His new, Grammy-nominated album represents a major return to his roots as a jazz artist. “That’s why we call it Boomerang,” says the drummer, whose first rock ’n’ roll recording was Paul McCartney’s hit 1971 album, Ram. “A boomerang comes back to you. I was a jazzer until I met Paul.”
MD: On the first song on Boomerang, “Cheetahs & Gazelles,” you come out with a blistering display of chops. What’s going on there? Possibly shades of Joe Morello?
Denny: No, it’s more like the father of Brazilian drummers, Milton Banana. Or even Airto Moreira. The song is kind of a modern-day samba, and I open with a street beat. The time signature? Believe it or not, it’s in four; the accents go over the barline.
MD: You’ve stated that on this album you were going for a “big-little band” sound.
Denny: Yes, when we first started playing together, we would catch ourselves going for licks and figures that were written for big bands. It represents years and years of all of us growing within the same genre. It’s a big band sound in a little band space.
MD: You cover “Live & Let Die” as a stripped-down shuffle. It’s also less orchestrated than Paul McCartney’s original version. Did Paul work with you on developing this version?
Denny: No, but I wanted to have one McCartney song on the record, so why not do the track that I’m best known for? We tried to catch every section of the song without breaking down the groove. As soon as I got it on tape, I sent a copy to Paul, and he absolutely loved it.
MD: On the song “Baby Mama,” your kick/snare groove next to rock great Edgar Winter’s saxophone reminds listeners that you haven’t lost your rhythm ’n’ blues chops at all. It’s like a page from your method book, What Not to Play! Was it fun recording this song?
Denny: Absolutely. We wanted it to come across as a gospel thing, and the result speaks for itself. Edgar is a superlative musician and friend, and an asset to this album.
MD: “Dropping Darkness” is like a haunting finale behind the credits of a movie soundtrack. Do you plan on expanding the reach of the album beyond radio?
Denny: We would love that. Our record company, QVR, has a division designed for television and film. Since I produced it, I wasn’t sure how to handle this song in conjunction with the other ones on the album. I decided to let it stand on its own because it’s infectious. Once you hear it, it’s very hard to get it out of your head.
MD: What suggestions do you have for young drummers who want to be leaders?
Denny: Don’t do it! Not, at least, right off the bat. If you’re a young drummer, pay your dues. Wait until you gain the knowledge and experience to bring to the table. I waited until I was seventy-five years old to become a leader; I’ve worked with the top producers and artists like Leon Russell, Paul McCartney, and James Brown.
MD: You’re celebrating your fiftieth anniversary in the music business. Your diverse drumming abilities have served you well. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you’d do differently?
Denny: Yeah, the way I left Paul. It was a period of time that was the best and worst time in history for the Beatles, Wings, everything. That’s one of the only regrets I have in my life, but it worked out pretty darn good. I didn’t know how to handle a decision that I made at the time. Decisions are really important in life, so before you burn any bridges, make sure you’ve got something on the other side. Ultimately, if you’re not ready for the ups and downs of the music biz, go find another career.
Denny Seiwell plays DW drums and Zildjian cymbals. He uses Innovative Percussion sticks, Remo heads, and Beato bags.