Don Howatt of the APOSTLE Fractal discusses his progressive roots
(Published: July 30, 2014)
Q: When did you decide to become a musician. What inspired you.
A: It's hard to say when or if there was a decision to become a musician; what inspired me is a easier question to answer. Like many children, I had piano lessons. I also had a brief stint playing the coronet in fifth grade. I always enjoyed listening to popular music on the radio but nothing really clicked for me musically until my older brother started collecting albums when I was about 13.
After a time of being exposed to all those hard rock albums of the early to mid-'70s, I had definitely been bitten by the music bug. As I looked closer at these artists via the liner notes, I realized these bands were writing their own songs. I know it seems a little naive not to know this, but that was a real eye-opener to me. Not long after that, I started writing my own songs.
Q: How do you feel you have creatively evolved through the years.
A: In my teens, when The APOSTLE Fractal was formed, I was mostly thinking in a rock context. Steve Montague, who is older than I am and far more experienced in playing and producing music, helped me to think more broadly in terms of genre. He also taught me how to apply different genres to a rock context. By our second project we were experimenting with a lot of weird bits, and we were already doing prog.
In my 20s I started listening to a lot more jazz and classical music. I have tried, whenever possible, to incorporate all the music that I love into my writing. My songs tend to have a rock feel, but the structure often tends to be thematic much like classical music. Classical music has helped me in terms of the dynamic range of a song. Sometimes when there is a loud rock thing going, it's nice to stop for a moment and get quiet. It's like a cool breeze to be enjoyed for a moment.
I also have a great love for ambient and New Age music. All the textures weaving in and out making a musical tapestry. The intro to our latest single, "Victims," is a good example of the influence ambient and classical music has had on my songwriting.
Q: What instruments do you play and how did you learn.
A: I play guitar, drums, keyboard, and the mandolin. I also sing. I am a self-taught musician although I did have piano lessons as a child.
My mom had a baritone ukelele, and also an autoharp. I used to noodle around on the uke and come up with patterns on the autoharp. I also was paying particular attention to the drums on the music I was exposed to. I think a big drum set has always held a fascination for me. I made a drum set using buckets and cardboard boxes,and we had an old mailbox that made a great snare. I actually found a couple saw blades of my dad's that I stacked to make a decent-sounding hi-hat (non-opening of course). I would play these faux drums along with the albums.
I learned the basics of rock drumming by just listening to the pros and mimicking their drum licks. By the time I got a real drum kit, when I was in eighth grade, I could already play pretty well without any past experience with a real drum set.
I started playing guitar seriously when I was about 14. I already knew a few chords, but at that point I was a lot more motivated to learn. My older brother taught me quite a few things as he had purchased a twelve string guitar about a year earlier. I learned guitar by picking out the guitar parts on my favorite albums, and learning to play the parts. In high school my friends and I would compare notes with one another to help each other learn. I suppose this was my first experience of networking.
Q: How long has the APOSTLE Fractal been around.
A: Steve Montague and I met and started recording in 1978, we played our first gig in 1979. That's a long time, about 35 years. There is a slogan I like to say "we've been playing together for a long time, but have very little to show for it."
Q: Who else is in the APOSTLE Fractal. Do you share any songwriting duties with them.
A: Basically the band is Steve Montague and myself. I do the majority of the songwriting, as Steve enjoys the technical aspects more than the creative side. However, Steve has written some of our songs, and we have collaborated on many over the years. Steve has also had a great deal of input on how the songs are arranged. We are a team for sure.
More Information: http://www.theapostlefractal.com