About four years ago, Mickey Curry’s life changed radically. From the club band he had been playing with, he went straight into the major leagues, recording with Hall & Oates and Bryan Adams. He was out on the road with Hall & Oates’ guitarist G.E. Smith when he got the call to join the duo permanently. Since that time, he has been recording and touring with Daryl Hall and John Oates, as well as doing outside sessions when time permits.
The Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles seemed a long way from Guilford, Connecticut, where Mickey was raised and still resides. Sitting over a breakfast of eggs and greasy bacon, Mickey related with ease how he got from there to here, how he’s adjusted to being one of the musicians most caught up in the electronic revolution, and what goes into creating and playing the music of one of the most successful acts in the industry.
RF: You said in your last interview in Modern Drummer that you ought to listen to what your father listened to, because he probably knew what was happening.
MC: What he grew up with is probably something that could be very influencial for young musicians. G.E. Smith, Daryl, T-Bone [Tom “T-Bone” Wolk, bassist], and I were just talking yesterday about the fact that the music I listened to when I was younger was usually the hottest stuff at the time. Now, things have progressed, not just technically or electronically, but musically. People are really starting to expand and go crazy. You’ve got 12 to 16 year olds who are listening to that stuff, and that’s their starting point now. Where’s that going to be in 10 or 15 years? My starting point was drummers like Danny Seraphine and John Bonham. Kids are now listening to Steve Gadd, Tony Williams, and people who are just amazing players. Never mind what Linn machines are doing or what people are doing with electronic drums. Their starting point is so far beyond what we ever could have imagined ten years ago.
RF: But in some respects, don’t you think that might work against someone in a way, because a person could miss a lot of the good stuff?
MC: Yes. That’s why I say to listen to the things that your parents listened to.
RF: Did your father turn you on to things?
MC: My father used to have all the Harmonicats records. I don’t know how much it influenced my drumming, but musically it was really something to listen to. My father is a harmonica player, although when we were little, I remember his playing a lot more. He’s a very musical guy. He can pick up anything and play it to some extent. Music was always around the house. I have six brothers, and we all played something at one time or another.
RF: Are you the only one who went on to do it professionally?
RF: Why is that?
MC: I don’t know. They all kind of just gave up. Through school, everybody played. My brother Gary still plays guitar a little bit.
RF: Did you guys jam when you were young?
MC: Yes. We had a band. My grandmother used to try to get us to all sit around and sing. She would make us sit in her living room at Christmastime and sing Christmas carols. When I was in junior high school, two of my brothers and I had a band. We did Cream and Motown stuff. I think the first song I ever learned was “Midnight Hour” or “Come On Up,” by the Rascals. My oldest brother is four or five years older than I am, so I was listening to the things he was listening to at a very young age.
RF: Were your parents supportive of your musical aspirations?
MC: They were always very supportive. When I was in the sixth grade, a couple of my brothers and I wanted to play an instrument at school because the school was giving lessons. We thought it was so neat to get an instrument and have somebody teach us how to play it. So I took up drums, because there was something about the practice pad, sticks and the little book that interested me. My parents said we could do it. When I took up drums, my brother Todd took up saxophone and Randy took up the violin, which lasted about two weeks. My first teacher, whose name was Ned Tarrantino, told my parents that they should buy some drums for me.
RF: Did it make a difference to you at all when you went from the pad to drums?
MC: I went nuts. My father took me to a music store in New Haven, and bought these green Ralston drums for me. I learned how to play on those, and about a year or so later, when I was 14, I got a set of Gretsch drums that I thought, at the time, were the best we could get. They were used, but they were great. I still have them.
My parents were great. I’d set up the drums in my bedroom and bash away. I’d put on all my favorite records and practice to those. My father would be on the other side of the wall in the living room, watching the news. I’d be bashing away on my drums and he never told me to turn it down or stop.
RF: What records were you playing to?
MC: The ones I can remember the most, actually, are the first two Chicago albums. At the time, they were the only band I would listen to. Chicago was it. Danny Seraphine was the best drummer. Then a friend of mine gave me the first Zeppelin album, and that turned my head around completely. I said, “Ah, there are other drummers in the world.” John Bonham killed me. Still to this day, I can’t believe how good he was. He just had it—pure energy. We had some Simon & Garfunkel records that I played to, just because there was never any real drumming on those records, so I could just play along. There was a Leslie West album, one of the first Mountain albums. It had “Theme From An Imaginary Western,” and I used to play along with that. There was the James Gang. Jim Fox, the drummer, was great. I had about four albums that I would just play over and over again. I wasn’t into buying. I was just into bashing away on my drums. I never did my lessons. I never studied. I just wanted to bash away. I’d go over it a half hour before my lesson at school. The teacher would always yell at me because I wasn’t doing the proper sticking.
RF: Did you finally buckle down and get into it?
MC: No, never. I went through about eight drum teachers in four years. I couldn’t learn from anybody just because I wouldn’t take it seriously. I felt that, if you played drums, you sat down behind the drumkit and played. You don’t sit down and say, “Okay, I’ve got to start here . . . .” There are certain rudimental things you have to know, but when it comes down to whose idea of what is right, between you and your teacher, whatever is comfortable to you, I would think, would be the best thing. I finally did find a teacher in my senior year of high school named Nick Forte, who was amazing. He just let me go. He’d watch me play. Then he’d write something out for me and say, “Do this.” It was exactly what I had just played, but he showed me how I could write it out and how it could be improved. He was really helpful.
RF: Did you, at that point, do your lessons?
MC: Yeah, but it wasn’t lessons. I would go in there and he’d say, “Play something. Show me what you’ve got this week.” He was real encouraging about listening to my favorite music and playing along. He let me learn my own way.
RF: Did you learn how to read?
MC: Yes, from him. In school, Ned Tarrantino taught me how to read. I was reading at 12 or 13, but Nick really laid it out, so I was sitting down with the dance band at school and playing charts.
RF: Do you ever use that reading knowledge today?
MC: Once in a while I get a session—because I do session work in between tours and stuff—and it will be someone’s first production. Then, there may be charts. Usually when you’re on call for a session, no matter what it is, most of the players are pretty good, so you can look through the chart and be able to say, “Okay, let’s do this right.” Some people don’t like when you improvise off the chart. They want what’s on the chart note for note. So sometimes a session will take a lot longer than it’s supposed to, like hours as opposed to running through it twice and doing it. It’s just because these people get nervous. Yeah, I have to read once in a while, but usually they let me get away with looking at the chart and then just doing it. With Daryl and John, I don’t have to read.
RF: When did you decide you were going to make drums your life’s profession as opposed to just a hobby?
MC: When I got out of high school, I was going to go to college and become a music history teacher. I was going to study music history, go to some nice little elementary school somewhere, and teach kids all about music—where it came from and why they should have it. I really wanted to do that, because when I was little, I hated my music teacher. Music class was the class that nobody wanted to go to. I thought I could make that different for little kids. The kids didn’t want to know about classical music. They didn’t want to learn how to play the piano when they were seven or eight years old. At that age, you want to go outside and play soccer or ride around on your skateboard. Music class, for me, was a nightmare, and I really thought I was going to make a big impact on the educational system in America. So I went to the University of Bridgeport for a semester and a half and never went back again. It was a worse nightmare to try to make my way through four music-theory classes a day and a couple of history classes. Then, in order for me to get where I wanted to go, I had to take chemistry and an English class, which had nothing to do with music. All of a sudden, I was stuck in this process that had nothing to do with my talents or my musical needs. So I got out of there. I was banging around with local bands. That’s when I decided I could play drums and realized it was something that I could earn money from.
RF: What was the first professional band you were in?
MC: The first real band for me was called the Scratch Band. It was a Connecticut band based out of a little recording studio. G.E. Smith was in the band at the time that I joined. A friend of mine told me they were auditioning. That was when I was 18 years old. I got the gig and stayed with them for about five years. I think that’s where I really learned how to play rock ‘n’ roll, because we played every night. I was thrown into a situation where they knew a whole bunch of songs, and I had to learn them in two days.
RF: What were you playing?
MC: Everything. This was 1975 and we were doing reggae, Muddy Waters stuff—all kinds of stuff. We were the best band around, and everybody came to see us. We played every night in a different club, and we were packing the clubs. We were really different. We dressed in ’30s clothes. I can’t say we were ahead of it, because I don’t think we were, but we were real hip and radical enough so that people noticed. That was a real cool time for me. But I think that’s when I learned how to play in a band. It was a really great time for me and a lot of fun.
RF: What happened after that?
MC: G.E. left the band, and a couple of years later, I left the band. We just started to fizzle. We didn’t have that thing anymore. We were making our own records with our own local label, and the records weren’t very good. We were good, but the production was terrible. Our management was handling the production end of things, so we didn’t have a lot of artistic control.
RF: Was that your first recording experience?
MC: My first recording experience was with a band called the Gliders when I was 16 or 17. It was the same studio I later went to work in with the Scratch Band.
RF: What was your first experience like?
MC: It was really interesting. I thought it was great. I still have a tape of it somewhere. It’s the funniest thing. All of the songs sounded like Yes. And I didn’t want to sound like that at all. I wanted to sound like Chicago. We didn’t have horns, but I didn’t care. I kept telling the engineer, “I don’t care what you do, but make sure my drums sound like Danny Seraphine’s drums.” He got that crack out of my snare drum, and it was amazing. I freaked out, because we played once and he said, “Okay, you guys come and listen to that.” We went into the control room and all of a sudden, it was magic. I thought, “This is for me! I’m just going to stay in the studio.”
RF: You weren’t intimidated by it?
MC: Not at all. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that he put a wallet on my snare drum and taped it down. That freaked me out, because I had never baffled my drums. It was completely unheard of in my neighborhood. That bothered me a little because it inhibited my playing a bit. But all the songs started at a great tempo, and then they started taking off. They ran away by the end of the song. We were just flailing.
RF: So after the Scratch Band, what did you do?
MC: G.E. had contacted me after I hadn’t heard from him for a year and a half. He was doing really well. He was working with Dan Hartman and had started playing with Daryl and John. He was also doing a lot of work in Manhattan. He had just married Gilda Radner, so he moved to New York and he was doing well. Finally, he called me and told me he was trying to put a solo thing together. He said that I should come to New York, we’d put a band together, and go out on the road. That same night of my last Scratch Band gig, I got in my car and drove to Manhattan, stayed at his house and got up early the next day to rehearse. We put this three-piece band together, went into the studio and recorded his album. The basic tracks were done in four days, and in less than two weeks, the record was completely finished. It was the first time I had met Bob Clearmountain. The record [G.E. Smith In The World] didn’t really sell. The playing is really good and it’s a raw record, but the record company wasn’t really behind it.
Just after I finished G.E.’s record, I was in the studio with Daryl and John. Tommy Mattola, who manages Daryl and John, also managed Tom Dickie, whose album I had done right before G.E.’s. Tommy had been at a Tom Dickie session. He called and said, “Daryl and John need a drummer to finish off the Private Eyes album.” Jerry Marotta was going away somewhere, so I went down and did a couple of days at Electric Lady with them. While I was in the middle of a session, Bob Clearmountain called me and said, “I just got a demo tape from this Canadian guy. You have to play on the record because it’s perfect for you.” We developed a real nice thing happening on G.E.’s record. The way he pulls drums out of a mix and the way I play are very compatible.
RF: Can you be specific?
MC: I play really hard and pretty simple. I use a lot of John Bonham licks. I’ve always looked at my playing as if I were a disciple of John Bonham, if you will. I’ve always admired him more than anybody else, aside from Danny Seraphine when I was younger. Bonham was the guy who turned me around, and it was easier for me to use his style of playing for the things I’ve done. When I got in the studio with Bob Clearmountain, for the first time, my drums actually sounded close to the Bonham thing. He was pulling that out of what I was playing. I heard what I was going for for the first time—that big sound with a lot of air. We got along great. He called me to work with this Canadian guy, who turned out to be Bryan Adams. Two weeks after I finished with Daryl and John, I was in the studio with Bryan Adams.
RF: You must have been in a whirlwind.
MC: I was freaking out. It was all so new to me. I had all these people calling me, and I was thinking, “Wait a minute. Why didn’t you do this three years ago? Why didn’t you think of this when you were wondering what the hell you were going to do with yourself?”
RF: You probably wouldn’t have been ready then.
MC: I probably wouldn’t have been. That’s why I think my five-year stint with the Scratch Band really set me up for all of this.
RF: From that to the major leagues.
MC: There was that period of almost a year between leaving the Scratch Band and trying to get G.E.’s thing together.
RF: What did you do on the Private Eyes album?
MC: I did “Private Eyes,” “Head Above Water,” “Looking For A Good Sign” and “Mano A Mano.” After I finished in the studio with Bryan, I went on the road with G.E. That was my first tour, and it was great. It was a whole new world out here in L. A. All that stuff happened in the spring of ’81, which was crazy. I was living in Connecticut, two hours outside of Manhattan, and I was driving in and out of Manhattan every day. I had nowhere to stay, I didn’t know anybody in town, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was getting up at 5:00 in the morning, and I would buzz into Manhattan in a little Volkswagen. I was doing club gigs too with a girl named Amy Carter, who eventually did a record. I did some of it, but I don’t even know if they used my tracks. I got to play with Will Lee, which was a big thrill for me, because he was a very well-known bass player.
RF: In your last MD article, you said that you felt that the bass player-drummer relationship was very important, but you didn’t expound. Do you have any tips for playing well with a bass player?
MC: I don’t remember who it was who told me this, but somebody said that your bass drum and the bass line should always be exactly the same thing. You should play exactly the same notes the bass player plays. When I was little, I heard this from somebody, so I always went for that. That might be a good way to look at it. Lately, I don’t even think about it, but Tom “T-Bone” Wolk is our bass player, and he is probably the best musician I’ve ever worked with. He can adapt to any situation. He can play guitar as well as, if not better than, he plays bass. He can play piano as well as, if not better than, he plays guitar. He can sing. He knows every song ever recorded, who wrote it, when, why they wrote it, and who they wrote it about. He is amazing. I also worked with Paul Ossola, the bass player in the Scratch Band, who was also that way. Those are the two main guys I’ve worked with, and I think between those two, I learned how to lock in with what they were doing. Paul taught me a lot about keeping the rhythm section as simple as possible and still driving the band. He used to yell at me because I was doing too much with my foot. In order to keep my foot simple, he would play real simple bass parts.
The reason I said I don’t think about it lately is because T-Bone and I have been together now for a few years, and we don’t have to think about each other anymore; we’re right there. The comment I get from a lot of players who come to see us is that T-Bone locks right in, and I’m surprised because I’m just flailing away pretty much most of the evening. It’s very difficult when you’re in a huge room to know how tight you’re playing with somebody. But then again, all I have is bass drum, snare drum and bass guitar in my monitor, so that might be a reason why we can stay pretty tight. I’m glad you asked about drums and bass, because that’s always been one of my big complaints with a lot of stuff. I think that’s the magic of Motown and a lot of R&B stuff—stuff that makes people want to dance. The bottom end is tight and it’s all right there.
RF: When did Daryl and John actually ask you to join them?
MC: While I was out on the road with G.E. and we were at this very hotel, Daryl and John’s management called me to ask if I would consider going on the road in September. G.E. was already planning to go back with Daryl and John, so I said yes. We got back, I had about three weeks off, and then I went into rehearsals for the Private Eyes tour. That’s when T-Bone came in, auditioned and blew everybody away. We’ve been this way for three years now.
RF: When you came in, did you get to do all the recording right away?
MC: Yeah, me and Mr. Linn. There is a lot of stuff going on on our records.
RF: The technology you’re using is far different from what you were using when you first started with them.
MC: Yes. It’s pretty much an expansion of what we started with, though. State of the art changes every day. When I started with Daryl and John, they were using very basic rhythm machines to do rough tracks. You have to understand something: These guys are songwriters first. Daryl writes amazing things, but the only way for him to keep everything together is to turn the machine on and go through his changes on a piano. When he plays piano, he sings what he’s playing. His brain, his voice and his hands are all the same instrument. He’ll have a very basic drumbeat. He has a Linn machine at his house, John has a Linn machine at his house, and I have a Linn machine at my house. If one of them comes up with something, they might say, “Okay, let’s do something with this. You come up with something, you come up with something, and I’ll come up with something.” They pretty much write the songs in the studio. When Daryl gets a song in his head, he doesn’t have time to rehearse a band all day to get the arrangement right. He says, “Turn the machine on. I’ll play the machine for you. If we need it, Mickey can come in and put drums over it.” There are a lot of songs without drums, and there are songs with drums. I’m talking about acoustic drums. That’s it.
Jimmy Bralower is brilliant. He is so far ahead of his time for what he’s doing. He’s taking a Linn machine to the outer reaches of music. He can come into the studio with a Linn machine and have a track done in about ten minutes, completely finished. It will be the best drum sound you’ve ever heard, with all the fills in the right place. He gets effects and sounds in his brain first, and then they just come out onto the buttons. It’s fascinating to work with him, and he’s a great guy. A lot of drummers don’t like the idea of having someone like Jimmy, but I do not object to it at all, because the guy is brilliant. You have to appreciate people for their art.
RF: You don’t feel that you can do what he does?
MC: Yes I can, but not in the given situation. It would take me a week to rehearse all the songs. I would have to learn the arrangements. It’s so much easier when Bralower is in the studio. He punches out an amazing track on a Linn machine or whatever. Now we’re way past the Linn. We’re using a Linn, a DMX, we’ve got a Roland Compu-Rhythm, a Doctor Click, a Fairlight, a synthesizer with a lot of drum effects in the Fairlight, and a Synclavier. Everything’s synced up to everything else, so you never know what you’re getting. I know that Clearmountain sampled my snare drum and put that in one of the tracks of the new record. I know that one song is four bars of a track I played for another song that they looped. It’s amazing what they did in the studio this time out.
Daryl will have these songs. I’ll go to his house and he’ll say, “All I have is a chorus,” and he’ll play the chorus for me. I’ll play with his Linn machine, and we’ll come up with some kind of basic groove—some kind of an idea for a rhythm part. Then when they get it in the studio, they write the song in the studio. They call in Bralower, he puts a whole track down, they write the song over the drum track, they cut it up where they have to—either Bralower does it or they splice the tape—and then I come in when they need me. The perfect example of how Bralower and I work together is “Adult Education.” He came in and did a great rhythm track with T-Bone. They played together. I was there, but I wasn’t playing. Then I went in and put the acoustic drums on the end of the song. We just set them up in the middle of the room, and I went into Bonham mode and wailed.
RF: Do you have any tips for working with machines?
MC: I think it’s the easiest thing to do. It’s a lot easier than trying to keep time. You don’t have to think about the time. When I first started with the click track in the studio years ago, it was very difficult for me. I thought it inhibited my playing, and I couldn’t do fills because I’d come out of them out of time. But if you discipline yourself, I really think it works out better having something else keeping time. You don’t have to think about it. You just play. When a machine part is really complicated, it’s hard for me to figure out what to do because there’s no room. But that’s another great thing about Bralower. He leaves so much space. There’s so much air on his tracks.
RF: So you have all the freedom in the world to create the parts for the songs.
RF: Can you give some specific examples of tracks that might have been either very creative on your part or ones where maybe you were stumped
MC: I’ve been stumped, believe me. In every song where I have to be completely the rhythm part, I’ve been stumped. It doesn’t take me a long time to play the part. It takes me a long time to think of what it is. I’m one of those people who look at it as if they have to play something completely different. I can’t play the same thing on every song, so I think, “Get creative, kid. Here it is. This is your statement for this particular piece.” I hate to say it, but it is an art and you have to deal with it that way. As much as I’d like to go in and just bash away, I really have to finesse everything I play.
I think one good example appears on H2O, “Open All Night.” Daryl had the song and it was so slow. He had it to the simplest Linn part. It was just kick and snare without a hi-hat part. It was real simple. He had a piano part, but he didn’t even have lyrics yet. He was just mumbling melody line, and then he’d kick into the chorus. He gave me the tape and said to come up with something. “Make it simple, but it’s got to kick. It’s got to be big.” So I said, “Uh oh, I’m on the spot now,” because I would just play a very basic part, which is pretty much what I played by the end of the thing. But it took me three days in the studio on and off, trying different things, to find what I was most comfortable with. It was really hard for me.
RF: Why was that song particularly hard?
MC: I think because it was such a simple song. When he writes a song to a Linn machine, that’s how I hear the song. I have the demo at home of a Linn machine and piano. That’s the only way I’ve ever heard the song, so after I try to come up with something, I might think, “I liked it better before.”
Another good example is “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid,” which is on the new album Big Bam Boom. It’s a great piece of music. I think it’s one of the best things Daryl and John have ever done. I had to come up with some off-the-wall stuff. I was in the studio and Bralower had done an amazing rhythm track. T-Bone was still working on bass parts. They had a complete middle section of the song where everything turned around and Daryl said, “You have to come up with something really off the wall. You’ve got to be spastic. I want to hear bombs going off.” I said, “Okay, sure.” So Clearmountain, God bless him, came out and started tuning one of the tom-toms. He was just banging on the tom-tom and Daryl said, “That’s it—something like that.” He thought I was hitting a drum. Clearmountain looked at me and I looked at him. I said, “Okay, I get it now.” So I just did little spastic things, completely out of time. I tried to put some cymbal texture things in. I tried to be artsy and it worked out great. And when I came into the song, I cut the time in half. It was a completely different section to the song. It built to where, by the end of the song, we were rocking out. It worked out well, but it was really hard for me to come up with that. If those few little things hadn’t happened, I probably would have been there for a long time trying to figure it all out. It’s good when you’re done, because you look back and say, “That’s really something! We actually did that. We got it out.”
RF: The bass drum on the opening of “Family Man” is huge. What was done to get that sound?
MC: “Family Man” was done to a click track. There was no original Linn track on that. The song was written by Mike Oldfield, so we had his version of the song to listen to, and I pretty much copied the drum part. There were a lot of big tom-tom fills on the original track that we didn’t do. We thought that, if we wanted them, we’d put them on later, but it was so close to the original version that we decided to leave the drums the way they were. We just set them up—a kick, a snare and a hi-hat—in the middle of the room at Electric Lady. Clearmountain hung a couple of mic’s over the top, stuck one in the bass drum and I just wailed. It was all done on an overdub. The track was finished to a click track. I just put drums over the top, and it was done. The dance re-mix is really amazing. I don’t know what they did to the drum sound, but it’s huge.
RF: Do you often put the drums on last?
MC: Yeah. I did that on “Some Things” as a matter of fact.
RF: How do you like that?
MC: Well, it’s just the way they work. Like I said, Daryl and John are songwriters first. They sit in the studio and write this stuff out. Rather than teach the band how to play the songs, they just want to do the songs, and have the band come in and do them later. Big Bam Boom was the only album that we didn’t do a lot of live tracks on.
RF: Normally then, you do a lot of live tracks?
MC: Not a lot, but we do live tracks. On H2O, a lot of the songs are live tracks. “Man Eater” was a live track. That was a Linn machine, and I just played during the verses and choruses. We all played together on that pretty much. When I say live track, I mean bass, drums and guitar. Daryl puts a reference piano part down. “Go Solo” was done completely live. That’s one of my favorite songs and one of Daryl’s best, I think. That song has a great feel, but I think that had a lot to do with the fact that we were all looking at each other in the studio and playing together.
RF: You do a great deal of overdubbing, though.
MC: I do a lot of that.
RF: With all the technical stuff you’re using now, you’d have to.
MC: That’s the thing. There’s so much going on that we could never pull it off.
RF: Do you find it’s a more sterile way of recording?
MC: I think so. Personally, as a drummer, I sit behind the drumkit and play, but it is a much more sterile recording situation. It’s been coming, though. I’ve seen it coming since the day I joined the band. I knew this was going to happen. We all did.
Sometimes I really feel like a dinosaur, because I’m in a category of people and there are very few of us if you look comparatively at the whole world. We’re a strange breed. Anybody who chooses to beat on something for a living has got to have a different kind of brain pattern there. I just feel that sometimes I’m not as useful a tool as I could be. Due to the whole thing with the machines, not only are you now not the entire rhythm thing, but you’re limited to a certain function in a rhythm section, which is kind of inhibiting at times. But it’s one of the things you just learn to live with. I went through a heavy thing a couple of years ago when I started using machines. I thought I’d have to quit. “What am I going to do? This is taking over my life.” But you just learn to deal with it and work with it, and you try to be creative within that framework. Once in a while you just get that, though—”Boy, am I really outdated?” You don’t ever want to lose your status. I’m a drummer. I sit behind a drumkit and play. I make people dance.
RF: Since you’ve been with Daryl and John, have there been any tracks that are strictly acoustic?
MC: A lot of the H2O record, which was almost done completely live. Private Eyes was completely live. On Big Bam Boom “Some Things,” when I come in at the end, and “Bank On Your Love” are acoustic drums. I think it’s real obvious which songs are real drums and which are machines.
RF: Do you think Daryl and John will swing back to live acoustic music again?
MC: Yeah, I think they will. I think it’s whatever the creative process is at the time. I didn’t mean to sound like I’m doomed and only have another two years in the business. I don’t mean that at all. It’s just that, once in a while, when you sit and think about it, you have doubts about yourself, your position in life and all that crap. I really feel out of it, like I’m a bit removed. But that’s the depressing side of it, which is maybe two percent of the whole thing. I don’t like to dwell on that. Really, I think the machine thing is a step forward, not backwards, and it’s not really going to put drummers out of business. It’s another thing you have to deal with. It’s like putting a horn section in your band. Sooner or later, you’ve got to learn to work with it. You might hate horns, but you’ve got to work with them. The alternative is that you can quit the band.
RF: Do you have any specific examples of something starting out one way and ending up to be completely different?
MC: Actually, some of the Bryan Adams stuff turned out a lot different than he originally planned.
RF: Are you on his current album, Reckless?
MC: I am on the single, “Run To You,” and five other tracks. I love that album. There’s a song on You Want It You Got It called “Jealousy,” which is a good example of what you asked about. Usually Bryan is very well prepared when he comes into the studio. He’s got demos that he has done with his partner, and between the two of them, they play all the instruments. What I do pretty much is listen to the demo, throw in my stuff when he wants it, and the record is done. “Jealousy” was not a finished record. He doesn’t like to get it in the studio, but we came up with an off-the-wall drum thing. Clearmountain and I sat out playing with a snare drum for a while and came up with this part. The whole song is a fast, upbeat snare drum thing. He came up with a song that was completely different from what he had originally played for me. It had started out with an acoustic guitar and he was singing a James Taylor kind of thing. All of a sudden, it ended up being this Springsteen kind of thing.
RF: Let’s talk about live playing.
MC: Oh boy, this is my favorite part.
RF: Is it?
MC: Oh yeah. I love live. That’s where it’s at.
MC: Because you play. You play for two hours. It’s that much more fun because you can just wail. It’s over and forgotten when it’s done. It’s not a permanent record. It’s not historical.
RF: Do you like being on the road, eating greasy bacon?
MC: Hotel food? Yeah. I love being on the road, actually. It’s exciting to me. It’s the thing I always dreamed about when I was a kid. Every time I sat behind the drums or I watched somebody on TV or I went to a concert, I’d say, “Man, that’s it. That would be great. I really wish I could do that.” Now that I’m doing it, I don’t want to give it up. I do miss being home. I love it there. I miss my family when I’m not there, but I always know I’m going home, too.
RF: Also, this unit you’re with now seems really down to earth. I’ve read articles about Daryl and John saying what nice guys they are and that they are very down to earth.
MC: They are just regular guys. It’s just that . . .
RF: The world has made them be something other than that.
MC: That’s right. But we’re all the same kind of people. We’re not crazy, we don’t destroy hotel rooms, we don’t throw furniture out the window, or burn cars. We’re out here for fun, and that’s not fun for us.
RF: Playing live, how much machine work is there?
MC: We use two Linn machines, although one is pretty much for a backup. All the parts are fed into that, so if something should go wrong with the first one, the second one can just take over. We have a Compu-Rhythm the little Roland rhythm-box thing which we use on “No Can Do.” We use the Linn on “Adult Education,” “Man Eater” and just the top of “Method Of Modern Love.”
RF: When it comes to the actual programming, you said in your last article that Daryl and John programmed “No Can Do.” Do you get in on any of this?
MC: That was before my time with them. But the thing is, Jimmy Bralower is the expert. I did the basic drum part for “Method Of Modern Love.” There’s a lot of percussion going on, but that was put on much later, after I recorded the basic drum part. Whatever machines are on H2O, I had a lot to do with. It was pretty much the three of us or whoever was in the studio at the time. Bralower entered the picture on “Say It Isn’t So” and “Adult Education,” which were on the Rock And Soul album—the greatest hits collection with two new songs. That was the album after H2O. He blew me away with the “Adult Education” track. It was that perfect groove. It was one of those things that makes you float in your chair. The potential for the song after we heard that was incredible, and when we put the Bonham stuff on the end of the track, forget it. I was in heaven. That was the perfect song.
But live, we use the machine on those four songs and I play over them. On “No Can Do,” I just play drums over the top of the Compu-Rhythm. On “Adult Education,” I pretty much wait. I do some fills here and there, but I wait for the end of the song before I really kick in, so we try to get the same effect that the record had, which is very difficult to do live. We try.
RF: What about when you were doing “One On One” live?
MC: I was doing all Simmons. I was doing the part that they did with a Compu-Rhythm on the Simmons kit. I had a separate kit set up. Now what I’m using live is a variation of that. We have a Simmons trigger in one of my bass drums, so that if I need it, it will sound like a Simmons bass drum. We have pads set up over my hi-hat.
RF: Can you get specific about your equipment?
MC: It usually varies from tour to tour, but on this tour, I’m using two 24″ bass drums, 8 x 10, 10 x 12 and 11 x 13 rack toms, and 16″ and 18″ floor toms. I have six or seven snare drums that I take with me. Every night I use a different one. They’re all Yamaha drums. Some are 6 1/2″ chrome and some are 7″ wooden. The cymbals are Zildjian, and I use 15″ hi-hats, a 21″ medium ride, a 16″ medium, two 18″ medium-thins, 19″ and 20″ crash cymbals, and a couple of various splash cymbals here and there. I have five Simmons pads over the hi-hat, two more over the floor toms, and I use Remo heads.
RF: Have you always played double bass?
MC: No, this is the first tour. I’ve always loved the way they look, so I said, “Why not go for it?” During rehearsals, I worked out some parts I could fit into certain spots in the show. The band gets a solo section in the middle of the show, and I get to play a little bit, so I use them there. I use them on “Going Thru The Motions,” off the new album, and “Adult Education” in the bridge and various spots. It’s really different playing two bass drums. My left foot is off my hi-hat all of a sudden, and my left foot has always just gone to my hi-hat. I’m not really aware of what my foot is doing over there, but when I get it on a bass drum pedal, it’s a completely different feel. But it’s fun.
RF: What are your goals?
MC: To own my own house, to have a couple of little kids, to have a dog, and to have horses. Those aren’t goals; those are dreams, I guess. My main goal in life is just to be comfortable and be able to play drums all the time, until my last days.