David Garibaldi

Rhythm & Blues: 1980, ’81, ’82, ’83

Funk: 1984, ’85

You have to admire someone who is successful and happy doing something, but stops because he doesn’t feel that he is growing. Such was the case with David Garibaldi when he left Tower OfPower in 1980. The question that arose was whether he felt truly happy and successful without that growth. The answer was no. He had left the Bay Area in 1977, and had relocated to L.A., where he didn’t know a soul. It was virtually like starting over. He fought the preconceptions of those who figured that Garibaldi was only one kind of a drummer, and he pried open many closed doors. Today, David is glad he did so.

In the past year, David has been working with a band called Wishful Thinking, recently signed to Pausa Records, as well as doing clinics, sessions, writing a book, and keeping a very busy teaching schedule.

RF: Have you found that you had to alter your teaching methods or approach at all during the last five to ten years?

DG: Oh yes. I’m realizing that I’m going to have to make some changes right now, just with the differences in music and the differences in my own playing appetite. There’s more rock playing going on today than before, plus I’m having to make changes with regard to including electronics and its application. That’s as much as I can tell you right now, because it’s only been during the last month that I realized I’m going to make some changes.

RF: What has been your thrust in teaching?

DG: It’s been primarily fusion—things that will build a lot of depth in your playing with regard to improving your facility on the drumset, soloing, and that kind of thing.

RF: When people come to you for lessons, how do you begin?

DG: Generally, I start by listening to them play, and I watch them for a few minutes. I start each student with a concept I use involving two sound levels and the hands—accented notes and non-accented notes. I show students how I use this concept in my playing, and I have a number of handouts that I give them. We go through these things until the students start to understand how that concept works. That’s pretty much where I start with everybody. After that, it’s all different, depending on where each player is at currently, the type of music each student likes, and where each person’s desires as a player are.

RF: Aside from bringing in electronics, has there been a change in your teaching approach?

DG: I do a lot of motivational things—goal setting, encouraging students to have very clearly defined goals, and encouraging them to be more well-rounded in what they’re doing, as opposed to only doing one thing. A few years ago, you could get away with doing one style of music. Today, things are very different, with all the changes in the industry and music business. You have to be more well-rounded and be able to do a lot more things, just so you can survive in the business today.

RF: You became known for a certain thing. Was it difficult to break through that preconception people had of you?

DG: Sure. When I was in Tower Of Power, I didn’t have to think about anything but those guys. When I decided I was going to get out of that situation and start working in L. A., I realized that, even though Tower was a wonderful situation to be in, they were the only ones who were playing the type of music they played. I had to forget about some of that stuff and get into some other things.

RF: What did you do to prepare for that?

DG: I just started working in town, calling people, getting involved in things that were going on around here, and taking advantage of every musical situation that I could. Had I not moved here from the Bay Area, I don’t think I would know what I know today. The experience I’ve gained here has been invaluable in terms of what I’ve learned about recording, and maturing as a player. I don’t know if I consider myself a studio musician, but I want to bring a studio quality to what I do in a musical situation.

RF: When you moved down to L.A., had Tower Of Power been your only recording experience?

DG: Yes. I was coming here a lot with the band. The scene in San Francisco was drying up. In the mid to late ’70s, everything sort of disappeared up there. In the early ’70s, it was heavenly. Everybody had real good gigs and was making a lot of money

It was really great, but then it all changed, so I moved down here. I didn’t know anybody, so I just set out to get things going for myself. I had to make a lot of adjustments because I wasn’t in Tower Of Power anymore, and I found myself overplaying a lot of times because of what I had been doing with them. With them, I could play anything I wanted, with no restrictions on me whatsoever. Then I got into situations here where everything was much more controlled, and I had people telling me what they wanted me to do. I had to get used to that. There was a lot of mental pressure for a long time. And there were people who didn’t want to hire me, because they thought that all I could do was Tower Of Power. Consequently, I always had to be proving myself. I feel like I’m still proving myself. That really is the way it is around here, which is okay, because it makes things happen for you. It builds character. You can’t really rest on what you did yesterday, as great as that may be. You have to keep moving on, because there’s always somebody else. You have to be looking over your shoulder all the time. That’s the way this business is, but if you like it, you put up with all that stuff and it’s really fun. It’s great to play the drums.

RF: Where do you personally stand with all the electronics?

DG: I used a LinnDrum and the Simmons SDS7, and I’ve gotten into programming. I just did a Christian album where I was one of the coproducers, and I used drum machine on almost all of it. It gave me an opportunity to really do whatever I wanted. I did all the basic tracks with snare drum, bass drum, and hi-hat, and then I overdubbed toms and cymbals. It turned out really great. I also just did something for Sony/Epic in Japan, and a track for a producer here in town named Joe Curiale. So, slowly but surely, I’m getting into that kind of stuff. For a long time, I didn’t have to, but within the last year, it has really become necessary. If you want to work here, you must be knowledgeable about all the electronics—how to use the Linn, Simmons, and all of it. They’re different instruments than the drumset. Nothing is going to replace the acoustic drumset. That’s still a very important part of the basic element in music, but you have to get into the electronic instruments and learn them, because they’re completely different. You have to start at the bottom with regard to learning how all that stuff works. It’s really exciting and challenging, and it’s where music is going. If you want to stay in music, you have to be doing that sort of thing. I like it a lot. I was getting bored with the drumset, and to me, it just added another dimension to everything, which is really great. I don’t know a lot about it yet, but I like that because, now, I push myself to learn and to use the gear all the time.

RF: How do you think you can best apply the Simmons? Do you use it in combination with acoustic drums?

DG: Yes, or by itself. There are certain types of music or certain songs where the mood of the tune requires all Simmons. There are certain tunes that require partially Simmons—overdubs or something like that.

RF: Could you see applying electronics to something like Tower Of Power?

DG: Sure, but since I’m not in the band anymore, it’s really not for me to say.

RF: If you were in the band today, would you be using electronics?

DG: Sure I would, because to me, you can only do the same thing for so long and then you become an antique. I saw the band recently, and they were still doing all the old material. They had what they called new tunes, which sounded just like the old stuff. It’s great, but there’s a whole world of music going on out there, and where those guys used to be leaders, now they’re in a position of having to chase everybody to get listened to. If their music was more current sounding, I think that they probably would be signed right now, because tons of people today are using a lot of the things they invented. But the way people use it today is more current, with a lot of electronics.

RF: When did you start getting into electronics?

DG: I guess about two or three years ago. Then, when I played on Gino Vanelli’s new record, that really got me going because it was an opportunity to sound very current, and they were into all that stuff. That really encouraged me, because I saw that I could play in a rock setting and have it sound really believable, which was something I wanted to do. I wanted to get totally away from Tower Of Power and fusion, and be in a rock setting. Two years ago, I think all the electronic instruments were very questionable to a lot of people. Today, it’s absolutely essential for everyone. It’s changed that fast.

RF: When you were talking about your teaching earlier, you mentioned that you found it necessary to stress more musical styles. Why do you feel that way? What has changed?

DG: I’m 38 years old now, and when I learned how to play at 17, jazz education was what you did when you went to school. You were in some jazz program at college, and jazz was the height of musical ability. Today’s jazz musicians are very sophisticated rock players. They have a knowledge of jazz playing, bop, and all that other stuff, but they apply it to playing rock. Since there’s not as much emphasis on jazz education today, players are not as interested in that sort of thing, and their abilities are lacking. What they can contribute in a musical situation will be far less than those who have that depth in their playing, because of the musicality and sense that it gives you. The ability to groove and swing is more greatly instilled in you if you understand and can play jazz. For instance, I played a lot of big band when I was younger, and when I joined Tower Of Power, I did the same things that I had done when I played big band, like kicking horn figures. A lot of players are missing out on that today. I stress all of that stuff, because I see what it’s done for me.

RF: Do you think it’s less important or more important for a musician today to have schooling than it was maybe ten years ago?

DG: It all depends on the program. I think the schools are starting to get a little more hip as to what people’s needs are, instead of trying to keep the “jazz monster’’ alive. Kids want to play rock ’n’ roll, because that’s the music of today. So education has to bridge that somehow, so that kids can get what they want but not feel that the schools think students are stupid because they want to play rock ’n’ roll. Rock music can be sophisticated. Today’s jazz music is rock, basically, and all that can be incorporated into schools if they want to do it. If the school offers something that is practical for kids today, then I think it’s a good deal. If not, then it’s just going to hinder them and make them not want to go, because they’re going to want to be out there playing in bands and having fun.

RF: When I talked to Louie Bellson, the question was raised of where one takes influences from. In Louie’s day, there weren’t a lot of people to emulate, but now, there are so many great drummers to draw from. Where does one start? Does one start with Baby Dodds, or Keith Moon, or where?

DG: I think drummers should start with themselves, because to me, the players today who are looked up to are individuals. They have their own unique characteristic sound. Today, we’re coming out of an era where playing drums was sort of mindless, starting with the disco music, because every song you heard had the same drumbeat. It sort of brought a mindlessness into playing. Whereas when I was learning to play, I knew exactly who my favorite drummers were, and for a number of years, I could follow their careers on record. When I listened to the radio, I could tell who it was by the way the drummer played the hi-hat or just laid down time. Those drummers had a signature in their playing, but that’s not as fashionable today. Music is based on the individual aspect, in that you can express anything you want to. There is a certain degree of art to it, so you can say whatever you want. You should never feel that you have to sound like someone else to get over. It’s really your own thing, and what will enable you to do that is to tap into where you’re at and think about what you want to do. I know what Steve Gadd, Harvey Mason, Neil Peart, and Carmine Appice are doing. What do I want to do based on my knowledge of what they’re doing? You have to be aware of them, but you still have to look within. It still goes back on your shoulders as to what you’re going to do with the drumset.

RF: A difficult abstract question from all this is how does one develop a personal style?

DG: When I hear something I like that someone does, I’ll learn it, but I’ll never use it. I will make up all kinds of things based on that. To me, it’s a drag to copy someone. I’ll never copy. That’s been the big motivating factor ever since I was 17 years old. I don’t ever want to be a copycat. I don’t want to rip somebody off. I want to do my own thing. To me, it’s disgraceful to be somebody’s clone.

RF: Probably a lot of students come to you wanting to be you.

DG: That’s right, but what I teach them is to be themselves. I give them ideas, and show them how to develop their own ideas and have their own identity on the drums. Then, I teach them to go for it and believe in what they’re doing. If I didn’t believe in what I was doing, I’d be somebody’s clone. I believe in me. You have to have that sort of confidence in your own abilities. That sort of confidence will allow you to have your own identity as a player.

RF: You mentioned before that you find it important to get your students motivated and get them into goal setting. Have you found that people’s morales are lower these days, and that it’s more difficult to make it in the industry because there are so many good musicians?

DG: There are a lot of good musicians, and there isn’t as much work as there was. You really have to get yourself out there and hustle to get work. You have to take all sorts of work, and you can’t turn anything down. People have to be a lot more committed to wanting to succeed than before, because there are fewer jobs.

RF: When dealing with the motivation factor, what kinds of things do you stress?

DG: One thing that is very important is to be really faithful to what it is that you want to do, and have a very persevering attitude. You have to have a steel-skin kind of attitude and develop a real dedication to what you’re doing. I don’t know anybody who was born with tremendous skills. All of us have to develop our abilities. I still spend a lot of hours trying to develop myself, and that’s what I teach: that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. You have to develop a real work ethic if you really want to get somewhere. During part of my clinic presentation, I talk about motivation. You can see some of the differences in people’s attitudes just by the way they receive that sort of stuff. I think success, to a large degree, is self-determined. I don’t believe in luck, and I encourage people to stop talking about luck. You make things happen by digging around and being committed. Positive believing is like a magnet. You’ll attract positive things by your positive attitude.

RF: Have your ideas about, say, soloing changed any?

DG: I didn’t start soloing until 1980. When I was playing with Tower Of Power, all I was ever interested in doing was playing within the band. To me, it was just as much fun as soloing, because I could play all the figures and follow soloists in the band. I could help them out on their show and make the band really kick. Then in 1980, I was in a Christian rock band called Takit, and they wanted to have drum solos every day. We traveled all over the country that year, playing high schools, colleges, and military institutions. We played somewhere every day for the majority of that year, so I kept doing it and developing it. Now, I can take pretty decent solos, but it’s something I have really had to work at, because it intimidated me for a long time. Now, it’s a lot more comfortable, and I enjoy it.

RF: You’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last few years, both in your life and musically.

DG: Lots. It’s a whole new thing.

RF: Did you find that the adjustment period was painful?

DG: Sure, but you’ve got to go through it. It’s growing pains. If you want to start in a new endeavor, you just have to go there.

RF: It’s very admirable to see someone who could have continued to be successful at something, but chose to move on. You probably would have won our polls anyway if you had stayed in Tower Of Power, but you didn’t feel you were growing.

DG: I’m very appreciative of all the people who read the magazine and vote for me each year. It’s a real honor, especially when you get picked over drummers like Steve Jordan and Bernard Purdie. Bernard Purdie is practically my mentor. In ’69, when I first heard him play, I said to myself, “I want to be that good.” But you’ve got to keep moving on. I don’t actively do that funk sort of drumming very much at all. The fusion band I’m in, Wishful Thinking, is more funk sort of fusion, but it’s nothing like Tower Of Power was. I’m appreciative of the experience I gained there, and I use it every day. It was like school. But I do want to move on and experience new things. If I had to do the same things all the time, I’d quit playing.

RF: What kinds of things would you like to do now?

DG: Someday, I would like to have my own band. I’m not ready to do that yet, but it would be something very current and it would reach a wide spectrum of people. I’d like to be a member of Carlos Santana’s band. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. I would like to be in a major rock band. I would like to do a weekly television show.

RF: You obviously prefer being a member of a band to being a free-lance agent.

DG: Absolutely. The reason I haven’t been in a band for a long time is that there just hasn’t been anything I’ve wanted to be a part of, so I didn’t seek out those opportunities. I really was in transition for a long time. The transition from not being in Tower Of Power to the type of things I’m currently doing was a very painful one, because I really loved being in that band. If it had been growing, I could have stayed there for the rest of my life. It was that much fun for me. It didn’t work out that way, so I had to change everything around to go on. To me, being in a band is the best situation. When I was growing up, the way that people made their livings was by being in bands. They joined a band, and they were there for a long, long time. Today, there’s so much free-lance work and so many drummers are unattached that I think it’s hard for music. When you’re in a band, you can operate on family sort of principles. You can be together and grow together. There’s got to be a leader, but there’s a direction and you can develop some really great things. It’s a drag being alone. Everybody should have a situation to be in.