On October 30th 2020, Hector Gannet releases his debut album, 'Big Harcar' on GUGA Records. Though the artist has played beyond his native North East, it's here that he has found a level of local renown that will undoubtedly develop into national recognition once the album is reviewed by online blogs and national press, and heard by the wider listening public. Hector Gannet is a name that describes the musical output of Aaron Duff, but also the band with whom he regularly shares the stage. I was delighted to catch up with Aaron ahead of the release of the album. I started by getting the obvious question out of the way.....
The name Hector Gannet is taken from a boat my Granda sailed in. A stern trawler that was converted for use as a support vessel for gas rigs in the late 60s. The crew was made up of Shields Trawlermen like my Granda, three of whom were sadly lost when the Gannet sank attempting to rescue men from the rig after it had suffered a blowout. Thankfully my Granda survived the disaster, returning to the fishing soon after. He passed away in early March this year at the age of 93.
When I wrote the soundtrack to the Moving North: Coastal project, which sort of kicked us off as band, I was focusing a lot on my own family heritage as my Grandparents actually feature in the footage. So that name just felt right. It encapaulates where I come from for me and it's my way of paying tribute to all of that. I use Hector Gannet as an alias for solo work as well because I feel like the whole thing can take many forms, Hector Gannet is my creative output, whether I'm alone or with the lads behind me.
So, how did it all begin, and how was the band formed?
I think I started playing guitar when I was about 10 years old. My uncle taught me a few chords and I had a few lessons from a local tutor but after that I more or less found my own way. I think I was about 14 when I began messing around my own stuff. I wouldn't say I was really 'writing' until much later though.
I've been in a band with Jack (Coe) since we were 13 or 14. I've never really played alongside another drummer, we just kind of lock in together now, we can tell where each is going to go, I suppose thats something that just comes with playing together for so long. I've known (Joe) Coady for quite a while, both our old bands used to support each other often. Ive always admired his playing so I was really keen to have him on bass. He's a great player, really creative if you know what I mean, but always perfect for the song. Martin (Wann) I had known for a couple of years before he joined, he's a bit of multi-instrumentalist which has proven pretty invaluable at times! Also his experience has really helped in all aspects, his guitar work is really original but also really versatile, just like the rest of the lads. It all makes for quite a unique sound I feel.
Aaron attended the same school as Sam Fender. Presumably, seeing Sam's rise must be something of an inspiration; who would he count amongst his musical 'heroes'?
I loved the likes of Nirvava and that sort of stuff when I first started playing guitar but I think the first song I actually learnt properly was (predictably) Wonderwall. Its difficult to say who my 'heroes' were to be honest, my taste was changing all the time, suppose that's not a bad thing.
Sam was a couple of years above me at school. We definitely bonded over a mutual interest, even played together in the school 'x-factor', haha. Lush to have remained friends and amazing to have been asked to support on so many occasions.
His success is surreal, hard to comprehend at times. It's thoroughly deserved of course. I suppose the main lesson is that hard work and determination will pay off. I mean, it definitely helps if you're as talented as he is.
Many local music followers will recognise the fact that Hector Gannet exudes professionalism, from how the music is presented in recorded form, to how it's reproduced in a live setting. Serious work goes into the presentation and style, which perfectly reflects the nature of the songwriting. This is in some part due to the influence of a Manager, a well known local music fanatic, a man with many years of experience assisting local bands such as Keep Breathing, Headclouds, James Leonard Hewitson, and I wondered how important it has been for Hector Gannet to be represented by someone with a genuine passion for music.
I've know Mark for a long time, I originally approached him with my old band, The Middens. He began working with us and has managed me right through, helping me to expand and grow as an artist. I don't think I'd have gotten anywhere without Mark's backing, so because of that I'd say management is very important. It means I can focus more on creating and being an artist. I'm extremely lucky to have a manager who really believes in me and my work.
So, 'Big Harcar' will soon be with us. Named after an island in the Farnes group, with a sound that truly reflects the landscape, vast and powerful. We asked about the naming of the album, and the anticipation that accompanies its imminent release.
I love that part of Northumberland for many reasons. The wild, untouched beauty of the islands and the coastline, it's history and the cultural effect it has had on us all. This, as well as the tale of Grace Darling's heroism when rescuing survivers from the wrecked Forfarshire on Big Harcar was the inspiration for the track 'The Haven of St Aidan's', but 'Big Harcar' as a title means more than just that for me. It's stands for my fondness for the area, so much of the album was inspired by time spent around the county. Often, beauty and danger go hand-in-hand, and this is something which many of the songs touch on. It also represents our sound really well I think. Trying to describe my music has always proven difficult, so we've taken to labelling it as 'Harcar Rock', which makes a lot of sense to me!
It's very exciting. I'm confident that the songs stand up, I wouldn't release them if I wasn't. I often doubt myself, but I think that's natural and probably healthy to some degree. I don't think I would progress if I wasn't critical of myself. As far as the album is concerned, I feel like I'm releasing the best example of my music, and as for a long term career, I dont think that's something anyone can predict. Would be nice though.
Finally. I asked if 'Lockdown' had affected Aaron personally, and altered the plan in any way.
In some ways lockdown has had a surprisingly positive affect on me. If nothing else, it provided the time and inspiration needed to write new material, which I'm really excited about. Of course, the situation put a stop to much of our plans for the year. It has also meant that we've been unable to rehearse as a band which has been almost unbearable. This has been the longest I've gone without playing music with others since I was 13 years old, so it's felt pretty odd to say the least. I also found it very difficult not being able to get out into the countryside and be amongst the wilderness for a while, thats something I really rely on for a number of reasons. I'm glad that we're now able to travel further afield and I can start to get back to what I really enjoy.
For more information about Hector Gannet head to www.hectorgannet.com