There are many tribute bands out there. But not many have a band member who played with the artist they’re paying tribute to. Drummer Jerry Marotta worked with the iconic Peter Gabriel from 1977 through 1986 and is in part responsible for the sound on Gabriel’s early albums. He brings The Security Project to Havana in New Hope on November 5th to celebrate the music of Peter Gabriel.
It’s interesting that Marotta was hired by Gabriel in the first place. And he’s really not sure how he got the job, but thinks it was through a recommendation by Gabriel’s bassist/Chapman stick player Tony Levin. Marotta had been with the band Orleans when he got the call.
“We made the record called ‘Waking and Dreaming’ (Elektra, 1976) and there was a song called ‘Still the One,’ and that was a huge hit,” said Marotta from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. John Hall, who was the leader of Orleans, quit the band in ’77 and… the band was kind of in limbo…
“I got this opportunity to work with this English singer Peter Gabriel, who had been in a band called Genesis. I had never heard of either of them. I wasn’t really a prog guy, I was more a Motown guy at that point.
“So I listened to Peter’s first record [“1,” Real World, 1977], the one with ‘Solsbury Hill’ on it, and it was very unusual, nothing like anything I had ever been used to doing. But I thought it was interesting and (the band would be) touring in England and I had never been there so I took the job based on that alone.”
Marotta ended up staying with Gabriel for 10 years and is on 6 Gabriel recordings, including “Security” (P&D/Real World, 1982), which inspired the band’s name. He credits Gabriel for teaching him a lot, despite originally not considering himself a ‘prog guy.’
“Peter was such a huge influence on me – as a human being, as a musician, as a creator... He’s just brilliant. As are Tony Levin, (keyboardist) Larry Fast, and ultimately (guitarist) David Rhodes – that was the lineup. The process, the experience was just mindboggling. I learned a lot from him.”
Initially Marotta wasn’t interested in doing a Gabriel tribute.
I wasn’t really interested in going back and revisiting that music,” said Marotta. “I hadn’t really listened to it in a long time.
“Over time one thing led to another and I got convinced to give it some serious thought. (I was told) Trey Gunn [formerly of King Crimson] would do it if I would do it. So with Trey involved I thought this would be more worthwhile.”
Marotta and Gunn then recruited keyboardist David Jameson and guitarist Michael Cozzi. After working with 2 vocalists they brought Happy Rhodes on board.
“We did a show in Woodstock and Happy Rhodes and her husband both came to the gig. Trey and I had both worked with Happy in the past on some of her records. And so we both looked at each other and we said ‘why don’t we ask Happy?’
“I thought it would be really great to have a female (singer). Why do we have to get somebody who sounds like Peter Gabriel? Why don’t we just get a great female singer? Obviously (Happy) doesn’t sound at all like Peter Gabriel, but she’s a phenomenal singer… and we loved her from the first minute that we got together.”
Marotta’s goal with the band is to play Gabriel’s deeper tracks from his earlier albums.
“What we’re trying to do is music that Peter doesn’t do. We really wanted to focus on, first of all, the music of the record ‘Security,’ which I think is one of the all-time great records made. We focused on that initially and then we expanded it back to doing stuff that I also love like ‘Humdrum,’ ‘Family Snapshot’… we do ‘White Shadow’…
“The idea was not to exploit Peter Gabriel. It was to honor him. If he plays the stuff that we’re playing and doesn’t play anything else he’s not going to be playing arenas, because people wanna hear ‘Sledgehammer,’ ‘Big Time,’ ‘Don’t Give Up’... so we just thought we’d play the music that Gabriel fans might be missing at a Gabriel show.”
Marotta is also allowing some creativity and reimagining with some of the material.
“It’s not that important to me (to recreate the songs just as they were recorded). But some of these songs – I refer to them as the epics. I mean ‘Lay Your Hands on Me’ – how else are you gonna do that? It’s such a remarkable piece and the way it was produced and the way we played it, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. ‘San Jacinto,’ ‘Family and the Fishing Net’… those songs we play very much like the records, and I’m happy to do that because they’re so good. And things like ‘Intruder’ and ‘I Don’t Remember,’ we’ve completely re-approached them.”
Marotta added: “It’s a tribute to Peter Gabriel and the music, and it’s a tribute to everyone who contributed… But we’re not trying to recreate the experience with Peter. I like to go and break new ground; that’s something that Peter really instilled in me.”
In addition to performing live, The Security Project has released 3 albums of live performances, which isn’t typical for most tribute bands.
“It made sense to record the live shows… we were so blown away by what the band sounded like. Michael Cozzi, the guitar player who also is an engineer and a producer and has a studio in Seattle, just started going through live shows and one by one he started putting these tracks together and they sounded fantastic. So it made total sense (to release them).”
Don’t miss this opportunity to see The Security Project and their interpretations of Peter Gabriel’s music. And bring some extra money because you might want to take some of the music home with you.