COVER FEATURE (from Drum Scene Magazine - Volume 3 - Issue 3 1997)
AUSTRALIAN IDOL UPDATE (from Drum Scene Magazine - Issue 35 Dec/Jan/Feb 2003/4)
STICK FIGURES INTERVIEW (from the book, "Stick Figures" by David Hicks)
COVER FEATURE (from Skinfull Magazine - April/May 1994)
INTERVIEW (from Jozzbeat News Letter April 2007)
GORDON RYTMEISTER: ARENT YOU THE PASSIONATE ONE!
Early musical influences.
There was always something there I suppose. I had always had an interest in drums, but it was only when I went to high school that I got really involved with playing. There was no family background in music so to speak.
My father was musically inclined I think, but never really had any opportunity to follow that interest. I remember he used to sing all the time. There was always a fascination with drums, but high school was the first time I actually sat behind a kit. The music programme was particularly good, which was just lucky for me I guess. It comes down to the individual music teacher I think. If you are at a school where the teachers are prepared to put in the time to run bands, such as a stage band, or an orchestra, then you get all of that great experience at playing and reading that makes the task of learning so much easier. I was lucky to have two such music teachers, Kerry Jones and Anne Wisdom, who were really helpful in that regard. We had session teachers for specific instruments, and the drum teacher I had was a guy named Mauro Rubi, who, as far as I remember, was a really good jazz player. He had talked about going to the states to study, and I remember thinking at the time that that was a bit strange. I was pretty young then! Later I studied with Rob Grosser and John Costa, who's son Mark is a great bass player that I often play with now.
My early drum hero was John Bonham. By the time I got to high school, my elder sister had already left home, so I didn't get to hear a lot of the music that I might have heard through her and her friends, until around year nine. Her generation were right into Led Zeppelin. Now I had heard some of their music before I started playing drums, but with my newly acquired knowledge, I was just totally floored by John Bonham. His style was the way to play drums. As far as influences go for me, there is a definite lineage; Through John Bonham I got into Simon Phillips, after seeing him on the Ronnie Laine benefit concert on TV, which featured Jimmy Page. There was Simon, with his double bass drum TAMA Artstar kit, and he just totally played the shit out of the music, in a way that I had never seen before. It was my first experience with fusion music and that busier style of drumming. That experience totally turned me around, and got me into, I suppose, more complicated music. I went and checked out Jeff Beck's albums, such as 'Wired' with Ed Green, Richard Bailey (whos playing I love), and Narada Michael Waldon as well as There and Back, to hear more of Simon, and soon after I discovered Steve Gadd, and a little later again I discovered David Jones, who became my focus for a number of years. He had moved to Sydney by that stage,and I had seen him on the Don Lane show playing with Pyramid. I caught an ad for him playing with his meditation band at what used to be the Festival Of Sydney, and I decided to go and check it out. For the next four years he was my main man. He was just superb in every context, and I saw him in just about every context too. Because of what he was into in his personal life at that time (meditation and Raj Yoga), he had sifted some gigs out and was only doing what he really wanted to do. I was able to see him play a lot at that time. It wasn't ''til after school that I studied with him, but during this earlier period I got to know him and he was very kind and helpful. I can't say enough about him: his playing totally moved me emotionally an he was such a good mentor.
PM: Did you go straight from school to the jazz studies course?
No, I took a year off.
PM: With influences like John Bonham and Simon Phillips, how did that lead you to do a jazz studies course?
Well I suppose mostly because David was teaching at the con. It was more complex than that really. My Dad died when I was going into my last year of school, and so that year was pretty hard emotionally. I was still pretty dazed at the end of it, and didn't have any strong sense of what to do with my life. I had a place at University, where I was all set to do architecture, but I deferred for a year. My mum was cool about me taking the year off, because she could see that there were still things for me to sort out personally. I just wasn't ready to make long term decisions at that point.
PM: Were you playing at all?
I was doing a few gigs in a couple of garage bands that made no money! For the first half of that year I played in these original bands around Sydney, and I practised a lot. I was taking some lessons from David at this point. Then one day I got a call from a guy who ran a rehearsal big band. It was a connection from one of my school teachers. It was an amateur band, but for me, at the time, it was great experience. I played with them during the second half of that year. Because of my school experience, and through watching and listening to David, I knew enough about Jazz to be able to get through the charts. There was a guy in that band who was doing club gigs, and before long I was making a living doing the typical Sydney club gigs, backing floor shows, reading with a lot of variety in the playing. Around about then I decided to do the audition for the Conservatorium of music, mainly so I could get free lessons from David! My experience of jazz in the wider sense at that point was limited to a bit of Buddy Rich. I hadn't heard much of Miles or Coltrane. At the end of that year I was getting pretty busy doing lots of club gigs and also some Latin stuff through another connection from the big band, and when I got accepted into the con, I made the decision to really pursue my music. At the con, getting back to your question about my jazz influences, I got a lot of exposure to jazz.
PM: Tell us a bit about the time you spent at the con:
It was great for me I have to say. I was studying with David. Mike Nock and Roger Frampton were on staff. Being exposed to the other students like Andrew Dickerson was great too, with everyone working and inter-acting all the time. It was a great eye opener for me in terms of jazz; before that my experience of jazz was limited to Buddy Rich at one end, which was mostly big band stuff, and David Jones at the other end, which was more in the fusion vein. I was your typical suburban kid from Sydney, with a rock background, and I thought that was normal, which it was and probably still is. At the con I learnt all about Papa Joe and Philly Joe Jones, and that whole jazz lineage - Max Roach, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones Jack DeJohnette and so many more. The whole experience was very broadening and enriching for me personally. And Andy Gander filled in for DJ at the con for a few weeks which totally spun me out. He was into a whole other angle on polyrhythms and Id never seen or heard time and touch like that!
PM: What were you doing in terms of work during this time?
During my second year I started playing with Mike Nock's band, which was a great experience. Mike is a really opinionated kind of guy, which I like a lot. I like people who are strongly passionate about what they do, even if I disagree with them. Mike would often yell at me during a gig, and really get on my case, but it was a great learning curve for me. I was exposed even more to mainstream post Be-bop jazz, and I started listening to Tony Williams and Jack De Johnette. I was doing a lot of my own exploring, more than looking for regular gigs as such. I got more into Steve Gadd and was listening now with the benefit of an historical perspective. Mike Nock's thing was about the groove; he used to say that if the band isn't grooving then you might as well not be on the band stand. That's one of those things that you keep learning about.
PM: You spent some time at Drummer's Collective in New York; what made you want to go there, and what was the experience like?
I started working a lot during my second year at the con (it was only a two year course), and you know how it works, you start working with someone which leads to something else and so on. I often joke about how after a while everyone's resume looks the same. I was working a lot, doing a lot of different gigs at a time when there were a lot of gigs around. There was a six month period when I didn't do fewer than thirteen gigs a week! All sorts of things from fusion to straight ahead Jazz to mainstream Rock, funk and backing shows. It was very hectic. It was great for my playing, working so much, and I was lucky because there was so much work for me (for some reason there weren't that many other guys around town vying for the work that I was doing). In '91 David left Don Burrows band and I replaced him; that was also a great experience and a lot of playing.
By this time (end of '91) I had had two solid years of steady work, which at times had been incredibly frantic and busy, and I hadn't had any time off (I was typical of all musicians, saying yes to everything for fear that the calls would stop if I didn't). So, having saved some money, I decided that I wanted to go and see the states, and check out some players. At that time there weren't as many overseas drummers coming here as there seem to be these days. So it seemed like the logical thing to do. There is definitely a stronger tradition of drumming there, 'cos that's where it all started, and I just wanted to see how the Americans did things. I spent a little time in LA, but most of my time in New York. It was interesting just being in another country for the first time. I saw some great stuff: in LA I caught 'Tribal Tech', and I saw Billy Cobham the first night I set foot in the States. I also saw Ralph Humphrey doing a session for the 'Simpsons'. In New York I saw Bill Stewart smokin with Joe Lovanos band; I was slightly more interested in jazz players at that time, though not to the exclusion of other styles. I saw Steve Smith, Victor Lewis, Marvin 'Smitty' Smith; lots of Be-bop and straight ahead stuff.
PM: 'Smitty' Smith is one of my favourite players. I have an old (early '80s) Anthony Braxton album, that was one of those thrown together recording sessions out of Copenhagen. Smitty is playing on it, at a time when he must have been very young, but his playing is just so full of energy. I also have a Steve Coleman and the Five Elements CD featuring Smitty playing some of the hottest jazz I have heard. There is a great version of 'Be-bop Rap' as I will call it, that just burns from start to finish.
Yeah, he's a serious player with very serious hands. I saw him with that Five Elements band, and also playing some more straight ahead stuff with Joanna Brakeen at Sweet Basil's. I also saw Danny Gottlieb with the Mel Lewis Big Band at The Village Vanguard; he played the fastest thing I have ever heard on brushes, it was just sensational!
I had some lessons with a guy named Pete Zeldman, who is now in London. I really enjoyed what he taught - he had some very interesting ways of looking at things.
PM: Looking at what, music, technique?
Mostly polyrhythms and linear playing. It's very involved, using different systems and a methodical approach to learning and applying ideas. He's quite a crazy guy, and wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but I got a lot out of it.
PM: Can you give us a simple example:
Not really, without taking up too much space here. He's got a system for breaking down all the things you can do with every single note, that enables you to make a simple pattern into something fairly complex. Pete had this way of looking at it that was unique to him, and whilst he wasn't my favourite player, I found his ideas to be particularly unique and for me anyway, very useful.
PM: You have done a fair amount of TV work in the last decade or so; Steve Vizard Show, the Logie Awards, stints on Hey Hey, The Midday Show, Good Morning Australia, Mulray, I Do I Do, and more. Tell us about life on camera:
The thing about TV work is that it is such a great experience, and anyone who gets the chance should go for it! Live TV has to be one of the most pressured gigs you can do, second only to playing at Drummer's Festivals such as this! But to be honest, in the end it's not the greatest experience for me personally. I got into music because I enjoy playing, not for the fame and glory or the money. The thing about TV is it's all about appearances; you might be there for a four hour call, but you might only play for twenty minutes. That's OK if it's only once a week like Darryn on Hey Hey, but after a year of doing Vizard five days a week, I had had enough. I just needed to get back to playing again. I wanted to get out and play gigs where I sweated, and worked hard. I just really needed to reconnect with the physical side of playing once more. In a TV studio it is invariably cold, in order for the cameras to shoot sharper images; you might come on at the start and play a two minute intro, and then you would sit and wait for another ten. Your muscles would be alternatively hot and cold, which was hard to cope with. I don't want to sound like Im whinging; it's just that after a year of it I needed to move on. I was living away from home, and that contributed somewhat to my desire to move too.
Overall, I have to say that the TV stuff was a great experience, if only for that pressure thing, but it's not as glamorous as some might think.
PM: You have done a fair amount of teaching over the years, including stints at the Australian Institute of Music, together with a lot of guest lecturing and workshops. What are you doing currently?
Not a whole lot right at the moment. I will be teaching at the Conservatorium in Sydney as from next semester. That looks like being a very positive experience.
PM: Are you into writing music yourself?
Not single handedly, but Ive formed a band called GLUE where we all write together.
To go back to the historical line we were on before, I did a lot of freelancing when I was first with Don Burrows, and I managed to keep a lot of things happening in town. Some of the best playing, or at least most enjoyable playing Ive done, was with a guy named Steve McKenna. There were three or four fusion bands that I was playing with then - Steve McKenna's band, Steve Hunter's band, Carl Orr's band and Dale Barlow's band. It was great playing - lots of sweating, lots of good musical interaction. Luckily at the time I managed to get a balance between doing those things, which were on average about once or twice a week, together with some pop stuff and some small jazz bands, as well as keeping up with working with Don. That was a good time for me, and that high energy music is something I really enjoy and miss if Im not doing it!
PM: Just to digress a little, tell us about some of the pop stuff you were doing then:
One of the most beautiful bands I worked with then was Erana Clarke's band. She is a Mauri girl and an amazingly beautiful singer and great person. The band included Mark Costa, Rex Goh and Jamie McKinley and myself. In that band everybody was committed to the music, and everyone had great time and feel. Im more than happy to play simply when its like that, because it was just a great feeling working together. It was definitely one of the best situations that I have ever played in. So I was doing that as well as the high energy stuff, and I managed to maintain that for most of '91/92. I did three tours with Margaret Urlich between '91 and '94, and I have worked with Dragon and Marcia Hines for a while after that. Marcias band was also a really great feel band, and every night would be really happening. I worked with that band for nearly two years too. I got a bit lazy with that band, because we were only playing about a 90 minute set, and its a pretty cushy situation! And because of the busy touring schedule, it just wasn't possible to keep up the other work contacts as I would have liked. So I was getting the quantity of work but not the variety that I was used to.
Im getting around to your question again about writing. David Jones has often been on my case about putting my own thing together. He has always had a project going that is, a focus for the things he wants to play like Pyramid, Atmashere or more recently Tree, and I could see the time had come for me to try something like that too. So I have put this band together, with Peter Northcote (guitar), Bill Risby (keyboards) and Victor Rounds (bass). Everyone is into it, and we take a lot of time to rehearse and 'workshop' various ideas. We might only write four bars in one whole day's session, but thats OK, and we all accept that, which is both rare, and also comforting. There is no money in it of course, but we all have other gigs from which we make our living. The music is a collective effort with everyone making a contribution. For me, it means I can get out and play that high energy stuff that I was talking about before, and not fear that I will be forty and regretting the direction of my playing (by that I mean regretting not putting my own effort into playing music that I like and want to play). We have done a few really successful gigs and the response has been great! I know this has been a roundabout answer to your question about writing, but there it is - I do write some stuff, collaboratively with my band GLUE.
I did enough piano at the con to pass the exams, and I regret not delving deeper into keyboard playing, but at that time I was only interested in playing and practising drums. I have picked up a lot from people like Don, Julian Lee and George Golla. I have a reasonable working knowledge of harmony but I could, should, and hope to, work more on this.
PM: You were talking earlier about your formative experience with Mike Nock and his emphasis on the groove. You have obviously taken this to heart in the years since, and have established yourself as one of the best groove players in Australia; give us some of your insights into what groove means to you:
Particularly as I get older, I love things that move me emotionally. On my last trip to the States, I saw Joe Zawinul's band. Now the drumming and the music wasn't as technical as a lot of stuff that you can see these days, but I was totally blown out by the feel of that band. The drummer was a guy called Peco Serry, an African, and he played some of the most energetic beautiful music I have ever heard. It was the first night in New York and I had already been to see Will Kennedy with the Yellow Jackets and Jack DeJohnette with Michael Brecker, (where coincidentally I bumped into Rick Eastman) but Zawinal totally floored me; I was suffering jet lag, and was really tired, but the whole performance was so totally emotionally uplifting, and I was just spellbound watching and listening to it. So that's what I respond to in music - people who play with passion, and really mean what they play. Some people like to categorise drummers and music as being either chop or groove music, but to me that is too simplistic. My own attitude is that choppy things can still groove...
PM: And simple things can be incredibly powerful; I saw the Rolling Stones at the MCG last year, and that was a particularly uplifting concert,watching Charlie do his thing, just as he has done it for more than twenty years. I think sometimes (most times?) your emotional response in conditioned by your own emotional make up. Someone whose head might be more into the intricacies of complex music can still be moved by the simple honest energy of, for example, the Rolling Stones, without feeling that there needs to be some sort of emotional hierarchy going on - that one experience is better, or more worthy.
Sure. For example, I'm a huge fan of Richie Hayward from Little Feat; I just love the way he plays, with his heart so obviously into what he does. Carlos Vega, Jeff Porcaro, John Robinson. And locally, guys like Hamish Stuart, Watto, Mark Meyer, Kere Buchannon or Mark Kennedy.... They all play deep!!
PM: I'm trying now to narrow down this idea of groove, so let me put it this way: is there anything about your role as a drummer that is exclusively your territory?
Its about being committed. Really meaning it! I don't think thats exclusively just for drummers, at least not when it comes to music that grooves, or music that moves me. Donny Hathaway, Nusret Fateh Ali Khan and John Coltrane move me! And while there are light years stylistically between them, they share a common commitment to the feeling! As I said, it can be either simple or complex and still convey depth of emotion. I can enjoy James Taylor and Alan Holdsworth for exactly the same reasons!
I often tell a few anecdotes at workshops, and one of my favourites that is relevant here, concerns Mike Clarke from Herbie Hancocks Headhunters band. I had a lesson with him during my first trip to New York and he told me this great story about Jeff Watts and Steve Gadd and himself. They were all playing with different bands at a festival, and he said ;"you know, there we were, me and Jeff were out there doing all this heavy shit, and really digging it, and out comes Steve Gadd and lays down this shuffle that was just so perfect, everyone's jaw just hit the floor !!" He really got the idea across, of how incredibly good it felt. Steve of course had his feet in both the jazz and pop camps at the time, for which he was sometimes criticised by the jazz purists. Mike Clarke, on hearing that shuffle, turns to Jeff Watts and says: "I don't care what anyone says man, that boy's all right with me!" The point being that the thing made everybody PHYSICALLY feel good beyond what we refer to as music that feels good. You look at the contribution that Gadd has made in terms of the innovative ways he plays - the use of different stickings, the latin stuff he plays so well, the left hand on the hi-hat thing, all of this really creative stuff; but the underlying thing is, and always was, his ability to make things feel just fantastic. And that comes from what's inside - his love for the music, his commitment to the song and the feel.
Incidentally, its the fact that I love this quality, whether you call it groove or feel or whatever, that can be found in music from the most complex art music to the simplest pop, that not only allows me to enjoy listening to it but to enjoy and respect playing it. I come across a lot of Jazz guys who look down on Rock guys and vice versa for whatever reasons, but theyre all missing out!
PM: I have a strong memory of going to bed one night, and as was my want back then, putting the snooze button on and listening to Jim McLoud's Jazz tracks (it used to be on five nights a week at 1:00am); I was very close to noddyland, when someone started playing a solo with brushes that just reached out and shook me awake and had me desperately trying to find a tape that I could capture this piece on cassette. It should have been no surprise to me when Jim announced the drummer as Steve Gadd. It really was one of the nicest brushes pieces I have heard.
I had the same experience when I first heard Steely Dan's 'AJA'; I was also in bed listening to the radio and when I heard the solo at the end, I was wide awake, so fast, because it was such beautiful playing.
Getting back to that philosophy of music and the groove, I think it is all about how we prioritise things, and in the case of Gadd his first ten priorities are the feel. It has to feel that good and that deep.
PM: What about things like time within the band - is it your job to control that, or is it more to be a focal part of it? I know that will depend on the situation you are in to an extent:
Its definitely a team effort. You can to a certain extent dictate where the pulse is because we have the physical capability to do so but for the band to sound good, everyone has to feel it together. Theres an early live Little Feat record called Waiting for Columbus, where the time moves around pretty dramatically, but it feels fantastic because they all move around together. Thats a REAL BAND!
You can generate a spirit within a band. For instance, if you play with a certain energy, that transfers to everyone else. Everything you do has an effect, whether its your attitude to the situation or your commitment to the time. But for people to respond they must be like minded.
I have done a lot of playing with Victor Rounds, Mark Costa and Adam Armstrong, and all of these guys are popular with drummers. So I think why is that? It's because they have a way of playing really strong and solid but at the same time, theyre not dictatorial about the time. They all have a way of playing strongly but not at the expense of locking in with the drums. So the trick is to be solid but giving, and thats easier with good players! Sometimes, if you are playing with someone who is not that strong you have to take the lead, but mostly, you have to be able to find an agreed pulse.
The relationship between bassists and drummers is very important but the same is true for all members of the band I think. It only takes one person whos not right in the pocket to undermine the groove. So the long answer to your question is we can influence the feel through the time etc but it is everybodys responsibility
Once the foundation of solid time is layed, everybody is free to create on top but the feel MUST be addressed first and the time is a fundamental component of the feel!
PM: When I did an interview with Andrew Gander we talked about an emerging Australian style of playing, that comes in part from the fact that being a small pond you get to do a lot of different things - play lots of different styles (without necessarily being pigeonholed), touring, TV work, theatre work, albums, original projects - which doesn't happen a lot for example in the US. What do you think of this idea?
Absolutely, yeah, I agree with that. I know from going to America, and meeting with name drummers, and coming to the realisation that I have had a broader experience than some of them. I'm not being egotistical here, but it's true. We have a broader range of experience, if you are ready for it, than all but the very elite players in other countries. The types of gigs that are out there for the working drummer are vary varied and that is a great source of learning experience, and whatever individual style you develop comes from your experience. For quite a while, for example, I had one foot in the pop crowd and one in the jazz crowd, which is just harder to do overseas I think.
PM: And finally, what of the future?
I've always had a notion of living overseas - New York for sure - and I still hope to give it a try. I have a friend there, a guitar player (whose father married an American and went to live there); he's doing really well which gives me some hope that it can be done. If you are a working musician in Sydney, then the reality is, standard-wise, you could be a working musician in New York. Whether you are prepared to start again at the bottom of what is a longer queue is the choice you have to make.
Right at the moment my main focus is my original band ( called 'Glue'), and I am working again with Don Burrows, with Kevin Hunt on piano (whos just totally inspiring) and Dave Pudney on bass. It's a great band and Don is just playing his ass off. I'm doing a fair amount of session work still - jingles and such - as well as whatever live work comes along. Andy Gander is living with me at the moment and hes really kicking my butt! I plan to get doing some serious practise too...but Im always saying that!
AUSTRALIAN IDOLS GORDON RYTMEISTER
INTERVIEW FROM STICK FIGURES BY DAVID HICKS
Gordon Rytmeister has a distinctive bounce when he plays, which gives the observer the impression that every fibre of his body is grooving along with the rhythm. He typifies the journeyman Australian drummers of today, crossing over many styles in the course of his work and enhancing each in a masterly - yet humble - fashion. During the interview Gordon was thoughtful, considering each question carefully and giving insightful and honest replies, even if it meant revealing a personal fault. Any artist employing his services would no doubt feel immediately comfortable with his quiet confidence and ready sense of humour, not to mention his ability to give 100% to the music.
INTERVIEW FROM SKINFULL MAGAZINE
At 25, Gordon Rytmeister is already way down the track of what seems to be his main goal in life - to stretch his playing and musical skills to the very limit. Its rare to catch him not either using sticks or hands to illustrate a riff or rhythm, or just practising. How many people do you know with a practice pad and sticks next to the phone so he doesnt miss any time while having a chat with someone?
INTERVIEW FROM JOZZBEAT NEWS LETTER What first interested you in music, and why did you decide to become a musician?
I remember my parents used to play classical music around the house and I always enjoyed that. A little later my sister, who was six years my senior basically took over the stereo and it was her music that really caught my attention. We grew up on a steady diet of Countdown, Sound Unlimited and Rock Arena - basically the pop music of the time. When I was in primary school I went along to my sister's high school musical (Malvina High at Ryde). It was an original musical called Stage (written by student, John Atkins). I remember they set the band up adjacent to the first few rows of the audience to the left of the stage. I was totally drawn to the drums and while everyone else was looking straight ahead at the play on stage, I had my head turned ninety degrees with my eyes glued to the drummer, Paul Smith, for the whole night! I wanted to pursue the drums from that time onwards.
When I got to high school myself, they offered lessons on various instruments so I immediately signed up to study the drums with Mauro Rubbi. Throughout the next six years I played in the school's various concert bands, stage bands and outside of school in a number of rock bands.
Is there one (or two) teachers in your life that you felt made a real difference for you as a musician?
That's really hard because I have learnt, and continue to learn, from so many different people.
I guess I can cite a few people who really changed my approach. In my last year of high school I studied with John Costa; that's Mark Costa (the bass player's) dad! Prior to that I learnt the basics from my early teachers: how to hold the sticks, some rock beats, rudiments and simple rhythmic reading. I had a basic reading ability; simple rhythms and beats but couldn't understand or interpreting full professional drum charts. John was different from my previous teachers in as much as he had a big band/show background. He used to run a semi-professional big band and one day he had me play with the band at a rehearsal. I kept getting lost in the charts and I didn't really understand the Big Band idiom. It was a disaster and I was devastated! I was deeply depressed about the whole episode but over the following week I ultimately concluded that I had a clear choice: I could keep going down the easy, familiar path and essentially keep developing as a rock player, or make a serious effort and try to overcome the weaknesses that I'd discovered from the experience. This was a real turning point in my development as a player as I really began to understand that nobody else was responsible for me reaching the standard I wanted to be; I realised I had to set my own goals and police my development myself. So I'd definitely have to say John Costa made a huge difference.
Another was David Jones. David, it seemed, could play anything and was a huge influence as a player; that goes without saying, but as a teacher, he had a way of letting you discover things for yourself. David would often gently remind me to be myself and he would even discourage me from listening to him! I learnt so much from David I don't know where to start. But I think perhaps the greatest thing I got from him was the sense that ANYTHING was possible on the drums. That's stayed with me to this day!
Andrew Gander would have to be another major influence. Andrew was very serious and had such a deep concept on so many levels. I studied with him briefly whilst at the Con when David Jones was away. Later we shared a house. I was always learning stuff from Andy. He has the most amazing, beautiful time and touch.
I know you only asked about one or two but I think I should also mention Mike Nock and Roger Frampton. I did the Jazz Course at the Sydney Con and got to play in Mike's and Roger's improvisation classes. Mike is not your everyday teacher and sometimes the lesson could be as confusing as it was enlightening. I guess it comes from the Miles Davis school of work it out for yourself! The one thing Mike used to always say is that there's no point being on the bandstand unless the music is grooving! I learnt from Mike that it's enough of a noble pursuit in music to chase the elusive groove and make it better; that it can always feel better and that striving to make it swing harder, groove deeper or feel better is totally worthy of being a singular musical goal.
Roger Frampton was as great a teacher as he was a musician. He and I got on pretty well because we shared an interest in complex rhythms. Roger was renowned for being experimental and pretty out but what made him great was that he was so well schooled in the tradition; he really knew all the rules inside out and then chose to break them! I think that's the greatest of many lessons I learned from him. He was very inspirational in so many ways. As an improviser he had a seemingly endless pool of ideas and concepts and would always play the most interesting and inventive solos. I observed his love for the process of being a musician; of making music; the joy of the of the discovery. These are all things I feel Roger inculcated in me.
Was there a point that you can remember as being the first time that you realised you were a "professional" musician?
When I was working at the ANA hotel and the security lady (and I use the term loosely) wouldn't let me walk through the foyer - I knew I was a professional Musician then! Or the countless times someone from security tells me I can't park at the most convenient place to load my drums! That's when you know you're a real pro! Or when you have to enter through the kitchen. But seriously - not really - I started doing paid gigs from late high school. Gradually after I left school the gigs became more frequent and the standard improved but there really was no time that it occurred to me that I was now a pro. Maybe it hasn't happened yet!
Your professional resume reads like a "Who's Who" of musicians & entertainers. Is there one person who you have performed with that really stood out in your memory? And why?
There really are many great artists with whom I've been fortunate enough to play. The reason they're great is because they have their own musical voice. So it's kind of hard to say that so and so stands out for such and such a reason. I mean playing with a great pop or R & B singer, in a huge room with thousands of screaming fans is a different high from playing in a roaring Big Band, which is different again from playing with an interactive Jazz trio or an orchestra. So it's hard to compare one style with another or one artist with another for that matter. I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with many great singers and musicians of different styles.
I guess I should mention I was extremely lucky to get to step in at the last minute for Grady Tate on Lalo Schifrin's Jazz Meets The Symphony Concerts a couple of years ago at the Opera House. I had the opportunity to play with Bass virtuoso, Christian McBride; and I have to say, as a drummer, I don't think it gets any better! That was a feeling that's pretty hard to top. Christian has everything covered and is so hip. He has an amazing sound, incredible time, is a great supportive player, an awesome soloist, can play all styles, the list goes on. He knows about jazz history, funk history, rock history he's just a supremely talented musician who can make music out of anything. Whilst he was here the second time we got to play a gig at the Winebanq in Sydney with Rai Thistlethwayte and Dale Barlow. It was awesome to be able to play next to this guy in a context where we really could stretch out. I hope it can happen again!
Do you have any advice for young musicians who have a desire to pursue a professional career in music?
You have to really love the music. It's not easy to make a living as a professional musician. If you want to be rich, there are easier ways to do it than playing music. Rather than viewing success in materialistic terms or in terms of financial reward, you have to realise that the dividend of being a musician is in the joy of creating the music, studying to improve and presenting what you've achieved. Work on your craft, find your voice and if you honestly believe in what you're doing then you will find an audience. That's what I feel anyway.
INTERVIEW FROM JOZZBEAT NEWS LETTER
What first interested you in music, and why did you decide to become a musician?