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?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Thriller Live.... Sat 15th May 2010

When the history of this period of music is written, I am convinced that London's west end musical will be talked about (in terms of musicians), with a similar reverence with which the Blue note club and Birdland were talked about in the 1950's in Chicago and New York. With the absence of such clubs these days, the current crop of top musicians frequent the ever popular west end musical orchestra pit and stage. And as I delve ever deeper into the alternative universe of the employed musician, by "depping" on various chairs in the west end, I never cease to be simply blown away by the capabilities of the surrounding instrumentalists when one climbs into the driving seat of a show.

My most recent outing is in one of my favourite shows, Thriller Live! at the Lyric Theatre John Maher the Musical Director has painstakingly transcribed "note for note" the intricate arrangements of the Jackon's music from their early Jackson 5 days, right through to the ubiquitous Thriller and Bad albums, and all of them in between. The result is a meticulous musical journey through the lives of one the most successful music industry families. The arrangements are as close the original recordings as can be. John's attention to detail clearly comes from the years spent in medical school before deciding the content of the acronym MD after his name should be changed.

In addition to putting together not only a fantastic "west end" band, he also collated a group of crack musos' for both the World and European tours of the same name "Thriller Live!". I had the privilege of playing on the opening two weeks of the World tour, which saw me playing with the likes of Mike Lindup the keyboard player with Level 42, a hugely successful group from the 1980's, and Sylvio Galasso, a big Italian bass player who had been Musical Director for Chaka khan amongst other positions.

As I tour so much with the Moody Blues and The War Of The Worlds, I didn't want to be away from home again, which is I why I didn't do any more than the first two weeks. When I came back to London, I went on the drumming "Dep List" for the West End version (which is exactly the same as the touring version thankfully). John openly encourages a healthy depping philosophy in Thriller. This has two immediate advantages; one, it allows the incumbent musicians enough time off to remain fresh and rested. Having once had my own 'drum chair' in Fame at the Aldwych theatre for six years, I can tell you doing 8 shows a week is extremely tiring, getting home on a Saturday night after 8 shows in six days, leaves you feeling like a beached wale in need of sustenance, only to have to do it all again the following week. So being able to take time off is imperative.

The second obvious advantage if you are a regular dep, is the cast are used to you, and so is the rest of the band. When someone comes into a show for the first time, it's little like putting a square peg in a round hole, but less so with each show the dep does. There is one particular show in London, where the drummer doesn't take much time off and whenever there is a new drum dep, the cast are up in arms because it sounds different.

On Thursday night I was playing once again in Thriller Live at the Lyric. The band is intimately grouped together in a tight footprint on stage behind a curtain underneath a big bridge, the main prop on stage. This is used by the young dancers who run up and down it as if it's not there (what it is to be young and fit)! On several occasions the curtains open and the band is on show, and introduced. When we play "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground" there is a breakdown section, and we all get 4 bars to show off our "latest chops", great fun.

As I sit at the drum kit, the bass player is situated at 9 o'clock, John the MD at 11 o'clock. Keys 1 is sideways on, at 12 o'clock. Keys 3 and perc (played by one musician) is situated at 2pm and the guitarist is directly at 3pm. Everyone is close enough to "high five", and so creates a really cool playing environment.

On this most recent gig the keyboard dep was Arden Hart, not only one of the best keyboard players I ever worked with but also one of the best I've ever seen! He was the MD for Take That! and has also played with Massive Attack, Bootsy Collins, and William Orbit, among others.

All the keyboards are Roland Fantoms, and the drums are the Roland TD20. The guitars are d.i.'d. We all have "in ear monitoring" so there is no acoustic sound apart from the congas. The mix is amazing on stage with everything 'panned' and e.q.'d to perfection, the arrangements are perfect, the playing, immaculate and inspired. All in all, it doesn't get much better than this, unless of course you happen to be on stage with the Moody Blues. As it happens I will be in a matter weeks (but more about that as the Moody Blues tour gets closer).

On my voice mail I have just been asked to play drums for two shows in Grease the musical on Saturday. I haven't played that show in nearly a year, so it looks like my day times are going to spent doing some homework. Ooh-er, it's going to feel like another first time show for me this Saturday.

We're Back....

Mamma Mia revisited.

Mamma Mia Matinee yesterday? Nailed it to the door. I am so pleased, what a relief!

I was in the gentleman's bathroom (WC/restroom/toilet, or whatever the literary term is), in the interval and the guitarist uttered those two words you really don't want to hear from another guy in the "Gents"........."nice one" he said. I am assuming he meant my "drumming" in the first half of the show.

He confirmed my suspicions that his observations were of the creative variety, and not referencing my physical attributes, by continuing the same theme when I bumped into him again in the same place after the show. He was extremely complimentary about my playing, and said I had a "great groove", which for this sensitive drummer standing in the toilet underneath the stage of the Prince of Wales Theatre in London was like a breath of fresh air.

Ok. Two shows on a Roland TD20 today in Thriller Live! at the Lyric Theatre in I love doing this show.

All I have to do now, is remember that the overture in the Micheal Jackson show doesn't start with Dancing Queen.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

I've been asked back!!

When you "dep" in west end musicals, you pretty much have to wait for the phone to ring, it's not uncommon to have nothing in the book at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week you may have played between one and six shows depending on how many "chairs" you cover, unlike being on tour, where you know exactly how many shows you will play before you get on the plane. This means that there has to be a certain amount flexibility involved in the working week.

Yesterday I was sitting in my studio working with my trusty Roland TD20 drum kit, (I love that thing) working on a new lesson to put on line, with the prospect of Friday and Saturday off, when Accy the percussionist from Thriller Live called me "I've broken my thumb playing cricket" he said, can you play tomorrow night for me? "Yes no problem Accy" I replied. Actually there was a problem, the family had been invited out to dinner at my sister-in-law's house, so I had to cancel. Minutes later Frosty called from Mamma Mia and he wants me to go back in to play the matinee today (Saturday 8th May)! I already have two shows on Sunday booked on kit in Thriller so the weekend turned into quite an eclectic musical few days.

So anybody who read my previous blog "Playing Drums in Mamma Mia" will know what I'm in for this afternoon. As I sit here on the sofa trying to compose myself, it's suddenly gone from a relaxing weekend with the family to an activity that will have my backside resembling the mouth of a sky diver.

Actually one thing that is a little worrying is that I have been asked to play with Frosty's drums sticks instead of mine, it apparently alters the sound. I have used the same Regal Tip drum sticks since before I joined the Moody Blues, in fact I endorse the Regal Tip brand and even have my own Gordy Marshall Signature Sticks. So playing with someone else's sticks is like driving someone else's car in a race and getting used to the clutch.

So from practicing Mamma Mia on a Roland TD20 kit with Regal Tip sticks in my studio, I am leaving the house in about 45 minutes to play an ergonomically different kit, which is acoustic, and will be using someone else's sticks. However, my sticks are bigger than his. So there!

It's now 5 weeks and 3 days until I fly to Chicago for the start of the Moody Blues summer tour, and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Although I love playing different types of music (it keeps me at the top of my game) there is nothing quite like sitting behind my DW kit on stage with the Moody's. When I walk on stage with the Moody Blues, it's as comfortable as walking into my front room, knowing there is a crowd of really good friends there delighted to see you and it's the start of a party. What a gig!

The last time I played in Mamma Mia, I went into the theatre early and down to the drum room under the stage, I didn't see anyone in the interval as I was sorting the parts out for the second half. By the time I had finished and put all my stuff away and went to leave, everyone had gone! I didn't see or speak to a sole from the moment I walked in the building to the time I left. I could have done the show naked and no-one would have known........... Hey? now there's a thought!!!

I will report back on how I did in the "hot seat" later.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Playing Drums in Mamma Mia

Well, here is a usual situation: In-between touring I have been depping (as I have explained previously, this means standing in for the incumbent musician when he/she wants to take a show off) in some west end musicals. Recently I have been playing in Thriller Live! At the Lyric Theatre on Shaftsbury Ave. Firstly going in on Perc and keys 3 which is a combined chair. This basically means you play congas on some tunes, stick percussion on others and keyboard parts on others, sometimes two, or even three instruments at the same time. And yes on occasions one hand on the keyboard and the other holding a stick playing off-beat sampled hand-claps with the other. All quite complicated, but hugely enjoyable once you know what you’re doing. I also play this show in drum kit, and it’s a great play, the musicians are wonderful, and the arrangements are perfect. They have a Roland TD20 in the show, the same as my kit in the studio.

Anyway, I called up the drummer who plays in Mamma Mia a while ago and asked if he needed a “dep”, which coincidentally he did so I went down to see him play the show from the orchestra pit. This is the first port of call when “depping” as you need to see what you are letting yourself in for.

Let me explain a little bit about depping in the west end (incidentally it’s called subbing in the US). As a dep you have to go along to watch a musician play a show, and work out if it’s something you can feasibly do. After which you will usually be given a copy of the parts (the musical notation) and a recording of the music from the show. This will be the ‘mix’ that the drummer will hear in his head set, so you will hear the click tracks too. If you want to know about click tracks, see my youtube lesson.

After you have a copy of the mix and parts you go home and begin to practice. Here comes the work, as you literally have to play the show as close to the regular musicians interpretation as possible. And in the cases of long running shows he/she will know the show inside out, as they will have been playing 8 shows a week 52 weeks a year for the most part. Now get this; there are NO rehearsals, and NO sound checks. Simply NO way of trying out a whole show before being put in the hot seat.

It is, quite simply put the most terrifying musical experience one could think of. Some of these shows are hugely popular with packed audiences; the regular musicians are some of the best in the country (a west end show is well paid, and is pretty much the last bastion of the weekly cheque for professional musicians). And you have to go in there and play it first time to a professional performance level.

I have found out that it doesn’t matter how much you have practiced, how prepared you are, or how confident you feel. In those few moments before the Musical Director (MD) waves his hands and the overture begins, really tells you something about your physiological make up. A slight leaning towards masochism appears to be a virtue around now.

So, there I was watching Mamma Mia in the “drum booth”. The drummer is Frosty Beadle, who in my opinion is simply fantastic! The rest of the band play like a record is being made, the precision and accuracy is unbelievable, and comes from not only being at the top of their game, but playing thousands of shows over ten years, they know the thing backwards.

The drum room is actually under the stage away from the rest of the band (the band are in the orchestra pit), so the drums and the drummer are completely isolated. This is done for reasons of room and sound, as it is an acoustic kit. The kit has ten microphones around it, the MD has a camera pointing at him in the pit, so you get the musical direction from him, fed to a small black and white screen in front of the kit. In the top right hand corner of the room there are two further screens, one with a camera pointing at the percussionist in the pit and the other on the balcony of the house, so you can see the show on stage.

To the left of the kit is the music stand with the parts on it, beneath that is a “Boss 202, Dr Rhythm drum machine”, which is the responsibility of the drummer to start and stop on cue from the MD. Slightly behind the drums is a 16 channel mixing desk with a fader for every instrument in the band, some in stereo, also the vocals, and the click track from the drum machine. You can alter the volume, pan and e.q. of every part from there……… Confused? You should be, I haven’t even started yet! It’s like being in a flight simulator, and in a minute you have to fly this beast!

After I had watched Frosty play the show from memory, and nailing every note with a combination of flair, panache, style, draw dropping chops, and of course a few serious lashings of talent, I knew I had my work cut out for me. There I was at the age of 50 with my own illustrious career behind me, having played on every major stage in the world, in front of millions of people. I have played live, on the Jay Leno show with the Moody Blues, I have played at the Royal Albert hall, I have played with some of the greatest session musicians in the world with the War Of The Worlds, playing at the 02 arena, I have done complicated recording sessions for huge international stars.

Half way through watching Frosty play Mamma Mia, I was like a goat looking at lightening.

It took me about 2 months of work on Mamma Mia to feel confident at going in to do a show. On the major shows, the incumbent musician has to “baby sit” you, which means Frosty would be there on hand were I to decide that visiting the bathroom became more important than the overture. This is paradoxically both comforting and unnerving at the same time.

The most difficult thing about playing Mamma Mia for me is starting and stopping the drum machine. This little machine sends a metronome beat to all the musicians in the pit, and guarantees the tempos of each song. This is of great importance to the actors and singers on stage. In most shows this is automated, and you don’t have to think about it, you just get a click in your ear with a count in and you begin to play. However, in Mamma Mia the drummer has to find the correct song/tempo on the drum machine, and press the play button at the same time as playing the drums.

As the musical director is also playing “keys 1” he often has both hands on the keyboard ready to play, so the cue is a nod of the head. So imagine the scene; your left hand, hovering over the drums machine holding a drum stick, with a finger sticking out resting delicately on the “play” button. Your right hand resting on the Hi Hat, and your head (now not looking at the music on the stand) is looking at the little black and white screen in front of you waiting for the MD’s head to fall forward, which indicates the push of the “play” button.

Inside your head your are trying to think of the exact tempo, because as you press the play button, you have to simultaneously begin to play the drums. There is no count-in; it’s what’s referred to in the business as “on the nose”.

If you have, in the heat of battle inadvertently dialled in the wrong tempo on the drum machine, or miss the “play” button with your finger (you have to start this machine without looking at it), or get the cue wrong from the MD, the show will quite possibly er, stop! No pressure there then.

In all my years of playing music this has to be the most frightening experience I have ever encountered. I have done three shows in Mamma Mia so far, and there is still no tick of approval next to my name, due in part to the fact that although there were no “train cashes” when I played the show, the sound levels of the kit were different in comparison to Frosty. So there is a possibility that I will not be asked back. It appears I may not have done a good enough job.

Maybe I am not as good as my illustrious c.v. claims I am? Welcome to the world of the professional musician.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

May 2nd 2010

Well these blogs are quite a way apart in terms of time, I'm going to have to do something about that! Today is Sunday 2nd May 2010, and I have not only finished the Moody Blues US/Canadian tour in 2009, but I've done another one since then in March just gone! It was also fantastic with one exception; Paul, my very good friend and keyboard player with the Moody Blues for the best part of 20 years was not on it! He has 'moved on' which was very disappointing for me, as I have played every single concert I have ever done with the Moody's, with Paul. However, he is very busy with his new business Bliss Media Works which creates video content for websites. Also, as he has written some of my favourite songs ever and is writing again, I think it won't belong before he's back in the charts with his own material.


The day I met Paul was day one of a six week rehearsal period at Bray Studios for the Moody Blues. I was setting up my kit, and he was discussing with the keyboard tech where all his gear would go on stage. He played the riff from a song which had become my favourite song of that year, Murphy's Law from the High Crime album by Al Jarrreau. When he played it, it was clear he knew it, as it had that unmistakable groove exactly like the album. I was standing next to him nodding my head in-time with an approving look, and I said something like "oh, man...that's one of my favourite songs of all time" and Paul replied, "oh good.... I did really well out of that song". I looked at him quizzically, and uttered something like "er, why is that then?". "Because I wrote it" was his deadpan reply! You could have knocked me down with a feather, I was a fan and didn't even know it was him. We've been best mates ever since.

Since getting off that tour I have been depping (which is slang for deputising "standing in for the regular guy when he has a day off") on Thriller for the percussionist and also the drummer. This is a fabulous show to play, and I'm using the amazing Roland TD20 on that gig, exactly the same kit that I have in my studio at home. Which makes it really easy to practice! All I did was take a copy of all the kits from the TD20 from the Thriller show, and load them onto the one in my studio, and well, "Bob's your Auntie".

Then when I want to do any work on The War Of The Worlds later in the year, I just load in the TWOTW sounds from that show and off you go. Amazing piece of kit. The new TD20....check this out!!


This is my dream kit, and when I can afford one (!) I am going to buy one. Roland is becoming more of a candy store than the Apple Store at the moment.

Back later.........

Anthony Burgess

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Hello everybody, I’m sitting in my hotel room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin one third of the way through the Moody Blues US/Canadian tour. I had every intention of being a little more prolific with my blog once I got on the road, after I had finished recording the website. However, since then things have been busy, and I have been twittering most days, so this blog has been slow to get off the ground.

Since my last blog I have started and finished the War of the worlds UK/European tour, which was simply fantastic. By the end of the tour I had had thousands of hits on my website, and collected my first batch of students which is fantastic.

The highlight of that tour had to be the two nights at the O2 Arena in London, completely sold out and the complete joy to play. There were other notable places on that tour, which were most enjoyable including Amsterdam, Brighton and a very enjoyable evening with most of the members of the band around the piano in the hotel bar in Dusseldorf airport on the very last night in Germany. I’m convinced the bar staff wanted throw us out somewhere around 3 AM, but with a string of brilliant pianists sitting down at the piano and amazing the last stragglers, I don’t think they knew what to do with us. It would have been interesting to have a video camera there to see if the performances were as good as I actually remember them. In any case, good time had by all!

After a short two-week break, which passed in the blinking of an eye, I found myself on a flight to Los Angeles where rehearsals with the Moody Blues began. At this point, life was beginning to seem very whirlwind, with me getting used to living out of a suitcase on a seemingly permanent basis. Driving along Sunset Boulevard to and from the hotel to rehearsals also felt like a highlight, although in reality I suppose I was only commuting.

The Moody Blues tour so far has been fabulous, with the response from the audience being both enthusiastic and appreciative, it really is a blessing being a musician. A flip through the itinerary makes me realise we still have so far to go with concerts in Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and New York coming up in the next week or so. Justin, John and Graeme, decided to include some songs off the Octave album on this tour, and it’s really changed the dynamic of the set. It’s great to play new stuff, and although these songs were written quite a while ago they are new to me, and indeed new to the band to play live.

Over the coming days I am making available lessons 1 and 17 from the drum tuition website completely free. A lot of people that have visited the website and liked the idea, but would like to see me teach first. So the website is going to be changed a little so that when somebody logs on, they have the ability to be able to download these two lessons for nothing and see what they are buying.

I have been using Skype a lot recently to communicate with the outside world, to the point where, when I was in a hotel the other day and the Internet went down, I couldn’t work out how to use the hotel phone for an international number. How weird is that?! Technology is moving forward so quickly I can see it being the only potential saviour of the economy in the long run.

I hope everybody is well, and please feel free to leave any comments. Good, bad or indifferent!

Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.

George Hermann

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Good morning! 8 AM on 28 May 2009 and I am sitting in Paul's studio. I am about to start day four of the War Of The Worlds rehearsals, and they are going great, although tiring. Yesterday we played the show through about three times, and then I came back to Paul's house to continue editing the website. I left Paul still working at midnight to go to bed. Some of you may know that Paul Bliss plays keyboards in the Moody Blues with me, however he also owns his own media company, Bliss Media Works and he has filmed, and edited the entire first series Playdrumswithgordymarshall.com Watching him work is amazing and he is nothing short of a genius. Film editing is a constantly cutting edge science and there are new devices, plug-ins, and software appearing on the market almost daily. Paul manages to stay on top of this completely.

The drum tuition website is of course a brand new undertaking for me, and I really want it to be of benefit to the people that use it. An awful lot of work has gone into the preparation, and as I am now experiencing the filming process for the first time, the work that goes into that is simply immense. I have a new respect for people that prepare content for video.

Music is a very important part of my life, I play it for a living, I study it, I practise it, I teach it and I listen to it for recreation. Being able to physically play a musical instrument at any level I believe, is a huge benefit to the person engaged in the playing. It focuses the mind and body like no other activity, and drums in particular covers not only left and right brain, but also every limb.

Earning my living as a professional rock drummer is a dream come true, and any information or education I can pass on to people wanting to do something similar is the least I can do.

This blog will probably become a little more frequent when the rehearsals finish, and the site goes live. I will be updating it as I tour this summer. We start in Ireland in 10 days, then onto the UK and Europe, and then over to the States in July. the first tour is with the War Of The Worlds, and the American section is with the Moody Blues. I will probably be back home in my studio sometime in September.

"How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal and you have to be willing to work for it."

Jim Valvano

In life, the first thing you must do is decide what you really want. Weigh the costs and the results. Are the results worthy of the costs? Then make up your mind completely and go after your goal with all your might.

Alfred A. Montapert

In life, the first thing you must do is decide what you really want. Weigh the costs and the results. Are completely and go after your goal with all your might.
Alfred A. Montapert

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Hello and welcome. This is my very first blog written from my studio at home (actually at the bottom of the garden) in Wimbledon. I'm really excited about mapping out the coming months as they are going to be very exciting. I start rehearsals for the War Of The Worlds tour at Elstree Studios on Monday, the famous British film studios. We have two weeks of rehearsals, and the first concert is in Dublin on 7 June. We play all the major venues in the UK, before going to Amsterdam and then ending in Germany in July. Shortly after that I fly to California to start the Moody Blues summer tour in the US and Canada. In tandem with all this I am very excited that my new drum tutorial website will be launched just as I start touring. So for the drum students that want to stay in touch with me whilst learning, you will be able to keep track of where I am and stay in touch with me. Also, as I am a fan of inspirational quotes I'm going to finish off each blog with a little ditty, and today it is: "The best things in life arn't things" Art Buchwald.

The best things in life aren't things.

Art Buchwald

The best things in life aren't things.

Art Buchwald

The best things in life aren't things.

Art Buchwald

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Back in a few.........

Hi Folks, I have just taken the post down for a day or so, whilst I check out a few things about posting. I'll be back with my most recent experience covering the drum chair in Thriller Live! because of a broken thumb by the regular guy. I played with Whitney Houston's bass player.........Wow!