The most creatively desolate period of my life as a musician was probably between the years 1990-92. By the time 1990 arrived, I’d pretty much had my fill of living on the breadline and getting nowhere in the world of original music; things were bleak and something had to change. Having briefly dipped my unwilling toes in the water of playing covers for money, my thoughts turned to the possibility of selling out and doing it professionally. After six years of giving my all in the pursuit of ‘the big time’ it was time for a change and what the hell, didn’t I deserve to earn some money?
It wasn’t long before my services were in the secure hands of a professional show-band, playing some of the most cheese-tastic songs I had ever heard, let alone considered playing. Well, if this was what it took to earn money as a true, professional musician, I had to accept the situation. It wasn’t like I was doing it for the love of the music and being more financially stable than I’d ever been in my life did hold an appeal. The fiscally rewarding honeymoon period ended when I embarked upon my first (and last) holiday camp summer season in Great Yarmouth. This was to be me my first time away from home for more than two weeks and proved to be a thorough test of my sanity.
If I thought that being in a professional show-band was artistically challenging, then being stuck on a holiday camp for six months doing a cut-down road-show and backing dodgy cabaret acts was to take me to the limits of tasteless ways to make money playing drums.
On paper however, things weren’t as bad as they seemed. For starters, we were one of three bands on the site for the season, and unlike some of the other musicians, we all had our own caravans. Secondly, next to the Ents management team, musicians stood as the highest paid employees on site. To top it all, we only had to work six nights per week, starting at 7pm and finishing at 11pm. To coin a phrase, it was money for old rope – even with the badly written drum charts I had to suffer from visiting artistes. For the first time in my life, I could afford to live like a king within his own bubble. However, I failed to see the positive side of the opportunity and chose instead, to wallow in a swamp of self-imposed self-pity and fictional ‘artistic redundancy’. It must have been hell to be around me and with hindsight, I could have made a lot better of the situation.
Drumming and music-wise, I had, for what would be a handful of times in my life, lost my way.
Two things did offer me threads of hope; one was the purchase of an acoustic guitar on which I spent my days blistering my fingertips in the pursuit of musical knowledge beyond my own stone-age instrument. The other was a loan of a CD from our keyboard player by cheesy American Rock band, Extreme. ‘Extreme II Pornograffitti’ was like no other album I had ever heard. It contained songs that mixed (white) funky drum beats with Metal guitar riffs along with acoustic based compositions and even a pseudo lounge-jazz ballad. Although I’d heard similar offerings in the works of Living Colour and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I found the album from the Boston funk-metal cheese-meisters far more accessible to my depressive state of mind. The most important effect the music had on me though, was the approach drummer Paul Geary took to the songs. At a time when I had lost interest in drummers and drums, despite playing them compulsorily for six nights per week, Paul Geary was the kick start needed to bring me out of the doldrums.
With his simple but effective response to the songs incorporating a four-piece drum kit, Geary opened my mind to believing it was possible to play ‘feel-good’ Rock music without hiding behind a plethora of drums, hardware and cymbals. Catching them live on tour in early 1992 finally convinced me that a four-piece kit, minimalistic approach was the way forward, so I lost a Rack tom overnight. It would be a few more years before the results of this change would come to fruition; there was still much for me to learn about minimalist ideology and further distractions would follow. But thanks to Paul Geary and that one album from the stable of early 90’s white-funk-metal, my whole attitude toward drums and drumming was reborn.
Needless to say, once the summer season of ‘91 was over I swore never to undertake such employment again and soon parted company with the world of professional show-bands. Notwithstanding my dour mood at the time, it is now possible for me to look back and find good memories of the six months I was confined to a caravan on the coast of East Anglia. Now, if only I could have that time over again…