Hearn Gadbois is the James Brown of the hand drum, taking instruments from the Iranian, Afghani, and Arabic traditions and turning them inside out, exposing their funky souls. Like Glen Velez's evil twin, he's adapted his instruments' elaborate traditional techniques to his own musical needs, and with them created a righteous groove that lands somewhere between North African trance-possession ritual and Dizzy Gillepie's "Salt Peanuts". Featuring performances on zarb, zirbaghali, and miscellaneous percussion hand-made by the artist himself (along with dumbek, dholak, frame drum, udu, and Tibetan bowls), JOINERY is a landmark in the nascent American hand-drumming tradition, the culmination of 30 years' exploration into the collision of spirit and skin.
Hearn Gadbois was born in Des Moines, Iowa, into a family of visual artists. His father was a commercial illustrator, his mother a mechanical draftsperson and both older brothers were accomplished illustrators of monsters and battle scenes before he was born. He grew up listening to Ravel's Bolero, western movie soundtracks, and Perez Prado records. He started playing blues harmonica at age twelve and at fifteen he discovered conga drums and decided to pursue music as a career. Within two years he was gigging throughout the mid-west in a variety of groups: soul, calypso, percussion ensembles, African dance troupes, free jazz, fusion jazz, big-band jazz, vocal jazz, and coffee-house folk. In other words, if it could be done, he did it, and if it couldn't be done he tried it anyway.
In 1981 he moved to New York with The Wallets, a promising young band that quickly met with difficulty and moved back to Minneapolis, later to record for Capitol Records. Staying in New York, Hearn made the first of many collaborations with the choreographer Bebe Miller entitled Story Beach and recorded a fairly eccentric version of I've Got My Mojo Workin' sung by a computer for Tellus ..12: The Dance. From the middle to late 80's he performed with Cargo Cult, co-founded the underground favorites Saqqara Dogs, and was an original member of Annabouboula, a psychedelic-funk Greek hybrid of both bands that recorded for Virgin Records.
Coinciding roughly with the break-up of the very loud Saqqara Dogs was a playing-related injury that almost cost him his left hand. He decided to concentrate on making quieter, more 'accoustic' music and teamed up with cellist Robert Een (of the Meredith Monk ensemble) and accordionist Carter Burwell (of film soundtrack reknown) to form the band Big Joe. He also performed and recorded with what was to become a glut of singer-songwriters, of which some of the better-known are Patti Smith, Suzanne Vega, Katell Keineg, and Anna Domino.
In the mid-nineties he became passionate about wood carving, creating numerous fish and animal fetishes that were heavily inlaid with metal. He showed the pieces in galleries and sold them to collectors of 'Outsider' art, and over time they became less inlaid and much more hollowed-out and resonant. He found that he had re-invented the woodblock! He took up the study of instrument making with master craftsman Ben Hume and produced several drums of Afghan/Persian origin that he had long desired. The process of making his own instruments deepened his understanding of sound and profoundly influenced his sense of music making. The drums that he made have been central to the development of a completely unexpected and unique 'melodic' playing style and he continues to use them.
Following the September 11th attacks, he decided to take a more 'international' approach to living and now resides part-time in the Czech Republic. He is director of the Skola Ritmu in Prague and performs with Slet Bubeniku/Gathering of Drummers, Vladimir Vaclavek, and with his partner, dancer-choreographer Renata Milgrom. He has recorded two solo cd's, Joinery and One Thousand and One Fingers as well as an instructional cd.