(reprints from old DTM)
King on Collins (2009)
Ethan Iverson: Did Phil Collins drum on any hits?
Dave King: Possibly. I seem to think that Phillip Bailey song “Easy Lover” made the Top 40 in 1988. Other than that, I would need to consult my collection of old Billboard magazines.
EI: What about his singing?
DK: No one made a lead-microphone stand with coils for a drummer look sexier. Fuck Kelly Keagy and double fuck Don Henley…. Levon Helm looked pretty tight, though.
EI: What are the great Collins drum performances?
DK: One of his signature second-verse entrances can be heard on the Howard Jones classic “No One is Ever to Blame.” The same vibe appears in the Tears For Fears masterwork “Woman in Chains”…………… Come to think of it, there’s pretty brilliant Collins on the entire Genesis catalog with Peter Gabriel singing ……… and there’s a moment or two of progressive thinking on the Brother Bear soundtrack, which is a Disney film that over-romanticizes the Native American concept of shape-shifting for the corporate bottom line.
EI: I guess the drums matter for hit songs, huh?
DK: Does the Pope eat his muesli with the souls of the young dead?
EI: Yes. What, exactly, is a big beat? It’s like a large surfboard, right?
DK: Lemme tell you a little about Phil Collins pocket. Four-words: left-handed concert toms. He’s basically thrown a permanent “fuck you” at the use of bottom heads on toms since 1970.
EI: Has anyone ever spelled his name “Fill Collins” out of respect for his performance on “In the Air Tonight?”
DK: If they didn’t, they missed a big opportunity. That is a moment where man and drum connect, bound to the earth through passion and strength. If drum fills are meat, that’s prime rib. The irony is that the first half of the song is an 808 drum machine, probably programmed by Phil himself. This shows his dedication to new technologies even though he was a bad-ass on the tubs. In no way was he threatened by little buttons and bleeping lights. Phil knows himself.
EI: He wrote a lot of songs, too, right?
DK: Yes. One of my personal favorites is the the title track of Against All Odds. This is a film that would make Jack Palance cry. The song is a slow-dance classic. In 1986, I would have to have had both legs in traction to keep me and my sweetheart off the dance floor when that song played. (By sweetheart, I mean my 1960’s 18-inch K with rivets.) He also wrote the late-80’s masterwork “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” which was used for wine-cooler commercials. I used to fill my tub with Sun Country wine cooler during house parties and do a little “deep sea diving,” if you know what I mean.
EI: The Lion King: go.
DK: Phil Collins clearly likes money. This by no means diminishes his ability to groove as hard anyone who has ever played the drums. For real, Phil Collins is a master and his choice to write and sing questionable ballads for Disney films shouldn’t tarnish the image of a fierce prog demon underneath. I truly love and respect Phil Collins’s drumming on anything.
King on Peart (2007)
Ethan Iverson: Dave, tonight we played Massey Hall. What is “YYZ”?
David King: It is the airport code of Toronto and the “Giant Steps” of rock and roll.
EI: What band played “YYZ”?
EI: What were they famous for?
DK: They are a prog-rock power trio that uses iconoclastic playing to create a sound much bigger than three guys. They also made wizard hats sexy.
EI: Who was the drummer of Rush?
DK: Neil Peart was the second and most famous drummer, but on the first record it was John Rutsey.
EI: But Peart is who we mean when we talk about odd-meter mayhem, right?
DK: He was a loud Joe Morello with gongs.
EI: Does Peart have good technique at the drums?
DK: Does the new Pope drink umbilical-cord blood from a satanic chalice?
EI: Yes. Can anyone play faster in seven than Peart?
DK: Probably some obscure doumbek player, but not many in rock. The thing about Neil Peart that appealed to me (and probably a lot of drummers of my generation) is that he was an active force in creating the sound of the band he was in. He wasn’t just a timekeeper. Rush represented a certain freedom of ideas for the drum as a lead instrument in rock and roll.
EI: What are the quintessential Peart performances?
DK: This could be controversial, but my favorite period of Rush and Peart is from 1979’s Permanent Waves through 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. This was a period of Peart’s most progressive playing. From the merging of electronic and acoustic drums to the dark themes of the music, this period represented the most complete realization of Peart’s concepts. (This is just my opinion, of course. I don’t know much of their music after this period.) There is a fill in the song “Natural Science” that is truly some avant-garde shit. It makes no rational sense in the composition. It reminds me of an interpretation of Chinese box drumming or something.
EI: Why do some people hate Rush?
DK: Because they stole their girlfriends. Seriously, though, I think that any music that doesn’t belong to any scene and follows its own path without being concerned with what’s cool will naturally turn off a great hunk of the masses. I suppose some people think it’s kind of geeky and kind of masturbatory, but I believe it’s pretty ballsy to do your own shit without apology.
EI: The Bad Plus is now playing “Tom Sawyer,” and you play the Peart drum fill just like on the record.
DK: I play the four-piece kit version. Peart had a 37-piece kit with nine bass-drums when he recorded it, so my version is a little small in comparison. But the intention is strong. I felt you had to pay homage to one of the most recognizable drum solos in recorded history. It’s almost like a song in itself. It’s like if you covered “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and didn’t do “the fill that brings in the big chorus.” You’d get your ass kicked on the street if word got out that you were the doof that thought you could do better. Phil Collins fans are fucking vicious and they will shank you without thinking twice.
Dave has put out a solo album where he plays piano and drums. The first review is on the L.A. Times blog. Dave wondered if I had any thoughts about his new record. Well, yes, Dave, I do.
Let’s get one fucking thing straight: I AM THE PIANO PLAYER IN THE BAD PLUS
I’m actually not a bad drummer. Several well-respected musicians have assured me I almost swing when playing a jam session, even though my “chops” aren’t at the level they used to be when I played for high-school big band.
BUT I WOULD NOT MAKE AN ALBUM PLAYING DRUMS
NO I WOULD NOT. I AM THE PIANO PLAYER IN THE BAD PLUS NOT DAVE
How dare he? He had better have some really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, hip ideas to pull this one off.
The Werewolf and the Silver Bullet (for Iverson) A multi-sectional fusillade of irrational rhythms and fanfare melodies. Near the end, the build becomes epic. If you know Dave and have heard him play this kind of amazing piano, you’ll recognize this music, but that’s the only way you would: there’s nothing else like this out there. It’s a great blindfold test.
Homage: Young People The initial serpentine tune was recorded on King’s old dictaphone, now placed over a tight C major groove. Interesting to hear the slightly different feels on piano and drums, resulting in a superbly wide beat.
Bees Six minutes of non-repeating odd-groupings. The pianist and drummer must have rehearsed quite a bit together to pull this one off. Some of the drum fills are theoretically impossible.
The Shell A ravishing melody that we regret doesn’t go on longer. Too bad Paul Bley didn’t show up to take a solo on it (Bley should play it sometime).
Arts High Boogie begins with ferocious two-part counterpoint embracing both pop and atonality. Then the higher tune is surrounded by complex repeated notes. The repeated notes stay, hammering into our brain. After this assault wears itself out, it’s naturally time for fuzz-tone left hand and the big beat.
Herman Ze German Cassette Redux I tried to learn this thorny head once but couldn’t; it was too hard. It’s also on the first Gang Font album. The possible allusions are interesting: Alice Coltrane? Tabla? The spiking low A (the lowest note on the piano) is an appropriate compass.
Highly Varnished Academic Realism Cheerful and demented, this march subdivides the beat in ways most of us don’t believe exist. (The harmony is not academy-approved, either. I can see the square professor now, saying, “These aggregates of pitches are not allowed in conjunction with parallel motion in the bass. How did you do this?”) The drum improvisation is a mixture of electronic and acoustic; indeed, the snare tone sounds a bit like Paul Motian.
I See You, You See Me (for Ella) For the daughter. No drums for the lullaby. A good example of how many ways there are to touch the piano.
Indelicate Funky, swinging, and ludicrously difficult, this one is stamped, “Music that could only have been created by Dave King.”
The Great Hammer (for Otis) For the son. No drums for the playroom. The low hammer smashes all in its path once in a while.
The Black Dial Tone of Night A short mood piece appropriate for horror or boredom, or perhaps their logical convergence, insomnia.
I Want to Feel Good Dave calls this kind of fast two-beat “going to church.” It’s sort of like Stravinsky meets hoedown meets electronica with a memorable melody. It doesn’t build, instead cutting off rather abruptly. It’s not incomplete but does imply more to come, which would be fabulous.