Jerry Marotta

Catching Up With…

Jerry Marotta

by Bob Girouard

The drummer returns to the scene of his original artistic flowering—singer Peter Gabriel’s legendary early catalog.

 

“My motto has always been to keep growing both artistically and personally,” Jerry Marotta says. “If I didn’t, I’d probably fall asleep.”

Indeed, and despite the fact that he named his recording studio Dreamland, there’s no need to worry that the Woodstock-based drummer will be nodding off anytime soon. Marotta is busily forwarding his art in a wide range of settings, including recordings and performances with the Security Project, whose repertoire consists of interpretations of Peter Gabriel’s music.

Named after the singer’s groundbreaking 1982 album, which Marotta played on, the Security Project has so far put out two in-concert recordings. Its debut album, Live1, focuses mostly on tracks from Gabriel’s groundbreaking third and fourth releases, while the brand-new Live2 reaches more deeply into material from his first two albums, as well as forward to tracks from 1986’s So and 2000’s OVO Millennium Dome Show soundtrack. (Genesis freaks will no doubt appreciate the inclusion, on both releases, of tracks from the classic double album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.) As this issue of MD is hitting newsstands, the band is in the midst of a U.S. tour.

Although he’s largely known for his studio work, Marotta still yearns to be part of a greater whole. “My role model and mentor,” he explains, “is obviously my brother [session legend Rick Marotta]. He had the foresight to bring me to a Columbia Records session with him and Al Kooper back when I was just thirteen years old. But my inclination was then—and still is—to be in a band.”

His first, the Woodstock-area group Orleans, netted Marotta the “can do” rep that has stayed with him throughout his career. He joined the band in time to record its second big hit, “Still the One,” from the 1976 album Waking and Dreaming. “Back then,” Marotta recalls, “if I had the chance to be in Orleans or the Beatles, I would have chosen Orleans hands down. They were my favorite band.”

Fast-forward to 1977, when, after internal strife led Marotta to leave Orleans, he got an offer to play with the little-known (at the time) Gabriel. “Peter influenced my life forever,” the drummer says today. “I was with him for ten years, and everything changed. Because of the way Peter made music, he revolutionized my approach, which really required experimentation. Recording at [Gabriel’s home studio] Ashcombe House provided that freedom.”

At home on anything rhythmic—traditional and electronic drumkit, African and Native American drums, hand percussion—Marotta still embraces every new project with a gleam in his eye. “I love to play,” he says. “In addition to Security Project, I’m excited about Karma Darwin, a young band I recently produced; the Fragile Fate, a band featuring me, Fixx keyboardist Rupert Greenall, and guitarist Eric the Taylor; and Thor Jensen, a phenomenal guitarist who I’m working with in a project with Flav Martin, who is a great guitarist himself. And naturally Dreamland studio is open for business.

“Check us out,” Marotta adds with a chuckle. “We may even make a few of your dreams come true.”

 

Jerry Marotta coverWhen Jerry Marotta appeared on the cover of the March 1986 issue of Modern Drummer, he’d been with Peter Gabriel for nine years, appearing on four of the former Genesis singer’s solo albums, including the radical yet hugely popular tracks “Games Without Frontiers,” “Biko,” “Shock the Monkey,” and “Red Rain.” Yet Marotta had already worked with an impressive list of artists before he’d even heard of Gabriel, including Orleans and Daryl Hall and John Oates. Marotta was unavailable to play on much of Gabriel’s 1986 album, So, due to being in the studio with Paul McCartney for the ex-Beatle’s Press to Play album, and wouldn’t appear on subsequent Gabriel studio albums. But he kept quite busy, touring and recording with the Indigo Girls through most of the ’90s, and he’s spent much of the new millennium working on projects in his own Dreamland studio in upstate New York.