The Glider is a project between long time friends and collaborators Nick Garbett and Mike Majkowski. You might remember bassist and composer Majkowski via his solo work, his role in Lotto or via his collaborations alongside Tony Buck (The Necks) with Ethiopia legend Hailu Mergia. The Glider also features Australian drummers Tony Buck, Finn Ryan and Steve Heather, with Majkowski on bass and synthesisers, Garbett on effected trumpet, Johannes Schlieirmacher on saxophone, and a guest appearance by guitarist Matt Smith. It’s an impressive lineup, so not surprisingly the music is pretty impressive too, a lush groove laden outing that always feels like its on the move. We were quite entranced by the albums deep hypnotic feel so took the opportunity to reach out to trumpeter Nick Garbett. Nick is a founding member and co-leader of Sydney based groups The Vampires and The Strides along with his own groups Garfish and the Nick Garbett Quintet. He was also a long time member of Colombian roots band Watussi and has worked with the likes of Don Henley, Passenger, Noel Gallagher, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss, Bernard Fanning, Lionel Loueke, Angus Stone, The Beautiful Girls, Mat Mchugh, Jessica Mauboy, and Tex Perkins.
Cyclic Defrost: How did you two begin to play together?
Nick Garbett: We actually went to university together, studying jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. We were in the same year, so we would have met and started playing together in 2001.
Cyclic Defrost: This music feels like movement or momentum. I’m not quite sure why. It reminds me a little of the Necks Drive By. Did you have much idea of what you were working towards? Were there any touchstones in mind?
Nick Garbett: Because so many elements of the music are quite repetitive, making sure that there was movement, momentum and development in each song was very important to us. The entire process was an experiment from the start though. While Mike and I had played together in bands before and were good friends, we had never produced an album together. So other than making some interesting and hopefully listenable music, there were no obvious touchstones along the way. Having said that, the music of the late Jon Hassell was definitely an inspiration for us in the early stages of making this album.
Cyclic Defrost: Did you discuss mood at all? Actually what did you discuss?
Nick Garbett: Yeah I think we did discuss mood. Mostly the overall mood, making sure there was plenty of light and space to balance out some of the darker, more entangled elements of the music. Also making sure the grooves weren’t jeopardised by the more colourful and abstract sounds was important to us.
Can you talk a little bit about how you put together the band. I understand it was recorded in Berlin there seems to be a real Aussie expat thing going on here?
Nick Garbett: The album was actually born out of an award I won in August 2018 in Sydney called the Freedman Jazz Fellowship. I was moving to Italy around that time so the basic brief for the project was to record an album in Berlin featuring a predominantly Aussie expat band. I knew Mike Majkowski and Tony Buck were living there and that they had been playing together a lot over the years, so getting those guys involved was an obvious and exciting first step. After we had decided that we were going to make a groove album, Mike suggested we ask Steve Heather to play percussion on the album because he and Tony had also been playing together for many years. Finn Ryan is another great drummer friend of ours from Sydney who had just moved to Berlin, so we thought “you can never have too many drummers…let’s ask Finn too!” Mike also suggested we ask Johannes Schleiermacher to record some saxophone on the album. Johannes plays with some incredible afrobeat and free improv bands in Berlin and his sound was perfect for what we were hearing for the music.
Cyclic Defrost: This music feels quite composed, yet there’s also this looseness often grounded by the driving repetitive bass. Can you talk a little bit about the compositional process?
Nick Garbett: Essentially it was the way we went about recording the album that dictated the compositional process. It all started with two days of tracking predominantly improvised rhythm section takes. The first day we just recorded Tony, Finn and Steve on drums and percussion and the second day we added Mike on bass. We then took all the rhythm stems and began cutting them up to create loops. On top of the raw loops we began layering other sounds including horn section parts, effected horn solos, extra bass parts, lots more percussion and drums, plenty of synthesizers and even some organ. After we had all of that material we spent a couple of months (spread throughout the year) piecing it all together in Mike’s home studio and essentially composing the music together as we went. Often by the time we were finished with a song there would be little to nothing left of the original recordings.
Cyclic Defrost: What draws you personally to the music of The Glider? What does it mean to you?
Nick Garbett: To me the music represents a new and exciting collaboration with Mike. Aside from our friendship I’ve always respected and admired Mike’s playing and approach to making music. He is an uncompromising perfectionist in the best possible way!
This album also represents a new musical direction for me and a massive learning curve. While Mike is a wizard with editing/production tools, I’ve always taken a more “live in the studio” approach to recording my music. Having the opportunity to produce this album with Mike in his home studio was hugely rewarding and opened my eyes to a new world of compositional and production possibilities.
Cyclic Defrost: I understand the project took two years. How did you go about putting it together? And why did it take so long?
Nick Garbett: We were in no particular rush to finish the album. Also I was living on a very remote island off the bottom of Sicily called Lampedusa at the time so I had to plan trips up to Berlin way ahead of time to work with Mike.
Cyclic Defrost: Reverb seems to play an important role – particularly for the horns. Can you talk a little bit about some of the decision making there.
Nick Garbett: Yeah we love reverb and delay, they create a nice bubble for the songs to exist in. Both Mike and I are big fans of Jamaican Dub artists such as Scientist, Prince Jammy and King Tubby so that was definitely an inspiration for us while we were working on this album. Some of the verbs/delays were recorded live, including a Space Echo and spring reverb on the drums. We also added extra verbs while we were editing in Mike’s studio then finally while we were mixing with Joe Talia we added a whole lot more Space Echo and spring reverb.
Cyclic Defrost: In these Covid times live shows are difficult, but I understand there has been an album launch in Australia – albeit without the Berlin contingent.
Nick Garbett: Yeah the live element of this project has been tricky to navigate. I moved back to Australia from Italy in March this year and managed to pull together a couple of shows playing this music in Wollongong and Sydney before the current lockdown kicked in. We had a tour planned for September but that’s all gone out the window for the time being. We’ll hopefully be playing a few shows in November then touring extensively in Feb/March 2022.
The Australian incarnation of the band features some great Sydney/Wollongong based musicians with Matt Keegan – saxophone, Godriguez – guitar, Pat Harris – bass, Aykho Akhriff – percussion and Finn Ryan – drums.
Cyclic Defrost: Is this an ongoing project?
Nick Garbett: Yes definitely! We’re already working on the next album which will predominately involve recording in Australia and production in Berlin.
Cyclic Defrost: And it would be remiss of me to ask about some of your current projects. What else are you currently working on?
Nick Garbett: Aside from this project I also run a Sydney based reggae band called The Strides and I’m a member of another group called The Vampires with Jeremy Rose – sax, Alex Masso – drums and Noel Mason – bass. With the latter we are working on a new recording project featuring the incredible pianist Chris Abrahams from The Necks. The plan is to record in November and release the album in mid 2022. I can’t see international touring happening any time soon but hopefully we’ll be on the road in Australia before the end of 2021.
Mike is also a member of the quartet Das B. with Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet), Magda Mayas (piano) and Tony Buck (drums), as well as the trio Lotto with guitarist Lukasz Rychlicki and drummer Pawel Szpura. Both bands are currently working on new material. Apart from that, Mike is also working on new solo material.
The Glider is released today via Banksia Records. You can find it here.