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Sunday, October 13, 2013


Pete Phipps talks to Todd Bernhardt

Drummer of the Week -- Pete Phipps

I've wanted to talk to Pete Phipps for a long, long time. Mummer was the first "new" album I bought by XTC (with impeccable timing, I discovered them after English Settlement and the End of Touring), and quickly fell in love with the album's progressive-pastoral feel. Did I miss Terry? Sure. But Pete Phipps seemed to have a few additional brushes in his paintbox, and the album became a favorite to drum along with. My biggest fear was that Andy meant it when he sang "Bye bye!" at the end of "Funk Pop a Roll," and that we would hear no more from the band.

I breathed a sigh of relief when The Big Express was released. The album's industrial jangle confirmed to me that XTC were here to stay, and were determined to grow and try new things. And Mr. Phipps was once again behind the kit, complementing the songs -- and the Linn Drum -- with impeccable feel and taste. Again, I sat down and worked on mimicking everything he and the machine did. The two albums together provided a wonderful workout across a wide range of styles and, when I finally got to visit the UK, provided most of the soundtrack running through my head as I moved from rural to urban settings and back again.

So, once I started interviewing band members about the albums and songs, and was lucky enough to get in touch with the band's drummers about their experiences, the desire to interview Pete was never far from my mind. We initially got in touch years ago -- thank you, Internet -- but could never seem to work out the logistics. Finally, last April, over the course of two calls a week apart totaling about four hours, we were able to delve into his background, career, philosophy and, of course, his experience working with XTC. (April?!? I know, I know -- but life is more complicated now, and it takes me longer to transcribe and write than it used to.)

Pete is a bright, friendly, articulate and passionate musician whose enthusiasm about his career and craft is contagious. He has very fond memories of working with our friends from Swindon, and is (rightfully) proud of his efforts on the albums. As with all the interviews I've done, I have edited our conversation for clarity and conciseness, eliminating the redundancies that often find their way into spoken conversations, but otherwise this is a pretty faithful record of what for me was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I hope you enjoy it as well.

TB: Let's go back to the beginning. Talk about your background -- when did you get bit by the drumming bug?

PP: I started playing music when I was 8, and my mom bought a piano. She played a bit -- not very well! -- but she did enjoy it, and she wanted me to learn as well. I had a younger sister who was about 3 at the time. So I started piano lessons, and did about two years of piano.

TB: Were you playing classical music?

PP: Yeah -- it was kind of the standard way of teaching kids to play piano. I enjoyed the early piano lessons, but when it got to learning scales, after about a year, I turned off of it completely. I learned a couple of nice tunes, and I enjoyed doing that, but learning the scales -- no, that wasn't for me. That said, I would have continued, I think, but the elderly lady who was teaching me became ill, and she had to stop teaching.

So I quit the piano, and didn't do anymore until I was about 11 -- I'd just started secondary school, and the music teacher there wanted to bring in a professional violinist to teach violin. I put my hand up, and thought I'd have a go -- got myself a violin and played that for about three months and hated it! I couldn't take the sound [laughs]. I think you've got to play a violin for two years before you get anything nice coming out of it.

TB: It's really tough, not having frets.

PP: That's the reason, yeah. So I quit that as well. So I was 11, and I liked music -- I was listening to The Shadows, for example. I had a table-soccer game, called Soccerette, which had two sticks with magnets on the end -- you would put them under the table and move your men around with the magnets. One stick for the red team, and one stick for the blue team.

There was a record released called "Diamonds," by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, and my dad had a friend who'd been stationed abroad in the war. He had a little African drum that he gave to me, so I had this little drum and these two sticks, and this record came on the radio, and I thought, "Wow!" I just played along to it -- it had a drum solo in the middle, and I could play the drum solo! [laughs] How weird is that?

TB: Just right away?

PP: Yeah! Without any coaching at all. And that was it -- I was bitten. I went from the little drum to tins and boxes and anything that sounded like a drum, listening to everything. After a year of that, my mom and dad bought me a really cheap kit -- they didn't have much money, so I think it was hired, originally. And I just could play along with records.

TB: So you started by playing along with records and things that you heard?

PP: Yeah. I didn't any formal tuition for about a year.

TB: Did you have a chance to see any drummers live?

PP: There wasn't much chance in those days. It was really difficult -- I was too young to go into clubs. I remember we had a few pubs locally where bands used to come to play, and I did used to stand outside listening to them, and getting a look at the drum kits, you know -- to see how they were set up. So when I got my first kit, I knew how to set it up -- from looking at guys playing. And there was stuff on TV, though not the kind of Pop programs we have now.

So my dad found me a drum teacher who taught me the rudiments, which I learned really quickly. After about six months, he said, "Well, I've done all that I can do," and suggested a Jazz teacher in the West End called Frank King [an English Jazz drummer so respected by other drummers that Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and Kenny Clare played a tribute concert after he unexpectedly died, creating an album called "Conversations -- A Drum Spectacular"] who taught above a drum shop called Chas Foote's, where all the drummers used to hang out. So I went to him and never looked back -- he showed me everything I know now.

TB: So you really plugged into Jazz at that point.

PP: Yeah. I was playing Jazz, and then I discovered Pop. The world looked brighter to me when I heard "She Loves You." I can remember, it was Saturday afternoon and my dad was taking me to a football match, and it came on the radio. I think everything changed at that point. The color came into my world, you know? [laughs]

TB: Was it the overall song that got you? The melody and vocals and everything as a whole?

PP: It was the difference of it -- it was so different to anything that was around. Those voices, those harmonies, the atmosphere on it. It was amazing. It still is -- I still can't listen to it without feeling that initial buzz.

TB: I can imagine that the rhythm must have gotten to you, too, because that song really drives forward.

PP: It was really sort of American, wasn't it. They'd been in Hamburg, and they'd heard all the American stuff coming over -- the R&B. It was that element in it, I think. Later on, I got heavily into Soul and Reggae and Ska -- I think I liked the black roots of music. I also like Blues -- I still love hearing Leadbelly singing with his guitar. That does something to me. I play that kind of guitar music myself.

TB: I saw on your website that you play guitar -- when did you pick that up?

PP: I was playing drums, and at school I had some friends who were messing about with music. I was friends with a guy who played guitar, and when I used to go around to his house, he'd be strumming his guitar. I swapped him an old guitar he had for a tape recorder; I'd watch him play, then go home and copy him. I learned all the chords on the guitar by watching him, and then going home and practicing [laughs]. So, I'm pretty good at copying!

TB: [laughing] I guess so! It sounds as if you have some gifts that are important to musicians -- a good ear, good memory. You're a singer too, right?

PP: Yeah. But not by choice. [laughs] I've never really wanted to sing, but I've been writing songs seriously for the past 10 years now. I write with my friend Dominic -- he's got a lot of musical equipment. I'm not tech-y at all. I write with a guitar and use the voice recorder on my iPhone. I go to his house, and we put it all down on his machine.

We've tried various singers over the past 10 years, and I've never really thought they got the right delivery, so the past two years I've been trying myself. And getting good at it now!

TB: Is it difficult for you to sing and drum at the same time?

PP: I don't do lead singing when I'm on stage. I love singing harmonies, so when we do Glitter Band gigs, I do harmonies. I don't take any leads. I wouldn't be a singing drummer -- that doesn't appeal to me at all. In fact, even Phil Collins didn't do it -- he came out front. It takes so much energy to play the drums, and then have the breath to sing! It's really difficult. It's like trying to sing while you're running! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] So, when did you get into bands? How did you move from learning to playing with others?

PP: My guitar-player friend would come 'round to my place with his instrument, and I would play piano or drum along. We started a little Soul band. I was 15 at the time, and it was called [dramatically] The Fascination [laughs]. We were doing Soul, we were doing Cream, Blues. It was a good band -- he was a great player, and is still playing today, and teaching. Lives in London. I have to give him a call, actually -- his name is Pete Spencer. Really good friend.

TB: Where were you guys living then?

PP: This was South London -- near Clapham Commons. We used to go out and play weddings and birthday parties…

TB: Just the two of you?

PP: No, it was a five-piece -- guitar, bass, drums, Vox organ and singer. I don't really remember why we stopped. After that, I think I spent quite some time without playing in any bands. I used to respond to ads in Melody Maker, and once went to an Iron Maiden audition. Don't think it was the Iron Maiden who actually made it -- that was before their time, I think -- it was more of a Progressive Rock thing.

But anyway, I didn't get that. I didn't really get anything that I went to audition for. Don't know why -- I had a Donovan audition, as well. So I thought, "This is going nowhere," and I put my own ad in -- "drummer seeking a band," you know. [laughs] This guy rang me up who was running a band called Black -- it was a three-piece, Hendrix/Cream-type sound -- and I met up with them, and we clicked immediately. So that was my next venture. We played some clubs and universities for about a year, I suppose.

TB: Were you supporting yourself with your music at this point?

PP: No, I was working.

TB: What other jobs were you doing at the time?

PP: I was working at the university at the time, in laboratory, as a technician. That was a fairly easy-going job, so if I had a late night, I could get in late and no one would bother, you know. [laughs] Sometimes I was up until 6 in the morning, rehearsing -- I remember we had a week's rehearsal in Eel Pie Island, which was an old venue in the '60s. Interestingly, Pete Townshend lived on the land there. While we were there, I used to hear Townshend playing his guitar. It was quite amazing. A few hundred yards away.

TB: I think he had Eel Pie Studios or something like that nearby -- or maybe his publishing was named that?

PP: That's probably true, yeah. There used to be a hotel, which became unused. It went to wrack and ruin, and during the time we were there, it was taken over by hippies and druggies [laughs]. We had people who would come listen to us play while we were rehearsing -- it was quite surreal, a week of that.

That week I was there, Deep Purple did a show. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is amazing. This is what I want to do. I want to be in a band like that."

But the band I was in came to naught, and I was then looking for a way that I could get into playing regularly. I was 18 or 19 at this point, and I took a job at Ravel Shoes -- I used to print the cards for their shoes and boots. This guy I was working with wanted my job, so he found this other job that paid more. He said, "Hey, there's a great job for you, Pete!" "Oh yeah, more money." I went along for an interview, and got the job, which meant he got my job [laughs].

I went to this other place, and did a week of it. It was in a basement, with no windows, printing these pamphlets. On the Friday, I was going to get paid after lunch, but I thought, "I'm just going to go home. I can't stand it here anymore." So I walked out and went home, and didn't even bother to pick up my pay. When I got home, the phone rang. It was this pianist called Carl Simmons -- he was a Rock-n-Roll pianist, did Jerry Lee Lewis-type stuff. He'd got my number from somebody, and wanted somebody to work seven nights a week with him, at pubs and clubs. I started a week later.

So, if I hadn't have gone home, I wouldn't have had the phone call! How spooky is that? Because, I mean, who goes home without getting their pay? It's crazy, isn't it. But it wasn't like I had to make up my mind about it -- I just had to leave there [laughs].

So, there you go. I was with him for a year, and then I met some guys in Black Velvet, a working Soul band. Did clubs, did some recording, did a single, a couple of other tracks. And when I was with Carl Simmons, we did an album in Majestic Studios, in Clapham -- a whole album in about four hours! [laughs] That's how fast we worked. That was produced by Hal Carter, who later became a really big agent in the UK. He represented Marty Wilde and Billy Fury -- people like that.

I worked with them for a bit -- a year, I suppose -- and then I met Jeff Hanlon, who was an agent, He asked me to work in a band supporting Tamla/Motown acts, who he brought over from the States. His partner, or his boss, was Vic Billings, who managed Dusty Springfield.

I did that for a bit, until I was about 20, I think. Then, the bass player and I joined a band called Heaven, who had a contract with CBS. We were managed by Ricky Farr, who put on the Isle of Wight festival. He was the first person I knew who had a Rolls-Royce. We used to go to gigs in his Rolls! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] That's a sweet ride.

PP: Yeah, it was! It was fun. We did a couple of tracks at CBS Studios in the West End. I had my first Premier kit at that time, and I remember the engineer saying, "That kit sounds so good! Can we buy it off you?" And I said, "No! I like it!" But it did sound fantastic. My first proper kit was a Premier -- and so is the kit that I use now!

TB: I saw in recent pictures that you were playing a Premier kit.

PP: Yeah, it's the best kit I've ever played on. Really, really the best. It's taken me all this time to find a kit that I really love. You know, I've been through loads of kits, different types, and this is the first kit where I can really say, I have the utmost enjoyment playing it. I love setting it up, because I know what's coming. I still don't like breaking them down [laughs], but one day I'll have a roadie. So, I started on Premier, and I have ended up on Premier, so that's pretty amazing, isn't it.

TB: Do you endorse their stuff?

PP: No, I don't. I don't get involved in all that stuff. I'm not really that type of drummer. I think of myself as a band member rather than a solo drummer, you know -- trying to sell myself through endorsements. That doesn't appeal to me. Because, you know, if I want to change tomorrow, I want to be able to, instead of being stuck with equipment, on their paycheck. I don't really fancy that.

So, from that band Heaven, with our CBS deal, I don't know quite what happened -- I got a bit disillusioned, I suppose, and one day I rang Jeff Hanlon up, whom I'd worked with in the Motown band. I said, "I'm not that happy, I feel like a change. Have you got anything?" He said, "As it happens, yes -- I've got an act called Gary Glitter, and we're putting together a band with two drummers." I said, "I know the record" -- a friend of mine in Clapham was an engineer on the studio session. I'd been to a party, and he'd played me the record. So, isn't it funny how the little jigsaw pieces fall into place?

I said to Jeff, "Yeah, that sounds okay. When would I start?" And he said, "Watch 'Top of the Pops' tomorrow -- you start the day after." I said, "What about rehearsal?" He said, "There's no time for rehearsal, you've just got to do it." He knew I could do that, you know. I said, "What's the money, Jeff?" and he said, "It's £25 per week." And I was on $20! I said, "I'll take it." [laughs] I got a rise. And that was it -- June of '72, and I started with Gary.

TB: That's when The Glitter Band pretty much formed, right? From The Glittermen?

PP: We didn't have a name at the time. The band was Gary Glitter. I suppose we got named -- I see the papers of the time, and they did call us The Glittermen, yeah. But it wasn't an official name. We didn't officially title ourselves until 1973, when we broke away from him and became The Glitter Band.

TB: Why did you guys decide to create your own entity, and not just be his backing band?

PP: It wasn't our decision. It was the decision of Mike Leander, who was Gary's manager and producer. Gerry Shephard, the guitarist, wrote songs. John Springate, the bass player, wrote songs. I wrote songs. It's hard to explain or remember how it all came about -- and it's not that we wanted to stop working with him -- but we just wanted to have a go making our own stuff, you know? It wasn't a popular decision -- particularly not with Gary, anyway. But Mike Leander kind of felt that it was a good idea, and so he said, "Here's some studio time, go and put something together and see what you come up with."

We went away and came up with a couple of tracks that he didn't like very much -- he said, "No, there's nothing there. Have another go." And so we came up with Angel Face, which he liked. We worked on that a bit more, and he said, "Yep, that's good enough. We'll record that."

So we went into Mayfair Studios in the West End, recorded that, and another track which became the B-side -- can't remember what it was now -- played it for Bell Records. They liked it, and put it out. And it was a hit! [laughs] We couldn't believe that -- that it could happen -- but it did! So then we were in a position where we had the opportunity not only to make our records, but to tour on our own as well.

So we immediately started promoting the single with TV appearances and tours. And, at one stage, later on, we were putting records out, Gary was putting records out, we were on Top of the Pops almost every week!

TB: That must have been a nice position to be in!

PP: It was fantastic. I was 22, 23, at the time, and I had no commitments. Top of the world.

TB: So tell me about your career after that.

PP: John Springate had opened up a studio in the West End, and I used to do sessions for him,to bring some money in. I was doing bits and pieces there, and also got involved with another band called The Secret, who were Punk-ish. I did a bit with them, and worked a bit with another band called Ex Directory, which was a Jazz-Rock band in the vein of Level 42. There were two brothers in that band who were sons of Don Lusher, a trombonist with the Ted Heath Orchestra, a big orchestra in the UK. So those two were very Jazz-orientated in their songwriting and their vocals. I still meet up with them and do bits and pieces, you know -- they're great players.

I did that, and then Random Hold happened around '79, I think. I answered an advert in NME or Melody Maker, for a new-music band that used tape recorders like Kraftwerk, you know. I thought, "That sounds interesting to me. I'm going to give them a ring." I rang these guys up, Dave Ferguson and Dave Rhodes, and met them in a little studio in Crystal Palace, and I loved it. Every Saturday I used to go and rehearse with them.

They got Polydor interested, but I was doing something else, unfortunately, and couldn't commit to it. They put the band together with other guys, but my thing didn't work out anyway, so they rang me up -- they'd gotten a deal with Hit & Run Management, who were prepared to make an album and pay for tours. I rejoined the band at that stage.

TB: And that was Genesis's management, right?

PP: That's right. We made a double album called The View from Here, and Tony Smith got us on a few tours -- the XTC tour being one of them, in 1980, I guess.

TB: Was that in the US or UK?

PP: It was in the UK. We were doing colleges and universities.

TB: When you were the backing band for XTC, what was it like hanging out with those guys? They were just starting to get really noticed -- "Nigel" would have been a big hit…

PP: Do you know, I can't really remember now! Quite often, we used to have to go on, play and then leave, because we weren't staying in a hotel. They were great, but I can't remember us hanging out at a hotel together at any point.

TB: Did you and Terry interact at all, to talk drums?

PP: No, I don't think so! I really can't remember meeting Terry at all, though that sounds weird.

TB: That is interesting -- you would think, especially if you were playing clubs or colleges, that you guys would be spending time together.

PP: From my experience, when you're a main band, you kind of come and go from hotels -- you don't hang around much at gigs. You have a driver, and they pick you up and bring you to the stage -- you don't set your own gear up. We were setting up our own equipment up, but they wouldn't have done that. They would have had a road crew to do that.

TB: But at the same time, Dave Gregory must have been seeing you guys play -- he was impressed enough with your playing at that point to suggest you as a drummer later on.

PP: When I did get the phone call from them, I was really shocked, because I wasn't like a mate or anything, you know. I was really pleased, of course. At that stage, I'd decided to leave Random Hold, and I was working in a pub five nights a week in a band doing covers. My playing was really good, because I was playing so much! It was great, because I was getting paid for practicing. [laughs] And it was close to home -- only a couple of miles away from where I lived.

Had I done any other big albums at that point? I don't think so. That was probably my first break, album-wise, in a while. I'd done the Liquid Gold singles by then as well, which got to number one -- I'd done the drums on those. I was doing quite a bit of studio work -- John was using me a lot in his studio for sessions.

TB: You had played with Mike Rutherford too at that point, right?

PP: Had I done that album by then?

TB: Acting Very Strange, his second solo album, came out in 1982.

PP: Yes, I had to have done Mike first, because it was the back end of Random Hold, when David [Rhodes] had gone to work with Peter [Gabriel], and the band had folded.

TB: So, it was the Genesis management connection at work.

PP: Yeah, that's right. He got me, and Stewart Copeland as well, for that album.

TB: And Simon Phillips played on his first album, Smallcreep's Day.

PP: Right. Simon probably wanted too much money to do the second one. [laughs]

TB: His playing on that first album is amazing. He's a great drummer.

PP: Yeah, he is. These are the top guys, you know. I'm way down the B-list. [chuckles]

TB: I beg to differ! You must have brought something to the table, if Mike hired you.

PP: Yeah! He said, "You do really good drum fills." It's the musician in me -- I listen to the drums, rather than try to play chops, you know. I hear a song, and I play the drum part that I think the song needs, not what I think I need to do to show off my skills.

TB: And that's the sign of a mature drummer.

PP: Or maybe a limited drummer! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Or a musical drummer! One of the things I love about your playing with XTC is that you do play what's appropriate for the song -- it's interesting that you talked about "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," because, for me, Ringo is the personification of the drummer who does what's just right for the song, and XTC is very much seen as the 1980s/1990s embodiment of the Beatles. Plus, I thought your playing on Mummer and Big Express is very melodic. There are songs, like "In Loving Memory of a Name," where it seems as if you tuned your drums to the key of the song, because your tom choices and the fills that you do fit in melodically as well as rhythmically.

PP: I do tune my drums to be as close to the song as I possibly can. Obviously, with drums, you can't get them exactly right, but you can get them in the right kind of area. But tom-toms don't hold the notes like tympani do, you know. And of course, the way that a drum rings -- it's reverberating with the bass notes as well.

TB: Right -- each drum has its own overtones, as well as the primary tone.

PP: Exactly. I've always been able to tune drums easily. I've never had any problems -- I'd had guys say to me, "How do I tune drums?" My answer is, "Use your ear!" [laughs] There's even an app now for tuning drums! How can you use an app? Either you hear the note, or you don't. I guess that was what was good about me having the musical training early on -- my ear is musically zoning in on that.

So, what you've heard is what I tried to achieve, yeah. I tried to make the drums sing rather than bash.

TB: Although, when the song calls for bashing, you can do that, too! "Funk Pop a Roll" comes to mind.

PP: Or listen to "Human Alchemy" -- we wanted a real dark sound on that, you know. And I think we got it. I've just been listening this morning to the tracks, and the hairs have gone up on the back of my neck in places! It's just so good.

TB: Are there any drummers who you consider big influences on your style?

PP: I was brought up listening to Buddy Rich and Joe Morello and people like that. They were my inspirations. Ringo's playing was also very influential, because of his tom-tom rolls and work -- I follow those musical lines a bit, though the way I play the ride is probably more the way Buddy Rich or Joe Morello would play it. I don't play like a Rock player would.

TB: Yeah, they were always very defined in their use of the ride -- especially Joe Morello.

PP: Yeah. It's Jazz, and once you've played Jazz, I don't think you ever stop playing it! [laughs]

TB: The ability to really listen to the other players and to the song -- that is very much part of the whole Jazz approach -- the give-and-take between players.

PP: Yeah, it's a weaving -- it's interlocking with the other instruments and helping, rather than getting in the way. I mean, I can play Rock and Roll like anybody can, and people often get me in a band because I can play good Rock and Roll. When I played with Allan Merrill in The Cutting Room, in New York, this guitarist came up to me and said, [aggressive American accent] "Pete! You rock, you really rock!" [laughs] And that was a real compliment, you know! I think the Brits can rock -- and we rock in a slightly different way. I don't know how it is, or why that is, but there is a difference.

TB: That's very funny you say that, because I've often heard people talk about how British drummers hang back and play a little bit behind the beat…

PP: Yep! We do. We definitely do. I've watched in digital recording systems where the beats come, and they're definitely after the beat. Quite remarkably so, actually -- I can hear players who play in front of the beat, and it's like fingernails on a blackboard! It really annoys me when the drums are in front of the beat -- I love the drums "hanging on."

TB: Right -- you get a looser feel.

PP: I guess so, yeah. It feels right to me. And the other way feels wrong. It's horses for courses, isn't it -- for Thrash Metal, you've got to be right on it. You can't be a Jazz player in Thrash Metal! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Unless you want to create a new genre!

PP: [laughing] Jazz Metal!

TB: Let's talk about Mummer, then. When they gave you the call, was it simply because they had played with you and liked you, or did they say other things about why they chose you in particular?

PP: They said they liked the way I played. I can't remember exactly what the conversation was, but that was the gist of it. They said Terry was leaving -- or that he'd left, he'd put down his sticks and said farewell -- and they needed somebody urgently to fulfill the recording commitment that they had at The Manor. I think we had about six weeks -- it could have been less, but I recall six weeks being about what we had to rehearse and record.

TB: When you and I talked earlier, you said that you did rehearse quite intensively for the album.

PP: I also had to work as well -- so, I was rehearsing with them during the day, and then playing during the evening. I was working quite hard, but fortunately traveling back and forth by train, so I was able to fall asleep coming back [chuckles] and feel refreshed, you know. I think we were doing about three days a week -- Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays -- something like that.

TB: Did you have demos to work from? I've heard some demos from that time period, but they seem very primitive.

PP: I think I got demos for The Big Express, but I didn't have demos for Mummer. But two tracks were already recorded -- "Beating of Hearts" and "Wonderland." So, I had heard those. For me, "Beating of Hearts" is my favorite track of all. I wish I'd played on that.

TB: Really? What makes that your favorite track?

PP: The movement of it. The big jumps in Andy's vocals. There's just something about that track -- I loved it when I heard it, and that must have had some impact on me, to want to do the project. Because it wasn't going to be an easy project -- it was going to be tough, and I knew that. But at no point was it not fun. [laughs] Andy's one of the funniest guys I've ever met. When things are tough, he just used to crack me up. I used to be choking at dinner sometimes. He's just got a humorous bone in him, doesn't he?

TB: [laughing] He really does. He's a very witty man.

PP: Yeah. Lovely to be around. So, I'd get on the train and go to the rehearsal place -- whether it was the church or the music shop, I can't remember. Probably the church for Mummer.

TB: And that was in Swindon?

PP: Yeah. I'm pretty sure it was the church hall for Mummer, because I remember I walked in there, and they still had Terry's sticks. And I must have been using his kit, because I wasn't using mine.

TB: And didn't you guys record a video for "Beating of Hearts"?

PP: Yes, I did! I'd completely forgotten about it. We must have done it in the studio while we were recording the album. But I don't have any recollection of anyone coming in with a camera -- that's how hard we were working. It probably got in the way of our recording, actually.

TB: And you just mimed to Terry's part, right?

PP: I just mimed, yeah. Although, looking at it now, I think, "Oh, if only I'd had a chance to play that!" What a great song. I thought it should have been put out as a single, but I think they put out "Wonderland" instead.

My very first track on the album is "Love on a Farmboy's Wages." I don't think it was the first one we recorded though -- it'd be interesting to know the order of the recording. We might have started with "Jump," I think? Perhaps the easier ones were the first ones we did -- the drum sound is slightly different on those, too. The drum sound got heavier as we recorded.

"Farmboy's Wages" was a change, because I used beaters on that.

TB: I wanted to ask about that. The drums have this dead, but also very tuned, sound. The decay is very fast. Did you do overdubs at all?

PP: I played it live. I played a Sonor Sonor-Phonic drum kit, with single heads. The whole album was done on single-headed drums -- I didn't use any double-headed drums at all. Big Express was done with a Yamaha double-headed kit. On this song, I was using beaters, and I also had a roto-tom, which I used to play the stabs in the bridges.

It was in the church hallroom, and we rehearsed that piece pretty much how it went on the album, though we did change the tom pattern. I remember Andy saying, "I don't think this is working," with the pattern that we had been using. He wanted to change it slightly.

TB: In a situation like that, did he kind of dictate what he wanted, or would you and he work together to find what was appropriate?

PP: He wanted it, but it was difficult to find. I just couldn't hear it like he was hearing it. I had to write it all down to get exactly the right beat that he wanted. What I was playing was probably a little more traditional, and he wanted the beats later. Once I started playing that, it really started to happen.

But overall, when we rehearsed the songs, I'd come up with the patterns and the rhythm, and then he would say, "Can we maybe go in this area." It was my interpretation, but he would fine-tune it. I was happy about that, because after all, they're his songs. We didn't have any arguments -- I didn't storm out in any huffs, you know. [laughs] I may have got a little bit frustrated if I couldn't do something.

TB: Once you got that new pattern, was it relatively easy for you to play?

PP: Yeah! We didn't do any more than three takes on any of the songs.

TB: It's an interesting mix of drums. You're currently playing a five-piece kit, but you must have had a bigger kit back then, with more toms.

PP: Yes, for "Farmboy's Wages," we may have actually got some extra toms in, now that you mention it. I think that Steve Nye, the producer, wanted some extra stuff.

TB: Certainly, in some of the other songs, like "Great Fire" or "In Loving Memory of a Name," you have these great runs where it sounds like a lot of toms.

PP: I had a big kit -- I had about six toms, but I didn't always use all of them, you know. But I might have done.

TB: And it sounds as if you had an interesting assortment of cymbals, too -- you had your basic ride and crashes, but it also sounds as if you had several splashes, and at least one china.

PP: I had a splash, there was a china -- yeah. I normally use a 22-inch ride, and 16-, 18- and 20-inch crashes.

TB: Are you partial to any cymbal manufacturer?

PP: I use mainly Zildjian now, but at that point I may have been using Paiste. The reason I used Paiste is because when I was with Gary, we used to hit the drums and cymbals so hard, and there were so many gigs, that the Zildjian cymbals used to split quite quickly. Once you get a split in a Zildjian, it goes around the groove, and it sounds quite awful quite quickly. But with a Paiste, you can get away with a little split -- it splits from the edge in, from the edge to the middle, and you can use them a lot longer, with less noticeable loss of sound. Of course, these days, I can't hit the drums like I used to! [laughs] I'm using the same cymbals now that I've had for about 10 years. Touch wood. [laughs] But I do look after them. I'm pretty OCD about using felts with them -- if anybody loses my felts, I go absolutely ballistic. [chuckles]

TB: Well, it's a big investment -- cymbals are not cheap.

PP: And they're all different. Once you've got a cymbal that you like, you can't always get the same one again.

TB: That's right -- even if you're looking at the same size, weight and model, they can sound different from cymbal to cymbal.

PP: There's a slight change, yeah. Now, I've got a 16-inch Zildjian dark crash, a 17-inch Zildjian Projection crash, a 17-inch Paiste crash, an 18-inch Sabian, and a 22-inch Zildjian Custom A. And 14-inch Paiste Sound-Edge hi-hats.

TB: Those hi-hats are great. Very bright, with a good "chick" to them.

PP: I've never used anything else, really.

TB: Let's talk about "Great Fire," which comes next on the album. Andy's called that a "donkey waltz" -- the verse is in three, yet the chorus and bridge are in four.

PP: We wanted to make it a little animal-like, elephant-like -- you know, sort of Jungle Book-ish.

TB: This song makes me wonder if you did some overdubbing, because there's that firebell doing the eighth notes…

PP: I didn't put that on, I don't think.

TB: So, there were some percussion overdubs, but you didn't do them?

PP: I don't think so. The verse is all drums, and then in the chorus I used hi-hats. But there are no cymbals during the verses. I don't remember doing any overdubs.

TB: And, like you said, three takes maximum on each song.

PP: Yeah, pretty much! It might have been four on one or two [laughs]. Let me put the song on here and give it a listen. [plays song] Lovely, isn't it.

TB: It really is. One of my favorite songs by him. When you were recording your tracks with the band, what were they doing with you?

PP: Moaning! [laughs] Actually, we'd play all together -- all the tracks were laid down for Mummer, in the studio, all playing at the same time.

TB: So, really, in a band-type setting.

PP: I think Dave and Colin later replaced some of their parts. We were going for the basic drum tracks. After we'd gotten the drums for a track down, they'd do a little bit of work on it, with bass and guitar, before we went on to the next one. So we weren't just knocking out drum tracks all the time.

TB: Sure. To give it a little bit of variety.

PP: Yes, and to make it a bit more organic -- let everything grow from the same place. I remember having some days off where I could go for walks along the canals -- it was very pleasant.

TB: I guess the area around The Manor is quite nice.

PP: It's really, really nice -- very relaxing, and a lovely place to record. I enjoyed it so much -- I was really sad when I had to go.

So, we kind of put everything down as we had rehearsed it. We probably could have recorded the album in a week, had we just played the songs! We all knew it very well. But it wasn't like that -- there was more care involved, you know. We weren't rushed, so we didn't need to push beyond our limits.

TB: When you heard the finished album, were you surprised by anything? Had they done a lot of post-production work, or added instruments you didn't know about?

PP: I'm one of these people that hates to hear what they've just done, because I beat myself up -- "Oh, no, I shouldn't have done that! That should be different." So, it's painful for me to listen to it. When it was finished, I didn't want to hear it.

TB: So you had to let some time pass?

PP: I had to let a lot of time pass! [laughs] I love the tracks now.

TB: And you don't beat yourself up anymore, I hope! I think your drumming is fantastic on the album.

PP: Well, thank you. Everybody says they love the album. I listen to it now, and it is lovely, but I couldn't be objective after we'd recorded it. I just couldn't -- I go into decline after an album.

TB: I can understand that. You put a lot of effort into something, and then it's over and gone, and you have to find the next thing to move on to.

PP: And I'm a bit of a perfectionist. When a project is finished, I then get better ideas! [laughs] If you listen to film directors in interviews, they say the same thing -- if they knew at the time what they knew now, they'd have done things differently. I think maybe we're all like that.

TB: I think that's one reason why some bands will get songs out on the road and play them live before recording them. It gives them a chance to try out different versions and test the audience response.

PP: Yeah -- that's certainly a good idea.

TB: One of the reasons I was asking you about whether or not there was anything that surprised you on Mummer is because of the next song, "Deliver Us from the Elements." There are a lot of synthesizers, a Mellotron and a whole bunch of stuff that probably wouldn't have been on the tracks when you were recording it -- I thought that they probably added it later. Was that the case, or did you know that there was going to be this wash of synths?

PP: We didn't have the Mellotron in the rehearsal room, but I can recall those sounds being put on later on, after we'd done the drum tracks. I didn't usually hang out in the studio, since it was crowded enough as it was, so when I'd got my drum tracks down, I'd disappear and let them build on those tracks.

TB: I remember thinking, when Mummer and Big Express came out, that XTC was really starting to carve out a niche that I called "Prog Pop." A song like "Deliver Us from the Elements" is a great example of that, because, even though it's still a three-and-a-half minute Pop song, it's got all this other stuff going on that is closer to Psychedelia and Progressive Rock. Were you conscious of that at all while you were doing it? Did you think, "Wow, this is really different, and I haven't heard anything like this before"?

PP: I was really pleased that, when I met the guys, they said, "Look, just do whatever you want. Feel free to play whatever comes into your hands." That, to me, really is good, because it means I can mess around and do anything I want to. And I love toms! I love tom rhythms. I think that if you can build a song without resorting to the usual bass, hi-hat and snare patterns, then you're moving forward somewhere -- moving off the blueprint. I love doing that. That's what Random Hold were trying to do. And I was still in that phase, I guess.

Drumming seems to have gone back to hi-hat, snare and bass again. That was what was different about Gary Glitter -- there weren't any hi-hats. It was all tom-toms.

TB: That tribal thing.

PP: Yeah! And it was lovely. I mean, when I play straight Rock and Roll, I have to play hi-hat, snare and bass, and of course it sounds right, but we were making a new sound, and it was exciting. I wanted it to be as different as it possibly could be -- without being too off-the-wall, where people say, "Oh, that sounds wrong." So, when I listen to that now, it sounds absolutely right to me. But is that because we're used to it now? I don't know.

It certainly felt right at the time, when we were playing. Colin and I played well together, I thought.

TB: He's one of my favorite bass players, and I wanted to ask you how the two of you got along. He's a very melodic player.

PP: Yes, he is. His playing would have inspired me to do that. And we got along well -- he used to meet me at the train station, and we would walk to the studio, and we had good conversations. I can't remember what they were now, but I remember they were fun! [laughs]

TB: That's nice to hear, because Colin had played with Terry for something like 10 years at that point, and I was wondering what it was like for you being the "new kid." They made you feel very comfortable?

PP: Yeah, absolutely. Really comfortable. I think they enjoyed playing with somebody different.

TB: Having a bit of a change.

PP: Yeah. I don't think it was, "We're glad that Terry's gone." Instead, I think they thought, "We're glad that there's somebody here, and we can go in a different direction." I always felt that, when I was playing, they appreciated it. There was never any, "That's rubbish -- surely you can do better than that!" They were really nice. Everybody works better when they're appreciated, don't they?

TB: Of course! And I think you're probably a more versatile player than Terry was. Terry had his style -- and he was very, very good at it -- but I know, for example, that Andy was so impressed that you could play something like "Funk Pop a Roll" and "Ladybird" -- that the same player could cover that range.

PP: You see, I was brought up playing brushes -- it's the Jazz tuition, you know. That said, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've actually used brushes on a gig [chuckling] or in the studio -- that's probably the only time I ever have! [laughs] And, so, I made it up. It was jazzy, but it wasn't Jazz. It was folky, really -- it's a Folk song that we jazzed up. I listen to it now and I like what I played, but I probably hated it at the time! If I'd played that song for a few months, I may have changed it, but listening to it now, I like what I did. Probably couldn't have done it any different at the time. It works -- the whole album works.

TB: And there's something to be said for the spark that comes along with spontaneity, for having things be fresh -- I think sometimes you can overwork something and squeeze all the life out of it.

PP: Sure. I can't work like that. I've seen film of the Rolling Stones doing take 50 of one of their tracks. I'd be out of there after 10! I'd leave the band! How Charlie Watts could sit for 50 takes -- it's unbelievable. But it works -- obviously Keith Richards knows what he wants! He knows he hasn't got it until he has got it. But I don't think I could stay that course.

If it's going to take you 50 takes to get a drum track down, how long is it going to take you to make the album? If you've then got to do another 50 takes for the bass, or 50 takes for the guitar? I mean, maybe Keith is saying, I want everything to be perfect. Andy was always happy with our second or third, or sometimes even our first take! You'd have to run that past him, but I don't think we ever did more than four.

TB: We were talking about your use of toms before, and that's a good way of getting back into the next song, which is "Human Alchemy" and which you talked about a little bit. I want to step back, because you had talked about how you were fascinated with Reggae and Dub, and that definitely shows on "Human Alchemy."

PP: I'm really hitting the offbeat there.

TB: And hitting hard, too.

PP: Yeah. I can remember thinking of what it would be like to be on a boat, you know, and you're giving the timing to the oarsman. A big Viking boat -- that kind of thing. it's oppressive.

TB: Is this the kind of stuff that you guys would talk about beforehand?

PP: No, it's just the images that I was conjuring up to get that feel. I was looking for that darkness, you know, and a little bit of fear.

TB: Did you use any special drums for this particular song?

PP: No, same kit. They might well have, in the mixing stage, EQ'd things differently.

TB: Yeah, to make it bigger and give it more headroom.

PP: [listens to song] It does make you think of a big boat, with oars and men pulling on the water.

TB: I love the accents and stuff you throw in here -- it's just great.

PP: Yeah, I'm not playing a set pattern; I'm changing it. It's a snare drum with the snares off, as well.

TB: So that's another tom, basically.

PP: Yep. That first hit is the snare, then the toms after that.

TB: "Ladybird," the next song after that, is very different, of course. As I said, Andy says that's a great example of your versatility -- he felt that was so freeing for them, since essentially they had been writing for Terry up to that point, but now he knew he could do more, since you could play multiple styles. One of the things about "Ladybird" that really struck me is that Colin's bass has this tuba-like quality to it. I guess it's the Epiphone that he plays -- he had this damper setting that made it sound like a fretless bass -- but were you playing off his playing? You had said that you tracked the songs together.

PP: Let me just listen to the bass. [listens to song] Lovely sound. When we were rehearsing, he was probably getting a sound like that. Yeah -- I love it. No cymbals on that, either.

TB: There's your high hat, and that's about it, isn't it.

PP: Is there high hat?

TB: Certainly on the bridge -- [sings] "And as you're walking past…"

PP: Oh yeah.

TB: And maybe you hit the ride once or twice, but there are certainly no crashes.

PP: I was just trying to make the track fly, you know -- light and delicate. That's quite hard to do that when you've got a snare. I was using brushes, of course, but I wasn't using brushes like a Jazz player would -- I was kind of using them more like a tympani player would.

TB: So, by that, you mean you weren't "stirring the soup"?

PP: No, that's right. I was trying to pull the beats out, rather than trying to push them in. You know, making those light taps -- making them dance, rather than sit flat.

TB: So, from there you go to "In Loving Memory of a Name." That song is also very tom-oriented. As I said earlier, that was one of the songs that made me wonder if you actually tune your drum set to match the key of the song, and you said yes, you do.

PP: Yeah, I tune the drums for every track, so there was a correspondence to what we were playing.

TB: I love your drum patterns on the "England will never forget you" part. How did you come up with that?

PP: It's hard for me to remember, really! I know I put the first offbeat on the tom, and did that with the left hand and followed it with the right hand. It's very straightforward really, but it does sound a bit odd, doesn't it.

TB: And I love the roll at the end.

PP: Oh yeah, that's nice, isn't it? I'd forgotten I'd done that. [laughs] That's a bit Phil Collins, isn't it?

TB: A little bit! And you said you were playing single-head toms, just like he did…

PP: Maybe I was a little bit influenced by that break [from "In the Air Tonight"]. I mean, you hear these things, and they can come out. I wouldn't have pinched it -- I never pinch things. But things make their way into the unconscious, don't they.

TB: The next song, "Me and the Wind," is also very tom-oriented. You obviously tuned your kit to go along with the music there.

PP: Yeah. Plus, I was using snare with the snare off. I think I was going for a sort of Egyptian feel. [listens to song]

TB: Are you playing a cowbell, too, or was that added later?

PP: Yeah, I was playing that.

TB: The drums sound great on this song, too -- nice and big. Dave's doing a piano pulse, Andy's doing some pulling pattern on guitar, and Colin's bass is just insane here. Really great.

PP: It's relentless, isn't it? It's urgent. It's the elements again. Then the chorus sections are more accepting.

TB: Right. And the bridge is like that, as well.

PP: The verses have this feeling of being hustled and tossed around. Then you hit the bridge, and it feels like you're able to accept what's happened to you.

TB: That's a good way of putting it.

PP: I love the changes in this song. It builds up tensions, then releases it, then goes back into that chaos. It's lovely.

TB: If you were playing with the snare off on your snare drum, were you turning it on for the choruses and bridge, or did you play those parts separately and edit them in later?

PP: I don't know! That's an interesting point. Maybe it wasn't the snare, then. Maybe it was a high tom -- listening to it now, I can hear that there was no time to put the snare back on.

TB: So, you go from this song to the most aggressive song on the album, which is "Funk Pop a Roll."

PP: I still can't work out the break. [laughs]

TB: The intro?

PP: Yeah.

TB: [laughing] You would think that you, of all people, would know it…!

PP: Yeah, but I just made it up on the spot! I've got no idea where the "one" is! [laughs] I don't know what I was thinking, so I can't count it -- I could never do it again.

TB: [laughs, vocally demonstrates the break for the guy who created it] That's the way it goes. I've played along with it so many times that I've internalized it!

PP: [laughing] Really?

TB: Yep! Amazing that you just made it up on the spot.

This is a really bitter song, obviously, about his experience with the music industry. Did he just say, "Play angry and loud," or did he ask for something else?

PP: It's hard to remember.

TB: This is the song on the album that most makes me think of Terry. It fits his style perfectly.

PP: Yeah. This could have been the first track we recorded, actually! I think we were all angry with the industry, really -- angry that we'd been taken advantage of, angry that we'd been left in the position we were in.

TB: So you'd had your share of disappointments by this time in your career?

PP: Definitely. But I was also enjoying the freedom that came with cutting loose from all that stuff -- cutting loose from the managers, cutting loose from the agents and the record companies, and just working with musicians -- which is really what you want to do, isn't it?

I think we all had the same feelings about the business -- I remember Colin and I used to agree on almost everything we spoke about. Obviously, they'd been through a lot of bad stuff, as had I -- but probably more than they had, because I'm older than them.

But I also had a lot of experience with the playing, and I enjoy the red [recording] light going on. I like that.

TB: So you enjoy the pressure.

PP: Yeah. I love it.

TB: That's interesting to hear. I've talked to people, including Andy, about how they'll sometimes trick drummers or other musicians, because they'll freeze up when they see the red light go on. So, sometimes they'll just say, "Oh, let's just rehearse this track, keep things loose, get some levels." But you don't have that problem -- you're more like, "C'mon, bring it."

PP: Touch wood, I don't suffer from that, no. When the red light goes on, I get a dose of adrenaline, and I feel like I'm flying. It's amazing -- it's the best feeling in the world. But it's pretty crappy afterwards, coming down! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Like any drug -- the come-down is the hard part.

PP: Yeah, and you just want your next hit. Once I've done an album, I'm exhausted. I've used up all my adrenaline, and I just run from there. I need to get into a park or something.

TB: That's when the Tai Chi comes in handy too, I bet.

PP: Yeah. Of course, I was practicing it during the mornings before the sessions. Dave used to go for walks to clear his mind -- I don't know what Andy and Colin did. Probably playing guitar.

TB: I know when Andy used to have a dog, he used to love taking it on walks, and he said he got a lot of creative ideas during those walks.

PP: Yeah. From what I knew, Dave was the walker, while I did my Tai Chi. Don't think I was jogging at that point.

You've got to be mentally right to record. You can't go in in pain, or carrying any worry. You've got to leave that outside. I was going through a pretty crappy relationship breakup at that point, and most of the time I was feeling pretty shitty away from the studio -- in fact, the studio was my deliverance, really.

TB: A refuge.

PP: It was! And I think when I'm playing those angry tracks, I was able to put a lot into them. I can hear it.

Doing the album was very therapeutic for me at that time. And it brought the girlfriend back, too! [laughs]

I was going through a pretty non-creative phase -- I was doing that five-evenings-a-week job, and was feeling pretty lousy. I wasn't doing anything challenging at all, so doing this album was wonderful for me. It gave me the opportunity to be creative again, and not just turn out music to earn a living.

TB: That makes a huge difference.

PP: And in between the two XTC albums was the album I did with the Eurythmics, so I had my career rebooted, really -- from going nowhere to having direction again.

At one point, XTC talked about me joining the band. I remember we had a photo session.

TB: Why didn't that come to pass?

PP: I don't know. We talked about it, and then we just didn't talk about it anymore. They probably thought, "We don't want this guy in the band." [laughs] They might have been thinking if they went back on the road, and they needed a drummer, then I'd be the guy. But I think Andy was sure he didn't want to go on the road again, so there was no point in having me in the band if they weren't going to play live. But it did come up in conversation. And if I'm wrong on that, then my memory's really bad! [laughs]

TB: There were three B-sides on Mummer that involved you on drums -- "Jump," "Gold" and "Desert Island." I guess my first question about the three songs in total is, when you were recording them, did you know they were going to be B-sides, or did you just record a whole lot of songs, thinking they would all be on the album, and it would be up to the record company to choose?

PP: That decision was made later. Andy and the guys just had the songs, and we worked them -- there was no plan for any releases. I don't recall that ever being spoken about. There was no hierarchy of songs. We worked through the list, and as far as I was concerned, each song was as important as the last one.

TB: Let's talk about "Jump." There's a very interesting mix of styles in this song. Lots of side-stick, a bit of a Reggae pattern…

PP: It's a bit Stewart Copeland-ish, isn't it. A bit lighter than him.

I was listening to Reggae and Ska back in '66, '67. I come from South London, just a stone's throw from Brixton, so a lot of my friends were getting imports from Jamaica. And the Ram Jam Club was just five minutes down the road from me. That's the club I was going to when I was 16, watching Reggae artists and Ska bands -- Desmond Dekker and The Maytals. So, I was heavily into Reggae at that age.

TB: So, it's pretty easy for you, then -- to call this kind of stuff up.

PP: Oh yeah. I've never played in any Reggae bands. I've played in some Soul bands, but I've got a memory! If I listen to something, I can play it. [laughs] If I've heard it in the past, I don't forget it -- which is lucky.

TB: Does it help you to watch drummers as you're learning?

PP: I do it by listening, really. Although, if there's something highly technical, and you can't hear it, then watching it helps. But I can usually work it out just by hearing what's going on.

I think I probably was influenced at that time by Stewart Copeland. I was heavily into The Police when they started out.

TB: And, of course, XTC had toured with them.

PP: Had they?

TB: Yeah, they opened up for The Police.

PP: Andy should have gotten Stewart to come and do some tracks! [laughs] That would have been good.

TB: [laughing] They didn't need to! They had you.

PP: Yeah, yeah. [chuckles] But when I heard the first Police album, I remember thinking, "This is the future. This is how it should be -- just get in there, play it, put it out." No fancy mixing, just get the guys who can play -- and boy, they could! It didn't need anything sprinkled on it. Everything was there, wasn't it, and ready to go.

TB: Let's talk about "Gold." The thing I like about this is that you have almost a marching-band/circus style going on, during the verses anyway, then you have a very cool pattern that skips along right before the chorus…

PP: [listens to song] It's a very Soul feel, I think.

TB: I guess I can see what you mean -- the whole "Baby Love" thing, where the snare drives the song forward…

PP: Yeah. I mean, I do that a lot when I'm playing -- fours on the snare. It really moves the track along, sometimes. Nice snare drum sound on the song as well!

TB: I also like the pattern and rolls you play during the bridge -- "And all the pebbles in your shoes are precious stones…" One reason I've always liked this song is because it seems as if it would be a fun song for everyone to play -- certainly for the drummer.

PP: It was good fun, yes. As for the bridge, I've always liked doing a half-time fill in songs. Helps me build back up to the fours again, too. You've almost got two songs going on there.

TB: The last B-side you recorded during Mummer was "Desert Island." It'd be interesting to talk about your kit on this, because you've got that same kind of dead-tom sound you used on "Farmboy's Wages."

PP: [listens to song] That's definitely a snare drum with the snares off. This hearkens back to my Jazz tradition, Mambos, Samba, things like that.

TB: And again, you're focusing on the toms and approaching the kit very melodically.

PP: [listening to song] It's a good band, isn't it? [laughs] I would have loved to have played live with them. Definitely.

TB: It's too bad it didn't come to pass. But at the same time, having talked at length with Andy about this, and about all they'd gone through, you can understand his decision to want to step away from it all. They were really getting ground down, and getting screwed. The strange thing is, they didn't even realize how badly they were getting screwed until they cancelled the English Settlement tour, and were suddenly being sued by various promoters around the U.S., which is what forced the band to really look at their finances. That's when they discovered that their manager had been stealing from them. He'd been double-charging them and playing all sorts of tricks, while paying them a very small salary and saying, "Don't worry your heads with the business side of things -- you just make the music."

PP: I was talking to a friend of mine today about some management for the Glitter Band. I know the chap he was talking about, and I said to him, "In principal, that'd be absolutely great -- but there's no way I'm working for him." [laughs] That comes from something that I remember Annie Lennox saying: "Pete, the problem you had was that you were working for your manager! My manager works for me!" [laughs] So, I won't do that again. But that's what happens to young bands.

TB: Oh, sure, because you want it so much.

PP: Yeah, when you're young, you don't worry about making money -- you just want to get out and do what you do. But, as somebody said to me just a few days ago, "It's the best business to be in if you're a crook! Because you're working with people who haven't got a clue." Unfortunately, that's mostly true.

TB: That's been one of the good things about the Internet, I think -- so many musicians have now been put in the position of pushing their own music and handling their own business affairs that at least they're forced to have a passing knowledge of what to do. It's not the old model anymore, where you got signed, got advances, and lived on money borrowed from yourself.

PP: Yes, how this works is fairly available to everybody now. It was an esoteric business back in the '60s and '70s -- you know, it was a closed shop -- but now, most of that knowledge is available to everybody. That still doesn't mean you get pails of money that is owed you -- there is a long paper trail that goes around the world, from America to the UK, through Europe and Scandinavia, et cetera -- all kinds of loopholes, companies buying their own product, and all that.

TB: Speaking of business, you finished recording Mummer, then what happened? When did you get the call to do Big Express?

PP: After we finished Mummer, I left to work with the Eurthythmics, probably by the fall of 1983. We did several tours, recorded the Touch album, did two or three Top of the Pops appearances -- so I was very busy. In America, when we were in Denver, at a hotel, I met Fish from Marillion at the bar. He'd heard my work with Random Hold, and said [frantic voice], "I've been trying to get a hold of you for years and years, to work with us!" I said, "I couldn't be that hard to find!", but he said, "You were!" He said, "C'mon, come work with us." I said, "No, I'm happy with the Eurthymics, but thanks."

TB: So, he was looking for a real time commitment from you?

PP: He just said, "I want you in the band, will you come play with us when you get back to the UK?" I said, "No, I'm happy with what I'm doing. I don't want to change from this."

TB: Sure. You had a gig -- a good gig.

PP: Yeah, I was enjoying it. But when I got back to the UK, I kept getting phone calls from him. I kept saying no, but he was very persistent, and in the end, I said, "Alright, I'll come by."

I went along, and we set up, and it was a complete disaster -- I didn't know any of their stuff. I'd never really heard their albums, and it didn't work at all. But I think Fish just wanted to make sure that he wasn't missing out on something, you know. But I never would have been right for a band like that. I'm not really Prog Rock.

TB: Why do you say that?

PP: I don't know! I think I like songs too much. I like simple music, really -- I don't like grand arrangements. I like something that goes straight to the heart, not that you have to unravel in your head. I was a fan of Yes, and I'd suppose you'd say they were prime Prog Rock, weren't they?

TB: Certainly after their first couple of albums.

PP: Bruford's drumming is soulful.

TB: It's fantastic. He's one of my favorites. He's also a great example of someone who loves Jazz, and who approaches the drums melodically.

PP: That's why I like Yes -- because of his drumming.

TB: I'm really a fan of the band during the time he was with them. How about early Genesis, with Collins and Gabriel?

PP: Well, yeah. Phil Collins -- great drummer. I mean, not being boastful, but I think I'm pretty similar to Phil Collins.

TB: I can see that.

PP: We're similar age, and come from the same place. I hear a lot of Soul in his playing, too. I think he likes Soul.

TB: He definitely does.

PP: So, we might have had similar tastes, you know. I was in a band with Steve Hackett. I was 17, he was a little bit older than me. I lived in Clapham, South London, and he lived in Victoria. We were introduced, and he was the best guitarist I knew. So we started a band together called Steel Pier, which was Prog Rock. And we rehearsed for, I don't know, six months or a year.

TB: Did anything ever come of it?

PP: Never played a gig. We didn't do one show, but it was great rehearsing once or twice a week. That would have been around 1970, I suppose.

TB: Interesting -- right before he joined Genesis.

PP: Yeah, that's true. In fact, I rang him up, and said, "Hey Steve, what are you doing? I'm looking for a band." He said, "I've just joined one, called Genesis." And I said, "They don't need a drummer, do they?" He said, "No, they've got a good one." [laughs]

TB: [laughing] You were that close.

PP: Yeah! And a few months later, I was with Gary Glitter. Should I have taken that job? Musically, the Glitter gig wasn't very challenging. But it was exciting. I knew it wasn't going to test me musically, but I thought, "How many people get a chance at that kind of success?" I figured, well, if I turn it down, I might never know what success could be like. So that's why I took it.

But you do get stigmatized whenever you're in a Pop band. You get labeled. But one thing Annie Lennox did say, when I went to meet them for the first time -- she asked, "Who've you been with?" and I said, "Oh, I was with Gary Glitter." "Really? Great! You're in the band." She wouldn't say that now!! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] No! Very few people would.

PP: How funny. So, when I finished with the Eurhythmics, I immediately got the call -- I can't remember who rang me now, it could have been Andy or Dave -- and they said, "We're doing another album. Are you interested?" I said, "Absolutely, I'm interested! In fact, it's ideal timing, because I've just finished with the Eurhythmics." So, I headed to Swindon.

TB: To rehearse?

PP: To rehearse, yeah.

TB: Did you do as much rehearsing on this one as you did with Mummer?

PP: About three weeks, I think.

TB: And you had demos for this one, yes?

PP: I think I had a few demos, yeah. Andy sent some cassettes. And we knew each other -- we'd played together, so we didn't need as much rehearsing as before. It went really quickly, and really well.

TB: You recorded in Bath, at David Lord's studio?

PP: David Lord's, yeah.

TB: What was it like working with him?

PP: I enjoyed it. I liked him. He's a nice guy, he's intelligent, he's got good ears, he knew his studio inside-out, he knew where to get the best drum sounds. The only problem was that the drums were downstairs, I think, while the studio was upstairs. So, after a take, it would take ages to get upstairs to listen back. Then, once you're up there, you don't want to go down again! [laughs] And there's kind of a feeling of disassociation when you're in a little brick room.

TB: There was no visual contact between you and the other band members?

PP: They could see me, but I couldn't see them.

TB: That must have been strange for you.

PP: Yeah. I could hear them, of course. It was kind of strange. In fact, when I was doing "Shake You Donkey Up," there was a lot of giggling and laughing coming from the control room. I wondered, "What are they laughing at? This is serious stuff." And after I'd done it, and gone upstairs, I saw that on the TV screen they were using to watch me they'd drawn donkey's ears on me! [laughs] So while I was playing, I looked like a donkey playing, of course.

TB: [laughing] That sounds exactly like something Andy would do.

PP: The drummer's always the butt of jokes! [laughs] I'm glad they weren't laughing at my playing, anyway!

TB: [laughing] Exactly. So, how'd you like the location? Bath is a beautiful town.

PP: Yeah, it's a wonderful place. It was just glorious to be there. Obviously different from doing Mummer, because with that one we were locked away in the countryside. In many ways, there are more distractions when you're in a town -- people coming by the studio, and such. It's more open. I think I remember the Stranglers coming by at one point, to check out the studio.

So, yeah -- it was different. But enjoyable. Different sounds -- the drums are more live on this album.

TB: Talk to me about the kit you used on this album. You said before you used double-sided toms.

PP: Yeah. It was a Yamaha kit. Usual sizes, but with double heads on. I really enjoyed the kit -- I don't know how we got it, actually. It wasn't my kit, I think it just happened to be in David's studio, or maybe we hired them. But it was a gorgeous kit -- it sounded lovely.

TB: It sounds as if, again, you have quite a few toms, because if you listen to a song like "Train Running Low," you're doing these very extensive rolls.

PP: I think it was maybe the same, though -- maybe three toms on top, and a floor tom. I can't absolutely remember, though.

TB: Let's jump into the songs, then. "Wake Up" is the album opener -- people like to talk about the use of the Linn Drum on The Big Express, but this one's you, and Andy even cites it as a great example of your very precise approach to the kit. At the end, are you playing overdubs? There are lots of toms, lots of rolls going on.

PP: No, that wasn't overdubbed. I played that.

TB: So, that was all live in a single take?

PP: Yeah!

TB: Can you talk a little bit about what you're doing there?

PP: [listens to song] I know there's a single bass drum -- I wasn't using double bass drums at that point. It's all playable.

TB: When you were tracking this song, how much were you hearing? There are lots of overdubs from other instruments -- keyboards, vocals, et cetera.

PP: When we tracked this, Colin was probably playing the root note, and there were guitars going on throughout. It is possible that Dave was putting the keyboards on at the same time.

The verses to this song are kind of funky, aren't they?

TB: Yeah, that must have been a fun one to rehearse and play as a band, I would think.

PP: Yeah. There's a backwards bass drum on there. Before, you'd have to turn the tape over to get that effect, but there were machines at this time, I think, that could turn any sound backwards.

TB: Let's talk about "All You Pretty Girls," which is mostly Linn Drum, but which Andy said features you on the "execution drums," as he called them.

PP: [laughs] Not much to talk about there! It's heavily echo'd, isn't it.

TB: When I talked to him about this song, he said he got you to do this part a couple of times, to make it sound really big.

Speaking of the Linn and you, do you remember any times during the recording of this album when you said something along the lines of, "Oh, c'mon fellas, let me play this track," and Andy said, "No, I really want something more mechanical"?

PP: No, the decisions were already made about where Linn was coming in and where I was stopping.

TB: So, you didn't even have the opportunity to state your case?

PP: We'd worked that out in rehearsals anyway -- which songs were going to have drum tracks, and which were going to have Linn tracks.

TB: How did you feel about that? Did you feel a sense of competition between you and this machine?

PP: [chuckles] No. That was their decision, and I respected it. I don't argue with people who are paying me. [laughs] It's their album, and they know best! As Peter Gabriel says, "We do what we're told."

TB: [laughs] Exactly!

PP: I'm not one of these people that has problems with drum machines. I like them -- what an amazing invention. I know, morally, it puts a lot of people out of work, but that's technology. That's what it does. And on the upside, it gives us more spare time! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Just less money to do anything with during the spare time!

PP: Yeah. As a drummer, I've lost loads of work because of machines.

TB: But do you also work with machines, on other projects you've done?

PP: Oh yeah. I've done sessions where I've been playing along with a machine.

TB: When you were recording with XTC -- and this is something I should have asked sooner -- did you guys use click tracks?

PP: That hi-hat sound on "Blue Overall" was a click track.

TB: Ah -- I'd always thought that was you playing.

PP: No, I didn't play that.

TB: Was that was the exception, rather than the rule?

PP: Yeah, we used one there because there's such a lot of space on that song, where there are no drums. We might have run into a problem of getting those breaks right.

TB: Your drums sound so enormous on that song.

PP: [laughs] Yeah, they do, don't they. That's David Lord -- he was able to get that really ambient sound in his brick drum room. Small room -- all it had room for was the drums. It had a glass door, brick walls and a stone floor, so it was very live. That's how he got that huge sound. One of Peter Gabriel's albums was done there.

TB: Yeah, his fourth album. It's funny -- XTC shared several producers with Gabriel -- there was a bit of crossover for a short period there, since Steve Lillywhite produced Gabriel's third album, and then David Lord did the fourth album.

Did you use the stone room at The Manor when you recorded Mummer there?

PP: No, we used the studio -- we had everything set up in the studio. But for this one, I was set up in the brick room while the guys were upstairs.

TB: Let's talk about "Shake You Donkey Up" -- you talked about the ears drawn on the monitor, of course, but when I've talked to Andy about this song, he's said it's an example of you being, and I quote, "a fucking great drummer." [Pete laughs] Really, when I first heard this song, I thought it had to be a machine, because there was so much going on, but it's you!

PP: Yeah, that's me. We had a steel plate set up that I was able to strike -- that whip crack.

TB: I've always wondered if the middle part, with all the percussion, is overdubbed at all.

PP: I think there is overdubbing there, yeah. I did put little bits of percussion on after doing the main track.

TB: The next song, "Seagulls Screaming," is all Linn Drum?

PP: That's right. I mean, obviously, I could have played that, but I think Andy probably realized he'd got what he wanted. The Linn Drum was fairly new at that point, wasn't it?

TB: It was, yeah. It was really the first digital drum machine that people widely used.

PP: Yeah, it was a feature, so good to use it on the album at that time.

TB: "This World Over" -- is that you, the Linn Drum, or a combination?

PP: [listening to song] It sounds like a machine.

TB: It does, yes, but then it sounds as if real drums come in over the sidestick pattern with the four-on-the-floor bass drum.

PP: That is me, yeah. I'm playing over that.

TB: So, there you go -- we were just talking about you playing along with drum machines. Anything in particular you remember about this one -- such as what Andy was going for with the song, or any instructions he gave you?

PP: It's an atmosphere track -- I was trying to be as "invisible" as you could be, while still playing big drum sounds, you know?

TB: That's an interesting description -- are you saying that you're really just playing to support the song?

PP: Yeah. If the rolls had been too big, it would have ruined the song.

TB: Next up is "The Everyday Story of Smalltown." I've talked to Andy about this, and it's got this real martial feel to it, as if it's the marching band going through town. But you'd said previously that you consider the four on the snare to be a Soul-based pattern, so what do you think when you hear this song? What were you going for as a drummer?

PP: I think I was doing a Ringo there.

TB: Yeah, you hit that open hi-hat during the "if it's all the same to you" part -- where's that from?

PP: "Fixing a Hole," I think. We may have discussed that -- "We need something Ringo-ish there."

TB: You do that on "Reign of Blows" as well -- use the hi-hat "wash" as an accent.

PP: When I worked with Random Hold, we did a lot of experimenting with different set-ups for the kit -- tom-toms back to front, and snares in the wrong place, and getting rid of my cymbals. So, I was very much into experimentation with the drums, really. I was doing these albums and coming off of that.

So, on this album, we were looking for difference, rather than the same. And that was enjoyable, because you can do anything you want, can't you. You don't have to play "normal." [chuckles]

TB: There's a little bit of Kinks to this song, too -- he's telling the story, he's really trying to come up with the feeling of what it's like to be in this small town, and his love affair with it, all while making fun of it, but in a kind way, if you know what I mean. "Smalltown, coughing in the toilet / Now who on Earth would spoil it? / Will you pull down Smalltown?"

PP: That was one of the reasons why it was good to rehearse it in Swindon, and me getting the train down there. I would meet up with Colin, and we'd walk from the station and chat and get the atmosphere, you know? And we took that into the studio -- I took Swindon in there with me. And this does feel like Swindon -- it certainly does to me, anyway! [laughs] It does express it, musically -- starting the song with that building bridge, which is unusual.

TB: It's a trick that Andy likes to do -- he also does it on "All You Pretty Girls," for example -- the "Do something for me boys" section starts the song, and is also the bridge.

PP: Yeah. That's innovative. I mean, the Beatles always started with the chorus. Most bands start with intros. So, again, experimentation -- why do things normally when you can do really interesting stuff?

So, this is my take on the Sally Army band.

TB: "Liarbird" is a different feel from that, certainly.

PP: I think I might have been thinking of "Beating of Hearts" for that one -- I really did like that track.

TB: At the same time, there are different drum parts throughout the song -- the "Methinks world is for you" part has a light feel with hi-hat, while the "you can read it in your Bible" part has a big kick drum and snare.

PP: I think we did this all in one take. And David Lord is just masterful with the effects -- I mean, the snare sound on that is incredible. I do have a collection of snare drums, actually -- five snares that I brought to these sessions, I think.

TB: Different materials, different depths?

PP: Yeah, there were a couple with wooden shells, one with a bronze shell, and one that was chrome. We were changing the snare drums around to get different sounds. The bigger sounds would have been the bronze snare, and the lighter ones would have been the wooden snares.

TB: Terry had one really deep snare drum -- a marching snare -- which was something like eight inches deep.

PP: At that stage, I didn't have any really deep ones. I have now -- I've got a couple of, not eight-inch, but six-and-a-half-inch snares. I mean, you can't get any bigger sound than what we got on this track, and that was done with all regular sizes [five-inch depth]. I haven't played an eight-inch snare that I would want to use. I figure a snare has got to sound like a snare -- if you go too deep, it becomes more like a tom-tom than a snare.

TB: Yeah, I think the one that he had used was actually a marching snare, and he liked it because it really projected.

PP: We may have had a marching snare, actually.

TB: I wonder if it was his? Because he left a lot of his equipment behind.

PP: Yeah, we might have had one in the rehearsal room that we messed around with. Marching snares tend to be very light and peppy-sounding. It's the six-and-a-half snares that sound really deep, in my opinion. I prefer the regular size, I guess. I mean, the snare sounds on this album are fantastic, I think. I haven't hear any better. "Reign of Blows" -- I mean, really. How do you do better than that?

TB: Well, let's talk about that song. I'm assuming the handclap sound at the beginning is the Linn Drum?

PP: That's right, yeah. And, if you listen, I'm doing that crash accent on the hi-hat again. [Listens to song] Yeah, I'm pleased with this one!

TB: It's a very aggressive song. I love Andy's harmonica playing on it.

PP: Absolutely. Very good mix as well, isn't it?

TB: Everything is very well-balanced.

PP: Great vocal sound. As far as the drums go, I was going for relentless. [chuckles] Unstoppable. Because, you know, sometimes you've just got to feel it as well -- you've got to be it. You've got to believe it.

Your intention and imagination, when you're playing -- I use that a lot. It's almost like acting -- taking on a role, and putting that into your performance. Because you only get one chance when you're in the studio, and that's the most worrying thing -- that you could get it wrong! -- and forevermore be sick of the fact that you did. [laughs] That's what scares me. So, when I record, I put every ounce of focus into it. I cut out every other thought when that red light comes on. To make sure that I don't get it wrong -- because I'd never want to hear that track again if there was something wrong.

TB: It's interesting that you put it that way, because that realization that a recording is "forever" is the reason that a lot of people do get red-light fever. I guess that's how you get yourself in the place that you need to be -- being conscious of your intention, and the intention of the song, and what you need to bring to it.

PP: The only thing you've got in the studio is your head. Everything's going on in your head -- it's all happening between your ears. For me it is, anyway. I'm not externalizing at all.

In a live situation, you are externalizing -- there's an audience, there are the other band members, the atmosphere and your interactions. You can't internalize when you're onstage, otherwise no one would be interested in it. But in the studio, all you have is what's in your head. It's not even what you're playing, it's your hearing it, it's what's happening as you're doing it. It's all mixed in your brain. So, it's an amazing internal experience.

TB: The next song is "You're the Wish You Are I Had." I had talked to Andy about this, and he said the two of you spoke about you riding on the snare during the verse, instead of the hi-hat. That kind of plugs into what you were saying about trying to do things differently.

PP: Yeah, back to front. Good idea, wasn't it?

TB: Absolutely. I also love the way you lay into the kick on the 7-and and on the 1.

PP: I've got a feeling that this might have been the first track that we recorded. It might well have been.

TB: Do you remember if Dave was playing piano while you were tracking this? Because there really seems to be a lot of interaction between piano and drums on this.

PP: Yeah, I recall him playing along on piano in the rehearsal rooms, with Andy on guitar and Colin on bass, of course. [listens a bit to the song] It's tight! Very tight. Some of the breaks are a bit unusual -- we would have rehearsed them a lot. It sounds as if I know exactly when my breaks will come, and all that. Which is great -- I love songs, and when I'm in the studio, the song is the boss.

TB: So, it's interesting that you go from this very tight, Beatlesque song to "I Remember the Sun," which is looser and jazzier.

PP: Yeah, it's Jazz, isn't it. Really loose.

TB: This is one of Colin's songs. Was there a big difference in the way you would work with Colin on his song as compared to how you'd work with Andy on one of his?

PP: We probably would have discussed Colin's songs on our walks between the train station and the rehearsal room. There certainly is a big difference, isn't there. Let me listen to the snare sound, to see if I can remember which one I used on this. [listens to song] Big snare sound! Very crisp. It's probably metal -- maybe chrome, five-inch deep. And it's that lovely Yamaha kit. Yes, my Jazz roots are definitely coming out here!

TB: Did Colin give you demos at all?

PP: No.

TB: So, his songs would have been more arranged during rehearsals?

PP: Yeah.

TB: So, as we leave this very jazzy song, we head into a very industrial-sounding song -- a mix of Linn Drum and you. I believe it's Linn Drum in the beginning, then you come during the "think I'm going south for the winter" part. Do you remember how you did this in the studio?

PP: The track was put down with the Linn Drum -- I think Andy put the track down -- and then I put my drums on later. So, this was a track where I was out there by myself, putting those sections in, after the fact. I was down there in the room for a long time -- getting those rolls right, coming out at the right place.

TB: So, "some assembly required" on this one.

PP: We worked hard on this. Andy had the rhythms in his head, and I had to kind of find them, you know? I was doing a lot of takes and re-takes, and he would say, "Almost there!" And I'd say, "Almost? How almost?" [laughs] And we'd go again and again, and then we got one that he liked. When I got the first one, then the other two came fairly quickly after that. It was a matter of getting the "right kind of wrongness" about it. [laughs]

So, this was probably the hardest track on the album. But really happy with it. I had to think, "What can I do that's different?" It was challenging. When I started off, I wasn't playing what's there now -- this is edgier than what I would have done originally.

TB: This must have been interesting to rehearse, and play live with the whole band.

PP: I'm not sure that this was rehearsed. It may have been that there weren't going to be any drums on it -- that it was going to be all Linn Drum. Perhaps there was a decision toward the end to put drums on it -- I think it was one of the last tracks I did. I remember being in there late at night, trying to get it. Started off early evening, and was still there two hours later. So, like I said, this one was the toughest. But great result -- it works well.

TB: We've got two B-sides to talk about. We've talked about one a little bit -- "Blue Overall." You said there's the hi-hat click track in there. I've always loved this song -- huge-sounding drums, and as you were saying before, there's lots of empty space in there, too. How did you guys approach this?

[listens to song with PP] Was that just your kick drum, or were you hitting a tom along with the kick?

PP: I think it might be just toms!

TB: Interesting. I always thought it was a kick, plus it's always sounded a bit electronic to me. I was going to ask if these were acoustic or electric drums.

PP: They're acoustic. [listens] But I wonder if maybe he's processing it in some way.

TB: This must have been a fun one to play live with the band as well.

PP: Yeah.

TB: At the end, when it just comes down to drums and vocals, did you know they were going to do that? Is that how you rehearsed it?

PP: No, that was done later. We only had the basic song -- at the end, I think we're just jamming, and I didn't know they were going to fade out the instruments in the mix. I was probably enjoying it so much that I didn't want to stop! [laughs] Sometimes, when you hit a groove, you just want to keep playing. And this is one of those songs -- it could have been a first take, that one.

TB: Great feeling -- loose and tight at the same time.

PP: Yeah -- a real energy there.

TB: "Washaway" is the other B-side I wanted to talk about. One this one, there are cymbal stabs and crashes, but otherwise no hi-hat -- you're riding on the toms instead, while the piano's driving forward.

PP: Yeah. Again, this is one of those songs where we were looking for something unusual to do the rhythm, and in this case the piano is doing it. This song sounds a little bit like Madness to me -- it's got this spiky, almost-Reggae feel to it.

It was a time when Peter Gabriel was working with David Lord, and we often discussed the use of cymbals, so the hi-hat is very sparse in much of the album.

TB: Right, because of course he'd recently done his third album, which has no cymbals at all on it.

PP: Yeah, that's right. So, we were kind of working in that fashion as well -- mainly drums, with occasional cymbal crashes.

TB: Did you do any overdubs in this song? The tom riding is very prominent, especially toward the end.

PP: Let me have a listen. [listens to song] I think that could be an overdub -- it's playable, but we might have done an overdub to make the recording and mixing easier. I'm not sure, though -- because I wasn't using any hi-hat, I might have just played it live. I prefer to do it that way -- I like to do it all in one, if I can.

This thing is, if you start working with overdubs, then it causes all kinds of problems when you try to do it live. If you've got stuff on there on top of what's playable, then you're going to need another percussionist. So, I like to do what's necessary, so it can be repeatable. I wouldn't like to start working with headphones on stage, and all that, and have to change tracks.

TB: It does seem to take some of the humanity out of it.

PP: There's just more stuff that can go wrong. I don't think the Rolling Stones play to backing tracks, do they? [laughs] There's nothing worse than having a click track on stage, because you're so limited. So, I wouldn't go down that route -- although, with the Eurythmics, we did. There were a couple of songs that needed extra stuff on it, and they didn't have the players, so we had some backing tracks that I heard through my monitor. I was playing an electronic kit, so I had things coming through my monitor, anyway. If I'd had an acoustic kit, it could have caused problems. But I enjoyed working with the Simmons drums. That was very interesting. Electronic kits are so much better these days, but I much prefer the acoustic kits.

I recently did a couple of tracks with a guy named Lawrence Hayward -- I did two albums with him, in '93 and '95, with a band called Denim. He's just trying to put a new album together, and I've put a couple of tracks in, and he wanted electronic drums. So, I brought my Yamaha DX kit and used that. It's okay, but on a live gig, I'd much rather play an acoustic kit.

TB: It's nice to have the give of the heads under your hands.

PP: Yeah, yeah. And, when I solo, I want to feel the vibrations, you know.

TB: So, what else do you remember about the album or the experience of working with the band? How did things wrap up with those guys? Do you still see them at all?

PP: No, I haven't. I think I might have seen Dave -- I was close by doing a gig, I don't remember who with -- and I rang Dave, and he came along to the show, maybe two years after The Big Express. But I haven't seen Colin or Andy since that last recording.

It was fun -- so enjoyable. I loved every minute of it. I loved being in Bath. And, a lot of people come up to me and say what great albums Mummer and Big Express were, so I think I did a pretty good job there.

TB: Absolutely. As someone who knows their catalog very well, and who has played along with all their albums, those are two favorite albums for me.

PP: Fantastic! Glad to hear that. And the guys experimented with different stuff after that, didn't they -- the Dukes of Stratosphear.

TB: Yep, they did the Dukes, then they went over to America to do Skylarking with Todd Rundgren and Prairie Prince. Then Oranges and Lemons with Pat Mastelotto, then Nonsuch with Dave Mattacks.

PP: Dave Mattacks is a good drummer. I've never met him, but I've been on an album where he also did some tracks. Very precise player.

TB: Andy loves to talk about his "one-note rolls." The roll will be just one hit, but so precisely placed, that it's perfect for the song.

PP: [laughs] That's great! Yeah, I think I tend toward more than necessary, mostly. [laughs] I just love tom rolls! I think that's the most exciting and interesting part of drumming -- making up drum rolls. When I teach, and the kids say to me, "Teach me a drum roll," I say to them, "Well, you wouldn't be able to play it -- you can't learn this stuff, you're just born with it."

It's like you're trying to reach something, but you can't quite reach it, so you make it. You can make a regular drum roll sound different just through the emotion you put into it. It's making the usual look unusual -- for example, a good photographer can take a photograph of something very normal, but the lighting or something about it can make it look weird or strange. I'm always looking for that elusive roll. [laughs] It's amazing -- you can't write it down, and you can't teach it. They just pop out. And it's great when they do.

TB: It's the reason you play, right? Especially when you play live -- because something new could happen every night.

PP: And it's great when it does. Then I think, "I must remember that, and always put that in there." And then the next night, it's gone! [laughs] And unless it's recorded, it's gone forever. So you find another one.

I remember an interview with Mark Knofler -- he was being interviewed about his songwriting, and he said, "When I get an idea, I go to my recorder and immediately put it down, and then the next day listen back to it and work on it." There was this brilliant idea that came to him, and he recorded it -- or thought he had recorded it -- and when he went back to listen to it the next day, he realized he hadn't pressed the record button. So he said, "Oh well -- there's always another one."

It is kind of like that, you know? And when you accept that it's like that -- that there's always going to be another idea -- you just can't get too precious about it.

TB: Exactly. You've got to open yourself up to it and be ready when it appears.

PP: Absolutely. Be open.

9:20 PM

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