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An Interview With Terry Bozzio

By: Paul Voran

At one point did you have the realization that you could make it as a professional musician?

I STILL don't think Iíve had it. When I look at myself at 65 I canít figure out how Iíve made a living playing the drums and generally getting to do what I like to do for all these years. I guess I was 20 or 22 when I got my first gigs. So yeah, I still donít have that feeling. Especially today with music being so devalued in american culture. You can stream anything from anybody for free and itís putting a crunch on musicians everywhere. Itís tough for the slightly above club level artists like myself to find a smaller theater that's not so much about drinking and meeting someone from the opposite sex.

How have you coped with this change in the industry?

It was really an odd thing. It think it was in the mid 80ís I was struggling with being a songwriter after Missing Persons broke up. Since I wrote most of that music I thought, ďIím gonna do a solo projectĒ so I wrote all these tunes and did a bunch of demo deals for major labels and got paid for them. I was paid ten grand for one tune once and virgin decided they didnít like it. One day somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said ďwould you like to do a drum clinic?Ē. It was kind of frightening, Iíd been doing the same solo since Zappa. I realized that I needed to get some fresh material so that's when I started working on the ostinato stuff. So under the guise of a drum and cymbal commercial, Remo, DW, Sabian, Paiste, and Mapex put me out on the road starting in 1986. That went on until 2008 when everything crashed. The music instrument manufacturing business couldnít afford to put artists out on the road anymore. So what I did is I got a booking agent and started working on these tours. I go out with a trailer, an SUV, my wife, and a tech. It works out well.

What is your best market for these tours?

The marketís in Europe and Japan are a little bit better for me financially but Europe has all of this terrorist stuff going on which can complicate things. I had to get through Paris the week of that attack. Itís the same problem everywhere, disenfranchised people. Economically or racially or what have you, nobodyís taking care of education and culture for these people so they often turn to these types of things. It affects everyone, the more conflict there is, the fewer places there are to play.

What do you think of todayís popular musicians?

There arenít really gigs anymore that I was lucky enough to get back in the day. Where you could do little sessions or club dates. I got the gig with Zappa and those kinds of bands donít exist anymore where you go from nobody to world famous based on credibility. Itís a hard time for music. On the other hand there is this technology that allows creative people that donít have a music education to create amazing compositions. Itís not to say that there arenít brilliant people and everybodyís stupid, but itís reinforced on TV. Pretty much everybody you see on the late night circuit can barely play. Okay, they can make a perfect album or the singer can sing in tune but thereís no aspiration to do what I saw my heros do.

Is there a particular performance in your past that sticks out in your memory?

Oh yeah it had to be Miles Davis at the Fillmore West in like 1969. I think thatís on a CD now. I was barely in college, just started studying music, and I didnít know the names of the notes on the staff yet, but I could read rhythms and I had a fair amount of chops. My friends took me to the show because they were trying to get me to swing more. To me that show was like voodoo. Nobody was looking at each other and I couldnít tell what was improv and what was worked out. To not know how that worked and to see that stuff going on...to see Miles play at his peak was absolutely amazing.

Youíve experienced and played many genres throughout the years, what are you practicing now?

I always try to practice something I donít know how to do. Itís very easy to find things you donít know how to do. Itís kind of my anxiety remedy before shows. If I warm up with things that really push me then I really have to concentrate. That just pushes my worries away. Iíve been working on my newer ostinatos. Working through the permutations rhythmically on a practice kit Iím great, but as soon as I start moving it melodically around the kit it starts to confuse my feet. Some of these are a little bit more complex rhythmically so Iím working on those before the tour starts.

Whatís new or different about this tour?

The kit is largely the same other than some midi improvements. The last couple times I played the Pour House I used other peoples rigs but this time Iíll bring all of my own instruments. Iíll have my big kit, some artwork on stage, and my cajon and wavedrum to break up the set a little bit. Iíve been doing pieces with ambient music behind me but the main difference is the midi upgrade. Itís not just the sound of the drums you're hearing, every tom is tuned to trigger a corresponding midi note to really boost the tone of the note. This allows me to play fully melodic and harmonic pieces.

How many pieces are in your setup? Must be a nightmare for the sound guys.

Itís on my website somewhere. I think it's about 36 drums along with all the cymbals and other junk. I try to make it as easy as possible for the engineers by doing a lot of mixing in my own setup on stage, I have everything combined for me then spit back for front of house and some specific EQ instructions so most of the time it sounds great.

Do you have any plans for after the tour?

You know man, my dream would be to have a studio. I have an office at DW thatís worked out great for many years. Itís just now quite big enough for what I want to do. I have a huge percussion collection and it would be pretty sweet to have everything set up and ready to record all of the time.

Any words for people on the fence about coming out to your show?

Itíll be something theyíve never seen before. It's not a two hour bashing drum solo, itís really music on the drums. There are sections that are atmospheric, it's jazz because it's improvisational, itís also true composed like classical, and itís also inspired by ethnic percussion styles from around the world. I try to bring the audience into my little musical world and share what I find in there with them. Thatís my philosophy and I hope thatís what people get from it.

Bozzio will be performing at The Pour House Music Hall on September 19th at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

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