HON is an exciting new band of jazz musicians. I had a chat with the band leader and composer Huw V Williams about his latest project and their debut album.
You chose your band name from a poem by TH Parry Williams. Is your music often inspired by other arts?
Being a big comedy fan, what appeals to me about it is how it can exist in different forms. Stand up comics like Stewart Lee have a long form then there’s sketch comedy where it’s straight to the point and over in a flash, or even some Two Ronnie’s sketches where the writing works on so many levels. I like to take inspiration from these forms and apply them to music.
As well as inspiration from the arts, all the tunes on the album have little stories behind the titles and others such as ‘Retrogressive Shredfest’ and ‘Slumps’ which literally describe moments in the tune.
What are your main musical influences?
In my record collection there are a lot of different types of music, but at the time of writing the tunes on the album, I was listening to bands such as Dirty Projectors, Deerhoof, St Vincent, Cuddle Magic and Gruff Rhys.
I was checking out a lot of current jazz as well, such as Claudia Quintet, Chris Speed, Jim Black, Tim Berne and some minimalist pieces, such as Steve Reich’s Music for 18 musicians.
I like to keep adding more music to the pot as far as influences go, so the records that have been spinning recently are David Bowie’s Blackstar, Tom Waits’ Frank’s Wild Years and more recently an album called Palace of Winds by a tenor saxophone quartet called Battle Trance.
Describe the album in three words….
Mostly improvised music
How did HON start playing together?
I was aware of all the band members music/playing before meeting. Myself and Pete (the drummer) got put in touch and we played a few tunes in his living room in the summer of 2012. A year later, I was on a gig with Alam (saxophone) and we said “let’s play!”. I played with Elliot briefly on accordion and thought it would be a great addition to any compositions, we were then a quartet. Then I booked us a gig and wanted to add a trumpet to the music, Laura was my first choice, luckily she agreed to play!
You and your band are jazz musicians, so how much of the album happened as part of improvisation when recording?
It differs from tune to tune, but there was a fair bit of free improvising. As far as written material goes, it was open to suggestions and leaving the other musicians to do what they do best. We also recorded some completely improvised pieces which are available on my bandcamp page, huwvwilliams1.bandcamp.com.
Your tunes never seem to stick to one genre for long. Was this a conscious decision?
Overthinking stuff has never been a part of my agenda, so I try and let all the music happen as naturally as possible. I’m really into a band called Mr Bungle (another band for the influence list), they usually change genre every few bars, maybe that’s seeped into my writing!
Is there any genre that you would consider off limits for your tunes?
I don’t like the idea any music ever being off limits, but I wouldn’t ever want anything to sound too traditional either.
As a composer and a performer , which do you find more rewarding?
There are many rewards at different stages of the process. The hardest bit is starting, but when you have a good idea everything after that pours out, I find that very satisfying. But the bit I like most is rehearsal, when we get to workshop the piece and hear it back. That’s the moment the piece is no longer mine, but belongs to the whole band.
What are your plans for Hon in the future?
I have given myself a challenge of writing a piece of music every week, so that will hopefully be the next book of music for HON to be performed later on in the year. We are currently booking gigs in for December/January, so keep your ears peeled!