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''I’m Trying To Determine
How My Career Ends''

Blog
''I’m Trying To Determine How My Career Ends''

20.12.2017

Howe Gelb, crossing over from indie rock to jazz, performed in the 27th Akbank Jazz Festival, on November 13th, at Babylon. Gelb and his band shared songs from the latest album Future Standards and Giant Sand’s vast discography. Having released tens of albums in a career that spans over 30 years, Gelb was kind enough to talk with us about piano standards, the nature of songwriting and how a music career could end.

How did you come up with the concept of piano standards from the future?

I was getting older, it was like evolution. I finally could play in B flat, which in the very beginning was impossible. Many years ago. I would hear this music and I didn’t know anything about it but I loved it, but I couldn’t get there. So I just instead played guitar for thirty-some years and just didn’t think about it. Then I saw 60 approaching. 60 years old. It just seemed like “Oh, this is probably the time”. I got my sister’s piano and I put it in my bedroom. Every time I walked by the piano, I played it. For a year. And started to develop all these songs. It took about a year. Because the idea is, when you’re going to tour after this age, to be able to do it in a way, that’s a little bit easier. You sit down at the piano and play. You don’t bring any guitars, you don’t bring any amps, you don’t bring anything. The venue provides all the backline. The trick was to come up with all the material. I didn’t know if that was possible until the fellow who was playing guitar tonight, J.B. Meijers, helped me to start the album.

You’ve been touring and recording all over the world but it feels like you’re deeply rooted in Tucson, Arizona. How is this dichotomy working in your life?

I think that in people’s imagination, the west should sound like Ennio Morricone or Sergio Leone films which I love. But it’s nothing like the way it really is or was back there. Instead what goes on there is a kind of minimalism. It’s open, very spacious. It’s dissonant, what I call “erosion rock”. That’s what we’ve played all these years. Just kind of this emptiness. We like the emptiness.

About the nature of your songwriting, is it a daily work for you? Do you sit and work on the songs every day or do the songs come spontaneously?

That’s a good question. I think everybody will tell you that there’s many different ways to write. Nobody has one way to write. There’s at least, three, four, five ways to write. What I figured out along the way was, if I needed to write three songs right now, I could but normally I don’t. Instead I wait for the storm to come, there’s a storm that happens. It comes inside the house and it stops you from doing anything else. You have to capture the storm on a recording because you always think you can remember it later but you won’t remember it, you’ll never remember it. Those storms are what deliver the music most of the time. They are the best. But it also teaches you, you could do this anytime if you just lock yourself in a room. The only thing is there’s too much music in the world so it doesn’t do you any good to make too much music. Now we are just rerecording a lot of the old music.

You have a very prolific career. Have you ever come to a point of stopping?

I’m at that point where I’m writing about it (stopping). To try to determine how these things end. There’s all traditional ways of ending. There’s people that have terrible ends with drugs or accidents or travel disasters or personal problems or they get too successful and burn out or they don’t get successful enough and they burn out. None of that has happened. Now I’m wondering like, “Well, then how do we end this?”. Do we just keep doing it until that happens or is there a more creative way to end it or maybe a sensible way? I’m trying to figure that out right now. I don’t have the answer yet.

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