This Gary Brooker interview was conducted in 1990 by Carsten Overgaard and Niels-Erik Mortensen: we've split it into various parts: find the rest by clicking here
Delta, R & B, Charity gigs: 'I always like to talk of Procol Harum in the present'
Well maybe it turns on to the reason that you are here in Denmark now: you have done a piece of music to a ballet called Delta and you have composed the music. Could you tell us a little bit about how you did it, and maybe if it will be published in some way?
Well um, it came as a commission from the Royal Danish Ballet, which in case you don't what that means, is they say to you, ’We want you to write the music for a ballet, please do it, here's the money’ – or whatever. It's not like writing a piece of music and you don't know whether it's going to be performed. You know that it is going to be and you know who's going to do it, and you know what the choreographer wants to a certain extent, and it was quite an extreme challenge.
It's been a long time coming, that I've never put myself out to be able to do that kind of thing: The only orchestration I've ever done is for the Procol songs and a few of my own, you would have thought that I was more likely to have had that kind of offer when the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra album was out, or around that time, but here we are in 1990 and somebody's eventually sad, 'Could you write us an original piece’. Which I attacked with my usual ferocity, and I'm very pleased with the result, and I'm really looking forward. It's going to be a great relief to actually have somebody else to play your music, not actually having to be there doing it yourself.
Did you write some kind of music that could be played within a rock orchestra instead of a classical orchestra. Could it be re-orchestrated for rock purposes?
Um, I'm sure that ... I don't know if you could find a way to play it ... yes, I mean there's no reason why it couldn't be played ...
The other way around with In Held 'Twas In I, you made a kind of symphony ...
Yes, what was originally a group and a few odd instruments, and I think ... this would work the other way round. Certain of the sounds of it, I mean the effect is produced because it's an oboe, but who's to say it wouldn't sound good on an organ, or an alto sax or a guitar? The basic underlying rhythms an pieces would be pretty good with a rock band.
But you haven't have any plans for publication yet besides of course this live performances?
Oh no, it will be on record before too long, the music I've written for this, yes, it's too much work to do and not ... I mean, my mum wants to buy it, you know.
It would be a wonderful idea for your fans to have the possibility to buy it on record.
Yeah, oh, well I hope ... what I mean is that it's about 25 minutes long, and I've got to write the B-side. You know you can't ... that's one side of a CD or a record, so I've got to write the other side.
You've got to combine it with something else.
But it would not be the album you are working on currently, of course, because that would be ...
No ... an there is a subtle difference between doing a Procol Harum song and doing a Gary Brooker song ... because ... I can go off into ... I mean I've, you know, if it's my own song ... I've done a country & western fishing song on one of my albums, which I don't think it would sit well in a set of Procol Harum songs, somehow, it's just not in the spirit. And there is something that exists about Procol Harum that is a separate entity, and it's always seemed to have been chugging along and being there to call one now and again, although it is made up of people, there also seems to be something else there.
That leads me to the question, do you nowadays feel more like Gary Brooker, the composer, than Gary Brooker, the member of Procol Harum - the once-member of Procol Harum?
Well, I always like to talk of Procol Harum in the present, always ... as ... anyway ... that's one thing.
You've played more years outside Procol that within it.
Mmm. Well, time - tempus fugit! But today, at this moment in time, I feel like I'm Gary Brooker, the composer, the other week I was feeling like Gary Brooker, the vocalist with Procol Harum. So I think it depends on the action of the week. I mean next week I'll be playing rhythm'n'blues with my own rhythm'n'blues band, so I shall feel like an impersonator of Little Richard that day.
So you're still doing some touring and some live playing?
What we do is a lot of charity shows where we can raise some money for a worthy cause and we have a great time as well.
What - the worthy cause?
Well, most of the things that we do are concerned with the relief of cancer sufferers in some way or another, either by self-help groups, helping them, or by providing nurses for terminally-ill, or a piece of equipment, you know, a scanner or something. It seems ... and a lot of them, where I locally live, you can generate quite a lot of money and you can see it work. I mean, sometimes ... we did something for Save the Children for example which is big charity, but I think we were able to give them about three thousand pounds or something from this little gig we did in a pub, but I don't know, I didn't quite get the satisfaction because I saw it go into the big pot and it probably helped to pay the rent on one of their offices or something ... but that three thousand pounds given to the Guildford Cancer Self-help Group would have enabled a hundred people to have gone to a clinic where they would have learned to look after themselves and I prefer that kind of action.
When I called you some time ago you were just going up to London to some kind of performance. What are you working on right now?
Well, that was in fact a big Charity Ball where we had a big band. I sort of end up at the helm of this big band now and again, which has usually quite a few stars in it, and it has a big brass section and percussion and a couple of drummers and six backing-vocalists and four or five guitarists, three of four keyboards, and last time we had Dave Gilmour and Justin Hayward, Chrissie Hynde, Ian Paice was on drums, you know that sort of ... get together a good gang of people and we play a few of our own songs and a few golden oldies, mostly sort of late ... early 60s songs. And raise a load of money, we raised ... well, we did one night last week and I think the charity cleared I think about £75,000 on that night, so that was a good night's work.
These concerts, will they appear on record too?
No, got to be there. (Corny voice) 'Be there or be square!'
So you've the supergroup of all times and you don't have a tape-recorder!
I will have a tape-recording. Nobody else will (Laughing).