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MICKY, YOU HAVE SAID IN YOUR WRITING THAT DRUMMING HAS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE. TO A LOT OF OBSERVERS FROM THE OUTSIDE, A LOT OF ORDINARY PEOPLE, THEY MIGHT WONDER HOW COULD SOMETHING SO SIMPLE --
Simple? Drumming? Well, drumming isn't really simple. I mean but in a way sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't, it all depends where you take drumming. You know, if you become a virtuoso at drumming, well that takes many years of study, just like anything else, just like a brain surgeon, you know. If you just play in a drum circle, well you don't need any practise at all. You just sit there and play one one one one one, so it all depends what you mean by drumming.
YOUR STUDY OF DRUMMING STARTED EARLY IN YOUR CAREER BUT YOU ALSO BECAME --
Let's put it this way. I fell in love with sound and rhythmic sound when I was a kid, sort of like a romance of the ear. You know and I got sucked in because it attracted me for some reason. I didn't know why then. I know why now. But I didn't really have much of a choice, so when you say drumming, well what's so important about drumming? Well, we live in a rhythmic universe. I mean you don't have to be a brain to realize that this is a rhythmic universe and we're embedded in it and drumming is one of the ways that we can express ourselves as a human, as a species, this is very important. It's not just drumming. Drumming is very important, or the study of rhythm is really important, or the enjoyment of rhythm or the following of the rhythm. Whatever you, however you appreciate rhythm. You don't have to drum to appreciate rhythm.
AND DON'T GET ME WRONG. THAT WAS FAR FROM A PEJORATIVE REMARK BECAUSE IN YOUR WRITING, YOU'VE BROUGHT ALIVE THE COMPLEXITY OF YOUR DISCIPLINE, WHAT IS, WHAT YOU REGARD AS A SPIRITUAL SCIENCE ALMOST AND A DISCIPLINE, BUT LET'S FACE IT. YOU ACHIEVED SUCCESS AS A MUSICIAN QUITE EARLY ON IN YOUR CAREER AND YET YOU KEPT QUESTING, YOU KEPT INVESTIGATING, YOU KEPT ASSEMBLING THIS BODY OF KNOWLEDGE. WHY?
Well we really weren't left with much here in the west. Most of all of the history of percussion and drumming and rhythm was written by white anthropologists around the turn of the century. Most if it untranslated. So when I went into the library to look for these works, I found very little. Yet this is probably one of the oldest, probably the second oldest profession in the world. So I, it tweaked my imagination and I wondered why and it was always considered savage or a lesser music and so forth and so on, but really some of these, these cultures that used percussion were the most rhythmic, the most spiritually motivated, and most complex on the planet. But they just weren't understood when they were looked at you know, when they were observed by the white anthropologist, male white anthropologist.
TAKE US BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF YOUR FINDINGS AND OF OTHER RESEARCHERS FINDINGS. POGO'S DOING GOOD FROM THE LUNGS ALREADY--
The question was, I'm sorry.
TAKE US BACK TO THE BEGINNINGS OF YOUR FINDINGS, EARLY MAN. WHERE DID PERCUSSION COME FROM?
Well more than likely, we don't really know. We're guessing but more than likely it came from the meeting of the human body with the hands, the clapping of the hands, the hitting of bone against bone or stone against stone. But we notice in the tool record something very interesting, these little serrated edges on the arrowheads, they had to be rhythmically coordinated movements in order to make those even marks on those arrowheads so when, would you call that drumming? Well you would call that coordinated rhythmic movement you know. And from there probably all came from, this is where the roots were. And drums came in much later. The stretched membrane didn't happen until much later, until maybe five, six, seven thousand BC did we start seeing any real evidence of, physical evidence of the stretch membrane.
BY THAT TIME, DOES YOUR RESEARCH TELL YOU THAT DRUMMING HAD ATTAINED OR PERCUSSION HAD OBTAINED A REAL SIGNIFICANCE, A SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE?
Significance? Of course it, it was the very centre of the mother god as cultures. In Morija Combudas' book, she has uncovered, the neolithic has just recently been uncovered and we find large cylinder drums in the neolithic, and there was only one reason for large cylinder drums and that was possession trance so all of these old, in old Europe, all of these mother goddess cultures, these specific cultures, were, the centre of the ritual was the large cylinder drum. So the women ran the show back then. They made the rules, they made the laws and they ran the religious rituals and of course they were overrun by the Kergans about 10,000 BC as the ice melted, they came, the hunter gatherers came down following the herd and overran these specific beautiful mother goddess fertility religious, beautiful beautiful cultures, well developed. But they were, they were using percussion as the very centre of their rituals. Auditory driving is what we call it, the use of sound to contact the divine and it excited the senses. Adrenalin rush, it brought people in centred, had a groove, everybody danced, they sang, they prayed. So percussion was used back in the neolithic, big time.
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE IN OUR CULTURE, DO YOU AGREE THAT IN OUR CULTURE TODAY, PERCUSSION IS UNDERRATED AS AN ESSENCE OF LIFE AND--
Not in my culture. In my culture it's right up there on the top you know, and there is room for melody and harmony. Listen to the modern music on the radio. All of it is rhythmic driven, the rap music and all the rock and roll, bass drums, guitar, back beat. But we had lost it. As the drum comes closer to us it got smaller and it became savage you know, because the western, the riders saw this as an ethnic kind of a thing you know, the tribal you know baying at the moon and dancing around fires and all this stuff. But these instruments have been taken to virtuoso levels by instrumentalists and so some of these primitive instruments or these old instruments have now, they assume their proper place in the hierarchy of musical instruments. So there's nothing really second rate about the, about the drum. It seems like a simple enough instrument but once you get down to it to make, to make music on anything, you have to practise it and that's what's been happening in the last, well I guess Gene Krupa was the guy who sort of brought drums in the west out. But in India, you know for hundreds of years drums, it's a very muscular tradition in India, is the driver. You can go to most cultures and you'll find that percussion is at the very centre of their rituals and it's just in the west here with, I guess with the art music of, of Europe you know, between 1700 and 1900, all of that art music you know, symphonic music came out. Nobody wrote for percussion because everybody, they didn't want to go into trance states, it was the ecstatic states that were looked for, the quiet states. And percussion moved to the side. So I mean there's a long history of this, this is, but it's made its resurgence with the back beat, with dance music, with you know, the African diaspora brought the instruments over to Brazil. And up through Brazil to the Caribbean, you know, Cuba, up through the parishes of New Orleans and mixed with the indigenous music of America, Dixieland jazz, R&B, big band music, rock and roll. So we have a reemergence, resurgence of the archaic instruments from Africa and that's what we're experiencing here.
AND YOU'VE TRIED TO TRACE YOUR WAY ALL THE WAY BACK ALONG THAT HISTORY, YOU CALL YOUR SEARCH, YOU EQUATE IT AT TIMES TO A GREAT SNAKE, THE ANACONDA.
Yeah, the anaconda.
**WHY DO YOU FEEL A NEED TO DO THAT KIND OF SEARCH?
Well I mean it's like if you were a doctor, you'd want to know where your profession came from. You'd like to know your history.
BUT A LOT OF ROCK MUSICIANS DON'T.
But I'm not a rock musician. I play rock and roll but I'm a musician of the world. I play the world's music, not just rock and roll. Rock and roll is just, that's meat and potatoes but I like vegetables and I like a full plate. I just can't eat one kind of food. So you know sure I love the back beat, three chords and a back beat just like any other rock and roller but we're changing the face of all that. You know, that's, that was 1950s, 1960s, now the 70s and 80s and the 90s, we're exposed to the world's music. We know how precious it is now. We didn't then because we didn't have, the works weren't translated, there was nothing on the book shelves for the kids to go and find out how did they get here. I mean why are you here, why do you follow the drum, why do you follow the trumpet, why do you follow the guitar, what's this incredible desire, this fascination with music, I mean you give, you give up half of your life to follow this feeling. It's an invisible thing music, what is it? Well it connects directly to the heart and the soul, it's a language you know that connects to the heart and to the soul. It's a very private language. It's private to each person. Everybody has a different hit on the music and it somehow unlocks a door, that behind that door there are certain feelings that are well Liardi says it's, he calls it herophenes, where you cross over the other side, you cross over into the spirit world as opposed to the world of entertainment where you're going yeah yeah yeah that's great, that's wonderful. This kind of world just sits you back. Either you get, your hand stands up on the back of your neck or your heart beats faster or you get calm and you start thinking of other things besides yourself. And it alters your consciousness and that's what rhythm and drumming is all about. It raises your consciousness. It allows for adrenalin to flow through your body. It excites you, it's an energizer and eventually if you do it long enough it will raise your consciousness. You'll get high from it. That's what music is all about.
YOU NAMED ONE OF THE GREAT INFLUENCES THAT YOU'VE IDENTIFIED ON YOUR OWN CAREER AND YOUR OWN SENSIBILITY AS A PERCUSSIONIST IS A MUSICIAN, GENE KRUPA. BUT EARLY ON, WASN'T IT IN YOUR WORK WITH THE GRATEFUL DEAD YOU MET ALAROCA WHO COMES FROM AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TRADITION. WHAT DID THAT, DID HE AS AN ARTIST OPEN UP TO YOU?
Well, the Indians, north Indians especially have the most muscular tradition, a rhythmic complexity. They've made it a great science. I mean they have a beat for every time of the day and every season and for every reason you know, and it's something that's been developed over hundreds of years. So Alaroca being at the apogee of this profession, I heard him and couldn't believe what he was doing on the drums. And I went to meet him and I studied with him and I realized that there was more to rhythm than (clapping) or whatever you know, or anything I ever heard before. And I'd heard many many Latin musics and complex musics but this this is, goes beyond that. It was, it's a place of its own. There's nothing like the north Indian classical music.
AS AN ARTIST, HOW MUCH EXPLANATION, VERBAL EXPLANATION DID YOU REQUIRE OF HIM OR WAS IT A MATTER OF LISTENING TO --
He didn't speak English back then, so there was no verbal communication really. It was all in beats, in grooves and him showing me like games. He was playing games with me, he would teach me how to put five in the same space as four, and eight in the same place as eleven and we would talk things through and he would play his drum and I would play my pad. And I would try to mimic him mostly at the beginning until he learned how to speak English and so forth and we would just like up for days and I just would sit there and listen to him recite ...or rhythmic cycles and try to memorize them or record them and just understanding that there was a world of rhythm out there that I had nothing, I had no idea existed and here this culture had developed it to the highest degree on the planet.
SO WHILE MANY PEOPLE OF OUR GENERATION KNEW BY THE SOUND THAT WE LIKED RAVI SHANKAR, ALAROCA, AS AN ARTIST, AS A PERCUSSIONIST, YOU WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DEEPER. YOU WERE IDENTIFYING SOMETHING ELSE.
Well see music is a spiritual, has a spiritual quest to it. When I play music, I feel different. It makes my whole body and my whole mind and my whole consciousness change. That's what good music does. When I heard Alaroca, I wasn't the same after that. I couldn't sleep. I mean that's all I could think about was this rhythm and how someone could keep track of this and still you know, have the agility of a ballet dancer while performing it. And it was, it was like seeing Michael Jordan at his best and that's the kind of thing, that's Alaroca. He's taken, he's taken percussion as far as you can take it, as far as humanly possible.
WHAT DID THAT EXPERIENCE AND YOUR EXPLORATION THROUGH PERCUSSION SINCE THEN TEACH YOU ABOUT TIME, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF IT OR OUR ABILITY TO UNDERSTAND IT.
Time is everywhere, you know. I mean how you relate to time is how well you go through life. I mean you are a rhythmic animal. It's more than drums and drumming. It really, that's what I was really after. I was really after rhythm, the study of rhythm, not necessarily drums or drumming. That was just one way we humans make rhythm. One way. But you know, when we're in our mother's womb, the heart, her heartbeat is beating at, it's about 110 DB, that's like a giant bass drum. So you're imprinted with a prenatal imprint, a rhythmic imprint before you even hit the, hit the air. And then a whole new set of rhythms come and there's light, I mean you're in a watery dark very loud environment, the inside of the body is tremendously rhythmic. I mean blood is pumping, all the organs are going. I mean can you imagine what you hear for the first nine months is just like a symphony of rhythm. So when you hit the ground, you are running. I mean this body is an incredible rhythmic instrument. I mean it's a multidimensional rhythm machine is what you have, almost on automatic. The thing is, as you get older, you have to develop your rhythmic skills and drumming is one way to develop it. Playing sports is another way to develop it. By being conscious, by doing school, your school work, you get inside your inner rhythms and you get, and you start connecting. Your movements, your hand-eye co-ordination, your writing, your talking, your blinking, your walking, your running, your skiing, you name anything you want. You ride your motorcycle or pet your dog or brush your teeth as a rhythmic movement. We are embedded in a world of rhythm worlds. The rhythm world of the body is one, our own personal rhythm world. The rhythm world of nature, and the rhythm world of culture. Those are the rhythm worlds. They all move on together okay, and how you relate to all that stuff is how well you go through life, how happy you are. If you're in love, that's rhythmic. When you're in love with somebody, you feel the synchroning, you feel this entrainment with somebody, you want to be close to them, your heart beats the same way. You feel this thing. That's rhythmic entrainment. That's what love is. When you fall out of love, you fall out of rhythm. What about health, disease? You're out of rhythm. When you're in health, you're in rhythm. Your body is functioning well, the blood is pumping you know, you exercise in the morning, you feel vitality in your life and you're rhythmically tuning, it's a tuning fork, this is what this is. Drumming, rhythm, music allows in the focusing technique, that's what this is. Drumming is a focusing technique, that's all really it is. Music when you dance, you know what happens after you finish dancing. You feel clean, you feel wonderful, you sweat, you move your body, you moved to the music, it's something that we as a species do worldwide. There are no cultures that don't have some kind of music. Every culture has music, whether it's rhymic based, melodic based, whatever. And we all, we ritualize to music. We do everything pretty much to music.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THE CULTURE OR A SUBGROUP THAT TRIES TO EXTRACT THE LISTENING TO OF MUSIC FROM ITS PRACTISES--
I'm sorry, would you repeat that?
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY OF A CULTURE OR A SOCIETY OR A SUBGROUP THAT TRIES TO TAKE AWAY THE LISTENING TO, THE APPRECIATION OF MUSIC AND ...
AND IF THEY REPLACED IT WITH RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE?
Barbaric. It's absolutely, it's not human you know, it's treason to do something, it's taking the arts away. I mean how do you think we developed as humans? You know, where do you think this, what do you think the songs are? The songs are the repository of all of our dreams, all of our histories, all of the legends, all the myths, all the stories contained in these oral traditions in the songs and the dances and the way we came together as humans. When we first came together, it was around the fire more than likey or in a temple, cave, and what do you think we were doing? We were banging stalagtites, we were hitting rocks, we were playing drums, we were getting together as a people and grouping. Music is that very, it brings you together, it allows you to group. That's why music is so important. It socializes, it makes community. The music needs a place, needs a function in the community. The community needs its music. You take one of them away, the other will die. You take the community away, if there's no reason for the music, it will end. And the same with the community. If it doesn't have much music or music doesn't have the community or the community doesn't have the music, you must have both. That's what's happening in South America when they come in and they put the oil pipelines through their community and so forth, they destroy the community and the music disappears. So you lose not only your rain forest, you lose the people, you lose their music, you lose their whole culture gets wiped out because in the music and most of these traditions, they didn't write it down except in the west recently. Most all of the traditions are oral traditions. They didn't write things down. They carry them forward in their songs and their dances and their music. So its very important, if you want to know what the legacy, our legacy as humans on this planet, you have to study the music. Every music every music--
CBC MAN ALIVE
TAPE # 3
AND I NEED TO YOU TO GET INTO RUDIMENTS A LITTLE BIT CAUSE I'M GOING TO DO A SEGMENT ON MILITARY DRUMMING
AND JUST BEFORE WE RAN OUT OF TAPE,I'LL ASK YOU AGAIN BECAUSE YOU WERE COMING TO SOME SIGNIFICANCE OF CULTURES AND MUSIC. WHAT WHAT DOES HISTORY TELL YOU ABOUT THE RELATION BETWEEN CULTURE AND MUSICTHE ADHERENCE TO MUSIC AND WHERE THAT ALLOWED THEM TO GO ONCE THEY EMBODIED THAT MUSIC?
Well all cultures use music to contact the divine, to pray to uh you might call it the sound of God uh it's it's the way, one of the ways we pray I mean if it's a vocal technique you're giving up your very breath in this motion of prayer, it's a very special thing, breath, I men that's that's the essence of life you know and you're using is as a connective rod to the other side. You see, this kind of music that we're talking about the sacred music has nothing to do with commercialit's not meant for the market place. It goes beyond the market place, it has nothing to do with technique, it has to do with the feeling and, and the ritual in which it's involved in I mean if you were in Haiti and you heard (?) drums, you might go into trance but of course these, these are the ritual drums like you wouldn't go into trance here. I mean it's culture specific a lot of this. I mean if you're i mean if you hear a fiddle and you're in Ireland you want to do a jig. So a lot of this is culture specific. If you hear a marching drum, well you'd want to march you know so a lot of instruments have very specific effects, on the, on the , on the human uh the organism.
Percussion is made for trance and for ecstatic states I mean the basis of percussion is redundance and redundancy is the basis of trance period. Okay? That's why melody and harmony are you know those instruments, you can play rhythm on them but they're not, they don't have that short sharp sound bite which releases the eternal and allows for rhythmic precision and when you get redundancy you're you're working your way into the trance states. Of course when modern religion came you know Judaism Christianity and all of this they , the drum receded in size, only playing little hand drums then you know little lyres and so forth because the trance states were frowned upon. It was the ecstatic state, the quiet, you know the prayer , the dogma, reading the bible and all of that, that's what was that's what was important but the mongols brought it back in the war drum and that brought it back, the British, uh took it from them and then we took it from the British and then the marching drum cameback you know of course, now of course it's been relegated to a pomp because there was no need for a marching drum now because the battle it not controlled by drums and bugles and symbols any more. It's more, it's more, it's electronic but in the old days, the drum used to control the battles and uh
WHAT DID WESTERN CULTURELOSE WHEN IT LOST TOUCH WITH DRUMMING.
it lost the the groove, it lost its groove, it lost the feeling uh it became art music, it became head music not soul music you know and now we have soul music is come back because now there's the beat, there's the groove, you can dance to it. Before everybody sat around in their parlours and listened to it and they intellectualised about their musics. There's more to this world of music than the output of four small European countries between 1700 and 1900 I'll tell you that and uh so now you don't find hardly any music that doesn't have its rhythmic base but people understand the quality of rhythm and what it does and that it's a, it's an auditory driver supreme.
DO YOU FEEL AS A PERFORMER AND AN ARTISTTHAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO BRING THE AUDIENCES OF THE GRATEFUL DEAD BACK TO THEIR SOUL?
That's what the Grateful Dead's all about.. I mean when Joseph Campbell saw the Grateful Dead, he said, this is like the old rituals, the old Dionysian and the old Bacchanale and the old revelriescause he saw the rise of the archaic in what we were doing because we, we were grooving, we were sound sharers, we had a certain freedom to our music, there was nothing, it was improvisational so that means it happened different every night, we were jamming with loud instruments for the first time, very loud instruments to a lot of peopleSo there was this ecstatic the trance was happening and they were alternating consciousness and of course, these substances were being used psychedelics as well like in all other cultures they were mind altering chemicals being used. So uh that heightened the awareness and of course the rest is history.
AS YOU'VE COME FORWARD, DOES THE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS BECOME LESS IMPORTANT?
Oh I don't think so. I mean I think that people should experience psychedelics at one time or another. I think it's an important development. The Grateful Dead were not the first ones to take psychedelics and play together. I mean we were doing this back in the miocene you know when we were, when we were uh we were in the marshes you know scurrying around for food, we were eating these magic mushrooms you know and we were having our rituals I mean this is nothing new I meanwhen we were doing it rememberthe LSD was legal even you know back then you know it's only recently when somebody said thatuh psychedelics were no good you know it didn't work but it it probably is one of the most important uh events in our history you know the uh the ingesting of these herbs way back when.
CAN YOU REACH THAT GROOVE WITHOUT THE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS?
Oh yeah you can if you've been there you can do it again I mean uh it's something that you don't have to take everyday you know it's not one of those things. I haven't taken it for a while but uhyou can get back there, it takes longer but you can back there and yeah.
WHAT ABOUT WITHIN, WITHIN, WITHIN THE GRATEFUL DEAD, YOU SPOKE OF THE FREEDOM OF THE MUSIC. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU CONTRIBUTED AS A PERCUSSIONIST AND A PERCUSSIONIST WHO WAS SEARCHING FOR THE BROADER SIGNIFICANCE OF PERCUSSION?
i guess spirit, what you bring to the music is the spirit but after you have your technique, we all can play our instruments you know you have to learn your instrument. Then you have to have the right frame of mindwhen you walk, you have to have love, you have to have compassion, you have to have forgiveness, you have to have, these are the big qualities that you bring to a music, you have to have passionor stay at home you know. This is not for everybody. This is really a robust kind of a an activity I mean you have to give everything, you have to leave it all there you know and you have to be able to come out of your body and not think of yourself but think of the grander, the grander motif here, what are you really trying to do? Are you trying to raise consciousness? Are you trying to make a better world? Or are you just trying to play a song? Grateful Dead were never into playing songs. That was not their trip, that was not what they were up to. Grateful Dead were into tra, they were into transportation I mean if you say what did the Grateful Dead do? We're in the business of transportation, that's our business you know we play songsand we look like a rock and roll band but it's really the transformative power of the music that's really the important, the essence of the Grateful Dead and all good music.
YOU USE THE WORD ROBUST AND BEING OUT OF THE BODY BUT LET'S FACE IT DRUMMING PHYSICALLY IS EXTREMELY DEMANDING AND YOU'VE WRITTEN ABOUT HOW IN LONG CONCERTS YOU WOULD GAZE OUT AND WATCH THE GUITARISTS EVERY NOW AND THEN TAKING A STEP FORWARD AND STABBING THE AIR WITH THEIR GUITAR WHILE MEANWHILEYOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUE ON THE DRUMS ARE SWEATING IT OUT I MEAN WHAT DOES IT GIVE YOU PHYSICALLY? WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE....
It's, you empower yourself, you feel great, you feel clean, you feel calm after you've accomplished this, it's like, it's like a sport, it's just like in athletics you know it's you're dealing with space and time and you're also, it's an endurance thing and it takes a while to get the juices going and that means you got to get sweaty you know and I mean I work out every day for at least two hours at least two hours maybe two and half hours every day before I even hit the drums you know I mean it's, it's you know it's not for everybodyyou know you really have to love this thing and my mother and father were drummers so I was sort of born into a drumming tradition. I know, I never had to think of what I was going to do or when I wake up in the morning, I don't have to think of what I have to do. I know what I'm going to do. I go to the gym and I work and then I drum or some sort, I do some kind of uh percussive activity.
YOU NEED THAT EVERY DAY?
I'd like to have it every day. I don't do it every day but almost every day I mean I'm with music everyday. I mean my sound worldis I keep my sound world filled with good sounds every day and this keeps me healthy. I'm fifty years old and when I was 21 I didn't have to exercise as much as I do now to keep in shape but I find that I get more out of my drumming and more out of the music. I have better relations with people and I'm enjoying life more than I did. Somehow if you keep at it long enough I guess you learn, you learn the better things.
YOU GOT INTO THE MUSIC BUSINESS AND THE REGULAR PERFORMANCE OF MUSIC AT A TIME OF AN EXPLOSION OF POPULAR MUSIC IN NORTH AMERICA YOU WERE TAKEN YOU SAW UH YOUR DESCRIPTION OF SEEING JANIS JOPLIN AND BIG BROTHER FOR THE FIRST TIME, YOU KNOW, YOU WERE WORKING IN THE EARLY YEARS WITHTHE GREATEST PEOPLE AT A TIME OF GREAT EXPANSION IN THE BUSINESS AND YOU'VE BEEN EXTREMELY POPULAR AND SUCCESSFUL THROUGHOUT THE SPAN OF POPULAR ROCK MUSIC POPULAR MUSIC IN NORTH AMERICA BUT AS A DRUMMER DID YOU FEEL A CERTAIN CASTE OF INFERIORITY FROM THOSE OTHER MUSICIANS, THE GUITARISTS, THE SINGERS, THE UP FRONT PERFORMERS? IS PART OF THE REASON THAT YOU'VE RESEARCHED SO MUCH ABOUT DRUMMING AND AND WRITTEN ABOUT DRUMMING,A SORT OF QUEST TO REESTABLISH THE DRUMMER AS....?
Not really, not really I never really felt that myself personally I mean I could hear it around but I never really paid much attention to it cause I knew how important it was I mean I couldn't, I couldn't fall for that ignorance you know that was just ignorance they didn't know. But now you know you take the drums away from a band and you see what it isIt's whoosh, I mean it's nothing. I mean without rhythm they wouldn't know where they are I mean they would be lost in the wilderness in the windless seas you know so I mean they know and I knowand so anybody who knows, knows and the other people you don't care about. So no it's well noted, the only thing was that they're out there in front and they're the big guitar heroes and they're in the front line and the lights are on them and all and they get a lot of attention and you have to deal with that and in the Grateful Dead there's no competition like that I mean everybody has respect for each other. So in the Grateful Dead, we sort of stayed really close together for many years, we really didn't go out in the outside world. We didn't really think there was much out there to see so we just sort of forted up and cubbyed you know and got really strong and we made our little empire you know our Grateful Dead world, our music world and our social world and we did it our way and we just cut the world loose back in the 60s. We didn't have (unclear) want any part of it because it was disease to us. Remember the war was going on, we were angry, we were young, and it was, you have to set it you know you have to set this this music was urgentmusic and we were all learning our instruments and finding out things for the first time. Each day was an adventure to a marvellous new land, it was a wonderland each day musically cause we were falling on things. Now, we go out and we it's like a Sunday cruise. We just, we've done, we've done our exploring and now we, uh we go out and we explore new territory but it's not like finding it for the first time, you know, as the first love you know the first time is always different and uh but now it's like fine wineNow we go,before sometimes we went to the bottle and it was vinegar. Now, it's fine wine. Now it's chateau chateau and we go to the (unclear) and that's the difference with the Grateful Dead now and it's you know it's it's you know it's almost thirty years later.
AS YOUR KIND OF MUSICPROGRESSES COMMERCIALLY AND AS NEW TECHNOLOGY ENABLES NEW KINDS OF RECORDINGS AND DISTRIBUTION AND SALESDO YOU FEEL PERCUSSION AND DRUMMING IS REGAINING ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE.
Yes yes absolutely you might say thatPerfect evidence with (?) a few years ago we won a grammy for world music and that was all percussion record, all drums, voices and drums. I mean that was unheard of I mean a drum record is never even charted let alone stay at the billboard for 23 weeks and then win a grammy and down beat and all that. It just completely cleaned upI mean people when they hear good drums know it and they'll go to it. It's like mad dogs and I always knew that and now the record companies know that you know and so uh it becomes legitimate a legitimate instrument of the 20th century orchestra now. It's not just a, a second rate thing in the back that goes clug clug clu bang bang bang. It's much more sophisticated and like I said earlier, a lot of musicians like (?) and (?) Hussein and (?) have taken these instruments and brought them to virtuoso status like great violinists or great pianists there's no difference. And uh you know some of them, some of these instrumentalists are multiinstrumentalists, they play hundreds of instruments. I mean I play a lot of different kinds of instruments not just a drum but percussion is as wild and as as it could be. See the percussive sound is a wild sound, it's noise not harmony, it's not melody, it's noise, it's not, it's, it's not it's a very intense short sound bite which you can't really say what the frequencies are sometimes because it's so short. So people call it noiseand nonsense not signal, non signal, non sense, it doesn't make sense to you at first when you hear it until you hear it for a long enough period and then it will sound like a violin or a flute and then it becomes sense. So yes today's you know that's the way it works you know and so we call it, it's noise though basically.
AND YOU'RE AN ARRANGER OF NOISE? OR AN ARTIST WITH NOISE?
Yeah I'm an noise artist. I would say I'm a noisician you might say that's what better put I guess yeah
YOU MENTIONED A PRE NATAL EXPERIENCE AN EXPOSURE TO RHYTHM, TO THE BEAT. AS YOU GREW UP, YOU GREW UP THE SON OF A MOTHER AND FATHER WHO CARRIED THAT TRADITION ON , THEY WERE DRUMMERS, YOU WERE HEARING THAT DRUMMING AS YOU GREW OLDER. WHAT DID THAT DO TO YOU AS YOU WERE IN YOUR TEENS?
Well mostly uh once I started on the drums when I was a little guy, I mostly went to noise, loud sounds uh marching bands, the latin bands of the day, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Machito, the great latin bands of the fifties in New York cityThis, the great diaspora had happened, this music, this cuban music that was hitting , hitting the streets of New York, it was electric So here the urban and tribal music were meeting right there, real time and uh I happened to be there and the whole city was dancing and listening to this music. It was like when rock and roll, like the Beatles you know or, or so that's what really influenced me was being in a melting pot i mean if you go into an apartment house in New York city you'll find fifty religions being practised there you know I mean you'll find more religion in an apartment house than you can any place else or you know in a small amount of area. So with these religions and these cultures, came their musics so everybody came over here, they brought their music here. Somehow I loved this music. I really loved it. My mom used to listen to FolkwaysRecords in the living room and I listened to pigmy music when I was a little baby. I didn't know what it was or I listened to you know rain forest musics and music from Ireland, the worlds music but I thought that everybody was listening to the world's music but not so.
AND YET YOU BEGANWITH RUDIMENTARY DRUMMING. WHY
That's right, because in the west that's what was happening. The drum, the drum the most significant part of the drum in the west pretty much at this time was in the dance band which was only one drummer, remember, Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich or a marching band, marching band had many drummers, many buglers, and it came from the military tradition, it came out of world war II. My father was in world war II He was a drummer. The drum corps was abundant in this country, they've taken, that goes beyond marching band, this like real serious drumming you know rudiments, the rudiments who are, the 26 standard American rudiments which were taken from the British, they were signals used in war or controlling the duty of the campduty, told you what you were eating, when to go you know and marked time. And so that was my legacy and that was one of the reasons I went to the library cause you know to find, you know , where did it all come from? And why were we left with just this This wasn't fair. I didn't think it was the right thing. I thought they was more to it and of course there was.
BUT YOU STUDIED THEM RELIGIOUSLY, THE RUDIMENTS, THOSE 26 (UNCLEAR)
Oh I loved it , it was loud. It made me the loudest thing in the room, it was powerful uh it was power. That's what is was about and it was about girls.
Of course what else you know. You know when you're a kid you know that, it attracts. It attracted the twirlers and the cheerleaders and it made you it made you larger than you were. You played a little drum and you made a big sound. I was little guy. I was real shyand all I did was practice my drum so that was my thing, that was my power. So, you know that's. we can talk right? I mean that's what is was all about music and girls.
CBC MAN ALIVE
(OFF MIKE COMMENTS)
THE DRIFTING AWAY FROM AN AWARENESS OF EVERYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH DRUMS AND DRUMMING HAD A CONSEQUENCE MUSICALLY IN WESTERN CULTURE BUT BROADLY MORE BROADLY BASED, IN OUR CULTURE, WHAT WAS LOST?
Our connection with nature, pretty much, that's what really was lost because drumming's really when we first started drumming we were trying to make sense of the universe, everything that was around us was in cycles, and patterns. So what did we do we tried to make patterns to make sense of the seas going, you know the sun and the moon and the and the you know and the women bleeding every month and everything was in cycles you know when we first started realizing that there was a time for everything and drumming also allowed us to go through our day with a lot of ease you know or rhythm or music, so when we lost this we lost our social, we lost the community, the break down in community was really a big thing about the you know the loss of the groove and the drum. Then we didn't get together quite as much and we didn't dance our dances and sing our songs and play our music. We played them out there not in here and we lost our spirituality, that was another part of this. We lost our very centre, that's what drums is all about to find your centre, the rhythm . You have to get together to experience each other and share the music and share share the same air and this is what this is all about and drum, drums were at the very centre of all of the rituals. You also lose the culture as we said before when you lose when you lose the rhythm look what's happening on the streets. You know I mean you talk about being out of rhythm I mean they have the wrong rhythm, that's really true I mean when people are killing each other and doing horrible things to each other they're angry. You know and you can tell people's music you can tell what kind of people they are just listen to their music. You listen to rap music you tell me what kind of a people that we are. We're very angry, very violent. You know and you know and no matter what it is the drums will support it I mean the drums can be very angry and very aggressive and it supports this kind of feeling.
WHEN DID YOUR OWN QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT DRUMS BEGIN?
I guess when I was a baby you know I I mean kept looking in every little nook and cranny for drums and sounds I mean I would even look for the letter D you know the big D. If anything started with a D I think there may be an R coming next. Any time I saw the word drum it made me - you know and made me want to know more you know any time I heard a sound I would run for the sound. It was one of those things. I didn't like I said I didn't have a choice.
WHEN DID THE APPLIED RESEARCH THAT ACCUMULATED IN YOUR WRITING. WHEN DID THAT BECOME -
I guess that happened about 15 years ago when I started really looking into the archives and translating the works from French and German and Italian and the and finding out the story, finding out the you know there was a big legacy here of music, percussion and spirit and mostly it was the, percussion was used in transition, that was one of the things that I noticed. That all of these cultures that were spiritual nature based cultures used drums. And - you know after a while I mean you find hundreds of different cultures using percussion you have to wonder what is it about this you know that makes it so special, and that's where the percussion started that's where I started I started taking pictures of my drums. And I realized that I didn't really know much about it. I had a large collection that I had just somehow gotten over the years and I was going to make, my first book was going to be a picture book. Like Planet Drum(?) eventually turned out to be and I took little Polaroids of each of the drums and I was going to write things on it and I realized I didn't know much and I was supposed to know all of it and everybody looked at me as sort of an authority on all of this and I had hearsay and sort of knew but I didn't know did it come from the Mongols or did it come from Mesopotamia or I don't know the Chinese did they have it or I don't know you know it was just told to me I didn't really know. Nobody knew you know except maybe James Blades some - some scholar but nobody could read that. Usually it was in some other language or you know. So that's when it all started I said I got to find out about this since this is my whole life I said I went to a doctor friend of mine he said I know you know all there is to know about my profession but you know you don't know about yours do you? I said not really I sort of know about it, I feel it. But I don't I can't tell you really about it. And that's when it first started I realized I didn't know as much as I thought I knew.
BUT IT MUST HAVE BEEN EXCITING WHEN YOU FOUND OUT THAT THERE WAS A LOT TO IT?
Ecstatic. It was it was like finding King Solomon's Mines you know it was, I found the Pandora's Box and there it was, all of the work right there. You know it was a lot, it was very dusty and it was in other languages so even scholars wrote for scholars not for people. If you weren't a scholar they didn't think that you deserved to read this you know I'm not a scholar you know I might be an authority on some of this stuff but I'm certainly not a scholar. I don't read French German and Italian so that's why it took over ten years and a lot of money to translate these works. And I mean if I wasn't in the Grateful Dead and this wasn't my passion this would never have happened. I mean it afforded me to do this I mean you have to be insane you know or have a steady day job to do this you know. You rob banks at night you know to support your research in the day.
WHAT ABOUT WORLD MUSIC, WHAT MEANING DOES THAT HAVE?
The world's music you mean.
Well it's rich, each one of them are just masterpieces you know I mean our greatest invention is ourself, our culture. I mean our greatest invention is what we leave, who we are. So each one of these - look at them each one of them like Picassos and Renoirs you know and these each one of these cultures have their they've they've built over hundreds of years their, the musical traditions you know their ancestors. You know. It's unbelievable you know what's what's contained in these in these cultures their whole their whole life's history their whole past. Who they are as a people, it's very rich.
IS THIS WORLD GOING INTO THE NEXT CENTURY WITH -
Of course it is -
WITH PROPER RESPECT FOR ITS TRADITIONAL (UNCLEAR).
More respect because now it's all dying you know and people see it's fallen off the edge of the world and when things become rare they become valuable so people have you know starting to look at it more. They realize that it's a sacred thing that they're losing and also the environmental issues have sort of tagged along you know they see an endangered cultures well there's endangered music too. If you have an endangered culture you have endangered music so they realized that the importance to preserve this music and also to learn from the Kalui of New Guinea they think of their sound world as a God given and - they are they're just tuning that the forest is a giant tuning fork and they're just one voice in this giant tuning fork. So they try to resonate with the animals and the trees and themselves and their life revolves around sound and the it's this is a - and rhythm and music. It's a life giving kind of force. So you learn a lot. You learn a lot from these cultures if you take the time to look into them. Last 30 years for the first time we were able to sit in our living rooms and be able to hear the world's music. Remember before phonographs or you'd have to travel to New Guinea to hear New Guinea music or - to travel to the Solomon Islands or travel to the Arctic circle. Now we can just go to a CD you can just buy CD's. You can get LP's and you can appreciate the world's music.
WHAT IS THAT ENABLING THIS TECHNOLOGY WHAT'S THAT ENABLING YOU TO DO?
What I do is I - my approach was a little different. You see I never thought of it as a second or third class music I always thought of it as a first class music in every - so I present it as if I would present the Grateful Dead or Ricky Hart or any any world class music or any production. I mean I package it in liner notes. The care that's taken in the presentation and the recording of it there's no expenses that's too much for this kind of music. And it looks and it feels and it sounds like a million bucks and it's not in a brown paper bag and when you give people something of worth. If you give them a brown paper bag they'll think well that's what's inside you know. There's not much in there you know it's just sort of yeah I know. But if you present it with a beautiful jewel case, real nice you know then they'll say what this is something of value. And so that's what I was doing back in the sixties and the seventies when I was recording this music. I was rolling tape at 15 inches per second, unheard of for tribal ethnic music I mean if you ran it 3 and 3 quarters or maybe 7 and a half that was big time but I was running it twice the speed and we didn't have money to eat. We didn't have a place to live hardly. And we were running at I was running at 15 ips. That was, but I thought gee this music comes around once, once in a life time. San Francisco in the sixties and the seventies all these musicians from around the world would come through and they were unrecorded, they couldn't afford to be recorded and I wanted to learn how to do remote recording which was a fascinating thing for me, it was sort of like hunter gathering kind of thing. So I would make them an offer they couldn't refuse, and I would give them the best recording in the world and all I wanted was a copy of it so I could listen to it. That's all I wasn't releasing records then I was just - gathering so I would sit back drink a little cognac or something and sit back and put my Nagra Master Curve on and click it on and sit back and listen to the world's music in my studio and that was my pleasure you know instead of collecting butterflies or whatever they do I collected these musics, that was a sort of an elitist kind of thing at that time. I knew that it was of great value and it was personally of great value and then Dawn Rose the president of Rico Disc thought it would be of value to the world and so that's how the collection got into CD.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS NOW WITH REGARD TO TECHNOLOGY AND THIS - PRIMITIVE ART.
Well technology should enhance art. The idea is I'm more interested in the fact that people hearing the music is not the purist trip I'm not so much of a purist I mean if I want to add a little bit of reverb or - or clean it up or do this or that I mean when you're listening to a CD people are listening for CD quality kind of things they don't want to hear just old feel tapes and I try to clean them up as much as I can using a computer or digital equalization or whatever I can - to make them sparkle. So people can hear then now in my own work when I use these archaic instruments or I could add delay reverb, processing I can make anything I want out of them cause I have one foot in the archaic and I have one foot in the next century because I'm a modern man I am not a primitive man and I haven't I'm on in the - I'm not in the neolithic or the palaeolithic I'm here at the end of the 20th century and I have available to me all these incredibly all this enhancing techniques that can be used to make, to draw you in to make this sound even more incredible. Basically acoustic based all my music. I am not really into synthesis but I'll process anything you know there's absolutely anything that I won't process I don't feel there is no line for me there are no rules there are no laws except when I sit back and how it feels in my gut you know how I really like it and there's nobody's going to give me a ticket you know nobody writes me a ticket for this, nobody says you're out of the ordinance you can't do that. You know so - I have my own you know set of you know rules.
AS AN INDIVIDUAL YOU'VE MENTIONED RAP. AND THERE'S A LOT OF -
I mentioned what?
YOU MENTIONED RAP MUSIC?
AND AS AN INDIVIDUAL YOU'VE MENTIONED YOU KNOW WE ALL KNOW THERE'S A LOT OF IMPROVISED MUSIC FAKE MUSIC COMMERCIAL MUSIC.
OUT THERE, AS AN INVIDUAL ARE YOU DRUMMING TO KEEP ALIVE THE TRADITION OR ARE YOU DRUMMING AGAINST THAT STUFF?
No I'm not into any of that. I'm not really into keeping the tradition alive I'm into making it day by day. You know and every time I approach the music trying to bring the best part of me to that music and evolve and mutate into the next century I mean I, if a music stays as it is it will die. It won't go any place I mean it will dry up. Eventually. Unless it's locked behind monastery walls like the Kyoto monks or something or your Tibetan polyphonic chanters. That you've really narrowly specific and you use this just for sacred music and that's all you do well that'll live forever but I'm also into entertainment so I'm on I'm on that line where I'm trying to deliver an ecstatic experience but I'm also trying to entertain it's a very precarious position because I'm I'm the transeur not the transee - sometimes I cross the line and then I become the transee because I put myself into these states as well and I lose my physical capabilities to keep the beat. When I used to get too far off. So I have to draw myself back from that spirit world because I get, I get too into it I mean I get this, my mind I lose my mind. And that's the whole thing behind this when you go into a trance you lose your mind and and it's a wonderful thing you know and if you can you're able to control it. Then that's the great beauty I mean we as a people go into trance all the time when you go down the road and you listen to a radio and you forget an exit or something or your mind you daydream well that's trance, that's a form of trance and if you practise it on a daily basis as I do I can go in and out without any kind of great serious consequence and when I'm in concert I know where that line is. When I feel that my technique I'm losing my technique I can't fulfil my function as a rhythmist as the I'm maintaining the groove and that's what my role is and when I can't maintain it any more that means I've gone too far I become the transeur, I become entranced. So I have to know where that line is as an entertainer. I can't fall over the edge.
WHAT ABOUT THE SOURCES AND THE NATURE OF YOUR FOCUS AS A DRUMMER, DOES THE INSTRUMENT GIVE YOU A FOCUS OR DOES IT DEMAND A FOCUS?
I excite the instrument the instrument tells me what to do, the drum plays me. At its best I am being played by that drum. I mean I am physically playing that drum but that drum is telling me what the next thing to do is and I'm not really thinking, I'm feeling, I try to cut my intellect out. It gets in the way. If you're thinking about it then that's that's that's intellectual music, you're thinking about it you're making it happen, it's not happening to you you're not of that moment. You have to be of the moment it's risky business, failure is great, but when you get it it's like nothing else and that's why people come back to hear me play and hear the Grateful Dead because it's of the moment and when we do get it the wind is in the sails you know and everybody knows it's a special moment you're there it's only once in a life time it's it's the great creation it's creation it's real creation not re creation which is what most of this music is, the corporate music is a formula music created specifically for the market place. We operate a little bit outside that market place we've created our own market place which isn't part of the corporate market place we don't have Clive Davis doesn't call us up and tell us what to play or when we're going to to make records and stuff. You know I mean he wouldn't dare do that, he knows the Grateful Dead is special. So - and we also try not to bring our intellect into the music too much you think too much you lose. If you feel if you go to the feeling part you know what what feels good then you win you know.
YOU'VE SPOKEN ABOUT CUTTING YOUR INTELLECT OFF OR REDUCING THE IMPORTANCE OR PARTICIPATION OF YOUR INTELLECT. WHAT HAPPENS PHYSICALLY, WHAT'S GOING ON PHYSICALLY?
Well you lighten up. Physically you lighten up you feel, you feel a sense of awareness, consciousness, you feel - you cross over the line you know you feel joy, you feel things that are deep within your sub conscious rises. And your intellect falls away. You find out who you are, if you're happy if you're sad. It's a healing kind of a thing. It's not not not dissimilar to sex or to good drugs. Music is a very unusual, a special case, especially if you share it with someone else, especially if you share this rapture with 20 thousand or 400 thousand people can you imagine everybody being tied at the heart you know together. This one experience. And then it's like for three hours and then - it dissipates and everybody takes their experience and goes to their homes they sit there they lock the door, and that feeling stays with you. I mean it's not doesn't end with the end of the concert a good a good concert a good performance will last sometimes a lifetime. I can remember the first time I hear Janis Joplin. I mean as if it were you know as if it was just ten minutes ago, I'll never forget that. Or the first time I heard the Grateful Dead really play. I'll never forget that or any other cathartic experience musical experience. You might remember when you heard a Dylan tune, I can remember the kind of radio and where I was on the freeway when I heard Blowing in the Wind. You know. You know these are the kind of moments these herophanies that happen in a life and usually you'll find music to be associated very closely with them. I know that they have in my life and most of my friends will tell you when they heard Sergeant Pepper they'll know exactly where that was you know and what room and what day and who they were with and you know and if they combed their hair or whatever you know I mean this is really a very specific thing I mean it just crystallizes your whole existence when a real profound musical moment goes down. Music is a very special case very strong very powerful look at there's a multi billion dollar industry it's one of the largest forces the most powerful forces on the planet. I mean look around, the air waves are full of music. Not too much talk, lots of music. Very strong still is.
So it's not rhythmic dexterity that you really need for these instruments, but you have to just fall into the sound and not think too much about it. As getting sucked in by the sound.
(music throughout dialogue)
And do it over and over again. Get a pattern, lock on it. Then mutate it.
This is an instrument from Kenya, penatonic ballaphon.
THERE'S A RICHNESS TO THE TONE.
AND WHEN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE REPETITIVE NATURE, THAT IS TRANSINDUCING.
And it's a short sound bite but you can also set up a rhythm to it and it's something that's very happy, that makes you feel good and when you hit some, you hit a bar like that and all the sound just pops off of this bar. It's like a magic thing you know, this is, it borders on magic.
AND THE DESIGN OF THIS IS CENTURIES OLD.
Centuries old, yes. Well this is a modern one. I've taken this centuries old instrument and put pickups on each of the bars and then I run it through my board and then I run it through 170,000 watts, so it's the loudest telephone in the world and I'm sure you--
THE LOUDEST, HIGHEST --
Yeah, it's the highest tech telephone in the world. So I've taken a lot of these instruments and mutated them madly.
WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL ACT OF BRINGING ALL OF THIS TO LIFE WITH YOUR HANDS, WITH YOUR ARMS? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO YOU AS YOU SENSE THE SOUND AND REPEAT THE MOVEMENTS?
Well, as I repeat the movement, I stop thinking about it and the instrument tells me what to do, it tells me where I want to go. Of course then the ear, then the senses come into play, if you're adding not only the tactile sound, the feeling of movement and remember your eyes witnessing the movement of it, so you're focusing right here. And it brings great joy, it's enjoyable, and the most important thing, it's fun. You see, that's the big part of me.
I CAN TELL YOU'RE HAVING FUN.
This is fun.
I CAN TELL YOU'RE HAVING FUN.
And it's not work, it's fun, strictly fun. Of course it takes a lot of work to have fun. I mean you practise these instruments for hundreds and thousands of hours and then you have fun.
BUT AS WELL, I MEAN THE DISCIPLINE THAT YOU'VE BROUGHT TO YOUR IMAGINATION TO CREATE THE PICKUPS AND ALL OF THESE--
That's imagination, that's a bit part of all this. If you don't have an imagination, you won't have fun. You have to take this, I'm not indigenous to Kenya, although I can appreciate the sound of the Kenyan instrument, I'm here in California at the edge of the western world, at the end of the 20th century and my music will reflect that if it's, if it's true. Not unless I'm trying to recreate Kenyan music, which I'm not.
AND THE AUDIENCES, YOU THINK THE AUDIENCES ARE RESPONDING TO THIS?
They don't have to know it's from Kenya or anything. Its, only the people who read the books about my books, know about these instruments, their history. In music you don't really have to know. The intellect plays a very small part of the enjoyment factor and if your imagination is fertile enough, you're able to, you're able to fly. You can imagine anything and you conjure different images. I mean I might do this--(demonstrates) and one person will see a flock of geese, and I'll do this -- (demonstrates) and they'll see the antelopes you know, on the on the plains or maybe whales or dolphins, it's up to the conjurer.
BUT SOME OF THE SOUNDS THAT YOU'RE CONJURING MUST MAKE A LINK WITH US.
Well they're earth sounds because it makes from wood. Some tree gave up its life for this instrument to be born and so the spirit of that tree perhaps is in this instrument. Some of these instruments have sacred connotations. That's when it comes from a natural saw, or source. I know the rosewood or the magingo, whatever these different kinds of woods are, came from a living tree you know. So I respect that. And it's treated well and it has a place of great honour in my, in my house anyway. These instruments come in and out of my home. This is my studio but each one of these will live with me for a time and then I'll bring them in the studio. They live in my home first and I play them. And then I bring them here and from time to time, I bring instruments out of the studio into my home or I play in my private time. We was talking before about going over the line. When I'm in my private moments, when I'm not performing, when I'm in front of the fire, then I explore the other possibilities of the instrument. I go deeper into it. I have longer periods you know, hours to explore. So I find the nuances of the instrument. And that's what these things are all about. It's sort of a revolving collection you know, revolves in and out. Sometimes I don't play these instruments for maybe six, seven, eight, nine years and then I'll go back to the vault and bring it out and I'll play it again.
--this is sort of a romance instrument. This is a quiet drum from Nubia, from Egypt, from the Sudan. This is an instrument of the desert. You can carry it with you very easily, it's a single membrane. Same drum. One of the oldest of the stretched skin drums. Here's an odd instrument. This one I made of doorstops. (demonstrates) -- Don't get too many calls for this. --instruments in percussion, we have a large palate ... cow bell. (demonstrates) -- This is an instrument... ... okay, this is an instrument from Africa. They use it in the telegraph, the bush telegraph, it's called a talking drum. (demonstrates) ... it has a vocal quality to it. That's why they call it talking drum. It's not a fixed pitch, it's a variable pitch. You move the pitch by tightening the string. (demonstrates)
BUT IT ACTUALLY IMITATES SPEECH, CORRECT?
Yes. I mean they used it in Africa as sort of a telegraph and every mile there'd be another talking drummer in a little station, a little house, and they would, it would be repeated and you can actually get phoenetics out of it and they would understand to bring me something ... we repeat it. There's sometimes 30, 40, 50, 100 miles if there was enough repeaters. This is before telegraph, this is the old telegraph. Here's an interesting instrument. I just have to get the right... for it. I've got to find the right... casualty of war. (demonstrating loud clanging bell) --- these are Tibetan. Singing bowls they're called. (demonstrates) -- -- beautiful sound. These are meditation instruments, these keep, concentrate on the ohm, on the single sound. These are caroling bells. You've seen these before. (demonstrates) -- there's a million different kinds of percussion sounds available to us. It's not like a piano where you have your 88 keys if you want 88 sounds, you have to get 88 percussion instruments. These are tuned bells, these are made by Peter Englehart who's a great craftsman, he makes tuned percussion. (demonstrates) -- and the Brazilians and Africans use these bells. (demonstrates) -- Here's an interesting one, a pretty one. These are penatonic bells, tubular bells. They're tubes, they're a pretty sound. (demonstrates) -- -- the quieter sounds. Not all percussion instruments are struck with a sharp stick so you use, you use mallets so you don't hear the initial attack so much. You hear the tone. Most people hit drums too hard because the most important and the most beautiful sound is after the strike and that's what these instruments have in common. They have a lot of vibrant sound. And you know this is the standard, well not exactly the standard drum set, you can't move over here -- that's okay. You've seen this, you've seen drum sets, you know what drum sets are all about. So is that it?
THIS IS IT.
This is a vein stick. ...cultures, this one happens to be from Argentina. It simulates the sound of rain, really ...it's ilke toothpicks in here and little round beebees for shells... it's really one of the....I mean it's fascinating how many instruments we as a people have come up with you know, fascinating ways of making percussion and rhythm. Every culture has hundreds of these ...instruments to make different sounds that evoke different kinds of feelings. I mean the ingenious ways that we as a people have learned to manipulate rhythm and noise. It's, it's quite a testament to our ingenuity and our fascination with rhythm through the ages. Okay well--