Interview from Italian television
This interview with Gentle Giant appeared in Italian on Giant on the Box. This is an English translation.
Derek: Hello. I am Derek Shulman, and I'm the singer. I play the saxophone and also the bass guitar sometimes. I am a one of the original founder members of Gentle Giant. (Pointing to Gary) Gary Green. (Derek falls off his chair.)
Background voices: Bring on the dancing girls!
D: How can I be serious now?!
Gary: I am Gary Green, I play the guitar, the percussion and various other things. I joined the band in 1970, right at the start.
John: My name is John Patrick Weathers, or Giovanni Catastrophe! Drummer and nothing else….. nothing! (Laughter)
Ray: And I am Ray Shulman, Derek's brother - HIS brother (pointing to Derek). I play the guitar, the bass and many other things… trumpet.
D: Are you one of the founder members?
R: I am also one of the founder members.
Interviewer: Are you an original member? (to Ray)
All: He's not. (Pointing at John) But we were!
J: Thank you! I joined three years ago.
Kerry: And my name's Kerry Minnear and I play keyboards and I was there from the beginning. I also play the cello and am learning the oboe - or trying very hard to! (Pause.) Thank you.
Int: When did you start playing together?
D: We started at the beginning of 1970.
Int: With the intention of playing professionally straight away?
D: Yes. In Gentle Giant, the original idea was to become professional. Prior to that, we had come from another band that was quite well known in England. The music was utterly… it was rubbish! Finally we went in search of musicians with similar ideas to us. We met Kerry straight away. Kerry had just left the Royal Academy of Music and thought along the same lines as we did. As far as the music was concerned, he encouraged us to think down new lines, and we decided to follow his advice. In the following months we tried more than forty guitarists. Finally we found Gary, who was the first person to actually ask to tune up, and we thought, 'Yeah, - he's fine. He'll do!'
And we went through a few drummers, too. In the first few years we tried various, without great results, before the album 'Octopus' came out, when we found John. John joined us a few days after he left another band.
Initially Gentle Giant wanted to try a new form of music. We wanted to spend more time on our own music, so the idea was just to see what we could get out of each other's music.
Int: Is your music accessible to everyone, or just to music experts?
When we are in the studio we please ourselves. The public isn't there. If what we write is genuinely good, we continue as we want. If the record shops like it, that's good. If not, that's their problem. Fortunately now the records are doing well in America, Europe and even in the UK, so now our music is accessible to everyone. At the start, it wasn't so easy for us. People thought our music was strange, but now, after a few years, they are saying that Gentle Giants' music is good, they know what they're doing now, so I suppose it is appealing to the masses.
Int: Great Britain came to appreciate your music long after Italy did. Normally with pop music it is the other way round. What do you think about that?
Derek: I agree. It's very strange because our success began in Italy, and then it spread to continental Europe. Only much later did we have success in the UK, which is logical because the Brits are much more conservative and a few of our contemporaries believe what they read in the newspapers. They think we have no fans. But it's not true…. When we go on tour, it's very important that people have a chance to see us.
Int: The Italian public loves ….. English ? Rock.. music, especially yours. What type of Italian music would appeal to the English? Do you know any of our bands?
Kerry: There are a few who would dare to rival an English group! The main one is PFM (Premiata degli Alcani??? (This could be the full name of the band- Premiata Forneria Marconi ). They are well known, or people have heard of them, anyway.
Kerry: Verdi is very popular, and Scarlatti is quite popular, too. However, it is difficult for an Italian or European group to establish itself in the UK, because we already have lots of good groups, and the only guys who have achieved good results are PFM (background echoes…. PFM…..PFM…. (laughter))
Int: In Italy at the moment we have a problem with the cost of tickets. Many people don't want to pay, and some prices are rising. What do you think?
Derek: The people who don't want to pay must realise that groups have instruments worth a fortune, which the musicians have to pay for out of their own pockets. Then there are the wages of the technicians and managers. We have many people working for us who we have to pay. We have to eat, we have to pay our hotel bills, therefore if we don't charge, we cannot play the show. If not, we can't eat. So people need to understand we can't return to play here. And anyway, we don't have Rolls Royce's or Ferraris. We aren't doing this to get rich, we just want to play music. To play music people have to pay, otherwise English and American groups won't come to play in Italy any more. So it's very important.
Int: If finances look good, how do you anticipate your shows taking place?
Ray: We have to earn money so we can exist, obviously, but people who want to come into our concerts free… I don't think they would accept working for free. We need to live, also.
Int: How important is staging during your shows?
Ray: Both music and scenery have their place. Music comes first, the stage show comes later. All the effects - lighting, props, movement - these come after the music, and are supposed to enhance whatever the music suggests.
Int: A group is a small business. But if a great musician asked one of you to join him, what would happen to the group?
Ray: We all had offers to work outside Gentle Giant. Kerry, for example, was contacted by American artists to write music, but we have decided that we are not doing any other work. They even offered us the chance to work in cinema, but it didn't seem right to broaden our horizons. We feel we shouldn't do this just at the present time. We'll concentrate on Gentle Giant.