World-renowned guitarist Reeves Gabrels is gearing up for an intimate performance at Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, this weekend. On Sunday, October 22, Reeves Gabrels & His Imaginary Friends will make its debut at the venue supported by Brooklyn hard-rock and blues quartet Lizzie and the Makers. (Tickets available here.)
Gabrels joined The Cure in 2012 and is also known for his partnership with David Bowie from 1987 through 1999. A co-founder of the rock band Tin Machine featuring David Bowie, Tony Sales, and Hunt Sales, Gabrels went on to work closely with Bowie as a guitarist and co-writer for Outside (1995) and as a guitarist, co-writer, and co-producer for Earthling (1997) and Hours (1999). Gabrels also served as Bowie’s guitarist and music director across a dozen years of touring, including Bowie’s tour with Nine Inch Nails and the legendary rock icon’s 50th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden.
In 2017, Gabrels released his sixth album, Imaginary Friends Live, which sees the guitarist and vocalist supported by a collection of his superb musical colleagues. In addition to his fruitful solo career, Gabrels has previously released two improvisatory guitar-duo albums—one with Bill Nelson of Be-Bop Deluxe fame and the other with David Tronzo who currently teaches at Boston’s Berklee College of Music—and composes film, television, and video-game soundtracks. A sought-after collaborator, he has written, performed, and recorded with musicians in genres from heavy metal to hip-hop to electronica to jazz.
Check out Live For Live Music’s interview with Reeves Gabrel below, and purchase tickets to his upcoming performance on Sunday at Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre here.
Live For Live Music: As a prolific musician with credits spanning genres from metal and hip-hop to what you’re best known for in your time with Bowie and The Cure, what can we expect from your upcoming show at Garcia’s?
Reeves Gabrels: You will hear an update of the rock-power-trio format that stretches from the Johnny Burnette Trio to Jimi Hendrix and Cream to Rush and The Police to Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr. Reeves Gabrels & His Imaginary Friends play rock songs with vocals, guitar, bass and drums that are designed to grow and change from night to night. Our sets include music that I have written for and with my Imaginary Friends, along with one or two unusual blues or old-school R&B covers that we’ve radically rearranged to suit our power trio format. There is a strong element of improvisation in our playing that makes us sound like us and no one else.
An odd thing that happened when I stopped working with David Bowie was a reviewer wrote of my second solo album—Ulysses (Della Notte) (2000)—that he could hear everything I stole from Bowie. The writer then listed Tin Machine songs, such as “Bus Stop” and “I Can’t Read”, both songs I co-wrote, and mentioned albums like Earthling and Hours, albums I co-produced with songs I co-wrote. I find that more amusing now than I did at the time.
So, listeners will hear trace elements of music they like by artists I have worked with through the years without realizing that I was involved at a writing level and production level with those artists. What many people discover is that some of my music was in their heads all along.
L4LM: Since you’ve done so much work producing and collaborating with other artists, how does it feel to front your own trio and does your approach or attitude differ in any way?
RG: Every band and performance situation is different. It is very important to figure out the dynamics in each new group of people. And I had played in bands for years, many of them in greater Boston, before I began to work with Bowie or The Cure. No matter the situation though, the key is to respect the music, play your ass off, and not be a jerk.
When singing out front with my own band, I draw on what I learned from being on stage or in the studio with David Bowie, Paul Rodgers, Chuck D, Ozzy, Trent Reznor, Mick Jagger, and, of course, Robert Smith. Though what I mostly learned is that I will never be the singers they are, I always have their examples in mind and heart while using my own voice. Conversely, it’s by singing and playing guitar with my own band that I have learned what a singer needs from the supporting band, so I have brought those lessons into my playing with others.
L4LM: What’s the best piece of advice you ever got from David Bowie?
RG: Most advice shared between friends is meant to stay there. One from David that I am willing to share is this: “The only thing fame is good for is getting a better table at a restaurant.”