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A Short Bio:
As the list of bands above testifies, Mark Hewins has had a long and varied history of performing and recording with most of the Canterbury scene luminaries - Richard and Dave Sinclair, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Pip Pyle, John Greaves etc. - but this is only part of the story for a musician with a most varied musical résumé. In addition to his musical activity, Mark was also behind the (now defunct) Musart website (also a studio), which even before Calyx was born spread the news about the Canterbury scene with its musicians pages and noticeboard.
Mark Hewins is one of the generation of musicians which followed in the wake of the experimental groups of the sixties, represented by Pink Floyd and Soft Machine among others, whose attitudes to sound and music were forever coloured by the experience. However, he started playing guitar professionally in 1970 at the age of 15 on the famous London 'Pub Rock' circuit with Mother Sun, and by the mid-seventies was an established figure working around the more innovative music circuits in London, whether at the London Musicians' Collective or playing solo interval slots at London's 100 Club and Trevor Watts' New Merlin's Cave. Many of the radical techniques Hewins employs in his guitar play stem from this time; in particular from 16-hours-per-day sessions in duet with guitarist and filmmaker Richard Coldman. At that time in the mid-70's he first met Anne Beverly, Sid Vicious' mother, and after the New York family tragedy Anne stayed with Mark for a while on her return to London from America.
Hewins' creativity brought him to the attention of musicians such as Watts (Amalgam), and John Stevens (Away) who gave him opportunities to play with South African musicians, Dudu Pukwana, Louis Moholo and Mervyn Afrika and a place in the Dance Orchestra (CD A Luta Continua - featuring Phil Collins, John Martyn, bassist Danny Thompson (with whom he subsequently worked alongside Julie Felix) and Elton Dean who he has probably duetted more frequently with than with any other musician. Over the years musical liaisons have flourished; US jazz collaborations include work in New York with Dennis Gonzalez and Andrew Cyrille, CD âÄòThe Earth and Heart; in Europe with Django Bates in Research Social Systems and as a continuing member of the Elton Dean Quartet. Hewins' first solo CD, Electric Guitar, was released by Daagnim Records in the USA (1987).
His love of the British 'Canterbury scene' has manifested itself in projects with Canterbury cousins and Caravan founders Dave Sinclair (notably on Dave's solo album Moon Over Man and the band The Polite Force CD Canterbury Knights) and Richard Sinclair who he first met in 1972, working with him in countless 'offshoot' Canterbury groups, including Going Going and the original line-up of the Caravan Of Dreams, a trio featuring Camel's drummer, Andy Ward. Work with Phil and Steve Miller, until Steve's untimely death; his absorption into the ranks of Soft Heap (a later branch of Soft Machine featuring John Greaves, Pip Pyle and Elton Dean - CD A Veritable Centaur) and his work in tandem with Hugh Hopper (culminating in the 1995/6 Adreamor and Mashu CD projects).
But Hewins' musical appetite has not been confined solely to jazz and left-field rock-jazz hybrids. He is a prolific composer, with over two hundred songs, instrumentals, orchestral works, published written works and reviews to his credit. Session work has linked his guitar play with groups such as Grace Kennedy Band, Errol Kennedy (Imagination) and countless others; he has also worked extensively in Nashville, where he has recorded with members of the Hal Ketchum and Kathy Mattea bands, and performed live with Arlen Roth and Joe Dalton. For a five year period he demonstrated Guitars and other musical equipment at trade shows. Hewins still endorses (with conviction) Picato Musicians strings, who have supplied all his strings over a successful 20-year association.
His mastery of the midi-guitar led to frequent commissions over a 10 year period from Casio, for whom he has produced sampler library software and demonstration tunes for their keyboards. In fact, whilst in New York in 1988 Hewins introduced Lou Reed to the midi-guitar and his consequent contribution to Songs For Drella, the album of songs in memory of Andy Warhol by Lou Reed and John Cale, is acknowledged in the sleeve notes. Mark has been honoured (as he puts it!) to accompany his pal Lou as guitar tech on several tours. Other commissions have included music for the Discovery Channel "Architecture" theme day.
In addition, he has led his own groups, amongst them The Music Doctors featuring Lol Coxhill (broadcast on BBC Radio 3), the fourteen-strong FF big band and Tritonik (his dance music band which was highly regarded on the London club scene during 1992-93, until vocalist Tania Evans found international chart success with Culture Beat). Bengali percussionist Shyamal Maitra was one of Hewins' most frequent musical partners in the late 90's, the duo being a springboard for a number of projects including a trio with singer Carol Grimes, with whom he has recently composed an 'installation' work for the UK-based arts group Welfare State International.
He has also been working on a huge (50+ musicians!) production of Lady June's "Rebela" project since 1997 (composing and recording the musical accompaniment to June's story), and since June's sudden death in 1999 has continued the production and mixing work with the hope of releasing the album as soon as time allows.
In early 1999, Hewins joined Gong, as the band's rhythm (and sometimes lead) guitarist. Two lengthy tours of Europe and the United States followed in May/June '99, during which Mark introduced his friends Theo Travis on saxes/flute and Chris Taylor (Soul II Soul) as the band's new drummer. Following the tour, Hewins went to Japan with Gilli Smyth and played with Trance Generation; he also guested in Japan with Daevid Allen's band Canterbury Family, alongside Hugh Hopper and Chris Cutler. Hewins has returned to his activities as producer and freelance musician and in 2001 he visited India at length with actor Paul Bhattacharjee, to study the work of poet Rabindranath Tagore, the subsequent CD, New Devotions, is largely narrated in Sanskrit. More recent recordings are a duo CD live at the Jazz Café - Bar Torque - with Elton Dean, and another with Theo Travis - Guerrilla Music.
For the last couple of years some of his touring work has been with the Bob Geldof Band and various 'one-off' Canterbury line ups, amongst others. In 2004-05, he is running his own series of monthly gigs at the Horsebridge Arts Centre in Whitstable, inviting the likes of Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean and Dave Sinclair to join in his 'Ambient Heaven' concept. A keen scuba diver, one of his latest projects, in early 2004, was travelling inside the Arctic Circle to dive under the Bering Sea ice to collect sounds for a forthcoming "eco-ambient" CD. The latest Elton Dean Quartet CD Sea Of Infinity, featuring Hewins, was released by Hux Records in March 2004.
(Much of the above text was written by Ken Ansell, Matt Knights, Yvonne Ledley)