Paul Hession was born in Leeds in 1956. He took up drumming at the age of 15 and since then has played and broadcast in many European & Scandinavian countries as well as Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, USA & Canada. He has played with many of the major figures on the free music scene, such as: Peter Brötzmann, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Sunny Murray, Marshall Allen, Frode Gjerstad, Peter Kowald, Joe McPhee, Borah Bergman, Otomo Yoshihide & his old friends Alan Wilkinson, Simon Fell, Hans Peter Hiby and Mick Beck. Collaborators from a different scene are Squarepusher and dj/producer Paul Woolford. He is known to relish the interaction of collective music-making, but also responds to the challenge of solo performance.
Paul Hession was born in Leeds in 1956. His parents bought him a guitar when he was seven and also encouraged his musical progress by enrolling him in the church choir. He credits his choir leader William Isles-Pulford, who was a great improviser on the church organ - as an inspirational figure who further stimulated his love of music. Once a year the choir was augmented by a small orchestra to perform Fauré’s Requiem and this was great experience for a young musician. His first paid gigs were also with the choir – weddings took place on Saturdays and the choirboys were paid to sing at each ceremony. The busiest Saturday he can recall involved singing at six consecutive weddings. He started playing drums by chance when he was fourteen or fifteen, being mainly self-taught, and started off through the usual route of rock groups, cabaret, and working men's clubs. He saw Elvin Jones play at Ronnie Scott’s Club when he was nineteen ‘which gave him food for thought’ for many years. After several years playing jazz in his early twenties and eventually having been drawn towards free improvisation, Hession formed Art, Bart & Fargo with Alan Wilkinson (alto and soprano saxophones) and Pete Malham (tenor saxophone, congas) in 1980. This eventually became a duo with Wilkinson and the two of them played at the WIM festival in Antwerp and Eindhoven in 1983 and recorded a session for BBC Radio 3 at the Maida Vale studios in London. Hession lived in London in 1983/84 where he played with many improvisors including Paul Rutherford, Maggie Nicols, Phil Wachsmann, Hugh Metcalfe, Alan Tomlinson, Harry Sjöstrom, Teppo Hauta Aho, Paul Rogers, Bob Cobbing, Marcio Mattos, Elton Dean and Lol Coxhill and was invited to form a trio with Chris Green and Roberto Bellatalla. This group worked regularly for several years and recorded a vinyl LP Plain Speaking. Other London based trios were 3PVD with Parny Wallace and Phil Durrant and a group with Japanese pianist Akemi Kuniyoshi and Wilkinson. In late '84 Paul returned to Leeds where he continued playing and running music workshops. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he did much of the organising for the Termite Club, formed originally by Wilkinson and guitarist Paul Buckton to promote free improvised music in Leeds. In 1985 he played a short duo tour in the UK with trombonist Paul Rutherford, which led to him being invited to join the second incarnation of The Siger Band (along with George Haslam, Pete McPhail, Tony Moore and Paul). The following year the band undertook a tour of Mexico (playing in Mexico City, Guanajuato, Queretaro, San Miguel, Ensanada and Tijuana) under the auspices of The British Council, which was followed by a ten day residency in the Hotel Nacional ballroom in Havana, Cuba. Earlier that same year, when Hession was thirty, he had the opportunity to make a solo recording in an amazing acoustic environment – a wooden floored warehouse full of pianos. Playing percussion in such a situation was incredibly stimulating as each stroke triggered responses from the piano strings. This became the bulk of the recording Giant Soft Drum Set, which was released in 1999 to coincide with a UK solo tour with funding from Jazz Services. His first solo concerts took place in 1983 in Leeds and London – the latter was recorded by The National Sound Archive for the British Library. He has continued to play solo from time to time and values the discipline and self-determination that is required from this activity. In recent years he has started working with an electroacoustic dimension to his solo work – using both analogue and digital electronics to augment and shape the sounds from his percussion set-up. In 1986 Hession and Hans-Peter Hiby undertook a concert tour that took them to Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Germany. Two years later they convened in a studio in Dusseldorf to record the vinyl LP The Real Case, which features a cover designed by Peter Brötzmann. Between 1985 and 1987 Paul Hession ran the Improvised Music Workshop (for the Workers' Educational Association) in Leeds, he taught drumming in schools from 1989 to 1991, played music with silent films and worked with dancers Tamsin Spain and Derek Williams at the Northern Ballet Theatre. In 1997 he founded Improvised Music Leeds (IML) to run workshops and occasionally invite guest musicians to give the players experience performing and being guided by musicians with different approaches. One of his most high profile groups: Hession/Wilkinson/Fell was formed in 1989 and this trio has continued to be a force since its inception. The trio has often added an additional player, such as, Derek Bailey, Stefan Jaworzyn, Bob Cobbing or Joe Morris.
"Spontaneous music of a scorching and unrelenting intensity.....conversational music of the most intuitive eloquence.....unquenchable energy.....There probably isn't such a thing as state-of-the-art free music, but as a term of convenient endearment, it's close enough." John Fordham THE GUARDIAN
The trio played at the Sound Symposium in St John's, Newfoundland in 1994. A recording from this event was later released as St John's on the Ecstatic Peace! label. While they were in Newfoundland they also recorded a session for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which was broadcast by the CBC on the radio programme Two New Hours. His strong allegiance to bassist Simon Fell has led to the pair playing with numerous horn players in addition to Alan Wilkinson - Lol Coxhill, Jeffrey Morgan, Charles Wharf and, in particular, Mick Beck. The trio with Beck – sometimes called Something Else! has rivalled Hession/Wilkinson/Fell for its activity and the two trios would often be on the road in quick succession.
"There's passion, intellect and first-rate group interaction. What more can one ask from a contemporary improvising trio?" Robert Iannapollo CADENCE "An energetic trio, this group plays improvised music with relentless passion and virtuosity." John Baxter OPTION "There's an exceptional level of communication between the musicians here. When the group is in full flight the flux of energy is incredible." Francesco Martinelli IMPROJAZZ
In 1995 Paul was invited to perform (along with Hans-Peter Hiby and Victor Jäkel) at Peter Kowald's Ort in Wuppertal, Germany. This was a year-long series of concerts and art shows that took place in Kowald's large house in Elberfeld. The whole event was documented by photographer Nicole Aders in her book Sehen Sehen, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln. In 2002 Hession played concerts in New York, Boston, Chicago and Amherst, Mass. with, amongst others, Ras Moshe, Jeb Bishop, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul Flaherty and Joe McPhee. In 2004 he went to play in Seattle with Wally Shoup and Mike Bisio and flew from there to reprise the earlier trio with Jeb and Fred at The Empty Bottle in Chicago. In 2006 he returned to the US for a series of concerts with alto saxophonist Blaise Siwula. Prior to his last trip to the US, in 2005 Paul travelled to Toronto with Mick Beck to play with a group of Canadian musicians, including Ken Aldcroft, Tania Gill, Michael Keith and Scott Thomson. In that same year he was invited to play at the On The Outside festival in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to play with Elton Dean, Paul Rutherford, Paul Dunmall, Alan Silva a.o. In recent years Hession was invited to play in a duo with Marshall Allen at the Kraak festival in Brussels, at the UNCOOL festival in Poschiavo (Switzerland) and in a trio/quartet (with Farid Baron & John Edwards) at Café Oto in London. In 2003 he toured in the UK in a duo with Joe McPhee from which came the recording A Parallax View and works regularly with The Thin Red Line - an Anglo-Norwegian trio with Petter Frost-Fadnes and Rus Pearson - and has a Leeds based trio, Unit of Resistance, with saxophonist Richard Ormrod and double bassist Paul Moore. Other interesting collaborations have been appearing on Squarepusher's UK tour in 2005, playing in the Contemporary Music Network freenoise UK tour 2007 (with C Spencer Yeh, Evan Parker, John Wiese a.o.), playing at the Colour Out of Space festival, Brighton in 2008 with Sammi Pekkola and Biggi Vinkeloe and duos with ex Harry Pussy guitarist Bill Orcutt.