of jazz theory every time I took a lesson and then I'd go home and practice 12 hours a day -- to not embarrass myself at the next lesson. So then he'd give me another massive amount of work thinking I could handle it, since I'd handled the last lesson OK. And I'd leave there dazed and reeling again, and practice for another 12 hours a day.
 
So I learned jazz and blues from Michael and then got more deeply involved in the NY, and eventually the San Francisco/Berkeley, jazz scenes in the mid-1970's. I immersed myself in that world until I decided to go back to my rock 'n roll roots in the 1980's. . . .Then I would still have my Keith Jarrett "Facing You," and Chic Corea "Improvisations Volume 1" tapes in the car, but at home I'd be listening to The Beatles, Ray Charles, Steve Winwood, The Police, Bruce Hornsby, and Peter Gabriel.

Did this group play together on your next album/s?
 
John and David played on my third album, "Thoughts of Why," as well as on "Gathering." Paul McCandless also played on "Thoughts of Why." The second album, "Upon Oanda's Wing," I recorded on the West coast with Art Lande, and his band, including Mark Isham and Bill Douglass. 

Description of the other players on the record and why they were chosen for the album? What were the other players doing at the time?
 
Paul Brickey was a great acoustic bass player that Michael turned me onto. David Samuels was actually the drummer on many of the Gathering tracks. He is an amazing musician who also plays tabla, piano, and I think trumpet as well. But vibes and marimba are his main instruments. Larry Schneider played soprano sax on a few tracks, and Chip White, a Latin jazz player from NY played drums on some tracks as well. But John, Michael, David and I were the core band.

Any recollections of the time-period and what was going on socially and politically that may have inspired or influenced the GATHERING?
 
The political landscape in 1972 / 1973 deeply affected our daily lives. We were all embarrassed that Nixon was President. I'm still embarrassed that he ever WAS President, and I was deeply involved in protesting the war.  . . Hmm, embarrassed about the President and protesting a war -- in America some things never change.

Brief description about the writing of the songs and if there is any song/s that may have a particular story?
 
I wrote a lot of political songs back then but "Gathering" took on a softer tone as the band and the songs merged into a cohesive framework. It took on more of a spiritual resonance than a political one over time. First Snowfall was an inner diary of a winter day in Boulder. Seasons is about the evolution a person's heart has to take when you lose someone you love. Him Sometimes was about the person I could be when I meditated and practiced yoga early in the morning! Sherry's Song was, well, you'll have to read The Dance and the Diamond Sky to know who Sherry was. A pretty amazing "first love." Gathering is dedicated to her.

What was the response to the album on it's release?
 
I was a bit overwhelmed actually. Carla Bley asked to distribute the record world-wide through her Jazz Composers Organization of America (JCOA) label. Then I was getting called to come and play in Europe. I was 22 and excited about the whole thing. But really, then, like now, I was a lot more interested in writing new songs and recording them than performing the same songs every night. "Gathering" received a lot of great reviews and had a lot of support in various circles. But every time a record deal or a manager would come into the picture the thought of touring endlessly kind of torpedoed the momentum.

Did the band want to tour?
 
Some of them may have. I never asked. Each song was a story and had to find its peak moment in the studio. But then that was the best it could be. Why try to repeat that?

Is there any artist/s that has/have been heavily influenced by GATHERING?
 
I was honored to have Art Lande as a Gathering fan. I don't think he was influenced by it, but he really liked the record. I met him in Berkeley and he would play the record for Eberhardt Weber and other great players who would come into the area to play at The Great American Music Hall or Zellerbach at the University of Berkeley. Maya Weber drew/painted two of my album jackets, as she did for so many ECM artists back then. So I had a great opportunity on the next record to have Art Lande and his band, Mark Isham, Bill Douglass, and Kurt Wortman, play with me. . .basically the entire band of "Rubisa Patrol," (ECM records). They played on my second record, "Upon Oanda's Wing." 
 
A year or so later, I introduced Paul McCandless to Art Lande at the Berkeley Square. Then I brought both coasts of musical friends together on my third album: Paul McCandless, John Scofield, David Samuels, and Marks Isham all played on "Thoughts of Why."

 

 

 
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