Mark Guiliana in Six

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Mark Guiliana has become recognised as one of the world’s leading drummers. Ahead of performing with his Jazz Quartet at The CBSO Centre, presented by THSH’s Jazzlines, Mark discussed his heroes and working with Heroes hit-maker, Davie Bowie.

As a child, which drummers inspired you to pursue percussion as a career?

When I first started playing the drums it was in 1995 and I was really inspired by the music on the radio at the time, and on MTV. It was mostly rock music - bands like Nirvana and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Sound Garden. So it was those drummers, Dave Grohl, Chad Smith and Matt Cameron and many more that were the first guys to make drumming really seem like something I wanted to get into and focus on.

And then a few years later I discovered jazz and that’s really when I fell in love with the guys who have since become really my heroes like Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Jack DeJohnette – the list goes on…

Jersey is the second album released by your Jazz Quartet, who will be performing in Birmingham in April. How did you select the other artists of your troupe?

It’s quite simple how I choose them. They’re really some of my favourite musicians and very close friends. I’ve had long relationships with each of them and we’ve played in a wide variety of musical situations. That’s one of the luxuries of leading a band – you get to pick who you make music with. I’m very, very grateful to have these specific guys in the group because what they bring to the music is unique to them and very inspiring.

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This album was recorded after a two-week tour of Europe – are their plans to record a third album as a result of this current tour?

We won’t be recording anytime soon, that I know of. But we’re always working on new music and adding music to the repertoire which, of course, I hope will get recorded in the future.

You worked on David Bowie’s multiple Grammy-award winning final album, Blackstar. What was the process of working with Bowie like and were you aware of the significance of working on that album, as his last?

Working with David was an exceptional experience, a truly life-changing experience. He was so kind and generous and funny and brilliant .I learned so much from him and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to spend that time with him. We didn’t know it was going to be his last record as we were making it. Still the commitment to the moment and to the music that was present in that session, I like to believe you can hear that on the recording. It was an exceptional experience. I’m so grateful to be part of that record.

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Other than purchasing your book and DVD, titled Exploring Your Creativity on the Drumset, what advice would you have for aspiring drummers?

The number one piece of advice I’d have for aspiring drummers is to play with other people as much as possible. Of course we need to practice our instrument alone but I think if you practice the drums you’ll become a better drummer, but if you practice with other musicians you’ll become a better musician.

THSH’s Jazzlines is the programme that brings you to Birmingham. Why is it so important for Arts Council England to continue to fund this unique programme of creative jazz music and Talent Development initiatives?

I’m very happy to be bringing the band to Birmingham. I think it’s so great for the Arts Council to fund programmes like this for us to be able to share our music, but most importantly for people to have access to creative music. I’d like to believe that it’s a win-win for everyone. It’s always a pleasure to meet new people and to play for new people. I hope that by us bringing our music and giving the best we have, hopefully we can send people home with some new inspiration to bring to whatever it is they’re passionate about in their lives. This funding is incredibly important and I certainly do hope it continues, specifically for the creative arts.