Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate is a three-piece progressive rock band from London. The band talks about their musical inspirations and what life as gigging musicians has taught them with Pana Markides. Their sci-fi and history inspired album ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ is available now.
By The Hard Baroquer
Hats Off Gentleman It’s Adequate are a London-based progressive rock band whose sci-fi and history inspired songs inspire their listeners to stop and think. Their songs deal with subject matter that is often not easy to deal with – such as WWII inspired tracks Ark and Lidice. As well as prog rock, their music draws inspiration from alternative rock, classic rock as well as classical music and electronic music as well as incorporating elements of folk, funk, jazz and metal.
The line-up is made up of guitarist and main song writer Malcolm Galloway and long-time band mate Mark Gatland, as well as Galloway’s wife, flautist Kathryn Thomas. Through their Glass Castle label, the band has released five albums since they debuted in 2012, most recently ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ in May 2020, as well as three EPs.
The group earned recognition in the prog rock sphere in 2017 when at the last minute they replaced a band that had pulled out of Hard Rock Hell’s Prog Festival in Wales due to injury; Hats Off played a set to a crowd of 1,000 and their album, When The Kill Code Fails was recommended by Genesis’ Steve Hackett.
As well as being a common fixture at UK prog festivals, the band plays regularly at venues around London and they also regularly perform charity shows to raise money for numerous causes, including Save The Children, Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Ehlers-Danlos Support UK, and Brain Tumour UK.
In the wake of their most recent album the three band members answered a few questions with THB about everything from battling invisible disabilities, to developing musically and sharing their advice to other musicians.
Walk THB readers through the history of Hat’s Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and tell us also where the name comes from.
Malcolm: Mark (bass, co-producer, and additional guitars/keyboards) and I (guitars/vocals/keyboards/producer) have been playing together since we were at school a long time ago, but then I got distracted by becoming a neuropathologist. Music has always been extremely important to me. As a child my classical instrumental was the tuba, but it was only after singing a couple of songs at a hospital pantomime that I started exploring the possibility of performing again more seriously.
It started as local open-mic performances, either solo, or with my wife, flautist Kathryn Thomas, then it built from there. Mark came to one of my shows, and we started playing together again. After that, in 2012, we released our first album, ‘Invisible’, which was inspired by my experiences of invisible disability due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. We’ve since released four further albums, with the most recent being ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’, which was released this month.
Things really took off for us in November 2017 when we received a last-minute call to replace Touchstone at Hard Rock Hell’s Prog festival. We were very fortunate to have such a supportive response from the audience and media there, and this led to further festival invitations.
The name comes from a silly image I had in my head of Victorian gentlemen throwing their hats in the air and crying “Huzzah!” about something being average.
Kathryn: When Malcolm came up with the name ‘Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate’ we had no idea how things would progress over the years. I do wonder whether we should have had a more practical name!
In 2012, we released our first album, ‘Invisible’, which was inspired by my experiences of invisible disability due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.Malcolm Galloway, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
What is the inspiration for your latest album, ‘Nostalgia For Infinity‘? How does the new album showcase Hats Off Gentlemen’s growth and development?
Mark: One of the overriding themes of the album is the fragility of human civilisation, whether that be through the destruction of the environment and world around us, the sacrifices of those made during wartime and the mistakes that we as a species keep making time and time again throughout history. Some of these songs are written from a science-fiction perspective, notably inspired by some of the novels of Alastair Reynolds, especially the Redemption Ark Suite of songs that are inspired by Reynolds’ Revelation Space novels.
Personally, I feel we’ve stretched our legs a fair bit on this album including tracks that are ranging from fairly long almost classical pieces through to very short almost jazz-metal pieces and all points in between. Like previous albums, we don’t write particularly in one genre or another, but hopefully everything hangs cohesively together. I think it sounds more like ‘us’ now and not so much like a collection of influences.
Kathryn: Although Malcolm does the bulk of the song-writing, he has a very open and receptive mind to new musical ideas. At the end of a recording session for another track, I started playing around with extended flute techniques which then Malcolm manipulated electronically to become the very creepy Inhibitors, which sits outside what is usually classified as rock music. It is nice to be able to play around with such a wide musical canvas.
We’ve stretched our legs a fair bit on this album including tracks that are ranging from fairly long almost classical pieces through to very short almost jazz-metal pieces and all points in betweenMark Gatland, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
Are there any works in your back catalogue that stand out most for you? Is there a story behind it?
Mark: I think from a purely emotional standpoint Lidice stands out as one that’s incredibly moving, both to listen to and to play live. (The song is written about the WWII atrocity which centred on the village in the Czech Republic of the same name.)
I’m actually very proud of what the three of us have achieved on ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’. It definitely shows a growing confidence in our sound and it’s encouraging to know that we can take these big left-turns stylistically and yet most of our listeners will join us for the ride!
Malcolm: I’ve been very touched by how people have responded to Lidice. I also find that one very emotionally challenging when we perform it live. In terms of live performances, I enjoy the songs that are sung from the perspective of a character, such as When I Was A Ship and Nostalgia For Infinity.
Kathryn: By The Water (from our first album, Invisible) because of its simple beauty. I like the anthemic feel of Ark, Lidice for its poignant and powerful message and the impassioned Nostalgia For Infinity.
I think from a purely emotional standpoint Lidice stands out as one that’s incredibly moving, both to listen to and to play live.Mark Gatland, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
Talk to our readers about your experience as musicians – when did you get into music; what made you pick up an instrument?
Mark: I got into music via cello lessons at primary school, went to secondary school where I met Malcolm and formed our first school band along with two other friends, Mark and Andy. They needed a bass player, so I put down the cello and my parents bought me a bass and 30-Watt amp. I sort of fell into playing bass, I don’t know if I ever would’ve chosen it if that band hadn’t formed, but I’m awfully glad it did!
Malcolm: The tuba was my main classical instrument at school, and I wonder whether this bass-orientation affects my song-writing now. I generally feel the bass is underappreciated in music. I mostly play guitar and keyboard now. I suppose I started making music because I liked how it sounds. I’ve always had wide interests in music, from contemporary classical to metal, but with a particular love of progressive rock and minimalism.
Kathryn: When I was at infants’ school, I was desperate to play the violin. The audition to be selected to play involved singing The Wheels on the Bus. Being a very shy six-year-old, I failed to sing audibly, and so missed out. A few years later I took up the flute instead. I studied music at the Royal Academy Of Music, London.
Which musicians do each of you take inspiration from? What about their playing influenced you?
Mark: From a bass perspective it was people like Steve Harris from Iron Maiden for the power and speed, John Deacon from Queen for sheer melodic inventiveness and countless others over the years…Doug Wimbish, McCartney, Tony Levin, Carol Kaye, Mike Mills, Colin Greenwood, etc. Loads.
Non-bass wise, it’s people like Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Robert Fripp who are almost their own genre and refuse to do anything by the book or what’s expected of them. Those sorts of artists are a huge inspiration, not necessarily because of how they sound, (although I love all of them), but because of their attitude to their art.
Malcolm: Steve Reich, the classical minimalist composer has been a big influence. Previously that might have been more apparent in my solo classical releases, but I think the cross-over into my rock music is becoming more apparent in our recent albums. On the rock side, Pink Floyd and Marillion have been inspiring. In terms of guitar playing I hugely admire Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Marillion’s Steve Rothery for their almost vocal style of playing.
Kathryn: I have spent the greater part of my musical career as a classical musician, with a keen interest in contemporary music, and have worked with many wonderful classical composers and performers. For a long while I have had an interest in developing as a musician in different genres. I really enjoy the freedom of improvisation, which you rarely get in classical performances.
It’s people like Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Robert Fripp who are almost their own genre and refuse to do anything by the book or what’s expected of them. Those sorts of artists are a huge inspirationMark Gatland, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
How have you developed musically over time? What advice can you give other musicians working to improve themselves?
Mark: Don’t be afraid to fail. Also, don’t be afraid to fail live in public. I’ve always played with as many people in lots of different bands and in as many styles as possible.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. I remember when I first bought my Chapman Stick, I’d never played one before, had no real idea what I was doing but about four weeks later I played an improvisational gig with it with Malcolm and Kathryn at the National Gallery… (I still don’t really know what I’m doing with it).
Play with conviction and passion and people will latch onto that much more than if you happened to miss that chord or vocal. The emotional impact is all that matters, not how fast you can pull that lick off.
The more you write songs the better you will get. The first ones will probably be awful. Plow through them and the better stuff will come!
Malcolm: I think I’ve come to appreciate more the connection between the contemporary classical/minimalist and rock sides of my musical activity. I’m not a particularly technical player or vocalist, and because of my illness, I can’t really practice much without making my joints swell, so I’m possibly not in the best position to advise musicians how to improve, but like with Mark, my advice would be perform live regularly.
I’m a much more confident, and I think better performer now than I was a hundred gigs or so ago. Don’t wait until you are ready to start performing or recording.
The most self-aware people will notice their own flaws, and if you wait for too long, life might pass by before you start. And make music that you love, rather than trying to make something you think someone else will like.
Kathryn: Not having the notes written out in front of me has forced me see music differently. I’ve had to concentrate much more on memorising structures, which isn’t something I’d had to do in classical music.
Being receptive to new ideas and working with good musicians help keep you on your toes and developing.
The most self-aware people will notice their own flaws, and if you wait for too long, life might pass by before you start. And make music that you love, rather than trying to make something you think someone else will like.Malcolm Galloway, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
How do you navigate translating your recording to a live setting? Are there any hurdles that need to be overcome?
Mark: Given the way we gig at the moment, which is either Malcolm and me, with or without Kathryn, a decent onstage monitor mix is the most important thing so we can hear the laptop output well and play on top of that. We’re able at the moment to travel to gigs with the bare minimum of equipment, (our instruments, laptop, pedals, etc), so we’re very easy for any promoter or sound engineer to accommodate. If at any point we gain other musicians, (drummer, other keyboard players, etc) then there will possibly be more hurdles to overcome.
Malcolm: One of the advantages of playing several instruments each is that we have flexibility in how we can perform. We have done some acoustic shows and some piano-centred gigs, but for most we play live with the drums and some of the simpler parts (for example chords and pad sounds) from the laptop. I re-arrange the album tracks to take out any of the solo bits, bass guitar, or lead vocals. Depending on the gig, the solo parts might be played live on guitar or keyboard, or by Kathryn on flute.
One of the advantages of playing several instruments each is that we have flexibility in how we can perform.Malcolm Galloway, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
What advice can you give to those that want to make music for a living?
Malcolm: It is very difficult to make much money from playing/writing original music. I would suggest only do it if you really love it, and even then, make sure you have several strings to your bow. Many professional musicians also teach music. Most rock musicians have jobs outside music. Consider having a well-paid job outside music so that you can afford to make the music you want to make independently.
On the other hand, if your goal is to create music, it is now easier than ever to make music that sounds professional with the help of inexpensive software, and to make it available worldwide with digital distribution.
It is now easier than ever to make music that sounds professional with the help of inexpensive software, and to make it available worldwide with digital distribution.Malcolm Galloway, Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate
Hats Off Gentlemen releases music through your Glass Castle label – is this something more bands should do (versus signing to labels)?
Malcolm: I wouldn’t presume to give other bands advice on this, as it depends a lot on the position and goals of the band and the type of contract available elsewhere, but having our own label works well for us.
I like that we have total control of what we do, with only ourselves deciding what we write and release. We also look after our own design and packaging. We work with several distributors, but also distribute signed CDs directly via Bandcamp.
The obvious negative aspect would be that we have to deal with a lot of admin and envelope stuffing.
What music do you listen to in your down time?
Mark: There’s way too much good music around to ever take it all in. I’m very pleased that Pure Reason Revolution have reformed and their new album ‘Eupnea‘ is brilliant, Plastic Mermaids are one of my favourite bands of the last few years, but I also listen to all the classic stuff, Stax and Motown, Neil Young, Crosby Stills & Nash, Elbow, John Barry, PJ Harvey, old post-punk stuff like Magazine and Talking Heads, and Stevie Wonder.
Malcolm: I tend to listen to a lot of audiobooks – mostly science fiction and history. I’ve just finished listening to a couple of Margaret Atwood novels. I enjoy listening to new bands I’ve not previously come across at festivals.
According to Spotify, the songs I listened to most last year were by Marillion, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, Cypress Hill, Rage Against The Machine, Genesis, Professor Elemental, Hacktivist, Albert King, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour.
Watch the music video for Chasing Neon below:
Hats Off Gentlemen, It’s Adequate are:
Malcolm Galloway – guitars, vocals, keyboards, producer
Mark Gatland – bass, keyboards, co-producer
Kathryn Thomas – flute