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Spike Webb: Mad, Bad and Dangerous

Interview by Sean Mitchell // May 17 2014
Spike Webb: Mad, Bad and Dangerous

I think that because what we do is so closely related to natural behaviour—rhythm being part of human nature and early forms of communication—we are tapping into something deep in the subconscious.

Spike Webb will soon be household name (if you are a drummer, that is). Spike has accumulated hours and hours of interviews with the world's greatest drummers and compiled it all into one Mad, Bad and Dangerous book. The book details stories about the insanity that can only happen when a drummer is around. Like the one about the drummer who had to fly separately from the rest of Oasis because they thought he was bad luck, or the drummer who drummed his way out of prison. Friends, this is truly a book only a drummer will understand. 

Spike, how did you come to the decision to write the book? What inspired you? 

I was chatting with a fellow drummer in my local venue, The Horns in Watford, just north of London. We were talking about what it’s like to be a drummer and the problems that go with being the pivotal part of any beat group. Not just the practical stuff, like bass drum beaters flying off and hi-hat stands falling apart, but observations of a more general nature. We agreed that it was time to give the guys/girls at the back a bigger profile, and this led to the idea of a book containing drummers’ anecdotes. Of course, it was just an idea at the time, but several weeks later I thought to myself I really should do this. I wanted to discover what really makes drummers tick, archive their grievances and collect a whole load of humorous and interesting stories. So I spent the next three years tracking down well known drummers and my network has now grown to huge proportions. 

There are some amazing tales in this book. Which is your favourite? 

That’s a difficult one. I always recall the one about Steve White being asked to drum on a US tour with Oasis. While they’re discussing stuff on the phone they tell him that the headline spots are to be shared with The Black Crowes. At that point a black crow crash lands in Steve’s garden, rolls around a bit and dies. He tells them this and after a long silence he hears Liam Gallagher’s voice, "Tell him he’s welcome aboard but he’s not fookin’ flying with us.”

They all have a laugh about it, then a week later at the airport Steve discovers that Oasis are flying Virgin and he’s flying BA. 

You must have a few tales of your own, putting this book together. Any stories you can share with us in interviewing these guys? 

Meeting Nick Mason for the first time was quite an experience. We filmed the interview in his office in London. We expected a smallish office with a sitting room area to do the interview. After seeking out a fairly hidden location on an estate not far from King’s Cross station, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a vast room containing a huge racing car, three drum kits and walls adorned with Pink Floyd memorabilia. After the interview Nick was kind enough to give us a short tour round the building. He showed us the kit he used on the Dark Side of the Moon tour plus a whole load of other Floyd stuff. 

Meeting Rat Scabies was interesting too, but for different reasons. When I phoned Rat at his home he seemed a little suspicious of who I was and what I was doing. But when I explained about my book of drummers’ stories spanning several decades and that I was currently interviewing famous people from the punk era, he said in a deep and mischievous voice, “I hope you know what you’re letting yourself in for, Spike…” 

When the interview day arrived I found myself pushing open the heavy, squeaky door of a backstreet pub in West London. I looked around a bit sheepishly. Some of the people hunched over the bar looked round at me as a young girl asked, “Are you looking for Rat?” 

“Y-yes actually I am…how did you know?” 

“Anyone who comes in here like that is usually looking for Rat” 

It turns out that the young girl is his daughter. Apparently Rat was on his way to meet me. We chatted for an hour or so over some Guinness and he turned out to be a great guy. 

Are there any plans for a follow up book. If so, who would you like to chat with most? 

Yes I’m planning a follow up and have started the research. I’ve had loads of drummers agree to take part, including Kenney Jones, Mel Gaynor and Derrick McKenzie. In particular I’d love to chat with Charlie Watts and Ringo. 

Spike how did you get started in drumming, and what is your best touring story? 

I started playing on boxes and washing up bowls. Then I had one lesson with Simon Phillips who lived just up the road. I was 11 and he was about 13 and had a real drum kit set up in his folk’s living room. His dad, the well known band leader Sid Phillips, knew my Dad and I was invited up for an hour or so. Simon taught me how to operate the pedals (I didn’t have any on my pretend kit). That was the first and only lesson I ever had. We didn’t get back in touch until I contacted him 40 years later to ask him if he’d like to give me a story for my book, which he kindly did.

I went on to form bands with school mates like most people and eventually ended up in a band called Sid Sideboard and the Chairs made a name for itself back in the late 1970s. I’ve played in all kinds of bands ever since. One story that comes to mind is causing havoc in a venue just outside London by smoking the audience out. We had this smoke machine that was actually a metal hotplate on which our roadies had placed a piece of gunpowder originally designed to produce a smoke screen on the battlefields of World War I. It was highly effective, so effective that no one could find the plug socket to switch it off. Eventually the doors and windows were opened to reveal a completely empty pub venue and one very angry landlord. The full story is actually featured in Mad, Bad and Dangerous

You have asked a number of drummers if we are, in fact, mad. In your opinion, what makes us so eccentric? 

That subject evolved as the book research got underway. I always ask that question during the live drummer interviews on the "Mad, Bad and Dangerous" YouTube channel and it meets with varying responses. For instance, Topper Headon thinks you’ve got to be mad to do it in the first place, whereas Steve White says it’s the sanest thing you can do. I think that because what we do is so closely related to natural behaviour—rhythm being part of human nature and early forms of communication—we are tapping into something deep in the subconscious. Perhaps that leads to eccentric behaviour. Having said that, it may simply be that because drumming is so physical other people expect us to be slightly bonkers.

Your favourite run-in with someone famous and what happened? 

Actually I liked Gary Powell’s story featured in the book where he tells the late great Mitch Mitchell to take a hike without realising who he is. And the irony is he was actually his hero – someone he’d really like to have met!



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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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