The conductor was very happy and he was a very talented guy who demanded a lot from players. He loved what they did and they stayed with me for the whole five years I was there. They were my only deps and I gave them tons and tons of work, weeks at a time. The reason I could take off so much time was because they were so good. If you have good deps who show up on time and do the job then the holder of the chair has a lot of freedom to take time off.
At Lion King we were not working with a fixer; on all the other shows you have to get permission to take a night off and put a dep in, then the fixer does it all and gets paid for it. At Lion King they adopted the Broadway system and let the band administrate their own chair without a contractor or fixer involved. We found our deps, we trained them, called them and paid them as opposed to the show paying them through the contractor, which took all the middle people out of it. I paid them in advance when online banking started and they’d have the money before they even did the show. I treated them like gold and after a couple of years I couldn’t do more than three or four shows a week, I just couldn’t stand it. The commuting of two hours each way was killing me so by the third year I was doing a maximum of four shows a week on the two matinee days of Wednesday and Saturday.
At the time I was doing it, it was £125 per show so I could do four shows in two days, only go to London twice and I could live on that £500 a week. I was giving out four shows a week but as time went on I was giving them weeks at a time. I just could not bear the sight or smell of that orchestra pit; I found it so soul destroying, which was what I felt when I was 19 years old working in New York.
It’s not about rock and roll and performing and connecting with people; it’s just a job, that’s all it is. It’s like working at Barclays Bank from nine to five. You check in, you check out, you get your vacation pay. It was an amazing lesson for me, like going back to school and becoming good at something I’ve never done. I don’t regret it at all because I really grew as a musician from playing so much and doing up to seven shows a week, being mentally really on the ball, working with a great conductor. My reading had been taken up a notch.
The results for me were great but once I realised that thrill had gone and that I had gotten the benefit from it I couldn’t go on with it; I was on autopilot. It’s a fun show for drummers to play as it’s very challenging but the environment, playing down there in that dusty dark room and climbing all over each other and wearing headphones… it’s not for me. Musicals are a breed unto themselves and though it’s challenging to get through a musical as a drummer, technically speaking, it gives nothing to your soul… for me anyway. I want to be around artists who are writing great songs, playing and being on stage.
I stuck it out to my disbelief for five years, had a great time, made it a really positive experience. I made good friends with everyone in the orchestra. The great thing about going to work was seeing everyone. I loved seeing Steve Price and Dave Adams and all the people, the horn players. It became like a family away from my home that I could go to, not unlike being on tour on the road with 25 people. I had a lot of fun there and I loved that up until I was 54 I was still making a living playing drums. Gosh knows what I would have done otherwise; I''ve never done anything else. It was all very positive but after you do something like that day in and day out for five years, you have to get out, or at least I did.
What are you working on at the moment?
I do some recording; I''m not super busy. It''s not unlike before Lion King but the drought is not quite as bad. I''ve been on the road all this year with Bryan Ferry. I''m back to doing the kind of thing I''ve been doing all my life; some recordings and eking out a very modest living as a freelance drummer. So far I just seem to be getting by.
When I left the show I had no idea what was going to happen, I just knew I had to leave. They asked me to stay on and wouldn''t mind if I just came in to do one show a week, they just wanted me to stay on and administer the drum chair cos I had done a great job over the five years on that. They liked having me around and were happy for me to take the pay cheque every week by running the chair. I said, ''I appreciate that but I have to divorce myself. As long as I have that job to fall back on, it''s like being connected to an umbilical chord; it becomes a safety net''. I knew I''d never get on with anything if I stayed tied into that.
I''ve never looked back for a second and it was a wonderful five years but I left before I turned sour. The phone started to ring, work started coming in and I''m getting by and happy with just working a little bit.
|Recording with Bryan Ferry|