Hansford Rowe

Born : 1954 - Virginia (U.S.A.)
Past Bands : Gong (1977-78), Pierre Moerlen's Gong (1978-81, 1987-89), Mike Oldfield Band (1980), CharlElie Couture Band (1983-84), Steel Blue (1988)
Current Bands : Bon, Gongzilla, solo projects

A Short Bio:

In late 1976, Hansford Rowe was playing bass in jazz clubs with a local New York band when he met drummer Pierre Moerlen, who had come to America following the break-up of Gong. The band's drummer had to leave for the army and Pierre stepped in for him. This was the start of an enduring musical relationship that did a lot for Rowe's reputation as a superior bass player, not to mention his talents as composer.

Hansford Rowe was born in Virginia in 1954, but grew up in New York City. Although he did take a few lessons with jazz bass player Buster Williams, he is basically self-taught. His professional career started in the mid-70's playing jingles and jazz clubs, until he moved to France with Moerlen in early 1977. Both formed the basis of a new Gong line-up that also included Mireille Bauer, Benoît Moerlen and François Causse. The band's debut was at the Gong reunion concert at Pantin, Paris, in May 1977.

Looking back on his time with Gong, and later Pierre Moerlen's Gong, Rowe states that he "had a very good time", although he "didn't always feel comfortable with the band's musical direction". He played on the albums Expresso 2 (1978), Downwind (1978), Live (1979), Time Is The Key (1979) and Leave It Open (1981), until PMG were dropped by Arista and broke up in 1981. In the meantime, Rowe had joined Moerlen in Mike Oldfield's backing band for the 1980 European tour. "I much enjoyed working with Mike Oldfield, and considered it a good gig musically. Instrumental music in stadiums is not that easy to find!".

Although he kept busy during the 1980's, Rowe's activities during this period were less well-documented. "I spent 1981 in the States, and in 1982 moved back to Paris and worked with a bunch of different Frenchmen including Faton Cahen, [singer] Charlélie Couture, Jean-Yves Lievaux, often with my old friend François Causse on drums. In 1984, I moved to Québec. In 1986, Pierre called [from Sweden] and asked me to overdub the bass onto a basically finished record, Breakthrough. This led to a European tour and to Second Wind. Pierre and I also did a great tour with Bireli Lagrene in 1988".

In 1989, Rowe formed Steel Blue with guitarist Jon Catler, a graduate of Berklee School of Music and the leading innovator in microtonal music for the guitar. In this project, both Rowe and Jon use customized guitars equipped with interchangeable fingerboards, allowing them to switch tuning systems in seconds. This process is called 'Just Intonation', based on the natural harmonic series of undertones and overtones up to a 13-limit. Steel Blue started out with a line-up of Jon, Hanny, Benoît Moerlen (customised vibes) and François Causse (drums), but the eponymous album recorded in 1991 (and released on LoLo Records in 1993) featured Catler and Rowe with Jose Joaquin Garcia (vocals) and Lionel Cordew (drums), playing straight rock music.

In 1993, Rowe renewed his acquaintance with Bon Lozaga (who had quit music since the early 80's) and both started the LoLo Records label and formed Bon, a trio with drummer Vic Stevens. The following year, Gongzilla was formed, with Lozaga, Rowe and Benoît Moerlen on vibes (drummer Gary Husband joined for the second album). Both bands are still active and have released follow-up albums; they have also toured the US East Coast repeatedly, and Gongzilla even did a European tour in February/March 2002 with both Moerlen brothers, Pierre and Benoît, finally joining the band as initially planned.