Queen’s Roger Taylor on the secret to being a great drummer ‘We don’t just keep time’
Roger Taylor discusses chemistry with Queen bandmates in 2016
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Think of that resounding, pounding percussive thump on We Will Rock You. It’s not just providing the beat, it is a living part of the song. The man behind that and so many other classic rock moments has opened up in a new interview about his influences growing up, his own “good fortune” to have the right physical gifts required and his passionate pride and belief in the unique role a drummer plays in any group. The Queen + Adam Lambert Rhapsody Tour might be temporarily on hold but the band is launching a weekly video countdown to their 50th Anniversary on their Youtube channel while John and Brian May have been giving new interviews. SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH ROGER PLAY WE WIL ROCK YOU IN ALL ITS GLORY
Brilliantly, John has confessed that his first instrument was actually a ukelele which he “couldn’t play”!
He discovered a passion for drums when he was 12 after hearing the classic track Rock Around The Clock by Bill Hailey & His Comets, and then he discovered the legendary Little Richard.
John said: ‘Well, you just can’t beat that, can you?”
But everyone has to start somewhere, and his earliest childhood drumming moments were right under his mum’s nose in the kitchen.
John was speaking to Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins in this month’s Rhythm magazine, alongside other greats like The Police’s Stewart Copeland and Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron.
He said: “I remember playing along to Roy Orbison songs on my mum’s saucepans with a pair of her wooden knitting needles.”
The Queen star believes that such a humble start and having to assemble his first drum kit “piece by piece” was a hugely important part of learning his craft.
He lovingly described his first cymbal: “a little second-hand 8” Avedis Zildjian splash… I saved up for ages and it cost me eight quid!
“I learned very quickly with only an 8″ up there. I even used the bell as a ride, and I had to develop a good touch to pull that off.”
John believes that only being to afford one piece of kit at a time was “incredibly good training” because it meant he learned how to use each one properly and “get the best out of it.”
He recommends any aspiring drummer learns how to use every single inch of his kit “even those bits you don’t immediately think about playing like the rims.”
Of course, true greatness comes with more than just practice. He admits he was also blessed with the key gifts required.
John said: “I think you either have the time inside you or you don’t, and I just seemed to have the knack and the right kind of wrists. And your wrists are so important because that’s where the snap comes from.”
Unlike so many instafamous acts on the modern music scene, John also credits his early days gigging with teaching him invaluable lessons.
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John’s teenage days in local bands playing covers “for peanuts” in pubs and halls meant “we had to be able to turn on a sixpence.”
And he kept absorbing influences from a wide range of musicians. He may be known as an iconic rock drummer, but his heroes range from Jimi Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell, who blended jazz and rock, to pure jazz legend Louie Belson.
The Queen star also openly admires fellow rock legends like Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham: “He sounded like thunder! He was doing all this fancy bass drum stuff that nobody else could do.”
John believes that his early childhood, building his first drum kit, playing in local bands, natural gifts and watching his heroes all combined together.
He said: “From that pot, where it all got mixed up, I just forged my own style.”
And then, of course, it’s what you do with it when you’ve got it…
John is passionate about the importance of a drummer to a band, but also warns about an easy trap unwary musicians can fall into.
John said: “As drummers we drive the band, and I think the most important thing we can all do is play for the song.
“It’s not about showing off on your instrument. It’s about being aware of the whole song – not just the drum part.”
John also explained that he quickly learned how playing your instrument on stage is very different from in a studio.
He said: “I like to think that the drums on our records added to the overall sound, and that they were not just part of the noise that keeps time.”
The ongoing Queen + AdamLambert Rhapsody world tour may have been postponed by teh global pandemic until 2022, but it gives all a little more time to pull out the pans and knitting needles and get practicing.
READ ROGER TAYLORS INTERVIEW IN THS MONTH’S ISSUE OF RHYTHM
QUEEN YOUTUBE CHANNEL
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