Communications From The Drum World

Artist Update: Chuck Sabo: XTC Studio Star
November 2000

MD Online Blog: Martyn Barker of Monstrance

Artist Update
November 2000

Chuck Sabo

XTC Studio Star

If you're looking to personify the adage "It takes years of hard work to become an overnight success," look no farther than American-in-London Chuck Sabo. Though his recording credits include an impressive list of heavyweights and more than a dozen Top-10 singles in the UK, he's kept largely out of the limelight, focusing instead on making connections and, always, playing for the song.

On XTC's critically acclaimed new album, Wasp Star, Chuck's still playing for the song, but there's no chance you'll miss him. Throughout the band's stripped-down, guitar-oriented return to power pop, it's obvious that XTC relied heavily on Sabo's steady and soulful style.

Were the two decades that Sabo spent in Manhattan and London - working as a furniture mover while playing any gigs that came his way - worth it? "When you're up & coming, you get called in to play because someone heard your name, not your style," he says, smiling. "But now I'm getting called to play the way I play, which is nice."

Todd Bernhardt

[Thanks to Todd Bernhardt]

Headlines From The Drum World


MD Online Blog

Martyn Barker of Monstrance

Hi all, I am Martyn Barker, blogging into you all about my experience making the Monstrance album.

Monstrance is a project of pure improvised music with Andy Partridge (guitar) and my long-time partner in crime with Shriekback, Barry Andrews (keyboards). The Monstrance album is released on Andy's label, Ape Records (

I did not expect in my twenty-four-year career to do a double album of pure jamming with no bass guitar or overdubs. But thanks to Andy's suggestion to record an experimental improvised project ... off we went!

What is interesting on listening to playbacks is how exposed the drum sound is, not just the volume but also the shear presence. I can just hear the ringing tones of the skins and my movements on the stool in my excited or dazed state whilst grabbing sticks, Hot Rods, and brushes to use when Andy or Barry throw out various riffs in the air for me to grab at.

This is always the best part of making a project for me as a drummer. We just go into a room and play! Who knows what will happen, and there are no songs or middle sections or choruses to worry about—just a journey to enjoy.

My approach was to not get too much into a straight dance or rock groove for too long, but rather to break up the rhythms and try and create sounds with my kit and percussion, building from brushes to rods then sticks, keeping the momentum and allowing the jams to change so they had somewhere to go.

Barry and I have done this exercise a few times as an essential part of Shriekback's creative process, so we were used to each other's way of thinking. Barry has a very rhythmic and atmospheric approach, and Andy has this great cross of rock, pop, and great riffs.

For me it was always important to have a good variety of sounds and an open mind to cope with tracks that become ambient or rock. I play a maple Gretsch kit, and with it I used a hang drum, a reco reco, a coil drum, a Vesuvian tambourine [a large native tambourine from a village on Mount Vesuvius in Italy], a cajon, and a calabash. I just set up everything in one place with a couple of overhead mics and one mic for snare and bass drum.

We had no screens between us, and were quite close together. All we needed was that important ingredient of the right people to make it all work!

Modern Drummer Magazine © 2007

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.