Category Archives: Interviews

David Sandstrom Interview

David Sandstrom Interview – by Zel K – 2016.

The funny back story is that Refused were notorious for not doing interviews. My band, Pettybone, played with Refused at the forum way back in 2012, and when I spoke to David then he said he would be up for doing an interview. I excitedly emailed him the questions and waited, and waited…. and waited. Nothing. Then suddenly in May 2015 there was a reply! “sorry Zel, I realised I never got round to replying to this – if there is still an interest for me to complete the interview then I will!” I emailed the questions through again, this time with a follow up email a few months later, and here we are… finally, an interview with the excellent and super talented David Sandstrom of Refused. I hope everyone else is as stoked to read it as I was to finally find these answers sitting in my inbox.
DavidSandstromDrums

First off – how is it going? You are touring pretty solidly for the next few months – have the shows been going well for you and are you enjoying it?We’re really enjoying ourselves, in the sense that we sometimes can’t believe we get to do this for a job. We’re on an upward curve musically, with our new guitar player we’re finding new room for innovation and inspiration, we play together backstage for never less than an hour before every show and we feel very confident as we wind down after shows.

The new song sounds fucking great, and I love the psychedelic vibe you have going on both in the music and the video /artwork. How was the writing process for you guys?

Thank you. It was years of hard work. Which was necessary because we were finding our way back in to the core of our thing, our “sound” or “aesthetic”, whatever you wanna call it. It took a while, but next time I think we’re gonna do it quicker, both for ours and the musics sake.

The drum parts are complex and interesting (as always!) is there ever a time when you are practicing drums by yourself and you think – I would love to try and work this concept into a song, and then present it to the other guys to write to? (if so, anything in specific you would care to elaborate on?) As a side note to this, one of my drummer buddies was very eager to know if when you are playing complex drum parts, do you count them or just feel them?

I don’t like playing by myself, I try to avoid it, but sometimes I have to since we live in different cities. Usually I make up drum parts in my head. There are rythmic patterns that pop up and since I write a lot of the music I can work things out on the guitars and drums at the same time, and sometimes the vocals too. The Deadly Rhythm was basically all in my head at first, guitars and drums, and then I figured it out on the actual instruments.

Kristofer is a drummer too, so when he brings a riff I prefer if he already has ideas for beats for it. He is also very much up in his head, and talking it out in the rehearsal space is often a very cerebral experience. We will talk for a good while before playing at all. It’s a pretty open environment, but when I play I don’t think. That’s what I like most about it.

Why did you choose to work with Shellback as  producer for the new record – what was it like, and how do you think it influenced the tracks you recorded?

Nick Launay actually produced the record. We went to LA to a studio called Seedy Underbelly and made the record over 6 weeks. He made us do live take after live take after live take until our fingers bled. It was an intense process, and a great one, but when we got home there were two tracks that just didn’t cut it, and that’s were Johan (Shellback) came in. He basically re-wrote Elektra, which was an unruly beast of a song, clocking in at 7 minutes. He’s a friend and a fan of the band so he’d heard demos and sort of out of the blue sent us this take on Elektra that just blew me and Kristofer away. So he influenced that song a lot, and 366 which he re-arranged and produced.

Do you think, with the world situation politically, that it is the perfect time for a band such a Refused to come out with a new album? We definitely feel more in tune with whatever counterculture there is right now (hard to pin down but you know it when you see it) than we have in a long while. And there’s no shortage of material to write about, that’s for sure.

Talk us through the recording process for you as a drummer, and if it was similar or totally different with your forthcoming album compared to the first album. Do you rehearse the parts by yourself as well as with the band  before hitting the studio? 

We really don’t think about the drums as a separate instrument creatively, Kristofer can change stuff in the drums just as I can work out things on the guitars. So we tend to work together, feels like if I play on my own I will adapt my playing to that environment which is bound to clash with all the stuff going on when there’s five of us. We renovated the old stuff when preparing for the reunion in 2012, often the drums would be playing something the bass already had covered and vice versa. We had to clean it up, and it taught us a lot about ensemble playing. Which, by the way, is how me and Kristofer met, we were in the same percussion ensemble when we were ten.

Do you play to a click track with a guide, or do you play live with everyone else in the room? 

We all play together. Whether we use a click track or not depends on the song, certain songs need it, especially if you know you’re gonna be adding stuff in post, that way you can just copy and drag and drop overdubs. Certain songs are not helped at all by a click track. But I will rehearse every song with a click track at some point, to really nail the tempo down.

Also, is there specific gear you prefer to use in the studio that would be different to your live set up?

I’m so not a gear guy. I play an SJC set, great drums, and the cymbals are mostly Sabian I think. I hit way too hard for Istanbuls although I like those. When recording, I leave the gear to the producer. It’s bound to sound better if someone with a very specific ear calls the shots. The logistics with drums is a bummer, and I only ever own stuff that I use regularly.

You mentioned in an interview before that you expected The Shape of Punk to blow everything else away at the time of it’s release – but it didn’t really happen & life on the road became ‘petty and banal’. With hindsight, would you have preferred for people to have picked up on the album straight away, or are you now able to appreciate it’s slow burn into a cult classic? Why do you feel it has become so relevant now?

It’s hard to complain about having a cult classic under your belt, if that indeed is the case, but having given your all at that age (I was 22) and having made something that you thought was quite impressive and then having it be sort of laughed at, it did change us in some way. We, specifically me and Kristofer, started caring less and less about an audience and that type of validation. The next record I made was a 64-minute theme record in swedish about my granddads suicide that I toured with a generator playing shows outdoors without any pr, just an illegal tour of the north with the people from the leftist collective I’d taken part in forming when Refused fell apart. Pretty funny in hindsight. It’s taken a while to actually value and appreciate an audience again. Which I do now. Sort of.

How do you feel your musical influences have changed over the years? Are there any newly emerged artists who have influenced you with the new record?

We’re well into writing the next record and I’m listening to Univers Zero as always (big influence on Shape of punk), Pallbearer, YOB, Bell Witch, Revenge, Mantar, Pig Destroyer, Noisem, High on Fire, the new Kanye West, Kendrick, Chance, J Cole, lots of Oakland hiphop, lots of Sleaford Mods, Marijuana Deathsquads, Wildbirds and Peacedrums (their latest “Rythm” is a huge inspiration, all drummers should hear it), SWANS, Ho99o9, Paper, 1900, PJ, Butthole Surfers and also me and Kristofer have gone deep in the rabbit hole with Morbid Angel again. It’s always been like this. The dominance of music over all other human endeavors does not change.Do you think its important to stay loyal to your original recorded parts when you are playing live?

No. You should want it to kill as much, but if you find a better way to do it, you should. We changed ALOT in 2012 and no one ever brought it up. Also when I feel inspired I will change alot on the spot, I just enjoy it. Also fucking with the other guys is great.What’s your most essential bit of gear for a live set up and why?

I don’t know. A really good crash/ride maybe, haven’t had one of those in a while.

You have a LOT of awesome energy onstage but you are also super tight – is there a particular warm-up routine that you adhere to?

Thank you. I sit and hit this pad that’s velcro’ed round my thigh for at least an hour before every show. It’s also crucial to listen to great music before the show.

You also played bass in AC4 – I heard this was because of problems with your wrists? 
What happened, and how did you resolve the issues to get back behind the kit with Refused?

The pains started in 96 and I was told to rest but we kept going until we broke up in the fall of 98, at which point I stopped playing drums. I didn’t start again until Kristofer started playing guitar again in 2009/2010 somewheres. By then my wrists were sort of healed I suppose. It was somewhat of a gamble, putting the band back together, but the warmups is what really made it work. I used to walk up onstage cold and start hitting as hard as I could. Not a good idea.

When Refused split, you wrote some albums on your own – how was that experience for you? Do you think you formed your own band as a reaction to wanting to have more control of your own artistic situation?

I was always a musical kid, I wrote my first song from a newspaper headline when I was 8, but drums were my first love. Refused is one of the things I do but without doubt the most important and most challenging. I’ve done collaborations and solo stuff, experimental, pop, music for dance, played in comedy shows and I acted in a play last winter, but Refused is Refused. Nothing can change that.

What would you be doing if you were not a drummer? (Is it true that you recently finished up a play in stockholm??) 

I’m trying my hand at writing fiction. It is very hard.

What is your practice schedule like? Are there any books or dvds that you have studied from a lot?

No, the way I think about it is: I play songs, not the drums. I wouldn’t play if there weren’t Refused-songs that needed to be realised. So I learn and develop as our music does. Makes sense to me.

DavidSandstromDrums2What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“-If you’re gonna do something, do it like a lion.” Said to me by an old Krishna Swami at a show somewhere in italy on our 1994 european tour with 108. He liked the way I played.

What’s next for you and refused?

Touring, writing, reading, same as it ever was.

For more info on David please visit www.officialrefused.com (please note we do not in anyway own the above used photographs, they remain the right of the photographer).

Brad Hargreaves Interview

Brad Hargreaves Interview by Travis Marc – 2015.

The best part about having the UK Drummer platform, is that every now and then I get to talk to some real musical heroes of mine. One such hero happens to be the amazing Brad Hargreaves of Third Eye Blind. I’ve been listening to his drumming (and his band) for as long as I can remember, and just always loved the way he approached his drumming in their ‘alternative/rock type genre of music. Third Eye Blind have a new record out called ‘Dopamine which they are currently on tour supporting, so when I heard that they’re coming back to the UK,I had to jump at the chance to talk to the groove master. Here’s what Brad had to say…
BradHargreavesDrum1Hi Brad, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for UK Drummer. Let’s start at the very beginning, can you tell us how you originally got into drumming and what initially made you want to play the instrument?

My dad played drums when he was younger and gave my brother some sticks and a practice pad. My brother just threw them in the closet but I dug them out. Then, when I was ten years old a friend at school got an electric guitar and just said to me, “you’re my drummer”. I literally built a kit out of boxes with the practice pad as the snare, and it started from there. I have recordings of that homemade kit with me playing Jimi Hendrix covers, ha.

How did you meet/get involved with Stephan Jenkins and the rest of the Third Eye Blind guys?

While at UC Berkeley, a friend in a music class suggested that I go audition for a band that was looking for a drummer. I was playing in a bunch of bands at the time and really liked the challenge of finding different ways to compliment whichever musical situation I found myself in. Stephan gave me a demo tape and we realised he only lived about 200 yards from me., which was a strange coincidence. I went to jam with them and we actually worked up a song off the first record called ‘Narcolepsy’ during that first rehearsal.

Third Eye Blind just released an amazing new album called Dopamine. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process? Did you use any interesting drum gear or recording techniques you used during the recording?

Thanks! The process meandered a bit for quite a while. We even tried a few tracks in London a few years ago, but the music just wasn’t there yet. At the beginning of 2014 it really began to come into focus and we actually worked pretty fast after that. I always use a bunch of vintage gear on recordings. I have some, and then we rent some in addition. We like having a lot of options for drum sounds, particularly snares. On ‘Get Me Out of Here’, we used this really deep rental snare that had a bunch of paper taped to the head from some previous session. It sounded perfect as soon as we put it on the stand.

Talking of drum gear, I love how you play such a minimal set up. Would you talk us through your gear and set up?

I have been playing a 4 piece vintage Ludwig that we built a custom riser for. The cymbal and hi-hat stands mount underneath the riser so there are no tripods stands on the deck and the mic cables are routed through the cymbals stands so there are not mic stands on the deck of the riser either. It’s very clean looking. I play mostly Zildjian ‘A Customs’ and use a Zildjian Avedis ‘Sweet Ride’. I also use Promark 2B natural drumsticks.

You’re on the road touring the new album as we speak, how’s it all going?

It’s great… We played a big summer tour outside in amphitheaters which is wonderful, but I realised how much I really like playing indoors. Drum sounds have so much to do with the room your in and I actually kind of think of it as ‘playing the room” as much as playing the drums. Playing in a nice theatre is where I feel like I can be the most musical on the drums.

What advise could you give us on how to stay healthy while on the road?

Wash your hands and exercise. I started running about 5 or 6 years ago and have never been sick since. Not once. I am convinced sweating is one of the best ways to maintain your health.

What about longevity in general. You’ve been a member of 3EB for twenty years now. In that time, many other members have come and gone. Leaving yourself and Stephan as the original core members. What do you think has been the key to staying friends in a band for so long is, and what advice could you give up and comers about trying to keep relationships healthy within a band environment?

I would say 80% of it is just sharing a similar world view in terms of how you conduct your affairs within the band and the level of professionalism you expect from yourself and others. We want the same things for Third Eye Blind. The other 20% is just having empathy for others, and wanting them to succeed because we are in this together. I am a team guy. I try to be the guy that looks at what needs to be done and does it.

Away from 3EB, you also perform as ‘Just Brad’, doing DJ sets accompanied by drumming – is that correct? What made you decide to do this, and how did you come up with the idea?

I was experimenting with drumming and DJing at the same time. I did 20 or 30 shows as ‘Just Brad’ but have not had the time to do it lately. The genesis of that actually goes back to the empathy thing. I was in the back of a van with a band called ‘Year Long Disaster’ that I played in for 5 or 6 years and was fretting over being double booked for the 20th time with a Third Eye Blind gig. I was so tired of letting the YLD guys down and getting sub drummers for the great shows they were getting so I vowed to myself that i would start a solo project where I didn’t have to let anybody down if I got another gig That’s kind of where (and how) it started.

Who or what would you say inspires you as a drummer/musician?

I get inspiration from lots of places. Other music, people, sounds, other musicians or even a Jackson Pollack painting.

What about practice? Do you still ever just sit down and practice away from the band? If so, what do you try work on?

Of course. I love to practice. I work on a lot of stuff with my feet. I feel like having a great bass drum foot is the key making a band sound good. It’s the key foundational element of most music.

The music industry has obviously changed a lot in the last 20 years. What are some of the main differences you see now, compared to say 3EB’s early success while on the road, or just in general?

Well, music is free now. That’s the root of the difference. At the same time, promotion is largely free now as well with social networking. So it’s a bit of a trade off, but one that actually works really well for Third Eye Blind.

Have you still got any musical ambitions or dreams?

I tend to be forward looking. This is the best we have ever played and we are writing some of my favorite music in our entire career I just want to keep it going. This right now, is what we worked so hard for.

What do you feel has been the greatest piece of advice anyone has ever given you in regards to your career?

I have been told by different people to just unapolegetically be yourself in your artistry. And I have always felt the same way. Never compromise and try to fit in. Be you.
BradHargreavesDrums2Any last thoughts or words of advice?

We are so excited to play Manchester and London coming up. We can’t wait to get over there.

Catch Third Eye Blind on Tour next month at the following venues.
Thu, 5 Nov Manchester Academy 2, Manchester, GB
Fri, 6 Nov O2 Forum Kentish Town, London, GB

For more info on Brad or Third Eye Blind please visit www.thirdeyeblind.com

(Please note that UK Drummer do not own any of the photos in this interview and they remain the property of the photographers who took them).

Ken Mary Interview

Ken Mary Interview by Travis Marc – 2015.

Todd Vinnie Vinciguerra told me to check out Ken Mary after I interviewed him earlier this year and I was blown away by the amount of big things that Ken had done. Not only has Ken worked as the drummer for legends such as Alice Cooper and The Beach Boys, but he also had his own band called ‘House Of Lords’ who were heavily involved with the one and only ‘God of Thunder’ mr Gene Simmons too. Ken currently runs Sonic Phish studios and was recently asked to host the forth coming movie ‘The Drumming Hall Of Fame. Oh, did I mention that he even backed John Stamos on a few episodes of the sitcom ‘Full House – Amazing – Read more about what Ken had to say below…

KenMaryDrums

Hi Ken, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us. Let’s start where we always start, and ask about how you originally got into drumming?

Hi Travis, thank you for asking me, and let me begin by saying you are doing a great job with UK Drummer!

That is an interesting question. I was always drawn to drums, even as a child. I was playing with pencils on my desk in school to the point where teachers would complain to my mother. When it came time to choose an instrument in 5th grade, there was no question or debate. It had to be drums, lol.

Were you self taught or did you attend lessons? Also, what is your general opinion on lessons?

I did have a great teacher named Dick Stensland up in Seattle, Washington where I grew up, who had a heavy jazz background. He was a very well rounded player and teacher, and he taught me rudimental drumming, jazz, fusion, latin and of course some rock as well. When my mother could not afford lessons he taught me for free because he felt I was pretty advanced for my age and could tell I loved playing. That is something I still think back on and appreciate.

I do think lessons are very important. They can open up a whole new world for you and expose you to playing and styles you may not necessarily be interested in. This pushes your horizons. If the teacher is skilled and a good communicator, lessons can be extremely helpful especially if you have a sort of natural aptitude that combines with the training.

Who were your early influences?

That’s actually kind of a funny question. In terms of drumming, my early influences where pretty wide ranging and included Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, Lenny White, and Tommy Aldridge. When I was a kid the first concert I ever saw was Kiss, so when I worked with Gene I told him he owed me about a million dollars for all the posters, records, and other merchandise I bought. When I saw them play, I said, “I want to do THAT!” They were the reason I joined a rock band, anyway.

Somewhere along the line, you made the switch from drumming to audio engineering. Why was this?

There was a sort of perfect storm of reasons, but mainly because my body was having some serious problems with me playing the way I used to play. I always joke it was probably the equivalent of getting in a small car wreck every night for about 7 years. I look back at how hard I was hitting and it does take a toll. Add that to some of the serious car wrecks I was in when I was younger and my lower back was really giving me fits. I continued doing studio work, but I was really not wanting to tour and aggravate things further. At certain points it was difficult to walk after playing, which is a bad place to be in.

I had always had a very strong background in producing and engineering, and was blessed to be able to work with some of the greatest producers and engineers on the planet such as Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin), Michael Wagener (Ozzy Osbourne, Janet Jackson, Metallica), Garth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Chevelle), Howard Benson (P.O.D.), Terry Date (Limp Bizkit, White Zombie), Bill Kennedy (Nine Inch Nails, Megadeth), Mick Guzauski (Christina Aguilera, Maria Carery), Mac (Queen), and Desmond Child (Ricky Martin, Aerosmith). I learned a tremendous amount working with that caliber of people, and it was a natural progression for me to go onto the “other side of the glass” so to speak.

What action do you take to help relieve the pain caused by these injuries?

I found some things that helped me immensely, and may help other drummers that have back issues as well. (Quite honestly that is almost everyone I know that is a pro.) The Roc-n-Soc Motion throne pretty much allowed me to drum as much as I want again. If that thing did not exist I conceivably may still not be able to play except sporadically. The throne is weird to get used to because it moves around as you play, but your back never has the full pressure in one spot and once you get used to it, you don’t even notice it. It really saves my back. (BTW, I do not have an endorsement with that company. I simply love their product. I suggest using one even if you don’t have back problems as it will keep you from developing them.) That and physical therapy allows me to play without pain, and I play everyday now.

Obviously, you achieved so much as a drummer, (including performing and/or recording with established artists like Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Alice Cooper, Accept, House of Lords, TKO, Impelliterri, Jordan Rudess, Hall of Fame inductees the Beach Boys, Kip Winger, Bonfire, Fifth Angel and many others). What would you say was the highlight of your drumming career?

When you say “highlight”, I think of “the most fun.” I can tell you exactly when that was. On my first Alice Cooper world tour, our fifth show together was a sold out Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Halloween night. The show was a 22,000 seater and was broadcast live on MTV in front of millions more. I was very young, and this was the biggest show I had ever played. Before touring with Alice the biggest place I played was about 3,000 people. I was so ready for this show, and I had an amazing time. Later on there were bigger shows, or perhaps shows that were more important from a career standpoint, but that was the most fun it was for me. I think in some way because working with Alice, you never had the worries that I would have later on with my own band. For instance, when it’s a band entity like a House of Lords, for instance, you have to be concerned about everything from how much you are paying for your bus, what the manager is doing with your money, how much the road crew is costing, where the album is on the charts, and the list goes on and on. You have to worry about the business end. With Alice, all I had to do was play and have fun. And I did! Lol.

I have to ask – can you tell us what it was like working with Gene Simmons – oh, and the Beach Boys? What did you do for them?

Well, yes, of course I worked with Gene over some years, so I got to hang out with him for what I would consider was a fair amount of time. He was in the studio with us, attended some photo shoots and TV shows with us, and would do special things like fly in to Las Vegas overnight from NYC in his private jet to attend our album release party. I always liked Gene, and my experience with him was nothing but positive. As you know I was a huge Kiss fan growing up, so it was really an honor to work with him. He always gave us very good advice, and I believe he did a great deal to ensure the success of House of Lords. In some cases more than we even realized. For instance, I just found out recently he had gone on national television in Canada to help promote our first record. That was one of those things I was not even aware of at the time. Gene is a stand up guy, very honest, and I have a great deal of respect for him.

I worked with The Beach Boys recording drums for the song “Forever” and for two episodes of the #1 ABC hit sitcom Full House back in the 90’s. (I was in three episodes total as the drummer in Jesse and the Rippers, which was John Stamos’ fictional band on the show.) As you may know, John Stamos stills plays drums with The Beach Boys live occasionally, and for those episodes John was singing and I was playing drums.

Is your time taken up mainly by the studio now days? When you do still drum, what do you work on (and if not, do you ever miss it)?

I do play nearly everyday now, and am working on some videos and other products that have to do with drumming. One is pretty exciting actually. I was asked to host “The Drumming Hall of Fame”TM movie being produced by Emmy Award winning production house Square Pictures. I get to sit down and chat with drummers like Steve Gadd, Simon Phillips, Kenny Aronoff, and Steve Smith just to name a few. These are players that have really changed the art form, and it is an honor to sit with them and find out who they are as people, not just musicians. It’s also a great responsibility to ask the questions that hopefully other drummers would want to ask but maybe do not have this opportunity.

I am still working almost everyday in the studio as well, so I am having a great time doing both, actually!

Let’s talk a little bit about your studio – Sonic Phish Studios. (www.sonicphish.com) Tell us about who’s worked there and what the day to day operations involve?

Sure. We do a great variety of work in almost every genre, and we’ve worked with a huge number of acts including Megadeth, LaRue, House of Lords, Trik Turner, Grammy Award winner Daniel Winans, Debbie Sledge from Sister Sledge fame (We Are Family), Esterlyn, Silverline, Northern Light Orchestra (a Christmas project which includes numerous multi-platinum singers and musicians, too many to name), The Phunk Junkeez, Ember, and Ever Stays Red. There are tons more as well, but suffice it to say we stay busy, lol. To top it off we also work in film as well, doing foley, audio sweetening and mixing.

Day to day operations are really just focusing on the project at hand and keeping all the gear in good shape. Each artist has their own special needs, and often times we work in completely different markets simultaneously.

What would you say has been the best career advice you’ve ever received and who gave you this advice?

I think the best advice may have come from Gene Simmons. He said, “It is easier to attract bees with honey,” which simply means be nice to people ALL THE TIME. When I worked with him, he was already hugely successful and he would take the time to know people at the label, the field reps, the in-store reps, the radio promoters and program directors, all by name. Did he have to? No. But I believe this is one of the reasons Kiss is still hugely successful 40 years after their formation. It’s great advice, so if you’re reading this use it!!

KenMaryDrums2

What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry and what do you feel can be done to potentially improve it?

Well, it’s a tough time for the industry. Music is now considered “free.” This is, to say the least, a big problem for young musicians that want to be able to make a living. An entire revenue stream is essentially gone. This mostly affects the new and upcoming artists, not the established artists as much. If they can figure out a way to monetize music again, and I’m not talking about streaming which helps no one but those services and the consumers, that would improve things greatly. I remember when we valued music, and when we spent our hard earned money for it we respected it more. Music is becoming disposable. You used to have fans that would follow a band for years and years. Now it’s for a song or two. How do you change that? I’m not really sure . . . people always say “just make great music” but let’s be honest. There is plenty of amazing music that never attracts the fans it deserves to because of the sheer number of artists and songs available to everyone now for free.

Any last thoughts or words of advice?

Even though the current state of the industry is difficult, I would still pursue your dreams if that’s what you are driven to do. You have to really love it, though. If you love music and can’t even think of doing anything else, then get in there and fight for it. Some people will win. It’s always been a numerically difficult industry, today more so than ever. But life is short and you better do what you love or you may regret it. I think it’s better to fail doing something you love, than to succeed doing something you hate. If you have skill and talent, then work hard, don’t quit, and win!!!

For more information on Ken please visit – www.sonicphish.com

Please note that UKDrummer do not own the above images and they remain the property of the person who took them or paid for them. Thank you.

Clem Cattini Interview

Clem Cattini Interview by Travis Marc. 2015

British drumming icon Clem Cattini was kind enough to give us some of his time recently to do the below interview. Clem is on record for playing on over 44 British number one singles and was part of the group ‘The Tornados’ who were the original backing band for Bill Fury. Clem also became one of the most in demand session drummers from the 1960’s onwards and has played and recorded with artists such as Lou Reed, Cliff Richard and The Kinks (just to name a few). Here’s what Clem had to say.
ClemCattiniDrums1Let’s start at the beginning. What initially made you want to play the drums?

Truthfully, I never really had any real desires to start playing and actually started as a joke after I saw the movie ‘Blackboard Jungle, which Bill Hayley had done the music for. Myself and two of my friends (who happened to be guitarists) went to go and see the film and after it finished and we were leaving the cinema they started joking around and saying that we should form a rock n roll group, and that I should play the drums. So, I said ok and the rest is history really. At the start (with the first group I was in) I was originally playing skiffle board but I progressed from there and eventually started playing the drums.

When would you say that you really started taking it seriously, rather than just doing it for fun?

I was working at quite a fancy place in London called The 2i’s Coffee Bar and a lot of the big stars from that time would often come and do shows there. Myself, and Brian Bennet were kind of like the house drummers at the venue so I think I started really taking it seriously around then. Before this I was working for my father at his restaurant and we had a bit of an argument the one day so I quit and became and decided to become pro from there.

In my opinion, you’re like the UK version of Hal Blaine as you’ve played drums on over forty UK number one singles. What do you regard as your first big break?

That’s such a big compliment I must admit, thank you. Well, I was really enjoying myself with the group that I was playing with at the time so I just decided to stick with it. I got myself a copy of the Buddy Rich drum tutor book and started practicing all the rudiments from there etc. My first big break was really just working down at the 2i’s Coffee bar. After that, I got a nine month tour with a comedian named Max Moore and it kind of snow balled from there. I was then offered a position with a guy name Terry Dean who was a mega star in those days and it kinda just kept going.

Can you tell us about about what the session scene was like back when you were coming up (the 60’s and 70’s). Was it very competitive in regards to other drummers trying to get the same work?

I was really lucky because I was only about seventeen year old at the time and because of the constriction laws plus the fact that I have flat feet I didn’t have to go to the army while a lot of my friends and peers had to, or were enrolled already. I offered to go in for three years purely to study music but because of my flat feet, I was regarded as a liability and they didn’t want me. So I really didn’t have to compete with to many people because there just weren’t that many people about.

I understand that you were initially on Jimmy Page’s shortlist when he was considering drummers before starting Led Zeppelin? Can you tell us a bit about that?

I was with a group called Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and had first worked with Jimmy when he was about fourteen years old. Jimmy worked in a band that used to support us, and because of his musical talent he started to work on a lot of the sessions that I was on. His manager, Peter Grant phoned me one day and said that he wanted to take me for lunch because he had a proposition for me, but because of my session commitments I just never had the chance to meet him for lunch. Anyway, about nine to twelve months later I heard Led Zeppelin on the radio. I ran into Peter Grant a short while after that and asked him if the proposition he had originally mentioned involved the band and he said that it had and that I was on Jimmy’s original shortlist for potential drummers. That’s just life though you know. In fairness I couldn’t realistically have seen myself doing it and travelling up and down the country for months on end because I was doing so many other things and had my own family by this time, plus while I could’ve been living in a mansion right now had I actually done the gig the truth is that you can only drive one car at a time, sleep in one bed at a time, and only live in one house at a time, so I have no regrets. Plus, I never originally started playing the drums to make money anyway, I don’t think any of us do. We do it because we love it and it feels good and we just want to play.

When I met you in person a few weeks ago I asked you if Keith Moon was really as mad as everyone says that he was. Away from our brief chat then have you got any personal kind of stories that you could share with us regarding late great drummers such as Keith Moon, John Bonham or any other really notable drummers?

Brian Bennett and myself kind of grew up together and had worked together at ‘The 2i’s’, he was with Marty Wild and I was with Bill Fury and although our careers kind of went parallel to each other until Brian joined ‘The Shadows’ and became a star. The nearest I got was while I was with ‘The Tonados” which shot up very high but came down very quickly too ha ha. The thing with drummers is that you don’t really get the opportunity to hang out with each other a lot because the band or artist you’re working with usually only need one drummer, where there are usually more than one guitarist on a lot of sessions etc. So yeah, funny situation because although I ran into all these guys and we spoke etc, none of us really got to close because we were always on the road doing our thing with the artists that we were playing with.

Out of all the artists that you’ve played and recorded with, what work do you think you’re most proud of and why? (Clem has played on over 44 UK no 1 singles for those who weren’t aware).

I think that Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan is something I’m fairly proud of, simply because people keep mentioning it to me and that they didn’t realise that I was the drummer on it. I was also in the orchestra on Top of The Pops for roughly twelve years and had the experience of backing artists such as The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder which was great. For me, it’s really a case of – I did what I did as best as I could do it, and tried to play as well as I could depending on what the situation was. My philosophy was always one in which my attitude was that the day I thought I was good enough would be the day I’d give up.

Who would you say your influences are, both back then and now?

Elvis Presley’s drummer Ronnie Tutt was obviously a huge influence on me because most of the records we had in England at the time were American records and Elvis was the biggest star during that period. Buddy Rich was of course another one and I would’ve really loved to play in a real big band like he had. Today’s guys would have to be drummers like Gavin Harrison, Elliot Henshaw and Steve Gadd. Oh, Ralph Simmons is another great player. Thomas Lang, Steve Smith and Dave Weckl,. There’s so many great drummers out there and you could learn something from all of them. Steve Smith recently did a book all about British Rock Drummers and I’m really honoured to be featured in there. I really appreciate how good some drummers are and it’s amazing how great their technique is but I think that a lot of young drummers need to spend some time focusing on feel again as you need to be able to play with songs and make it feel good too, not just play chops all over the place. We’re drummers and grooving is our job.

Do you still spend a lot of time playing, and if so what do you like to play?

No, not really. I have a few problems physically now days. I have arthritis in my hands and arms, and recently had a hip replacement so it’s a little tricky trying to work the hi hat pedal. I’m also at an age where I can’t really carry a lot of my gear around anymore. So I think it’s time to say goodbye really. Again, there are so many good drummers out now that there’s no real need for me. I’ve always been very grateful to have done the things that I did and make some of the contributions people tell me I made. It was a complete honour being able to play with some of the amazing musicians that I got to play with. I feel really lucky.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start drumming and doesn’t know where or how to start?

You should get yourself a good teacher. I taught myself because when I started playing there were really no teachers about, so I got myself a practice pad and a Buddy Rich tuition book and just tried my best, but now there are some really great teachers in this country so there’s really no reason not to get together with one for a bit of guidance and help. Away from that there are no quick fixes, you simply have to practice ! When I started really getting into it, I was practicing around five to six hours a day because I had made the decision to try and get better. The best practice of course is when you’re actually doing it too, so get out there, play and do whatever you can to spend time with your instrument.

What would you say has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?

‘Ignore the string players’ ha ha – just kidding. When I first started I met a guy named Nicki Wilson who was a musical director. He was very good to me and actually said to me that no matter what the situation as long as I keep my eyes on the MD and make them feel good that everything else would be fine. It’s all about making people feel comfortable. Another thing I would say would be to get yourself a metronome. It’s so good for you, and helps you relax. Keep your ears on what the bass player is doing and you should be able to lock everything in together. You want it to feel good. Oh, and remember – less is more.

If you could do it all again, would you change anything?

As I’ve already said, I’ve been so honoured to do the things I’ve done. So no, I wouldn’t change a thing. Perhaps I’d think a little more about the money side of things, but apart from that I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m a strong believer that you should always honour your decisions, it says a lot about you as a person.
ClemCattiniDrums2                                                                  (Clem in his HeyDay)

Any last thoughts or advice?

If you’re going to play an instrument you should enjoy it because it’s truly a wonderful gift to be able to do it. Stick with it, practice and forget all the unimportant stuff. Yes, you need technique but you should know when to use it, but more then anything just enjoy yourself. Oh, and remember that when you’re doing interviews that although you can sometimes say something as a joke that there is no tones regarding jokes in print, so just be careful what you might have to say sometimes.

Please note that we do not own any of the images used in this interview and they remain the property of the photographers that actually took them.

Todd ‘Vinny’ Vinciguerra Interview

Todd ‘Vinny’ Vinciguerra Interview by Travis Marc. 2015.

I first discovered Todd ‘Vinny’ Vinciguerra in 2013 while paging through a copy of Modern Drum Magazine, for which he had written some double bass building working outs that I thought were completely unique. I decided to do some research and was happy to discover that Todd was quite an in demand player as well as an established drum author. I decided to make contact to see if he’d do an interview with us, and he said yes, here’s what he had to say.
ToddVinnyVinciguerraDrums1 Continue reading