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Progressive Rock Interviews

Hats off Gentlemen It’s Adequate

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate from 2018

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a ‘highlight reel’?

Mark Gatland: I've been playing bass since I was about 12 or 13 at secondary school, and my first ever school band was alongside Malcolm, so we've been playing for a while. I've played with a wide variety of bands since then, playing all musical genres and still enjoy collaborating with other people and getting asked to add bass to their projects. But Malcolm and myself have a great synergy and musical understanding of each other which always leads to (hopefully) great results.

Malcolm Galloway: I started off learning the tuba (the huge brass instrument) when I was at school, playing in brass and wind bands, orchestras, and brass chamber groups. At the same time I was teaching myself the guitar and keyboard. At school at breaks Mark, I and others would often go to the music rooms to jam. I then got a bit distracted by becoming a neuropathologist. Many years later, I became involved in a hospital pantomime. I enjoyed singing and playing the piano in that ("Alone" by Heart was my big duet in the show) and realised how much I missed performing. I spent a few years building up from open mic nights to small sets in local Camden venues, either on my own, or with my wife, the classical flautist Kathryn Thomas. I was delighted that Mark wanted to get back to playing together again, and we just click musically so easily.

I think we bring complimentary things to the band. Mark always knows exactly where we are in a song, what lyric comes next, what key/chord is coming. That allows me to be quite free and exploratory, without being allowed to drift too far away from what we are supposed to be doing. 

We’ve released three albums so far, and are working on our fourth. The first (Invisible) was about my experiences of invisible disabilities due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The music, I hope is more fun that that sounds like it would be.

The second album (When The Kill Code Fails) follows a science fiction story about artificial intelligence. The third was about evolution and symbiosis (Broken But Still Standing). Our current album explores issues relating to memory and its role in identity. 

The kind encouragement of Steve Hackett (former Genesis guitarist) was a huge boost to our confidence. That was very significant in making me think, "OK we might be extremely obscure, but if someone like Steve Hackett thinks our music is worth listening to, then maybe we are doing something worthwhile."

Another big encouragement for me was being awarded "Prog Rock Album Of The Year" in 2015, and overall "Rock Album Of The Year 2017" (jointly with Roger Waters and Alice Cooper) by Beastie’s Rock show. Just to be considered in shortlists that included some of the musicians I greatly admire was an extraordinary experience. 

The next big break for us came when we were invited by the Hard Rock Hell Prog Festival to fill a cancellation slot on the main stage, opening for Uriah Heep, Magnum and Carl Palmer, with 48 hours notice. To play to over 1,000 people in one of the world’s leading indoor progressive rock festivals was for me a life-changing experience. 

Up until that point our gig line-ups were somewhat unpredictable. We were fortunate to play with a group of extremely talented musicians, but everyone has busy lives and different commitments. Our gigs ranged from solo acoustic or electric sets to five piece rock shows. Our drummer Rudy is one of the best musicians I’ve ever played with, or listened to, but when he moved out of London, it became difficult for him to commit to playing regularly with us. We had settled into a pattern in our live shows (and increasingly in the recordings as well) in which the key core of the band was myself and Mark (with Kathryn on flute particularly in recordings), sometimes joined by guests, and this was working well for us.

I used to be quite shy about using backing tracks, but Mark encouraged me to explore this, and I think he was right. In the albums I write most of the drums and keyboard parts myself, so when we play on top of these live, its still all us playing, just some bits we played earlier. I love playing with a full band, but Mark and I know each other so well, (having been close friends and musical collaborators for decades) and are both quite energetic performers, that the duo setup for touring seems to work. It also means we can travel light. We only need what we carry on the train, plus a PA to plug into, and we are ready to gig. 

Before we played at the Hard Rock Hell, I was worried that we’d be laughed off stage playing with this setup alongside some of the greatest legends of the genre (prog isn’t known for its small band setups). I was blown away by the reaction of the audience and press from the event (Hard Rock Hell Magazine described us as "unlikely stars who stole the show"). It made me realise that even though our setup isn’t traditional, it works for us, and seems to come across to the audience with the authenticity and passion which we hope we bring to our performances. 

After that we’ve had invitations for more festivals this year and next, and are collaborating with bands we’ve come into contact with via Hard Rock Hell on a series of Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and friends progressive rock events at the Fiddler’s Elbow in London.

MSJ: If you weren’t involved in music what do you think you’d be doing?
Mark Gatland: I was working in musical instrument retail for years in various places including Camden, Denmark Street in the centre of London and another shop in North London, so have always been surrounded by music in some fashion. Recently, I've become a stay-at-home dad looking after my two young children, doing the school runs, housework, etcetera, whilst my wife works as a maths teacher. I heartily recommend it as a way to spend more time with your children and see them grow up. 

Malcolm Galloway:  I had to cut down on my work as a neuropathologist due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I think if I hadn’t had music to express my frustrations I’d have ended up depressed, irritable and much less fun for my kids.

MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Malcolm Galloway: I’m sorry. The name is quite silly. It would probably be much more suitable for a musical comedy group. Our gigs are fun and playful, but the music and lyrics are often fairly serious, so the name may give a misleading impression. For a while I’d had in my head the image of Victorian gentlemen throwing their hats in the air not about something being amazing, but about it being average. I’d also previously used the term "aspiring to become a centre of adequacy" as a joke mission statement for something.

The long name does have the advantage of allowing us to search for reviews on Google without coming up with much that isn’t about us, but is a problem for flyer design.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Mark Gatland: Early musical influences were things like Queen, Iron Maiden, Peter Gabriel's first four solo albums, '80s pop stuff, Joy Division and New Order, synthy stuff like Depeche Mode, '60s soul and Motown/Stax stuff.....loads, really - just a massive melting pot. My bass style is a mash-up of all those things, too! 

Malcolm Galloway:  I’ve also got a very wide range of musical interests and influences. I used to write about classical music, particularly contemporary chamber music and minimalist music. I’m greatly influenced by the interlocking shifting patterns pioneered by Steve Reich. Other big influences for me were Marillion and Pink Floyd.

In terms of bringing influences into our music, I tend to go for classic rock vocals (except for the songs that sound bleakly melancholic), funky bass and drums, proggy keyboards, and bluesy guitar solos.

What’s the best thing that’s ever been said about your music?
Malcolm Galloway: I must admit that when I played a demo of a new song we are working on about the Nazi atrocity in the Czech village of Lidice to Mark and he was in tears, that was a pretty touching reaction. 

I was very moved by someone who wrote to say that one of our songs had helped them when they were dealing with the tragic death of their child.

What’s ahead for you?
Mark Gatland:  We're putting on a series of gigs throughout the year with other UK prog bands that we admire, including L’Acina, Bird Eats Baby, The Tirith, IT, Servants of Science and The Wood Demons. We'll be playing Fusion festival in March next year near Kidderminster, and hopefully as the band gets more coverage and better known we'll happily do more gigs and festivals. At the time of writing we're deep into recording our fourth album to hopefully be made available at the end of the year.
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Malcolm Galloway:  Our music covers quite a wide range in terms of genre, but I’d say the centre of gravity on average is progressive rock. Some of the tracks are almost ambient, some almost metal. It is very gratifying, but also confusing in terms of labeling, that our music gets played by specialist rock, metal, ambient, folk, jazz, punk, and electronica (although not always the same songs) shows. We’ve played at venues ranging from the Hard Rock Hell festival to the National Gallery.

We’ve had a lot of support from metal broadcasters. Even though our music is fairly clean (in terms of not very distorted), I think the passion and sometimes anger comes across in a way that people in the metal community have engaged with.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
Mark Gatland: I'm always open to play with anyone as long as I feel I can add something to their project. The nice thing about being asked to play with other people is that they feel you can bring something unique to their music. Playing with other musicians keeps things fresh, especially if it's a genre that you don't normally dabble in.

Malcolm Galloway: I’d love us one day to play on the same bill as Marillion. There are wonderful musicians within the prog rock genre with whom it would be a great honour to collaborate, but it would be more interesting and musically stretching to collaborate with someone from a very different musical background - maybe Eminem or Dizzee Rascal, or a spoken word collaboration with Colin Baker, Tom Hiddleston, or Ian McKellan.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

Mark Gatland: Putting aside the legality for a second, the way the music business works now with more artists being able to self-release, self-promote and keep more control of their artistic output can only be a good thing. We couldn't be reaching the amount of people we do, even talking to yourselves, under the old "traditional" majors model. Coming back to the legality question, though, from a personal standpoint I pay for the music I listen to as I think it's hard enough for the artist to get paid so I should contribute to their art as much as possible.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
Mark Gatland: I don't see someone recording one of our shows and trading it as being any different to somebody videoing it on their phone and posting it on YouTube, for example. At the current stage we're at I'd be more than happy if more people came to our music through someone sharing it.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Mark Gatland: I'm a lover not a hater. 

Malcolm Galloway: I’m also not a big fan of hate. If someone connects with a piece of music and feels they want to share that passion, then that to me is something special. We live inside a model of the world built in our brains, only able to engage with other minds via patterns of firing of our neurons. Given that limitation, if someone manages to deeply engage with something someone else has created, then that is something to celebrate.

To express a dislike of something seems to me generally to be very uninteresting, particularly in relation to independent music and arts. 

We’ve found ourselves in a community of rock bands which feels friendly and mutually supportive. I think progressive rock musicians and audiences tend on the whole to be open minded and inclusive. We are far more likely to share another prog rock band's events to our supporters than to get involved in diss-tracks.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you’d like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

Mark Gatland: All dead unfortunately, but, John Entwistle on bass, Jon Lord on keyboards, John Bonham on drums and Freddie on explanation needed.

Malcolm Galloway: I’d be interested in hearing musicians collaborating in a way that was outside each other’s traditional comfort zones, so I’ll go for –

Vocals – Julianne Regan (All About Eve), Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and/or Eminem

Keyboard – Mark Kelly (Marillion), Lang Lang (classical pianist) and/or Philip Glass 

Guitar – Two or more of Steve Rothery (Marillion), Steve Hackett (Genesis), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Jimi Hendrix

Bass – John Deacon (Queen) or Pete Trevawas (Marillion) 

Drums – Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine), or Ian Mosely (Marillion)

I’d give them a weekend in a studio, and each would choose a couple of songs they’d like to include at a charity gig at the end. Then they’d pull out of a hat which of the various musicians are going to collaborate on each song. 

I’d like the show to include "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd), "Are You Lonely" (All About Eve), and the opening group of songs from Marillion’s Clutching at Straws. I’d also like to include a pre-gig afternoon concert performance of the musical Chess with these performers, supported by one of the major London symphony orchestras.

I’d then like the show to end with a surprise appearance by Flight of the Conchords, who would be backed by selected members of the supergroup, and then end with everybody joining in with "Hey Jude."

If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Malcolm Galloway: If we could have anyone with no concerns about budget, I’d like – 

            Pink Floyd


            Queen with guest vocals from Steve Hogarth

            The Steve Rothery Band 

            Steve Hackett and band playing Genesis classics

            Prophets of Rage 

            The Steve Reich Ensemble.

What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Mark Gatland: The last thing I downloaded was the latest Manic Street Preachers album, Resistance Is Futile. Saying that, the thing I've been mainly obsessing about recently is Le Kov which is sung entirely in Cornish, (a very old English dialect), and is a stunning album by a Welsh artist, Gwenno Saunders.

Malcolm Galloway: Looking at the "recently played" list on my phone, in the last 24 hours I’ve listened to "Freaks" (Marillion), "Revolution" (IT), "Killing In The Name" (Rage Against The Machine), "Lose Yourself" (Eminem), "Checkmate" (Cypress Hill), "I Am The Law" (Anthrax), "Sign of the Times" (Prince), a podcast about POEMS syndrome (a disease causing damage to peripheral nerves), and a science fiction audiobook by Paul McAuley.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Mark Gatland: I keep stopping and starting A Book of Dreams by Peter Reich which is about his father, the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and was the inspiration for "Cloudbusting" by Kate Bush. Apart from that, I've just finished Underground England by Stephen Smith, (his follow-up to Underground London), which is a fascinating book on various old smugglers' coves, lost cities, ancient burial mounds, etcetera dotted over the country.

Malcolm Galloway: Audio books are probably my most extravagant vice. With my condition, it is useful to keep moving my back, so I spend quite a lot of time walking around while listening. I’m currently about half-way through Daniel Ellsbery’s The Doomsday Machine. This is an insider’s account of nuclear war policy making. I think this is an extremely important book. The description of the entirely detached way in which policies were made which would knowingly kill hundreds of millions of your own allies (in addition to the devastation to the populations of enemy states) highlights how group think mentality and dehumanisation readily take over if we aren’t careful.

I’ve recently enjoyed Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem series. I hadn’t previously read any Chinese science fiction. There are lots of interesting ideas in there about why a planet might not necessarily want to advertise its existence too widely.

I’ve also been impressed with Robert Newman’s Neuropolis. Robert Newman is a comedian who has turned his attention to challenging the assumptions we make in modern neuroscience. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but he argues his case well and very amusingly. I recommend this book to my students.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Mark Gatland: A couple of weeks ago I went and saw Steven Wilson at the Royal Albert Hall on his To The Bone tour. It's the third time I've seen him there, and he was staggering as usual. 

Please go and see him when he hits North America, (if he hasn't done so already by the time this comes out.)

Malcolm Galloway: I recently went to the Prog Metal Madness festival in South London - a day of mostly unsigned independent bands. A very interesting mix of music, delivered with passion.

Do you remember the first concert you attended?
Mark Gatland: Def Leppard, 1986, Wembley Arena on the "In The Round" Hysteria tour - absolutely blew me sideways!

Malcolm Galloway: The first show that made a big impact on me was when my parents took me to see the musical Chess. It is still my favourite musical. The first rock gig that inspired me was by All About Eve.

MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
Mark Gatland: Ah, I could go on all day about this! Having always worked in guitar shops and sold/setup/fixed guitars and basses, I've been lucky enough to play an awful lot of nice stuff over the years. All the basses I own get used...nothing is for show or to sit there looking pretty. The pedal-board is always in a state of constant improvement...Reverb and That Pedal Show are dangerous places to visit! In terms of gear, the TC Electronic stuff with the Toneprint function is just genius. The Sansamp Bass Driver DI never leaves the 'board. I'm thinking about maybe a pedal switcher at some point, upgrading the power supply, etcetera, etcetera.

I've also got a thing about trying to support UK based pedal makers as there are a lot of very clever people out there making very nice toys! With my Wee Lush FX A/B box and Raygun FX and Zander Circuitry bass fuzz pedals I'm doing my bit, plus a big shout out to Tim at Fredric Effects...I've got one of his tremolo pedals which is lovely. I like the idea of having a completely UK built pedalboard at some point just to show what our guys are doing. Having also put a bit of guitar on the last album, as well, I'm contemplating a cheap Jazzmaster to get that Kevin Shields '90s shoegazery thing going on.....

Malcolm Galloway: Mark is the physical gear specialist. I tend to like exploring far too many plugins as a producer.

MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Mark Gatland: Most of the bands that may have been considered "guilty pleasures" a while ago have long since been absorbed into music it's okay to like. I've always liked The Carpenters because of being exposed to them through my parents. You couldn't have admitted that a few years back, but now it's acceptable as the songs are great! Don't forget, the very genre in which we operate, prog, was about the most uncool thing you could be associated with. So listening to early Genesis or Marillion or Rush was something you had to keep under your hat. I even kept quiet about my Kate Bush obsession for years because she was always thought a bit "weird" or "out there. Obviously, these days I couldn't care less!

Malcolm Galloway: T’Pau and Tim Rice musicals.

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Mark Gatland: I've taken a tumble off a few London pub circuit stages whilst stoking my inner rock star ego....It's not pretty.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Mark Gatland: I'd say the first two would be Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers so they could recite old "Goon Show" sketches and do silly voices at each other. They both had fascinating lives and both were very complex characters. The third would be my dad, as I could tell him all about the daughter-in-law and grand-children he never got to meet and generally fill him in about what's been going on in my life.

Malcolm Galloway:  I’d also say my dad. He died just over a year ago of bowel cancer, so there’d be much less detail to fill in than Mark would have with his dad, but I’d still love to see him again.

I’d like to invite Aristotle. Of the ancient Greek philosophers he was one that probably came closest to being a scientist. Although most of his scientific theories were wrong by today’s standards, I think he would be very interested in what’s been discovered since his death.

Unfortunately, I don’t speak Greek, however my third dinner guest, Charles Darwin did, and would be able to help with the translation. Darwin’s theory of evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology. Without an evolutionary perspective very little of biology or medicine makes much sense. He suffered from terrible self-doubt, and I think would be reassured to know how recent advances in understanding genetics have confirmed his predictions.

MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Mark Gatland: Starter, main course, skip dessert but have cheese and port...seafood would have to feature somewhere - crab or lobster... 

Malcolm Galloway: I’m a vegetarian. I’d probably go for a Chinese meal.

Or can I cheat and say "jam," and me, Darwin and Aristotle pull out the Beatles song book and knock out some classics? Unfortunately that would probably be a terrible idea. Darwin loved listening to music, particularly choral and piano performances, but is thought to have had a very limited musical ability himself. He is not known to have played any instrument, and according to his son, the only tune he ever hummed was the Welsh folk song "Ar hyd y no." So I’d probably play the piano and sing, while Aristotle and Darwin sit on the sofa, passionately discussing barnacles, in Greek, and entirely ignoring me.

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Mark Gatland: If you're put off by the idea of "prog" then give us a go....we put a whole bouillabaisse of influences in there and (hopefully) it's played with heartfelt passion and commitment.  Finally, most of the answers to most of these questions could possibly change on a different day of the week! Malcolm Galloway: I’ve never knowingly put a bouillabaisse into anything, however if you hum it I’ll give it a go. I would, however, like to say that we are extremely grateful to those who take the time to listen to and support our music. Knowing someone out there is interested makes a big difference
MSJ: This interview is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at:
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