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Diary of a Drum Tech Pt. 8

Hi All,

Steve GaddSorry for the delay in writing but my Mac laptop crashed followed by the purchase of a new Acer laptop which also crashed after just one week of use. Apparently as I do not have a permanent US address (being a traveller) I have voided the warranty – a new rule that they made up? I lost all of my recent photos from the UK Albert Hall gigs with Gadd and my blog, so I am trusting to memory.

The Mac now has a new 320GB hard drive and the Acer is in the bin…where it belongs…$550 wasted!

I am here in my workshop prepping the Yamaha kit that I keep for Steve Gadd in preparation for the Eric Clapton UK & Eire Tour. For this tour we are using the 12/13/14/16/22 combination. The tom shells are birch and the bass drum is maple for more warmth.

Along with this we are prepping a 70’s Ludwig Gold Sparkle 20/12/14 which is becoming the property of Take That’s Howard to play during their stadium tour. My son Martin is drum tech for the TT tour taking care of Donavan Hepburn and Howard. We delivered the kit to Howard at Take That’s London rehearsal studio and he loved it. SOLD to that man!

The mere thought of hooking up with Gadd always brings a smile to my face as I use him as my benchmark for all other drummers. Apart from being the great groove master that he is, he also has great humility and is very self-effacing and, most importantly, he has that great New York humour. He is very encouraging to other drummers no matter what age they are from kids upwards.

This proves to me that you can be the very best at your game without being difficult or arrogant. My main rule is that I only work with nice people, irrespective of their ‘talent’ and so far it has worked well for me. I have worked with a few so called ‘difficult’ artistes but I have to admit that they have treated me with the utmost respect so, I speak as I find. Respect is a two way street for me.

Gadd KitMy first call from The Gaddster came from Switzerland where he was performing at a jazz festival in Bern. He wanted to ship his trusted cymbals to me to save lugging them back to his home in the US and back to the UK for the tour.

Needless to say the cymbals journey with the very ‘efficient’ worldwide courier service concluded with me collecting said cymbals personally from Stansted Airport Cargo en-route to rehearsals in Berkshire. This was after enquiring as to their whereabouts for 4 days despite it being a guaranteed next day service!

The first day of our rehearsals is a set up/technical day where we prepare the backline and monitors for the band to check that all is well for when they arrive.

The band for the UK & Eire Tour is Andy Fairweather-Low (gtr), Steve Gadd (drums), Willie Weeks (bass), Chris Stainton (keys), Sharon White and Michelle John (bvs). The set list contains a lot of the songs from the ‘Pilgrim’ album recorded at Olympic Studios and released in ’98 which Andy, Chris & Steve all played on.

I am still astounded at how good everyone plays even though I see it regularly. Chris Stainton is one of the best there is. His piano solos are superb musicianship and not bad for someone who started as Joe Cocker’s bass player in The Grease Band in the 60’s including the Woodstock Festival.

Willie Weeks is solid too with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Doobie Bros and his legendary work with Donny Hathaway amongst many others on his CV.

Andy Fairweather-Low is the most down to earth, nicest man you could meet. Hugely talented on guitar and with a great voice. Funny as you like and honest like Gadd, with great humour. A man amongst men. For laughs alone, this is my favourite line up.

Steve Gadd FunnyRehearsals go as planned and we finish the last day with a benefit gig at The Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane for EC’s mate Ian ’Beefy’ Botham and the Bunbury Cricketers Charity. Peter Kay and Rory Bremner are on the bill too, along with Rick Parfitt Jnr (son of Senior)and his band including my mates Adam Wakeman (son of Rick) on keyboards and Alex Toff (former Peter Andre band) on drums (using Gadd’s kit) the lucky boy! Adam has luckily inherited his Dad’s humour or as we say “they don’t fall far from the tree.”

I finally get to meet and chat with my heroes after all these years, Aussie bowlers Dennis Lillee and Jeff ‘Tommo’ Thompson… oh and David Gower. I was a bowler (No. 9 bat) as a schoolboy and Lillee and I both had the Harold Larwood ‘Bodyline’approach – if you can’t see the wicket, aim for the batsman – it works every time and they soon shift out of the way leaving the wicket wide open!

The following day we depart London for Dublin and the O2 which was known for years as The Point. I have a Ludwig ‘70’s 16” floor tom for U2’s Larry Mullen Jr which gets collected and delivered to the U2 studio.

This tour is quite simple for us as we spend most of it with 11 nights at the Royal Albert Hall after our Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester shows. Joining us on this tour are ‘Arc Angels’ who were formed out of the demise of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Double Trouble.’ Stevie’s tragic death occurred whilst on tour in the US with EC in 1990 during a helicopter flight from a show at Alpine Valley WI in heavy fog.

Double Trouble’s Chris Layton is drumming and I shall be working with him also for these dates too. He is using a Fibes kit loaned from FX as part of his endorsement. Chris is a smashing man and a fine drummer with that Texas ‘feel’.

Chris Layton AutographI bumped into the very well mannered true gent and UK drum legend Ralph Salmins whilst awaiting breakfast at our London hotel. Ralph is a huge Gadd fan, and quite rightly so. My son Nick worked a Michael Ball Tour happily looking after Ralph whose CV is absolutely endless and includes just about everyone and Robbie Williams!

We have done quite a few shows at the Royal Albert Hall so it becomes routine. After the 1st show we start the following day at lunchtime which becomes standard. During days off there are other shows in so we remove our stage backline and monitors but leave the PA and Lighting Rigs in the air for Jackson Browne to use.

Days off enable me to scoot back home for the day and return by 12 noon the following day to set up the kit again. I grew up in Notting Hill and attended Barlby Road W10 and Holland Park Schools and so it feels like going home as it has always been a lovely area and is so familiar. If I had £10,000,000 to spend I would move back straight away and buy a 4 storey Stucco house at the top end of Portobello Road or in Holland Park. It looks like I’ll be staying where I am!

One of the highlights of the London shows was to find a traffic warden arguing with three of our crew and offering to fight all of them as I strolled in. His bonus money must be high as we get a dispensation from the council for runner vehicles.

Our very own Mike Dolbear appeared for the last evening to watch the show, so he must have blagged a box off a mate. Mark Nutty from Percussion House Swansea made an appearance as my guest. Our soundcrew live in Swansea and Port Talbot so we felt pressured to let another of The Taffia in!! Mike Brown and Luke Smith from George Michael’s band also showed.

After the last show Steve’s kit was shipped back to my place so that we could fly to New York the following day. Steve is joining James Taylor for his European tour during June/July.

See ya next month,


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