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DAVE WECKL: MIKE STERN/DAVE WECKL BAND TOUR INTERVIEW

DAVE WECKL: MIKE STERN/DAVE WECKL BAND TOUR INTERVIEW

Modern Drummer magazine named Dave Weckl as “one of the 25 best drummers of all time”. He’s played drums for some of the world’s most respected recording artists including George Benson, Diana Ross, Robert Plant, Natalie Cole and Chick Corea to name a few, as well as releasing many critically acclaimed albums with his own projects.

The constantly in-demand Weckl will be back in Australia next month to tour with his friend and fellow jazz great, guitarist Mike Stern, playing Melbourne’s Bird’s Basement from May 9-13. Ahead of the tour, Australian Musician threw a few questions Dave’s way.

Do you recall the first time you became interested in drums sounds or beats as opposed to a particular band or song that you liked?
It would have been when I transitioned from playing to rock records to jazz records. All of a sudden I wanted to know who the drummer was, because of the complexity and artistry of what was being played. The first exposure would have been Jack Sperling, playing drums on Pete Fountain’s records. I was probably 10-11 years old.

Who are the significant people that taught you along the way?
I would venture to say I’ve probably learned something from everyone that has ever been in a teacher role with me, but most significantly, and ‘hands on’; My early teachers Bob Matheny, Joe Buerger and John DiMartino in St. Louis MO; a ‘one off’ lesson with Jim Peterscak at a jazz fest in St Louis; Ed Soph, Randy Jones, and Gary Chester while in college at Bridgeport University; Jim Chapin (one lesson) in the 80’s; Freddy Gruber in LA in the mid 90’s. Then I’d have to include major listening/emulating from the likes of Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham and others.

You run an online music school on your website. Why is educating so important to you?
Yes, the drum school (daveweckl.com) is a streaming service that is loaded with lots of info for those interested. It’s important for me to share what it is I have learned, and my approach to playing the instrument with those that want to know. It’s important to me to inspire young people to want to play, so that the art of playing the drums and live music continues.

Do you remember the first time you met Mike Stern?
I’m thinking it was when I was asked to play on his first record back in 1984 or so.

You’ve played with so many different musicians. What do you enjoy about playing on stage with Mike Stern?
Mike is there to PLAY, nothing else, he is a student of the guitar, always practicing, always wanting to play. We have a great chemistry playing together, so we enjoy doing it!

What will your kit consist of in Australia and what kind of adjustments do you make to your set (if any) to play in a quartet like this?
The kit will be a Yamaha Absolute Hybrid kit, and will be what I call my standard ‘ Fusion-Jazz’ set up. With the music we play in this band, I need to have certain elements of both jazz and rock at my disposal, where the instrument is concerned.

If someone is building you a drum kit, what is the most important aspect of the kit that they MUST get right for you to be happy with it?
Well, I’m pretty ‘hands on’ with kits to be supplied, when not carrying my own, with a detailed rider and specific requests. More than not, Yamaha is involved with helping to support, as is the case here in Melbourne, with Jamie Goff from Yamaha looking after the gear. I leave very little to chance, right down the seat, which is probably the most important part of the set up!

You’re playing Bird’s Basement, a great jazz club in Melbourne. Do you have a preference to playing clubs vs large festivals? And does the venue influence the way you play at all?
My only preference is good sounding venues; inside, outside, big, small, doesn’t matter. We have to play a lot of different kinds of places, so part of the job is to acclimate quickly to the environment so we can be free to play. I do prefer a space that ‘gives something back’ where the sound is concerned, so, small, cramped clubs with small stages and minimal sound systems are not my favourite. We always have to ‘play to the room’, so yes, at times the venue will influence certain aspects of my approach.

You are soon playing some dates with Chick Corea’s Electric Band. Is your approach to Chick’s music and playing with Frank Gambale and John Patitucci, any different to how you’d play with Mike’s band?
Every band, every musician or group of musicians is different, and the music to be played is different. So, although certain aspects of ‘me’ will always be the same approach to playing the instrument, the way I play it will always be with the intention of supporting and working with the people I’m playing with.

Often at a jazz gig featuring world class musicians, there are moments of exceptional musicianship and pure joy, whether occurring by happy accident or through a lot of rehearsal … the moments where you can see the satisfaction on the musicians faces… that they’ve excelled and outdone themselves and perhaps even performed a special jam they’ll never revisit again. Do those moments stick with you? Are you able to remember specific gigs as being out of the box in that way? If so could you give us some examples of gigs that turned next level for you?
The moment is always special, but generally it’s all forgotten by the next night. It’s all about the moment, so to live in the past is dangerous if you want to constantly be spontaneous and create something different.

I saw an interview with you recently where you said you pretty much take a portable studio around with you when you travel. Could you explain what that gear consists of?
My Laptop (currently a 2015 MacBook Pro 13”), a Focusrite headphone amp, Shure in ear phones, and two Zoom Q2n cameras. I use ProTools and Final Cut Pro to edit and mix, software wise. I can record the shows directly off my small QSC Touchmix 16 mixer to a small hard drive (that I also carry), film with the cameras and can mix it all the next day on the laptop.

What are you most proud of in your music career?
I’m proud of the fact that my parents lived long enough to see me achieve some success in something that they supported and allowed me to do.

What have you been listening to in the car or in your downtime lately? Do you still listen to the classics or like to discover new artist’s music as well?
Downtime? What’s that? I have too many other interests and hobbies that take up any ‘downtime’. In the car or the gym is really the only places I listen outside of working. That vacillates between new stuff and old. And sometimes, silence is golden.

Are there any bucket list projects you’d like to get to that maybe we wouldn’t expect from you?
Maybe …..

What touring and recording projects are coming up for you in the near future?
Right now, and for the past year, the focus has been to get my On Line Drum School going. With all the touring with a few different groups, it’s all I’ve had time for, creatively, but I’m getting the itch to have my own group again, so we’ll see.

This year is busy with Oz Noy (gigs and recording), Mike Stern, the summer with Chick’s Acoustic Band reunion tour (we recorded a live CD this past January), and the fall with the Nomads (Chris Minh Doky’s group with Dean Brown and George Whitty). I also teach occasionally at my homes in LA and Italy, and am busy recording and mixing tracks for people remotely out of my studios. Never a dull moment, as they say!

Purchase tickets to the Bird’s Basement shows here

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