Australian Musician Jack Howard Interview
A musicianship based interview with Jack Howard around the time of his “My Lucky Day” album.
Author: Australian Musician Magazine.
Date: Spring 2007.
Original URL: http://www.australianmusician.com.au/DisplayStory.asp?StoryID=177
Q. You’re a music teacher at Wesley College in Melbourne … do song ideas sometimes come to you while teaching?
A. The jazz ensembles, when we come up with our own stuff, I might come up with a bass line or a student might and some of them are really good. I did actually nick one for a show we did at a little bar in Richmond the other night. I really enjoy the job and it keeps me in really good form with trumpet playing because I’m basically playing all day. I think I’m playing better at the moment than I’ve ever played in my life just because I get four or five hours of playing every day.
Q. How would you contrast fronting your own group as opposed to sharing the limelight in Hunters & Collectors?
A. It took me a while to actually get up the gumption to be the lead singer, not that I was worried about whether I could sing or hold the pitch but just being the front man and having that responsibility, you know, making small talk with the audience, etc. And it took a while to get going with it. But now I feel like I can get up and engage an audience. I’ve got a fantastic band together who are an amazing bunch of players. I guess one of the significant changes on this record is that Ed Bates has come in on pedal steel and he’s one of the legends of Australian music. He was in the first Sports and has played with everybody from Paul Kelly and Renee Geyer and he’s completed the picture.
Q. One of the lines on the album’s opening track Let Me Live mentions dreaming of the Seaview Ballroom circa 1982 .. you seem to be looking back with very little sentimentality?
A. That’s a fair description. There’s a couple of songs on the album that I guess are about – and Dial A Prayer is another one – you kind of see people around the traps who are still trapped in the glory days and they’ve never wanted to really let go of that. Maybe things have not gone so well for them and they took a few too many drugs and drank a few too many Jack Daniels. So there’s a little bit of that stuff on the album.
Q. So what did Hunters’ ARIA Hall Of Fame Induction in 2005 mean to you?
A. It was interesting. When Hunters broke up in ’98, as much as we kind of planned our demise in a sense and we filmed the last tour and that sort of thing, having said that once the band had finished I felt completely lost for a couple of years. I really had no idea what I would be doing.
Q. Did you become depressed?
A. Yeah I did. And it came the same time as a marriage break up as well so it was a particularly horrible time in my life I have to say. It was a pretty bleak first couple of years after that and I guess my feeling towards Hunters were pretty negative. It was like the whole Hunters experience and the disruption of a normal life had contributed to all of this which quite possibly it had but it took a while to actually look back on Hunters in positive terms. By the time the ARIA Hall Of Fame thing had come around I was feeling better about it. I’d listened back to a few of the old records and enjoyed them. I’d had conversations with people over the years saying how Hunters meant so much to them and the sound of the horn section was just so special. We all got along well on the night and got up and played and it was fantastic to do that on a big stage with a big sound and full production in front of thousands downstairs at the Regent. We played ‘Say Goodbye’ and ‘Throw Your Arms’ … and there were brief moments afterwards when we thought ‘Oh, maybe we should tour’. It was that kind of night.
Q. So is there a reunion possibility?
A. No, no, not at all. I think one of the reasons for that is that all of us are having pretty thriving individual concerns. We’re not just banging around in other bands. The diversity of my musical life at the moment, you know, the breadth of all the things I’m doing is very satisfying and I suppose a lot more multi-faceted than it was in Hunters. And I think everyone’s in a similar boat – everyone’s doing interesting things. So there’s no great compulsion to be reforming.
Q. Was Hunters in a sense a 17-year apprenticeship for what you’re doing now?
A. It’s really funny you say that because in a lot of ways that’s how it feels. I mean in Hunters were all involved with the writing and we were all credited as writers but realistically there was only so many songs of your own you could get on a record and only so many ideas of your own that you could squeeze in.
Q. Do you enjoy arranging brass on other musician’s albums?
A. Yes, when the first Pete Murray recording session came up that was probably around the Hall Of Fame thing, seeing these, I suppose, younger up and coming acts who loved that horn section sound so much, being respectful of the French horn, trumpet and trombone. I think Pete Murray had the choice of choosing between the Hunters or Cat Empire horn section and he chose the Hunters.
I went ‘YES!’ Haha. I love the Cat Empire horns too, they’re mates. And The Living End, that was French horn, trombone and trumpet horn section and that was the sound they were after and it worked very well in the end. It had that epic quality.
Q. So tell us about some of your trumpets?
A. Well, my trumpet is a Bach Stradavarius. It’s the kind of standard but really good orchestral Stradavarius model number 43. It’s getting quite long in the tooth now. I bought it in 1987 at the factory in New York which was quite exciting to go there, the home of Bach trumpets at the time. I’ve got two or three others, a German trumpet called an Alexander which has a nice smooth kind of sound but doesn’t quite have the combination of power and tone I guess. I’ve got to be able to belt it out at times but I need a warm tone for expression too. I’ve also got an Olds recording, that was the trumpet I used through all the early years with Hunters but I feel a lot happier on this Bach.