Over a long & varied career Howard has appeared at The Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Halls, London; on BBC TVs Blue Peter; played for HM The Queen at Sadlers Wells; appeared on director Ed Wrights’ “Asylum” (with Simon Pegg, Bill Bailey et al); danced with Gloria Gaynor; a guest on Radio 4s ‘Midweek’ , ‘Loose Ends’ with Craig Charles; played Junk Percussion with Alan Titchmarch; & appeared all over Europe at many festivals, village Halls, Pubs and clubs.
The Musical Times: “Music of such vivacity and directness”
The Morecambe Visitor: ‘the power to create a storm of emotions’
Available as a soloist, or with MEN OF THE HOUR & MOONLIGHT GAZETTE
Listen to Howard Haigh & his Latino Guitar Blues, + works for choir, stage and screen, on band camp, & more experimental work on sound cloud
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Howard was born and raised in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, on January 1st 1959. His Father was a joiner and builder and his Mother a mill-worker. Nobody in the family – parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, Aunts and Uncles – played music, though his cousin David Jude did have a guitar which sat in a corner of the room and was to become significant.
Monika Wilson in conversation with Howard Haigh, 2009
When did you first get into music?
When I was 11/12 I started to listen to pop music. We didn’t play any instruments in our house, and we didn’t even have a record player. But the radio was always on in the morning and my Mum would often sing along with her favourites. My Dad never sang, as far as I can recall, but he was always whistling. Looking back I think he mainly whistled music by Stockhausen.
Then, when I was 12, two things happened which had a significant impact. First of all we went to visit my Uncle Sid and Aunty Betty in Manchester. My cousin David had a Spanish guitar which he didn’t play. For some reason I fancied having a go. I’d no idea how to play but I liked the idea of it and I fumbled around for a bit.
The second thing was also thanks to Aunty Betty: cousin Susan had left home and so we were given her record player and collection of LPs. Suddenly I could listen to things over and over; I could choose what to listen to; I could imagine playing these songs; I danced around furiously; I watched Top of the Pops and was very excited by T Rex doing Jeepster live. I began to obsess about playing that song in front of hundreds of adoring fans.
I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 13, which was one week before my 14th birthday.
Within five minutes I realised it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d thought.
Did you study music at school (GSCEs + A levels)?
No. Left school aged 16 with no qualifications, didn’t even do music at school, and worked full-time in a very old fashioned Hot-Metal Print works for 2 years. This wasn’t like Prontaprint. This had huge noisy machines that wrenched peoples arms off; it had molten lead which I smelted and poured into moulds to make ‘pigs’. I had no supervision or protective clothing nor any means of attracting attention of anyone upstairs (I was alone in the basement). I was quite happy doing that. And I did page layout, and occasionally a cartoon for one of the papers we produced.
I played in my band Madonna Roe and did gigs in youth clubs, pubs, and clubs. We didn’t do a lot of gigs and we weren’t very good. We played the stock repertoire of the time: Led Zep; Stones; Bad Co; but we also did our own numbers which is what I was more into.
During that time I signed up for evening classes, practiced guitar in my spare time, went to a music teacher to learn about theory, reading music etc. When I was 18 I got a guitar teacher who really inspired and encouraged me. He was a wee Scot called James McBride who had recently moved into a house two doors away. I got chatting to him at the bus stop. It turned out he taught classical guitar and I decided to have a go at that. I really got into the whole thing and found it opened up a new world of music for me. I was particularly drawn to the Spanish pieces. I’d always liked the sound of flamenco which I loosely imitated, and now I began to take a greater interest in it. Then I packed in the crap job and went to college to do A levels, music grades etc. on a ‘Preparatory Course in Music’ at Huddersfield School of Music. This doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in the form it did way back then. Nor does the funding now exist which allowed me to do it all, and subsequently two degrees, without me or any of my family having to pay anything. And I would not have been able to do it otherwise.
Did you go to university or college to study music – if so which one? And what did you study?
First of all to Middlesex, where I did BA Performing Arts. This was mainly music but with some dance and theatre in smallish amounts.
I became very interested in Minimalist Music – Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley , La Monte Young in the USA, and the experimental scene in London at the time. And John Cage, who I met during his 70th birthday celebration in London. (A few years later I met him again in Glasgow on a Society for the Promotion of New Music week. Each of the composers who had been selected by the SPNM to have a piece rehearsed and played were given a mentor. I got John Cage. I couldn’t believe my luck. He was a lovely guy. Very encouraging. We had quite a few good conversations and he had a great sense of humour.)
Then I went to Royal Holloway (University of London) and did a post-grad Master of Music (M.Mus) in composition. Whilst there I met Martin Pyne and Sarah Walker who were later to join Collective Title, a new music ensemble formed with Ian Willcock.
Do you make your living from music or do you have a day job?
All music, but this includes teaching guitar in a school; half a day teaching at Lancaster University; one evening teaching at home. Then I do on average 3 to 4 gigs a week, all through the year. This includes one evening a week playing in a Tapas bar, the others range from pubs, village halls, arts centres, to major concert halls and festivals.
Plus I play for dance sometimes – when I was living in London I was a full-time dance accompanist. I worked at The Laban Centre, and then at London Contemporary Dance School, plus sessions at Pineapple, London Studios, Rambert Dance Co, English National Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and many other dance related activities in Britain, Italy, and Portugal.
Summer 2014 – working with dancers in Norway. Autumn 2014 – working with The Royal Ballet, Primary Steps outreach programme in Blackpool
I compose music for dance and theatre, and have in the past toured Europe doing corporate gigs and TV shows. I’ve been on a few TV and radio shows (Blue Peter; Generation Game; Pebble Mill; Midweek; Loose Ends; and various others that I can’t recall all the details of.) I was in ‘Asylum’ by Ed Wright (Hot Fuzz; Spaced etc) which featured the cream of Britains comedy talent at the time (still): Simon Pegg; Bill Bailey et al. and the there was me!! I played a security guard who plays guitar. I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall and weigh just under 10 stone, so I’m not a natural choice for a security guard. Well, it was a comedy. I also acted on BBC kids TV as a Spanish window cleaner (who plays guitar).
I have composed music for all sorts of different combinations: String Quartet; Choir; Orchestra. Some of them have been performed: Saeta – ( Saeta III excerpt 2008) – for choir and orchestra has twice been performed in the Barbican in London; Land of Light for Choir – (Land of Light notes) - and group has been performed at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, and there have been lots of smaller pieces and performances.
Who have you played with?
I’ve been in various sorts of groups – when I was a student I played a bit in a Hot Club Jazz group (with Paul Reynolds, Steve Rose, Stuart Hall); minimalist (‘Pulse’, with Tony Colman of London Elektricity, Errollyn Wallen of Ensemble X, Fiona Baines, Logan Murray); experimental (‘Collective Title’, with Ian Willcock, Jacqueline Hynes,Sarah Walker, and Martin Pyne, and a host of New Music players from the London scene in the 1980s); folky acoustic (with David Trouton, and various similar projects); comedy flamenco (‘Ole’ with Paul Morocco and Antonio Forcione. In one of our gigs, a TV show in Germany, I ended up dancing with Gloria Gaynor. I’m not a good dancer and I was very self-conscious because it was being filmed); World Music (‘Taraba’ named after one of my pieces and led by Ms Jacky Hynes, with Zinga Rhabi, Najma Ahktar); Latino (‘Lava’, with Christoph Lheureux); and a Jazz Fusion project with guitarist Mark Townson and drummer Tim Franks.
I am eternally searching for the New Sound.
What do you most enjoy?
Working with people who are really into what they are doing. Playing to an appreciative audience
What do you find the most difficult?
Admin. Talking to people. Earning a living
What would be your dream job?
Writing, recording, and playing music with the best facilities, back-up team, plenty money to be able to focus on that without all the other stuff that gets in the way
I’d also like world peace, and an end to poverty, disease and oppression wherever it occurs.
Does that sound reasonable?