Dylan Howe offers a radical new take on the instrumental cuts from David Bowie’s 1977 albums Low and Heroes for his own new album Subterranean.
Drummer Dylan, best known for leading his quintet and other jazz groups since 2002, brings the album to The Verdict in Brighton on September 26 (01273 674847)
His first studio album in ten years, it’s made up of his arrangements of Bowie’s influential music from his Berlin Trilogy and has been seven years in the making. Featured on the album as special guest is Dylan’s dad, Yes guitarist Steve Howe playing the Japanese instrument the koto.
In a way, the music wasn’t the hardest part.
“I knew I was always going to have to get David Bowie’s permission, but it took a while, to be honest,” Dylan says. “It took about six years to get a response from his manager guy in New York. He just at the last minute said ‘It’s OK, you have got our blessing.’ I was getting a little bit concerned. I was not officially supposed to release it because I still hadn’t heard back, and I was thinking ‘They could still stop this!’ But I had come that far. I thought I had to carry on. I said ‘If I don’t hear from you, I will assume that it is OK.’ But I got the yes, and they featured it on davidbowie.com. They had a page saying that they really liked it. It’s the closest I have got to an official endorsement. But I suppose that is an official endorsement!”
Dylan had liked Bowie’s mid-1970s albums Station To Station, Low, Heroes and Lodger since his early teens. “This was when he was really vital and looking for new influences and places to go to musically.”
Having released and toured four albums of Blue Note-inspired hard bop/modern jazz, Dylan felt he needed to break out and do something more original and personal to himself. He started to get a few tracks together. Warszawa and Art Decade came first, and they really worked. They seemed to create a new platform and the atmosphere he was looking for.
Dylan says it was also the first album where he really used the potential of the recording studio, with multiple sessions and overdubs, really thinking about production.
“I was making a record this time, not just recording an album. In the past I would be in the studio for a day or two at the most, or just bring a mobile studio to a gig; this time however, the process and result has been a little like the music, kind of cinematic, a feeling of scale and intensity. Think John Coltrane Quartet produced by Neu! mixed by Brian Eno in an air-raid shelter.”
Growing up as son to a Yes guitarist of course had its pluses and minuses, Dylan says: “On the plus side, you are exposed to a lot of music. It is inspiring to be around a lot of other musicians and hear a lot of music from an early age, but aside from that, I would not say that it opens doors. I suppose when people hear of you, they might initially be a little bit intrigued, but it is not a pass to something. It does not really do that, and the same goes for understanding the music business. It does not really work like that. It has to be empirical knowledge. You have to have experienced it yourself.
“But I do feel like I was able to hear a lot more music and go to a lot more gigs at an early age because of my background, and my dad has got a really eclectic record collection. I was able to get into stuff that I would really have had to search out otherwise.”