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Robin Guy

Interview by Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner // May 13 2013
Robin Guy

I recently read a great quote: "Find something you love so much you'd do it for free, then find a way to get paid for it...” I've always been pro-minded and at some point it all turned professional - financially! And I guess the admiration for the drum heroes I looked up to kept me inspired to pursue it as a career, with no safety net!

 

There are many drummers who will tell you that in order to get work in this business your interpersonal skills are every bit as important as your drumming ability. If there is one chap who nails this statement absolutely, practices what he preaches and seemingly never stops working, it’s Robin Guy. His gung-ho, work-hard-play-hard approach has seen him steadily build a career that has him entertaining crowds all over the globe, from rocking huge audiences at festivals to inspiring the next generation with his thrilling and energetic clinics. Robin is a delight to watch and talk to. Strap yourselves in as we blast off to planet Robin Guy!

Robin, finally we get a chance to catch up and share your journey with the readers of The Black Page. So, rewinding some years, what got you started on drums? 

Well, I've always said, sometimes you choose the drums and sometimes the drums choose you! I guess what started me off was a mixture of seeing the KODO drummers, Buddy Rich and Animal. 

And after that spark was lit, did you take formal lessons or follow your own path? 

I had one lesson at school, during which my music teacher told me he hated drums. I decided to carve my own path after that. 

(Laughs) That was a shrewd move. After that early knockback, who or what inspired you to pursue music as a career? 

I recently read a great quote: "Find something you love so much you'd do it for free, then find a way to get paid for it...” I've always been pro-minded and at some point it all turned professional - financially! And I guess the admiration for the drum heroes I looked up to kept me inspired to pursue it as a career, with no safety net! 

So how did you make the transition from semi-pro to full-time-pro drummer? 

I think it's a mixture: a) being good at what you do and developing your own style, and (b) never giving up. Ever. Eventually people will notice you and eventually people will book you, and if you are doing it right, they will book you again. 

In addition to your drumming ability, you have amazing networking skills. Can you explain how and why you believe these skills have helped you keep working in a tough industry? 

Thank you! Firstly, it's tough out there. You have to keep going, through whatever knockbacks this crazy business throws at you—it really is survival of the fittest! Secondly, I'm a firm believer in "You won't know if someone's in, unless you knock on their door!" I realised that no matter how many CVs you send out, you can't just sit there waiting for the phone to ring; you have to get active and follow it up. It's incredibly time-consuming! 

With that in mind, what advice would you offer to aspiring young drummers about getting on the scene and getting their face about? 

Do exactly that—get out there and play! Take any form of band—covers, tribute or original—and go play! Every time you play in public, no matter how good the band is, you are advertising yourself!

People are too concerned whether they are getting the perfect job/band. This doesn't exist! Just get your playing up to a level where you can play, then get out there and play... and have fun, with your eyes and ears open! 

You have worked with a large variety of artists, from the heavy metal of Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden vocalist) and Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), to the 70s pop sounds of Bay City Rollers and the prog rock of Jethro Tull's Martin Barre, folk-goth of All About Eve across to the glam rock of Tigertailz and Rachel Stamp, and the list goes on! After all of these experiences, which gigs/bands have been your personal highlights? 

Well, I've lost count of how many bands and artists I've worked with, but it's over 75! I like to take some experience from everyone I've worked with, otherwise what's the point? The personalities of Martin Barre and T.M. Stevens (James Brown/ Steve Vai bassist) are so different, yet I managed to get along with both of them really well and play their music so they felt comfortable onstage with me! Headlining Wacken Open Air Festival to 40,000 with Bruce Dickinson will always be a personal highlight—words cannot express. 

You are very visual as a player but you also have a memorable “look” about you. Do you think that having a strong image helps you in the business? 

I've always personally felt image is important. Obviously you have to be able to play, but depending on the gig/job, image can help you get it—or not! Dave Weckl is unlikely to land the Rob Zombie gig, and Vinnie Paul would look out of place laying it down with Jay-Z, but I'm more than sure all these drummers are capable of playing the beats. My “'image” is fairly flexible and I can fit in with most artists, be it rock, metal, punk, dance, hip-hop, ragga or pop! 

One of my favorite Robin Guy stories is the time you jumped in at the last minute (literally) to fill the shoes of Jason Bonham at a large UK drumming event when he failed to show up. How did you handle that kind of pressure and how much time did you have to prepare your set? 

It was crazy. I walked in to Drumfest and the promoters told me that Jason Bonham couldn't get his electronic gates open at his house—and would I fill his slot (second to top of bill - Simon Phillips!). I said yes and my heart began to race, then they told me I only have a couple of hours to get my kit, stage gear and general equipment together (my stage gear was back at my hotel; we had to go buy some headphones, borrow a mixing desk and then I found out my kit was locked away in a cupboard and they'd lost the key.). My heart began to do a drum solo of its own at this point! 

As I was finishing setting up, I looked up at the stage manager and said, "Realistically, how much time do we actually have?" He replied, "Four-and-a-half minutes." After this, I think I can handle most pressures! I did the show, was the only artist to get a standing ovation, and ended up signing autographs for one-and-a-half hours straight! 

Speaking of your clinics, they are great fun, very accessible and educational for players of all levels. What motivated you to keep it real rather than go down the tired "chops fest" route? 

Easy. Firstly because being 'real' is all I know, and secondly, my 'chops' aren't good enough! I've always been underwhelmed at the clinics I've seen. It's always too much shred and not enough groove or vice-versa. I like my clinics to be gasp-able yet grasp-able. 

I remember from one of the shows you did for my students many moons ago that you had a great attitude to saving time when setting up your kit. Aside from it being decorated with skulls, feather boas and the like, you also have some great homemade sounds and ideas to just make the job of getting on and off stage quick and easy. Can you talk us through your current kit? 

(Laughs) Well, the skulls and boas were a long time ago, but my kits have always been developed with sounds and style in mind! At the moment I'm rocking: Kit (NATAL) - 20 x 20 Kick, 12 x 6 Rack, 16 x 12 Hanging Floor, 14 x 5.5 Snare, 10 x 4 Piccolo; Cymbals (SABIAN) - 13" AAX Fusion Hats, 18" AAX Metal Crash, 12" El Sabor Splash, 22" OMNI Crash-Ride, 16" O-Zone Crash, 19" Holy China, 12" Chopper, 7" Radia Bell Perc - Moonblock and Ribbon Crasher (RHYTHM TECH), 2 Cowbells & Maracas & 8" & 10" Custom Timbales (NATAL) in Chrome Pink, of course!

Sticks (VIC FIRTH) - American Classic Rock, Nylon-tipped - Vic Dipped & Wrapped. 

So back to the gigs, you have played venues of every size from tiny, sticky pubs right up to Wembley. What is your favorite kind of gig? 

I remember playing some Maiden covers in a pub to about 40 people and this guy comes up to me and says, "This must suck compared to what you did with Bruce..." Now, obviously playing Iron Maiden songs with the singer of Iron Maiden to 40,000 people going crazy was fairly special, but he was missing the point. I told him, "Didn't you see the massive grin on my face...?!" 

I've had amazing gigs playing to 16 people; I've had crap gigs playing to 15,000. The trick is to enjoy every one! Other than the Bruce festival headliners, supporting Muse at Wembley Arena, and Iggy Pop at Brixton Academy were pretty special, as was headlining the Astoria in London to

2,000 fans with Rachel Stamp—without a record deal. El Rey theatre in L.A. with The Business, complete with custom hot rods outside ... too many to mention! 

As an energetic and animated player there must be a risk of some personal damage at times. What is your best rock ‘n’ roll injury to date? 

I didn't so much stick a stick in my eye, so much as impale my head on a stick. I was onstage in Atlanta, did a crazy fill/ending, and BAM—jerked my head onto my stick. It went through my eyelid. Five millimetres lower and it would have gone through my pupil. This was not only a quarter of the way through the show (like a trooper, I soldiered on and finished the concert), but it was a week into a massive 55-shows-in-60-days tour around the USA! I came offstage, went to hospital (where I later found out that they patched up the local prisoners), had some stitches, got some pills, then left at 7 a.m. still in my stage gear—and off to the next show. 

(Laughs) That is pretty hardcore, Robin. Well I can’t let a chance to chat pass by without asking about the notorious BBC Top of The Pops story. So, please tell us why Mike Patton from Faith No More flicked you the bird on live T.V.? 

(Laughs) Well, I was booked to "act like a monkey waving his sticks around in the background” (miming to playback) whilst wearing a Puffy Bordin (FNM Drummer) mask, but it fell off during the intro of the song! Mike Patton's last words to me as he gave me the mask before the cameras rolled were, "Make this work,” so when he turned around halfway through the song to see me plain-faced and mask-less, he thought I'd “disobeyed orders” and so he gave me the finger. Amazingly they (TOTP) used the footage.

So, after all of your insane adventures, what's next for Robin Guy?

A rest, ideally! I've just recorded an album in a day—or rather 13 tracks in six hours straight! (Who knows what I'd do if I joined Def Leppard!) Before this, I recorded another album in two days, did a drum clinic to 1,200 people, on a kit I'd built in my lounge—yet never played at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. And I’ve put a drum show on featuring 26 of my drum students - they are all aged 5 to 13 years old. Aaannnnnd …  after that I’ll be picking up the new NATAL Robin Guy-Custom kit (no skulls or boas, but it will have gold lugs and hoops, a white sparkle finish, aaaand it will light up!). Then a UK clinic tour (and hopefully some European ones too!), more recording, some promo and product videos, some big shows and some small ones. Lots of inspiring, teaching and well … that's enough to be getting on with for the moment!

Robin, thank you so much for your time. It’s taken a while for us to get this together and that is down to your bonkers work schedule, so I appreciate you taking the time to catch up. It’s been too long! 

Robin Guy cover photo by James Cumpsty




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About the Author
Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner

Richard “Doc Spoons” Spooner is a British professional drummer and educator, based out of Switzerland. Doc is touring & recording with multi-platinum selling artist Philipp Fankhauser. Doc proudly endorses C&C drums, Paiste cymbals, Agner drumsticks, Baskey Drumruggs & Luggs, Hardcase Cases,Protection Racket Bags & Tour Luggage,Porter & Davies Monitoring, Big Fat Snare Drum, Kelly SHU, Tuner-Fish. Visit Doc online at www.docspoons.com  or follow him on Twitter@DocSpoons



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