Dave Mattacks is one of the most famous drummers in the world. His work can be found on really a lot of albums. From Fairport Convention, The Albion Country Band, Nick Drake, Jimmy Page to Jethro Tull. We spoke about some of his music collaborations and also about his current occupations.
Dave, we are very pleased to have you on our magazine. What currently occupies your life?
I try to spend as much time as possible with my wife & our two Jack Russell terriers!
When I'm not doing that , I'm recording (with various artists / singer-songwriters) here in New England & elsewhere in the USA & the UK too - it seems to average out @ six or so cd's a year. There's also music production, which I'm getting into more and more. Debra Cowan’s CD from 2010 which I produced and played on got a nomination for the BBC's "Folk record of the year". Additionally, there's concerts / gigs of all’s shapes & sizes - including the annual " Feast of Fiddles " tour I do every April in the UK ; the odd drum clinic/master class in the UK and USA ; my private drum students - & finally, occasional teaching spells @ Boston's Berklee college of music.
I would first like to talk about the good old days. You were born in Edgware, Middlesex. What do you remember from your childhood? What inspired you to play drums and what was your first set?
I don't see them as the “good old days”. Like now, some were good , some were not so good.
Back then, piano came first (aged six) - then I discovered the drums when I was 13 or so . Mistakenly thought they'd be easier! After school, I was briefly an apprentice piano tuner, & then worked in a major drum shop in London before turning professional (a dance band!) then joined Fairport in '69.
You played on almost all great English folk LP's. But before you joined Fairport Convention, were you in any bands, any recordings from then?
Apart from that first dance band, not really.
You replaced Martin Lamble, who had died on 12 May 1969 in a road accident. How did you got in contact with the guys and what do you remember from some of the very early days of your involvement with them?
I was in London visiting the drum shop (where I used to work) one day. They told me "FC" were looking for a drummer. I knew nothing about them. After I'd been in the band about a year, I totally "got" what they were about - from an aesthetic point of view. It had a profound effect upon how I listened to music and how I wanted to play it.
Your first recording with them was legendary Liege & Lief album. What are some memories from producing and recording? This one was the milestone and actually made the band more wide known.
It's such a long time ago, but I recall the "L&L" rehearsals & sessions with pleasure - wonderful people & music - that, & that it was my first time in a “real” recording studio!
You were from the very beginning more of a session drummer, right? I'm saying this, because you were involved with so many projects. Just to name a few you were part of in the start of the 70's. For instance you recorded with Nick Drake on his Bryter Layter. What was he like as a person and how do you remember recording that piece with him?
Nick was very talented and very shy. You know, I only got into sessions because Dave Pegg (FC's bass player) and I became one of the rhythm sections that a lot of folk influenced artists wanted on their recordings. I really started to branch out from that musical genre (recordings with Mccartney / Elton / Jimmy Page / XTC / Joan Armatrading / Chris Rea / Eno / Jethro Tull / etc .) after I left the band for the first time in '75.
Let's go further down your amazing discograpy. Next you recorded with The Incredible String Band, their I Looked Up album. Other bands (not all of them) includes Steeleye span, Dr. Strangely Strange and you also joined The Albion Country Band for awhile. Another recording you made was with Spirogyra on their legendary St. Radigunds LP. Other stuff involves Marc Ellington, Plainsong, Bridget St. John Bert Jansch solo, Ralph Mctell, Magna Carta and many others. You know it's really hard to ask you about all of them, cus we'd need a couple of days, but I would really appreciate if you could share a couple of favourite memories from recording and playing with this bands.
All very enjoyable sessions as I recall, especially the Sandy Denny, Nick Drake & John Martyn ones. Again, that was such a long time ago; I don't spend too much time reflecting on that period, proud as I am of some of it. I'm more interested in next week's work!
You were with George Harrison when the news of John Lennon's murder came through. What impact had that terrible news on you and George when you heard it?
It was obviously a shock to all. George felt it better to work (as the rec' session had been scheduled for that day) than cancel and sit around thinking about it.
Back in late 90's you moved to the States and started Super Genius. What can you tell me about this project?
To start with, I moved to the USA because for me there was and still is so much more going on here musically, even despite the current state of things.
“Super genius” evolved from some friends making music together after I'd been here a while but at present, " SG" is a recording-only project. It's so difficult to get everyone together. We all have busy schedules and in the current climate (where everybody and his brother can make a record) not enough people are sufficiently interested in the band for us to go out and tour.
What are some plans for the future?
More music production work; recording CD's for people; various concerts / gigs; starting the next "Feast of Fiddles " CD so it will be available in time for our 20th anniversary tour in April 2013 in the UK.
Thanks a lot for taking your time! I wish you good luck with all the projects. Would you like to send a message to your fans and to It's Psychedelic Baby readers?
Thanks for your interest, but don't always be “looking-over-your-shoulder”!
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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