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Graham Costello Spotlight 09 Oct 2019

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Graham Costello is a Scottish drummer, composer and visual artist based in Glasgow.

He started playing drums at age six, being self-taught until he began studying Jazz at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - where he graduated with a First Class Honours degree. He started his music career by being involved in Glasgow’s vibrant underground / independent scene, first with his noise rock duo Young Philadelphia then with the electro-psych krautrock band Outblinker. With these bands he toured all over Europe, experiencing the amazing warmth and breadth of the continental independent music scene.

He then formed his band STRATA to bridge the gap between the independent scene and the jazz scene, spearheading a new approach and sound in the growing Scottish improvised music landscape and bringing this music to new audiences. Graham Costello's STRATA will be playing for the first time as a quartet at the Jazz Bar on Friday 18th October as part of Gallus- A Scottish Jazz Weekend. 

What drew you to the music industry?
I never viewed it as an “industry” when I was younger, that idea seems to come later with people. I always just saw it as playing music and gigs with my friends, and that slowly progressed to doing it for a living. Initially my plan was to follow the path of visual art.

Who inspires you as a musician?
I guess there’s two answers to that for me: one as a composer and two as a drummer. Compositionally, I’m a huge Steve Reich fan. His minimal music has very much influenced my approach to writing. Nik Bärtsch is also a big influence on me when it comes to groove. But my music is also noisy and heavy at times and I owe that to bands like Hella, Lightning Bolt, The Thing and Zu. As a drummer, if you were to separate me into my individual parts there would definitely be some kind of frankenstein of Zach Hill, Dan Weiss, Elvin Jones and John Bonham.

What is your take on the current Scottish Jazz scene?
It’s still all very new, and I think it’s very easy to forget that you only have to look back a few years to when there really weren’t many things happening in the scene. It’s good to see it starting to slowly gain momentum now. In terms of my “generation”, it’s great seeing more new bands emerge. That’s something which has had an impact on the scene, and something I certainly didn’t see happening when I was still studying at the RCS.

How did STRATA come to life?
It started when I wanted to play and record my new minimalist inspired music with my friends at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. And, as mentioned, there weren’t many bands in the scene so I asked the guys if they were up for making this project an actual band. Three years later, we’re still doing it.

Who is your favourite musician of all time?
Steve Reich. His music has had a ridiculous impact on my life.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Try to not let what you see around you dictate what you do - make your own opportunities. I knew with STRATA I wanted to approach developing the band differently, so I managed to secure us a monthly residency in Glasgow at Bloc. We’ve now played there every month since February 2017. If you’ve got an idea and don’t see it happening anywhere else, then make it happen yourself.

What does the next year look like for your projects?
For STRATA, we’ll be doing a UK tour and hopefully a European tour as well. We’ve recently signed to London-based label Gearbox Records, so we’re planning our next release to come out potentially at the end of 2020 - so I’m currently working on the music for that. With AKU, we’ll have shows supporting the album release I’m sure. I think corto.alto will be touring next year too as well as more shows with Animal Society - and maybe an album? I also want to work on a solo drum project, so I’m currently figuring out how I’d present that. But most of my energy is very much devoted to taking STRATA as far as possible.

What can audience expect from STRATA in it’s four-piece form?
The quartet focuses on specific compositions exploring more of the polyrhythmic groove aspect of the band. Naturally, there is also a lot more room for group interaction and improvisation - we really like to stretch out in our quartet formation. We work at this formation quite a lot in our residency shows, so we really can't wait to get it out there and bring it to the Scottish Jazz Weekend!

Why do you think everyone should come down to Gallus - A Scottish Jazz Weekend? 
The scene is really starting to ignite, and you wouldn’t want to miss being part of it and experiencing it all while it’s still growing.

Graham Costello's STRATA 4 will be playing at the Jazz Bar on Friday 18th October as part of Gallus- A Scottish Jazz Weekend, DJ Rebecca Vasmant will be doing a set following their performance- For tickets click here


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