Mark Richardson Interview – by Travis Marc – 2010.
In my opinion Skunk Anansie’s Mark Richardson is without a doubt one of the greatest rock drummers in the world. His playing is powerful yet dynamic and musical yet solid. In addition he makes performing with an energy that not many drummers show anymore, look effortless. He recently took a bit of time out of his schedule to talk with me about what he is currently up to, here’s what he had to say…
Hi Mark, thanks for taking some time out of your recording schedule to talk with us. Let’s start at right at the beginning. Can you tell us a bit about how you started drumming?
Hi Travis, well I started smacking a tin drum age 3, but got my first kit at 6. It was a Ludwig Junior which was fairly knackered but it was cheap off a mate so it did the trick. My old man bought it from him as a Christmas present for me in ’76. I played that kit into the ground every day. Happy days. In ’84 the Premier Olympic 8 piece arrived as I went on to school covers bands. I had a couple of originals bands before I got the Little Angels gig and an inherited Pearl kit. Michael Lee left to join the Cult before his famous stint with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and I’d known the guys from the local Scarborough scene and had roadied for them for a time. That was my break and I have never looked back. BLOW and Skunk soon followed, then Feeder and back to Skunk again.
Are you a self taught drummer or have you had any kind of formal tuition?
I was self taught until I was 14 when I had lessons from Fred Adamson who played on UK TV shows in the 60/70/80’s. He took me back to basics and taught me about the grips, posture, breathing and rudiments. I was never a disciplined practise type of guy though, and it’s an area I have always battled with. I played along relentlessly to my favourite bands records though so I did routining a lot. I played a lot, every day for 16 years, it just wasn’t structured or organised, I was having too much fun slamming along to Led Zep 4! I went to Bob Armstrong literally once and am looking forward to some Latin lessons very soon.
Many drummers that I have interviewed have said that they feel to much tuition can take a natural element out of one’s playing. What are your thoughts regarding drum tuition?
Plenty of drummers don’t have tuition and have success in bands and plenty of well trained drummers are successful in bands too. I would say though that if you are going into theatre, not only will you need to have all your chops up but you’ll need sight reading skills too. Rock ‘n’ roll is the antithesis of that world so if it works, it works. It depends on your goals really.
Performing live, you seem to have a monstrous amount of energy. Can you tell us if you have any specific warm up routine that you do before you get on stage?
I do a few rudiments to wake my brain up, for maybe half an hour. I stretch a lot too. Not only fingers and arms but back, shoulders, neck and legs. A far cry from 10 years ago when it was a pint of vodka and orange. I quitthe booze and drugs in 2000 and took up getting fit instead which was amazing for my playing and well being. I run a lot, eat well and take care of myself these days and save all my energy for the show if I’m on tour.
Do you still find anytime to practice/play in between the amount of touring that Skunk Anansie are currently doing? If so, please elaborate as to what it is you’re currently practicing or working on if you do?
As I’ve said I’m terrible at practicing. I play most days but it’s not always warm up rudiments and a show, at home I still love to play along to my favourite latest albums in my studio.
Let’s talk briefly about why Skunk Anansie decided to reform last year and how the reformation came about?
One Little Indian (our old label) had been threatening a Greatest Hits album for some time, (since we split actually) and they finally got tired of waiting. They told our manager they were doing it with or without us. This coincided with me being extremely unhappy in Feeder, the end of Skins solo tour and the boys being bored with their day to day lives. We had a meeting and that was the first time since we split we’d been in the same room. It took about 5 minutes for us to fall into heaps of laughter and that was when we knew we had to get this band back together. That was October 08, by January 09 we were back.
After the reformation, and the “greatest hits” album, you guys released the amazing “Wonderlustre” album. What was the writing process like in regards to the “Woderlustre”, and can you briefly describe what a day in the recording studio looks with for you within the band?
People look at me in disbelief when I say we all write together but we do. We set up in a circle and throw ideas at each other all day. ‘How about this bass line or that lyric?’ It’s total open architecture. In this band we are all broad shouldered and able to take heavy barrages of banter. The golden rule is to leave our ego’s outside the room. If your idea is shit it wont be used, if it’s great it will, it’s not rocket science. 4 heads are much better than one. We do not believe that one member of this band is responsible for it’s success, we put that down to the chemistry between the four of us. We had 80 ideas which we honed to 24 songs. We chose 14 of those to record for Wonderlustre. We’re very proud of this record.
Who would you list as your influences?
If I had to pick just one it would be Bonham. But, there are a lot of drummers who shaped my playing, Brian Downey, Stewart Copeland, Sheila E, Moony, Bill Ward, Tommy Lee, to name a few.
Let’s talk about your gear, why do you use the gear that you use?
Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute on tour and Washi 9000 in the studio. I use Yamaha because Yamaha are the best shells out there and it just so happens I love the hardware too. As a kid I loved the ads and I had pictures of their Maple Custom kits in amongst my Maiden posters. I’ve always loved the quality of the sound and the finish and the fact they’re so easy to tune as a result of all that amazing engineering. I moved to Zildjians when a studio engineer despised the Paiste’s I was using. Pete Thomas Lent me his and I couldn’t believe the difference. Each one has it’s own character and the greatest thing about Zildjians is that you can hand pick the ones that are different frequencies to the guitars and vocals, for studio work this is an must and makes a huge difference on the outcome of the mix. 1 or 2 pairs of Vic Firth last me a whole gig whereas I have gone through a pair per song with other makes of stick. I use the grip tape too which I can’t now live without live. The sweat is just too slippery once I get a move on so I need the extra grip. My hands are like two pieces of cowhide after a tour but it ‘s well worth it. I also use Protection Racket cases and Baskey are making me a riser as we speak, totally bespoke for 2011. Remo heads are the best and I have always used them except for 1 year when I went to Aquarian. They had none of the subtlety, tone and tunability that the Remo’s had and I’m lucky they took me back. Freeness is never a good motive to use a product if you want the best. I paid for all my gear myself in the beginning and have built relationships from there. I’m in my 15th year with Yamaha and Zildjian. I also use Buttkicker, Quickstick, the odd Moon Gel and hang it all from a Hex rack.
You’ve pretty much done it all. What would you say has been the highlight of your career thus far and what’s next for Mark Richardson?
There’s lots to do, Skunk are touring like mad and we’re booked through to the end of 2011 when we’ll start on the follow up to Wonderlustre. You can never do it ALL or achieve everything it’s just important to keep learning, but meeting Mandela and playing for him at his ‘Gift to the Nation’ concerts was pretty awesome. The other highlight was meeting the Dalai Lama at a charity concert for the Tibetan Children’s Fund. Headlining Glastonbury was cool and hitting number 1 in Italy recently with the album was an amazing feeling.
What do you feel has been the most important piece of drumming advice you have ever received and why?
My first ever gig with the Little Angels was supporting Bryan Adams at Maine Road football ground (70000 people) and I was understandably shitting it. Mickey Curry came and sat next to me on the standings, he could see I was nervous and told me to keep it simple. That has been my mantra ever since.
Any last thoughts or words of wisdom?
Record yourself on a flip regularly to check tempos. A little tip I use for the live shows to counteract adrenaline is to play the song so it feels slightly too slow. When you play back your footage, (put them back to back, one using this method and one without) you’ll be amazed at the accuracy. Oh yeah, and remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE…..
For more information on Mark Richardson or Skunk Anansie please visit, www.myspace.com/markskunk or ww.skunkanansie.net (We don’t own these photos, they remain the property of the photographer.