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Still Talking to the Sun —
The Andy Anderson Interview

Drummer Andy Anderson may not be a household name to most American or even most European music fans. But he has been an essential part of a number of high profile acts, having worked with Steve Hillage and later the Cure, making him an strong candidate for an under-the-radar kind of interview. I got acquainted with the him via Facebook, and I was quite delighted to see him agree to an email exchange that further shows his broad influences as a player and composer.

by Jeff Melton, Published 2014-07-27

Andy AndersonWhat drummers did you see live on stage that made you want to play drums?

Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience is my top favorite drummer, I just found he was so tight with Hendrix, plus being in a three piece band, was just awesome, I was standing behind Mitch Mitchell at the Hammersmith Odeon with my backstage pass queuing to see Whitesnake, and I didn't pluck up the courage to speak to him. I just gave him a smile, and sadly that was all. Keith Moon, of course. I saw when The Who played at the Ilford Palais, just after I left school, at the time Keith Moon and Pete Townsend were smashing their gear up, that was a great gig, that. I’m a big fan of the Small Faces, too; Kenny Jones is awesome, too, I saw them at the same venue around the time of The Who. Desmond Decker, Mary Wells, and Jimmy Ruffin from Motown Records. All those bands inspired me at the time and still do. My other favorite drummers are, of which there are a lot, Daniel Woodgate from the British pop band Madness, who is also a good friend; Laurence Tolhurst from The Cure; Dave Grohl from Nirvana; Buddy Miles from the Band of Gypsies; Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Pierre Moerlen from Gong and the Steve Hillage Band; there are so many brilliant and outstanding drummers out there in the world it will take all this interview for me to write them all down, and I love every one of them, so this is just a few.

Where do you get your sense of rhythm?

My sense of rhythm comes from within, and listening to a hell of a lot records over the years, but most of all listening to my father play. As a young boy my family always had music playing in the house, my mother used to sing in a girl group in the 50s, my two brothers and I used to jam in our hallway at home, the eldest brother Colin played tea chest bass, made from an old plywood tea chest, a broom handle and some twine, and my middle brother Winston played stand-up piano, and of course me on an old suitcase and cardboard boxes. My father was a professional boxer and on his days off would play jazz drums at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, and he mainly inspired me to play drums and percussion.

How many sessions did you do before you wound up with Steve Hillage?

The answer to that is loads, I worked as a session musician in London, with well-known session musicians Mick Hawksworth from Foghat, Steve Waller from Manfred Man’s Earth Band, Little Steve Smith, David Philips from Hooky Dallion, and keyboard session musician Lynton Naiff. The list is endless. I've lost count of the sessions that I've done in the past, and a lot of them I never got paid for either and trust me it would've helped at the time. I ended up working with the likes of Lance Percival (from the Carry On movies), Nona Hendryx, Scaffold, The Last Poets, Jimmy Somerville, Edwyn Colins, Glen Mattlock, Midge Ure, Jimmy Pursey, Jason Donovan, Isaac Hayes, and on tour with the fantastic Iggy Pop, “who was also a drummer, back in the day,” to name but a few.

Nik Turner - Xitintoday coverHow did you get the gig with Nik Turner?

I had met up with Nik Turner with Steve Hillage and Tony Andrews (of Funktion-One PA Systems). In fact, Tony introduced me to them both at his Ridge Farm Studios and talked me into having a play at a New Year's Eve jam with Steve and Nik, and I ended up staying at Nik’s cottage in Wales for about six months. I was also doing festivals and gigs at that time, that's where I became part of Nik’s Inner City Unit. I also recorded part of Nik’s Xitintoday album with Steve Hillage producing, at Rockfield Studios in Wales, and great fun that was too. I was playing non-stop and jamming endlessly with those guys, and getting my chops so to speak.

How did the funkier direction in Steve Hillage's music come about?

Tony [Andrews] and I are big fans of P-Funk, George Clinton’s Parliament; Steve was too, and we had my distant cousin John McKenzie playing bass, so with that rhythm section we added a bit funk to Steve’s music.

Steve Hillage - Live Herald coverCan you tell me about the recording sessions for the studio part of Live Herald?

I recorded the Steve Hillage Live Herald at Sawmills Studio. Sawmills sits on the western bank of the River Fowey in Cornwall. One of the main features of the studio is the access by boat along the River Fowey, and that’s really cool, we had to load all our equipment on a boat, it took about three quarters of an hour to arrive there, what a laugh that was, at one point I thought it was going to sink. Great food there also. I was on a vegetable diet then, but that changed when I went out on tour and reverted back to a more energy-boosting diet, in other words a meat-and-two-veg kinda diet. While we were there, there was a godawful smell in the studio, and nobody could suss out where it was coming from, until one day the studio engineer found a very large dead rat in one of the Studer tape machines, and that was one place nobody thought of looking in, but as we are professional musicians, the band played on.

What can you tell me about the live tour and the video on YouTube of the show?

The Hillage band live was brilliant, we played England and Europe, great audiences everywhere we went, and we were asked to play The BBC’s Rock Goes to College TV show. What I can remember is the crowd were awesome, and I had a great gig that night, everything worked, plus we had a great sound on stage. Kent University 1979 was definitely a great night to remember, strangely though I never got a chance to see the playback, as we headed off to do more dates, and I never got a copy of the show; naturally, everybody and their auntie got to see it, and I got my chance to view it about three years ago. I found a copy, and then posted it on YouTube.

How did you get the gig to join Robert Smith in The Cure?

I was working in a band called Brilliant with Martin Glover from the band Killing Joke at Trident Studios in London, and Chris Parry and Robert Smith came along with a cassette tape and asked me to listen to the tape. They had heard my drumming on previous albums such as the Steve Hillage band, Sham 69’s Jimmy Percy’s solo albums and on Brilliant’s recordings, and asked me if I'll go for an audition for them. I went, and got the position of playing drums for The Cure that day, and the rest is history. My first drum kit was made up of different drum manufacturers and were either given to me or I found them myself and put them together to make a full drum kit and used that for quite some time before I actually started playing properly in bands, and owning my own.

The Cure - Japanese Whispers coverCan you tell me about the sessions for Japanese Whispers?

The sessions for Japanese Whispers were great as always, I’m always the first in to set up, and to start laying down my tracks, and working from ideas that we worked on, all from demos that Robert and Laurence had previously recorded.

How were sessions different for you for The Top with Robert doing everything but drums?

There was not much difference at all. I'm very used to working with multitalented musicians, but I find that most multitalented musicians are not very good drummers, so that's where I step in and get my stuff. Most songwriters have a basic idea of how they would like their songs to go, drum machines are OK, but real drums sound great in most cases, depending on the song and the feel.

How did the tour go that resulted in the live album Concert?

The tour was a fantastic success, it is the first time that I’ve ever done a European tour that every concert was sold out completely, and then to round it off we had the opportunity of recording the Concert album on a few of those nights here in England — specifically London Hammersmith Odeon. I enjoyed every one of those gigs, and we as a band were on top form during that tour, and the results ended up on the album, using the Manor Mobile Studio, which at the time was a fantastic piece of kit. These days you can fit the Manor Mobile into a matchbox, and will it sound the same, but that's another story.

What can you tell me about your involvement with The Glove?

The Glove album was recorded at Pink Floyd's studios at Britannia Row, London. Robert Smith had invited me along to do a couple of tracks on the album, I just went into the studio and did my drum overdubs, and I also did a couple of videos, too. Oddly, though I had recorded at Brit Row with Steve Hillage on his Green album, that was my first time in the studio with Steve. I then went on to record the Live Herald album, and I helped to mix down Clive Bunker and Dan Blocker kits, great drummers those guys.

Jenn VixWhat projects are you working on at present?

I have been working with young and up-and-coming DJ’s locally, in a producing capacity and also being very inspired by their musical ideas and knowledge of technology, of which I am a fan, by myself I record at home using an abundance of high-tech gadgetry, all my own work has been done with this principle. Obviously if I was to have a record deal I would also use conventional instruments as well, but at the meantime while I am just recording demos, then the high-tech comes in just handy for the work that I do. I am also currently working on a project for a young lady named Jenn Vix from Providence, Rhode Island, who records and mixes in New York. She is a very fine musician and songwriter who has released several albums and EPs. The material that I am working on with her will be released later this year.

I am also working on my own project, under the tag of Front and Centre. My material is a mixture of house, dubstep, drum and bass, and trance, and the odd mental track thrown in for good measure, as well as trying to create the ultimate pop single and album. I have played for lots of other musicians and also have recorded on their albums and singles, so now it's my turn, even though I don't have a record contract, I find satisfaction just recording my ideas, and airing them on the internet, you can find my tracks on Soundcloud.

Thanks to Regan Crisp for essential assistance.

Filed under: Interviews

Related artist(s): Nik Turner, Steve Hillage / System 7

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