Personal History


Recently I moved to New York’s Hudson Valley. It is a big change from having lived in Prague, Czech Republic for the better part of the last twenty years, and the transition has not been especially easy, nor does it yet feel complete. Moving is always challenging, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. One is compelled to improvise and to have faith. It behooves me to update my website, and I feel that  however world-wide our information technologies are, we as individuals live very locally. Tying a new and fluid narrative to an old one may be beyond my skills, but as I reviewed the old material, it was clear that it didn’t speak to my new situation, and much of what fleshed out the old narrative didn’t belong in an update, so…

I feel immense gratitude for my time in Prague. I experienced things and grew in ways there that I wouldn’t have, had I stayed in the U.S.A. I had gone there seeking peace and quiet in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and was much enriched, materially and spiritually, and eventually, only spiritually. The fit was not perfect but it worked for some time. I performed solo shows, played in many ensembles of talented musicians, and composed for and collaborated with numerous dance and theatre projects. I traveled extensively with my partner Rena Milgrom, performing, teaching, and having learning adventures in distant locales (Iran, Uzbekistan, India, Romania, Turkey) in addition to our work throughout Central Europe. I composed and recorded four solo albums. I now welcome the release of a compilation vinyl lp : RARA AVIS, from Abstrakce Records, Spain. It unevenly spans a period starting in 1983 (MOJO), and ending with the release of the album GHOST NOTATION at the beginning of the pandemic.




Me and my sound, and why.  

Like many of my now elder generation and demographic, I grew up in a time when explosive power was well-regarded by many, and for different reasons. As a boy I did my military service by vocally imitating the sounds of tanks, aircraft and gunfire: the sounds themselves were literally THE BOMB. It was not a Gaian sensibility in the least, but to my pleasure, sounds of water held equal fascination for me. Throwing stones of varying shape and mass into small bodies of water (free-flowing and frozen) at different velocities can produce a very satisfying tonal range with lovely timbral effects. Had i not grown up in the mythic Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, my sonic palette would probably not even remotely resemble what it is today.

To a hydrophile, wood is simply reconfigured water, and I have made most of my drums from either mulberry or walnut for their resonance, durability, flexibility and friendliness to the hand. That, and I love to dig- my favorite toy was the shovel, not the one in the sandbox but the shovel with which you dig the earth, and by extension, the carving of wood. A lot of boyhood pastimes have filtered into my work, a clear sign that I may likely never grow up.

Fortunately, my ear knows that some things need metal. No percussionist’s life would be complete without the hammering, tinkering and persuading that go into finding the right types of metal sounds, and I have given considerable energy to creating various instruments to play with the feet. A valid question to ask would be: BUT WHY? A love of polyrhythm, the tension of two or more parts interacting, and being earwitness to the abstraction of mathematics taking physical and kinetic form, becoming its own dancing body. The child I was knew all this, the old man I have become is happy to know that the kid was right about a lot.

Growing up in an armchair-beatnik artist family, I was exposed to tons of synesthesia-inducing music on the hi-fi, but I came to music-making relatively late. I took up blues harmonica at age twelve and experimented with as many instruments as I could lay my hands on, taking to conga drumming like an idiot savant at age fifteen. At eighteen I was gigging with whoever would have me, and in whatever style. From there it has been a long survey of world hand-drumming and rhythmic traditions which I have loved, plundered, studied, imitated, incorporated and re-contextualized into something that feels like my own.
Over time my kit and playing methods have undergone many transformations, inclusions and a few massive cullings, and I expect the process to continue, The most concise description of what I do comes from musician Timothy Hill:  “Hearn Gadbois is essentially a very funky drummer using mostly Persian, Central Asian, and North African style percussion instruments, many of which are his own exquisite craftwork.”  

I arrived in New York at the beginning of the 80s and quickly became immersed in the downtown club scene. I co-founded the band SAQQARA DOGS, and helped birth the Rembetika/Funk project ANNABOUBOULA. I played with everyone from Persian pop stars to luminaries like Meredith Monk, Yoko Ono, and Patti Smith, and composed music for dance. I worked as a session musician on numerous records and film scores. I continued to make visual art, a holdover from my upbringing, and I moved from drawing to carving dimensional work (fish and animal fetishes) and from there it was a logical next step to creating cool-looking, but often functionally iffy instruments. I apprenticed ingenious luthier Ben Hume, greatly augmenting my sonic palette, and it affected and informed my hearing and eventually my playing. Most of the instruments I play and record on I have carved and forged by hand, using only a minimum of electricity.

By this time, my esthetic can safely be called my own. I take full advantage of being too prone to distraction, dilettantish, and lazy by nature to hew to any one musical style, and it suits me. The magic of influence ever amazes me, and it is my desire to share it with any and all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. I am available to perform, record, teach, compose, and collaborate. And to listen.