Paul Burgess - 10cc

AW - You mentioned you started out in Blues bands how did that come about?

I started playing in 1965, and the first band I was in was playing current pop tunes of the day  .  .  The Shadows, Beatles, Monkees,etc  .  .  but I was poached by another band whose drummer had had an unfortunate motorbike accident, and they were playing blues, so it was more by chance than intention. 


AW - Who were your influences drumming wise?

I developed a keen interest in jazz, and caught many shows at Manchester's Free Trade Hall during the mid to late 60s.  Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Sam Woodyard, Rufus Jones, Ronnie Zito, Ed Thigpen, Ben Riley, and my particular favourite Joe Morello were some of the drummers I had the good fortune to see, and all of them demonstrated the importance of musical interaction.  I was also into the soul bands, King Curtis in particular, and a life-changing moment for me was hearing his album 'Live At Fillmore West' with Bernard Purdie on drums.  I would say he was the most influential on my playing style of ALL the drummers I'd heard up to that point.  In the early 70s came the soul funk bands  -  Parliament Funkadelic, Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire  -  and I saw drummers like David Garibaldi as a natural progression from Purdie.  The follow-on jazz fusion movement brought Harvey Mason, Steve Gadd, John Guerin, Mike Clark and Alphonse Mouzon to my attention, all influencing the direction I'd subsequently take..

The 60s and 70s West Coast bands, including The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills & Nash, all pushed me more towards a rock style.  My favourite of them all was Little Feat, and Richie Hayward became one of my biggest influences. 

I later got to see Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, all with ground breaking drummers  .  . Ralph Humphries, Terry Bozzio, Billy Cobham, Ishmael Wilburn and Pete Erskine  .  . they were crossing genres in a way that made me realise my own developing playing style would work in almost any situation with very little adaptation.  


AW - Have you ever had any formal training in drumming?

In a word, no, I'm sorry to say.  Back in the day all the drum tutors were jazz players, and although I loved listening to jazz, I didn't have the inclination to actually play it.  With great hindsight I know they would have taught me the rudiments to apply to ANY style, but that didn't occur to me at the time.  I learnt the important ones as I went along anyway, some quite by accident.  As I see it, rudiments help to make playing phrases easier, but however you configure those phrases determines your general playing style at the end of the day. 

AW - You joined 10cc as second drummer to Kevin Godley how did you feel about that, was it your first time performing with another drummer?

No, I'd played with another drummer before, a chap by the name of Bruce Mitchell.  Bruce was at that time an eminent player on the Manchester scene  -  he took me under his wing, and I sort of became his protege.  The dual drummer format was well established by a number of American bands  (eg Allman Brothers, Doobie Brothers, James Brown, Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa), and was becoming quite popular in Britain too  (Glitter Band, Showaddywaddy, Wizzard).  I liked the idea, and right from the outset 10cc said they were going to be using drums and percussion in different combinations, and even when both kits were being played simultaneously they wouldn't necessarily be playing unison parts.  Kevin was always a tastefully economical player and great timekeeper, which allowed me the opportunity to be the one playing more adventurous rhythms, so it worked well for both of us. 


AW - How did you come to perform with Jethro Tull did you find it difficult to change over to a more progressive rock style?

I answered an anonymous ad in the back pages of Melody Maker.  It basically said. .  . ‘Drummer wanted for British rock band with album in the US top 40’.  I called the number, and was invited down to London for an audition, taking my little Gretsch kit with me. Having made a favourable impression, they said . . "Can you come back next week with a bigger kit?"  This I did and got the gig, Ian Anderson was looking ideally for another Barrie Barlow, a very flamboyant player, but nevertheless liked my approach to Barrie’s parts.  I guess that out of the shortlist of a dozen or so drummers, Ian felt most confident taking me on over the others.

The gig was to essentially finish the remaining six weeks of a world tour, replacing the recently departed previous drummer.  During rehearsals I was just playing the parts originally played by Barrie, original drummer Clive Bunker, and Gerry Conway on the then current album.  I hadn’t played arrangements as complex as theirs before, and even though I'd been listening to some very complicated stuff, it was quite daunting to be thrown in at the deep end.   I didn’t have too much of a problem playing each drummer’s actual parts, but remembering the arrangements as best I could in such a short space of rehearsal time was a bit of a nightmare.   However, I embarked on the tour with my 10cc Yamaha kit  (I was still in that band, but Tull’s tour fell neatly into a gap in their schedule), so at least I was playing a familiar set-up.  For the first couple of weeks I was still learning the tunes, but thereafter things felt comfortable enough to start playing out a bit. 

AW - After Jethro Tull you joined British rock band Camel replacing drummer Andy Ward, then taking on numerous tours with Joan Armatrading , Alvin Stardust, Elkie Brooks and Gloria Gaynor what was it like to play with so many greats  it that period of time when the music scene was really vibrant?

I got the call to work with Camel as a direct result of playing with Jethro Tull, so in a way everything that followed was because of my association with that band and 10cc, who were both well respected within the music business.  I felt very privileged to get the chance to play for the names you mention, as they were all well-respected artists.  I'd become more freelance by that time, and found myself working for a different artist each year that came around.  


AW - Talking with you earlier about equipment, you seem to really enjoy your Gretsch kit, what is the configuration you are currently using plus the attraction to this iconic drum manufacturer?

The Gretsch kit I bought in 1976 is an 18", 12" & 14" set, and has been the kit I've played the most over the years.  The company's legacy is 'That Great Gretsch Sound', and that's exactly what it is  .  .  I've lost count of the offers I've received from people wanting to buy it.  It's expanded over time to include 2 x 22", 10", 13" & 16", which I now use in different configurations, depending on the gig I'm doing.  They have a very distinctive sound, very warm but with great projection too.   I bought another Gretsch about 9 months ago which has 24", 13" & 18" sizes from the early '80s.   

Although my real passion is for classic American drums  (I have sets by Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers, and Fibes, all from the '60s and '70s), my touring kit is Yamaha.  I have four of their kits, all from the '80s, and because of their great consistency they're considered to be the industry standard even today. 

AW - Given the opportunity who would you like to perform with and why?

Since the late '60s my preference has been for American artists like James Taylor, Boz Scaggs, Tom Petty (RIP) and Bonnie Raitt, who all blend my favourite genres and deliver their individual styles in an R&B manner.  I'd say my dream band to play with would be Little Feat, because they effortlessly cover more styles than most bands  .  . blues, country, folk, rock, boogie, funk, jazz, all played with an infectious New Orleans style groove.  

AW - Which drummers of today do you draw your inspiration from?

To name just a few  .  .  Shawn Pelton, Glenn Kotche, Stanton Moore, Jay Bellerose, Brian Blade  .  .  and any others with an unconventional approach who I happen to stumble across. 

AW - What advice would you like to give to the next generation of drummers?

Be yourself, and don't try to copy someone else's style  -  listen to as many players as you can, and you'll learn something from each of them, even if it's what NOT to do.  Having learnt all things rudimentary, see how different drummers apply them to create their individual styles. 

It's a competitive world, so always keep an open mind  .  . fresh ideas often come from an unexpected source.

Always play with conviction and assertion  .  . soloists and singers need a confident rhythm section to work over.   

Enjoy yourself, because that's what playing drums is all about, but always remember you're part of a team.  Working well with other musicians is more important than having killer chops.

                        Carlos Hercules – George Michael, Laura Pausini, Beverley Knight and Marti Pellow.


AW - How did you begin your journey as a drummer, did you have any formal education, teachers, college etc?


I wanted to play as a child but never got the opportunity. It was at 16 I joined a local band and so the journey began. When I was 21 I studied in the Brooklyn conservatory of music in New York for two year under Scott Napoli. It was there I knew I wanted nothing else as my career.


AW - Who were some of your early influences drumming wise and why?

I was playing in the 80’d and were heavily influenced by soul music as that time. Earth Wind and Fire-Fred White, George Benson Chic etc. I later found out that those drummers were Gadd, Clyde Stubberfield, John Robinson and Dennis chambers who was playing with Parliament Funkadelic.

AW - How did you first break into the big arena tours, with George Michael and Laura Pausini did you audition or was it on recommendation?

I got my first break early 90’s playing with an artist called CJ Lewis, later I got on a tour with soul singer Beverley Knight and played for her for 22 years. This was a great platform to be seen and I got many recommendations from this. One being with a classical group called Bond, which happen to have a few of George Michael’s band members and MD. So when the GM gig came up I’d pretty much done my audition without knowing it. I got the Laura Pausini because a guitarist with GM Phil Palmer recommended me. I went to Laura’s studio played on a few singles and she offered me the tour.


AW - I did hear when you did the George Michael gig it consisted very heavily on electronic drums and quite complex programming, was this a learning curve regarding future tours?

Thankfully I’d done many tours with electronics before the GM tour came up but obviously this was on another level, far more intense. It helped me tremendously prepare for future shows though none have been as intense as that since.


AW - Reference the George Michael tour did you have any parts to read for the show also was the MD adaptable to your way of playing and input to the music?

I wrote out most of the GM parts as there was a lot of material although we did no reading on the shows. The GM shows were very strict musically so not much room to input too many ideas. They had to be subtle and tasteful. GM was a perfectionist who listened to the shows every night afterwards. The discipline was second to none.


AW - You have adopted technology as part of your regular working rig, when did you first become involved with it?


Pop music has taken a huge turn towards electronic sounds so I’ve always been involved in that side of things from my early career to now. It’s a necessity for any working drummer these days.


AW - How did you secure the gig with Laura as she is one of Italy’s top female artistes and not well known in the UK?


Yes to be honest I hadn’t heard of Laura Pausini before getting the recommendation and when I met her she was welcoming and warm and incredibly humble. So I played on the first 4 singles of her 20th year hits tour. We ate dinner together and talked with her family etc. Then she offered me the tour. I was still surprised when we started and I realised what a massive star she was. It’s been an amazing journey with her these past 5 years.


AW - What was it like working with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart?


Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart are to this day one of my favourite experiences. I only did a short tour with them, when they were inducted into the UK hall of fame and another highlight was the American music awards. Annie offered me her solo tour but I’d already committed to the GM tour so unfortunately it never happened. We still stay in touch today. And Dave is a genius he has such musical insights.


AW - Reading about your past you have a long history of working with Beverley Knight how did this come about?


Yes Beverley has also been a huge pleasure and game changer for my career. She had recently changed her whole band and I got a call to audition but her first tour date was in 4 days time. So I wrote everything out and got by through the skin of my teeth and spent the next 22 years enjoying her incredible voice.


AW - I heard time permitting you enjoy teaching, how did you become involved with education and why?


When I’m not touring I like to teach, I have been for a long while now. I think I have a lot of knowledge to impart and I love the challenge of learning how individuals learn and finding ways to switch them on. There are many valuable lessons in life through drums. I really enjoy watching my students enjoy their journey through music and life. I teach the readers the value of listening and the listeners the value of reading. For me music is emotional, my favourite players make everything feel great so I try to emulate that and share it with my students I find it very rewarding


AW -  Do you still practice if so do you have any particular routines, warm-ups etc?


Oh yes I try to practice every day or at least do a hand routine that involves singles, doubles, flams, paradiddles and finger exercises. It’s like a speed and stamina drill against the metronome increasing by 10 BPM every 10 bars to failure. I’m trying to grow as a musician so practice is very important. When I’m touring I miss practice and when I’m practicing I miss touring. Crazy!!


AW - Are there any future tours/recordings you would like to mention to our readers?


Just more touring and recording with Laura Pausini and Marti Pellow. I’m also going to be doing some online tuition in the next few months that people can subscribe too.


AW - Finally what words of wisdom would you wish to pass on to the generation of drummers?


The best piece of advice to all the drummers out there is ‘be the best you can’ both behind the kit and when your away from it. People like to work with good people so develop your people skills as well as your drumming skills.
Thanks again Ashley. It’s been a pleasure. C

                                                         © 2018 Ashley Wardell. All Rights Reserved

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