Hey MD readers! I’m back home to Los Angeles after working with Billy Idol for a few weeks. We’d been rehearsing quite a bit before we went to Moscow for a private gig and did a week of west-coast dates here in the U.S.
It’s been an interesting journey that led me to this gig, and there’s one person that is hugely responsible for this, producer Keith Forsey. Keith has been Billy’s longtime producer, and he’s done some amazing work with Simple Minds, Donna Summer, as well as several successful soundtracks as a producer, writer, and drummer.
I first met Keith in 1999, when I started playing with a local pop/rock/electronica artist named Nik Frost, whom Keith was developing. We spent a lot of time rehearsing, recording, writing, and doing gigs around L.A. Keith was very involved in every aspect of the project, so we spent a lot of time together. Shortly after my involvement with Nik, Billy began writing and recording new demos, and one day Keith asked me to come play on a track. Being overly happy and excited, I was trying my best to hide my nerves when I showed up at the studio. Luckily, it was a fast song in typical Billy Idol–style. Billy was there to put down a guide vocal for me to play to, and then it was my turn. (gulp!) To have Billy and Keith on the other side of the glass while I tracked was more than enough for my adrenaline and concentration to max out. And it went great!
Over the years, Keith began hiring me pretty much for everything he was involved with. We did work with Giorgio Moroder (Donna Summer), Harold Faltermeyer (Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop), and a wide array of other artists. Keith also produced two songs for the band Low Millions that I was part of in 2005 and 2006. Those two songs happened to be the two singles “Eleanor” and “Statue.”
Last year, Keith called me to play on more tracks for Billy Idol. They had been writing a bunch of new material and were still in the demo stage, but we got along great in the studio. This led them to hiring me for the rerecordings of “Rebel Yell” and “Dancing With Myself.” This was a fun challenge because I had to recreate the exact drum sounds and parts. Everything had to be exactly like the original drum tracks.
A few months ago, Keith called to find out my availability to do some live gigs with Billy because their drummer couldn’t make it. There were some concerns initially, since there was no time to rehearse and I had never played live with that band. But because I had done a bunch of recording, they still felt confident that I could pull it off, and the gigs were two months away.
When I first saw the set list of the twenty–five songs, I really felt that rehearsals were needed, so guitarist Steve Stevens suggested that we get together that next week and start running through a bunch of the songs. I buckled up and started shedding the songs. It’s a very physical gig with lots of fast tempos, so I spent a good few hours every day practicing to build up stamina. By the time we had our first rehearsal, I felt really good about it. I instantly clicked with everyone in the band, both musically and personally, and they all made me feel very comfortable.
Billy’s music is fairly straight ahead and simple, but the songs have very specific parts, plus there were many things that had changed from the album versions. The guys were also very open to my interpretations of some of the songs, like “Sweet Sixteen” and “Love Like Fire.” I do admit to being nervous before the gig we did in Moscow, not only because it was my first gig, but it was also colder than hell and I remember thinking “my arms are going to break.” I was conscious of not tensing up without losing power and energy.
The drums are driving this band, but it’s not always as hardcore as you might think. There are still lots of dynamics and space, and it’s always about the groove. I’m having the time of my life and hoping to do lots more!
I’d like to thank Ludwig, Sabian, Vic Firth, and Aquarian for all the great support. Thanks for reading!
For Billy Idol tour dates and more, visit www.billyidol.com.