by Dave Previ
Longtime pop drumming star Manu Katché made a stop in North America this past summer for a few Canadian dates and a single U.S. appearance at the Highline Ballroom in New York City in support of his third ECM release, Third Round. Katché wrote all the music for the record, and it exemplifies the drummer/composer’s knack for creating and developing a special vibe in various forms. MD was at the Highline Ballroom to interview Katché for a Gearing Up feature, which is in the December 2010 issue. We spent a few extra moments chatting about Manu’s background. Here’s that discussion.
MD: Did you compose everything for Third Round on piano?
Manu: Yes, that was my first instrument.
MD: Your parents were smart.
Manu: Yes, it was a good idea. But then I went to classical percussion. I was really very interested in being a classical musician. I went to the equivalent of Juilliard in France. After a year and a half I realized it wasn’t the right place to be; I felt these people were closed-minded. You had to be playing classical music all the time, which I loved, but the teachers wanted something very specific, and I felt music could be played many ways, not just one. At the same time I was playing drumset on my own. I loved the drums, and I loved the vibe of the whole community of modern pop and rock music. It was just very open—you could talk, and you could try new things.
MD: It was more desirable for you?
Manu: Yes. You could bring your own feelings, your own position, and I thought, This suits me. So I started playing drums in different bands, starting with a bebop group…I was very bad. So then I turned to soul and funk, and then to mainstream music. Because of my musical background with piano and classical music, I had an easy time reading charts at sessions, and I saw that I could make a living as a sideman with a lot of French musicians. That was up until ’86, when I met Peter Gabriel, and that was it.
MD: Your world changed, as far as the type of music you were now playing.
Manu: I was already into that kind of music. I’ve always listened to a lot of jazz, but at the same time I was listening to Motown, a lot of pop from England, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and all the fusion like Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Plus in France, because of the culture, you have a lot of African music and a lot of Celtic music. All of these styles were in my head and ears and made me who I am.
MD: We’ve covered much of your current setup for the Gearing Up feature in the December issue of Modern Drummer, but one other thing I wanted to ask was why you’ve stuck with a 22″ bass drum for your more jazz-style original music.
Manu: Maybe I’m not a true “jazzman,” but I like the sound of a 22″. It has a lot of bass and volume and is kind of fat sounding. My style is at ease with that. I might change my setup in the studio if we were going for different sounds, but for the stage I feel very confident with the drumset that I’ve been using for many, many years.