Steve, I live in London. I am going to Huddersfield University next week for a Richard Barbieri lecture and ‘masterclass’ Am I mad?

That makes me smile because we used to play a trick on Richard when we were cruel teenagers. Richard was never the type to bore you with his world of keyboards so the trick was for one of us to draw him into the subject and gradually he would pick up the thread until he was really enthused and doing all the talking, it’s at this point the person would say in the most sarcastic tone he could muster while yawning: “yeah… that’s really interesting Rich” – it was a masterclass in deflation and it’s amazing how many times we could get away with it. Richard has a great sense of humour so I’m sure he won’t mind if the whole room in Huddersfield did that just the once!

so I’ve been on/off drafting a message for months that would basically say ‘thanks for being part of a band that 20 years ago unknowingly saved my life’ & it always seems like such an inappropriate thing to send – what can you even say to that, it’s not an equipment question, etc – but in the wake of global Bowie mourning it seems like maybe now is a good time. other people had Bowie & I had ‘In Vogue’; I know it wasn’t anyone’s intention, but you really did help make life survivable. thank you.

I’m grateful you took the time to send your message which comes across as being very heartfelt. If our music helped you through life in any small way then it’s a wonderful compliment. Thanks!

Some drumming questions : Do you play heal-up or down on the kick ? Matched grip I assume ? I am ambidextrous to a degree but placing roto-toms /octabans and trigs etc…on the left side helped develop. With Japan live did you hear the sequence thru the phones or a click ? Or both I imagine ? Are able to feel the space between beats ? And also it’s more difficult to play slow than fast, agree ? The drum beats on Pulling Punches are still exciting better than hitting 2/4 throughout. A fave. -m

Heal up. Matched grip. Sequence and click as you imagined. Not sure what you mean regarding feeling the space between beats but the space between beats is the essence. I find playing slow easier and more expressive. Pulling Punches, when you make a decision to place the first snare beat between the one and two it calls for commitment in terms of arrangement. That push drives the track and with the guitars and brass complimenting it works well. If I imagine the snare on beat 2 the track would fall rather flat.

i had a dream that you were in? it was at an arcade but it had no games (?) and you were there, and a lady working there brought you some weird looking ice cream cone. and you ate it, then started yelling at the lady “ARE YOU A MAID?? THIS IS FUCKING DISGUSTING!!” and i was really confused.. and the lady was crying. and then i asked someone else what was so gross about the ice cream cone and they said “it wasnt even an ice cream cone, it was white rice with chocolate sauce on it”

I suppose if you’re expecting ice-cream ….. only a maid would make that mistake (wtf? -dreams eh?)