1. How did your massive Vintage Ludwig collection begin?
1. My Ludwig collection began with the first used set I purchased. In 1969 I bought a White Marine pearl set of Ludwig drums from Rick Saul, a classmate at Guilford High School in Rockford, Illinois. 14x22 bass, 16x16 floor tom, and 9x13 tom.
2. What are some of the things you have loved about your job?
2. I have a great job. I love performing for folks. Getting paid to play drums is a dream come true. Meeting my childhood drum heroes has always been a gas, especially when they turn out to be "larger than life" characters. Mitch Mitchell, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, Dave Clark, and quite a few more bring back many happy memories for me.
3. What are some of the drawbacks?
3. Some of the drawbacks of my job are: Long rotten hours. Airport visits on a daily basis. Hotel food. Hotel beds. Weeks away from home and loved ones. Bass players, singers, and guitar players.
4. What made you want to play drums, and how did you get started?
4. Like many drummers my age, Ringo Starr is one of the big reasons I became a drummer. Like most drummers my age, I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. And before that event, seeing drummers perform always was a blast! That's when I first became interested in drumming, seeing 3 drummers on sets at a high school band concert I attended with my Dad.
5. Whom did you study with and how did that affect you?
5. My drum study was going to see drummers and playing along with records. I went to every concert I could. I took notes, took pictures, and later taped the shows. I snuck in the back door with roadies, and pestered drummers I was lucky enough to meet.
6. What was your most difficult -or challenging- gig, and how did you handle that?
6. My most difficult gigs were playing with one arm in a cast. I played my set one armed and another drummer played along with me on another set. I did that for 3 weeks in 1976. After the cast was off the most difficult part ensued, rehabbing the broken arm. That hurt.
7. What are your favorite eras of Ludwig manufacturing, and what pieces do you prize most in the collection?
7. I don't think I could pick a favorite era for Ludwig drums. I dig the 1920's engraved drums, the 1930's and 1940's cool drum finishes, the 1950's mahogany 3 ply sets, and then there's the 60's and 70's. Cool oyster wraps like Oyster Pink and Oyster Black. The "hippie colors", Psychedelic Red, Mod Orange, Citrus Mod, (what were they smoking at the factory?), and the classic sparkles, I love 'em all I think. The four and six ply shells of the 1980's and 1990's always served me well on Cheap Trick tours and albums. Very road worth too. And the 2000's? Cool wraps, three different American made shells to choose from ( Keystone, Classic Maple, and Legacy ), upgrades on all the parts, stands, strainers, and on and on. The last ten years have been the greatest in Ludwig history in my opinion. My most prized drums are: Triumphals from the 1920's and 2009. Black Beauties from the 1920's, 1930's, and from the 2000's. I treasure a couple weird finishes ( Zebra from the 50's and Mod Orange from the late 60's). But my favorite set is always my newest set. My newest set is a Legacy set, Lacewood Burst finish, with a 6.5x14 Black Beauty snare drum.
8. In the span of your legendary career, are there certain shows that stick out in your mind above others?
8. I've played a few thousand gigs so far. A few faves are: In 1977 Cheap Trick opened a U.S.-Canada tour for KISS. When we played The Cow Palace in San Francisco I recall thinking how cool it was because it was the same venue The Beatles played. Same thing when we opened for Rush at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. It was thrilling for me because 9 years earlier I saw The Jimi Hendrix Experience on the same stage. The 1977 tour of Japan was a memorable experience for a few reasons; screaming girls, a cool album "At Budokan", and my first gold record for the album "In Color". The gold album was presented to me in Japan on that tour. In 1979 we headlined the L.A. Coliseum, 85,000 tickets sold. In 1980 I played "session man" and cut tracks with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In 1988, with a number one single in the charts ( The Flame ), we played an outdoor gig in Detroit with an audience estimated at over 200,000 people. In 1996 I set up my drums in a garage in L.A. and played and had photos taken for my first Ludwig Poster. In 2010 I returned to Japan, for the 14th or 15th time, for a successful Tinted Windows tour and I had a ball. One highlight of that trip, I saw Bun E Carlos Limited Edition snare drum #23 in a music store in Osaka.
9. What was the strangest thing that has happened (or that you have seen,) during a tour?
9. Many strange things happen on tour. I used to use a piano stool on gigs. One night the chair broke in half, mid song. I ended up on the floor, the band kept playing, and my roady tried and tried to pick me up. I sat there laughing, and hoping I hadn't busted my arse! Finally I climbed up and finished the song standing up.
10. What do you do to maintain your versatility as a drummer?
10. I practice every day. I try to keep up with new musical trends and new musicians. I go see a lot of groups perform. I like to practice things out of my "field of expertise". I like to try new things when offered the opportunity.
11. What’s set-up have you been taking out lately, and what are you digging about it?
11. I've been trying different tom tom combinations for different bands. For Cheap Trick I use 24/16/13 with a 5" wood snare drum. For Tinted Windows I use a 26/14/12 outfit with a 6.5' deep wood snare drum. For side project Candy Golde I've been using a 24/14/12 outfit with a 6'5" deep Black Beauty. For my Monday night local band I've been using a 1971 Mod Orange 24/16/12 set with a 1967 Mod Orange Jazz Festival snare drum. On a session I did yesterday I used a Legacy 22/16/13 with a 1970's 5" deep Supraphonic. I'm thinking of going back to a two up/ two down tom tom set up on my next set. Or perhaps a 12" tom on top and a 14x14 and 16x14 floor toms. We'll see. 12" toms are really responsive and I've been digging them lately. I dig 5" wood snare drums, they "crack" really nice I think. For louder rock stuff, the 6.5" deep Black Beauty always gets nods of approval from band mates.
12. How do you feel Ludwig’s current product stacks up against some of your prized vintage kits?
12. I dig my vintage gear and use it on gigs. However, the new stuff sounds better, plays and looks better, and is built to higher standards than vintage gear. That's the reason my favorite set is always my newest set.
13. What drew you to Ludwig in the first place?
13. When I grew up most of my drum heroes used Ludwig. I tried various brands of drums and the most reliable and best sounding drums were usually Ludwig drums. When I wanted to channel my "inner Ringo", my "inner Ginger", or my "inner Mitch", it channeled best on Ludwig drums!
14. Can you describe how you tweak your drums to get your personal sound?
14. I tune my drums so they ring and sustain the note as much as possible. I crank the snare drum up a bit for good rim shot sounds. I mute the bass drum a bit so it doesn't drown out the rest of the kit. I use single ply heads.
15. Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?
15. My latest project I'm bragging about is the new Joey Ramone album. I'm on three tracks. It was an honor to get asked to be on the album. I've done a couple other recording projects that are still in production that are pretty cool. Gig wise, I'm done touring with Cheap Trick for the a while I think. Tinted Windows is on down time while individual members perform with their bands. Candy Golde is on break while bassist John Stirratt is on the road with Wilco. I perform locally with "The Monday Night Band". We only perform on one night a week. Guess which night?
16. Who are you major drumming influences?
16. Major drum influences include: Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Dave Clark, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Moe Tucker, John Halsey. There's so many.......
17. What are your five favorite albums (drumming or otherwise)?
17. Favorite albums include most of the records by my favorite drummers. And: Big band era, anything with Dave Tough, Big Sid Catlett, Max Roach Art Blakey, Ed Shaughnessy, and many more. Blues: Tony Coleman with BB King, all the Chess Records drummers, Chris Layton, many more...... Rock: Phil Rudd, Joey Kramer, Matt Cameron, ten zillion more. Alt Country: Mike Heidorn, anybody with Wilco, Greg Morrow, Tom Lewis, The guy in The Gourds is always a pleasure to hear, a zillion more...... Naming favorite drummers is an endless task for me, I like lotsa drummers.
18. You’ve been pretty active in doing clinics lately, what do you try to bring to the table when you do a clinic?
18. When I do a clinic I picture myself at age 16 in the audience. I try to explain and "show and tell" the audience what I do, and how I got to the point where I've ended up onstage at that drum clinic! I tell stories about my career. I tell 'em how Chuck Berry promised to "kick my @#%" if I hammed up another ending. I tell 'em about the cool gear I get to play. I play the licks I stole from all my heroes. I attempt a solo or two...........