Tris Imboden

This gives me more than what I would expect from a drummer because he also gives me attitude,” Kenny Loggins told me when I asked what he needed from a drummer. “Tris’ attitude can hold the band together during times when morale might slip. Say, for example, you ‘re playing a lousy gig at a state fair where there’s lousy food, the people are treating you badly and the dressing rooms are terrible. His attitude can keep everybody up. And his attitude on stage is always as strong as a human being can give you. He’s up more than any person I’ve ever known. Also, the main thing for me is that I can’t work with a drummer who is not steady—who lets the groove slip around too much. When I was doing the Alive album, we could edit a verse from one year and the chorus from another. His tempos would be exactly the same to the 10th of a second. I’ve never worked with anybody who is that precise. When he finds a pocket, he holds it, and he’ll hold it from year to year. The amazing thing is, if I need him to speed up the song or slow down the song, he can do that for me and will do that if I ask him to. He never fights me. Most other drummers I’ve had occasion to work with get something set in their heads and will try to talk me out of my wanting to make a change in tempo. We have hand signals on stage that we also use in the studio, so he and I can read each other quickly. If I need a cymbal crash, he’s right there with me. If I want him to change the dynamics of a tune in a way we’ve never done before on stage, he’ll go with me. He’ll change the dynamics to a whisper, or play something with punches, or do a complete break. It sounds like I’m talking about a trained puppy or something, but the fact of the matter is he’s a writer’s dream because he’s an extension of my musical moods. With a drummer like Tris, the music can be fresh every night because we can rearrange it according to the mood of the music and where it wants to go, or according to my mood and where I want to go. Sometimes the music is in charge and sometimes lam.”

If I had given Kenny a script, he couldn’t have said it better, for those were the very elements of Tris’ playing and personality I would have pointed out. In everything he does, Tris aims to please. Watch him in concert and he gives 100%. If you observe him in the studio, as I have been fortunate enough to do, you will see a creative eagerness to contribute and a willingness to try anything. Spend time with him and his wife Celia, and their positive energy is contagious!

Always appreciative and considerate of those around him, Tris is quick to give credit to his drum tech, Dave Bowers, since Tris is sensitive to the fact that it takes more than just himself to achieve the level of perfection he strives for in both his studio and live playing.

While his main gig is with Loggins, Tris has become active in the L.A. studio scene as well. He has recorded for Gary Wright, Tom Snow, Don Felder, Jay Ferguson, and he has played live with Bob James and Firefall (as well as recording their Clouds Across The Sun album), but then Kenny doesn’t give him too much time off.

“If and when I work with other drummers, it’s only because I want to find out what else there is, but I always come back to Tris because he spoiled me,” Loggins said. ‘ ‘It’s hard for me to imagine anybody else playing my music.”


RF: Watching you in the studio, it sometimes makes me wonder how a recording drummer feels. It’s such a bastard art, almost like a jigsaw puzzle instead of music.

TI: I think at times it can become that. It depends on the particular project, the producer, the artist’s concept of the song and just musically how you approach it. In the case of what you just watched [Tris overdubbing Simmons on a new Loggins track, “Footloose”], we were going for a very mechanized sound, and in that instance, it was like a jigsaw puzzle because we’d add an extra track of bass drum with a particular sound, and then a Simmons piece of the puzzle here and there. But it’s not always the case. As I said, it depends on the specific project. Other times you go in and just play with a band—a rhythm section.

RF: But isn’t it rare to cut live anymore?

TI: Well, that’s true. It seems to be sort of a lost art these days.

RF: Everyone complains about how hard it is to record live, but sometimes I think the overdubbing process is so much harder.

TI: Yeah, it’s really exacting work. There’s not much room for any breathing in the track that way. I get a different sort of satisfaction from both approaches, though. There’s nothing like just getting that magic track live—particularly with the whole band. That’s something that I really enjoy. But there’s a certain expertise involved in being able to lay down those pieces of the puzzle with complete precision.

RF: When Kenny said, “You’re going to be expected to do this in concert,” I laughed because obviously you’re not going to reproduce live what it took nine tracks to do on the record.

TI: It would be impossible.

Tris Imboden

RF: So what’s the point?

TI: To me, these are two different canvases entirely. Studio is all based on illusion anyway. Instruments are made to sound way bigger than life—totally different from how you can get them to sound live. For a live situation I just approximate what I did in the studio.

RF: I walked in and saw the Simmons set, and I was wondering how you felt about playing the entire set?

TI: Right. You experienced that whole little mini-debate that Kenny and I had. [At one session, Kenny had suggested to Tris that he take only a Simmons setup on the road. Tris said he would prefer having some acoustic drums along with the Simmons.] On this last song that we did, I had done the basic track on acoustic drums that were triggered into the Simmons, so we had the combination. The overdubs were just the icing on the cake, and we chose to do those on the Simmons. I wouldn’t mind playing all Simmons if the song required it. When it just comes to how I feel comfortable— the way I like to play—I don’t think I could be comfortable playing only on a piece of plastic after 20 years of feeling the resonance, response and tone of an acoustic drum. There’s just something infinitely satisfying about that. I think it’s wonderful, though, to have both at your disposal. I’m not a purist when it comes to that.

RF: You really can’t afford to be a purist in the studios.

TI: True. Plus, I genuinely like a lot of the electronic sounds that are available now. It’s really a wide-open frontier that nobody’s really messed with, and something that’s really viable as an alternative—an accoutrement—and I dig it.

RF: Some drummers are having problems with their muscles aching because there’s no response in the Simmons heads.

TI: Craig Krampf and I were talking about that today. He said that he’d been doing the Motels for 7 1/2 months using almost exclusively Simmons. He’d wake up in the morning with cramps and aches and think, “Am I getting old? What’s going on?” It took him a while to realize that it was caused by the Simmons. They don’t give at all. I’ve also found that I break drumsticks more on them, and I use a beefy drumstick too.

RF: What do you use?

TI: I’m using the Pro-Mark 757 model, and they have a very thick neck.

RF: So you like the Simmons.

TI: Yeah, I do. I really do. I would just hate for them not to be explored, although I’m sure that’s not going to happen. People like Bruford are exploring them and the guy who plays with Kittyhawk apparently has been doing interesting things with real unusual Simmons settings. They really are infinitely adjustable and, man, you can get a host of real unique sounds. I haven’t had time to really woodshed with the Simmons, because we got them and went directly on the road. I just had to gravitate immediately to what was going to work. With traveling and all, there really hasn’t been time to sit down and see what these babies will do. But I’m looking forward to doing that when we have some time off.

RF: Like you said, there’s an infinite amount of sounds. But what about the acoustic drum sound? Can you find that somewhere? Where is that anymore?

TI: Well, yeah, I know what you mean. On that song you heard us record before we went on tour, I was a bit miffed when I was told I couldn’t use my acoustic toms, until I heard what they got with the Simmons—that exaggerated, pleasantly huge, acoustic tom sound. You’ll hear it on the full mix. It’s not to say that any well-tuned acoustic drum couldn’t do the same thing. But the Simmons are capable of even doing acoustics or “acoustic-esque.”

RF: You mentioned that you’ve been playing drums for 20 years. What initially sparked your interest?

TI: Well, as corny as this may sound, I still remember the day my dad took me to a Fourth of July parade in Huntington Beach when I was three years old. This marching band from Compton came down the street and the cadence that they were playing almost made me hysterical. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; I just knew that that was something I had to check out. So from that point on I was always drawn toward drums. When I first tried to study music in school, it was in the fifth or sixth grade I guess, and there wasn’t any room in the drum section at Huntington Beach Junior High, so I had to opt for trumpet until there was room in the drum section. But I did well with trumpet. I was second chair by the time a slot opened for a drummer, so then, of course, I shifted over. But prior to that I used a practice pad and sticks at home, where I’d work out to my favorite records.

RF: Was that training in school the extent of your formal study?

TI: Yeah, in fact, I really didn’t pursue it in high school as far as what they offered there. I’m primarily self-taught, although I read.

RF: Did you teach yourself to read?

TI: No, that went back to my early training on trumpet. Also, when I shifted to drums I got some instruction in reading drum music. Then I just kind of carried on and put myself through a lot of books. One that really helped me, and one I’m sure everyone is familiar with, is Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin. That was my bible for a long time. It helped to really loosen up my left hand, and to develop independence.

RF: How did you teach yourself?

TI: I always subconsciously—and consciously—assimilated what I heard from records. I think it was a plain old combination of emulation and real pointed study—breaking things down scientifically and trying to write them out if they were too difficult to just play.

RF: Who were some of the drummers that you were emulating at that point?

TI: Well, my earliest influences were drummers like Krupa and Buddy, probably because my folks were into big band music. As a real small child, I really loved the early Dave Brubeck stuff too. I wore out the Time Out album and my folks had to buy quite a few copies. I was probably about six or so when I was listening to that.

RF: As time went on, what stirred you?

TI: Not until I got into Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker was I really copying people verbatim. I went through a period where I had to learn the solo from “Toad.” In fact, I even had a Ludwig double bass drum set that was exactly the same as Ginger’s, only I couldn’t go all the way and have silver sparkle. I had champagne sparkle.

RF: How old were you?

TI: At that point I was in my senior year in high school, so I was 17 or 18.

RF: When did you start using double bass?

TI: That was right about that period. Once I heard Ginger, I did it. I haven’t played double bass in many, many years, but now the DW double pedal affords me the opportunity to do that again without having my drum tech lug around another bass drum, or without becoming an engineer’s nightmare because there’s another bass drum on stage or in the studio.

RF: In retrospect, is there anything you wished you had worked on as a kid?

TI: Absolutely. Rudiments. Like a lot of young drummers, I wanted nothing to do with a practice pad and a book; I wanted to go right to a drumset. Now, in retrospect, I really see the importance of rudiments. I have to go back now, break some old habits, and really learn certain things that I had just ignored. I also wish I had actively pursued someone to study with at an early age. Now, I’m really thinking of doing it.

RF: What was the first professional gig you had?

TI: I was playing professionally in high school in a band called The Other Half. We did a lot of sock hops and that sort of thing, but our claim to fame was when we played the Teenage Fair in Hollywood. We played at the Standell and Vox booths, but at one point, they banned us from playing at the Standell booth because it was right at the entrance. We were so popular and people dug it so much that we clogged the whole entrance. Before that, I played in a few surf bands. Then, of course, the first thing I did after high school was gravitate right to the drums professionally and I’ve been doing it ever since. Right out of high school I was asked to join a band called Honk. The first album we did was a soundtrack for a surf film called Five Summer Stories. It was a very, very big surf flick, and in fact, at one point it was the biggest box office grosser of any 16mm film. In Hawaii we had a number-one hit off that album called “Pipeline Sequence,” which was an instrumental. It was a pretty hip track for the time because I got to commit some jazz crimes on it. It really put us on the map locally. There were two albums after that, and they both were critically liked but never got that much attention nationally. The last album we did was really ahead of its time. There was just one horn player, and it had a lot of things you see happening now. We were very eclectic in our influences and drew from a lot of things—jazz, folk, and of course, serious rock.

RF: Was the record with Honk your first recording experience?

TI: Oh, absolutely.

RF: Can you recall what that was like?

TI: I sure can. In fact I almost became suicidal after hearing the first playbacks. As a young drummer you go in thinking you’re burning, and then you hear the playback and realize, “Whoa, coming around that corner it rushed, and it dragged over here.”

RF: Recording is a whole different thing.

TI: It sure is. It was real painful for me to come to terms with recording because I never liked anything that I did. I always heard the flaws. It’s only now that I can listen to those old Honk records and enjoy them for what was there, instead of cringing.

RF: How did you learn to play in the studios? What things did you have to really concentrate on?

TI: I just had to listen, no matter how much it hurt, to see where my tendency was to rush, lay back, or drag, or where the sweet spot was on my drum and what sounded best.

RF: Even the tension that you hit with.

TI: Yeah, exactly, whether to play out of the drum or to dig in—I consciously looked at all those things, and made an effort to find what sounded best on tape and on the drums.

RF: It’s interesting that back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, when things were not as technical as they are today, four kids from Compton, California, could go into the studio and make a record, and it could be a hit. I wonder if young musicians today have the opportunity that you had to learn in the studio.

TI: Yeah, that’s really true. I did have the benefit of that. During that particular period of time, if you wanted to take it seriously, you could cut your teeth while you were cutting a record.

Tris Imboden

RF: Nowadays, if you can’t cut it in the studio during that first record, the producer will send the band members home and bring in studio musicians.

TI: And put the band members’ names on the album. Don’t you think that, with the advent of this new music, the lack of respect for any technical perfection is almost the same sort of thing it was back then?

RF: But there’s a difference. Back then, with you, it was all new; it was a whole new art. Today, there’s no excuse for not being totally knowledgeable.

TI: Almost purposely not knowledgeable. It’s almost, “In spite of existing technical expertise and prowess, I will play sloppy because it’s genuine and real.”

RF: Do you feel as though the kids today are not getting together for the love of it?

TI: Yeah, it’s almost out of spite.

RF: When you were young, you really didn’t know the money-making potential.

TI: No, that certainly wasn’t why I got into it. I’m glad that money wasn’t a motivation because I still feel—although this may sound like bullshit—if, all of a sudden, all my “success” were gone, I’d still be playing, and happily playing. I wouldn’t care if it were in a Holiday Inn or wherever, because I genuinely love the drums. I always have.

RF: What happened after Honk?

TI: I moved up to L.A., and as a result of the attention Honk had gotten, and the respect musicians and producers had had for us, I got calls for studio work. That’s how I started breaking in, doing demos and things. Then I did a couple Ian Matthews albums. I went to Nashville to do the first one with him, called Go For Broke. That was a good album; I really liked it. I did some other obscure albums, and it helped me gain more experience and more confidence in the studio. And that takes us up to right about the time that I auditioned for Loggins. Honk broke up about 1974 or ’75, then I moved to L.A. and started doing the session work, and I joined Loggins in ’77. So I’ve been with Kenny for a long time.

RF: What was the audition for Kenny like?

TI: Well, I had never really auditioned for anybody before. I’d always just been called in to do a project. But I’d heard that Kenny was holding auditions for a keyboard player, a guitar player and a drummer. I was a little bit torn about going to the audition because I was supposed to be going on the road with Ian Matthews three weeks later. I’m not the kind of person who would really want to put anybody in a fix like that, should I get the Loggins gig. At the same time, though, I was really vascillating, because I loved Kenny’s music. In fact, Honk used to open for Loggins & Messina so I’d met Kenny years before, and he and Jimmy were fans of Honk as well. So I went to the audition, and I was told there were about a hundred and some-odd drummers there. I was the last person to audition. They called me back again because I guess they’d narrowed it down to a few, and then they called me back a third time. Here it was getting closer and closer to the time I was supposed to go out with Ian, but I really wanted this gig more than anything. I was so impressed with Kenny’s new music. The third time it looked like I might get it. By that time I really wanted it, but I sure didn’t want to tell Ian. Needless to say, I got the gig. Ian was really cool when I told him, even though he only had a week to get a new drummer.

RF: What did they have you do at the audition?

TI: They had charts, and they played the song once or twice, while I looked at it on the chart. I’m not a real strong sight reader, you see, but I can do it depending on the varying difficulty of the material. The combination of my ear and my ability to read was what got me through the thing. But I thought it was a real hip approach, because drummers who didn’t read at all could still have a good shot at it by relying on their ears primarily, or vice versa.

RF: If you were auditioning drummers for Kenny Loggins, what would you look for?

TI: Well, I think more than anything I would look for a certain musicality. That’s a broad term, but to me, musicality is a combination of heart, sensitivity, ears, and just that sort of intuitiveness that the right combination of players seem to share. I’ve found that, when playing with new people, you can tell pretty quicklywhether that’s there or not. Also, of course, there would have to be a certain technical prowess on their instrument. Technique is important because Kenny’s music covers such a broad range.

RF: Can you be specific? What goes into a show? What does a drummer have to come up with?

TI: Well, as far as musical genres, Kenny really leaps all over, so you need certain jazz influences, a certain command of rock ‘n’ roll, and some Latin knowledge. Also, like I say, it comes back to a sensitivity and the ability to be spontaneous, because with Kenny, as you’ve seen, it’s different every night. I just love that, because it always keeps it fresh and alive.

RF: How different does it get?

TI: Kenny is a very improvisational singer, although he may not seem that way to people who hear his records. He has a true instrument in his voice. He plays with it and just throws it all over the place. I’m always following what he’s doing, as well as everybody else in the band. It’s not your standard pop gig with the same notes played exactly the same way every night. There’s a certain open end. Of course, there are arrangements and stuff. It’s not as wide open as a full jazz gig would be, but relative to a pop gig, it really is open.

RF: What else would be required of the drummer you might audition?

TI: Attitude, definitely. When a band travels together, records together, eats, sleeps, and everything together, it’s really important. I want to be around people who are positive—not Pollyanna-like, but who are sincere about what they’re doing. Attitude is a big thing.

RF: I have noticed that, in the studio, you’re so agreeable and willing to do whatever anybody wants.

TI: I’ve found that, in the studio, it’s really imperative that you at least give everybody’s idea a chance. Even if you think it’s the dumbest idea in the world, go ahead and see what that person was hearing or going for. Sometimes, trying someone else’s idea will kind of set you off in a direction that will bring something more to that idea, and also lead you to play something you would never have thought of. That openness is really important.

RF: You mentioned once that Kenny is somewhat parts oriented in the studio. I wondered how much freedom you have with him?

TI: It depends. On a song like “This Is It,” that was pretty much mine. But then, on the song you saw today, “Footloose,” Kenny had a very definite idea of the drum part he wanted. Sometimes he’ll have a skeletal idea, and we will fill in the pieces as we go along. We’ll hear a playback and say, “Well, maybe that needs a little something there.” Kenny is a real craftsman in the studio. It’s kind of a dichotomy too because live, like we were just talking about, he’s so free. I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier: They are two totally different canvases.

RF: You’re a master at dynamics, and Kenny’s vocals are really dynamic. The two of you together are beautiful between the push of the drums and his voice, like on “Heart To Heart.”

TI: I really like that track.

RF: And “I Gotta Try” and “This Is It,” which really reach an emotional level. Live, you can really feel that energy come across.

TI: Fortunately, the tunes that Kenny writes really lend themselves to extreme dynamics. A song like “This Is It,” for example, is really delicate at the beginning, but it has that low boil, and by the time you hit the chorus, you slam the 2 and 4. The material really kind of dictates what dynamics are appropriate. I’m lucky that Kenny is the composer that he is and that he is as musical as he is. I just love the color differences that exist in the course of a song, which might go from a whisper to a roar and back to a whisper. It really draws you in as a listener.

RF: And then you’ll do something like “Junkanoo Holiday,” which is a totally different feel.

TI: That’s sort of a calypso feel. It’s something that I sort of borrowed from Gadd but then changed a little bit.

RF: You were talking before about some of the tracks where you came up with ideas. Could you talk about some of the tracks that you’re fondest of, and why? Hit me with Kenny’s first and then we’ll talk about some of the others.

TI: Of course “This Is It.” I’ll always be grateful that I got to play drums for that song. It is such a great song and I was always pleased with the part I came up with. “Heart To Heart” I like an awful lot too. There’s a song called “Wait A Little While” on Nightwatch that I really like. I think it’s one of Kenny’s strongest tunes. He says he woke up one morning and the thing just flowed out effortlessly. I really like the chorus pattern that Hawkins and I came up with. It’s kind of a backwards thing that was just right for the song. There’s another song on the album Keep The Fire that I really like, called “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong.” It just goes through so many different movements, even though it seems to push a little bit during the instrumental, [laughs] That’s on me, but I still like it.

I like trying to be inventive with whatever part I play on someone’s record; I don’t want to sound like everybody else. Of course, sometimes you just can’t help it. The producer who we laughingly call a “reducer”—will sometimes say, “Can you split the difference there, put a smile on it and play a little less.” Inevitably you end up sounding like everybody else on certain things. Whenever I can, I try to play something that is mine, but it must lend itself to the song too.

RF: How did you come up with “Heartlight”? There’s a real neat feel to that song.

TI: Actually that was done in pieces. That whole percussion introduction was originally a whole lot longer. We tagged that onto the front after we had completed the piece. Steve Forman actually did most of the percussion stuff at the beginning. I wish you could have heard it before we pulled out a lot of stuff. It probably wasn’t appropriate to the song, but it was a great sounding percussion piece. It finally started sounding like a factory, though, because there was so much happening. But man, it was great. I did some hi hat in it and a couple of other things. We just really took that feel from Kenny’s acoustic guitar part. I liked coming out of the last chorus. I pulled sort of an Andy Newmark trick, playing into the next bar, coming out on 2. I love Andy Newmark’s playing. He’s really a stylist—real nasty sounding and sassy—and I dig that.

RF: I’m surprised that was done in pieces.

TI: Some things just work out that way. A lot of times you’ll do a basic track, and for whatever reason, they’ll wipe it down to just the drum track because the guitar or the bass is a little out of tune or something. That happens more than people probably realize. My favorite tracks are the ones where there are four musicians in there who just nail it.

RF: Has there been any of that with Kenny?

TI: Oh yeah, in fact a bunch of them. That song I mentioned, “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong,” was done with Brian Mann, George Hawkins, Mike Hamilton and myself just straight through. The only things that were added were the horns and the background vocals. Michael Jackson came in and sang. In fact, most of that album was done that way. It just seems to be over the last couple of years that we’ve been doing it mostly the other way. I’m sure the advent of the Linn machine and trying to get that super clean instrument track is why it’s been done more in pieces.

RF: I assume that Kenny brings in tunes in all kinds of different stages.

TI: Absolutely, and in various stages of completion. With the original Loggins band, we all contributed to the arranging and the finishing of the songs, which is really fun. I really love that. I ‘m not a very accomplished guitar player, but I do play guitar and I have a musical ear, so I really enjoy anything that I’m able to contribute musically and vocally. I still sing with Kenny on occasion. I play harmonica too. I played harp on the Nightwatch album on “Down And Dirty.” It’s kind of going by me now, though. I’m losing my lip because I haven’t played very much lately. I want to get back into it because I love the harp. I’m an old blues freak. I love Little Walter and all those cats. It’s just that I’ve been thinking only drums lately.

RF: Do you feel the fact that you play other instruments has anything to do with the fact that you have such a musical approach to the drums?

TI: Yeah, I think so. But I think that if I didn’t play any other instruments, I would still approach the drumset musically because I hear it that way.

Tris Imboden
Kenny Loggins and Tris Imboden

RF: A lot of people say that the drumset isn’t a melodic instrument.

TI: That’s complete bullshit. The drums are extremely melodic and I think they should be approached that way—not limited to timekeeping. Listen to Tony Williams. That’s why I play a lot of drums, because with a greater number of tom-toms, you increase the melodic range of the instrument.

RF: You just mentioned Tony Williams, some of your favorite Loggins’ tracks are jazz flavored, and you mentioned “committing jazz crimes.” You seem to have a real affection for jazz.

TI: There is that affection. I’ve played in jazz situations before, but I’m not, in any true sense, a jazz player. I had the privilege of working with Bob James for a week on the road and I played with Herbie Mann in New York City one night. I’ve done some jazzesque gigs, but by no means can I hold my own in a straight-ahead bebop situation. There’s just an attitude, more than anything, that I can bring from jazz to pop music. It’s a little freer in approach.

RF: Do you think that makes you more willing to take chances?

TI: Yeah, that’s a lot of it too—particularly live. But in the studio I can carry it over by just trying to do something different. Kenny’s music and the way he approaches it is malleable enough that I can really do things I wouldn’t normally get to do.

RF: What about some difficult-to-get tracks?

TI: There was one on the Gary Wright album [The Right Place] called “I Really Want To Know You.” I like the track, but the interesting thing about it was that, the way Gary likes to record, everything is completed before the drums come in. He will complete the record with a Linn machine, and then I, or someone else will come in and drop the drums in. Then they usually wipe the Linn. On this particular track, he had inadvertently wiped the Linn track before I came into play. There were these big, long, football-type whole notes at times, which really didn’t have any meter going on. When you’re playing to a track that’s already been recorded, that track doesn’t bend at all. If there really isn’t any guideline, at times, it’s difficult to lock in. It took a while to get this one just right, and he was saying he didn’t know if that song was ever going to work. Then the finished product was beautiful and it turned out to be a hit record. He and I were laughing about it; he was saying, “It is always the sleeper that people dig.”

There was another song on that album called “I Want To Be Close To You.” That was the only track we did with bass and drums at the same time, and real bass as opposed to synth bass. George Hawkins and I went in and did that one together. Again, it kind of has that Caribbean-esque attitude to it, which George and I always seem to do well.

There was a song called “I Think I Know Too Much,” on the last Tom Snow album [Hungry Nights]. They allowed me the freedom to go ahead and do what a drummer could do instead of having the producer dictate a stock part. Dean Parks is a wonderful producer and, like Kenny, he’s very drum oriented. We collaborated and really had fun imposing different parts—not your standard hackneyed 2 and 4 all the time. And I like the sound on that record—the overall fatness of the snare drum and the toms. The toms are real big, yet still have that natural sound. It didn’t sound processed and it had the definition of the cymbals. Jeremy Smith is an excellent engineer.

RF: How do you approach something where you’re asked to create a part?

TI: I guess, like every good studio drummer, I go to the most obvious first. Oftentimes the obvious is just the right thing.

RF: Why do you want to do studio work in addition to your Kenny Loggins gig?

TI: I really enjoy it. It feels so great to have something in the can that you know is technically perfect, inventive, and also sonically devastating. Knowing that it’s indelibly there really feels good. I know that a lot of people say they need a balance of studio and live, and I’m no different. I’d go crazy if all I did was play in the studio, because there’s that real open end and newness of playing live every night that is really important to me. But I dig the studio, and I enjoy working with such a variety of people. Day to day you go from one musical genre to another, and an entirely new set of musicians. I think you learn so much by being able to go from one situation to another.

RF: Do you feel that doing other sessions helps keep your gig with Kenny fresh?

TI: Oh absolutely. That’s why Kenny really encourages it. He’s always anxious to hear what we’ve been up to.

RF: What is the ideal studio situation for you?

TI: Probably to come into a situation where the songs themselves are really great, and you can sink your teeth into them. Also I like to be playing with musicians who are really accomplished on their instruments, coupled with a producer who invites input from those musicians. It’s important to have an artist who is either secure enough to trust the producer, or who is at least capable of making a decision. The most frustrating thing is the artist who says, “Well, it’s not right, but I don’t know what’s not right about it.” When that sort of thing happens, it really can be kind of trying. And I love an engineer who is a drum freak. Sonics play such an important part.

RF: How often are you required to use a click track?

TI: It depends on the song. “Heart To Heart” was done without a click track, whereas a song like “Imagination,” from the same album, was done with a click. I think one has to be kind of loose about whether to click or not to click. There are times when it’s a definite must, but other times it can get in the way and can detract from the musicality. But it doesn’t matter to me either way. The only time I don’t dig it is when a song needs to breathe and then there’s the rigidity of the click—the Chinese click torture.

RF: Isn’t it difficult to establish yourself as a studio player when you have a steady gig to contend with?

TI: Absolutely. It’s next to impossible to really get a roll going when you go on the road for a month, and then come back for a couple of weeks. That’s why at some point in my career I will lessen my road involvement. I want to be able to let people know that I’m in town and that they can call me. It’s so competitive; every week there’s some new drummer moving in from somewhere, who is going to be here. I like going from one session in the daytime to one at night. I really like being booked up to the point that I’m eating, sleeping and drinking drums.