Jack Howard has a long history as a horn player and arranger perhaps most notably through his work with Hunters and Collectors but, along the way, he has also played with a lot of other great bands including Midnight Oil and Models. I caught up with Jack to talk about Epic Brass, his upcoming show at the Memo Music Hall this Saturday.
Last year, he had what he calls ‘a light bulb moment’ when he realised that he could probably build a good show out of all this. “It led me on a bit of a journey of discovery because there’s the obvious stuff that everyone is well aware of; the big Midnight Oil songs like the ‘Power and the Passion’ and the Hunters stuff like ‘Say Goodbye’, for instance.” So he asked around and spoke to some people whose opinion he trusted; people who had a bit of knowledge in these things and it led to discovering some more obscure tracks by various bands he had worked with, including the Jackson Code and the Wet Taxis. “Both of those bands had a great brass section and we found songs that I just didn’t know. I suppose I was aware of all of the obvious stuff but there was a lot of stuff that had snuck through the cracks with me so the show is, as I describe it, ‘The Horn Hits and Hidden Gems from the Golden Age of Australian Rock’ for want of a better term. We’ll be playing some of the big obvious stuff that you kind of expect to hear but we’ll also play a lot of the obscure stuff and we’ve got some really great special guests involved as well including Sean Kelly from Models, Ron Peno from Died Pretty, Fiona Lee Maynard, Penny Ikinger, Steve Lucas (X), Paulie Stewart (Painters and Dockers)… a whole bunch of local legends and people that I’m connected with in the brass stuff as well; Steve Lucas, for instance. The Horns of Contempt, the brass section from the Hunters and Collectors, played a lot with X and recorded on their classic albums back in the 80s so we do some of that stuff. And we used to play with Models quite a bit. I play with Fiona Lee Maynard’s band and I played with Painters and Dockers when they first recorded so there’s all these connections to a whole lot of people.”
While Jack says it has been a lot of fun putting it all together, there has also been a lot of organisation involved. “I’ve made so many phone calls just to get everybody in the one place at the one time but it has come together really well and it will be a fantastic night.” The Epic Brass team features some great musicians including Ash Davies on drums, Steve Hadley on bass, Nicky Del Rey and Jason Kain on guitars and, of course, an impressive five piece horn section. “The band is great,” he says. “There are some really quite tricky songs in the show, particularly some of the Midnight Oil stuff. It’s kind of almost prog rock and they have little weird kind of eccentric twists and turns. It’s been a challenge in itself just figuring the songs out but everyone’s enjoying it. They’re all along for the ride which is great.”
Jack started out on what he says was a fairly traditional brass player path. “I started out when I was about nine or ten in the Brunswick Municipal Band with my dad. My dad played drums with them. I started going there and I took to it pretty well so I kept on playing. Before Hunters and Collectors, I was an orchestral player so I was doing lots and lots of stuff and I’d go back to that and join an orchestra if I could, if they’d have me, in a minute! I had a ball doing that. I was playing in the Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Australian Youth Orchestra, all sorts of things but I was also going to see lots and lots of bands because I was a massive rock ‘n’ roll fan. In about 1979 and the early 80s, I was starting to see Models and Flowers and Birthday Party and hanging around the Ballroom and all of that kind of stuff and started to get the thought ‘Well maybe I might be able to get to play with one of these bands,’ and luckily I managed to get into Hunters and Collectors and kind of went from there. The guys that I asked along to play as well were my orchestral buddies, Jeremy Smith and Michael Waters on French horn and trombone so we stayed the journey and I branched out into playing keyboards and writing songs and singing backing vocals and all sorts of things but that’s what started my early journey as a brass player, more orchestral and big band or jazz.”
He has released several solo recordings over the years. “The latest one,” he tells me, “is ‘The Passing Parade’, a six track EP of stuff that I did at home on my own with a bit of help from Nicky Del Rey on guitar and Heather Michael from our Bacharach Band, on backing vocals but I did all the rest in the computer program Logic at home and had lots of fun doing that so that’s my latest one but I’ve been in lots of bands over the years and playing all the time with all sorts of people around the traps. I haven’t stopped, that’s for sure.”
As Jack says, he hasn’t stopped and his latest project, Epic Brass, seems to have captured the imagination of music fans. “It’s different; it’s all Australian. I suppose it’s time for a revisit of some of those bands. A lot of people are doing tribute shows these days and that’s fine but it’s a hard to make a buck in the music industry especially making original music so people are just trying to get as many irons in the fire as they can to make everything add up but I’d like to think that this one with all Australian content is something a bit different and I’ve written program notes for it which is a bit of an historical journey through some of the horn sections around the place.” The concept has certainly created a great deal of interest and Jack is hoping that there will be enough interest in the show to lead to future work, perhaps some festivals down the line. “Today, St. Kilda,” he says with a laugh, “Tomorrow the world!”
Epic Brass is at the Memo Music Hall in St. Kilda this Saturday night, 9th July and Jack says that, if you’re going, the show kicks off on the dot at 8:40pm. There is no support band. “We go straight into it with one of the best songs of the lot so we do kick it off right from the word go.” In other words, don’t be late!
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2016. All rights reserved
Get further information about Epic Brass and book your tickets here.