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Diary of a Drum Tech Pt. 3

Well, where do I start?

Clapton on stage in Bergen

July has been our month off between the Eric Clapton US & European Tours which gave us some time to relax and re-group.
My other interest, The Vintage Drum Yard, has been busy behind the scenes. Besides our on the road activities, film and studio sessions, our repair and custom shop has been busy catching up.

The first renovation on our list is a beautiful rare size 18”/12”/14”/14×5” Brushed Silver Hayman kit from the early 70’s formerly owned by Ginger Baker and given to his close friend Steve Winwood. The kit can be seen being used on the ‘Ginger Baker in Africa’ DVD, a documentary that records Ginger driving to Africa. He drove across the Sahara desert in his Range Rover to start building his recording studio in Nigeria, where he lived throughout the ‘70’s.

As with all renovations, we stripped the kit to its bare shells and repaired or replaced all damaged parts from our stock. The shells were cleaned and re-headed before being returned in fine working order to Steve’s studio in Gloucestershire.

Project #2 has been to restore the Pearl kits used by Bob Henrit during his days with The Kinks. There is so much equipment that this will need to wait until my return from tour to oversee the work logged and carried out.

Project #3 is the building of a 13” x 7” custom snare for Jerry Brown.

Project #4 is some work for Charlie Watts…wouldn’t you like to know?

What with website updating, VAT and accounts the month soon flies by.

Soundchecking Abe Laboriel's kitBack to serious business…touring!

My first stop is Gatwick for my 2 hour flight to Bergen in Norway – always a good scenic place to go. During our summer break Abe had a huge show in Quebec for McCartney so I am hoping that we have enough sticks when I open his cases!

My rant for this month…

Wherever you go in Europe the locals speak such good English and are so obliging and hospitable compared to the p**s poor service at home. A cup of coffee served in a café is an art form compared to the service in the UK at most eateries…the same goes for UK A&R departments…end of rant!!

The first part of this tour is quite hard work as we are flying early to Iceland for a show at the Egilshol. Five hours sleep is our max as we have a 6am leave for the airport. A much reduced amount of equipment has already gone overnight by cargo plane. This is my first trip to Iceland and the terrain reminds me of Malta (fairly flat).The world is becoming one huge Hilton Hotel by the look of things.

After the show we reload the trucks for our cargo to be flown to Copenhagen for the Skanderborg Festival near Aarhus, Denmark.

After our show in Iceland, it is a drive to our hotel near the airport for 3hrs sleep before catching our flight to Copenhagen. A quick nap on the plane and we are met upon arrival at the airport by a joyous sight…Beat The Street tour busses…YES! Time to get acquainted with my new home for the next 2 weeks. These are the best European busses with internet, satellite TV, large bunks, fitted kitchen with coffee machine and microwave…it’s a real home from home. Our driver Mark is a Kiwi so as long as he doesn’t disappear whilst mountaineering or abseiling …we’ll be fine!

Yard with Henry SpinettiThe Skanderborg Festival, Sunday 10th August

The festival is set in the forest so mozzies will be out and about later. Upon arrival we park up and head for food, until we get our allotted call time to unload our gear and set up. I am advised that someone has been asking for me, so I rack my brains thinking who I have sacked or have owed money to over the years. So many people in this business are owed a tenner by everyone who is famous… funny that!

Luckily it turns out to be Anders Karlsson from Ace of Base who I toured with a few years ago with Swedish band Europe (until the Final Countdown for them…pun intended!) Scandinavians are cool people….very chilled.

The beautiful Katie Melua is also on the bill so my mate Henry Spinetti will be on the tubs. He drops by to say hello by the backstage area. Henry is one of the best players in the UK – he has some lovely touches and is a real seasoned pro. I shall be working with Henry for EC on New Years again. If you are not familiar with his work, he played drums on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street along with Raf Ravenscroft’s famous sax solo and has countless tours under his belt for EC, Tina Turner, Judas Jump, George Harrison.

For the George Harrison Tribute “Concert For George” Henry was lead drummer with Ringo, Jim Keltner and Ray Cooper on the bill. Whilst having a natter with Henry and Anders over the fence so to speak, Ed Naughton joined us. Ed was the drum tech for Whitesnake/Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell until his untimely death in a tragic accident. Speaking of which, I also bumped into David Coverdale at Heathrow a few weeks ago on my last trip out.

I have had a guy in Australia begging me to make copies of Cozy’s tree trunk size Yamaha sticks and Ed is giving me a stick to use as a template to do. So another satisfied customer hopefully. Ed is a typically nice Brummie who can, like myself, chat for England which causes me to nearly miss the show! All in all, a very good day.

Waldbuhne emptyArena Leipzig, Germany Tuesday 12th August

We finally meet with our German production sound and light crews here. Bob Dylan’s son Jakob and his band are our support for five shows.

Audley Freed from two of my favourite bands Cry of Love and The Black Crowes is guitar player for him. I toured with Audley with Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes in 2002 and was at Donnington in ’94. We first met there when he was in Cry of Love and I was with Skin. The Crowes are one of the best rock bands with Steve Gorman as one of my favourite powerful but tasteful players. He did a fine job of Bonham’s work.

Back at the gig, Abe managed to snap his double chain drive 5000 pedal tonight on the last song luckily…AND he was playing in bare feet!

We are off to Gdynia, Poland tonight after the show which is a 10 hr drive.

I am in deep admiration of the influx of helpful, smiling, hard working, courteous Polish hotel staff in the UK considering our own alternatives. However, coming from a building background they could do with their builders heading back home to flatten out their roads after my journey last night! I was in bed at 2am but up at 6am. A man of my age needs his kip! I’ll be mowing my lawn in a suit jacket, shirt and tie in a few years at 6am but I don’t want to start as yet.

Our hotel is fine, I check in ready for a day of office work and replacement pedal searching and production work for the Annie Lennox dates coming up. My mate Garrison who does A&R at DW Head Office in Oxnard, CA has pinned down a German company who can send parts to Berlin to meet me upon arrival. Garrison is the best at this…if he cannot help he will say so. He has never let me down in all the years. Next call is to another top man Marco Soccolli at Vic Firth for Abe”s sticks.

My son Martin starts with Duffy today with Tom Meadows. Other son Nick is still with Sigur Ros. We have been missing each other by a whisker in Europe as we are doing a similar circuit. He will join me with Annie Lennox as from 1st September for rehearsals, taking care of guitars.

Show day, Skwer Kosciuski, Jana Pawla, Gdynia, 14th August

Waldbhune fullFirst job is to change the snare head and repair the pedal by robbing parts from the spare set left side pedal until a new chain arrives. Abe uses Suede Emperors on his toms and CS Coated Dots for the snares with Puresound Wires. The Suedes seem heavy for me… the 18” is like hitting a practice pad. I found that lubricating the hoop helps as the heads are a little tight in the die-cast hoops.

Abe’s kit is quite spread out whereby I have a job reaching from the 13” to the 16” & 18”….I would normally have at least two toms in the gap! My fills during soundcheck sound like a campsite club drummer…no offence! The cymbals are also just within reach.

Jakob Dylan’s drummer Fred (Wallflowers/Dixie Chicks) has a new Ludwig 20/12/14 kit on loan for the tour. Abe and Fred attended Berklee together.

The venue is open air on the Polish northern coast near Gdansk. It reminds me of England here. There is a tall ship moored in the harbour along with sightseeing ships and yachts. The stage looks out to sea so it is a beautiful scene. We use a local support band for this show. After, its an overnight drive to Berlin.

Showday, Waldbuhne, Berlin, 15th August

The Waldbuhne translated means “stage in the forest”. It was built next to the Olympic Stadium where the legendary Jesse Owens attended the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Hitler gave many of his speeches here as it is an amphitheatre similar to the Hollywood Bowl in it’s appearance. There is a tunnel leading to the stage area that was deliberately curved thereby reducing the risk of Hitler being assassinated by snipers.

It is raining today and there is a very high risk of mozzies. Hitler had all the newts and toads in the forest area extinguished as the noise interrupted his speeches and to this day they have not returned to the lakes which were torched.

The crowd are resilient in the open as the rain pours down into the night. After it’s a drive overnight to Munich.

I will update you all next month as to the rest of our tour….

See ya

Yard

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