During the 25th edition of the DRUM FEST Festival, which was held at the Conference and Exhibition Center in Opole, Poland, we met up with the drummers who participated in the event. They performed with their bands, conducted drum clinics and workshops, but also judged young Polish sitcksmen as part of the Young Drum Hero contest, which presented a very high level of playing.
Artists performing at the festival included the likes of Maciek Gołyźniak, Łukasz “Icanraz” Sarnacki, Katy Elwell, Jason Bittner, Jason Sutter, Rick Latham, Gary Novak, Kaz Rodriguez and, last but not least, Russell Gilbrook – the drummer with British hard rock legends Uriah Heep. He has also played with Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Lonnie Donegan, Van Morrison, John Farnham and Bedlam, where he replaced the late Cozy Powell. Russell Gilbrook is endorsed by the following brands: Sakae, Paiste, Aquarian and Pellwood.
In the second part of the interview, our guest discusses snare drum fetishism, his approach to studio recording and digital recording technology, warming up before shows, impressions from last year’s edition of the Young Drum Hero contest, as well as his professional plans for the immediate future.
Russell Gilbrook Talks to BeatIt, Pt. 2
BeatIt: Snares are quite a personal choice as well. Very often, players who have deals with companies tend to use other companies’ snares. It’s also a sort of a fetish for drummers. Drummers tend to collect and use a lot of them.
Russel Gilbrook: Because of the character.
B: What about you?
R. G.: No. I’m not that fussy. I’m a big 14” x 6.5” man. I do love the six-and-a-halves. I do have a couple of snare drums but I mainly tend to use Sakae. I’ve got a chrome snare drum, I’ve got a bronze snare drum, I’ve got a bubinga snare drum. When I do recordings, I’ll take in six or seven snare drums because that’s the character of the drum kit for me. And producers might say: ‘That snare drum’s not quite working with this track. Let’s try something else.’ But I’m not as much a boffin on snare drums as other drummers.
B: You mentioned recording. Do you prefer whole takes? Probably you do rather than recording in segments…
R. G.: Oh yeah! With Uriah Heep, it’s guitar, bass, drums, keyboard: backing track’s done.
B: That’s the way it was done 50 years ago and that’s the way it has to be done now.
R. G.: Best way. You have to do the correct preproduction and then you’re confident and relaxed to know what you’re doing. Even though when I’ve done sessions, I’ve had to go in not knowing and write out what it is I need to play. That’s a different thing to doing a recording with preproduction. Of course, it is. But I’m definitely a one-or-two-take man. I don’t like five, six, seven, eight. You lose something. I want to capture that special thing.
B: There are a lot of players, especially the blast-beat guys, who tend to record in segments because, they say, you can’t just maintain the same level of energy throughout the entire track. But that’s not the case for you. It’s a different type of music.
R. G.: Not the case for me. It’s different. I did an Avantasia album (The Mistery of Time).
B: I wanted to ask you about that.
R. G.: The producer said: ‘Just do the feet and I’ll loop it round’. It’s consistency. The whole point of great musicians is consistency. Certainly in recording you’ve got to be consistent. So it’s far better to have something consistent and then you could concentrate better on another thing. If it’s too complicated, you know… ‘It’s not working, do it again. It’s not working, do it again.’ You get tired and it’s just not worth it.
B: And you’ve got the technology there to help you.
R. G.: It doesn’t really make much difference at the end of the day.
B: A lot of players say that the new studio technology, the copy/paste thing, takes away from the feel.
R. G.: I agree with that. At the end of the day, you work very, very hard, with a lot of practise, to nurture the way you play. It’s not about perfection, it’s about sounding and feeling right. Sometimes that air needs to be there and sometimes a mistake is good and real.
B: And it stays.
R. G.: With a computer system, you could make it so right it becomes wrong. It doesn’t sound right. There has to be an area, I feel, where musicians should be allowed to play.
B: Do you have the same prep routine when doing a clinic or a live show? I’m not talking about learning songs but warm-ups and things like that.
R. G.: Yes, exactly the same. I always do half an hour. I like to warm up my hands. Again, I don’t think many drummers realize the importance of warming up properly. They end up with problems with wrists and injuries. The whole idea is like an athlete doing a 100 meter sprint. If they don’t warm up, there’s gonna be problems. Especially if you play fast or hard, or a combination of both, it’s vital that all the ligaments get warmed up. Then, it’s much easier to play because they’re ready.
B: You’ve just completed the first round of the Young Drum Hero competition, judging the young drummers. What would you say about the level of the players so far?
R. G.: I think it’s fantastic! I was really surprised. The good thing is you’ve got players there who have really stepped their game up as far as technicalities are concerned. I have to say the level of the quality of the backing tracks is superb for the to play along to as well, which is just as important. Everyone is really playing great drums. I was very surprised and it was very enjoyable to listen to.
B: Different styles and things…
R. G.: Of course! Yeah! You don’t want it all to be the same. It’s nice to see the differences in the personalities with the players. It’s very good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well.
B: Should be even better.
R. G.: Hope so.
B: What about your plans for the immediate future? Is Heep doing anything or are you doing some other stuff?
R. G.: We’ve got a new album to do. We don’t know when we’re going in but we’re writing now and, obviously, when that’s ready to go and the contract’s finalized, we should do the preproduction. We’re not quite sure on producer either, which is always exciting when you get a new producer in. And same old, same old. Touring the world again. We never get tired of it because so many fantastic fans throughout the world want us to play and we’re very fortunate and happy to accommodate them and go out there and do it. We’re just doing a big tour of Europe with Status Quo (The Last Night Of The Electrics Tour) because they’re finishing their electric set. They’re not gonna be doing any more electric shows so we’re gonna go on there as special guests with them. The big arena tour takes us up to Christmas. Then we’ll look at the album and then we’ll be back out again.
B: What about other stuff outside?
R. G.: I don’t get a lot of time. I’m being asked to do a lot more clinics and I’m trying to fit everything in as best I can. I do do sessions for other people, if I’m not on tour. It’s just a shame I have to turn down quite a lot because I’m on tour. I just love to do different stuff as well, you know. But there’s nothing planned at the moment.
B: Do you have a home studio? These days everybody has one.
R. G.: No, I don’t.
B: So you don’t do stuff for people at home.
R. G.: No. I’ve got a couple of friends who have studios and I tend to use theirs. At the moment, my garage is converted into a music room but mainly just for me to practise. The problem is I don’t have the time. But my friends have got. I use theirs. Cheeky!
Drummers and Drummerettes! We give you Russell Gilbrook in the second part of an exclusive interview for beatit.tv!Share