Interview: Garsed/Helmerich

Randy Allar: Brett, you're working with a band called Jenna Music now.

Brett Garsed: Yeah. We're playing constantly. We're working on a new album. Busy, busy, busy!

Randy Allar: You just finished up with Derek Sherinian's Planet X.

Brett Garsed: It was quite a while ago when I did that. I guess those guys are almost in the mastering stage of their next album, which will have Tony MacAlpine on it.

Randy Allar: One of the other things you guys have is your own band together. It's a quartet, mostly instrumental.

Brett Garsed: You mean with Ricc Fierabracci (Yanni) and Virgil Donati. Whenever a gig comes up, we grab those guys and go out and have a bash. It's brilliant fun; they're such amazing musicians.

Randy Allar: It's one scary quartet.

Brett Garsed: Yeah, I'll say.

Randy Allar: You guys have two instrumental records out, "Quid Pro Quo" and "Exempt".

Brett Garsed: We're working on acquiring the rights so we can make them available for general release again. It's a long process, but eventually we'll get the rights back and be able to make those albums widely available again.

Randy Allar: I hope you can get the rights. They are some fantastic records.

Brett Garsed: It would be nice to get those on the Internet, give them a new lease on life. They got missed by a lot of people on the initial run-through.

Randy Allar: Do you have a lot of people asking for them?

Brett Garsed: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Too many people. That is why I get frustrated. We're trying to make it happen over night, and it just doesn't work that way. It would be nice if there is anyone out there with a million bucks that wants to get behind us. I just thought I'd throw it out there!

Randy Allar: Was that your first project together, "Quid Pro Quo"?

T.J. Helmerich: Yeah, that was it. That was the first one. '92 I believe.

Randy Allar: How did you guys get together to do it? You are from different ends of the world. Brett is from Australia, T.J. of from the other planet, Chicago!

T.J. Helmerich: We wound up meeting at Cherokee Studios. I was working up there at the time and Brett was in there recording at the same time. I actually heard an outtake of a solo that never made it to the album he was working on. It was late night and I was doing something, cleaning ashtrays, something stupid. I heard this solo and said, "What is that?" I searched around and found out who put the solo down, hooked up. The rest is history.

Randy Allar: Now you guys are both teaching at M.I.T. (Musicians Institute of Technology). Brett's teaching guitar and T.J.'s teaching... ?

T.J. Helmerich: I run the recording department there. It's like a full-blown studio. They have all the pro gear and pro equipment. We do full albums out of there continuously for various artists. It's a recording program, but it's based off of a musician's viewpoint of recording. Of course you still learn recording, but it's a lot more musical. Me being a guitar player and musician, I really don't view it from an engineering standpoint, like a technician. It's really cool. It's a great job. It's not so much teaching because it's what I love to do anyway, so I just do what I do, and they ask questions. We get some really great acts through there, and I teach guitar up there as well as open counseling. I've been teaching guitar there for ten years now, but the recording is my main income.

Randy Allar: How did you get into the recording end of it?

T.J. Helmerich: It dates back to when I met Brett, about 10 years ago. They really didn't have recording schools back then. I could not have afforded to go to one back then either. I started out sweeping floors, and doing it the way everyone did it back then. I had no real quest to be a recording engineer other than to think that if I could learn to use the board, I could save myself a lot of money!

Randy Allar: What were some of the early recordings that you worked on?

T.J. Helmerich: Well, Tribal Tech was probably one of the first bands I started recording on my own.

Randy Allar: Which Tribal Tech record?

T.J. Helmerich: "Face First", which was maybe 1995. Somewhere around in there. And then a bunch of various things. The list is endless as far as stuff I've worked on.

Randy Allar: Now you're hooked up with the Tone Center record label, a division of Shrapnel Records, with Steve Smith. Are you working on the "Vital Tech Tones 2"? (A project with Scott Henderson, Victor Wooten, and Steve Smith)

T.J. Helmerich: Yes.

Randy Allar: What do you think of that one?

T.J. Helmerich: Ah, it's great! That one's nice because I got to engineer it, track it, overdub it, mix it. From my perspective, that's always better than having to mix someone's tracking session, or track something and have someone else mix it. This way I have full control over it. I can decide what it sounds like, where as if someone else engineers it, you're stuck with what is on tape. It's a great learning experience as well.

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Randy Allar: You've both have been at MI for a while now.

T.J. Helmerich: Yeah, both of us have been there for a while. How long have you been there now. Brett?

Brett Garsed: On and off for about six years, I think. It's been a while. It's great fun; it's a fantastic way to make a living, playing music. It's an aspiring job as well. I love being around the students. They just challenge me all the time. A great way to grow as a player.

Randy Allar: You guys have a new release out called "Under The Lash Of Gravity". Kind of a departure for you.

Brett Garsed: Total departure. That was the point. We had access to a studio in late '95. At that time we knew that Legato Records (previous record label) was no more, and we were just two people in the studio with time, no real concept, and no budget. We chose to embrace that rather than be intimidated by it. We decided to try something brand new. I think what we created is so brand new, that the disc have been completed for about a year and a half. I think that some of the major label stuff that is coming out is just starting to catch up with it.

Randy Allar: What do you guys have coming up in the future?

Brett Garsed: We're definitely going to do another album this year. We've got a couple of concepts we're throwing around. It will be an instrumental album. We're ready to do that again ourselves. Like I said, we're extremely proud of "Under The Lash Of Gravity" and we're doing everything we can to get it out there. Initially, instrumental guitar fans didn't buy it. But if they give it a chance, it does grow on you. We made a pretty powerful statement, and we're happy with that, but I think now we'd like to get back to putting the guitar back in there again. The main thing to expect from us is that you never know what to expect. The last thing we will ever do is the obvious. The day you put on one of our albums and hear "Brett and T.J.'s Boogie," is the day you can think of us as a total write-off. That's what the world needs is another guitar boogie!

T.J. Helmerich: Well, there goes that song I was going to present to Brett!

Randy Allar: The instrumental releases may soon be available once again, and should not be missed. The guitar ability of the duo is unlike any other two guitarists working in the music industry today, and the thought of a third instrumental record will only enforce their status among fans and musicians alike.

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Brett Garsed and T.J. Helmerich are two of the most talented musicians in the world. They are involved in countless recordings - as musicians, to engineering and mixing. They have released their third solo disc, and continue to teach at the Musician's Institute. Their first solo releases were phenomenal instrumental releases. The newest release is a vocal project with a monster lineup. One member of the duo is from Chicago, the other from around the far end of the globe, Australia.

This unlikely pair spent a few minutes on the Fusion Show on radio station WCSB.