If Bruce Soord got us used to the interview game, it is today the great Gavin Harrison who took over for our greatest pleasure!
DARIALYS - 18.09.2020 -
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14 studio albums in a 21-year career. A career that seems to have reached its peak in recent years, since the arrival of a certain Gavin Harrison on drums (King Crimson, ex-Porcupine Tree). If the famous drummer is rather accustomed to give interviews for drum magazines, he gave us the pleasure in this new year to be our interlocutor to comment the news of The Pineapple Thief! And while the musician turns out to be relatively distant with the audience on stage, he showed a much friendlier face during our interview!

Gavin, how do you feel about the release of the new album in this time of pandemic, it must be both exciting and frustrating not to be able to bring the music to life live?

Gavin : Yes of course! It's exciting because the album is finally out, but it's a shame we can't be on tour. We had a whole tour planned, and it's a shame we can't play live right now.

But it's postponed to next year, right?

Gavin: Yes!

I've heard that you're not a big fan of the long tours for which you say, unless I'm mistaken, that it seems to you that your technique s when it's locked up in the songs, even if you improvise sometimes (comments collected in an interview for Modern Batterie, editor's note) ? 

Gavin: Yes, I think so! Going on tour is exciting for 2 or 3 weeks, and then you start missing home, and the last 2 or 3 weeks are complicated! (Laughs). Yes, I'm interested in creating. On stage, the interest lies in connecting with the audience, that's what's fun. But I still prefer to create, to find new inspirations for songs, rhythms, arrangements... That's what interests me the most.

You've collaborated with a lot of bands as a session musician, and you've been part of Porcupine Tree and now The Pineapple Thief and King Crimson. Do you feel a fundamental difference between these two roles, both in the studio and on tour?

Gavin : I stopped being a studio musician. Playing music to make money was pretty boring for me. I wanted to collaborate with people, have a creative impact, get completely involved in the music. If you're a studio musician, they say, "play this, here's the money. Even if you don't like the song and even if you're not inspired, you have to do it. I'm not really interested in doing that anymore, and I don't have to do it now. The bands I've been involved in, Porcupine Tree, King Crimson and The Pineapple Thief but also other projects, are more personally satisfying because I can be totally involved with them.

I understand that. You also have a form of freedom and you can influence the compositions.

Gavin : Yes, it's good to be involved in the writing of the songs. I play a little bit of piano, guitar, bass and marimba. It also allows me to distance myself from the drums sometimes.

And by the way, what convinced you to be part of The Pineapple Thief ? Is it this freedom and the way of working that you built with Bruce Soord ?

Gavin: Yes, I think the relationship I was able to build with Bruce, John and Steve, but especially with Bruce. It's an ideal writing partner. It's a dream come true. He has no ego. I can tell him what I want, and he tells me everything he thinks. So we have a relationship that is very honest. We don't beat around the bush if we have something to say to each other. It's great, it's a real pleasure.

Do you consider that ego is a real problem in music?

Gavin : I think it's an extremely destructive force. In many ways it can give you very negative thoughts like resentment or jealousy. It can lead to a lot of bad things. Of course, everyone has a little bit of ego! I don't know if we would really be human if we didn't have a little bit of ego! But you have to be able to control it when it gets too big. It's very important not to fall into it.


Bruce has a lot of respect for you anyway. By joining The Pineapple Thief, it seems that the band has gone up a level.

Gavin : I hope so anyway! That's the whole point of collaboration. Other people can push you to do something that you wouldn't normally do on your own. They take you to places where you wouldn't have been alone. I do this for Bruce, and he does it for me. I don't want to do the same things over and over again. If you write by yourself, after a while you get caught in a kind of vicious circle.

Before you joined the band, The Pineapple Thief seemed to be at a turning point with the release of "All The Wars" and "Magnolia" in particular. The Pineapple Thief really found its style, its artistic and commercial success since your arrival. Bruce responds favorably when asked if your presence had anything to do with it. What do you think about it?

Gavin : Well... I think the sound has evolved. I don't know if we're going to stick with it either. It's something that's evolving. Some people tell me, "The Pineapple Thief sounds a little bit like Porcupine Tree". I tell them that it does, because I used to play in it! (Laughs). So part of the sound of Porcupine Tree also came from me because I brought my personality to it, which I put into The Pineapple Thief as well.

A lot of fans are nostalgic for the time when Porcupine Tree still existed, and consider The Pineapple Thief to be the new Porcupine Tree. Are you aware of it, and are you proud of it ? Because it shows how important Porcupine Tree has been to some people.

Gavin: Porcupine Tree has been a big part of my career from 2002 to 2010. We haven't played together for ten years now. I think some collaborations are going through a "golden age". If we played together again, would that be good? I don't think we'll play together again unless we find a new sound identity for Porcupine Tree. It wouldn't be a good idea to get back together to play the same thing as in 2002 or 2010. I don't think The Pineapple Thief is a new Porcupine Tree for all that. I think the audience is different. Porcupine Tree's audience was heavier, more of a prog fan and 99% male. When you play complicated music, you're more appealing to a male audience that likes to have a lot of detail, technique... And I don't have a problem with that, it's very good. The Pineapple Thief appeals more to women because the emphasis is on the song itself and the melody. Porcupine Tree had songs, but they were long, elaborate songs with a lot of technical details. I was afraid that some people would be in the audience only for that technical aspect. I think I've emancipated myself from all that.

Is it easier to write concise songs like this album, or more complex or experimental songs like King Crimson ?

Gavin: It's different. Sometimes you have to make arrangements, sometimes you have to compose. Bruce is very good at finding good melodies. The music I listen to is not 17-minute progressive rock songs with complicated sections. I don't listen to that music too much. I like the melodies, the beautiful lyrics, the well arranged songs, where each instrument finds its place. Maybe I will have evolved in five years?

But you don't just bring a rhythm to the songs, you also bring a form of musicality. Isn't it difficult to bring that to 4-minute tracks? Isn't it easier to develop all this on longer songs ?

Gavin : Regardless of the style of music, I always try to play something musical and interesting. If you play something that distracts attention from the melody, it can have a perverse effect. You have to know how to find the right dosage, what to play at what time. I'm not going to play a drum solo from A to Z on every song. Sure, it might impress the other drummers, but it wouldn't suit me.


You have a great deal of experience which means that today you have mastered this dosage. And this is what makes you famous today, because you have a real signature. I imagine that you are very proud, because as soon as you are invested in a group, where you recognize your paw.

Gavin: I don't really pay attention to all that, actually. I've been working a lot on this new album, "Versions Of The Truth". I probably won't listen to it again for a while. I listened to it every day for about a year, when we were working on it. I appreciate the fact that some people like this album, but I respect those who don't like it too. I'm always very critical of the work I do myself.

Each new album is a new challenge for you?

Gavin : Yes, I don't want to play the same things I played 10 years ago. I want to evolve as a musician. I'm always looking for new inspirations, new things to play. My relationship with Bruce inspires me to play different things.

Coming back to your new album, how did you get the idea to use marimba on the track 'Stop Making Sense' ?

Gavin : 'Stop Making Sense' is the last track we recorded. When Bruce sent me this song, it was very, very empty, there was almost nothing in it, especially on the verses. And one day, I was sitting in my studio, looking at my marimba, and I suddenly thought I could add some marimba on this passage to create a street atmosphere with a lot of passage. I recorded 4 different parts that I threw all at the same time, as if there was a current or a lot of people in a street. I thought it was going well. I sent the version to Bruce and said : " listen, I have a real surprise for you, because I don't think you had planned to integrate marimba on this track " ! He liked it a lot. I had already put it on 'Versions Of The Truth', so I wanted to add some more on 'Stop Making Sense' as well. I don't know if you could listen to the bonus disc of the album?

No, not right now!

Gavin: Because on this bonus disc I made a new arrangement for 8 of the 10 songs. I used electronic drums, electronic percussion and a lot of marimba. It gives a very different version of these songs. It was an interesting process. Because we had to record a bonus disc for special editions. Bruce didn't know what to do exactly. He had thought about doing acoustic versions. So I told him that he had already done that on the previous album and I suggested to him to do something new. I told him I was going to do a rearranged version and he liked it, so we went for it. So the marimba plays a very important role on the second record. I'm not a good marimba player, believe me, I'm even bad! So I use it as an atmosphere in the songs.

The interpretations of the songs that you do live are more dynamic, you can hear it especially on the live "Where We Stood". Is it more instinctive at the moment or do you plan (with Bruce ?) to beef your game before going on stage ? Besides I think you like to joke with your improvisations...

Gavin: Yes. I've always liked to improvise. Some musicians like to play exactly the same thing as on the record every night. That's fine with me! Whether it's the solos, the slightest drum breaks, some of them always play the same thing as on the album. But that's not my philosophy. I like to improvise and play slightly different things every night. When I joined Porcupine Tree, they were very surprised because the previous drummer (Chris Maitland, editor's note), played exactly the same thing every night, note for note. As I said, that's not a problem. For me it's normal to improvise because I come from jazz thanks to my father, and nobody in jazz plays the same thing every night. It makes the concerts a little bit unique in a way.

In King Crimson, you collaborate with Pat Mastelotto on drums, among others. How did you adapt to this very unusual style of practice?

Gavin: It's hard to play with 2 drummers or 3 drummers now. It's a new challenge. There are 3 drummers in King Crimson since 2014. It's a real challenge because you have to take into consideration the sound, the style and the abilities of the other drummers. When someone asks you to play something you're not familiar with, it's challenging and it's difficult.  We spent a lot of time writing, arranging and rehearsing every part. When you play with 3 drummers you can't improvise because everyone plays their own part. There are times when you can improvise in a King Crimson concert, but 95% of the time, everything is planned, otherwise it doesn't work.

The Pineapple Thief, it's 14 studio albums and 21 years of career, it's huge. What could be the next step for the band?

Gavin : The next step is already to find the way back to the stage ! But who knows what's going to happen? The world is a very strange place today. I don't know when we're going to play again. We have a tour planned for next year. Maybe by then there will be a solution to this pandemic. A vaccine, a treatment, or maybe the pandemic will have resolved itself or the risk will be minimal. We will continue to release albums every 2 or 3 years. Maybe we'll do another filmed concert as well, because this band is interesting on stage, and I think it's interesting for people to see us play. Anyway, we can keep writing new songs and keep going?

And does this period inspire you by the way or not?

Gavin : Yes, to be honest I have a pretty antisocial lifestyle! (Laughs). When I'm not on tour, I spend a lot of time in my studio at home. So for me, this situation hasn't changed much from my life before. Anyway, with the guys from The Pineapple Thief, we don't live close to each other. So our relationship is essentially on the Internet. We send files to each other regularly. We don't rehearse all the songs together before going on tour.

Gavin, thank you very much! It was very interesting. A last word for our readers maybe ?

Gavin: I hope we'll be back in France next year because the French audience was nice to us. We have some dates planned in France, and we hope that everything will go well and that we will be there!

Thanks Gavin, take care of yourself!

Gavin : Thanks, see you soon

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