It Was Just Drum Luck
“I’d rather be lucky than good.” Whoever said that first–get his or her Internet stock picks. 29-year-old drummer Gary Novak happens to be both. The Chicago native, young as he is, has quite the impressive resume: Chick Corea, Allan Holdsworth, Chaka Kahn, Brandon Fields, George Benson, Lee Ritenour, Maynard Ferguson, David Sanborn. Who would have thought that playing with r&b, jazz and fusion artists would have led to his taking over the drum chair, from current Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins, for Alanis Morissette’s band? Well, this is actually where the luck part comes in. Read on.
How did a jazz/fusion guy like you get mixed up with Alanis Morissette?
It’s kind of an interesting story. I was living with her bass player, Chris Chaney. We had been renting a house together from about 1990. He had gotten into the band at the very beginning, and I was out on the road playing with Chick Corea and the acoustic quartet while he was doing that gig. I remember once on the road I was playing with David Sanborn, and Chris and I were both playing in Chicago at the same time, when Jagged Little Pill first hit. And we were all hanging out, it was pretty cool.
Taylor Hawkins was playing drums with her on that tour. What happened then?
Basically, when Taylor Hawkins left–he left to go to the Foo Fighters–Alanis had a previous commitment to do the Tibetan Freedom Concert in New York, and one a couple months later, The Bridge Benefit, Neil Young’s thing. Very cool deal, good cause. And basically, they wanted to do it acoustic. So it was just the three of us at that point: Nick Lashley, Chris and myself, and to be honest, they asked me to do it because they didn’t have a drummer at that point. They weren’t really interested in looking for anybody.
Chris, I’m sure, was advising…
Yeah, Chris and I have done a lot of hangin’ together. We were very tight, and he said, “Dude, you should do these gigs so we don’t have to rehearse that much. You already know the music.”
You were familiar with the music, and the band?
I’ve hung out with those guys a million times at shows, or whenever we get a chance to hang out. I’ve seen the band a bunch. Taylor is a really good guy. And, of course, the video was all over the house–I was pretty well-versed with what was happening, just from Chris.
So, you stepped in, and then?
So, when Taylor left they basically needed somebody for a quick second to do these two gigs, because there was no basic immediate schedule. There was no record on the line. They were going to do one, but they didn’t know when they were going to do it. Basically, I did those two shows with very little rehearsal, and they went great. We had a really cool time.
How did you win Alanis over?
I had known Alanis previously through Chris, so she knew a little bit about me. But basically it was a scene where you could get somebody where you know you can trust them because, you know, obviously she trusts Chris because they had been playing together for two years. And she trusts Nick, the other guitar player, because he’s been there since the beginning. So she was like, “Well, if this is working, let’s just stay like this.” She could have auditioned 500 million drummers. So I thought it was maybe down to me and a couple other guys, but I think it was the most convenient thing for her and the band–definitely the right place at the right time.