Nostalgia: Gentle Giant
Interview Kerry Minnear

'The sound of the band was the result of our writing style and the instruments available'

(July 2010, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, pictures by Fred Rosenkamp,
based upon a previously published article in Background Magazine March Edition 2005)

The album In A Glass House was recorded by the British wayward and whimsical prog band Gentle Giant. They adopted a very original musical style which was in fact a fine blend of many musical influences. You hated or loved them. Between 1969 and 1980 they made twelve albums. Itís difficult to tell which album is their best, but my all time favourite is without doubt In A Glass House. I was very curious to know how this album was realized back in 1973, so I asked original keyboard player Kerry Minnear.

Kerry Minnear
Kerry Minnear 2007

When did you start thinking, writing and recording In A Glass House?

Kerry Minnear: 'We started the preparations for that album after the Octopus-album and our first tour in the USA, after which saxophonist Phil Shulman left the band.† We also had a new management at the time.'

Were the songs written in the studio, on tour or at the rehearsals?

'We set a few weeks aside for writing after touring, but we continued to write through the recording time. I think Derek Shulman was the main lyricist.'

Does the album have a certain theme?

'Not really, but the mood of the band was quite brittle and slightly tense and I think this comes through in the music.'

Can you tell us what the lyrics of the songs mean?

'I think the songs are all pretty literal and self-explanatory - no deep hidden meanings!

The album has a nice balance between up-tempo tracks and ballads. Both side 1 and side 2 have the same sequence in up-tempo songs and ballads. Was this done on purpose or did it just happen that way?

'We planned our albums to Ďruní in an effective way. It was our intention to balance the mood throughout the album.'

Who decided to do the lead vocals on the songs? You sang the ballads while Derek sang the more up-tempo tracks.

'Derekís voice was effective for the more aggressive songs and it fell to me to sing the more Ďchoir boyí bits.'

Was the album difficult to record and why did you produce the album yourself?

'We always had a lot of fun recording and self production was a matural progress as Ray Shulman in particular had a great gift of hearing what would work.'

The album starts with one of the most recognizable intros ever: the sound of breaking glass. Who came up with that idea?

'I think Ray. It came from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. These sounds are still used on BBC Radio programs.'

Way Of Life starts with a screaming Go! Was this invented in the studio or was it part of the song?

'Just a moment of excitement captured as Gary Green overdubbed a guitar part!

The album ends with a short mix of all the songs from the album.

It sounds brilliantly.

Who came

up with that idea?

'Ray and Derek, I think. We often toyed with the idea of an index at the end and this time we did it.'

Who inspired you to record such a masterpiece? Which bands did you like and which influenced you?

'Speaking personally, I listened mainly to classical music.† We were quite focused on what we were doing. Quite insular really.'

Was it difficult to perform the songs live on stage? Did you have problems with your live gear at the time?

'We often adapted songs for live performance to give them more impact and allow us to be energetic. My keyboard set up was a bit experimental.'

2009: (L to R) Malcolm Montimore (drums), Kerry Minnear (keys),
Fred Rosenkamp (Lady Lake), Derek Shulman (vocals),Gary Green (Guitar)

The original album version was shorter than the second CD-version. Who came with the idea to include the live tracks The Runaway/Experience and In A Glass House?

'Rays idea, I think, to give the new release something extra.'

The album was already released on CD in 1992.

Were you involved in this project?

'Actually, no. The album was released by a third party who went bust before accounting to us.'

Was it difficult to put the original album, released in 1973, on CD?

'No, it was fun to hear it again and we enjoyed remastering it with modern equipment.'

Did you ever play the album live as a whole piece of music?†††

'No, we actually never did because we had several other audience favourites to play during the live set.'

Do you think this album to be the best you ever recorded?

'Not personally. I tend to think there were magical moments on most of the albums we recorded.'

How did the album sell in those days?

'It wasnít released at all in the USA and elsewhere it was received like our other releases with no obvious surge or drop in sales.'

Kerry Minnear 1975
Kerry Minnear 1975

It wasnít released in the USA, you just said, but according to my information it became one of Americaís top import albums selling a 150.000 copies. Is this true?

'Iím not sure whether this figure is accurate, but itís true that we had no stateside representation at the time of the release.'

For the band this was a reason to tour in the USA. You sold out five gigs at the Whiskey in Los Angeles. To what extent is an American audience different from a European?

'American people always enthusiastically show their appreciation and excitement in an act. Europeans react more subdued.'

How do you look back at this period in the history of the band?

'This era was a testing time without Phil Shulman, but also an exciting new start with our drummer John Weathers on board and a new management.'

Did you record demos or write material at the time of In A Glass House that you didnít use?

'Iím not aware of any writing which was shelved, because time was so short and everything was used.'

Gentle Giant sounds very original on In A Glass House.† Who invented this typical GG-sound? How do you think of current bands trying to copy that sound like Spockís Beard for example?

'The sound of the band was the result of our writing style and the instruments available at the time. If people use elements of what we did in their music, thatís fine with us.'

What happened to the band members that recorded In A Glass House?

'Weíre all still around in different parts of the globe. We keep in touch occasionally.'

Gentle Giant 1978

What are you doing yourself nowadays?††

'Iím teaching music mainly.'

Thanks for answering all my questions.††

'Youíre welcome!'

(Thanks to Lesley Minnear)

Gentle Giant Website

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