Interview with Jeremy Stacey
Interview With Jeremy Stacey
Its been a few years since I last caught up with Jeremy Stacey who is one of the busiest drummers in the UK. At the time he was just coming to the end of a couple of years touring with Sheryl Crow and was adding more drums to his vast collection, which he kept in his studio (the old Snake Ranch). He was also working with Tom Jones and filling in for Keith Carlock on the Rudder gig.
Things have changed since then, as after the break up of Oasis when the brothers went there separate ways, Noel invited Jeremy to join his band ''Noel Gallagherís High Flying Birds''. Much of the past 12 months has seen Jeremy touring with them.
Tell me about your recording studio.
Yes, the recording studio. I lost the lease, after being there for six years, which was a shock. I was warned that it might happen, but didnít really take it too seriously. Snake Ranch as it was known had been a recording studio for 30 years, but is no longer, which is sad. Itís going to become some sort of show home or something.
Originally, I was gutted. I thought, ĎIím going to have to put all my equipment in storage, or wait a long time to find somewhere elseí, but fortunately I found a new place, which wasnít that far away, and Iíve moved in, itís my new secret location.
The same size?
Same sort of size, in some ways itís bigger; thereís more rooms off from the control room, more isolation booths. Itís actually working out better for me, so Iím excited.
For those who donít know, your studio before was the old Snake Ranch and it was a fully active studio. So you had intended to keep that going?
Iíve never had any interest in running a commercial studio. My studio is a place where I can go and work with the gear Iíve accumulated over the years, all the vintage recording gear, drums, keyboards etc, and just experiment, produce, engineer, mix, whatever, work with artists that I like, and also do drum sessions for producers, friends.
Because there are many options available, as far as sound, style of music, I can accommodate most situations, hopefully. Thatís the ideaÖand the main reason I set up the thing up in the first place.
A good example is last year, I played on one track on Wayne Krantzís new record ďHowie 61Ē ( http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/howie-61/id520311362 ) which has just been released recently. Wayne wanted to know where he could record in London, so I was able to suggest doing it at mine. He didnít have to bring anything apart from his guitar. Pino (Palladino) was on the session, and he has recorded at my place before, and likes one of my bass amps. My brother Paul was also playing, and he has a couple of his guitar amps at my place, so itís great in that situation, we can just have fun, set up, play live in the room together, and get on with the music - no time limits, or interruptions. It feels more like youíre going to someoneís house to record, you know, itís a bit untidy, I donít like the slick overly tidy studio environment myself.
I want to talk to you later about your obsession with drum gear, but before we talk about that, thereís a feature that weíve started running on the site now called ''21st Century Drummer''. Gone are the days now where you go into a studio; studios are closing down. JR Robinsonís got a studio in his house; people send him files. So going back to your studioÖ somebody wants Jeremy Stacey to play on their records and they want to use your studio. What happens in a situation like that? Do they send you files or do they come down in person?
Most producers come to my place and work with me, thatís what normally happens, but I also get sent files occasionally, and do the session without the producer or artist present. I donít really feel like a 21st century drummer, and I think itís a shame that studios are closing down, not because Iím against home studios, I just think itís good to have both.
My studio is not in a garage, or the house. It is an old style-recording studio, tape machine, recording console, big live room, and I have ProTools of course. As I said, Iím not putting down the home studio at all, itís how I started, and the limitation can be a great thing. Lotís of music nowadays doesnít require a big studio., and everyone has a studio now, of some sort or other. My friend Shawn Pelton has a studio in a New York apartment. I donít know how he does it. He does lotís of sessions there and Iíve heard some of the stuff heís done and it sounds great. There are no rules.
One advantage to having a big studio is I can record a live band easily, which is actually what Iím more interested in at the moment. Iíve been doing a number of records with the great Ethan Johns and also his dad, the legendary Glyn Johns and itís been an absolutely fantastic thing for me. Their philosophy towards recording is the old way of doing it - get the musicians in the room with a singer and record the whole thing live. You might overdub strings, you might overdub a bit of percussion, but the main performance is a live performance, so as the drummer I get to react with the singer again and I canít remember the last time I did that.
I did a Tom Jones record ďPraise and BlameĒ (http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/praise-blame/id377711554 ) with Ethan producing, awhile back. The whole record was recorded with the band in the same room facing each other, and that included Sir Tom, who was standing next to me at the drum kit doing a live vocal. I had to play extremely quietly for it to work, and it was a very enjoyable experience.
So quite different from doing a regular pop session?
Yes, definitely, most of the pop sessions I do might have a guide vocal, so I have to play to that. Thereís no reacting to each other, or to the other musicians, which for some things is absolutely fine, and nowadays most things get chopped, moved around etc. Iím not complaining, although I love complaining sometimes. For me, I prefer the old way, everybody playing together. Itís still sounds better as far as Iím concerned, and itís what interests me in making music.
The thing about drumming in a pop session nowadays, is really about knowing what to do, and to be able to do it quickly. I did a track for a winner of the finals of the X Factor. I heard the track and I immediately thought, ĎThis sounds likeÖí. I wonít say which song, but it immediately reminded me of a famous pop track. The drums already on it were not playing that drum part. The producers wanted something different, they werenít sure what it should be, and as soon as I played the drum part from the track it was obviously meant to be like, they were like, yes thatís it.
Have you got anything else coming up in the studio?
Just recently Steve Hackett called me. I did a couple of projects with him and Chris Squire. One of those has just been released. The project is called ĎSquackettĒ and the album ďA Life Within a DayĒ (http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/a-life-within-a-day/id529195641 ) Steve has asked me to play two tracks with him on an upcoming ďGenesis RevisitedĒ record. I used to listen to Genesis over 30 years ago, and Iím going to get to play ďSupperís ReadyĒ and ďDance of the Moonlight KnightĒ which are epic, so Iím looking forward to that. It was amazing to sit down and listen to Phil Collins playing all that stuff again. Iíd forgotten what an amazing drummer he was, especially his style of playing back then in 1973. Itís like John Bonham, with some Billy Cobham. I know people slag him off, but as a drummer, heís very underrated, one of the English greats, a big influence on me.
Moving onto your gear, youíre an avid collector of drum equipment and the way youíre talking about how they used to record, it''s obvious that vintage gear still seems to fascinate you.
Yeah, itís hard to explain. I love so many different drummers and styles of music. I just get bored I suppose. Every kit feels so different. I do tend to like vintage drums, but I also like modern drums, particularly the Tama sets I have. I try not to set the kit up the same way every time. I like adding percussion, or sometimes anything thatís lying around, just to add a new flavour.
Every situation is different. When I first worked with Glyn [Johns] on the Ryan Adams record ďAshes and FireĒ (http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ashes-fire/id470652819 ) which was a great experience, I mentioned to Glyn, Iíd like to bring a few drum kits along to the session, he immediately said, ďJust bring one drum kit. You can bring a choice of snares if you want. No drummer Iíve ever worked with has ever brought more than that.Ē
I havenít been to a session for years without at least three kits, so it was a new thing, to do a whole record on one drum kit (although I actually I had a couple of kits hidden in the hallway, just in case) but it worked out great.
You donít have a particular drum sound. You seem to want to play for the song; youíll go in with a 20Ē, 18ĒsÖ
I donít have a particular drum size or drum sound. With most pop or a rock sessions, letís say, I start out with maybe a 24Ē kick, 13Ērack, and 16Ē floor. I tend to like bigger bass drums. I love 26Ē. A lot of drummers I know use 20Ēs, but for some reason I donít tend to use 20Ēs that often. I love 18Ēs for jazz of course.
I quite like doing sessions on kits that Iíve never played before, for the simple reason that I donít want to be on automatic in any way. I bought a Camco kit in Los Angeles three weeks prior to the Ryan Adams record that I mentioned earlier, and decided that was what I was going to use for the session, even though, I knew I wouldnít be able to hear, play or tune it until the first day of recording. Fortunately it sounded amazing, and so I used it for the whole record.
Letís talk about your drum collection (Video Part 1) (Video Part 2). I know itís grown since I last saw it two years ago. First question is, how did you get into it and what made you want to collect the kind of stuff that you collect, which is not a particular style?
Again it comes from really loving lots of very different drummers and all different kinds of music. If somebody says to me, ĎWhoís your favourite drummer?í I canít answer that question. As you know Iím a big jazz / jazz fusion lover and I also love all the old RíníB , funk, rock, Ö.I could go on forever. When I hear something played a certain way, or I hear a sound, Iím interested to find out what was played and how it was recorded, and what sort of kit it was played on.
I studied acting not music, and I use elements of that training. Youíre always you, thereís no getting away from it, itís always going to sound like me playing the drums, and Iíve got limitations and the way I play is the way I play. But Iím always trying to divert off that and just get influenced by the music or whatever the situation is. So different drum kits, are like different costumes to me, it just helps. I want to have access to those different sounds. One kit just wonít do it.
Say youíve just been booked for the Chris Barber trad jazz band and you go to your selection of gear. What do you take and how do you prepare for that gig?
Probably my Slingerland Radio King or Rollling Bomber kit. Those are the oldest kits I have at the moment and probably the most suitable, off the top of my head. What Iíd do to prepare is what I always do., Iíd start listening to that style and era of music as much as I could, and I would have to work very hard at that.
The next one is Stanley Clarke and heís going out to do School DaysÖ
Iíd probably take along one of my 70ís Gretsch kits. 24Ē inch bass drum and three floor toms and two rack toms.
So you get into characterÖ
Exactly, thatís the way I look at it. For Stanley Clarke I might also use my Tama kit in the same sizes I just mentioned. I have this amazing Tama Starclassic Bubinga kit in almost every size, with five bass drums, different styles of toms, including single headed. I set the whole thing up once for fun, but it means I can do the thing I do, lots of styles, but itís all in the same drum make and finish. Itís a great kit.
I had an amazing time. The three other guys from Rudder, Chris Cheek, Tim Lefebvre and Henry Hey are great. Apart from being truly amazing musicians, they are very funny, very nice people and I just had the best time, but I have to be honest with you, I absolutely shat myself. The reason they asked me to do it, I think, was because it was a tour of Germany. I was asked to do three weeks and then Keith was coming back from the John Mayer tour to finish off the rest of it. They said, ĎItís just three weeks in Germanyí. I thought, ĎFine, nobodyís going to see me do this . Then they called me and said, ĎActually weíve decided why donít you come to New York, do a couple of days rehearsal and then weíll just do a low key gig?í. I was like, OK, fine, thatís good. The low key gig was the 55 Bar [in New York] and they advertised it as ďRudder featuring Jeremy StaceyĒ and I donít think Iíve ever felt as nervous before a gig in my life.
Why was that?
Well, I suppose, because Iíd been going to America regularly for the last ten years spending many weeks in New York and getting to know the New York jazz scene, which I adore and Iíve been to the 55 Bar to see Wayne Krantz with Keith many times and loads of other amazing musicians. The standard there is just outstanding. I suppose you just start comparing, and start feeling insecure about your own playing. There are so many amazing drummers in NYC, Mark Guiliana, Dan Weiss, Ari Hoenig, Nate Wood and the list goes on. These people have committed and have practised drums to a different level than I have.
Anyway, I am grateful. I had an absolutely amazing time. Itís a very hard gig to do though, not the music itself, but because itís Keith, and we all know what an amazing drummer he is. But secondly, his style and personality are so strong and itís so much part of that music. To come in and do it my way, as thereís no way I could do it like Keith, from my point of view, in my head, why would anyone want to come watch this if itís not Keith? Anyway, thatís what I found difficult about it.
Did you relax into it or were you like that all the time?
Yes, of course, but to be honest, Iím like that a lot of the time about most things I do, Iím fairly hard on myself.
Letís fast forward again. Noel Gallagher; another secret gig that came along. How did this come up in the first place?
My twin brother Paul played with Oasis and heís also worked on many Oasis records as an engineer/producer. When Noel decided to do the solo record he asked Paul to be involved and then decided, I imagine, to get a drummer heíd never used before. My brother and I do a rock gig for fun, and Noel has come along and seen us play and I suppose just decided to give it a go, and we did, and had a great time.(http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/noel-gallaghers-high-flying/id450757132 )
You havenít done a rock gig like this on the road for a long time, with an icon like Noel.
I suppose I havenít. Obviously the Sheryl Crow gig had a rock element to it, and there were heavier moments in that gig like playing Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin, but no, this is the most rock and roll gig Iíve ever done.
Are you playing differently?
Yes, Iím playing very loud, which I enjoy. I didnít do it so much on the record but once we got to rehearsals and started playing I just thought, ĎIím going to really go for it. Noel seemed to like it, so I just went with it.
Did you change things much for this tour as far as equipment?
As you know Iím now with Istanbul Agop cymbals, so that was a big change. Iím using big 16 inch hats, 24 inch ride, 20 inch crash and 22 inch crash. I use the Traditional series with Noel, but I have some 30th Anniversary and Signature Agop for jazz and the studio. I absolutely love them. The kit is the same, Tama Starclassic Maple, or Bubinga - itís 13Ē rack tom, 16Ē floor, and thereís an 18Ē floor but I only use it as a table. A 6Ē Brass Starphonic snare, and a 24 inch double headed bass drum, no hole, no damping. Sound engineersÖ
What a nightmare!
Yes, to start with. Actually, I think once we worked it out, and how to get the sound, itís worked out really well. Everybody seems to like the double headed bass now.
Whereís the hat come from? Is it for Bonzo? Who brought that one into it?
Baldness! Actually Noel suggested the bowler hat. I think after the first gig, the press, pointed out the lack of hair on top of my head, etc, you know, normal English press stuff, I know how Phil Collins feels now. So I thought, if it actually distracts, and takes away from the gig, Iíll wear a hat. Noel said, ĎWhat about a bowler?í. And slowly it has become the full Bonham thing. Iím now doing the white boiler suit, Doc Martens. itís actually incredibly comfortable. I never think much about the visual aspect, so itís a bit different for me.
Howís the tour going?
The tourís been going extremely well; itís great fun. These are some of the biggest shows Iíve done,
What I find, which is just so great about you, is youíre quite happy to do the O2 in front of 18,000 people, but if a little jazz gig comes in in front of 100 people youíll still want to go out and do that.
I did one two weeks ago. I did a little pub in Richmond with my mates.
Why do you do that?
I love improvised music. A lot of music doesnít require any improvisation. Most of the rock or pop gigs I do there is little or no improvisation whatsoever, and there is a whole discipline to playing exactly the same thing every night, note for note, and making if feel, hopefully, like itís not, which is what I try to do. Classical music is the same. Thatís how it is. Itís great to do that but I like improvising as well and thatís what the jazz and funk experimental gigs come in. I will always try and do that whenever I can. Itís like what I imagine therapy is for other people.
Interview by Mike Dolbear
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