In 1970 “All Right Now” by the band Free became a hit, and almost an anthem. At the same time the solid, sparse, forceful but beautiful drumming of Simon Kirke became a standard by which the performances of other drummers playing in a similar style came to be judged.
Simon went on to become a member of Bad Company, a band which has retained the same personnel since its inception ten years ago, and has influenced many of the “heavy” bands formed since.
When I went to meet Simon at the offices of Swan Song Records in London, I was half expecting to meet a hollow-cheeked individual with lank hair and a lean, hungry manner about him. I could not have been more wrong! I had never seen Simon live and it had been over two years since I had seen him on television. I was envisioning an image derived from a publicity photo taken while Simon was in the middle of a pretty strenuous gig, which caused him to lose (as he told me later) between three and four pounds in body fluid. Nobody could look their most photogenic under those conditions!
Simon is not a large man, but he is compact, muscular and very fit. Coupled with this, there is a confidence and quiet authority, creating an impression similar to that of a young athletic instructor.
Readers in all countries will understand what it is like for a 16-year-old to leave a remote country area to seek fame and fortune as a musician in “The Big City. ” It takes great courage and determination, and if you are to be one of the few to succeed, talent as well. Simon Kirke originally came to London at the age of 16. He was one who succeeded.
SK: I first became interested in playing drums when I was about 12. I saw a television program called All That Jazz and I became interested in what the drummer was doing. I just seemed to be drawn towards the drums and the sound that they made.
We lived in a very rural area, out on the Welsh border. There were no shops, and it was miles from any towns. I had to get my own drumsticks by cutting them out of a hedge, and the first sticks I made were about six inches long. I had no idea how long drumsticks should be. The first drum I ever owned didn’t even have a name on it. It was a snare drum on a wooden stand with an arm on it and a little 8″ splash cymbal.
SG: I remember those. Did it have a plastic shell and plastic fittings?
SK: Right. Made to look like mother of pearl. Anyway, I used to practice on this in my bedroom making an awful din, until I got my first kit, which was a Gigster—in red sparkle. I wish I had kept all my old kits now, but I wasn’t well off so I had to exchange one kit for another as I went along. The next one was a Premier kit, which for me was the big time. Wow! A blue-sparkle Premier kit!
While I was still at school, I had a band and we were quite big in the area. We were the local chaps and were called the Maniacs. Now that I come to think about it, I did have a rather unusual schooling before that time. I teamed up with another chap who had a “portable disco.” We would go ’round the village halls. He would play records and I would play drums along with them. So I learned an awful lot during that time. I had to play foxtrots, the latest Beatles things, Elvis, and rock ‘n’ roll. That was a hell of an education.
SG: You had to learn the arrangements?
SK: Yes, but we didn’t have practice sessions. I just went in cold, but after the first three or four gigs, I knew most of the records he would play. I think I learned to keep time doing those gigs. You know, with a group you could get away with murder, but playing to a record you had to keep time, especially when you were in front of two- or three-hundred people. We did quite well—nobody had seen anything like it; they were expecting the rest of the band to appear.
SG: Had you started to develop your own musical ideas yet?
SK: Well, I started getting interested in the blues. I formed a band called Heatwave around 1967. It was just about the time that the record by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers came out—the one with Eric Clapton.
SG: With Hughie Flint on drums.
SK: Hughie Flint, exactly, and John McVie, and John Mayall. I think it was the first time I had heard a drum solo. I’m sorry if you are reading this Hughie, but it was dreadful! It sounded like an explosion in a drum factory, or someone kicking his drums downstairs. That rather put me off solos, a trait which has stayed with me ever since.
SG: There probably wasn’t much of a precedent for drum solos in that particular genre at the time.
SK: Yes, you are probably right. It just seemed to me that it was a self-indulgent solo. I think that a drum solo should be played for the audience, as well as for the music. The secret of a good solo is that it should be no more than three or four minutes, and it should contain a pulse or a rhythm. It can be polyrhythmic, but it must have a steady pulse to it so that the audience can get involved. Once you have got them going, you can go off on tangents if you like. Buddy Rich is a great example of that. Ginger Baker also; he would keep a pulse going and then work off it. But flashy, fast solos are self-destructive, I think. They don’t serve much purpose at all.
SG: Like, when does it cease to be music and become a sport?
SK: Exactly. A single-stroke roll can be marvelous—you see someone’s biceps standing out—but it serves no purpose; it is just an exercise to strengthen your arms and shoulders. But if you get a nice rhythm going . . . When Bad Company was touring I was forced into doing a solo. I had not done a drum solo since my school days, but the lads in Bad Company said, “You should do a solo for about three or four minutes.” I learned an awful lot from it. I would like to think that my solos were successful, purely because I involved the audience in that metronomic pulse. When I could see that their heads were going, I knew that they were locked in with the beat, and then I could go off on a tangent. But enough about solos.
SG: Okay. So you came to London in search of…?
SK: I wanted to be rich, famous, and all the rest of it—no two ways about it. I was lucky in that I knew what I wanted to do at an early age, which was to be a drummer.
SG: Did you have any parental opposition?
SK: My mum gave me a lot of support, although my dad wasn’t too keen. Now, being a father myself, I can understand. The music business is not the safest of businesses in which to make money or have a secure future. So I said, rather naively, “Look, give me two years, and if after two years I haven’t done anything, I will come back, go to college, and become a doctor or a lawyer.” But as luck would have it, during those two years I met Paul Kossof and got involved in Free. So I never did go to college.
SG: Do you still consider the desire to be rich and famous a good motivation for going into drumming?
SK: The “rich and famous” quote, I guess, was coming from a 14-year-old kid. Now that I’m 34, I do it because I love drumming; I get a kick out of it. It’s a very exhilarating experience. It’s a good outlet for my creative energies and I just like to make a hell of a lot of noise! It’s very therapeutic. You have to keep in shape because it can be quite exhausting sometimes. But I find that the more I get into a tour, the better I become. My reflexes get faster. Once you learn all of the tunes and you know where the breaks are, it all starts to come naturally. That’s when I really enjoy it. You know the feeling that you get when you get off a good gig? That’s one of the reasons why I do it—for that feeling.
SG: How did Free come about?
SK: I was in a band called Black Cat Bones with Paul Kossof. He knew Paul Rodgers, and we were all a bit disenchanted with the music scene and the bands we were in. So we decided to form a new band and we were lucky enough to get Andy Fraser on bass. He had been with John Mayall. They both knew Alexis Korner, and when Andy came along to see us, Alexis came too. It was on his 40th birthday. That I do remember. He’d had a band with Ginger Baker and, I think, Graham Bond called Free At Last, but it never really got off the ground. He suggested the name Free to us. We liked it and so we adopted it. Alexis gave us a lot of help; we went on the road with him. We would open the show, he would do a spot on his own, and then we would all play together.
SG: This was in 1968, the time of the blues “boom” in England. There were lots of bands starting up at about this time.
SK: The ones that come to mind are Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, and Ten Years After. I always used to be first in line at the Marquee Club in those days. I really liked Aynsley Dunbar, who had a band called Retaliation. At that time, John Mayall had umpteen musicians coming and going, and the musicians who left Mayall would form their own bands. But getting back to the drumming, Aynsley Dunbar did some things which have stuck in my mind ever since. He did some marvelous solos, his bass drum work was absolutely phenomenal, and he swung! He really had a good sense of time. One of the best drummers I know of is Aynsley Dunbar. I felt like packing up and going home when I saw what sort of competition there was. Initially I was a bit downcast, but I thought, “I’m young, and I can learn and get better.” I don’t know whether I did, but I molded my own style. I’ve got my own style now. I can’t do the things that Aynsley Dunbar does on his bass drum, but I don’t really want to anymore.
When you start off playing you have to listen, and you copy what you hear and what you think is good. My “Guv’nor” for all time is Al Jackson; his snare drum and his sense of timing were just unbeatable. Every drummer has a “Guru” and mine is Al Jackson, closely followed by Buddy Rich. They say, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!” Mr. Rich can certainly swing.
SG: You influenced a lot of drummers with your playing on “All Right Now.” The bass drum in particular was outstanding. I think it is the spacing of everything else which allows it to show through.
SK: Yes, definitely. You see, I sometimes like playing four to the bar on the hi-hat instead of the usual eight. By doing that on “All Right Now,” I found that there was a lot more room for the bass drum and snare to come through. I didn’t design it that way; that was just the way it happened. It could have been because we took that track about 20 times, and after all those takes I was so bloody tired I couldn’t play more than four on it. I suppose it was influen tial. I have always tried to keep my drumming sparse, because I think that the drummer should play the songs with the band, adding light and shade. The cymbals and drums should be used as instruments, and not just as things to hit.
SG: The drumming in a band like Free was more important for the overall sound than in many other bands, because you had a very spacy sound with no rhythm guitar or keyboard.
SK: Yeah, right. Free’s sound was pretty sparse. During the first year of their existence, there was a big change in my style. I think it was when we ceased doing old blues standards and started doing our own songs. When we did Fire and Water In 1970, which was the third album, the one with “All Right Now” on it, it was a time in my professional career which meant a lot to me. There was a big breakthrough in my style; I seemed to throw off all the things which had seen me through the early days, and out of that came my own style.
SG: In those days the drums were not normally miked, but the music was still pretty loud. You had to be heard through all the 100-watt stacks. I was talking to a friend last night who said that you used to work bloody hard.
SK: [Laughs] Yes, and I still do. That’s how I get the sound. It’s because I hit the drums very hard. You know, I have been told that I lose three to four pounds a night in perspiration.
SG: Could that be checked?
SK: Yes. When we were on our last tour of Europe with Bad Company, we were in Frankfurt and a team of doctors were doing tests to see which professions use up the most calories during a working day. I think they tested a doctor, a coal miner, a typist, and a rock drummer. That was me. They wired me up with electrodes and checked my heart, my pulse and my respiration. They also checked my weight before and after playing. When I came off, I was my usual sweaty self, and I found out that I had lost just over four pounds in body fluid. It was an easy night; it wasn’t the toughest gig of my life but those needles were going all over the place as if there was an earthquake or something. I subsequently found out that I came out on top of the list; in an hour and a half I had burned up something like 4,000 calories, or whatever. Second to me was a coal miner on an eight-hour shift. That shows how much I work. I said, “Lads, that was an easy gig. You should weigh me after a hard one!”
SG: How do you keep yourself in shape for this? Do you practice a lot?
SK: Yes, I do practice now and again. I’m not a daily practice man. I do it mainly to keep my muscles supple, because when we go on tour, I don’t want to be in agony for the first few nights. I keep fit though. I don’t jog; that’s a vastly overrated activity, and dangerous too. I have weights, and I play squash for my reflexes. With the weights, I do weight lifting, not body building. This way I keep my shoulders and arms powerful. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Am I built the way I am because I play like this, or do I play like this because of my build?
SG: Are there any specific things that you enjoy practicing?
SK: That’s a very good question. I like to concentrate on press rolls. Apart from building you up, they’re a good exercise for the wrists. I do the occasional paradiddle, but it’s like a Latin paradiddle.
Also, I practice crossover rolls on the toms-toms. Then I put on a drum machine, and just play along with the rhythm and trade licks around it. It lasts for no more than half an hour to an hour.
SG: Have you ever had to work on your ability to keep time?
SK: No. I’ve been pretty well blessed with good timekeeping. Towards the end of a tour, I invariably slow down. The songs are not quite as sharp as I would like them to be. That’s for an obvious reason—I’m just tired.
SG: Have you ever recorded with a click track?
SK: No, I can’t do it. It just wouldn’t be me. I think I’m like Char lie Watts—a little bit behind the beat, which I like. I did like the drummers with James Brown. He used two drummers, and they were right on the beat. They were lovely, but that’s not my style.
SG: After Free split up, what happened next?
SK: Well, Koss and I decided to get another band together, make an album, and go on the road. On our travels we had met Tetsu Yamaouchi, who was a good bass player and a nice guy. We had also met Rabbit [John Bundrick]. He was with Johnny Nash at the time. We had seen him at a gig in Sweden, of all places. He was marvelous; he knocked us out! He was a good singer as well as being a good keyboard player, and he wrote some good songs. Working with him gave Koss and I more freedom than we’d had previously. We did the album Kossof, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit—I still think it’s a good album. Unfortunately Koss had a drug problem. At that time, the drugs were starting to affect him. That band never got off the ground—never went on the road.
SG: Paul Kossof’s drug problem eventually killed him.
SK: Sadly, yes. His body gave up.
SG: Was it then that you renewed your association with Paul Rodgers?
SK: We had another crack at Free after that, but it was never quite the same. Free formed again and then broke up. That was it. I went off on a globe-trotting expedition, mainly to get away from the whole music scene. When I got back from my travels, I went over to see Paul Rodgers. In the meantime, he got to know Mick Ralphs from Mott The Hoople, and they were planning to form a band with Boz Burrell on bass. They asked me to play drums and we formed Bad Company.
SG: That was 1973, and you have been together ever since.
SK: That’s right, ten years!
SG: You said that when Bad Company was formed, you decided to change your kit.
SK: Yes. When Bad Company started, I decided I wanted bigger drums. I had been using a 22″ bass drum with 13″ and 16″ tom toms, so I moved up a few inches to a 26″ bass drum with 1 0 x 1 4 and 20 x 18 tom-toms.
SG: What make were they?
SK: Ludwig. I had an endorsement with Ludwig, but now my contract has run out. I can say that they were very good drums, but my favorite make is Gretsch. I’ve got some which I use in the studio. Practically all the Bad Company albums were done on a Gretsch kit; a small kit because you don’t need big drums for recording.
SG: How small?
SK: A 22″ bass drum, 13″ tom, and 14x 14 floor tom. With the recording facilities these days, you just don’t need a big kit. The only concession I make in the studio is to take off the front head for the engineer’s peace of mind. When I was first told to do it, I told them to go and stuff themselves, but I realized soon afterwards that it was necessary to get the microphone inside the bass drum, facing the batter head.
I always keep the bottom skins on the drums. I think that you emasculate a drum if you take away the bottom head. All you can expect to get from that is a lot of volume. The bottom head provides the tone.
SG: On records your bass drum always sounds very full. It never came across as a single-head drum.
SK: Well, thanks! That’s exactly what I set out to do. You use EQ to make it up. I also have a couple of overhead mic’s so that you can get the ambience of the room on a track. You can use it at will. It helps to have the room sound. I mike above and below the snare to get a full sound. And obviously I used mic’s on the two toms, one in front of the bass drum and one on the hi-hat.
SG: How do you tune and mike your drums for the studio?
SK: I tune them pretty low. The top head is always slightly looser than the bottom to get the sort of ‘ba-doong” sound. I’m a great fan of Russ Kunkel. I think James Taylor has used him for just about everything. There’s a lovely tom-tom sound on that track “Fire and Rain.”
I have gaffer’s tape that I use a little bit on the snare. But I like to keep a nice, live sound. I don’t use too much muffling because it affects the bounce and the response.
SG: Didn’t Bad Company and Led Zeppelin both use Eddie Kra mer as an engineer?
SK: Oh yeah. I think Eddie Kramer did the first two albums. One interesting thing that Eddie did with Zeppelin was record in a place called Hedly Grange, which is an old manor house. They had a free week, and Bad Company went down there and recorded the first album in the time that Zeppelin had vacated. I had the drums in an old stone kitchen, and I think Boz was in the boiler house. Paul did a lot of the vocals out on the lawn at night. The drums sounded really live because of all the hard surfaces. I was pretty pleased with the drum sound.
SG: Did you and John Bonham ever discuss recording techniques or drumming concepts?
SK: Yes. John and I were great friends. We earnestly played together. On Zeppelin’s last tour in 1980 in Europe, I went over to see them in Berlin, and John wanted me to do “Whole Lotta Love.” We got a drumkit from a local store in Berlin and I did that song with John. It was about the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It was like thunder. We exchanged licks and he let me take over, and then I let him take over. It was a most exhilarating experience.
SG: How do you mike your kit on stage?
SK: On stage I mike the snare top and bottom. I never take the front head off the bass drum, so what I do is cut a small hole about 2″ in diameter and put a little Shure mic’ about two inches inside the drum. I mike the toms from above, and I have two ambience mic’s about three feet above my head to pick up the cymbals. The hi-hat, being very important, has its own mic’.
SG: What about monitoring?
SK: I have one monitor behind me, mainly to hear the rest of the band. I don’t have much of myself coming through. I find that you tend to get rather lazy if you hear yourself really well. If you don’t hear yourself so well, you put more into your playing.
SG: Do you have any preference for heads?
SK: Mostly the Remo black dots. In fact, recently they have been making them with the dot on the underside, which is great. I don’t like the very heavy heads; I find them too dead. They don’t suit my playing. On the other hand, with the thin ones like the Remo Diplomat, you can get a good sound, but with my playing I would be through them in no time. Any good-quality head should sound good on a drum if you tune it properly, but Remos with the dots suit me best.
SG: Just to round off the discussion about gear, could you tell us about your cymbals?
SK: Well, I am endorsed by Paiste, and I must say that they are very good. I like them a lot. I do have a favorite crash cymbal, which is a 16″ Zildjian—sorry Paiste!—but I don’t use it on stage anymore. Unfortunately, there is a small split in it. I use 2002 15″ Sound Edge hi-hat cymbals, a 16″ crash on the left, an 18″ ride, and a special 16″ crash on the right—it’s got a very high sound.
SG: An 18″ ride?
SK: Yes. That is all I use. No big Chinese cymbals. I think those upturned cymbals are horrible; ghastly!
SG: I had trouble getting an 18″ ride recently. I was told that nobody uses them, so there is no demand and nobody stocks them.
SK: Mine has got a lovely piercing sound on the bell. I don’t need a lot of cymbals; good hi-hats, good crash, good ride—that’s all. The sticks I use are Foote’s C.
SG: Oh yes, the old favorites. I notice that you are taking part in a clinic for Paiste at the International Music Show.
SK: I was invited to a clinic in March, and Ian Paice, Mick Underwood and Rat Scabies were playing. I was quite impressed, and thought that I wouldn’t mind doing one. So when Paiste asked me I said, “Yes.” I’ve never done a clinic before so I await this one with “eager trepidation,” you might say.
SG: Have you got a format worked out for this?
SK: No, I haven’t. I will probably rely on the solo I did on the Bad Company tour. As I said, it is a rhythm thing. I start with a pattern on the bass drum and work from that. I’ll make sure to bring in lots of cymbals, of course, as it is a Paiste thing. I’m very interested. I’ve been practicing my press rolls and single strokes. I will try to impress on the audience that cymbals are instruments, not just things to bash. Well, I suppose heavy metal players use them like that; it depends on the style of music. People in combos will use them to bring out the delicate nuances which good songs should have.
SG: Coming back to the subject of Bad Company, that band wasn’t really an extension of Free. I don’t like getting involved in musical definitions, but there seemed to be an American “country” influence creeping in.
SK: Yes, I’ll go along with that. When Free first toured in America, it was with Delaney & Bonnie, and Blind Faith. I got into the country rock at that time, especially Jim Keltner. When Bad Company formed it was a very mature band. It consisted of four very seasoned professionals; relatively young, early 20’s, but very mature. We were very hard, but I like to think very musical as well. I can’t stress that too much! “Tastefully heavy”—that’s the way I like to think of it.
SG: Comparing the first Bad Company album with the first Free album, Tons of Sobs, the maturing process is most noticeable.
SK: Tons of Sobs was brash; the playing wasn’t that good, but it was embryonic. There were bags of enthusiasm. Anyway, what do you expect from a bunch of 17-year-olds?
SG: Were you all as young as that?
SK: Yes, we were all 17 when the record was made, apart from Andy, who was only 16. He had been with Mayall when he was 15! Free was a very young band. So by the time Bad Company came around, the sound was different. It was more commercial in a way. It certainly took off in a big way.
SG: The success of Bad Company had an effect on the music scene. You are an influential band.
SK: You are trying to make me sound big headed now. I didn’t want to do that. But… Okay, yes. Bad Company has had a very big influence. I believe that we have had some influence on many of the major heavy bands in the States at the moment, like Journey, Rush, Boston, Styx and Foreigner.
SG: Artimus Pyle said in an interview that, in the days of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant and Tom Dowd used to hold up your playing to Artimus as an example to follow.
SK: I got to know them very well in the early days before they had that tragic plane crash. I got to know Artimus, and I think that Paul got put in prison with them one night, over here. They all went out drinking together. These things happen. [Laughs]
SG: You’ve spoken openly about some difficulty with alcohol. Why do you think you’d work hard at mastering a craft, attain a level of success and then slip into self-destruct?
SK: I know what you mean. Rock ‘n’ roll is the worst for that; there are so many temptations. The people you mix with, or the people who are on the periphery of the musicians, can be dangerous. It’s dangerous to get big headed. You tend to think that you can do more than you actually can, whether it’s drinking too much or whatever. You have to watch it. It’s very important to have good people around you to say, “Hey man, take it easy. You’re getting a bit off line.” It’s good to have mates around.
SG: You didn’t have that association for a while?
SK: No. I didn’t really need it because… it’s hard to say. I don’t know why people do that. Some people just seemed destined to go down that road. Yes, I did have a drinking problem. I still overdo it now and again. But I have a very good wife who’s been really good to me. She basically straightened me out. I also have two kids and they straightened me out a lot! When you’re 21 or 22, you can carouse, stay up all night or drink a whole bottle of Scotch. You don’t have the responsibilities. But, when you get married and have kids, then that really all goes out of the window. You can’t stay up all night because the baby’s got to be fed at 5:00 in the morning.
SG: How do you feel about being used as a model for other drummers?
SK: Flattered; very flattered. It makes me feel great. It’s marvelous. When I was learning, I tried to sound like Al Jackson, or Jim Capaldi, who’s a very good buddy of mine. I remember once I was just practicing, waiting for the rest of the band to arrive for a Free session, and Andy Johns, a very good engineer came in and said, “I really thought that was Jim Capaldi playing.” I was on cloud nine for days because I really loved Jim’s playing.
SG: Do you do many sessions for other people?
SK: I did some in the early days, like with Champion Jack Dupre, for instance, while I was in Free. More up to date? I have done some tracks with Jon Lord and Jimmy Page.
SG: Didn’t you record with John Wetton?
SK: Yes, I did John Wetton’s solo album in 1980. Now that he is with Asia they will probably re-release that one. I don’t really do that many sessions unless it is for friends. That’s just the way I am. However, now that I am not as busy as I was, I would enjoy doing some sessions.
SG: Why aren’t you as busy as you were?
SK: When you get to be a certain age, you don’t want to work as much. Three of us in the band are now family men—married with children. So we don’t feel like touring as much as we used to.
SG: What about new Bad Company albums?
SK: It happens once in a blue moon. We don’t record as much as we used to either. All the lads are interested in other things. We are all doing solo albums. Mick Ralphs has got one coming out called Take This—better give him a plug. I’m involved in a new band called Wildlife. We’ve made an album and we’re going on the road. So, Bad Company hasn’t broken up; we’re just not working as much.
SG: Are you the leader of Wildlife?
SK: Yes, I suppose I am cast in the role of leader. The other guys are not as well known as I am. In fact, they are not known at all.
SG: Is this band similar to Bad Company?
SK: Yes, it is similar. I’m the drummer in both bands; that could have something to do with it. It’s a young band.
SG: I notice that you occasionally get writing credits. What is your particular contribution when you collaborate with Paul Rodgers? Does one of you write the music and the other the lyrics?
SK: I’m not all that hot on lyrics; I write mainly music. I play piano and guitar, so I can do that. I wrote “Bad Company” with Paul. I did the chords and a couple of lines, and he did the rest. It was a collaboration. On the Rough Diamonds album there is a track called “Untie the Knot.” I wrote the music and he wrote the words. We have recorded songs which I have written entirely, but I’m not a prolific writer. I’d like to be, but the ideas only come now and again.
SG: “Untie the Knot” seems to be more soul oriented than the rest of the material.
SK: Yes, I like soul; all the old Tamla and Stax stuff. This one sounds rather like an Isley Brothers song, I suppose.
SG: You are a drummer who has been copied. Is there any advice you could give to developing drummers?
SK: I don’t do many fills, but when I do one, I make sure that it’s tasteful. I also make sure that everyone hears it.
SG: I noticed that even in the early days with Free you were making your fills more imaginative than many other people were at the time. You used to do things like coming off on the fourth beat of the bar rather than running through to the first beat of the following bar.
SK: I have to give credit to Al Jackson and his playing on Hot Buttered Soul, an Isaac Hayes record from 1969. I would advise any drummer to go out and get that album, because you can hear the super playing of Al Jackson. There is a track which lasts about 15 minutes, and it builds in intensity. All Al Jackson is doing is 8ths on the hi-hat, four on the snare, and then he does doubles on the bass drum. The power and the sheer intensity towards the end is phenomenal. And I must admit it was that intensity that I copied. It seems to me that the kit almost takes off. Great! Depending on the song, of course; if it’s a quiet song, that doesn’t apply. But for a really heavy song, that was a marvelous thing he did. Al Jackson—a great drummer!
SG: There is more to playing with intensity than using a lot of volume.
SK: Yes. Here’s a word of advice: Drummers, when they get into big halls, tend to play very, very hard. Don’t! If you feel you are being drowned out by other members of the band, don’t play louder. You’ll only make it worse because you start a competition. The best thing is to throttle back. If you are playing so hard that you are getting out of breath and thinking, “How am I going to make it through this gig?” you are doing it all wrong. Try taking ten deep breaths and just play comfortably. Make all the lads come down to your level. The drummer is the anchor, and if you are trying to overreach yourself, it is going to sound like a mess. If you are exhausted, you are not of much use. So don’t overexert yourself too much. Play hard, but don’t overdo it. Don’t be scared of big halls; just keep hitting those drums dead center and you will be alright.