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Catching Up With…

Terry Bozzio

by Mike Haid

Last summer, drumming innovator Terry Bozzio celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his first drum lesson by performing his unique solo compositions on tour in North America and Japan. The sixty-four-years-young Bozzio, still on top of his game, attributes much of his longevity and creativity to his early education. “I’m grateful that I had good teachers in the beginning of my career who taught me the basics,” he says. “If you study George Stone’s Stick Control, Ted Reed’s Syncopation, and Haskell Harr’s Drum Method books, with a little imagination there’s not much that you’ll be confronted with that you won’t be able to handle.”

When MD spoke with Bozzio, he was traveling the States with his wife, Mayumi, and his drum tech, Ben Travers, who has the monumental task of setting up and tearing down what has been dubbed the world’s largest tuned drum and percussion set. During his two-hour shows, Bozzio discussed the creative process behind each composition, which he worked out on cajon, body percussion, a Korg Wavedrum, and, of course, his famous kit.

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Pieces with titles like “D Debussy,” “Five Equals Seven,” “Africa,” “Five Flute Loops,” and “Slow Latin” offer hints to the wide range of styles Bozzio works with, from world beats to the progressive fusion he’s explored with Frank Zappa, U.K., the Brecker Brothers, and Jeff Beck. Often Bozzio weaved minimal electronics within complex layers of melodies and ostinatos, which he played on twenty-six tuned toms, fifty-six cymbals, eight bass drums, and multiple accessories—many via his arc of twenty-two foot pedals. Nothing in the arsenal is superfluous, though; each element enables the drummer to provide a specific timbre and pitch necessary for the music at hand.

“About 20 percent of what I play is written composition, while the other 80 percent is totally improvised,” says Bozzio, who, on pieces like “Five Flute Loops,” employed ambient loops that weren’t linked to a click, giving him the freedom to stretch his ideas and manipulate the time within the composition. “I’m very happy that I can still make a living playing creative music,” he adds. “There’s nothing quite like a live acoustic drumming performance, and I’ll continue to explore the art of drumming as long
as my body and mind will allow.”

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Photos by Mayumi Bozzio