Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Last blog from here, I've moved to a new home.

Hi Folks, although I think you know, I have moved this blog to my web site www.playdrumswithgordymarshall.com I will be back to blogging a lot more once things settle down a little. There has been such a lot do to since coming back off this last amazing tour, and it the next leg of the tour is just around the corner!

See you at the website.

Thank you



Thursday, 22 July 2010

new web site

I have a new web site coming any day now with the blog (well some of it) and all the tutorial videos and I'm also going to put a couple of piano pieces I recorded a few years ago I have just rediscovered. Great design of the site by David Anderson from Australia. How's that for global commerce?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

5 days to tour time...!

I wrestled the cases out of the loft today in a rather early attempt to pack properly for the tour. Normally I leave packing until the night before, and usually find myself frantically and without observation throwing the contents of random draws from the other side of the bedroom into a case. This results in a third of the contents of my selection not being worn, and my wife complaining that some of her underwear is missing.

The wardrobe preparation has been cut short because I’m sitting on the couch with a cold and feeling rather sorry for myself. Thankfully this minor malaise has presented itself now and not next week. I’ll be better by the time I fly off on tour and of course will be raring to go.

In addition there are no more depping jobs in the book before the US tour starts, which is quite nice actually, probably the reason my body has decided to put me to bed for a couple of days, it’s the first rest I’ve had in ages.

During my delimitation, the Internet has been my closest friend and as a true friend should, has never ceased to amaze me. A lot of time has been spent looking at drum equipment (I like to stay abreast of these things you know) and I’ve found a set of groovy electronic cymbals by a company called Alesis. These Surge Cymbals start life as a real cymbal but are then laminated and, as I use a hybrid kit for both the Moody Blues and The War Of The Worlds, would be ideal for my use.

Currently my kit has some rather simple looking black rubber pad cymbals, which although sound great and do the job are not very stimulating to look at. Although these new Surge Cymbals will not be on the Moody’s summer tour, I will be looking to get them up and running for the UK tour in September this year.

So I leave you with 5 days and counting before the crowds shout “The British Are Coming”.

Friday, 4 June 2010

12 days and counting

The weather in the Lake District is beautiful. When the sun is out and the temperature at 27 degrees there is no better place in the world. Unfortunately the backdrop of the dreadful events in West Cumbria only a few miles away have darkened the mood on this pre tour mini vacation.

The train journey tomorrow back to London will start my official countdown to the beginning on the Moody Blues summer tour, and I will be flying to Chicago in twelve days to meet the gang, who will be commuting from all four corners of the globe in order to create some great music, spread good feelings and maybe even a bit of low level mayhem. Graeme and I have closed at least one bar in every state of America, and even though we tend to be less er, adventurous these days, we still put in a sterling effort to keep the flame of drumming behaviour alive.

Our first concert is in South Bend, Indiana; which has a population of around 100,000 and holds the county seat of St. Joseph County, it also has the beautiful St. Joseph River running through it on the south side. And of course is home to the famous University of Notre Dame (which sounds quite comical to this European's ears when pronounced phonetically in the local accent). It's a great place to start a US tour.

One of the benefits of being a touring musician, especially to the extent the Moody Blues do it, is the opportunity to visit places I would otherwise only read about. My love for the US comes initially from watching old black and white hollywood movies as a child such as "A Street Car Named Desire", "Yankee Doodle Dandy", "42nd Street" and "The Benny Goodman Story". Clearly America has changed beyond recognition since those times, but I still get a twinge at the thought of standing on the same soil of these wonderful stories.

The first realisation of fulfilling a childhood dream of traveling extensively around America, came in a small hotel room in New York 1995 after touring for five years. I was watching the tv (before the ubiquitous broadband and 24/7 everything) laying on the bed, channel surfing in that post New-York-day-out-numbness one feels after being hit with every conceivable stimulus, and chanced upon the weather channel. It came to the bit where a series of small randomly obscure towns, a few cities, and the occasional hamlet scrolled down the screen whilst giving the temperature, type of weather and chance of precipitation, and it slowly dawned on me I had been to every single one of them! After twenty years of touring I have visited them so many times I not only know where the best place to get a cappuccino, buy a good book, and where the closest art gallery is (not mention late night jazz club) but I could direct you blindfolded to the nearest gents toilet at the closest airport.

I am yet to get an itinerary for the tour, so I have no idea where we will be staying in South Bend, but I am looking forward to it immensely, and can't wait to get behind the kit, and play some of the best music a contemporary musician can get his hands on. Looking forward to seeing all the folks from "Wagon City".

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Short drum solo on youtube

Hi folks, just popped a short drum solo on youtube playing the Roland TD20.

Looks like you have to cut and paste the URL below!


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Love and Hate

I have a love/hate relationship with playing at the moment, which maybe to do with the nature of playing such diverse styles of music back to back. Earlier in the week I played in Mamma Mia, then I moved onto Thriller first on drums, then on keyboards and percussion, then back to drums the following day.

After that, two shows of Grease the Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre and then I polished off the week with 2 further shows on Sunday on Thriller again on keys and percussion. I haven't played Grease for over a year, so I had to treat it like a "first time" show, and subsequently practiced it every day, during the day in preparation for the 2 shows on Saturday. At the same time I played in the evenings on the shows just mentioned. This means holding the drums sticks for anything up to 6 hours a day,

On the one hand it's great to have so much variety, but on the other I miss being able to focus on one thing and really nail it, like we do on tour. I'm sure the audience don't know the difference, but as a player every minutia is investigated by both the conscious and subconscious mind before and during the performance. I also find myself dissecting in retrospect in this blog, which is becoming a hugely enjoyable activity. Almost like a debriefing exercise after an important mission (last night a drummer er,... DJ saved my life)!

Of course being a musician isn't all hard work and juggling gigs. After a concert with the Moody Blues at the Radio City Music Hall last year, I came down to meet the tour bus the following morning and, popping into Starbucks on the corner just south of Central Park, I found myself being chatted up by Renee Zellweger whilst waiting in line. I didn't realise who she was until it was too late, but I will always remember the smile she gave me as she bade farewell. However, I digress. I'll expand on that little anecdote another time.

To quickly breakdown the activity of the session musician into its various parts on a typical gig/session, I'll go through what I do when I play in Thriller on keys and percussion.

Arriving early to get all the gear into position, and getting the charts in order, you are faced with a series of instruments. On my left is the Roland Fantom-G6 Workstation, a 76 note keyboard. To the right of that is a Percussion Table with a pair of sticks, a tambourine, several shakers, and a packet of Smints (very important). Above the percussion table is the Roland SPDS Sampling Percussion Pad with 9, four inch pads which have various sounds on each pad. To the right of that are a pair of LP congas. There is one overhead microphone.

Now, the first song is Jam from the Dangerous album and it's entirely on the Roland pads, so patch number 1, has various scratch sounds, snare and bass drum samples, all sorts of things spread over the 9 pads. The song has a pretty complicated series of sticking patterns, but a great start to the show.

After that we segue into a lovely song recorded by Michael when he was just 14 called "Music and Me", for this I turn to the keyboard, where patch 1 is a vibraphone sound, and I play the vibes in the first half of the song, and towards the end move to patch 2 on the keyboards, and play the string arrangement for the ending.

Then over to the congas for the Jackson 5 medley, of "ABC", "The Love You Save" and "I Want You Back". Then Tambourine and Vibes for "I'll Be There" and then to the shakers and Roland pads (at the same time) for "Show You The Way". It continues like this through the whole show (all 32 songs) with a different patch on both the pads and keys for each song.

When I play drums on this show, I am playing the Roland TD20 again with a different patch for each song, this means that every song has a different drum sound. A great way for replicating the true sounds of a record in the theatre.

When I play with the Moody Blues, I use a double bass drum pedal, which allows me to move my left foot from the Hi Hat pedal and use two bass drum beaters on the bass drum (a little like playing with two sticks, but with your feet)! It's used a lot in Heavy Metal music, but on the more sophisticated gigs like the Moody's it can only be used in small quantities. For instance the end of a rock song, when the drums may do a flourish to finish off, then the Double Bass Drum Pedal comes into it's own.

There is almost no double bass pedal stuff on Thriller, however there is one final chord at the end of "They Don't Care About Us" which I thought would be great to use; a fast roll on the bass drum, both crash cymbals being given a good thrashing, then move over to a few hand and foot patterns between the toms and kick drum, the sort of thing I do on big stages with the Moody's every night on tour.

Anyway, my plan failed miserably, as when it came to this big final smashing chord, my hands and feet decided they didn't belong to me! It was not so much a train crash, more a bad landing in a plane, which whilst you could walk away from was certainly not very comfortable. A few choice looks from the other musicians (who took it well, considering), made it a very unpleasant experience, as I am not used to messing up like that. When I got home I went straight into my studio and played the same thing on my own, note perfect. Talk about love and hate.

I'm reading the Micheal Palin Diaries at the moment "Half Way To Hollywood". It's really interesting to hear how the movies that keep us entertained on the Moody Blues tour bus "Life Of Brian" and "The Meaning Of Life" were written. Python is a staple part of our humour, and we are constantly quoting phrases to one another. When squeezing past Justin or John on the bus you are likely to hear someone shout in a silly voice "Don't jostle the saviour". I love humour!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Emotions - Wed 19th May 2010

I'm doing a lot of reading whilst commuting into London to play the shows in the West End, and have found myself consuming a string of autobiographies. Richard Branson "Losing My Virginity", - Peter Ustinov "Dear Me", - James Caan "The Real Deal: My Story From Brick Lane To Dragon's Den, - Also "The Moon's a Balloon" by David Niven (a lovely book), all thoroughly enjoyable reads, however Rupert Everett's book "Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins" is one of the most well written books I have come across in some time.

I was looking for a metaphor to describe performing on stage, and couldn't think of any better way than Mr Everett's depiction. "It's better than drugs, sex or punishment". It may seem a curious simile, but really does sum up the experience of performing something you have worked really hard at mastering, and then having the results judged and commented on by thousands of people sitting in front of you.

This metaphor comes into play of course, only if the results are positive. There is a reason that actors and musicians use the word 'dying' if things don't go well. To many who push themselves onto a stage to open up their hearts, egos, personalities, and abilities to the unforgiving crowd, it really does feel like a matter of life and death in the fleeting moments on stage. Thankfully, most professional performers have spent countless thousands of hours perfecting their skill, and a consequence "dying on stage" is a rarity, unless of course you've completely lost the plot.

With that in mind, it's always a good idea to pick the very best to accompany you onto the stage. This is the reason I picked the Moody Blues as my "Fronting Band". They think they picked me at an audition to be in the backing band, but little do they realise I went through a series of other groups before (ahem) I chose them as my main fronting band!

When Paul Bliss was in the band we used to call ourselves "Bookem and Risket" (as I distinctly overheard Justin mumble something like that at my audition). I don't know which one I am supposed to be.

I had a great time in Thriller again last night on drums. I have just about got the show together and can relax and enjoy it now I have the arrangements under my belt. Once again the band were "kicking"! Mike Guy the assistant MD was in charge last night, he's a fabulous "jazzer" who directs the whole caboodle with authority, even though he looks about 12. By the way, is it me or are policemen getting younger?