Musical greats answer our 10 big questions on what they look for in a drummer. This month it’s super-producer, songwriter and musician, Sir Trevor Horn.
Words: Gavin Harrison & Gemma Hill Images: Ash Soan
1. What are the most important elements that you look for in a drummer?
That he or she listens to the song and knows what kind of thing to play, how to tune a drum kit, and doesn’t get tired. As a session or gig goes on, a good drummer should get stronger and stronger. Lots of confidence is really important.
2. Is reading notation important?
No. That’s only important if you have a lot to do in a short time.
3. What is the minimum level of ability you would expect to work with?
That’s difficult to say; I don’t know how to grade ability levels. I’m only interested in drummers who are brilliant.
4. What are the most common mistakes drummers make?
Picking the wrong spouse, running up too much debt, speeding up during a fill. Playing too loudly when the singer is singing, forgetting the 3/4 bar in the second verse and trying to pull the promoter’s wife.
5. Do you have any comments to make on dynamics and balance with the elements of the drum kit?
I’ve found that the more accurately a drummer plays, the better the technology for timing them works. Hitting each drum properly is very important.
6. Is playing with a click important?
This is of paramount importance. When I started, drummers hated playing with clicks, but now all the best ones can play effortlessly with or without a click.
7. How essential is it for drummers to have a good personality and attitude?
It’s important for everyone to have a good attitude, including me. I’m a bass player and I need to feel like the drummer is my friend.
8. Do you have any comments to make about tuning and drum sounds?
The only time I interfere with any of that is generally when it’s time for me to find a different drummer.
9. Have you had any drummer related problems in your work?
Many times. Many, many, many times…
10. Who are some of your favourite drummers to work with, and why?
My favourite rhythm section to play with is Ash Soan on drums, Louis Jardin on percussion and Phil Palmer on rhythm guitar. I don’t play bass all the time, because I’m a producer, but I find Ash really easy to play with. He doesn’t make it an obstacle course. He’s the only drummer I have found who can play ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ properly and he listens to everybody, all the time. I really enjoy playing with Stewart Copeland but he’s completely different. It’s more like, ‘Stewart, just play on the one every now and again to show me where it is, please.’ He is one of the greats. Alan White is brilliant with a great hi-hat, kick and snare relationship. Earl Harvin has immense ability and great taste.