Catching Up With…
Bun E. Carlos
by Patrick Berkery
These days it’s out with the old and in with the new for the former Cheap Trick drummer.
While the current members of Cheap Trick used the run-up to the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction to promote a new album and take potshots at former drummer Bun E. Carlos in the press, the famously bespectacled sticksman seized the opportunity to make the solo album he’d been forever threatening to release. Carlos describes Greetings From Bunezuela! as “a drummer’s mixtape,” with musician friends including Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard, Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, Wilco’s John Stirratt, and original Cheap Trick singer Randy Xeno joining him for obscure rock covers that sport his typically punchy pulse.
“I’d been talking about this since the 1970s,” Carlos says. “Then the Hall of Fame made its announcement in December. And in January, much to the dismay of everyone, I said, ‘Yeah, this is a good time—I think I’ll do this.’ And management said, ‘Okay, we need it in six weeks.’”
Beyond a couple of shows in the Midwest, Carlos doesn’t see himself doing many gigs to promote the album. “I’m not going to throw the drums in a van and drive a thousand miles to go play a club in North Dakota or something,” he cracks. Carlos has got plenty to keep him busy these days anyway. He’s playing regularly with two local groups, the Monday Night Band in his hometown of Rockford, Illinois, and the Jimmys in Monroe, Wisconsin. And a new album from Candy Golde, a group that includes Stirratt and Rick Rizzo of Eleventh Dream Day, is being shopped around.
Bun E.’s celebrated collection of drums has also been occupying a fair amount of his time recently, because he’s in the process of downsizing. “I’m actively disassembling it,” Carlos says. “I turned sixty-five in June. It took me about thirty years to put together, and I figure I’ve got about ten years to get rid of this thing, if I’m lucky, before I fall over walking down the street one day.
“So last year I started calling people and saying, ‘Before you go to the [Chicago] Drum Show, come over and have a look.’ The guys from Canopus came over and bought four kits. A couple guys got some snare drums. Another guy was over recently and bought some stuff. I’ve still got about forty kits and a couple hundred snare drums. But a lot of my eye candy is going away really fast.”
photo by Matthew Bowie