Hello Simon, all of the Tubular.net and Totoweb.org's members want to thank you to take a little moment for answering to this interview. You are, according to us, one of the most fantastic drummer of the world, and we are very pleased and proud to speak with you.
Can you tell us your begining in drums?
I started playing drums at around the age of 3 years - but of course I could barely walk or breath at that age so not a lot was accomplished. But I knew then that was what I wanted to do.
Ten years of working with Mike Oldfield, have you some memory to tell us?
Oh I think so. I met Mike in New York City in a restaurant called Tony Romas. He was touring promoting "5 Miles Out" and I knew some of the band. We then met in London and I played some basic tracks for "Crises". I was starting to produce and we spoke about that and he asked me to co-produce the record. He gave me a trial week but then fired the engineer and then wanted me to engineer. I was always quite "technical" and had done a little engineering before but not on that kind of equipment. Basically he threw me in at the deep end and I had to swim. I am eternally grateful for the chance he gave me - I learned a lot from him about making records. He is a great engineer himself and I guess I must have impressed enough for me to carry on and finish the album.
What do you think of Mike's uses of percussion these days? Your thoughts on programming drums?
To be honest I haven't heard much of what Mike has done recently. I am not a big fan of sequenced/programmed drums - it takes way too long and you cannot do what a real player can do. Imagine programming a Guitar solo??? I have done it - but it is not the same thing.
Out of the Mike Oldfield tracks that you contributed, do you have a favorite? Any track that you didn't contribute to you wished you had?
I really loved "Crises" compositionally - I think all the tracks were interesting and different from the normal song form - maybe with the exception of "Moonlight Shadow" which was a more commercial song form. There was some really cool stuff on "Islands" too.
How does Mike compare with other musicians you collaboared with? Something that impress you? And what do you think he liked about you?
Mike is unique in that he is a composer who plays guitar, keyboards and a host of other instruments. He is not a Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton - he is really more of a present day classical composer and he can write in varied musical styles quite comfortably. He was always interested in different genres of music and how to actually create those. I think he liked the way I interpret songs from a drumming pint of view. I think he also really liked the sounds I got from my drumkit - but also my concept of mixing and getting sounds on other instruments. I have had the honor to work with some great musicians - especially some of the worlds greatest guitarists - so I think that was invaluable when it came to producing him when he was recording guitar parts and solos.
How did you and Mike go about working on the drum parts to his music? Did he have much in his head already, or were you allowed more of a free rein? (Mike's influence on you)
I would go out and play down the song - my interpretation of the song - and that would spark ideas in his head. We really worked together on those drum parts and that's when we realized we had good communication and were able to work closely for so long. I learned a lot from him - a more orchestral approach to playing. I made sure that the groove was always there even though the parts were intricate and could have sounded awkward.
Mike is often known for being quite exacting about how he wants his music to be. What kind of position did you take with him, when you co-produced with him? (Your influence on Mike)
We would have disagreements - as all producing teams do. Certain things he would go with me on - and visa versa. It just depended on what the issue was. I think we managed to cover slightly different bases which worked well.
During the Mike's writing sessions, did you take a part of it?
I was present - but essentially I had to leave him alone with that. He is not a co-writer - or certainly when I worked with him he wasn't. My
contribution would have been more arrangement. But that is a very grey area - with all productions!
Some Mike's fan wants your come back in his albums, what are you thinking about it? And is it possible for you to play again with him?
Really? I didn't know that. I am living in Los Angeles now and have been a member of Toto for 14 years now. Unfortunately these days there is little time to do other projects outside of Toto. I have my own studio and I do engineer and produce other artists - as well as my own solo projects. However - one day it would be great to work together again. I would love to mix some of his new music.
What do you think of your drumming on Music from the balcony?
I'm sorry I don't know this.
Do you plays drums on 'Pictures in the Dark', 'Shine' and 'Crime Of passion' tracks ? (or programmed drums?)
I did not hear this CD so I couldn't tell you - although those titles do ring a bell. Not sure.
Latest two questions have been re-sent to Simon for more explanations.
How did happen to him to work with Mike and Toto and what were the results for him as a musician/producer/enginner after those 2 differents experiences?
Well - Toto and Mike are diametrically opposed musically - and personalities. But I have to say I used everything I learned from Mike when recording Toto. All these experiences that one goes through working in many diifferent situations just add to the vast wealth of knowledge and tricks of the trade. I have to say that Mike was my basic engineering school - and from there I just added what I learned from other great engineers.
In the FIB's notebook that the song 'King of the world' wouldn't be on the final record. But after the Steve Porcaro's modification the entire band included it in the cd. So, how many song did you take away? And, is it possible to hear them one day, in a record like XX, (maybe in 2007, for a XXX album?) This question is also avaible for Tambu, Mindfields' records.
There was only one other track we never finished - and it wasn't that great - really! There was another part to "King Of The World" but that was edited out - and for good reason - ha ha!
Is there any hope to have an official reseale on DVD of the Stanley Clarke Montreux 80 show you played your ass off?
Wow - I actually have a bad copy of that somewhere. I don't know what Claude Nobs will do with his vast collection of videos - maybe one day he will release it.
May you tell us a little bit about the vantage point DVD on AIX records
Boy - you are well informed. That was recorded in January 2005 - we did all that in 4 hours - very quick. Even some of the songs were written very quickly. Straight ahead jazz is a passion of mine - musically and recording wise - and it is just so different to play than what I normally play with Toto - or any other rock artist. I find it such a learning experience. I love the recording concept and am very excited about surround sound - it is wonderful to mix in surround.
Which drumkit did you you for?
A small Tama StarClassic Maple kit - 18" bass drum - 12" and 13" rack toms - 14" and 16" floor toms - and some nice Zildjian Constantinople cymbals. I also use different sticks to what I normally use - much smaller tips and a different shape so as to get a more delicate cymbal sound.
Which mike did you use?
For this recording I left all the miking up to Mark Waldrep as he has his own concept of recording. I believe he used B&K overheads, AKG414 for toms - can't remember the rest - I would have to look at the DVD again!
Where you as involved in the settings and/or taping and/or mastering or did you totelley relie on AIX sound enginneers?
I let Mark mix this one alone - I did most of the edits with him though and gave him my overall view - but really I was too busy with "FIB" to be able to spend any time on this project.
How did you met Alphonso Johnson for this project?
I have known Al for many years and we played a couple of times on local gigs - Baked Potato, Cafe Cordiale. I have been a big fan for many years - however I didn't know he played upright and when I spoke to him about it I thought he would be great for this band. He has a wonderful feel and is very fluid - very musical.
Is there any hope to have a DVD release either of the " another life time" tour or "the force majeure" era?
Unfortunately there is no footage of those gigs - only rough home video - so that would be tough.
After 14 years of working with Toto, how do you feel in the band?
I feel it is very much part of my life now - and has been for quite a few years. Now I have recorded 2 albums and mixed one DVD I feel very "attached". I deal with most of the technical side even down to putting the set lists together and then getting input from Luke to finalise it.
Have you ever worked with Joseph Williams? If it's right, Do you have some memories of that?
Yes - I recorded his vocals on "Bottom Of Your Soul". He was incredible - for an engineer and a producer he is a dream. Full of ideas - very quick and very in tune. And a great sounding voice - easy to record.
How did you take the fact that you replace a giant drummer such as Jeff Porcaro? (a giant by a giant ;-) )
I guess I see it a little differently. In some ways I didn't replace Jeff. The band just moved on to another phase of it's career. I sat in for Jeff on the "Kingdom Of Desire" tour and it was my job to play the music as best as I could but in my own way. I am not good at copying other players - my style is way too distinctive. However, that is what the band wanted - and I believe that because of the attitude they took we are together now 14 years later. It wasn't long before the band were asking me to join full time.
What was your part in the decision of the band to play again under the name Toto?
None. There was never any issue of using another name.
How is the Toto Network going ? Without revealing too much detail, could you explain what can we, Toto fans, expect from this feature ? It sounds exciting.
Can't tell you much there. Still waiting ourselves to see the final version up and running.
Why don't you tour with a percussionist any longer?
Economics and quite frankly with the way I play it would be to much.
Hearing Dying On My Feet (just to name a few songs) live would be amazing!
Some of the fans (including myself) dream of seeing the band on stage with your old friends of Chicago (horn section), a percussionist and the former members like Joseph and Steve, and of course Dave (3 keyboardists on the set !) for a huge live show - is it utopian ('cos such a tour should be very expensive to afford), or could this dream come true one day ?
Hmm - there could be a very slight possibility one day.
How did you learn engineering? Your work on the Live in Amsterdam DVD and the sounds of Through The Looking Glass and Falling In Between albums is outstanding!
Well - both Looking Glass and FIB were mixed by Steve MacMillan and I have to give him all the credit for making those records sound the way they do. But I contributed by getting the sounds in the first place. And I did mix "Maiden Voyage". The DVD I did myself. It is always slightly frustrating dealing with sounds recorded at a show - they are never perfect!
Do you have others projects in solo or as a producer?
I am currently mixing some tracks for Derek Sherinian's new CD.
Do you find few moments to have a break? Where do you going in your holidays? Do you have a preferred destination? (South of France maybe... ;-) )
Actually these days it would either be Austria (as my wife in Austrian) or somewhere exotic like Tahiti or Bali!!! We did spend some time in the South of France 2 years ago - and that was wonderful.
A last word for the readers of Tubular.net and Totoweb.org?
Thank you for reading and being interested in my work with both Mike and Toto. I hope some of you managed to see a Toto show - or will see one in the future.
Thank you so much Simon, and still make dream us!!!
Olivier Lebra & nick, and all the fans from tubular.net & totoweb.org forums.
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net