His first instrument in 1983 was a «Kay» precision copy, defretted in the vain hope of sounding like Pino Palladino or Jaco Pastorius! In 1984 he bought an «Eco» Fretless acoustic bass from a shop in Oxford and played this instrument initially with his father’s band the «Riverside Jazzmen» in Burnley. In Swansea he played an Aria Pro then a headless Gordy bought in Dawson’s in Burnley just before leaving to France. Today he mainly plays a black Rickenbacker 4003 from 1999 and a yellow Fender Jazz USA from 1978. He uses Ernie Ball «Slinky»regular gauge strings. In 2018 he started using a 5 string Music Man Stingray for the new Pee Bee “OR not to BE”
His first double bass was bought in the sales at «Reedy’s» music shop in Blackburn in 1985. Since 1990 he remains faithful to a French bass from the Jacquet lutherie, made around 1880, originally a 3 string bass, the machine heads are of English fabrication. Bought in London, this bass also spent some time in Japan and is today kept in great condition thanks to luthier François Bonnier in Antony. In 1991 this bass was lent to John Ore for a Sun Ra concert and in 1998 played by Marc Johnson during a bass workshop in Capbreton. From 2014 till his sad death in 2020 Gary’s bass was set up by the renowned bass maker and repairer Patrick Charton
For many years he used Thomastik orchestral strings. Recently, on the first Night Bus album, he has used D’Addario Zyez light strings A D G whilst keeping E Thomastik. For the upcoming “Second Trip” album he has switches to gut/steel wrapping strings: Basso, made by Gerold Genssler in Berlin.
For overseas travel he uses a folding «Volante» bass designed by Patrick Avigdor and built by Maurice Dupont in Cognac.
The first pick-up used was a «Polytone», bought from local bass player Norman Fisk. In Swansea he acquired the «Underwood» from Thad Kelly, using it up to 1992 when he adopted the «Shertler cork system» Since 2000 he has been using a pick-up designed by Hubert Liègois in tandem with his «Lièg» pre-amplification. In 2013 he also added the David Gage «Realist» pick-up. In 2018, on recommendation by Chris Jennings, he started using the A.N.S pick up system made by Haen & Schäfer.
His first amp was a «Fender Sidekick 80W». In 1986 he acquired a brand new «Polytone Mini Brute1 12’» which, thanks to Hubert Leigois’ caring attention, he uses to this day. He also plays a «Walter Woods» relic from 1973 (acquired in 2001) with a Acoustic Image EX speaker or a Gallien Krueger 15’. He often uses a Acoustic Image Claris 200W head, enabling him to pass quickly from electric to acoustic in the Pee Bee.
At the age of 16, when he started out on double bass, his dad’s band mates (Jack Moore & Keith Simpkin) used to say «Gary, when are you gonna play the real bass, the brass bass?»to which he replied «Not on your life!»
Around 2003, several factors came into play: John Surman’s album «London Brass», the film «Brassed Off» which was shot in his native North of England (call it nostalgia!), plus the need to improve his breathing while playing, all brought about the desire to learn to play a brass instrument.
Whilst teaching at «Jazz àTours», he spotted a euphonium for rent in Hall Musique. The owner Philippe Coulais immediately put him in contact with Stéphane Balzeau, Tuba professor at the Tours conservatory, and the adventure started right there….
Since 2009 he studies regularly with Olivier Bourlon, colleague at Verrières Conservatory. In 2010 he took part in a master class with Fred Wesley playing alongside the great funk trombonist with 80 other students at the Villette Jazz Festival.
In 2016 he played a new commissioned contemporary piece “En Blanc et Bleue” by Christophe de Coudenhove.
In England he acquired 2 double bass Bb tubas, one of which had belonged to local musician Irvin Cole. He also plays a fibre glass Conn soussaphone.
Back in 2015 he was privileged to spend a week studying Indian rhythms with maestro percussionist Prabhu Edouard organised by Ariam. This encouraged him to enrol on courses with John Boswell at Paris Philharmonie. He is presently studying with Julien Leroy. Working on Indian rhythms is so exciting and are a great source of inspiration for him as an improvising bass player and composer.