Tommy Aldridge

photos courtesy of Bill Cramp

Not a week would go by without letters asking, “When are you guys going to interview Tommy Aldridge?” I tracked Tommy down at his home in Texas and he was extremely open and honest. This interview was completed shortly before Tommy joined Ozzie Osbourne for the “Blizzard of Ozz.” tour.

TA: I started playing drums about a year before the Beatles came out. I don’t really know how I got interested. I got a little hobby set of Ludwig drums; a little 18″ bass drum and a student snare drum. They were Navy blue with a silver stripe around them. I had them for a few months and then I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar. So, I hacked around on guitar for a few months and then I went back to drums. The first thing I was studying was jazz, like Dave Brubeck, for instance. That was too difficult for me at the age of thirteen. The Beatles came out and they got all the hoopla by being straightforward. I figured if I could get more attention with less graft then I should do that. That’s when I got interested in contemporary rock music.

SF: Do you come from a musical family?

TA: No. I’m from Tennessee originally. I moved around quite a bit when I was growing up. I was raised in Florida. I grew up down there and I didn’t start playing until my folks moved to Jackson, Mississippi. I first started playing clubs around Jackson, doing college and fraternity gigs and all that crap, just around Georgia and Louisiana. I went to college for a year or so and I left college when I was 18 or 19 and went down to New Orleans. That’s when I got out on my own and started supporting myself. A semblance of supporting myself anyway! It was nice down in New Orleans. The Allman Brothers were playing out at Albin Park on the weekends. Stephen Stills was down there. Dr. John was there. I played at a club called The Warehouse. That was one of the first big gigs I played. We played, Poco played, and The Young Rascals played.

SF: Who was “we?”

TA: It was just a little three-piece band that no one ever heard of. Keyboard, guitar and drums. I did that for awhile and then I lived on a ranch in Fredricksburg, Texas. I was putting a band together that Jose Feliciano was financing, but it fell apart after about 7 months. Then I got drafted. I went into the Army for 7 weeks and 2 days. I didn’t have time for that, boy! I had to go through all kinds of changes to get out, trying to convince the Army that I had no business being there. I finally did. Then I went back to Mississippi and played around with local bands. Black Oak Arkansas had just signed a record deal, and my friend Dave Smith was doing the sound for their first tour. They wanted another drummer and he gave them my name and they called me up. I went up to Memphis and got the gig. A week later I went out to Los Angeles and literally signed my life away. I got out of it but it was a real trauma for me after about five and a half years with that band. See, initially there was supposed to be a one year trial period where if I was unhappy or they were unhappy I could leave. But it wasn’t that way. I went to the manager and told him that I wasn’t happy. I wanted out. He said “No way.” I was real miserable through that whole thing.

SF: So you were with Black Oak for five and-a-half years when you wanted out
after the first year?

TA: Yeah.

SF: That must have been like the Army all over again.

TA: That’s exactly what it was like. Except I could get out of the Army in 7 weeks and 2 days and it took me a long time to get out of Black Oak. Once I finally physically left Arkansas at the end of ’76 or ’77, I ended up getting all tied up through 1977 with a bunch of lawsuits. One in California and one in Arkansas. It took me a year to get out of that. About the same time that was final ized in December of ’77, I started with Pat Travers. I’d been with Travers most of the time since the end of ’77 until the end of 1980.

SF: Let me backtrack just a bit. How long were you living in New Orleans?

TA: Off and on for a year.

SF: Were you involved in any kind of formal study during that period?

TA: No. I never had any formal study.

SF: Were there any specific drummers at that time that really turned you on?

TA: Carmine Appice, of course. He was pretty fancy back then. He’s mellowed a lot since. Clive Bunker with Jethro Tull. King Crimson’s drummer Mike Giles. I listened to Mike a lot. Bonham influenced me a lot on that first Led Zeppelin album, because he was doing stuff I’d never heard before. Of course, Mitch Mitchell and all the hell raisers of that time.

SF: Did you get away from listening to jazz?

TA: Oh yeah. Definitely. I stopped listening entirely.

SF: When you were with Black Oak, do you feel that experience helped your drumming? Did you grow from that situation?

TA: Well, I think it stifled me more than anything, really. Because I wasn’t happy musically, personally, or any kind of way. I just wanted to be somewhere else, you know. And I was being restrained. It helped me in my career, obviously. It was a pretty successful band and I got to travel a lot. But, more importantly and helpfully, I got to play a lot. All I wanted to do was just play! I got to do plenty of that with that band. We never did any thing musically with Black Oak that I’m comfortable hearing today. But, I guess it was good for my career. The manager seemed to think that he was solely responsible for my career. One of the things in the lawsuits said that the managers had contributed greatly to my career and deserved an ongoing percentage thereof! The band did help my career, but I would like to think that I was going to do it anyway.

SF: From the time you were a little kid, were drums always the thing you wanted to do with your life?

TA: After I sold my guitar to buy another drum kit, I was pretty much set in wanting to see it through. I didn’t have a clue what it entailed.

SF: You pretty much set a goal that you were going to shoot for the top?

TA: Yeah. Or just try to support myself.

SF: Would you have any advice for readers that might be in a position of getting involved with contractual agreements?

TA: Establish a relationship with an attorney before you’re confronted with a legal decision, or a contractual fee. That’s the mistake I made. To me. Legal advisement seems more important than even the record relationship, or a manager or an agent relationship. Establish that relationship with a lawyer who’s your friend, or who has a personal interest in you and in what you’re doing.

SF: In other words, each individual should have a personal lawyer instead of one lawyer representing the entire band?

TA: Exactly.

SF: So the lawsuits stopped you from playing for a long time?

TA: Well, I was able to play, but at the same time I didn’t want to put some band together because of all the litigation still pending. I had gotten involved with a band called Thumbs. I was real happy with that. But anytime we’d get in a situation where we had record labels interested, they just wouldn’t commit themselves because of the litigation pending against me. I could have gone on and signed a recording deal with a band,
but I didn’t want to be in a position where in two or three months down the road, the manager that I was trying to get away from would end up having a hunk of that. Finance my own demise, so to speak. This was in ’77. I’m still having to deal with that to this day!

SF: I hear more and more from aspiring drummers who’ve never been involved with the music business this fantasy that all you have to think about is playing drums and not have to be concerned with money matters.

TA: It gets less and less music and more and more business every year.

SF: Is there any way around that or is that the name of the game?

TA: Well, there are exceptions to the rule, but they are exceptions.

SF: So, as a musician you’ve got to watch out for yourself.

TA: Definitely.

SF: Okay. So how did you get hooked up with Pat Travers?

TA: His manager, David Hemmings, was in San Francisco the same time I was with Thumbs. He had called me before in regard to Pat Travers, who I had never heard of at that time. We were doing some recording with Thumbs out there on the West Coast and I was trying to see that through. That’s where the main lawsuit was going on. So I was trying to get that out of the way and get that recording with Thumbs out of the way at the same time. I kind of put David off. I didn’t realize that I knew him from past Black Oak tours. He had been tour manager with Black Sabbath and that’s where I met him. He kept calling and finally I said, “Okay” and went out to New York. I was supposed to go to England but I didn’t have my passport together. Pat Travers and the bass player came to New York and we jammed. I took the gig, and I was with Pat for close to three years, from 1978 until the end of 1980. We recorded Crash and Burn about three months after that. Pat Thrall came into the band just before we went into the studios to record that album. I think that was in 1979. Heat In The Street was the first album I played on with Travers. That was 1978. Then the live album and then Crash and Burn.

SF: How much time was there from when you first joined Travers to the time you recorded and went on the road?

TA: We had about a week and a half of rehearsals before we went out on the road. That’s it. The first gig was an FM simulcast out at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, New York. That was the year they had that bad snow storm. I was stuck in New York. The next concert we did started a big concert tour with Rush. I got snowed in and got to that first big concert gig with Rush about ten minutes before we went on! We did that as a three-piece. I guess we were out about three months and then Pat Thrall joined the band.

SF: Who decided what songs you were going to play?

TA: We’d do it together. As far as what went on the albums, it was always Pat’s choice.

SF: Were any of the song arrangements group decisions?

TA: Most of it, yeah. Everybody would have different ideas or suggestions and they were usually taken apart.

SF: Did you leave room for spontaneity?

TA: Oh definitely. We’d record live usually, and then occasionally Travers or Thrall would overdub solos. But most of it was a spontaneous thing.

SF: Since you recorded Little Walter’s tune, “Boom, Boom. Out Go The Lights” I wondered if you were familiar with much blues music.

TA: No. I went to a party here in Dallas where a blues band was playing. I got up and jammed with them and they played “Boom Boom” the original way. I didn’t even know it! Pat Travers did that song on his first album and again on the live album. It took off real well.

SF: Are you still endorsing Sonor drums?

TA: Yes. I’m real happy with Sonor drums. They don’t give a whole lot of stuff away! I’ve been using them for a number of years now. That was the first endorsement I had. Then Evans heads, and Zildjian cymbals. The first real feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction was when a drum company or a cymbal company ever approached me to do an endorsement. That’s the first time I felt, “Man, I really am getting somewhere.” When I was coming up I’d have a bunch of drums and always pay retail for them. I always put back every penny I made into the instrument. When you can’t afford them, you have to pay retail. When you make some money and you can buy anything you want, then the drum companies start giving them to you! I guess there’s some logic in there somewhere. But I’m real happy with Sonor drums. I still have the first two bass drum pedals that I ever got from Sonor.

SF: What’s your current set-up?

TA: Well, I have a new set here at home that I will use in the studio. I haven’t had a chance to yet, but that’s what I got them for. Two 20″ bass drums and all small tom-toms. 6″, 8″, 10″, 12″, and a 16″ floor tom, an 18″ floor tom, and a 6 1/2″ snare. Practically the same set-up I use live, just smaller dimensions. I’ve found that smaller drums give a much fatter sound in the studio.

SF: Why is that?

TA: I don’t know. When I was coming up I played Rogers drum kits. I always had 20″ bass drums. A 22″ bass drum was considered really, really big. Not until Appice, Bonham and people like that came out with the big 26″ bass drums did the fad go the other way. I’ve always used big bass drums live, 24″ Sonors and they sound pretty good. But in the studio the 20″ just sounds fatter and deeper for some reason. The last recording I’ve done was in England with Gary Moore. I used my standard Sonor road kit that they provide me with over there. It’s the same kit I use here, with all Evans heads and set up like I’m playing live. Nothing muffled. We recorded in this big room with mic’s way up on the ceiling. I got the best drum sound I’ve ever gotten. That’s one of the reasons I took on the Gary Moore project. I’ve always wanted to record in a British studio because some of my favorite sounds have come from British-made albums. So I finally got to do that. They definitely have a different approach. They don’t want to hinder you by taping something on the snare drum, or wanting you to always loosen your snare drum skin to make it fat sounding. That changes the whole feel and response of the drum which sometimes encumbers me in the studio. They even set the drums up off the floor, just like a stage set-up on a riser. The mic’s are away from the drum rather than right down near the hoop of the drum. A drum sound matures as it travels through the air. A person listening, even the guy playing, doesn’t have his ear next to the snare drum, or on the hoop of the drum! The drum develops its character after it travels through a busy atmosphere. I’ve always thought that, but all the producers I’ve worked with insisted on putting mic’s right next to the heads. You have to do that in concert to compensate for isolation and leakage. But in the studio where the drums are pretty isolated anyway, I finally got a chance to record with the mic’s away from the drums and with very few mic’s. Two overheads, one mic for the two mounted toms, one mic for the two floor toms, and a snare mic. The overheads were positioned high up in a cathedrallike ceiling. So the cymbals were going into the overhead mic’s.

SF: Are you isolated from the other musicians in that situation?

TA: Only with baffles. With Gary Moore, he and the bass player and I would record the tracks together live. Then Gary would overdub his guitar solos. That’s how we did it and I was really, really surprised with the sound. I was scared it wasn’t going to sound good because I didn’t have to go through all this rigamaroll and perseverance. But it was really inspiring.

SF: Jack Clement, an engineer in Nashville who recorded many of the early Sun rock records, told me that recording studios are the worst place to make records, because they sound so different from any other place where music is made.

TA: Right. I remember the first big session I did. Tom Dowd was producing it. He had mic’s everywhere! He had two or three mic’s on the snare drum, a mic on the top and bottom of each tom-tom, and two or three mic’s in the bass drum. It was completely ridiculous. This was the first album I did with Black Oak. I had learned about the smaller bass drums, so I rented two small bass drums for that session. Tom Dowd wouldn’t let me use them. He wanted me to use the big 26″ drums. He went against everything that I thought an up-market, big-time producer was going to do. That’s not to slag-off Tom Dowd. He makes a lot more money than I do!

SF: What size drumset do you use onstage?

TA: 24″ bass drums, 13″ and 14″ mounted toms, and 16″ and 18″ floor toms.

SF: How about your cymbal set-up?

TA: All of them are pretty heavy cymbals. On the left up high I have an 18″, then a 22″, a 20″ right over my hi-hat, and an 18″ on the left bass drum.

SF: All crash cymbals?

TA: Well, “heavy.” Some of them are ride cymbals. But just real, real heavy. An 18″ on the right bass drum. A 24″ heavy ride. And then another 18″. Then a 22″ and a 20″. All A. Zildjians. I use those Quik-beat hi-hats, the ones with the flat cymbal on the bottom. They have holes drilled in the bottom. They’re real, real thick and heavy. A long time ago I’d drill holes in the bottom of some of my hi-hat cymbals to let the air out. Zildjian started doing that in the last few years. So I missed that opportunity didn’t I? Zildjian is an endorsement I’m really proud of. Those people are so nice. I mean, the only true endorsement I have is with those guys.

SF: Do you enjoy going on the road?

TA: Yeah, I do. I love playing. I didn’t play as much as I’d like to with Travers. We’d go out and tour between four and six months solid and we’d get a lot of touring done. I’d be exhausted when I came in, but I sometimes have more time off than I like to have.

SF: Could you freelance on projects between tours?

TA: No. It was just enough time to get frustrated and not enough time to do something else. It became bad news for me to stay with Pat any longer. I was making more money as time went by, but the percentage of what I could potentially earn wouldn’t change any. Once I came to that conclusion I put in my resignation. Everybody still thinks I’m playing with Pat.

SF: Mike Shrieve was involved with percussion work on some of Travers’ material. Are you pretty close with Mike?

TA: Yeah. Mike’s a nice guy. I wasn’t there when he recorded the percussion. Pat tried to get Mike to play drums on the new album. Half of the tunes on the album are stuff that I played on when we were doing Crush and Burn. Shrieve couldn’t do it because he’s involved with his own band up there in New York.

SF: It doesn’t seem like there’s too many musicians who want to take the time and effort anymore to put a band together.

TA: Because it’s hard and it’s a long term investment. At the same time, that’s what most of the record compa nies want these days. Not solo artists. There’s a lot more longevity in a band situation. Looking at it from a record company’s point of view, if a solo artist has problems, the band can’t go on, because it’s him! If that happened with The Doobie Brothers, if Mike McDonald messes up, it’s still The Doobie Brothers. The band can go on. Cheap Trick lost one of the members. That was a band that really didn’t enjoy the format of being able to change personnel, because it was a real personality oriented band. But, a real honest-to-goodness band, like The Marshall Tucker Band—they lost one of their guys and they were able to go on.

SF: What if it’s a band where one member is primarily the songwriter?

TA: That’s where depending on the other members comes in. Sting writes most of the songs for The Police and he sings, but he’s really dependant on Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. The whole is bigger than the parts. Who else could do what Stewart Copeland’s doing? The same with Andy Summers. Even though he’s not a real virtuoso on guitar, his character and personality are unique. How could they replace him? I was amazed that The Who even tried to replace Keith Moon. I admire Kenny Jones’ audacity. Kenny is probably a better drummer technically than Keith. But Keith Moon was a pioneer, like Bonham was a pioneer. John Bonham was a technician, but that’s not why he was so acclaimed. It was because of his way of thinking and the parts that he came up with. Mitch Mitchell and John Bonham played things I had never heard before. You always wondered where they’d been, and where they’d heard that stuff.

SF: How did you develop your technique?

TA: Just playing. I’ve always played a lot.

SF: You never sit down and practice anything?

TA: No. I did very little individual practice because I played so much. It’s easy for me to stay in practice with myself, one foot against the other. I think the most important practice for a drummer is the interaction with the rhythm track. It’s hard to practice that on your own.

SF: Do you read music?

TA: No.

SF: How did you get started on double bass drums?

Tommy AldridgeTA: The first person I ever saw with a double bass drum kit was a jazz big-band drummer over in England. He was on the back of a Premier drum catalog. I used to study drum catalogs like Physics books. Just like a baseball fan who collects catalogs and baseball hats. I was a real connoisseur. I used to spend everything I had on drums. Instead of having a hot rod or a motorcycle I had drums. I borrowed a bass drum from a friend of mine. He had two and he only used one. I borrowed the other and started messing around. I saw Louie Bellson once on TV but he didn’t play anything. I said, “Wow, that sure looks cool. You could probably do some cool stuff with two bass drums.” I’d just work up beats or fills that I’d done with one bass drum, and if I was sitting behind a drumset I could show you how you could use two bass drums to play the same figure you would play with one. But you can double up on it. Use them independently and then counter them. Nobody really plays two bass drums today, and that’s what I wanted to do. It was frustrating at first because there wasn’t anywhere to go for pointers. There wasn’t anything to hear on a record other than solo stuff that Ginger Baker did years and years ago. But he was just doing the same thing that everybody is today, just two hand beats rather than getting into multiples. So that’s what I was shooting for. I always maintain that the hardest thing for me to learn was keeping balanced on the stool, while doing things with my hands on the mounted tom-toms. You normally have the hi-hat there to plant your foot on. That was the hardest thing for me to learn. I get asked that question a lot. The hardest thing for me was to retain a fluidity without keeping either foot planted.

SF: Are you meticulous about tuning your drums?

TA: Yeah. Not so much in terms of notes. I like for my toms to be tuned the same way every time I play them for the sake of dampening mostly. I tune my drums to a note but I’m not fanatical about maintaining a specific note. It can go down or up as long as all the drums do it together. I don’t like to use any mufflers on the drums. That’s why I use
Hydraulic heads. I tune them up to that note and then I’ll go up or down around the note on the first drum until I finally get the desired dampening effect. You can affect the resonance of the head by how tight or how loose you have it. That’s primarily what I go by. But I always keep the four toms in tune with one another.

SF: How do you tune your bass drums?

TA: I try to get them to sound alike. Otherwise you get a weird inflection. It’s like playing a single stroke roll on two separate toms instead of one. It sounds kind of weird. I want it to be more present. I really found that’s important in the studio with the bass drums. I can never get two bass drums to sound exactly alike, but I like to get them as close as possible.

SF: Do you depend a lot on mic’s for projection of your drums?

TA: They use mic’s for the sake of the outside P. A. As far as playing an acous tic instrument and dealing with the sound level onstage, I have a monitor behind me and I just get a little bit of drums in there. I play pretty hard and I use a pretty big stick, so very seldom do I have problems hearing myself. Also, I’ll sit farther back behind the amp line than most guys do. That way I don’t get the spill from the speakers. I can hear myself easier. I don’t like to depend on monitors. You can’t depend on them. If you’re in the middle of a tune, especially if you’re a special guest, or the opening act—you seldom, if ever, get a sound check. I like to be able to depend on the true sound of the drum rather than depending on a monitor system.

SF: Do you see your role changing from band to band as far as the way you play?

TA: No. I’d treat a riff with Travers the same way I would treat a riff with Gary Moore. It’s just that Gary will come up with a different riff than Travers will. I haven’t been asked to modify the way I play.

SF: Do you feel that your role as a drummer is a supportive one?

TA: I didn’t with Travers. I mean, I was trying to support the band. If it’s a true band, that should be everyone’s goal. I haven’t had much problem supporting myself. In the case of Travers, our end was for the overall good of the band rather than for ourselves as individuals. I never demanded that I do a drum solo.

SF: You don’t get bent out of shape if you’re not given a solo during a show?

TA: Oh no. Not at all. Sometimes I’ve been asked to do them more times than I’ve wanted to. I want a band format. That’s what I really want. So I don’t have to deal with the word “support.” But I guess support is the drummer’s role whether it be in a band format or just a hired gun format.

SF: Are you aware of the song structure during your drum solos?

TA: I’ll use a skeletal structure for the sake of timing and for the sake of the light guy. I try to establish a basic outline. But for each tour, whichever song I work a solo up for, I’ll vary it. It’s never exactly the same.

SF: If, for example, you were playing a 32 bar song, would you structure your solo to come out at the end of 32 bars?

TA: No. I could but I haven’t ever had to. I’d lose count anyway! I hate to count when I’m playing. I’d much rather just swing my head around and show off’. Make people think I know what I’m doing. That’s where the old showmanship stuff comes in. You can convince a lot of people that you’re God’s gift to drumsticks if you look like you know what you’re doing.

SF: Are you aware of showmanship onstage?

TA: I had drumsticks before I had drums, and I could twirl them before I could play anything with them. But I never consciously relied on showmanship at all. I was accused of that in my earlier days. I quit doing it for a long time. All my friends would say, “He can’t play. He’s just a big showoff.” But people enjoy showmanship and I enjoy it. Even in the studio I do it subconsciously because I’ve been doing it for so long. I think people should look like they’re trying to sound. I didn’t say look like they sound, but look like they’re trying to sound. Kids enjoy that. Otherwise they just stay home and listen to records all the time. If I can play something of substance and give them something of substance to look at, that just makes it that much better. And if you can burn incense to entertain their olfactory nerves, then do that.

SF: Which band member do you listen to the most onstage?

TA: First, the bass. With Travers, Mark and I would sometimes go into the studio, once we had our parts down, and rehearse our parts together. Onstage I listen to all the music.

SF: When you’re onstage do you use anything to protect your ears?

TA: It’s not really that loud onstage. Sometimes at soundchecks I’d measure the decibel level and the highest level I got on my drum riser, behind the amp line, was 91 decibels, which is not that damaging. Most of the time it would average high to mid 80s db level on the drum riser. If you went right out front on the middle of the stage in front of all the amps it increases to 110 or 115 db. I tried ear plugs once, but there was no way I could use them.

SF: How does the volume of the band differ from clubs to a place like Madison Square Garden? I see a lot of young bands that feel they have to crank up the volume regardless of the size of the room they’re in.

TA: I adjust my volume. But those little places are harder to play because they’ve got low ceilings. Any sound that you make comes down and slaps the heck out of the top of your head. It’s easier for me to play larger venues. I mean, that’s why it’s so hard for a bar
band to get any kind of a record deal. Every band that plays in a bar sounds like a bar band. If you put Led Zeppelin in a bar, they’re going to sound like a bar band! To me, those were the hardest venues in the world to get across in. They all sound so atrocious and everything is just so stark. There’s not a whole lot of acoustic gratification in those places. Good acoustics, rather than the size of the venue, determine what volume level you play at. With Travers we would always try to compensate for the acoustic characteristics of the room, rather than trying to compensate for the size.

SF: Do you get involved with clinics or teaching?

TA: I was doing a few clinics with Sonor. I should be doing a lot more. I enjoy them. Later on, I’d like to get into some kind of tutoring. A very informal type. I haven’t had any formal training myself and I don’t read, but a lot of people have asked me about that. That’s caused me to think about it for the future. The challenge would be getting the students to come to Texas. If I’m going to be on the road, I want to do concerts rather than travel all over the place to teach.

SF: What do you do at your clinics?

TA: I’m really very open. I don’t have a basic format. I just ask the people what they’re interested in. Most of the time they’ll be interested in a certain part of a song and want me to play it. Or, I’ll do three minutes of solo. I like to leave it open to audience preference. It’s always worked pretty good for me that way. I’d like to do that exclusively for awhile, if I could get it to where I could make enough money from it.

SF: Guitarist Robert Fripp has been writing a series of articles which basically say that it is a losing proposition for a band to go on the road. How do you feel about that? Is that accurate?

TA: As far as Robert Fripp’s concerned— definitely. He was with King Crimson. At that point King Crimson never really did break real big, did they? They were never known as a concert band because they didn’t sound that good. It was hard. I’ve got all the respect in the world for Fripp. I think he’s a real pioneer. I think his element is the studio. I think that fact is reflected in the amount of money that he’s earned on the road. But the road is where my livelihood is! I make some money off records, but mostly from playing on the road. A combination of the two is ideal. Get a hot album and go out and do a hot tour. If you’re smart, and you know what you’re doing, and you’ve got some people behind you—including the record company—then the money that you make on the road is yours. Nobody gets a piece of that except the agent that booked the tour. It’s up to your perseverance and your know-how to make the money and get it home without spending it all out there trying to make it. It’s harder now than it ever has been, but it’s still being done.

SF: Do professional musicians at your level get hit hard by taxes?

TA: Oh God! Yeah, you might say that.

SF: Is there anything you can do to avoid that?

TA: Just make a whole lot more money.

SF: How about diversifying your income?

Tommy AldridgeTA: Yeah. In my situation they’re taking everything I make. I’m in the most disadvantageous tax bracket that you can be in. Young. Unmarried. I don’t have any expenses and I’m in a 58% tax bracket. The more you make the more the government will get. It gets to a point where you can really make a lot to see yourself through, but you should put the majority of the money in long-term investments. That’s the only way you can get away with it. The only way to do that is to make a lot of money.

SF: Where do you see yourself at 60 years of age?

TA: I ask myself that same question most everyday.

SF: Do you come up with an answer?

TA: Yeah. A poor folks home! Music is just like any other business. I don’t care what business you earn your money in. You should be able to invest rock and roll dollars as easily as you can invest dentist dollars. It just so happens that the majority of the population in rock and roll are very, very young.

SF: If you could be in an ideal situation right now, what would it be?

TA: I’d like to be in a four-piece band. A “band.” You know? With some people that are interested in putting together a four-piece band.

SF: For the long haul?

TA: Yeah. It’s hard to put a new band together these days, but it’s going to be easier for me than someone who hasn’t established themselves in the business. There’s a shortage of record company interest right now. Even though the business is tougher than it’s ever been, that leads me to think that it can be more lucrative than it’s ever been! But what I really want is a band situation. I don’t want to be a bandleader. I think that it takes a band to lead a band. I’d like a fourth of the responsibilities. I’ve learned a lot through the years that I’d like to apply, but I don’t want to have anything to do with putting a band together, being a bandleader, or having a band named after me.

SF: Do you think it’s possible for a new person to get a band together and shoot for the top?

TA: Yeah, it’s still possible. It’s harder. I think that aspect of the business has gotten a lot more complex than some of the other aspects. It’s not hard to get a record deal and put a band together, or get something going. It’s hard to see anything come from it. It takes a long time, and it’s hard to see anything come from it after all is said and done. To keep it so that there aren’t so many hands in the pie that there isn’t any money left for the band. Keep the band as self-contained as possible. Instead of going out and flying—go by bus. Maybe not even by bus. The first big tour The Police did, they traveled by van. Because it’s your money that you’re spending when you’re going out, even though it’s money that you’re getting from the record—it’s recuperable. You’re getting it against ad vances. That’s your money and a lot of guys don’t know that. That’s a manager’s job, and many times the manager should keep the band acclimated to that kind of stuff.

SF: He probably doesn’t care that much.

TA: Exactly. Because he’s got five, seven or eight bands. It’s not his money at all, unless he’s an equal member of the band, which most managers aren’t these days.

SF: With your new band, will you try to keep the manager within the band?

TA: Yeah, I think so. Not so much being a player in the band, but maybe give him
a piece. That way, if the band goes in debt, the manager goes in debt. If the manager makes money, the band makes money. And make it an exclusive thing to where he can’t have five or six bands. Managing is a full-time job! There are exceptions that have conglomerations of bands, but those bands are primarily already broken before the managers were even involved. I think the days of the conglomerate management companies are past. It takes too much thought time to maintain five or six bands.

SF: What sort of band situation would you be happiest in?

TA: Well, now I have a bit of strength because I’ve been in the business and I’ve been screwed every way possible. It’s not that I’ve gotten any smarter, it’s just that I’ve done everything that I can do wrong! I can enjoy a position of business because I’ve been hanging in here so long. I’m still relatively young. I’m 30 years old. I feel better than I’ve ever felt. But, I think the best protection for a band is for each individual to be dependent on one another. That way you don’t have to worry about anybody screwing you over. I’m not paranoid of depending on the people I’m playing with. I think that’s what’ll keep a band together through thick and thin. I think Travers got to the point where he was a little paranoid of his dependance on me. I was never over-concerned of my dependence on Pat, because you have to depend on the people that you work with. You’ve got to deal with them up and up. If one band member depends on the next one, then you don’t have to worry. Everything in those kind of situations just takes care of itself.