|Press: Interview from StingUs.net|
StingUs: Could you advise the process you went through to get prepared for this gig. I am curious what happens between the time you are first contacted about it, did you audition, are you given previous concert recordings to use as guidelines, and are you given any parameters that you must stay within in regards to your play.
Keith: While I was touring with Steely Dan in 2003, I got the call that Sting was interested. I think it was based on "word of mouth" and luckily for me, Sting trusted the sources it came from. The management sent me all of Sting's solo CD's, and I studied everything as much as possible not knowing what he would choose to play for the shows. Later, after I met with the band for rehearsals, Kipper sent me some live recordings from the promo tour to check out. It gave me a good idea of what songs were necessary to focus on. Also, it helped to learn the changes they had made with arrangements of the songs, especially the new album. As far as parameters, I think things are pretty open to interpretation until Sting doesn't like something, or hears something he would rather me do or not do. It is a work in progress, which I really like...because details are constantly changing to make the music better and better.
StingUs: While the tour is still in its infancy, do you have any favourite parts of the show?
Keith: I really love playing the old Police tunes. From the new record, "inside" and "this war" are really fun to play. Honestly, all the songs are so great, it doesn't really matter if the drums are "featured" or not. I try to find my place in every song, and to play it musically is the goal.
StingUs: Have any of the songs in the current set challenged your playing at all?
Keith: They all challenge me in different ways. Maybe not in a technical way, but finding the right vibe and energy for each song is challenging. And to stay consistant night after night can be challenging sometimes, because we are human and can be in different moods depending on the day. I am always thinking of ways I can make the songs sound better. That's what keeps it interesting for me.
StingUs: What do you like to do on the road, many of the other band members are chess and yoga freaks, do you partake in either, or have hobbies of your own?
Keith: I play on the computer, visit with friends in the different cities I am in, see movies, maybe read a book every now and then. The show is very physical and gives me a good workout. I also write music and would like to get more into that on the road.
StingUs: Are there any songs that you would like to have added to the set, or songs that were rehearsed for the set that you would like to see included?
Keith: I don't think I have any pull with this, but sinced you ask........I would love for the set to change more often to keep things fresh. Maybe some older obscure Police tunes, and more obscure Sting tunes. But I think the fans seem to always want to hear the hits, and that's important. Maybe the drummers and other musicians would be into the more obscure stuff. We did rehearse some other songs like Seven Days, Hounds of Winter, All this Time, When We Dance, If you Love Somebody, I Burn For You, Message in a Bottle, Magic, and a really interesting version of I Hung my Head just to name a few that I can recall. We did play a couple of those near the begining of the tour, but not in awhile. Hopefully there will be some surprises later in the tour.
StingUs: As a drummer myself, I remember sitting in my basement, with the headphones on, playing along hour after hour with my favourite bands in the headphones, did you do a similar thing, and who was on the headphones?
Keith: Of Course! I think that is the best way to learn and to feel like you're playing with them! Some that I remember would be Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Meters, Miles Davis mostly with Tony, John Scofield, Prince, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, James Brown....the list goes on and on. I think it's important to play along with the more loosey goosey and greasy feels of music and also music that is programmed to know the differences. To be able to change approaches like that has helped me to play in alot of different situations musically.
StingUs: It was said by Vinnie that one of the reasons he doesn't go out on long tours with Sting anymore is because of the effect it has on his chops while playing the same thing every night for up to 3 years at a time. Does this concern you, and do you do anything to combat this?
Keith: I understand that completely, although I am only into about 3 months of the tour at the moment. I do listen to alot of different types of music to keep my ears in check. On the breaks within the tour, I will be doing some other things that will help with that. I don't think my chops will go away, and I don't think Vinnie's ever did either! When you play alot of styles most of the time, you miss that part of your playing when it doesn't happen as often. There are so many different techniques and "touches" on this instrument. I can see how you can get out of touch with playing more improvisational music. I have mostly been playing more open improvisational music for the last 8 years or so, and doing this gig (and Steely Dan last year) is a nice change. I believe everything is valid and helps to make you a stronger player in some way.
StingUs: When you announced that you were signed up for the current sting tour, did the floodgates open from the equipment companies to offer sponsorship?
Keith: I noticed and liked the glow-in-the-dark Yamaha sign on the kick drum. I have been fortunate to be sponsored by Yamaha drums, Zildjian cymbals, Regal Tip sticks, and Remo heads for several years now. The new addition is DW pedals which I started endorsing last year.
StingUs: I'd like to know how much you interpret the songs your own way? I mean, Englishman in NY, e.g., originally has very very characteristical drums, Seven Days as well, Brought to my senses..... Do you try to copy the drums as much as possible, or do you turn the songs into something completely different with YOUR own style (as Abe Laboriel did 2 years ago)?
Keith: I use the original recordings as a blueprint. Then from there I put in the things that I hear that work to make it my own. Every drummer has a different sound and feel anyway. Drummers with good time and feel hear the placement of even simple rhythms in different places which makes us all different. But more than that is the ideas and style that really make us UNIQUE. Hopefully that is happening, or it will.
StingUs: Do you always use the 'traditional' left-hand grip?
Keith: Yes, I have always played that way.
StingUs: Is there a song that you just can't stand to play any longer? That everytime it ends, you think to yourself "please let this be the last time, ever!"
Keith: Not yet! I really just try to stay positive with that kind of stuff. I absolutely love to play. And I am very fortunate to be playing with this band, and will have fun while it lasts.
StingUs: There are a number of Sting's fans that have been disappointed with his move toward increased use of sequencers and drum machines. His tours during the 1990s were exciting as his musicians were allowed to explore and develop the material on the road. This wasn't the case on the "Brand New Day" tour and it doesn't seem to be on the current tour. The songs (so far) seem to be pretty locked down. Is this the case or do you anticipate development of the songs as the tour goes on? As a drummer, do you feel constrained by the use of sequenced bass patterns and rhythm tracks?
Keith: I think that the songs ARE developing and growing. In my opinion, the shows are getting stronger and better as we go. I think we are at a much better place now than we were in Miami opening night.....and should be! and that will only continue. As a purist, I would love to be more free in the songs with loops, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is getting the song across, and I think that is happening. There's only sequenced tracks on maybe 30% of the show anyway, and I think it adds some interesting things. I think the fans that are worried should give it a chance and check it out
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