Whither Thou Goest: The Together Sound of RUN LOGAN RUN

Run Logan Run

Their music paints a mood that is space-like and meandering yet accessible; you can follow the flow but you can’t quite predict what embellishments either musician will utilize. The song is “The Delicate Balance of Terror” and the two-man Run Logan Run is so perfectly in sync that it’s like listening to twins born into jazz.

On the song “Runnin’,” Dan Johnson, on percussion, brings new life to the tambourine, then assaults the drums with raw energy. Andrew Neil Hayes masters the growl on his tenor (somehow achieving simultaneous harmonic intervals), leaning deep into the beat.

Yeah, they can do lyrical too, like “Father Time,” but still, there’s an edgy menace to it. The heart races. 

Who was the most influential for you as you started in music?

Andrew – There have been so many people that inspired me along the way, but I guess right back at the start was my dad. He got me listening to Led Zeppelin, The Who, Roxy Music. Roxy was a revelation ’cause it had some crazy-ass reed playing on it! 

Dan – I think my first drum teacher, John Shepard, was probably the most influential; of course, my family had a big impact too. They listened to lots of music and had varying tastes which opened me up to a lot of genres, but John was someone I could spend time with and learn from without the complications of family life in the background. Our lessons were all about having fun and enjoying music.

When did you each learn your respective instruments, and were your families supportive?

Dan – I got into playing drums when I was 13. I’d been interested in music for ages but it took a while for me to realize it was something I could actually be a part of. It was a struggle for a while, it seemed to take a long time to be taken seriously. Eventually everyone came ’round though, and my family is very supportive now.

Andrew – I started learning saxophone in the first year of secondary school, which I think makes me about 13 too. I’d heard a saxophone being played on the radio about five years previously, but it took a little while for me to get my hands on one. My family has been amazingly supportive and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without them. None of my immediate family play instruments themselves but they all like music and were always taking me to concerts. They also let me play music in the house all the time – really loud!  

How did you come up with the name for the band? 

Andrew – I saw Logan’s Run (the film) and I thought adding another “Run” to that title would make a good name for a band. It was written down in one of my sketch books before Dan and I formed the band. Shortly after we met it became apparent there was a cosmic vibe going on, so I suggested it to Dan and it stuck. It reflects our attempt to break away, regenerate, transcend. 

Strangely one does not notice the lack of a bass guitar/upright bass or keys. How do you fill the musical space with just the two of you? 

Andrew – When I’m playing I’m listening to the music as a whole. I’m not focused on just my instrument, but the collective sound. I think it’s the same for Dan. It’s like we tune into a telepathic space that yields the symphony. So we both do exactly what’s needed to form the music. It’s a combination of our physical technique on our instruments, our choice of gear and our mental approach. 

Talk about the use of circular breathing.

Andrew – In simple terms, circular breathing means you can play a note indefinitely, without pausing to take a breath. This isn’t particularly interesting and I’ve seen it used many times as a gimmick.

I wanted a way to play harmony on the saxophone. Not in a linear fashion, with melodies that reference a particular chord, but in real time. I realized if you play arpeggios really, really fast your ear starts to blur the time between the notes and it begins to sound like more than one instrument playing at the same time. Pausing to breathe kind of ruins this effect so circular breathing unlocked the potential for me. Since developing the technique, it has opened up a vast new palette of sounds. If you think of the saxophone as a power station running off a river, normal breathing is like a seasonal stream that comes and goes. But circular breathing is like a constant, mighty, gushing river with the power to tear things apart. 

How did you meet and what is your shared vision?

Dan – We met at a funk and soul jam session in Bristol, UK. Andy approached me with the idea of playing together; initially I didn’t realize it was just going to be the two of us!

I would say we aim for a blend of expression and progression, paying close attention to the intensity and emotion of the music…when it gets really loud, it’s that way for a reason. We like to challenge ourselves but the music always originates from how we feel. Our hope is that we can help others as well as ourselves through our music.

Andrew – We only have one rule…no loop pedals or backing tracks. Oh yeah, and keep it real. Uh huh. 

What do you each bring in terms of different style, ear, etc.? 

Dan – We both listen to loads of music but are contrasting within that, bringing anything we want to the table. A complete collaboration.

Andrew – Dan’s music collection is totally immense. I could spend a whole year listening to stuff I’ve never even heard before.

Would you characterize your music as improv, experimental…? 

Dan – It’s certainly experimental, simply in the sense that we are experimenting with how far we can go with just drums and saxophone. Playing live, we aim to create a physical force, we want people to feel the music as well as hear it, to move the air. In those moments, the music is a living thing. It’s an extension of our lives, our experiences, our feelings. A lot of what we do is about connection.

There is a strong improv influence too, but it’s not wholly improvised. A lot of the compositions are more like blueprints; we know what we want to achieve, we have a plan but we don’t always know exactly how the plan will unfold.

Andrew – I wouldn’t call it purely improv or free jazz, because it has many composed parts. But it’s definitely improvisational. I like to think of the parts as ritual mantras that set you free in their simplicity. 

Who did you listen to growing up?

Dan – I was consistently open to everything and discovered music in an organic way.

Andrew – Growing up I was always trying to find something new, and it was exciting back then because without the internet, it was a much slower process. These days you can find something different just by picking up your phone.

Where do you go in your head when you are composing? 

Dan – For me it really depends on how I feel in the moment. I would say I use music to celebrate the fact that I’m alive while at the same time using it to keep myself alive.

Andrew – What Dan said. 

What is the jazz scene like in Bristol? 

Dan – The scene is pretty strong, there’s some great bands in the southwest of England including Michelson Morley, Get the Blessing, Modulus III, Mermaid Chunky Sefrial, Milon.

Andrew – I’m not dissing Bristol’s scene in any way – it’s amazing. But its strength is also its weakness, in that it can be very hard to break out of, and very comfortable to stay put. 

Favorite local venue? 

Dan & Andrew – Roll for the Soul to play, St. George’s to watch. 

Have you toured outside the country? 

Dan – We haven’t toured outside the UK yet, but recently played a one-off show in Bulgaria, in which we were well received.

Andrew – We’ve only been together for two years, so we’ve been concentrating on the UK up to now.

Where else would you like to play? 

Dan – Anywhere and everywhere. We’re making plans to tour Europe in 2018.

Andrew – I’d like to play on the moon.

Talk about your recent single “Moksha” – how it’s been received so far (since June), what did you learn from producing it? 

Dan – It’s sold out which is cool, though it was a very limited release as it was lathe cut by Adam at Champion Version. It was written in the studio on the day of the recording session; we were in and out within three hours, including the mix. I like that we captured that moment. All done in one day.

Andrew – We were concerned the cost of the 7” would put people off buying it, but it sold well. People’s desire for physical merch seems healthy again, which is good for musicians trying to live off their art.

“No Body” played in a church was very captivating. What does that song mean to you? 

Andrew – The title came from an Alan Watts talk. It links to the idea of using music to transcend physical form. Really it is just the next step on our journey as artists. All the music we make is made for the same reason. Of course individual pieces have their own ideas, but essentially I see them as interconnected parts in the whole of our music.

How do you personally define professional success and what is your goal right now? 

Dan – Making a reasonable living from our music, developing a sustainable career where we only have to concern ourselves with writing and performing. 

Andrew – Professional is such a funny word. It comes from the establishment that maintains some perverse notion of justification. My idea of success is to carry on making music that is true to myself and my environment and above all, without compromise. 

Has your music developed since you began Run Logan Run? 

Dan – Yeah, it’s definitely gotten louder and more technical in parts, also it’s not all improvised anymore which is how we spent our first year playing together. We’ve pushed our dynamic range to the extreme at both ends of the spectrum. Technically we’re stronger players, and we’ve spent time developing our individual set-ups which has allowed us to accomplish our ideas more accurately. All my decisions regarding the gear I use, what I work on during personal practice, etc. are purely to help me be as creative as possible. 

Andrew – When Dan and I get together in the room it feels like the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless, or at least a long way off. This essential element has always been there, but the longer we play together, the stronger it becomes. 

What kind of friendship and intuition is involved in the music between two musicians as opposed to a larger band? 

Dan – Well, we had a good musical connection to begin with, which is key, and the more time we spent together the more we became closer as friends, especially since we started touring. I feel touring has definitely brought us closer over the past year and a half. Like any relationship, communication, patience and understanding are key; we both have different strengths and weaknesses, we also know that it’s only through working together that we’ve been able to do what we’ve done. We both have solo projects too which are cool in their own way, but together we’re able to tap into a different kind of energy. Though I love sharing our music with audiences, sometimes it can be just as satisfying playing together in the practice room.

Andrew – I’ve been in a ton of other projects, but I never got the same feeling before as I do in Run Logan Run. When I jam with Dan it feels like we’re totally on the same team. And a big part of the reason why we’ve come so far in such a short space of time, is because we get on so well out of the rehearsal room. 

Talk about the production schedule for your new CD and what inspired it?  

Andrew – It’s called “The Delicate Balance of Terror.” It’s about nuclear war; the struggle for power; artificial intelligence and its relationship with human beings; the blur between virtual life and reality; and carving out some kind of peace among all this noise. It was tracked in three days back in December last year (2016) and mixed and mastered by the following April. We’ve been so busy in the meantime, it’s taken us a year to get it out. We are releasing it at the start of April 2018. 

How exciting is it to be working on your first CD? What have been your challenges so far? 

Andrew – We worked with Danalogue and Betamax from The Comet is Coming. They produced and mixed the album and it was practically a dream come true as we love their work. The whole process from tracking to mastering was effortless. The only real challenges have been cash flow and keeping on top of administrative details, to ensure the music gets out there. 

Other comments?

Dan & Andrew – Uh huh.

For more information, visit http://www.runloganrun.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the band; top photo (c) Fabrice Bourgelle.

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

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