Personally written by Robert Brian...
I have been playing drums since
1979. I can’t
deny that sitting watching Top Of The Pops in those days was an amazing
experience. All those bands like Blondie, The Stranglers, The Police were all
so different. The guy that really turned my head though was Gary Numan who
appeared on the screen as a white faced robot-like character and was completely different
to all the other bands. The heavy Moog keyboard sound in his music was such a
breath of fresh air from all the guitar driven sounds. It inspired me to make music.
(At this point I was aware that my Dad had been a drummer and he had a black Beverley drum kit in the garage, but I was not really interested in drums at this point).
A trip to Woolworths with my mum
ended with me buying a red Bontempi keyboard which I just loved and wouldn’t
I formed a band with two mates in my street. One had a Woolworths
guitar, and I found a pair of my Dad’s old drumsticks, boxes and a make shift pedal bin hi-hat that the other mate used.
The songs that followed were all Numan inspired and afraid to say my family still have copies of our first two albums somewhere! They occasionally play them at family parties for a bit of a laugh and from these I can hear why I was never going to be a singer or any kind of keyboard player!
(By now Dad had sold his black Beverly drum kit but he had asked me if I was interested in playing them, I of course said I wasn’t so this lovely double bass drum kit was driven out of our drive and away to Melksham forever.)
Then not too long afterwards, I
found his drumsticks and a Louie Bellson drum method book. I just started
tapping along to my records and something clicked.
I can’t remember the exact
time but something happened and I had the job of telling Dad that if I didn’t want
to play drums a month ago, well I did now!
The first few months it was just sticks on a pillow and Dad patiently talking me through the rudiments. Eventually, a Premier wedge practice pad came on the scene and a Premier bass drum pedal. Many an evening was spent in the dining room practicing my ruffs and paradiddles with my parents in the other room watching television. Dad had me reading music from the start and was very keen for me to get my traditional grip working well, which I can now only thank him for. I have fond memories of that early period but there were also tears as he could be a little hard on me but looking back it all helped me to get where my technique is now.
My first drum kit was a silver Premier Resonator jazz kit from Assembly Music in Bath and Christmas of 1981 was an amazing experience!
The kit was played non-stop and I
think I slept next to it for a month at least. I played along to all my favourite
records and by now I had discovered The Beatles. They are another life long favourite
band and non stop playing along to their records followed.
Any excuse to bring the drums into school was taken by me and I appeared in the school play as Ringo Starr and played a drum solo in my English lesson as part of my essay.
In these years I also discovered
funk, in the form of the Average White Band, progressive rock through Yes and many
other acts who to most of my friends were seen as uncool. For me, it was a
nice offset to the pop scene that was going on around me.
In 1984 I got my first Ludwig 5
piece kit with a Ludwig 400 snare drum, which remains one of my fave snare drums of all time. It was amazing to own a Ludwig
kit and I felt just like my hero's Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr and Ian Paice.
discovered Ian Paice and Deep Purple through friends of mine and as soon as I heard Ian Paice
play I knew there was a connection between his style and Buddy’s. I spent weeks listening to Made In Japan and Deep Purple In Rock figuring out just what he was playing and trying to get the same speed etc...
School bands and plays were all undertaken in this period and my school grades were not as impressive as my drum progress but it didn’t seem to worry me that much.
I joined Corsham Town Brass Band and played the scene until Dad thought it was time to take me to some jazz gigs in Bath where I could ‘sit in’ with some of his jazz buddies. That ‘sit in’ has lasted 20 odd years and I have learnt so many things from those guys that no books could possibly cover. It was ‘in at the deep end’ stuff but the kind of education that lasts a lifetime and that comes from people doing it 24/7 with a wealth of knowledge.
In 1992 I was working with a band
called The Deep Six who recorded a
10” single on Settlement Records. We were approached by Hugh Cornwell who had
recently left The Stranglers. Our singer, Andy West, knew Hugh and singer/songwriter
Roger Cook and the band formed to become ‘CCW’.
I played on three tracks on the album and The Deep Six did all the live shows as the warm up act.
Gigs included a festival in Vienna and Ronnie Scotts Club in London with an MTV interview and performance.
The Sonor kit I was using at that time was a Sonor-lite, which was one of the finest drum kits I have ever owned.
From working with Hugh I met producer Ted Mason who enrolled me in the live band for Coati Mundi who was touring the UK in 1993. This was an amazing experience as Coati is an incredible musician and his stage show was extremely well choreographed and demanded the musicians to really focus in on what he was doing, or what he might do next!
(5 years before this I had discovered Prince and seen him perform live many times, and I loved the way he had his bands and stage shows looking so slick and well rehearsed. Prince remains a big influence on me and I have learnt so much from his music and shows).
Coati’s band was tight and funky and he allowed me the space to try things out and took me under his wing.
Ted Mason hired me again in 1996 to tour America with the band ‘Modern English’ who had hits through the 80’s in the US. This took me all over the States and Canada with appearances on American TV on both national and cable stations. It taught me how to pace myself on long tours and focus on getting good performances every night.
On all these ventures I was using Sonor and my relationship with the company was getting stronger.
In 1997 I toured for the first time with Innes Sibun and played tracks on his album Stardust along with former drummer Eddie John. I have toured twice each year with Innes and released an album every two years.
I continue to record and tour with Innes, there is a strong musical link between us which is kind of unspoken. When we are on stage the musical telepathy is racing and it remains one of the most musically challenging and rewarding partnerships of them all.
Throughout all this time I had been playing countless one nighters around the towns and cities of England which is the reality of life for a working musician. I have seen many sights and sounds, some good - some bad but I would not change it for the world. It can be lonely at times but driving home at 2 in the morning after a gig with no other traffic on the road is a very peaceful meditative time for me and a rare sort of clarity somehow appears.
In 1998 I had the pleasure of working with one of my heroes, Peter Gabriel. I was booked to do a jazz session at Real World and to be there at 10am. On my arrival, I was told it was a session for, and with, Peter himself. The band was made up of fellow jazzers so there was a nice vibe and to hear Peter singing these standards, was just amazing. I wish I had tapes of the session as it was so much fun. He was great to work with and he looked after us all so well for the whole day, a real nice musical memory.
As a jazz drummer I have been very lucky to have played in trio's at gigs and festivals that have backed visiting front men such as John Critchenson, Derek Nash, Tommy Whittle, Jim Mullen etc.. All great experience!
Worth noting in the jazz field as well was the fortnightly jazz gig with the great sax player Danny Sheppard. This quartet played at The Farmhouse but also around the country and to play with such a great man for many years was an awesome experience. I learnt so much about music and life from Danny and I can't thank him enough for gracing me with his playing and his soul.
The session scene has changed a lot in these
times and from the mid-90’s onwards, it’s not as regular as before. The studios
located around the UK
often call me in to play on tracks or programme parts. These include Moles, NAM,
Real World and sessions for the BBC.
In 2007 I was approached by bass
player Charlie Jones (Goldfrapp) to play for the new Siouxsie Sioux live band.
I heard the album and loved her new sound and could hear the possibilities in
the music for my playing.
The set had me playing full on punk, latin, ¾ jazz brushes, triggers, playing with and firing off samples, and lots of click track work. All this I love and with a band of great musicians it was a pleasure to work with everybody on the project.
Siouxsie is great to work with and
she allowed me to put my stamp on the older Banshees’ songs, which I did
without ever taking anything away from the original drum parts.
The experience and exposure from this project was huge with Jools Holland and Jonathan Ross TV appearances as well as selling out big venues around the world.
Having many famous faces coming to Siouxsie gigs was something I got used to but seeing Gary Numan at two of our gigs, watching me, was something of a buzz!!It seems to have now come full circle.