When Rod Morgenstein was growing up he heard the saying, “There are musicians, and drummers.” Now, as the driving force behind the musically diverse Dixie Dregs, he lays that distinction to rest. The 27 year old is trained in piano and “legit” percussion as well as drums, and that training has led to his very “musical” drumming style.“I think that’s the big thing about Rod,” says Dixie Dregs’ guitarist-composer Steve Morse. “He can understand the music all the way. He doesn’t just think of music in terms of rhythms.”
Rod is an original member of the Dixie Dregs, having performed on all three of their albums on Capricorn Records, as well as their Arista debut, Dregs of the Earth. When home in Atlanta, Rod works some with a lyricist, on compositions that he admits are not within the format of the Dregs. But given the Dregs hectic (to put it mildly) road schedule, and Rod’s enthusiasm over the band’s music, it is clear that his energies are strongly channeled into the continued success of the Dixie Dregs, a rise that Rod has seen from the bottom up. Proof of that rise was evident the weekend we spoke, as the Dregs sold out three shows at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf.
RT: I heard about the concert the Dregs did at the Roxy in L.A. where you had quite a few well known musical contemporaries in the audience.
RM: Yeah. That was fantastic. First off, the way it started was we heard that we were going to be playing with Billy Cobham for three nights. And I think that was the first of those kind of dates, where we were finally going to be dealing with some really good talent. And so it was my chance to be scared to death, you know, because of Billy Cobham’s reputation, and how much I respect him as a player. So, we get there, do a couple shows. And then Friday night comes around, the second night, and it’s the early show. And the Roxy has a curtain. The curtain comes up, and we’re in the midst of the first song, playing around, you know. And all of us started glancing through the front row of the theater. And in a straight line, I don’t remember the exact lineup, there was Jaco. He had brought Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Michael Walden, John McLaughlin, Tom Scott, it was unbelievable. And I understand Jeff Beck was somewhere else in the club. So, it was frightening, because I think Jaco had told all his friends about us, and he didn’t want them to be disappointed. But it worked out real good, because most of them came upstairs, sat and talked with us, and seemed to enjoy the show. McLaughlin kissed Steve’s guitar. I mean, Steve idolizes McLaughlin, and just gave him the guitar and asked him if he would sign it. John just took it and kissed it.
RT: Tell me about pre-Dregs Rod Morgenstein. Aren’t you from New York?
RM: Yeah, born in the city, and I lived my first year or two in Manhattan. Then with the Long Island rush, after the war, the suburbs became the big thing and Long Island was new, unexplored territory. So my parents moved out there, and that’s where it all began. They told me that I always banged on things, so they had an idea that I was musically oriented. They had me take a few private lessons on piano when I was young. Everybody has to go through that. And then in fifth grade, when I was ten, I got my first drum pad, and gigantic, fat, marching drum sticks. There were about three other guys in the grade that started. So we studied with the band teacher, who didn’t know drums. When I was thirteen or fourteen I studied privately with a guy named Howie Mann, who taught me how to read. We dealt a lot with drum charts, reading transcriptions from Woody Herman records, and Stan Kenton, things like that. The highlight of each lesson was when he gave us a chart and we’d come in and read it. He taught me how to set up fills, reading the horn line if you didn’t have a drum chart and lots of times you don’t get a drum chart. I remember I started as a righty, because when I was 10 the band teacher didn’t know the difference between lefty or righty, everyone played the same. You know, your right hand holds the stick this way, and the left hand has that weird way. So when I took my first lesson with Howie Mann, he knew immediately that I was a lefty. And I think at that time, that new style of double backward drumming that Lenny White and Billy Cobham do, was unheard of. I mean it just wasn’t a thing that people knew about. So he had me completely switch from righty to lefty, which was tragic at first. I remember before doing that, how when I’d play on the righty set, I’d always start my fills lefty and come out on the wrong hand. I do recall that. So he had me switch around, and it was real hard for several months. But he told me to bear with it, and it would pay off. So now it’s thirteen years down the line, and I’m glad he did that. I’d be in a lot of trouble, I think.
RT: So you don’t play the style of Cobham and Lenny White.
RM: No, I play like a righty backwards.
RT: Do you think you gained power in your right hand as a result of starting out that way?
RM: Yeah, I think it helped a little bit for ambidexterity. I spent a little time trying to work out playing that way, where the hands wouldn’t be crossing over, but it’s really time consuming. It’s not the kind of thing that I’d want to experiment on stage. But you can really come up with a lot of great funk things by playing backwards. Just do the licks the way you would normally do them, except instead of the hi-hat being hit with your left hand, as in my case, the snare’s going to be hit. And it makes for some really interesting patterns that you wouldn’t normally come up with.
RT: So that’s what you’re doing to come up with some of the really syncopated stuff.
RM: That’s what it is. I think that’s how a lot of the guys, like Gadd and Garibaldi, must come up with some of those things. Certain things just don’t feel right when your hands are crossed over, because you lose power with the hand that’s hitting the snare underneath. I mean, it can only come up so high. And where you have this kind of freedom, where it’s not the crossover, other things take over.
RT: Did you attend college in New York, or go straight to the University of Miami?
RM: I did my first two years at Nassau Community College, on Long Island, and got down all the basic requirements, liberal arts. And I got to study with a great legit percussionist, Ronald Gould, who plays with the New York City Ballet and the Jeffrey Ballet. He sort of showed me around into mallets and timpani and snare drum, and that whole approach to things. And he started getting my thinking geared towards the New England Conservatory of Music or Juilliard. That’s what he was setting me up for. And I would always keep in touch with Howie Mann, who always hoped that I’d be going in a more drum set direction. And he’d get freaked out when he’d hear me start talking about this legit way of life, because he thought I was making a mistake. And Ronnie Gould, the legit percussionist, was concerned that I wouldn’t be going the legit way. But all in all, I think studying with all these different people pays off, because it helps you think in a roundabout, well-rounded way. So I was with that guy for the two years at Nassau Community College. I don’t even know if I graduated there, but I had half the credits for a four year degree. And then one of the teachers at Nassau Community College, who taught an arranging class, was a graduate of Miami, and he suggested I look into it. So I went down there, checked it out, and really liked what I saw.
RT: Did you know then that Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, and that bunch were hanging out there?
RM: No, I’d never heard of any of them. Living on Long Island is a pretty sheltered existence. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the city, which looking back on I should have. All the guys that I idolized lived there, and were will ing to give lessons if the price was right. But I was in my little cocoon on the island. Going down to Miami, I thought more of myself than once I got down there. I really thought I was going to make waves. Because in high school in New York state they have all these NSMA competitions. You know, you go and they have all these competitive games to get into the all-county band, or all-neighborhood. And then the big thing was the New York State Concert Band or Orchestra, or the jazz band. And just as a joke, I went and auditioned for the New York State Jazz Band, which no one thinks they’re going to get. I went in, and it was a real simple audition. I had to read the figures that Howie Mann had taught me all about, and it was a joke, it was so simple. And somehow I got it, I got into that thing. So, of course that helps swell your head a little bit. So I go down to Miami, and I thought I was pretty good, and it really put me in my place. Because now you’re dealing with serious minded players who are really way ahead of you in jazz. I mean, there wasn’t jazz, in the sense of what Tony Williams and Miles Davis was doing, that kind of thing doesn’t happen on Long Island. There it’s more big band, where the drummer is playing bass drum on all fours, hi-hat on two and four, and you’re going ding-ding-da-ding. That’s what I could do. And then coming down to the University of Miami, all of a sudden guys are breaking up time. The hihat’s not happening on two and four, it’s working its way around with the hands. You know, more along the lines of what DeJohnette does, and the bass drum no longer hits every beat. It’s just popping in and out, accentuating places. That freaked me out, because I always thought something happens between school and being a great player. Like, you’re not “there” as a student, I mean it happens afterwards. And then I went down there, and here are these guys, like Danny Gottlieb, playing with Pat Metheny. He was one of them, and he’s one of my favorites. He was doing the stuff that I thought a few years down the line I’d be doing. So I was put in my place, and didn’t really know anybody, went down as a stranger. And that’s how it was for the first semester. It’s a real cliquish place, but I guess that’s how anything is. You tend to hang out with people who you can relate to. If you were a monster player, all your friends were monsters, and if you weren’t, you weren’t really friends with them until you could prove that you were worthy of it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, or maliciously done, but that’s just the way it is. You know, there are levels. Then the Dixie Dregs started to happen. I took piano down there as well as drums. I never knew where I wanted to go. So I took an improv class, but I took it on piano instead. And before knowing any of the guys in the band now, there was this weird guy who had long blond hair, and didn’t wear any shoes. And he was the only guy in the school who played a Tele-body- a solid body- and not a big fat hollow body guitar. His tone was more rock and roll. You know, it turned out to be Steve. And Allen, who’s violinist, was also in the class. He was a classical major but he was trying to learn to improvise a little bit on violin. So just through the course of that class, you find out whose playing you like and whose playing you don’t like. And we got together and jammed a couple times. And by next semester, the Rock Ensemble #2 was formed, which later became the Dixie Dregs. There was nothing like this band happening. It’s really a jazz school, and they try to give you the basics of bebop and trace it up. There’s really not any rock and roll, or there wasn’t at that point. There was a rock ensemle there, but it was more fusion, jazz-rock, “Lifetime,” or who knows. So we became the Rock Ensemble #2.
RT: You said that you weren’t sure whether you wanted to go into keyboards or drums?
RM: Yeah, I kept going in and out of it. The school was weird a little bit in that even though you’re a jazz major, if percussion. They didn’t really have a drum set teacher for advanced players. So, in that respect, the only real drum set learning you got was by playing with other people. And I always wondered whether I wanted to be a jazz piano player. So I worked it out one year to be a piano major instead of a drum major, so I could take private lessons with the guy there. And that was fantastic. That was great. I don’t really know what made me end up with the drums, but I had to make a decision, and I think I was a little bit better at drums. The piano part was going to be a real uphill battle. And the band already had a keyboard player, so I played drums. And once you go on the road, everything’s over. Really, you can’t pursue that many things.
RT: Was Steve Morse writing a lot of material when you met him?
RM: Yeah. I think he’s been writing since he’s played guitar, which is probably age twelve or something.
RT: Was it hard for a New Yorker to adapt to playing Southern boogie-rock and bluegrass?
RM: Umm, not really. I didn’t really have an affinity towards country music at all, and I love it now. Because the way the band works is we do everything in doses. We just touch on a little of this and a little of that. But once we do it, we get away from it for a few songs, and maybe come back. I bore quickly of things. Everyone in the band does. And we know that audiences do too. And even though certain styles aren’t necessarily a challenge, as much of a challenge say for one instrument-like country music, oompah music for the drums isn’t nearly as challenging as playing bebop or some up-tempo things. It’s fun to lay back once in awhile and watch the other guys in the band do what they’re best at,
and also watching the crowd. Because it’s all entertainment. I mean, we’re not up there playing for ourselves.
RT: When Steve introduces a new song to the band, does he have a drum chart for you?
RM: No. He’ll come in and have a pretty good idea of the song. And he’ll start with one of the guys, to show them either melodies or harmonies to the song. And I’ll just kind of sit around and listen to it take shape, and get ideas from that. It seems like, if you have any kind of brain, just by listening to a piece of music you’re going to start formulating ideas on how to approach playing it. You know, starting very basically with, “Well, is it a rock song? Is it a blues? Is it a swing?” This kind of thing. And then it’s just a question of hearing the kicks, where they’re going to come in. And then talking about, “Well, how much do I want to set up this fill, and do I want to double this with the bass, or try to combine the counterpoint between the bass and the guitar, and the keyboards and the violin.” And once the song is learned, people throw out ideas to each other, of ways to better it by simplifying or adding. There’s no drum charts. Nothing’s written down. Steve composes in his head- even all the multiple layers of sounds that he comes up with. Like “I’m Freaking Out,” which has four or five different things happening at one time. He doesn’t use tape recorders, he thinks it’s artificial. It’s phenomenal to me.
RT: Lenny White said recently that when he was learning to play drums, the technical side, the rudiments, became hard for him so he devised his own way of playing. Do you have more of a rudimental background?
RM: It’s probably more like what he said, where you learn them when you’re young, and then once you get them under control and know what they are, you try to forget about them. And it’s really funny that you asked that, because I was just talking with Roy Burns a few days ago. And he’s a real analytical, intelligent guy. I mean he’s really brilliant. He was trying to explain something to me, and he said, “Now, how do you play a double paradiddle?” And I got flushed all over my face, because I didn’t even know what a double paradiddle was at that point! I’m sure I use them when I play, but I wasn’t sure if it was left-rightleft- right-left-left, or if that was a triplet paradiddle. I’ve forgotten the names of all of them. It was embarrassing.
RT: Do you have a formula that you go by when you play a drum solo?
RM: I have an idea where I’m going to start and where I’m going to take it. And it seems like over the course of months, it takes a little turn and goes somewhere else. But they’re not totally different night after night. I mean, now I’m into a particular thing where I like to start it a certain way, and then bring it down. It’s sort of an unstructured structured solo.
RT: Are you usually happy with your drum solos, or hard to please?
RM: Hard to please. I carry frustration with me all the time. It seems like a night that I’m proud of what I did is I in 50. And then most of the other nights are “I did alright.” And then every so often there’s a pathetic night.
RT: Do you have certain things that you know will get an audience cheering?
RM: Yes. That’s a funny thing that you learn just from the experience of doing it night after night. Sure. And that’s the same way we plan our sets and encores. I mean, you have an idea. Crowds don’t vary that much. They like the things that you learn about that really aren’t that important—playing fast, building with a crashing, thunderous explosion—those kind of things. The swirling of sticks and shaking your head, not that I say “OK, I’m going to shake my head now.” Sometimes it’s the only way to be able to play that particular passage. It’s weird. I’m still not comfortable playing drum solos, because I’d like to be able to be more dynamic in softer spots. I’d like to be able to not freak out that I’m only caressing a cymbal for a little bit. I get uptight sometimes, and feel that much more needs to be happening.
RT: Do you have a routine practiceschedule?
RM: Not really. On the road it’s virtually impossible to practice. You can’t play on your set, so you’ve got to have whatever you’re going to have together at home, before the first day that you’re on the road. The only practicing I do is on rugs of hotels. When I’m home, yeah, I do more of a rigid practice schedule, where I get on the set every day, and work on those things that were weak on the last tour.
RT: Is there a certain set of exercises that you do?
RM: I don’t practice the exact same thing every time. I think it might be a good idea to do that, but I practice what has freaked me out recently. For example, before we left for this trip we went to a place in Atlanta and saw Chick Corea. And he’s got this drummer who amazed me, his name is Tom Brechtlein. He’s just phenomenal to me, left my mouth open. And by the end of the night, I guess it was 1 or 2 in the morning, I went home, took out my sticks and started practicing the figures that I particularly enjoyed that he played. It’s nice to be able to watch a drummer and figure out what he’s doing with his four limbs to be able to analyze it and catalog it for future reference.
RT: Ken Scott produced two of the Dixie Dregs’ albums. What effect, if any, did he have on your playing?
RM: First off, he told me I played too much. He’s approaching the music from a recording standpoint, not from a live show at all. And he maintains the difference between the two. With recording, it turns out the less you play an instrument, the more pure and beautiful it’s going to sound through a system. And in the case of a band, you’re dealing with the drums and all the layers of things that are going to go on it. So there’s going to be a lot happening. For one, the more notes you play, or the faster you play, the less volume you’re going to have, naturally. When you just hit one note on the drum you can really whop it, but if you’re playing fast as hell you’re not going to be having the same impact that you have with the one note. It’s his theory that the harder you hit a drum, the better the sound for the drum. And I really like the sound that Ken got on my drums. So we’d play a song, and he’d say, “That section there, simplify it.” And I’d simplify it, and he’d say, “Simplify it some more.” And I didn’t like that at first. It’s intimidating when you have a stranger there telling you what to do, but in the end it really worked out. I know what he meant. And since, I think I’ve probably overcompensated a little bit too much by simplifying things more than they really needed to be. But Ken Scott did a lot of recordings with McLaughlin with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, who had the most profound effect on me of any band in music in my life. You know, the kind where you really feel it in your system. You know, it’s like an atom bomb exploding. I didn’t realize that music could take you that far off into the stratosphere. So he played us some tapes he had, some unreleased tapes of the band, and they played a million miles an hour. But the sound of the music, the sound quality not the playing, does not rate with the sound of a Supertramp album. The faster you play the more unclear it gets, the softer you hit the drums the shittier they sound, that kind of thing. So that was a lesson for me.
RT: What does it mean that production is now back in the group’s hands with Steve Morse doing it? Is the band freer in the studio now?
RM: I guess. Everyone does what they want to do, essentially. And you don’t have to deal with another person. I think it was the greatest experience working with Ken, because he showed me a lot as far as the drums and studio techniques. But ultimately a band wants to take charge of its destiny. Naturally, whenever you’re dealing with someone else, you don’t want to offend them. There’s always been a time factor, a lack of money, the record has to be done by a certain time, and you’re dealing with all these people in the band who have all these ideas. Well when someone else is running the show, they have the power to tell you when it’s not really going to happen. You know, if you have an idea, either there’s not really time for it, or they don’t think it’s going to fit their concept. Whereas if you are in complete charge, you can maybe just sneak it in there, and see what it sounds like.
RT: You use Paiste cymbals. Have you always used them?
RM: No. I don’t think they were in existence when I started playing. Everything was A Zildjian. K Zildjian’s were a drag when you were young. It wasn’t until you became aware that K Zildjians were the cool cymbals to play, because the youngsters only heard of the Buddy Rich’s. No one heard of Tony Williams or Elvin Jones or Jack DeJohnette. I was about 18 or 19 before I heard of those guys. So it was strictly A Zildjian. And then when Paiste came out, I really liked the fact that they seemed to do a lot of experimentation. Now, they’re so competitive, they all have all these different prototypes.
RT: What size stick do you use in concert?
RM: All different sizes. Probably between a 2A and a 5A.
RT: Watching your feet last night while you played, I noticed that you use a flat approach on the bass drum foot, but at times move up to the ball of your foot.
RM: Yes. When the double bass drums are used I go right up to the ball. I wish I didn’t, because you lose control that way. But there’s so much pain, I still after all these years get that harsh pain on the instep. And I can’t play fast when the foot is down like that. When you get up on your toes, if you need it you can get your whole body into it, and your legs pounding away. But you do lose a little bit of control.
RT: You aren’t using any of the electronic drum devices, Synares, Syndrums, or the like.
RM: Just what I’ve heard on records, I don’t particularly go for. It’s not for my ear. I hear a lot of similar sounds in it. I think it might be neat at some point. Billy Cobham does some great things with the effects. I remember he had a whole channel of foot pedals for those sorts of things. It’s also a question of time. It takes time getting these things together, and when you’re on the road most of your life, just doing the little that we do is hard enough to maintain. I would like to try things with digital delays and other kinds of things. I wish we could carry some of those studio effects that we use on the drums, like a limiter, which creates a really neat effect. Are you familiar with the What If album? We use the limiter on the tom-toms on the song “Ice Cakes.” And also that room effect that they use to make drums sound real big. It would be great to have those things live.
RT: “Ice Cakes” was listed as your vocal tune.
RM: That was a joke. Apparently, when I play I really grunt loud, and I’m not really aware that I’m doing it, but it helps me play better. So they were picking up my voice. They didn’t know what it was, no one knew. And then they traced it to my voice. And they thought it’d be funny to put a mike on me, and mix it in and out during the song. It really got to be a problem, that in the next album we recorded they had to tape my mouth.
RT: Tape it closed?
RM: Yeah, because it got so annoying hearing me. So they put a big piece of duct tape right across. I think it really helps me play better. It helps me to get over the hump of the physical part of it, because I’m not a strong person. I don’t work out. You know, the drumming is the workout. I do a few warmup type things, but I find that when I scream it gives me, unconsciously I guess, the extra edge.
RT: Are you aware of the way you look onstage?
RM: I’m aware of it when I see pictures that people have taken, and they’re weird. A guy gave us these tonight. And I look at a picture like this . . . (He holds out a picture of himself in action, hair flying, eyes wide, mouth open).
RT: That’s a typical look, Rod. Very animated.
RM: I don’t believe it. I’m not aware of it. I’m glad I make a lot of expressions when I play. I never consciously worked at it. But most drummers that you see frown, or don’t have any expression, and even if they’re great players, it’s a drag if they’re not, like you say, animated. I really like seeing a band checking each other out, making jokes on stage, laughing, and genuinely having a good time. It’s weird when they’re in their own world. If music can’t be a good time, and a joyful experience, there’s no point in doing it. And regardless of what level of musicianship a person is at, what’s the difference? It’s just being joyful.
RT: Did you feel, even when you were playing the smallest of clubs, that someday the Dregs would make it big?
RM: I think so, in the back of my mind. Because the responses we got from audiences everywhere has been so positive, even when there were only a few people in the audience. We’ve always gotten that kind of response.
RT: Will success spoil the Dixie Dregs?
RM: No, I don’t see how. Because the success we’ve achieved has been such a gradual thing. We’ve been on the road for five years. It’s no overnight success story.
RT: The Dregs are one of only a few fusion type bands that have continued to build an audience over the last few years. How do you account for this?
RM: The strength of the Dregs is the writing. People like to hear diversified music. You can keep challenging them with something different, and just when they think they’re grasping the situation, you let the bottom drop out, and go on to something else. And just fill the air with every different mood possible. You know, get some raucous rock and roll to get them on their feet, and then take them to heaven with ethereal, eclectic stuff. And what I think’s important is that we reach people on different levels. We appeal to the musician types because we’re musicians. There are people who like to analyze and know music from a technical standpoint. And so people can relate to that. And yet on the other hand, people that are just into listening, and don’t know what they’re listening for, can appreciate it. To me, it’s melodic, exciting, it’s not boring. Yet people come in and can sing along with a lot of the things. And even the club rowdy beer drinkers, they get off on the energy. So I think it’s the combination of all those things, the fact that it is musical, that there’s variety, and it’s energetic. It combines everything. And that’s where I think the fault lies with a lot of so called fusion bands. Is jazz-rock really fusion? The fact that people play odd time signatures and grooves, is that fusion? Or is fusion combining the elements of classical, country, bluegrass, rock, jazz, and Elizabethan styles? That, to me, is fusion. And I think we run into trouble calling ourselves fusion, because then we’re linked with this other style of music.
RT: The disco fad seems to be dying out a bit. What do you see as the shape of the future of music in the ’80’s?
RM: That’s a good question. I think musical alternatives. I don’t think the public has been given enough credit for what they think’s good. There’s a real vicious cycle that’s created. Something gets played on the radio and it sells, and therefore the people who run the industry think that that’s all people want to hear. I think the reason that bands like ours, and say Metheny or whoever, are not bigger, is because they haven’t gotten the exposure that they deserve. And that there is a market out there for that kind of thing. People are ready for it. And I think there’s going to be more bands like us coming out, instead of just this automated, one after another, ditto ditto- ditto music. The disco’s dying, but now the new wave thing is starting to come, which is another thing where a lot sounds the same, and no one wants to take chances. There’s probably always going to be that kind of thing happening. There’s always going to be that bland kind of unchallenging music. I mean, music that’s not a challenge to the ear is easy to sell. You can just stick it on, listen to it and have parties and have it playing, take a shower and have it playing, and do your homework and have it playing. You don’t really absorb it. But I think the market is growing for this other kind of challenging music. I think it’s always been there, it’s just that no one’s been given the chance to know it’s there.
RT: There is a blues shuffle tune on the new Dregs album.
RM: Yes, that’s “Twiggs Approved.” Twiggs was our road manager, and he was road manager of the Allman Brothers before we met him. And there are some human beings that are just too hard to put into words what they are or were like. But he was special. There’s nobody like him. He had the kind of analytical mind that could figure out anything. It was almost superhuman, frightening. As technical as he was about everything in the world around him, his favorite music was the blues. Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, all those kind of guys. And he’d just sit and talk with us for hours. He always said we should do blues, and after this song was written for him, he made a prediction before he died that that particular song could bring blues to the people. Whereas it’s really been an underground thing for all its years in existence, but there’s never been a commercial blues success. So that song is important.
RT: Do you ever have any desire to do studio work?
RM: I think it’d be fun to try. I think the challenge is unbelievable. When you’re playing with a band, a lot of things you do night after night are the same. Especially in a band of this sort. A lot of the stuff is worked out, lick oriented, although I think most playing is. But in the studio, it seems every time you walk in you’re dealing with an entirely new situation, someone putting music in front of you. The stories I hear about Steve Gadd are incredible. I’ve heard stories about the Aja album, that has some great playing on it, and even the Leprechaun album. They run through it once, if that, and then turn the tapes on. In his case, a lot of his recording, or probably most studio musicians’ recording happens the day of the rehearsal. And that’s fantastic. That must be really taxing on the mind. It’s a different world. But then again you get to be home. That would be nice. But no matter who you’re talking to, the grass is always greener. Rock musicians say they’d love to do some studio work, and say why. And then studio musicians just want to get a deal and get back out on the road again, like the case of Toto. They’re all studio musicians, and we just did a date with them. And the E Street Band in Manhattan with Hiram Bullock on guitar and Cliff Carter on keyboards, they’re the top New York studio musicians. I mean they get a lot of work, and they’re itching to get a band together, get a deal, and go out on the road. So, everybody wants to do what they’re not doing, or get a taste
RT: Your drumming has been described as “melodic.” Has studying other instruments contributed to that style?
RM: I think so. It helps because you think musically, like a musician. Think about the drummers that play other instruments, that know a little bit more. Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Michael Walden, Billy Cobham. If you can approach it from another standpoint where you know what the guys are doing, it can really help you decide how to play a passage. It does come in handy, because you think a little more symphonically, and how to play them from that approach, as opposed to just banging the hell out of them. And when you’re five guys in an instrumental band, you have to be thinking of ways to get as many sounds as possible out of the instrument you play. You want to constantly keep variety of sounds, as well as variety of styles. Always change the sound. Always hit a different drum. Think of the drums as one of five instruments, as in this band and what can they do to round out and complete what the others are playing. That’s a good way to think.