Ralph Cooper

 

If you describe me as emotional, that’s fine because it’s the truth,” Air Supply’s Ralph Cooper admitted midway through our interview. “Anybody who divorces emotions from music has got the wrong attitude. Emotions play a big part in music. I always have to believe, and have commitment, and that involves being emotional about it. I can’t just be mechanical about what I do. So I try to provide an emotional aspect to the music through my playing—something that will come across to people.”

Go to an Air Supply concert or listen to the group on vinyl and you will hear Ralph succeed with all the sensitivity and lush dynamics the music requires. There is a total commitment to his role and one can sense the intense involvement created by the honest, open, warm and very communicative person he is.

Determination is another key aspect to Ralph’s personality. Musical opportunities have never been plentiful for the native Australian, and only just now have the talents of that country (with a population just a little larger than that of New York State alone) been recognized. But Ralph has never been one to sit still and allow the fates to decide his destiny.

After being inspired by The Gene Krupa Story at age five (he made his mother sit through four performances, and each time she tried to leave, he “either threw up or went blue”) he played drums all through his teenage years. At age 19, he made a decision that ultimately changed his life: He left Australia for England. “I had to get out of Australia to really get my eyes opened to what was going on in the music industry around the world. So I just up and left. Of course nobody understood what I was doing, but I had to.”

The two years spent in England were invaluable to Ralph as he had the opportunity to see drummers such as Buddy Rich and Tony Williams while playing in the trad jazz bands of the day. He returned to Australia with newfound determination and immediately started a group called Stepps. While he and the bass player worked for EMI in Sydney, the group recorded an album themselves.

“Quite literally ourselves,” Ralph laughs. ‘ I mean, pushing ‘record’ and ‘play’ on the machine, then running into the studio, counting four and playing the track, and then running back in and stopping the machine. We did all the overdubs at about 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning on weekdays, and all the rhythm tracks over a period of a couple of weekends. You see, Friday at 5:00 P.M., the people who ran the studio would put a lock on the door until Mon day morning, but unbeknownst to them, we used to hide in the closet. As soon as everyone cleared out, we’d figure out how to defeat the security code, and we ‘d let the other group members in. Then we’d eat and sleep there.”

Stepps dissolved two-and-a-half years later and Ralph was offered a job with Windchase, which he describes as symphonic rock (much like the group Focus). The job lasted until the group’s disso lution a couple of years later. A succession of gigs followed, including a country-rock band, sessions, and some commercial and jingle work. In 1978, Ralph was called to audition for Air Supply.

“Along the way, I had done three years of mastering nothing but hit records, so I was definitely able to hear a song and say, ‘Yes, it’s a hit,’ or ‘No, it’s not.’ The first two songs that Graham [Russell] played for me were ‘Lost In Love’ and ‘All Out Of Love,’ and I thought, ‘Gee, this is going to work.’ They asked me to join the group and four days later we were in the studio. The first track we cut was ‘Lost In Love,’ and it took off. “

 

RF: I would imagine there are advantages and disadvantages to living in Australia. Do you ever feel frustrated that you are living so far away from the hub of the music industry?

RC: For a long time, I did feel frustrated because Australia had, by comparison, a small industry and it was difficult to set your sights on any goals higher than what the local industry had to offer. Right now, I’m not at all frustrated by being in Australia, because it’s become obvious to a lot of people that there’s a lot of talent in Australia and there’s a lot of attention focused on Australia now. Australia isn’t a bad place to be in the music industry these days at all. In actual fact, I feel very good about being in Australia now. I can be in Sydney at the time you get to bed, and by the time you wake up, I can almost be arriving in Los Angeles. So it’s not that far away.

RF: Do you feel that being there keeps your psyche healthier?

RC: It’s great being in Australia because I can go back to my home and put my feet up, go to the beach, or watch a movie. I can think about things, get a bit of inspiration, get some more enthusiasm, and go back and attack it all again. I think it’s a matter of balance. Nothing is given to you. You only get what you create. Most of the time for me, it’s all music, so consciously, I do devote a little bit of extra time to nonmusical activities. I find that inspires me to make better music anyway, which is my goal in life.

RF: What is demanded of you as the drummer for Air Supply?

RC: All at once, that’s a very simple and a very complex question. Speaking in simple terms, what I do in Air Supply is play drums, help with the arrangements, try to be inspirational to the other people in the group so the music keeps progressing and getting better, and inject as much enthusiasm, love and energy into the situation as I can. That’s on a simple level. On a complex level, I think my injection of talent, or whatever, into Air Supply acts as a buffer between the people in the group, both musically and emotionally, because everybody’s consistently questioning what he’s doing musically, and also, everybody is questioning himself emotionally. I think, in my own way, I’ve added a certain direction to the band with my playing and my personality, and I’ve obviously contributed to the feel of the band. I think I contribute a certain amount of that unique blend of people that make up Air Supply. It’s not necessarily the individuals, but the blend that makes it unique.

RF: But by the same token, what you’re dealing with is a situation where there are two front guys and a band behind them. How do you deal with that situation in terms of contribution? Are you allowed to contribute as much as you want to? How do you deal with the relative anonymity?

RC: The first part is easily answered: Yeah, I’m allowed to contribute a lot. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a situation where somebody came along and said, “Play, this, this, this, shut up and go home.” I wouldn’t do it, and it’s as simple as that. If I’m not contributing what I feel to be an equal part of the sum of the parts, then I won’t be interested in doing it. I have a lot of say in arrangements and what I play. It even goes further than that sometimes into words of songs and ideas for melodic progressions. This does not happen all the time, but I have dabbled in that as well.

I’ve done a reasonable amount of session work and everybody is after basically the same goal on a session. Everyone wants a good piece of music, and if you go in with that philosophy and try to construct your drum part with that in mind, it will be accepted. You won’t have anybody telling you what to play because you will be playing the right thing.

The second part of the question—dealing with being anonymous—is not difficult for me. I have a big ego in terms of my level of playing and what I’m trying to achieve with the drums in anything I do musically, but my ego starts and stops right there. Really, I’m concerned with doing my job and playing drums as best as I possibly can. That’s where it starts and stops for me. I’d much rather be known as a good drummer than as a star or anything else. Drummers do tend to get pushed into the background a bit in most groups. There have been plenty of groups where people will recognize the singer, but if you ask who played drums in that group, most people wouldn’t be able to tell you. I think that gives drummers a kind of workmanlike attitude to what they do anyway. Drummers are really more concerned with the music, their role in the music and how to make it sound good. They have an incredibly important role in a group. If the drummer falls off the stool in the middle of the show, the whole show stops.

You’ve got to take care of business and look after your responsibility. If you’re busy doing that, you can’t be concerned with being fabulous to the first three rows. There are other people who are designed to be fabulous to the first three rows and they do that very well.

RF: I find Air Supply’s music to be very emotional.

RC: Somebody called it “romantic pop/rock music.”

RF: Technically, there’s so much drama with dramatic cymbal crashes, or there’s a break and suddenly a push. A lot of that comes from the drums.

RC: Air Supply is a difficult role for any drummer, I would think, because, as you said, the songs are pretty emotional and you can’t play songs like that without putting your heart and soul into them. Otherwise they don’t work. They’re fake. Also, from a drummer’s point of view, it’s a really dynamic band. In all the big, heavy rock ‘n’ roll bands, you start out at triple volume and stay there for the whole show. That’s great, because I like rock ‘n’ roll, but with a band like Air Supply, you have to be brutal sometimes and delicate at other times. Keeping a balance of the dynamics makes the music work better emotionally.

It was very difficult for me to approach this band at first because they used to play a lot of really dynamic ballads, going from the complete range of whisper quiet to a roar. It was really hard for me to adapt to that. Basically, I had been playing a lot of jazz/rock, some jazz, and some rock ‘n’ roll. Playing that kind of stuff doesn’t prepare you for a group like Air Supply because you have to put that emotional content in the music, and the dynamics are so critical to what this group does. I had to find the key to what I had to do in this group. I think overall, the biggest key to the situation is to provide the emotions, the dynamics and the feel. Dynamics was the one element that wasn’t right there from the word go. I had to work that out and it took a little time. Then when I hit upon that and really worked at it, I brought it up to the point where I am now. I feel pretty good about what I do in the group now.

Ralph Cooper

RF: Can you share any dos and don’ts to working with a vocal oriented group?

RC: Yes. There are a lot of specific dos and don’ts. You have to remember that the three critical areas that convey the music to the people are the lyrics, the melodies and the dynamics. Those three things are what make the group work and what make the songs work within the group. When you’re playing, you have to be careful that you allow people to get the message of the words. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not cluttering up things all the time, because people have to get the communication of the words. The melodies are also critical. You can’t interfere with the melodies. You’ve got to support them as a player, and you’ve got to provide the emotion in the situation through dynamics.

RF: Do you think you almost have to be more in tune with the vocals and lyrics than, say, the bass player?

RC: As much. You establish the relationship with the bass player, because that’s really one of the big keys to any band. If you’ve got a problem there, you’ve got a serious problem. I focus a lot of attention on the rhythmic, melodic situation between bass player and drummer. Once you’ve established that relationship and rapport, then you can examine what you’re trying to put across in terms of melody, lyrics and dynamics.

RF: You’ve done 99% of the recording with Air Supply. How do you feel about click tracks for that kind of music?

RC: For a group of this nature, I don’t like click tracks, because with the amount of dynamics and stuff going on in the group, I think the music has to breathe. Sometimes that might mean sliding into a chorus rather than acutely going, “One, two, three, bang, chorus.” Click tracks can’t give you the option of sliding into a chorus rather than just abruptly going into it. With this group, I don’t think click tracks are right. If you’re doing film-score music, obviously you have to use a click track. If you’re doing advertising jingles where you’re set to an exact time, then you must use a click track. I have nothing against it from that point of view. But with a group like Air Supply, I feel it would make everything become incredibly metronomic. Everything would happen right on the beat every single time, which would detract from the group sound and feel. I don’t like click tracks for other personal reasons also. Who wants to sit with a pair of headphones and have this thing going “bang, bang, bang” in your ear while you’re trying to be creative? Some people can do that really well. There are musicians in Australia who do sessions and they don’t mind working with click tracks at all. In fact, they enjoy it. I tend to feel like I’m being robbed of my rhythmic capabilities sometimes by following another thing when I’m so used to setting the standard for the rhythm. We’ve tried using a click track once or twice, but I never really felt comfortable with it and at that point I said, “I don’t think we should use it. Let’s try a couple of takes, get into the feel of the thing and it’ll happen.” And of course it always does, so there hasn’t been a click track on a single Air Supply track.

RF: What things have to be taken into consideration in the studio which don’t have to be taken into consideration live?

RC: When we do a track in the studio, we just accept that as a piece of music. We do whatever it takes to make it sound as best as we can in the studio. This includes overdubs, and using real string sections and 70-piece orchestras. We use 70-piece orchestras a lot because there’s nothing that sounds more incredible than 70 musicians wailing behind the out chorus of a huge ballad we’ve just played. I know that when we go out live, we’re not going to have 70 string players behind us, but we do have some very talented synthesizer players in the group who can achieve pretty much the same kind of sound, and I just adapt myself to that. In the studio I’m very conscious of the sound of the drums. I’m always working at getting the best possible sound, whether that means hitting a snare drum hard or soft. That’s pretty much what I do live too, but live I tend to experiment a bit more and change things around a bit more.

RF: What does your live equipment consist of?

RC: This is all going to be changed, because about every 12 months, I dramatically change the sizes of the drums and the sizes of the cymbals. The setup I’m using now is basically what I’ve been using, give or take a drum or a cymbal here and there, for a couple of years now. It’s about time I added some new things and made a few changes.

RF: Another way of keeping inspired?

RC: Exactly. My drums are Tama, and at the moment, my tom toms are 10″, 12″, and 13″. I have 16″ and 18″ floor toms, and a 20″ bass drum. Most people go into shock when they think of doing big gigs in large halls with a 20″ bass drum, but the reason for that is simple. To me, it’s a matter of acoustics. I used to use a 24″ bass drum. When I started playing bigger halls, I found that, because more air was moving out of a 24″ bass drum every time it was struck, I had that much more space where air was just being pushed around and not necessarily doing much. You put a mic’ in front of it and sure, it’s going to pick up the sound, but there’s so much air rushing out of the drum that a lot of it isn’t going to even be picked up by a microphone. A 20″ bass drum has a really contained sound. It’s a very punchy, small, contained sound. Put a mic’ in front of that and go out into a big boomy auditorium, and you’ll find that a 20″ bass drum will sound much better because it’s more direct.

RF: What about heads?

RC: At the moment I’m using CS Black Dot heads on the top and bottom of all of the tom-toms. I’ve seen a few drummers using the CS head on the top and an Ambassador head on the bottom. The sound isn’t bad, but I started thinking about it and thought surely, if the textures of the two heads are going to be different, then obviously they are not going to vibrate as much in sympathy as they would if they were both the same. So I tried it and found that you can pull a pretty nice tone out of the drums doing it that way. If you don’t have two heads vibrating in sympathy, there are no vibrations built up in the shell of the drum, which is what gives you the sound. On the snare drum I just use a plain Ambassador.

RC: There’s one approach that was impressed on me at an early age by a very good friend of mine—a very good drummer in Australia named Mark Kennedy. In the early days when I was starting out, drum tuning was always a bit of a problem. I think tuning on any instrument for a young player starting off is difficult when you’re trying to find one solution to what will give you the best possible sound. Mark said something to me that makes a lot of sense, which is basically what I adhere to. He said not to treat a drumkit in terms of the balance between all the toms starting from the high one down to the low. Don’t listen to them all in one go. His approach, which is my approach, is to treat each particular drum as a separate instrument in itself. Take your first tom-tom away from all the other ones and just listen to it. He taught me a little system of harmonically tuning the top and bottom heads. The key is that there will be a point on each drum where the drum will sound the best. That’s the point you want to work towards. Tune it like that, and when you put it all together and play, it will sound right.

RF: Cymbals?

RC: All Paiste. Because I’ve been moving around the world so much, a lot of times I don’t have the time to go out and listen to the cymbals. I have to get my drum roadie to go out and buy them. Paiste cymbals are very consistent in their sound quality, and when you buy one, you know exactly what it’s going to sound like before you even get it on the drumkit. And I really like the sound. They’re bright. I tend to use them pretty dramatically. Unfortunately, the art of playing cymbals seems to be a dying art these days. That’s a little bone I’ve got to pick with most drummers I see. Now, the hihat is just something you bash in 8th notes in between what you’re doing on the snare drum and the toms. It’s just used kind of like a metronome. A pair of hi-hats have an unbelievable sound. You can get a dozen different sounds out of them if you work at it, and that’s just one pair of cymbals. You see these drummers with so many cymbals, but basically all they do is hit them at the start of each bar. I think drummers pay too much attention to drums and not enough to cymbals anymore. I love the sound of cymbals and I love playing them. I think they are an integral part of the sound, feel and everything you do on a drumkit. Stewart Copeland is somebody who hasn’t forgotten his hi-hats. He amazes me. Some times I don’t even listen to what he’s doing on the drums; I listen to what he does on the hi-hat. There are a bunch of rhythmic patterns going on there that are complementary to the music and totally different from the drumkit. That’s a great sign and I appreciate that in his playing. Buddy Rich is a wonderful cymbal player. I’ve seen him hit three consecutive crashes, each one slightly different, in order to match up with a trumpet line that was being played in the band. That’s a very subtle thing. We’re not talking about just bashing on a cymbal. We’re talking about three totally different styles of hitting the cymbal in order to achieve three different sounds out of one cymbal in the space of three beats, and that’s really something. One of my greatest joys is listening to Tony Williams. His drums are phenomenal, but he’s another great example of someone who can really use a set of cymbals; the sounds he gets out of his cymbals and his playing are phenomenal. Especially in contemporary music, though, there isn’t much attention placed on cymbals anymore. Everyone is going for that huge drum sound, and if there’s a crash at the end of the bar or the start of the chorus, they’re content with that.

RF: How many cymbals do you use live?

RC: Not all that many. I’m using a pair of 14″ hi-hats, a 22″ heavy ride, two 16″ medium crashes, an 18″ crash ride, and one 22″ 2002 China—turned upside down of course! I also have a little antique Chinese cymbal, upside down, that I got out of an old antique shop years ago. Occasionally I find a little space that needs a little chimey sound, like a ship’s bell. I also have a Mark Tree.

RF: There are some visual effects going on during the live show. There was a point where I wondered if you could even see through the smoke.

RC: The answer to that question is no, I can’t see a lot of the time. How can I when we’re covered with smoke? We have a big laser setup that fires laser beams directly out on either side of me. I could end up getting a 100-mile-an-hour haircut if I walk the wrong way off stage through a laser beam. It’s kind of great, though. That’s one of the magical things about performing, for me. There are moments when I look up from the drums and there’s smoke billowing out across the stage, laser beams firing out over the audience’s heads, and I’m wailing away on some number. That’s pretty exciting stuff for me. Hopefully the audience feels the same way, so I don’t mind that at all. When we get small errors in the production, which happens from time to time, we never know what to expect and that’s half the fun of it. I would hate to be in any musical situation where it was like clockwork every night. That would be boring. An important thing for me in music is fun.

RF: Let’s talk practicalities. How does one survive on a six-month tour physically, emotionally and musically?

RC: Physically, you survive a six-month tour by being moderate with everything you do in terms of health. You try to eat as well as you can and you don’t stay up too late. From a drummer’s point of view, I think it’s very important not to overdo it in the party de partment. I have a few late nights, but on the whole, I try to get the rest that I need. I play tennis almost every day, which wakes me up in the morning. It makes me feel terrible after I’ve finished, but at least it keeps me in condition. Also, drumming itself keeps you in condition, if you’re up there every night playing, sweating and working, which everyone does.

We have a ridiculous live schedule. It’s a lot for a group that most people consider a recording band. We’ve been touring pretty solid for three-and-a-half years. On this tour we’ve already been to China, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, and all over America. We’ll go home for a couple weeks, maybe record an album and then they’re talking about having us tour Europe and Australia almost straight away. It’s good. I enjoy working hard and being on the road as long as I get enough breaks.

It’s not really the playing that makes me tired. The playing is the icing on the cake. Performing is what it’s all about. It’s the part I enjoy the most out of every day and it’s the whole reason for my being here. I think the really exhausting part of touring is just being on the road. It’s long hours and lots of travel, getting on a plane, getting out at the other end, getting on a bus, going somewhere, getting out, rushing around into a hotel room, having a quick shower, getting down to the gig, having something to eat and then walking out on stage. And then as soon as you walk off stage, you get back into the limo and you go back to the hotel. The next day you’re in a totally different town and doing it all again. You do that nearly every day for six months. I think more than anything it’s actually the travel that tires you out. The playing is the fun part.

Plus, when you’re on the road, you get into this incredible routine. You know you’ll be performing at a certain time every night, you know you’ll be traveling from the early hours of the morning until late afternoon, and you know you’re going to have dinner at 6:30. The same kind of routine goes on every day. It’s hilarious when you stop touring because you go home and wake up at 6:00 in the morning for three weeks, not knowing why, and you start getting hungry at exactly 6:30 every day. It takes weeks to break that cycle.

RF: How do you survive emotionally, not having the time alone and not being able to be with your loved ones?

RC: You have very expensive phone bills, first of all. When you’re part of a successful group, you always get intense adulation from a lot of people, which is very nice. I’m not sure sometimes whether it’s for the right or wrong reasons, but it’s only love and adulation from a distance. It’s not firsthand and it doesn’t help you solve your emotional problems. It just means that a lot of people supposedly like you, which, like I said, is not harmful or anything, but sometimes it does get a bit confusing. You do wonder at times why you might get lonely or frustrated, behave strangely or get in tensely bored very quickly. You tend to get extreme versions of what your normal reactions are when you’re on the road because you are missing a lot of personal contact. You only get this long distance contact with an audience or people who are very devoted to you. It’s a wonderful thing to see, but you have got to recognize that for what it is and not confuse the two things. You’ve got to switch off and realize that you’re out there earning a living. It’s your business, your livelihood, your profession and it’s one of the loves of your life to do this. In order to work intensely at something, you have to sacrifice a certain other area of your life. Sacrifice isn’t a good word, but you just have to try to create a balance and say, “Okay, I’m going to go away, and we are going to be distant or apart or whatever.” You’re going to miss that personal contact, but you go out and do it. When it’s finished, you go back and re-establish everything.

RF: Is there a period of adjustment when you go home?

RC: Definitely. You can’t just walk in the door and pick up where you left off. You have to realize that the other people have been there for possibly six months, have set up the house the way they want it, have their own routine, and it has nothing to do with what you would necessarily want or like. It is a period of adjustment. I think that, if the people involved communicate as often as possible and make sure that they’re aware of all those things, the adjustment will be easier.

RF: And just as soon as you’ve settled back into it, you’re off again.

RC: That’s the way it’s been over the last three or four years. It’s part of the business. If you’re a jet pilot, you’ve got to think, “Well, hell, the engines might stop and I might crash and die.” Part of the music business is being away and traveling a lot, and it’s part of the risks in terms of relationships. If you want to do it, you have to be prepared to put up with a certain amount of that.

RF: And your partner has to be willing to put up with it too.

RC: Exactly. It’s a deal. If the people aren’t cooperative and they’re not geared for it the right way, then it’s very difficult for them to understand it. Musicians are notorious for broken relationships, except maybe this one! Musicians always have that dilemma in life—the love of what they’re doing on one hand, com pared with the love of their relationships outside the music business. The ones who survive are the ones who try to pay equal attention to both and make both things work. And you can make both things work. You just have to work at it.

Ralph Cooper

RF: What about keeping the music fresh for six months?

RC: Good point. First of all, it’s real difficult to do that. What I do, before I play at any time, is try to consciously clear my head of everything I’ve been doing. I might have been on a plane for six hours or driving all night, and I might feel terrible, so the first thing I do is clear my head of all of the travel and all the problems. Then I go out with the attitude that it’s day one and make it as fresh as I possibly can every night. I just try to keep it as interesting as possible by changing things here and there, within bounds, of course. I think the key to keeping things fresh is to try to keep yourself in spired and try to be as inspirational as you can within yourself, because then it will be a little fresh each night and you’ll achieve new things.

RF: How do you keep yourself inspired?

RC: I just think it’s a matter of attitude and working at it. For me, just being in a happy state of mind keeps me inspired. I have a pretty positive outlook on things and I work really hard at what I do. Knowing that I’m putting some effort into it keeps me happy.

RF: But let’s be realistic. How do you keep yourself inspired when you play “All Out Of Love” for the 100th time?

RC: I know what you’re saying. Another aspect of that is the feedback you get from the audience, of course. You can tell by their reaction that their favorite song, whichever one that is, is the big moment for them. You can see it on their faces and hear it in their applause, and that is a very inspirational thing. If I’m ever feeling short on inspiration, I just look at the audience and I can see all the different reactions in people. Although, there are times when there’s nothing that can make you inspired. There are moments when I get up there and no kind of audience reaction or dedication on my part will make me feel inspired. Those are the times when you probably reach your lowest points on the road, and you do hit low points on the road. There’s nothing you can do about that. If you’re a human being, you just have to go through them, and I’m a human being. You just have to get past that point.

RF: How do you live with six other people for six months? Are there certain dos and don’ts—certain things you understand about living with people in those close quarters?

RC: Anybody will tell you that a band is like a marriage, and it is. You spend 99% of your time with the people in the band, and it basically gets back to whether you really like them or not, I suppose. That’s a big part of it. Obviously if you really can’t stand being around someone, then it’s not going to work. I think it’s a matter of trying to give everybody equal space, and respecting them as people and musicians. I’m very much into being a part of a team and trying to collectively pull something off. I try to instigate a kind of team thing so that we have one goal in common. I think that it helps a lot if everybody tries to keep sight of that goal. It’s like any relationship. You have to work at it to make sure it survives, musically and on a personal basis. Like any relationship, if you ignore it, it will fall apart.

RF: How does a private person become a public person?

RC: I have a need to play my instrument, to perform, and to be involved with music. It’s the one longest motivating love of my life and I have an instinctive basic survival need to do that. Also, I have a need to be private and have my life away from work. I need both those things, so I have them. I just create them both. You can have your cake and eat it too if you really want to. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to figure out which one is the most important and making a decision between them, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a winning attitude. I think a winning attitude is putting both of them into a realistic perspective and working at both to make sure both work.

RF: There really has to be a lot of dedication to put yourself through all of this.

RC: Being a musician is very much being a part of life because you’re so in touch with people’s emotions. The music that you play, when it’s accepted by people and they respond to it, is a very distinct emotional communication between the musician and the audience that is listening. It’s probably the only way that human beings can communicate without necessarily speaking with each other. You can just play four bars and lock into something straight away, and instantly, bam, you’ve got them. They’re into it. I think it’s a real distinct communication. Music is such a powerful force because you have that communication. And bearing that in mind, in order to provide that communication, you have to go through a lot to get there. You have to do so much traveling, and put up with hassles, people bothering you, no home life and all the pitfalls. Obviously the job of being able to communicate that accurately and quickly to other people makes up for it. I think there’s a balance there. I’m just persistent enough and enthusiastic enough to see something through and make it work. I’ve always been pretty motivated from the time I was a kid. Other people were content to sit around and move in smaller circles, which is fine if that’s what they want to do and what makes them happy. However, I know that I was never happy doing that. I’ve always had the distinct need to go out the front door and check out what’s happening. I think that attitude goes with me through everything I do and especially through music.

RF: What about future goals?

RC: I think the most immediate goal for me is to improve as much as I can as a player by working harder, listening more, playing more, concentrating more on what I’m doing, and being more open-minded. As far as long-term goals are concerned, I would like to do a bit of writing and record it. I want to experiment a lot more with my playing and the recording techniques that I use. I’d like to slow the pace down at some future point and maybe get involved in some projects that are more my own.

I’m going through a process right now of re-evaluating what I’m doing and what I’ve done in the past. I want to listen to everything I’ve done and start shifting gears—bring myself up to date, change a few things here and there, and take a slightly different approach. Progression is the key. If you want to talk about philosophies in music, one of the greatest things about music—and yet something that is frustrating at the same time—is that no matter what you’re doing, there’s always another area you can move to. There’s always room to go further and do more. The sky’s the limit, and even above the sky.