It varied. Tracks such as ‘The Art Of Parties’, ‘Talking Drum’, ‘Still Life In Mobile Homes’ and ‘Cantonese Boy’ were worked out in band rehearsals based around David’s song idea and we were all instrumental in fitting the various parts of the puzzle together in terms of arrangement. The hardest track for me to settle on was ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ which was written around Mick’s bass line. It took me a while to come up with that pattern due to the fact that regular drum patterns that were based around the usual snare, bass drum and hi-hat were not doing it justice. I needed to find more of an ethnic, pulse-like quality that would allow the bass line to be free to do its thing and it wasn’t until we were actually in the studio that I found the pattern. With songs such as ‘Canton’ and ‘Visions Of China’ the drums were driving the structuring of the tracks. ‘Visions Of China’ was a late addition to the album and was worked on into the night at a studio in Swiss Cottage towards the end of recording the album.
‘Brilliant Trees’ varied too. ‘Pulling Punches’, ‘The Ink In The Well’ and ‘Red Guitar’ would have initially been worked out between myself on drums and David playing rhythm guitar. I remember ‘Nostalgia’ was based around a rhythm that David had on his demo of the song which was programmed on a Roland TR808 highlighting certain vocal accents, so I took that as the basis and made it into a drum pattern. Other tracks such as ‘Weathered Wall’ and ‘Brilliant Trees’ were explored and improvised in the studio.
Keeping it straight? If you mean ‘in time’ well that’s the basic requirement for a drummer. As for coming up with patterns, I’m not sure … I would like to deviate from the instinct to play regular patterns because otherwise it would make the song sound too ‘normal’. Mick too. I think especially with Tin Drum, if you subtract the performances and put a straight rhythm section (bass and drums) behind those songs it would all fall rather flat. The tracks were structured to accommodate performances and fairly intricate arrangements. It was very much a musician’s album.
At Nomis Rehearsal Studios in Sinclair Road, Kensington, London (photos by Justin Thomas)