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THE DRUMMERS OF JETHRO TULL
It seems like Jethro Tull has been around forever. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of this British band, and longevity like that often sees detractors casting off frontman Ian Anderson and his ever-changing companions as "relics." But Tull is still vital after all these years. Rock's true Renaissance band, they've expertly weaved heavy rock into blues, classical, folk, and jazz, forming a truly unique style. Twenty-two years translates into a couple dozen album releases, international acclaim, and the point of this retrospective: some of rock's finest drummers. Longevity and impressive drumming — those are two things that even Tull's detractors can't quibble about.
In the interest of getting all points of view, we rounded up all five of Jethro Tull's recording drummers: Clive Bunker, Barriemore Barlow, Mark Craney, Gerry Conway, and Doane Perry. We also got hold of Ian Anderson for his side of working with these drummers. Being somewhat of a drummer himself, his thoughts are quite insightful.
One might assume that because each of the drummers in Jethro Tull has been unique and so accomplished, they had to have been found through a rigorous search for exceedingly high musical credentials. But according to Ian Anderson, that assumption is incorrect.
"The people who have been a part of Jethro Tull were not chosen so much for how they played as for what kind of guys they were," Anderson explains. "Strangely, I don't really pick the drummers; they just sort of appear. In the case of Doane Perry, he answered an ad that we placed in an American newspaper when we were actively seeking a drummer to play on a forthcoming tour. We had interviewed and rehearsed with a lot of drummers, but Doane got the job based more on his personality than his actual drumming style. That's because it's more important to have somebody around that you can get on with and who you like. Then you hope that, in terms of music, you have a satisfactory relationship. I think the personal side of it is the most immediate thing.
"In the case of Gerry Conway," Anderson continues, "he was somebody we had known for quite a few years, and that was the immediate deciding factor. I mean, if you don't seem to get on over the phone or when discussing the nature of the job, then you don't bother to take it as far as sitting together in a room to play music.
"When Jethro Tull actually began, Barriemore Barlow was playing with us. [The group was known as the John Evan Band at the time.] He left to move to the South of England, so Mick [Abrahams, Tull's guitarist at the time] volunteered his friend Clive Bunker as a substitute. In the beginning, Clive had limited technique — and a limited number of drums on which to execute his very limited technique," Anderson laughs. "He had only been an amateur player locally, and he had a second-hand kit of oddly assorted bits of drums, along with a very basic style. So he wasn't the epitome of a world-class drummer at that time, but we weren't world-class musicians either, I suppose.
"We did learn a lot together, though, and fairly quickly. And during the three years that Clive was in the group, he did make a name for himself, having developed his technique substantially. But you have to look at this by taking into consideration the overall context of the music we were playing at the time, and Clive's technique back then was right for the music that we played. And to some extent, our music developed around his technique as well as the other guys' in the group. I'm also quite sure albums like Thick As A Brick would've been very different-sounding if somebody else had played drums on them other than Barrie Barlow. All the drummers who've played in Jethro Tull have played very firm roles in the way thc rnusic's turned out."
Additionally, Anderson maintains that a fair portion of what's written takes the style of that particular drummer under consid-eration.
"Maybe when I write songs, I have a vague idea in the back of my head of how that drummer at that point in time might deal with the songs, so I suppose it influences me. But I don't think it's deliberate. It's more subconscious."
Over the 22 years Jethro Tull has been recording, there have been many stylistic twists and turns. The drummer who has to play selections throughout that time period has a drumming legacy to live up to. Says Anderson:
"I think being a drummer in the group is a very interesting job. But it is no doubt a hard job, and particularly these days it's even more difficult because there is so much to play. From the point of view of the audience — apart from the musicians — there's a need to some extent to accommodate the execution of the older songs, so that you pay more than just lip service to the way they were originally done. You've got to substantially put across the flavor of the way they were played by the guys who were in the band at the time.
"There's a fine line that must be found that allows you to put your own stamp on it but still acknowledge the efforts of your predecessor," Anderson elaborates. "Doane doesn't have a problem with that at all because he's quite capable of complimenting Barrie and Clive for what they did, but he's equally confident that he can do it pretty well himself. A lot of it has to do with confidence. Possibly Doane would feel less confident in playing in the Gerry Conway sort of style, because that's a slightly more minimal approach to playing drums. Embellishment is less frequent but far more emphatic when it occurs. It's down to feel, and with Gerry, he plays off the top of his head, so you never know what he's going to do. He's a guy with a lot of sensitivity and the ability to fit into music without overpowering it."
Does Anderson have any specific memories of Tull drummers that he'd like to share?
"Well, Gerry Conway is a helluva nice guy, and he would play 98% spot-on every night," he recalls. "But the 2% that wasn't would be frighteningly wrong. You could be in the middle of a quiet passage where there would be nothing going on with the drums for, say, 18 bars. Then suddenly in the middle of it, for no apparent reason, Gerry would come out of the reverie and start playing these almighty crashes, because he thought he was where he was supposed to be a few bars later. Or you'd be in the middle of some great big thrash, and Gerry would just stop. This could make you laugh or it could make you angry, because you'd be inclined to think he wasn't paying attention — which is a nice way of saying that Gerry would fall asleep sometimes," Ian laughs. "Strange things like that are quirky little habits, and everybody's got their own habits.
"For instance," Anderson continues, "Doane Perry has been measured as being a good 15 milliseconds ahead with his bass drum on a metronomic beat, whereas his snare drum tends to be sitting behind the beat, by the same 15 milliseconds. So Doane's drumming — because the bass drum is always edging a bit in front — has an urgency to it, similar to the one occasion that Phil Collins played drums with us. He sat right on the front of the beat, and you really felt all the time that you had to follow the drummer, which is alright. But there's an urgency, a very leaning-forward feel to it. Dave Mattacks — who we play with occasionally — has a style where his bass drum tends to sit very much on the beat, never in front. But Dave's snare is so laid back that unless the band is aware of this, tempos tend to fall behind. These are some of the subtle differences in the way people play.
"Barrie is not a metronomic drummer," Anderson adds, "and no offense intended. Instead, he thinks in terms of patterns, and he'll be thinking ahead quite a few bars when he's playing — about how he's going to improvise and embellish or develop a pattern. So he's playing less for the moment and more with a view towards an overall arrangement and a level of detail. He's a more intellectual sort of drummer, like maybe Bill Bruford was with Yes.
"When it comes down to pure technical things," Anderson continues without pause, "people are very different. And 15 milliseconds may not sound like a lifetime, but it is in drum terms. So if you have a drummer with a very laid-back approach on the snare drum, then everybody has to feel comfortable with that approach. And if you're playing with Phil Collins, you have to be aware that you've got to keep up with the guy, because he's not going to wait for you."
Although Anderson has pointed out the idiosyncratic nature of drummers — a characteristic inherent in all musicians — he nevertheless extols the virtues of, as he puts it, "the human drummer." Says Ian:
"Human drumming is the ultimately satisfying thing not only to have in a group context, but also to listen to. I think there's a growing number of people these days who are becoming dissatisfied with the metronomic perfection of the drum machine, whether it's programmed by the keyboard player, the producer, or even the drummer. Either way, it's just too regular, too precise, and the replication of each snare drum beat in terms of sound and volume is monotonous, unyielding, and lifeless. But it's still very much the standard for pop rnusic, especially the more danceable pop music. On a good day, Gerry Conway can come very close to drum machine perfection, but the machine can't play with the same artistic sensitivity as Gerry."
Ian Anderson's praise doesn't stop with Gerry Conway. Whether it's the magic of Mark Craney or the technical bravado and off-the-wall complex creativity of Barriemore Barlow, he respects the work each Tull drummer has contributed to the band.
"I do have a high regard for all of them. They're all a part of Jethro Tull and always will be; it's there forever."
Although our Tull retrospective commences with Clive Bunker — the first recording drummer with Jethro Tull — he was actually not the band's original drummer, not technically at least. Before Jethro Tull became Jethro Tull, several future band members, including Ian Anderson, John Evan (keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bass), and drummer Barriemore Barlow played in a grass-roots, bluesy version of the group between 1963 and '65 called the Blades. In late '65 that group became the John Evan Band (with a few personnel additions), and later (from '66 to '67) they were known as John Evan's Smash [sic].
Clive Bunker actually first made his debut in an early incarnation of Tull back in 1967. That group played under a variety of acronyms (among them Navy Blue, Bag Of Blues, and Ian Henderson's Bag O'Blues) until eventually going with Jethro Tull, and releasing their first LP, This Was. That album was followed by Stand Up the following year, and then a hit single, 'Living In The Past'. International success was immediate. It was also during those early days that the group began garnering an immensely respected reputation for excellence in drummers.
Clive Bunker, a modest soul who reflects on these years fondly but unceremoniously, remembers himself and his playing a little differently than his fans might.
"When I was involved with Tull, I never cast myself as a drummer as such. As far as I'm concerned, we launched into it long before I knew what I was doing," he laughs. "Over the years, I've honed a few things, which has made me a better player."
Although Bunker might seem self-deprecating, it's simply a component of his very approachable and unaffected personality. Here's his response to the observation that almost 20 years since his departure from the limelight of Tull (in '72 after the Aqualung album), his eminent reputation is still intact:
"I know!" he laughs. "It's all so completely outrageous! There are some great players who say they've been influenced by my playing, and when I hear them I say, 'Blimey! They're brilliant.' It amazes me how they could pick up on something as bad as my playing was then. Now I can just about consider myself a drummer because I've got some of the bits together."
More than a few drummers would take issue with Clive concerning his self-written "report card." But he relays an incident from his formative days as a Tull drummer when he was, in fact, a bit more technically ignorant than he was perceived.
"I was at a festival, inside a practice tent with a bunch of drummers. I had my little kit set up in one corner, while the other guys had these huge kits. They were playing this incredibly technical stuff, and then one of their wives came up to me and said, 'Why don't you go over and have a play?' I told her that I didn't know what they were playing, because that was the truth. I didn't know what paradiddles were then. After the show, they didn't speak to me, and I couldn't understand why, because I had been friendly to them.
"Months later we were playing in the same place, and I ran into some of these guys. They told me they thought I had been pretending I didn't know what I was doing, then I'd go on stage and blow them away. But in truth, I really hadn't been aware of exactly what I was doing. When it came to things like paradiddles, I made them sound the same as I heard other people play them — all single-stroke rolls and stuff. Those guys had thought I was taking the Michael out of them, but I wasn't. I knew the sounds I wanted, but I didn't know the terminology involved."
But what about all the praise he received?
"You only have to walk around the corner to find somebody playing better than you," he laughs heartily. "A lot of the new guys coming up are learning how to play properly."
When Tull began to peak in popularity, Clive made the surprising decision to leave the band to get married.
"I had always told Ian, 'If I find the right lady, I'll be gone,' and I did just that," he explains. "That was just at the start of their world touring in '72, and I wouldn't have been back in England for ages at a time. So I thought that I might as well end it then. Besides, Barrie was always in the background anyway, so I knew I wasn't going to put them in a difficult situation. You must understand that back then, we didn't have any time off; it was non-stop work, and I wanted to spend time with my wife."
When he left Tull, Bunker did not abandon his drumming. Besides playing with artists like Robin Trower, and more recently with Manfred Mann, Clive has done lots of sessions and jingle work. He now works with bands and plays live whenever he can find the time. In addition to music, Clive is a successful businessman, owning an engineering company and a thriving dog kennel on a farm in Central England:
"In case the music side of things should crash, I have something to fall back on," he says.
Does Clive have an overall feeling that sums up his thoughts on Tull?
"I'm totally distanced from the band at this point, so I can fairly say that they're one of the best bands in the world. I think Ian — as a writer and because of his insights — is one of the best musicians to come out of England. One of the things I'm most proud of in my life is to have been associated with something that good. The great part is that it's gotten stronger and stronger over the years."
When Barriemore Barlow stepped into Tull to replace the newlywed Clive Bunker, the band was on the eve of their biggest worldwide success. Aqualung had broken open the floodgates, but Thick As A Brick, their next release and Barlow's first with the band, jettisoned Jethro Tull to superstar status. The '70s was a decade of touring for Tull, and Clive Bunker's assessment that the road work would be non-stop was certainly accurate.
The '70s also proved to be the decade that Jethro Tull took their most progressive musical risks. 1973's A Passion Play, like its predecessor Thick As A Brick, is a 40-minute (give or take), continuous piece of music, and also like Thick is replete with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to style. Variations in texture, rhythm, mood, and dynamics abound on A Passion Play, often a result of the extraordinary presence of Barlow — a connoisseur of spontaneity and imagination.
Barriemore's style was obviously a departure from Bunker's. How did Barlow deal with replacing Bunker?
"It was vastly different playing, certainly," he concurs. "I was very lightweight compared with Clive, although musically we had very similar backgrounds. I didn't feel the drummer's seat in Tull was mine until after being there for four or five years. I felt I was living in the shadow of Clive, because I think that Clive's playing truly had a lot of character.
"But listening to that era of Tull music is awful for me," he adds. "I've always admired people who invent — and on a percussion level I admire inventors of rhythm. I tried to strive for that in Tull, but now I go to great lengths to advise the drummer in the bands I'm managing not to play anything like I used to play in Tull, because it was so busy and over-the-top."
What does Barrie ascribe that flamboyance to?
"That was mainly due to the fact that we didn't know what Ian was going to sing over the music, so it was like a bunch of backing tracks. I'd be so disappointed — not all of the time, but often — when I'd hear the result of what Ian was doing over our tracks. Had I known what the vocals and strings were going to be — or whatever else was laid down later — I wouldn't have played half the shit I played, because I felt it got in the way."
When asked what sticks in Barlow's mind the most about Tull, he sarcastically retorts:
"I remember something about a guy standing out front with a flute."
When pressed, though, he relays a humorous incident.
"There were a lot of things I remember that were really ridiculous," he says, "like the time we did a free concert in Switzerland. The band's manager at the time was thinking of living there, and he wanted to get on the right side of the Swiss authorities. So we had to play a free concert for the richest country in the world!"
Despite this rather sardonic choice of incident to reminisce about, Barlow does have some complimentary thoughts on the band ... well ... sort of.
"I actually went to see Tull before last Christmas, and they were pretty good. Ian was back to his old self and seemed a bit more relaxed. He's not wearing white suits and trying to look like a space invader these days. He's growing older gracefully. But apart from Ian, I found the current band a little short on character, and that might be because I'm not aware of what they're up to. But I remember the band I was in back then; it was comprised of five characters, and there was a lot of humor. Now there's just Ian, and if you take Ian out of the equation then there's no Jethro Tull. It's always been that way, but I think it's like that today more than in the past. I think back then there was a certain togetherness present, even though there were certainly a lot of internal struggles. But it was so entertaining, even for us."
Back in 1974, entertainment was an essential component of Tull's exuberant live extravaganzas. That was also the year the band released War Child, a resounding critical and commercial triumph. Minstrel In The Gallery followed, and then in 76, Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die! was released. Later that year, the 'Solstice Bells' EP appeared, followed by yet another LP Songs From The Wood. Those mid-'70s years were the most prolific for the group, and there was no change in drummers. Barlow was steadily gaining the respect of fellow drummers not only because of his recorded output, but also due to his amazing live extemporizations. (Evidence of this can be found on the double album Live — Bursting Out released in late '78, preceded by another '78 release, Heavy Horses.)
During Tull's extensive touring, Barlow had grown close with bass player John Glascock, who he had recruited to the band during the Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll sessions. Glascock became ill and underwent open-heart surgery, and then tragically passed away soon after in '79. Stormwatch (1979) was the last album for both Barrie Barlow and his dear friend Glascock. Says Barrie:
"John's death was devastating. He was my closest friend, and [Tull] was never the same without him."
After completing the final leg of the Stormwatch tour, Barrie had had enough. He left the band in 1980.
Barlow then went on to do various session projects, including work with Robert Plant, John Miles, and Jimmy Page, and he also started his own band for a spell called Storm. But the project nearest to his heart was a band called Tandoori Cassette, which, despite obvious potential, never quite took off.
These days, Barrie is a producer / manager with a newly signed band back in Britain. He's got a recording studio (The Doghouse) on his property, which has been occupied by several bands (Gary Moore, Asia, It Bites, and Bad Co., among others), and he's even got a couple of offspring involved in music, with both of his daughters writing songs, and one also doing vocal sessions. He's enjoying working with the young band he's been managing, and he's certainly as opinionated and cantankerous as ever.
In 1980, Mark Craney became Jethro Tull's first American drummer, but when he got the job, he didn't know that. That's because when Craney was brought in to play with the band, it wasn't for a "Jethro Tull" album per se, it was originally an Ian Anderson solo project. Those sessions that Craney played on turned into the A album, Tull's next recorded venture.
Craney, formerly with Jean-Luc Ponty, Gino Vannelli, and Tommy Bolin, stuck around long enough to do the 'A' tour. Does he recall anything specific about his experience?
"I listened to Jethro Tull's first couple of albums while I was in high school," Craney remembers, talking from his home in LA, "but I didn't listen to them much after that until I got the gig. They had somebody else lined up to play on the album, but he didn't work out, so they called me up. So I went over to the U.K. and did it. The next thing I did when I got home was to call my friend Doane Perry. I said,'"Well, I guess I'm going to join Jethro Tull,' and he said, 'Mark! Do you realize what this means?' I said, 'Yeah. Now I can finally go out and buy that Sony Trinitron I've always wanted.' He was more excited than I was — that's Doane — and as everyone knows, he's got the gig now, so it worked out great. It was kind of a neat transition, and it was perfect for him, because he fits the bill better than I do.
"What I enjoyed the most about Tull," Mark continues, "was the whole English way of life they were into, and spending time over there. The English are known for a dry sense of humor, and I have a pretty dry wit myself. We recorded over there, and between takes we'd ride motorbikes and shoot clay pigeons — wild stuff I'd never done before. It was kind of gentlemanly stuff, but it was lots of fun.
"I also particularly liked the fact that when I joined the band, we took a different direction that was to the left of what they had done in the past. It went into a more modern, adventurous direction, but it was their most unsuccessful album, so they kind of went back to their more medieval hippy-rock stuff. But I did enjoy being in the band during that time."
Mark had a lot of serious health problems a few years ago, although he's now completely recovered and has rejuvenated his career. He explains:
"It all started when I had kidney failure back in the summer of '86. I was on a dialysis machine for about a year and a half, and I had a number of other complications. Then I had a kidney transplant the following year. I've been getting better steadily. I had a mild stroke when I had the transplant, so it took me a while, but it all eventually came back. I've been playing pretty steadily since the spring of '89, doing more and more each week."
Craney has been teaching, playing in clubs, and doing sessions with artists like Patrick Moraz, Gino Vannelli, and a host of other projects. He's also begun to do some producing and co-writing with another artist.
Mark's also a member of the Woodland Hills Drum Club, along with Doane Perry, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gregg Bissonette, Myron Grombacher, and Billy Ward.
"We get together and jam at my house," Mark says. "It's the official 'clubhouse.' It all started because we like to hang together, and we used to joke about it, but it started to really be a club. It's always a lot of fun. It feels great to be doing all of this again. I feel like I'm finally at the point where I'm almost 100% there."
Among several personnel changes in Tull after the 'A' tour, there was, once again, the matter of getting another drummer. By the time the band got together to record the next album, Broadsword And The Beast ('82), Mark Craney was back in LA. busily working on other projects.
Ian Anderson had admired the talents of drummer Gerry Conway, an Englishman with an established track record who had played with Cat Stevens for many years and on many other albums. So Conway was subsequently hired to play on the Broadsword LP and the European tour dates that followed. (Paul Burgess did the American tour.)
Conway — who comes across as quite laid back and unpretentious — credits his friendship with bass player Dave Pegg as the connection to getting the job in Tull. (Pegg replaced John Glascock.)
"I was living in the States at the time," explains Conway from his home in a southern suburb of London, "working with an American band who went under the dubious name of Thieves. I had spent three years there, from '78 to '81, trying to get the band off the ground. When Dave called me up, I sort of knew the band was in the throes of death. I was really fortunate that he called at that time, so I flew back here and had a play, and it was agreed that I could join the band. The same day, in fact the very moment I was going to call my old band to tell them I was leaving, they phoned me to say they had just broken up.
"When I was first offered the job with Tull," Conway continues, "I thought, 'Are they sure they've got the right guy?' because I've never been known for technical expertise. I'm very much a feel player, very much from the heart. I don't live for fills; I'm quite happy to sit on the groove, so to speak. Anyway, Ian said he felt confident about it, though initially I was sort of awed by it. It's only over the years that I learned to understand what he requires. In the early days, I found it difficult, because he does think in unusual time signatures. But when Broadsword was completed, he got some of the best performances I ever played. I have a lot of respect for him."
How did Conway find his niche in the band, since, as he mentioned, he wasn't as technically affluent as his predecessors?
"I knew I could never do what the more technical players in Tull had done before me. Playing all those parts was quite enough for me, so when a fill came up, I would often use that as a rest rather than a blinding fill. Deep down in my heart, the only thing that appeals to me is something with a nice groove. So my tendency is not to play fills all that much.
"But I did like Broadsword when it was finished," Gerry continues. "I'm not very often that proud of what I do; I can always hear faults when I've played from the heart and not the head. But I did like the end result of that. I guess it was about learning to play accurately using both the head and heart," he laughs.
Conway admits that learning all those '70s-era killer arrangements did make him nervous before live shows.
"Yes," he begins, "I did suffer from that, and I think that's probably why Ian didn't ask me to do another tour after that. I was an established session player when I left England to go to America for three years. With the band failing and me moving back to England so suddenly, I was a bit unsettled, and it was a culmination of those things that made me feel nervous. But to my surprise, Ian still calls me to do things with the band."
One of the occasions on which Anderson called Conway for his services was in 1987 for the Grammy-winning Crest Of A Knave release. Since that time, Conway has been active in session work and touring with Pentangle and artists like Jimmy Ruffin.
"When it comes to sessions," Gerry says, "it can be anything. I've got one lined up next week for a toilet paper advert, and last week I did an album for the Japanese rock market."
Conway has also toured America extensively with Richard Thompson.
"Next," he says, "I'm going on tour with guitarist Jerry Donahue, who's been a friend for 20 years, and the bass player from Steeleye Span. I'm also coming back over to America with Pentangle this year. I have lots of friends in the folk world, but in addition to that I also play rock, pop, jazz, and funk. I don't have any one allegiance."
In 1984, Jethro Tull released Under Wraps, which was a somewhat controversial release due to its highly electronic nature — an obvious departure from Tull's signature sound. And, similar to Ian Anderson's solo release a year earlier (Walk Into Light), it lacked the benefit of a real drummer. Ian Anderson was using computers instead, weaving intricate and complex drum parts throughout. Doane Perry, who had worked with Bette Midler, says that having to replicate pre-existing computer drum parts himself was a bit of a challenge when he joined Jethro Tull for the Under Wraps tour in '84.
"There was some very imaginative programming for that material, which was very difficult to learn," says Doane, certainly the most talkative and lively of the bunch.
Perry's original encounter with the band actually transpired long before he joined Tull. When he was 16, he got to meet Clive Bunker and the rest of the band during a rehearsal when they played New York's Fillmore East.
"I had written Clive a fan letter, and what was pretty amazing was that he wrote me a very gracious letter back, saying, 'The next time the band's in town, come and say hello.' And I did just that. Clive was so incredibly nice — he actually took me on stage and let me play his drums. He got me passes to all the shows, and I got to watch from the side of the stage. I got to meet the band, but of course they don't remember meeting me. He was such an influence on my playing, and the whole experience was so exciting for me. He had so much subtlety and style, yet he was incredibly powerful. He also had a lot of technique, which, back then, a lot of players didn't possess.
"Anyone who saw Clive live realized what a phenomenal player he really was," Doane continues enthusiastically. "He was a very organic player. I remember saying to him when we met, "What a great six-stroke roll you've got." And he gave me a "What the hell is that?" kind of look. He had been doing it hand-to-hand, but he was doing it so quickly that it sounded like a six-stroke roll. Clive was really good on record, but live he took more chances, and he looked incredibly graceful when he played; there was beauty and theatricality in his playing. And he played, as the whole band did, to the back row of the venue.
"So," Doane adds, "meeting him at that age made a big impression on me. And what's nice is that I get to see Clive whenever I'm in England, as we've become friends."
Doane enjoys talking about practically any topic, and he continues to happily chat about other Tull drummers rather than himself.
"I did find playing Barrie's parts very challenging. His style seemed to fit the band at the time that he joined, and maybe to some degree, some of the music was written around his style. It sounded like some of the music was shaped to the way he played. He had a very idiosyncratic style in that he would play these very involved parts that were always changing. He wouldn't play a beat for four or eight bars and then do a normal fill. He would do something in the middle of the third bar that would go into the fourth bar — and not where you'd normally expect it. I found it very challenging trying to get a feel like his when I joined. I wanted to play those songs as authentically as possible, while still keeping it comfortable for me. At the audition, I wanted to interpret all the other drummers' parts but retain my own style. I felt Barrie's were the most difficult to learn because he had the most unusual phrasing. But Ian writes in a very percussion-oriented manner. His music lends itself to that free-style rock drumming."
Doane has found a balance within himself concerning his playing with Tull. He's had the opportunity to carve out a stylistic niche on half of the material on 1987's Crest Of A Knave, and on last year's Rock Island. But while Doane is very active with Tull, the band is not as active live as they were in the '70s. Touring is not as rigorous as it was "back in the old days." So during the downtime, Doane is filling up his calendar with a variety of work.
"When we're off the road," says Perry, "which is more often than in the past, I'm very busy. I'm from New York, and I used to commute from here [LA] to there a lot. But LA is where I'm basically working from now. I do a lot of recording work here, and I've also begun to get into a lot more writing for myself and for other people. In fact, I'm currently doing the score for a documentary on the American Indian with a partner of mine, and we're also playing on it, which is very exciting. I'm also planning to get my own record out sometime within the next 18 months if it's possible to find the time. With a partner I recently bought what used to be Missing Persons' studio. It's great to have a place to work on your own stuff, but managing it requires a lot of hard work. I also teach at P.I.T. when I can. I enjoy the students because I find that I learn a lot from them. Additionally, I do clinics when I can, and I'm getting ready to release an instructional video, too."
Phew! It's exhausting just thinking about all those projects — all that plus the Woodland Hills Drum Club.
"That just started up because we're all friends, and we happen to live within close proximity of each other," relates Doane. "We jam at each other's places and steal licks from one another," he adds with a laugh.
Talking about the drum club reminds Doane of Mark Craney.
"Mark is a very dear friend of mine, and when Mark got the gig with Tull, I remember being tremendously excited. I had been with my own band, called Maxus, and we had our own record out at the time. But when he got it I almost felt that I got it, because it was a friend of mine who would be playing with them. I remember calling him up every couple of days saying excitedly, 'Mark! Don't you realize how great this is?' Of course, Mark takes things much more in stride, and I was much more worked up about it. I felt he was a real worthy successor in Tull; he was just so stunning with the band.
"I've learned a lot from watching Mark," Doane continues. "He's been a real influence on my playing, especially double bass-wise. I met him on Gino Vannelli's Brother To Brother tour — I was playing with the opening act, Phyllis Hyman — and I'd watch him every night. When he got the gig with Tull he was absolutely blazing. It's just wonderful to see him back and strong and playing again. And personally, he's had a real effect on me. He's a real interesting person, and he has a very spiritual outlook on life.
"But it was scary for me to follow Mark," Doane explains, "as well as the other Tull drummers I spoke of. They were such monstrous players, and they left such a huge impression behind. To have the chance to play all of that amazing music and to have to live up to what came before me was — and is — a big challenge."
In 1988, 20 Years Of Jethro Tull was released, an assortment of previously unreleased tracks from the past and present career of the group. Additionally, the band was awarded their first Grammy (for best heavy metal performance), which resulted in a flurry of controversy due to the unusual category they were placed in. But the merits were somewhat deserving considering the enduring existence of this chameleon-like entity. And what of the band's future? Some say the group will continue as long as Ian Anderson has an audience that wants to hear their music. Who knows just how long that will be? But for all the inconsistencies that plague any band in existence as long as this one, at least they have maintained the good taste and sense to always hire the right drummer for the job.
Thanks to David Pier for this article.