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Gavin Harrison

Interview by Dan Britt // July 31 2012
Gavin Harrison

Practise, practise, practise. There's no real shortcut I'm afraid. You just need to be disciplined with yourself and set realistic goals about what you hope to achieve. 

Named one of the top three drummers in the last 25 years by Rhythm Magazine, and earning numerous #1 awards in the prog rock drummer category, the versatile and fantastic Gavin Harrison was also one of the select drummers chosen to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman's Drum Solo Week in 2011.


Can you tell us about your project with 05Ric and your recent tour with him? Where can fans go to get tour T-Shirts and signed The Man Who Sold Himself CDs? 

I've been writing albums with Ric for five years now and The Man Who Sold Himself is our third album. We figured we finally had enough of a pool of songs to choose from that we could play a live set. Ric had two buddies local to him—Tiago Coimbra (bass) and Justin Dwyer (guitar) that he plays with regularly—and started rehearsing with them mid last year. I was pretty convinced that most of the material was too hard to perform live, but Ric and the guys surprised me when they came over to my studio and we played through a couple of tunes. I knew then that we would be able to do this. My manager contacted a promoter in the UK and we did a double headliner tour with Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto's Stickmen band. We hope to do a lot more touring later this year and early next year. 

The T-Shirts from the tour are available (along with our CDs) at https://www.burningshed.com/store/gavinharrison/ 

You recently played at the Buddy Rich 25th Anniversary Memorial Concert. Can you tell us about that experience? 

I was very honoured to be asked by Cathy Rich to play at Buddy's 25th Memorial Concert at the Palladium Theatre in London. I got to play three songs with the band (Love for Sale, Sister Sadie and my own version of Killer Joe) and it was of course a big thrill. I have a bit of big band in my blood as I grew up watching my Dad play in big bands when I was very young and just starting to play the drums. In fact at the moment I'm working very closely with an arranger to make my own big band album. So far we've recorded five tunes and I'm very excited about it. 

I was excited when I first heard you were appearing on David Letterman’s Drum Solo Week. You looked like you were having a good time on the show! Can you tell us a little about that experience? 

Yes, that was a very lucky break. It turns out that Paul Schaffer (the Musical Director of the Letterman Show) has a young son who is learning to play the drums. One day Paul goes to pick up his son from his drum lesson and he asks the drum teacher (Lou Caldarola) who he would suggest for the Letterman Show Drum Week...and that's how I got invited. I was told that I needed to play a drum solo but involve the house band too. So I chose an easy funk standard "The Chicken" where I could play the beginning and the end with the band and play my solo in between. Great thrill to play with the house band bass player, Will Lee, as I've been a fan of his since the 70s. 

You have tremendous ability and facility to flow smoothly with fast patterns. Do you have any recommendations on what someone can do to enhance their ability in this respect? 

Practise, practise, practise. There's no real shortcut I'm afraid. You just need to be disciplined with yourself and set realistic goals about what you hope to achieve. 

Here are two questions from Jeff Indyke: 

Jeff Indyke: I have been listening to your playing on the Porcupine Tree CDs. Your playing is so colorful! I noticed that on many of these recordings, in some of the funkier, slower, lazy grooves, from time to time you buzz with the left hand (I myself do this as well). Where did you pick that up and/or who influenced you to do that? 

I think I've been doing that as long as I can remember. Probably watching jazz drummers who played with my dad, I imagine. It's a nice texture. 

Jeff Indyke: When we saw you at Radio City Music Hall with Porcupine Tree, you seemed to have a very different playing approach in the acoustic set than in the non-acoustic sets. Could you elaborate on this? 

Yes, the first set was meant to be very 'unplugged' and stripped down. I used a very small jazz kind of set up and played a lot of stuff with brushes. It was fun to rearrange the songs for that sound. Plus I imagine that when people came into the venue and saw a small drum set and double bass on stage they must have thought there was a jazzy support band! 

Gavin, are there any musicians that you would really like to play with that you have not played with yet? 

Yes, lots of them: Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, Fredrik Thordendal, Chick Corea, Jim Hall, Peter Gabriel, and too many others to list. 

What are some of the drum books you used in your early development? 

Ted Reed’s Syncopation, Fred Albright’s Contemporary Studies for Snare Drum, Gary Chester’s New Breed

Outside of drumming, what do you do to relax and have fun in your free time? 

I don't do much outside of music. I like to cycle (when the weather is right) but whenever I have spare time I like to practice and write music.



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About the Author
Dan Britt

Dan Britt is the author of Drumopedia, Rhythm 101 and the editor of Modern Drum Set Stickings (Cherry Lane/Hal Leonard). He is a PASIC 2012 artist, and has appeared on several regional New York TV shows, performed at the Cape Breton Int'l drum festival, and has been featured in the magazines DRUM! and The Black Page. Dan maintains a busy teaching practice in northern New Jersey. Dan can be reached at www.dannybritt.com



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