Tuesday, December 8, 2015

FEATURE - Exploring the Eponymous Four: Trey Gunn on Peter Gabriel's Early Years

The Security Project. Photo by Eric de Bruijn (www.ericdebruijn.com)

Any band comprised of members of some of the most revered groups in history would earn plenty of attention regardless of the sounds they made, but what The Security Project offers the world is truly special. Formed in 2012, The Security Project finds master musician Trey Gunn (King Crimson) joining forces with keyboardist David Jameson (Time Machine/Beyond The Wall) and drum legend Jerry Marotta (Hall & Oates/Stevie Nicks/Paul McCartney) to perform the music of Marotta's one-time bandleader, Peter Gabriel. On December 13, music fans in New Hampshire can experience this rare combination of musicians in person when the band brings its show to the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry.

Although Peter Gabriel boasts a massive discography on his own as well as with Genesis, the members of The Security Project focus on the earliest, most experimental period in the singer's long-running solo career. Currently, the band's set utilizes material from Gabriel's first four eponymous solo albums (released from 1977 to 1982) and 1983's Plays Live. (Marotta served as Gabriel's drummer from 1977 to 1986.) Gunn sees working with the group as an opportunity to explore music that has moved him throughout the years.

“I really love that older material a lot,” he says. “In fact, the third record [commonly known among fans as Melt] was just one of those lightning bolt records for me. I was like, 'What the hell is this? What am I listening to? This is so cool. I can't tell what the sounds are; I can't tell how the music's put together, but I just love it.' That record had a big impact on me.”

With The Security Project, Gabriel fans can enjoy a journey through an era that hasn't been explored by the singer for quite some time.

“The idea was, 'What if we really took seriously this older Peter material that [he] doesn't play anymore?'” Gunn explains. “Peter got so huge with the So record and onward; he really focuses on his big hits, so we thought, 'What if we really dig into the older, darker, epic pieces from that period that he doesn't approach anymore for whatever reason? Let's do the things that Peter's not doing [from] this era that we really love.' To me, it was just this great way to explore what I think is just some really awesome material.”

In addition to the three original members, the current lineup of The Security Project includes guitarist Michael Cozzi (a veteran of UK Alternative group Shriekback and the brilliant Seattle-based act Sky Cries Mary) and vocalist Brian Cummins, whose ability to recreate Gabriel's vocal stylings is downright stunning.

“Peter's voice was so specific; it's so particular, and that's one of the beautiful things about him,” offers Gunn. “You either go authentic to his voice, or you go sideways. Brian can do a little bit of both, but he really has Peter's phrasing. It's really fascinating; I can't quite put my finger on the whole thing about why this [group] actually works. By all rights, it shouldn't work, to be honest. (laughs) By all rights, it should be lame, but it's not. It's actually really amazing.”

Since Gunn has been so intimate with Gabriel's music for so long now through The Security Project, what would he say is the man's greatest strength as an artist, particularly during the period that the band is representing?

“One of the fascinating things about going back to any music from that time period – but more specifically Peter – is that this is pre-computer music,” he replies. “It wasn't made on computers; there wasn't digital editing. There was very little editing, because all you could do was punch in and out on 24-track analog giant tape. Music has changed its internal structure so much [since] that time period by computers and putting music onto a grid and being able to edit performances. Music has become a lot more square; it fits onto a grid now. Sections are in symmetrical shapes; that's pretty much how most modern music is made... But [with] these earlier records, the shapes and the phrases and the geometry of the pieces are so unusual and different. I actually was kind of shocked to find this out.”

Gunn cites Melt's “Intruder” as a perfect example of this phenomenon.

As he says, “I thought the song was just Phil Collins playing this drum groove. It just kind of went along and did these different things, but [I thought] that it was basically kind of the same thing all the way through. But it's not; there's a lot of form to it, and the form is very strange. There are little groups of 2/4 bars here, a phrase extends, a phrase gets chopped off and there are funny sections and this beautiful structure inside the whole piece that I had no idea [about].

“Even when you take Peter's music then and put it next to music that was going on at the time, there was just a freedom and a creative flow to it,” he adds. “It was all very musical; it wasn't abstractly constructed. It's frickin' brilliant; it sounds crazily fresh even now – even post-Nine Inch Nails, Tool and all this music that's happened since then.”

Not surprisingly, Gunn's fascination with Gabriel has greatly informed his own work. His latest solo release, The Waters, They Are Rising, features a combination of live performances based on Gabriel's “Here Comes The Flood in addition to music from his score for the film Every Beautiful Thing

Fueled by some of the most adventurous minds in music, The Security Project delivers a truly unique spin on an artist already known to stretch the boundaries of convention.

“It actually is its own thing,” says Gunn of the experience. “It actually is working at a deep, artistic level, and it kind of surprises me. To be honest, the idea of doing a tribute [and] cover material is not inherently interesting to me, but this works.”

The Security Project performs this Sunday, December 13 at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, MA. Go here for tickets. Go here for The Security Project's official website.  

EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

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