Being a pop star isn’t easy. Twenty-four-year-old Roger Taylor breathes a sigh of relief as he says, “It’s so nice to be talking about drums.” It’s probably the first time that he’s had the opportunity, despite the countless interviews he’s done over the last few years. Duran Duran began in 1978, and by 1981, their first single, “Planet Earth,” rose to Number 12 on the English charts and reached Number One in Sweden, Portugal and Australia, holding chart positions in most other European countries as well. By 1982, they had invaded the American shores and went from local favorites to national heroes. In just the three years in which they have had such monster hits as “The Wild Boys,” “The Reflex,” “Girls On Film,” “Rio,” “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Union Of The Snake,” “Is There Something I Should Know?” and “New Moon On Monday,” as well as many video awards, the band has achieved an incredible superstardom. The press has clamored for their most idle of comments regarding information ranging from the members’ personal lives to their extravagant videos. And today, in the midst of a six-month tour, Roger, seated in his hotel suite, is giving his only L.A. interview because this one is going to be about music for a change.
RF: What prompted you to start playing drums?
RT: When I was at school, I used to listen to the radio and records a lot. When I was younger, it was sort of the start of the techno-rock thing. I was brought up on groups like Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and that sort of thing. I listened to those drummers a lot. I got some drumsticks because I was attracted to the drums and liked the sound. I would play along with records and think, “This is quite easy.” I used to sort of know what was coming next. I knew when there was a roll coming and I could keep in time with it.
RF: How old were you?
RT: I must have been about 13. Then somebody at school needed a drummer, so I saved up my money and bought my first drumkit, which cost about $100 I suppose. I just started playing with the band straightaway and I never stopped. I never had teachers; I just always played in a band and learned that way.
RF: Was that out of choice or because there were no teachers available?
RT: It was mostly out of choice. I never really felt like sitting down and learning how to play paradiddles and all that stuff. I suppose I was impatient. I wanted to go straight into playing drum solos and playing with a band. I bought a few books, but I got bored after the first two pages. I think, in a way, it’s been good for me, though. I’ve been able to develop my own style. I basically learned off records and things like that, instead of being taught by somebody else.
RF: What was the Scent Organs?
RT: [groans] That band has really been blown out of proportion. I think I mentioned it once to somebody, and in everything I pick up, it’s been mentioned. It was nothing more than a silly band with school friends. Punk was coming about at that time, so we got involved in that a bit. We played a couple of clubs, but it was nothing much. It was actually new wave oriented, not like the Dead Kennedys or anything like that.
RF: What was your first professional gig?
RT: The first professional gig I did was with Duran Duran. Before that, I had never been in a band that actually got money. The gig with Duran Duran was at a club called the Rum Runner in Birmingham. I think we got about 50 pounds between the lot of us.
RF: When did you get involved with Duran Duran?
RT: It was about ’78, I think. There was a whole scene going on in Birmingham which was all based around the Roxy Music and David Bowie sort of scene. We were all into that and I just got involved with the band through friends of friends. I was asked by a guy who used to sing for the band to come along and audition. I sat in for the audition and the music was exactly the sort of thing I was into at the time—sort of a cross between funk and rock. John was playing very funky bass guitar, and at that time, I was getting into black music just by hanging around clubs. It just sort of gelled because it felt right and sounded good. So I stayed.
RF: Simon was quoted as saying that they chose you as the drummer because of your “disco rhythms.” Who were your influences and drum idols?
RT: When I was young, I was very much influenced by a guy who used to play for Roxy Music, Paul Thompson. He was very funky in a rock/funk sort of style. He was very powerful, but he had a groove as well, which I was always into. I was influenced by Charlie Watts as well. I was always into people who were quite simple, but who had a good groove. Then I started listening to black music. One guy I idolized was Tony Thompson who played with Chic. I really got into Chic, and I think he was probably my biggest influence. That’s when I really started playing in a funk style.
RF: What qualities do you admire in a drummer?
RT: For me, power and feel rule over technique. I’d rather listen to somebody who has a lot of power than somebody who can do a lot of paradiddles and all that. Overplaying can become messy, so I’d rather underplay. It feels natural for me to do that. I don’t think I could ever be a Bill Bruford. I just haven’t got a feel for that. I think power is a lot more important.
RF: Simplicity is evident in your playing. In your fills, particularly, you seem to leave very deliberate and significant holes.
RT: I think the spaces I leave are more important than what I actually play. I think it suits the band because it’s very synth oriented and quite ethereal. There’s quite a lot going on. I like to act against that by contributing something very definite that holds it together.
RF: So you joined Duran Duran and you really didn’t starve for long.
RT: No, it wasn’t a long time. With this lineup, the band was together for about six months before we got a record contract. We actually spent more time talking about what the band was going to sound like, how big we were going to be, and where we were going to play when we were famous than actually rehearsing together. We had some really big ideas.
RF: Have you fulfilled those ideas?
RT: It seems to have paid off. We used to dream of playing Madison Square Garden and the Forum. We put a lot of thought into it and sort of created our own luck. We were just all so positive about everything that it had to pay off. Everyone was very single-minded and positive.
RF: You were quoted as saying that it’s important that one never reach one’s goals. It’s important, instead, to reach new heights. Does that apply to your instrument as well?
RT: Oh yes. Obviously you just have to keep striving to better yourself with your instrument. It would have been very easy for us to recreate the Rio album by doing an album that was very similar and in the same style. But with the new album, we tried to develop ourselves as musicians and go into a whole new field, which I think we’ve done. We’re going to keep trying to do that.
RF: Do you practice?
RT: It depends. When we’re on the road, obviously, I don’t have the time to practice on my own. It gets to be a bit of a bore sometimes because you become like a full-time pop star and a part-time musician, which holds you back a bit.
RF: It must be difficult when that starts to overshadow the actual playing aspect. How do you deal with that?
RT: A lot of people do tend to forget that you’re a musician and just think you’re a pop star. The fact that you’re a musician doesn’t matter anymore. You just have to make up for it when you’re not on the road, I suppose, by getting together, playing a lot and practicing on your own. On the road, I try to listen to a lot of records and stock up on things that I like. Sometimes we get to try things out in sound checks. We have an hour sound- check every day. But it’s just one of the drawbacks, I suppose. You gain so much experience just by being on the road and playing every night that it does sort of make up for it in a way.
RF: Everything I’ve read says you’re very shy. How does a shy person handle being on stage and being such a public figure?
RT: It’s not very hard, actually. I sort of got used to it. I was a bit nervous about it when we first started, but we’ve had a lot of experience doing different things and I cope with it now. I’m still not that happy with being a public figure, but I cope with it because I enjoy the other side of things so much. The other four guys make up for me, I think, because they’re all so talkative. They’re a lot more outgoing.
RF: I guess it becomes a good lesson.
RT: Yeah, it is a good lesson, for me, particularly because at school, I was always the quiet one who sat in the back and nobody really took any notice of me. So it really has brought me out of myself, and it’s one of the best things in life that I could do to get myself out of that. It’s the opposite of what everyone expected of me, so it’s a great lesson. If you’re thrown into it, you can’t do much about it, so you just have to go with it.
RF: John has said that you and he work on the bass guitar/ bass drum patterns together when creating a song. Take me from the inception of a song to its completion.
RT: The three albums have been recorded very differently. The first album was a collection of two years’ material. We went into the studio for about six weeks and just slammed everything down that we knew. John and I went in and put down the bass guitar and drums. Then everyone went in and overdubbed his stuff. It was all done very quickly. The next album took quite a bit longer—about eight weeks to write and about eight weeks to record. But the last album was basically written in the studio. I’ll tell you how we recorded that one. It’s very complicated. A lot of the songs were written around drum and bass tracks because the songs were changed so much. We’d have a song, John and I would put down the bass guitar and drum tracks, and the guys would put the song down on the top. Then maybe an hour later they’d say, “I’m not sure about that bit. I’m not sure about this bit.” Then they’d try something else on the same track. Two days later, the whole track on the top would have changed and the only original things would be the bass guitar and the drums. The whole song would have changed around the same backing track. It’s quite weird when I listen back now, because I put the drums down to another song. Also, on some tracks, we actually changed the drums. I’d put the drums down and the song would go over the top. Then I’d think, “I don’t really like the drum track on that,” so I would play along to the song and have a new drum track. There was a lot of chopping and changing on this album. The way we did it was very unorthodox.
RF: When you say the songs were written in the studio, can you be more specific?
RT: It’s very hard to put my finger on that process. It can come from anything. We can be sitting in the studio and Nick will say, “I’ve got this really nice keyboard riff.” John and I will say, “Oh, we’ve got a really nice rhythm that could go with that,” and we’ll start jamming around in the studio. Then Nick might say, “I have this other chord,” or Andy will say, “I’ve got some more chords that would go with that for a chorus.” We’ll just keep jamming and keep recording it. We’ll go back, listen to it and say, “Oh, that sounds good. Let’s change that bit.” We’ll go in and do it again. Then Simon will come in and say,
“Oh, I’ve got some good lyrics for that and a good vocal melody.” Then he’ll start singing over the top of it and we’ll record it. Simon will then probably change the actual vocal melody and lyrics about five times before it’s done. It’s all very complicated. There’s no one person who comes in and says, “I’ve got a song. The drums go like that; the guitar goes like that.” We all just sort of chip in. It’s very exciting.
RF: When you and John work together in creating these rhythm patterns, what are you thinking of?
RT: A lot of things actually come from songs we’ve heard, whether they’re subconscious or conscious. Sometimes we’ll say, “What about trying the rhythm that was on such and such,” and we try that and change it. I think everybody does that—sort of pinching things. But apart from that, we just get a groove going. John will work out the notes and I’ll work out little fills. It just builds like that, I suppose. It’s very hard to explain how we work in the studio because there’s no one technique that we use. Even a synthesizer could go down first. We’ve changed a lot of the way we record. We always used to put the bass and drums down. Now we could put a rhythmic synthesizer down with some chords over the top, and then put bass and drums over the top of that. Studio techniques have advanced so much over the last three years that we’re changing the way we record all the time.
RF: You don’t use a drum machine?
RT: That’s something else again. Although we don’t use actual drum sounds like bass drum sounds or snare drum sounds because they’re sterile and horrible, we use a lot of Linn percussion. What happens is that John and I put our tracks down usually to a Linn click track. So we’ve got the bass and drum track, and now we’ve got the click going all the way through. Once we have the click, we can start putting percussion in manually over the top of things. But we don’t actually use the percussion as percussion. We use the percussion to trigger synthesizers. It’s quite a new technique that’s come about, which means you can actually press a keyboard and the percussion that’s gone down on the track will trigger the keyboard. Instead of hearing percussion, you’ll hear synthesizer playing what the percussion originally played. So that’s how we use the Linn percussion.
RF: There is actual percussion on your tracks.
RT: Yes, but that’s manually played percussion. We have a percussionist come in.
RF: Do you feel that with the advent of all these synthesizers you have had to alter your playing any?
RT: No. The band is so synth oriented that I think it’s important for me to retain a natural feel and a natural drum sound. It would be very easy to start using drum computers. It would have been so much easier with all the synthesizers, but we’ve always held that back because the band would have become very cold and one-dimensional if it were all computerized. So we’ve made sure that we’ve kept natural guitar, natural bass and natural drums.
RF: What exactly is that on the opening of “Rio”? It doesn’t sound like Simmons, but it doesn’t sound like real drums either.
RT: It’s just concert toms. I don’t really know a lot about studio gadgetry, but it was done through the board by [producer] Colin Thurston.
RF: How do you duplicate that live?
RT: I don’t try to duplicate it exactly. I think that it’s very important to sound live when you’re playing live, and not sound like a record. If that were the case, someone might as well just listen to the records at home. So there are a lot of effects and things that we don’t bother with live. Live is a totally different thing for us.
I think we’re a lot more powerful live. A lot of people have said we sound a lot more like Van Halen than Duran Duran live. The guitar is a lot more up front. We go for more power and everyone projects a lot. It’s basically a rock show. We’re not a synth band.
RF: On one hand you say live is a separate experience from the record, yet you stay pretty true to the record during the show without much deviance or stretch- ing out.
RT: In a sense, I think it’s very important to stay true to the record, because it should never be worse than the record. I think we have stretched out a bit, and I think we’ve made a lot of the stuff a lot better than the records. That comes naturally when you’ve been playing the song for a few weeks on the road. You start to put in little extra things, and it starts to improve naturally. We don’t improvise that much, but I think it’s very important to deliver to the audience what they know. I don’t think the audience would like it if we went into a ten-minute guitar or keyboard solo in the middle of “Hungry Like The Wolf.”
RF: Going back to electronics for a moment, there are Simmons in the middle section of “Hungry Like The Wolf.”
RF: You mentioned once that you were going to exchange all your toms for Simmons.
RT: I decided against that. I went a bit crazy over the sound of the Simmons when I first got them. They were like a new toy, but actually now I find that they’re a bit limited. You can get one good sound out of them and that’s it. I think it’s important to retain the sound of real tom-toms. I like to have the Simmons just as an additional sound. It’s like having a Chinese cymbal as well as crash cymbals. I just like having it there as an effect, but not all the way through because it gets really boring. Somebody will one day come up with an electronic drum that you can get an actual tom sound out of, along with a Simmons sound and 20 other sounds as well.
RF: There is a real contrast in your music with the synth/high-tech sound and your strong feeling about the drums being acoustic. Have any of the other guys tried to pressure you into becoming electronic?
RT: I definitely do feel that way and everybody in the band feels that way. We don’t want to become a computerized band. In a day when everything in the world is becoming computerized, I think music should be the last bastion. It should not become totally computerized, and we want to retain the natural sounds in the band.
RF: How many Simmons toms do you use live?
RT: Just two. I also use one as a counting pad as well. When we started playing big venues, everyone started complaining that they couldn’t hear the stick clicks, so I had to set one up for that.
RF: Is your kit the same live as in the studio?
RT: It’s a lot bigger. When I’m in the studio, on one track I’m just using toms, and on another track, I’m using Simmons. Live, I obviously have to set up everything at the same time, so that on “Hungry Like The Wolf” I can use the Simmons toms, and on “Rio” I can use the real toms.
RF: Describe the acoustic drum setup you’re using for this tour [’84].
RT: I play a jet black Tama Imperial Star drumset. The bass drum is 14×24, the floor tern is 16 x 18, and the concert toms are 8x 12, l0x 14, 12x 15, and 16x 16. 1 use a 5 1/2X 14 brass snare, and # 5, 6, 7, and 8 Octobans. I use Titan hardware, and a King Beat kick pedal. My drumsticks are unlacquered Pro-Mark hickory 5A‘s.
RF: What about cymbals?
RT: All my cymbals are Sabian. I have 20″ and 18″ Chinese, a 17″ thin crash, a 16″ thin crash, a 14″ Chinese and a 14″ hi-hat.
RF: You used to use Paiste. Why did you switch to Sabian?
RT: I was really into Paiste at one time, but Sabian approached me and asked me to try their cymbals out. I hadn’t heard of Sabian before, but I tried them. The one thing about Paiste that I never liked was that they are very light, and especially for live work, they crack very easily. I could never get a deep tone. I always thought Zildjians were too heavy. But I tried Sabian and they seemed like a cross between the two. They have the nice crispness of the Paiste, but they also have a body like Zildjian. I tried them out for a few weeks, they sounded good and they didn’t break, so I switched.
RF: You seem to utilize your hi-hat extensively and don’t use a ride cymbal.
RT: That’s true. The concentration on the hi-hat basically goes back to the funk thing. You can get into a really good groove by playing on the hi-hat. All my favorite drummers have played like that.
RF: Is that a technique you spent time perfecting?
RT: Not really. It just came naturally, I suppose, by getting into a groove and copying a lot of funk records. I’ve never really liked the sound of ride cymbals. The thing I used to hate about Beatles records was that “Shhhhhh” going through the whole track—that sort of messy, horrible noise. From then on I decided I didn’t want to use a ride cymbal. I much prefer the delicate sound of a hi-hat.
RF: What kinds of heads do you use?
RT: Remo Pinstripe. I use them on everything because I get plenty of body in them, but I also get real power—a good whack as well as the depth.
RF: How often does your roadie change the heads on a tour?
RT: He changes the snare drum head every night, because after the show there are always big dents in it and it doesn’t sound too good. He probably changes the tom-tom heads every three gigs. It’s a bit extravagant, but it’s worth it if you can afford it. It sounds so much better.
RF: How does your studio equipment differ from your live kit?
RT: When we record, I use the bass drum, the snare drum and just three toms—two mounted and one floor—cymbals and that’s it. I just overdub anything else. It’s a lot more basic in the studio.
RF: But something I read said you preferred to overdub all the tom fills.
RT: I used to, when we first started out. On the first album, it was very much more disco. The idea then was not to break from the backbeat, so there was a solid rhythm going throughout. I never used to play any toms at all so that I could keep it up all the way through. I just used to play the toms over the top. Now, we’ve sort of veered away from that. I think it’s better to play it all as a kit because I get a more natural feel, and it actually sounds like a kit rather than a sort of computerized sound. Originally, too, when I was playing the toms separately, that’s how our producer liked us to work. Unfortunately, he wasn’t that good at getting drum sounds. It was very hard for him to get the toms and the kit sounding right, so he did it in two stages. A lot of it has to do with what producers you work with and how they like to work. Alex Sadkin [producer of Seven And The Ragged Tiger] likes to have the whole kit set up. I’m happy with the drum sounds on the latest album. I wasn’t really happy with the first two albums. It was a bit too synthetic for my liking, playing-wise and sound-wise. I think I used to play very much like a drum machine. It was very rigid and the sound Colin used to get was very mechanical. Now I think we’ve gotten away from that a bit with a more natural sound and more natural playing.
RF:What was it like doing the first album, which was your first recording experience?
RT: It was awesome. The first time anybody goes into the studio is very frightening. When you’ve never been recorded before, you think, “What am I going to sound like?” You’ve never actually heard yourself before so you’re terrified. You sit there shaking and the producer says, “Okay, go.” For us, the first time we really recorded was for an album with a major record company. We had done demos, but we had never been in a big studio. The producer relaxed us though, and told us not to worry about it. We just went for it and it came out okay.
RF: Many times a producer won’t deal with it and just brings in a studio player. Any tips on dealing with your first studio experience?
RT: You’ve just got to put everything into it. There’s no use being half-baked about it. The advantage a young kid can have over a studio musician is energy. A studio musician can probably come in, lay it down and be quite laid back, having done it a thousand times before. But a young drummer can put everything into it. The producer should be able to capture that energy and put it on tape. That will be better than anything a studio person could ever do. Just don’t worry about it. If you worry, it’s going to affect your playing, so you just have to try to relax and get into it.
RF: Did you find that, all of a sudden, everything you did went under a microscope? Did you find yourself working extra carefully?
RT: For sure. Everyone notices every little thing. It’s very hard, but you just have to apply yourself and make sure you get it right. The studio thing is the most important. It’s the basis of everything. The videos come from the studio thing. You go out and play live, but it all relates back to the record. As long as you get that right, you’re on the way.
RF: How many nights a week do you work when you’re on tour?
RT: We always do three nights on, one off and then two nights on and one off. It’s always two or three days on and then a day off. We play five nights a week.
RF: That sounds pretty hectic.
RT: Yeah, it’s quite hard, especially when you’re traveling long distances as well.
RF: You’re so pressured and busy all the time. I wonder if that can’t affect you musically or in a live show?
RT:It has on the odd occasion where other things have become a bit overbearing. We did a show in England last year when we were just going back for a week. We got to the airport and there were about a thousand kids going crazy. We went straight to an interview and straight to another interview, then to a photo session and suddenly we were on stage. It was a bad show because we were just sort of thrown into it. We had been doing so many other things that it affected the music and we said, “We’re never doing that again. The show is the most important thing. Anything that distracts us from it is just going to have to go.” So we put the brakes on a bit and said, “Hang on. Forget it if it’s affecting the music.”
RF: Do you find you ever hit burn-out syndrome?
RT: Sometimes. You tend to go in waves. Sometimes you get really bored playing the same stuff every night. You go on and think, “Oh God, I’ve got to play this again!” Then the next night you come back with a renewed enthusiasm. It just changes every night. I haven’t reached the burn-out syndrome yet on this tour. I probably would if I went out and got drunk every night, but I’ve been trying to look after myself and pace myself because it’s a long tour.
RF: Is there a list of dos and don’ts while you’re on tour, as far as sleeping and eating habits go?
RT: I eat as much as possible and as often as possible because I have to keep my energy reserve well stocked up. That’s bad sometimes, because when you get off tour, you’re still eating the same amount and you can put on two pounds in the first week. Personally, I can’t party too many nights, because if I’m not feeling in really good shape when I go on stage, I find it really difficult and I start to drag a little bit, which is not good. So I have to keep myself pretty together. You learn that very quickly.
RF: How do you keep the same material fresh every night?
RT: It’s very hard. I suppose you just become a professional after a while. The way you feel about the material really doesn’t come into it. If you’re really bored, that really shouldn’t enter into how you play. You should play the same every night whether you’re really bored with the stuff or you’re really into it. You just become a professional and you’re able to play the same every night after a while.
RF: Does the audience help charge you?
RT: Sure. If you get a great reaction and you’ve got a lot of people in the front who are really cheering you on, that can spur you on, but you just have to get used to going on and playing great whether you feel like doing it or not. You can’t be enthused when you go out there and do the same thing every night. There’s no way to really do that, so you have to discipline yourself to go out and do it.
RF: With the reaction you get, do you find the screaming and such distracting at all?
RT: It’s very rare that we actually hear the audience during numbers. We have our monitors quite loud and I wear headphones anyway, which cuts out a lot of the crowd noise. Sometimes, if they really cheer loud, we might hear them once in the middle of a song or something, but we don’t generally hear them.
RF: What are the advantages to wearing headphones?
RT: It’s pretty essential for me. We use a lot of things like rhythm units, rhythmic synthesizers and sequencers on stage which are actually a part of the out-front sound and I have to keep in time with them. It’s essential to me to hear every beat that’s going on there and keep in time with it. I think if I just had it monitored on a small speaker, it would probably get drowned out by a vocal or something else, and I would probably go out of time with it. It can become disastrous if you do go out of time with it. There are actually only about three numbers in our set where I don’t have to keep in time with some sort of thing that is almost like a metronome. I don’t think many drummers have to do it. A couple of bands just have a couple of numbers with a rhythm unit playing, but our whole set is more or less based around that.
RF: That must be good preparation for working with a click in the studio.
RT: For me, playing live is almost like a studio situation, because I’m boxed away with my headphones on and almost playing to a metronome all the time. It’s very good, actually, because I never have to worry about timekeeping. I prefer playing with things like that. I don’t have to worry about speeding up or getting a bit tired and slowing down. It sort of regiments me and I can’t go out of time with it.
RF: Do you normally warm up before a show?
RT: Not really.
RF: What about pacing a rather hectic set?
RT: I don’t really get a break for about an hour and 40 minutes, so I definitely have to pace myself. I could go crazy in the first ten minutes and play like a maniac, but I’d be burned out halfway through the show. I do have to hold myself back and think ahead to, “I’m going to get a rest after this one, so I can go for it in this one.” I have about a minute’s rest in the middle of the set, so I pace myself towards that rest.
RF: A lot of the tunes start out with very dominant, powerful drums too.
RT: Yes. It’s quite fast all the way through. When we’re rehearsing, I’m sort of half dead by the end of it, but I get used to doing the show. I work up to it, I become fit and I find that I can get through it easier. When I first started, I used to think, “God, I could never play for an hour solid,” but obviously I built up to it and it became quite easy, apart from all the blisters.
RF: How do you get a good drum sound in those arenas that I tend to call garbage cans?
RT: They are like that. In order to get a good sound out front in a garbage can, as you call it, I find it essential first of all to make the drums as dead as possible. Otherwise, you can imagine the sound I’ll get if I hit a drum and it rings. We always make sure each drum is as dead as possible, so it’s almost like a box. We spend about an hour every day working on the drum sound. I sit there and hit every drum individually, and the guy out front works on it with me. He puts all the depth and tone on the board, rather than trying to get rid of the ringing the other way. He can add all the things we need out front.
RF: Can you be more specific about your tuning methods?
RT: I don’t have any method really. I don’t tune them to notes or anything. I just tune them to what sounds good to my ear.
So I get them to where they sound right and then damp out all the ringing. It’s the old Marlboro box and a bit of gaffer’s tape method—just getting it really dead sounding. That’s more powerful. Then my roadie, John, will sit up there and play the kit for a while, and I’ll go out front to hear what it sounds like.
RF: You tune your heads pretty tight.
RT:Yes. If you have a very dead drum and it’s loose, it’s very hard to play. So I tend to tune them up quite tight. Then I can deaden them and they’re still quite easy to play because I have a good, tight head to play off. I also still get quite a hard sound rather than a sloppy sound.
RF: Do you find that in a large hall you might tend to forget about playing the subtleties because they get lost?
RT: No, I don’t think I ever do that. I’ve got a lot of faith that our sound man will pick everything up. It’s always good practice to keep on playing all the subtleties, because when you get into the studio, you’re going to be rusty if you just start bashing away live. It’s better to keep on playing them. There’s always somebody out there who is going to be listening and picking up on something.
RF: Did you work out parts beforehand with the percussionist?
RT: He’s playing more or less what he wants to play, really. I’m not very good at playing percussion. I’ve played percussion in the past, but I don’t really rate myself very high. Playing drums is totally different from playing percussion and I end up just playing percussion like I would a drumkit, with rolls and such. So we just invited the percussionist along to the rehearsals and told him to play what feels good. There were a couple of things we asked him to change that we didn’t really like, but all in all, he just did a great job. I haven’t really changed anything that I’ve ever done, so he just plays around my fills and crashes and things like that.
RF: How do you feel about drum solos?
RT: I’ve always found them interesting, but I’ve always felt sorry for all the other people in the audience. It’s interesting for me because I’m a drummer, but I don’t think I would subject an audience to a 20-minute drum solo. It must get really boring for about 98% of the audience. I’ve been bored by drum solos and I’m a drummer, so I don’t think there’s really any need for that.
RF: How do you feel about all the video work the band is doing?
RT: People have begun to place a lot more importance on the videos than I think should actually be placed on them. For us it’s always been like the icing on the cake. We probably spend about two weeks a year on videos. Six months of this year we spend recording, and we’re doing a world tour for another six months. So when you look at the comparison, it’s a very small part of what we do, really, but it’s become overinflated. Really, it’s nothing more than a commercial that’s promoting the single. That’s all there is to it.
RF: You’ve certainly seen some interesting places with some of the videos you’ve done. Did you ever think, while you were growing up, that you’d be visiting all these exotic places and doing all the things you are doing?
RT: Not really. It’s very much a surprise to me. I never really thought I’d become a pop star or whatever. I always wanted to play and become a professional, but I never really thought this would happen. I sort of take it for granted because it happens so much, but sometimes it’s quite hard to believe. It’s difficult to relate it back to how I used to be. It’s quite unreal sometimes.
RF: Do you enjoy the touring?
RT: Oh yeah, definitely. Obviously, it has its down points, but there are the up points as well.
RF: That’s difficult home-wise. Do you have a home?
RT: I have a home, but the only time I’ve seen it was with the real estate agents. It’s very hard on my home life, but I’ve got the rest of my life to have a home life, so I’m not complaining.
RF: Do you have family?
RT: Yes, I have family back in Birmingham. They’re really into it. I think they’re going to come to New York. It’s going to freak my parents out. They’ve never been outside England, so I’m going to fly them over and freak them out.
RF: Were they supportive of the music while you were growing up or was it the typical, “When are you going to get a serious job?”
RT: Oh yeah. It was, “You’re 18 now. When are you going to stop playing those silly drums and get a proper job?” But as soon as we had a bit of success, they saw how serious I was about it and they were behind me. Before that they never really thought I was serious and that I was just bumming around. They’re into it now.
RF: Did they let you practice at home?
RT: They used to, yes. They used to give me half an hour every night before they came in from work. Then it was, “That’s it. Stop now.” They were quite understanding in that way, though. It’s every parent’s nightmare, I suppose, that their child becomes a drummer.
RF: When your parents wished you would outgrow the drums, how did you know it was more than a hobby?
RT: Instinct, I suppose. When you stumble upon the thing you really enjoy doing and you’re talented at, I think instinct leads you on. I wasn’t really interested in anything else. I was terrible at everything else. I tried a few different jobs and used to get the sack. It was the only thing I could ever do. When you find the thing you really enjoy doing and are talented at, you should just grab hold of it and go for it.