|Pete's interview in 'SA DRUMS'
The home of drums and percussion in South Africa
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When I first approached Pete
Lockett with regard to featuring him in one of our forth-coming
magazines, first thing that came to mind was why would anyone focus more
on Tabla, Bongo’s, Taiko and the like as apposed to drum set. [from a
drumkit players perspective]. Once I had heard Pete Lockett play the
drum-kit I figured he must be one helluva percussionist given the fact
that he is one helluva drummer. I thought it would insult this man’s
musical intelligence to go down the road of twenty question type
interview, far be it for me to pose questions to a master who had
achieved percussionist of the year 2005 with my limited knowledge of
this form of percussive instrument.
E. Pete, you seem to have studied percussion from all over the world and
have worked with artists as varied as
Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Bill Bruford, Jeff Beck, Zakir Hussain, Lee
Scratch Perry, Primal Scream, The
Verve, Steve Smith, Texas, U Shrinivas, Suga Babes, Kula Shaker, Afro
Celt Sound System, Vanessa-Mae, Evelyn Glennie, Errol Brown, Gary
Husband, Pet Shop Boys, Amy Winehouse, Steve White, Sinead O'Conner and
many more. How did this eclectic versatility develop bearing in mind
you started out as a rock drummer in London?
P. Yes, drum set was
and still is a big part of my life. I am a multi percussionist in the
true sense of the term and consider drum set as another of my
instruments, alongside, Tabla, Kanjira, Latin, Japanese, African,
Electronics etc etc. I came across drum set by chance. I was walking
past a drum shop one day aged 19 and saw an advert ‘drum lessons’ I
went in and that was that, my life was changed for the better for ever.
Similarly with Tabla. One night this music came through the window on
the summer breeze and off I went, only to discover a free concert with
Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. That was astonishing. I had no idea how
he made such a huge sound with those tiny drums and I had to take it
further. Then lots of percussion influences came onboard.
Now it is all about
sound and texture for me. If you go back to the original traps set from
the 20’s there was everything in there, bass, snare, cymbals, wood
block, bongos, found sounds, metal, wood etc. When you play drum set
you are effectively composing a multi voice rhythm involving different
tones and syncopation. When you compose on percussion you are
effectively doing the same thing, sometimes with different instruments
layered upon each other and sometimes with multi limb independence
similar to drum set playing. Bearing this in mind, it surprises me
that there is not more cross fertilization between drum set and
percussion in terms of the sounds that are used. A cowbell, wood block,
crasher and tambourine is often as far as most set players would go. It
has become a formalized instrument which for such a young instrument is
kind of surprising. I can’t say I was any different before I got into
percussion. That really got me into ‘sounds’ and textures a lot more
and opened up how I saw the drum set. For me, a player like Billy Ward
is someone who really explores the different possibilities of the
instrument. Also, percussionists such as Airto and Trilok Gurtu blur
the boundaries between drum set and percussion. It helped develop how I
saw rhythm and sound and from my experience, producers are always
interested in sounds and different rhythmic approaches and if you can
come up with something interesting and surprising as an option then it
usually keeps you in their phone book. Of course, you need to have the
conventional stuff available as well, not just maverick options.
When you start to think
of sounds in abstract then it opens a lot of doors. I remember
recording with Phil Manzanere from Roxy Music and we went around
deconstructing the studio and building a set with all the found sounds.
Dustbins, lamps, heaters, you name it. It turned out to be a great
This openness to
exploring sounds has certainly helped me record and perform with many of
the artists I have been lucky enough to work with. With the options
available now with computer generated effects I would say there is
probably slightly less emphasis on it but all the same, if you take in
an interesting acoustic sound made from bits of metal and bottle tops or
whatever, it always turns heads. Check out the third track on Weather
Reports ‘Domino Theory’ album for an example. The percussionist was a
guy called José Rossy. Really interesting
sounds, some sampled and triggered by Zawinal on his Emulator as well.
Of course, some people
want something completely straight and more often than not very simple.
If that’s what they want then that is fine by me. You have to remember
that they have their vision of the track and you are not there to do a
solo or impress like that. You just need to play the music. Of
course, the more you learn and the more technique you develop then the
more inclined you are to want to express those ideas in your playing.
For me I solved this by developing my own projects in the studio and on
the road. Then you are creating an environment where you can explore
your own musical ideas in depth without feeling resentful that you can’t
do it on your hired gigs. I was lucky with this in that I have released
eight albums (Available on itunes / napster etc – plug – plug!!!) And
have had numerous tours with my projects and solo shows worldwide, from
Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Thailand to Sudan, India and the Middle
east…(Hopefully soon SA as well!!)
Going back to the
eclectic influences. In the same way that I try to perceive sounds as
much as I perceive specific instruments, I also mix up various
traditional drumming techniques and rhythmic systems from around the
world. When you start to look at drumming methodologies from around the
world you really get to see how in depth and developed many of them are,
often in completely different ways. Take for example Japanese Taiko and
Indian Tabla. Completely different approaches to Rhythm and
articulation on the instruments, Indian being very cerebral and with
intense finger technique and virtuosity whilst the Japanese is a much
more physical and tribal pulse approach. Bringing these type of
‘opposites’ together is one of the things that fascinates me. One of my
first projects was ‘Taiko to Tabla’ which featured myself and a Japenese
drum master named Joji Hirota who had previously worked with Kodo. We
spent a long time developing a means of dialogue and over time
structured a way of making music together with these different
traditions. I then went on to a quintet which featured Myself, Bill
Bruford, a group of Indian Dhol drummers, a western classical
percussionist and a Ghanaian percussionist. These projects reflected
what I was doing as an individual, taking instruments from every avenue
to sessions. Of course, you need to take time out to study that stuff.
I took six years out to get the Indian thing happening and during that
time that was all I did, 100%. No other gigs, no other instruments.
Nothing. That is how to get it down.
The Indian thing is so
developed. It is a must for any serious rhythmist. That is partly why
I wanted to get my book out, Indian rhythms for the drum set’ which is
out now on Hudson music. I wanted to put down some of the structures
and rhythmic systems in a systematic and transparent way that could be
immediately employed, either on drum set or for that matter any
instrument. The rhythm shells are looked at independently and then
extrapolated onto drum set so it really can be utilized by all musicians
and composers. With drummers such as Steve Smith, Russ Miller and
Johnny Rabb seriously getting into the Indian thing, the path is being
set. I am off next week to do some Indian stuff on Benny Grebb’s new
DVD. For rhythmic development, it is the way to go.
Steve Smith is someone
I have worked with for a number of years now. We have done solo shows
together, I recorded on his new Vitalisation CD and performed with his
band, Vital Information. He is the model of the perfect rhythm
professor who humbly has an insatiable quest for new information and
knowledge. An inspiration all round and I’m sure he will cause a great
stir when he is out with you soon. ‘Top Banana’ as we say in the UK.
Steve is one of the new
breed. It has been more common theretofore that drummers have been more
turned towards the Latin thing. El Negro and the whole battery of
players that have sprung up with the left foot clave and multi limb
approach. It is very different from the Indian approach to rhythm.
Latin rhythms are primarily for dancing and consist of a number of
interlocking parts played by different players. That’s why it has been
a logical link to the multi limbed independence of the drum set. The
Indian thing is more of a ‘Linear rhythmic approach’ which is a little
more along the lines of Gavin Harrison’s rhythmic illusions book. A
time cycle is set, either by melodic ostinato or clapping pattern and
the percussionist or melody player pitch their things against it
rhymically, similar to drum set players soloing over an ostinato. It
was primarily a Court music and therefore was for listening and not
dancing, hence the deep intellectual development. For a similar
approach check out Keith Carlocks solo over an ostinato on the track
‘Oatmeal Bandage’ by Tal Wikenfeld. A great ostinato divided 7 + 9 + 9
and a stunning Carlock solo.
Carlock brings me to another point regarding percussion and drums. The
dominance of the backbeat and the prominence of the snare in rhythmic
structure for drum set. When you look at a lot of rhythm styles from
around the world, say Indian, Latin, Japanese and African to name a few,
they have much more lyrical, almost melodic based rhythmic approaches.
It seems strange that with all that rhythmic history we have ended up
often penned in by two and four on the snare, albeit predominantly in
popular music. Of course, on a Pop gig that is often what is required
and I am not suggesting that is wrong. However, a study of percussion
helped me a lot in getting out of that often habitual train of thought.
It helped me approach the instrument in a more lyrical way. Keith
Carlock is one of the players who has really taken this concept to a
very high level, esp in his playing with Wayne Krantz. It grooves like
hell and is often in 4/4 but you would never know it. He uses a concept
he calls ‘rhythmic melodies’ and that is really closely associated with
how a percussionist might approach something. Of course, he
intersperses this with some serious back beat stuff that we all love.
With all these new
approaches, when you get on the gig you have to do what is required.
For younger players I feel the whole drum clinic scene can be somewhat
misleading in that you see some intense ‘Drumnastics’ and virtuosity
from often three legged maestros, but, for most working situations this
would not be required at all. I really try to bear all this in mind
when I get down to some practice.
I philosophize long and
hard about the objectives and about what I am trying to achieve. I am
fascinated and love technique and so that is essentially a part of what
I do but I also know that a lot of the time it is not required on many
working situations. The simplest thing can get you the biggest gig.
This is especially true in the recording studio when you are with the
E. What about
developing contacts and getting into studio work.
P. I often get asked
that about developing contacts and getting studio gigs. It is a
question I find really hard to answer. Word of mouth and the phone
rings. Right place at the right time. Most importantly I have always
‘believed’ and without that I would not have been lucky enough to have
worked in the diverse situations that I have. I suggest to people that
they Mail out to loads of people. Chase it up once but do not hassle
them. Expect a 2% return on anything you send out. Get a good web site
and myspace site. Email people. Practise, be prepared for when the
time comes, think about your objectives realistically, love the music
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