Meeting Your Heroes

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine

Meeting Your Heroes

Drum Main.jpg


How many times have you got the chance to sit behind an amazingly expensive and gorgeous drum kit, only to hit one of the toms and cringe? You have an expectation as to what you’re going to get and it can be a rude awakening when you don’t, because you’d pumped yourself up so much. That’s not to say that it’s actually a bad drum kit – some different heads, a retune and you could be playing a legendary thing. Meeting your drumming hero can be interesting too.

Everyone has one of these stories. It may not even be a drummer – a movie star perhaps or another type of celebrity. Sometimes, you actually meet these people and they turn out to be the sourest personalities ever and you feel nothing but regret for making the effort. In the drum world, personality is one thing but the music and the drumming is another. There’s nothing worse than paying $200 to see your favourite band, but the venue is a massive arena, the mix is completely horrendous and the truly life changing experience you were hoping for is crushed like a blueberry in a toddlers’ gob. Bummer. The drummer might have played wonderfully, not that you would know about it though.



This month, the legendary Steve Gadd came to Melbourne with his band. I say that this one drummer is quite possibly my biggest influence. So much of the way I play can be attributed to Gadd. But I’d never actually seen him before, so naturally, when the chance to see the man in person arose; I jumped on it rather quickly. During the inevitable ‘waiting for the date’ to arrive I began thinking about what was coming. I was about to see THE Steve Gadd! Surely, this must be the most incredible thing ever? Then, I started to feel worried. I’ve watched later videos of him on YouTube and some of the comments are frightening. People will criticize every single stroke saying that he’s not at his best anymore and how he plays the same old licks he always has – seen it, been there, and then?

The day finally rolled around and I went to the show. On stage, I saw the ever-familiar black 6-piece Yamaha Recording Custom, toms slightly apart; angled down, cowbell in the middle, a modest Ride and two crashes set up – simple and classic. Some truly incredible musicians accompanied Gadd and he demonstrated an impeccable sense of time, feel and touch along with those classic licks and fills that made him famous. I was listening to my hero, the man that has indirectly taught me so much and influenced so many players around the world. Was it good? Yes it was! Did Gadd play the stuff I’d heard before? Yeah, he did! I didn’t mind at all.



Debriefing with the many musicians that also attended the gig I discussed the obvious points. Steve Gadd plays the way he plays and everyone knows the licks and the grooves, the ideas and the way he approaches a song/tune. Sure, it might be a little predictable at times but this is actually the main sign of a person of influence. The only reason we know the fills and grooves is because most of us have worked on trying to copy them! Steve Gadd was the man that first played like that and came up with the stuff and here we are worried about the fact that we might hear the same old stuff? How stupid I felt for even thinking this way for a moment.

During the concert I just couldn’t get the smile off my face. I met my hero and unlike the unpredictable pig-to-drive Lamborghini, I knew what was coming and it was great. The Lamborghini has flaws but that just adds to its character. Gadd played amazingly well – sure it wasn’t Steve Gadd from the late 80s smashing the daylights out of the kit with perfect precision at all times, but the musicality and the feel were there. There was even more maturity and I learned another lesson in how music should be played – by the very guys that made it that way during their peaks. It was humbling and unforgettable.