It’s Only Rock & Roll – Part 1
First, a little about my background and why I came to Thailand:
I had been playing the drums since I was 12 years old and had been in a few bands playing original music up until my mid-twenties. By the time I was 23 I was in my Heavy Metal era. I had (or so I thought) grown out of my love affair with Queen (the band, not some Tiffany ladyboy). It was 1994 and Metallica were enjoying a comfort-class cruise throught world domination. I loved most Heavy Metal and Grunge bands back then; Metallica, Pantera, Nirvana etc. without giving a second listen to the emerging Britpop scene bands like Oasis and Blur whose songs would end up helping me make a great living as a musician in the future.
I loved playing the drums, but something was missing. I went to see a guy called Phil Solomon, probably one of the best drum teachers in the UK. He urged me to start learning to play quieter, accept other styles of music and, above all, learn to sight-read. Without these abilities I would never turn pro. Anyway, I stuck it out for all of 3 weeks before throwing the towel in and continuing to master the art of double bass-drum playing.
In 1996, I enrolled in a college course in popular music. There I learned recording techniques, music technology (using computers to write music), music history, music law, music theory, keyboard skills (they insist that all drummers learn a tuned instrument) and performance. I had a great 3 years at college, but felt that I had not really learned much because each module never went into any great depth.
After graduating, I had pretty much grown out of my Heavy Metal phase and started to wonder what I was going to do with my life. I took a dead-end office job and went back to see my old drum teacher Phil. By this time, my attitude to playing had matured and I was coming along nicely. He would do terrible things to me like send me to play with a brass band when their drummer was off sick. I was like a fish out of water. I could not follow what was happening on the sheet music and it was embarrasing. He told me the reason for sending me there was to show me how hard it was to sight-read.
Phil was a master at making pros out of amateurs and getting the best out of his students in completely non-PC ways – this guy just knew what to do and when to do it, 30 years at the top of his profession was the reason. He organised drumming events with the world's top drummers coming down to sleepy little towns to perform and give advice to young drummers and he always gave work to his best students when he was snowed under. He told me that he could not give me any work yet because my sight-reading was not good enough. He did tell me to look in a local free advertising paper called the Friday Ad to see what was happening. I could not believe this! This was the kind of rag where people advertise second-hand cars and furniture. There is a musical section in this paper, but mainly people selling amps and drum kits.
Anyway, I bought the next edition and lo and behold, saw an advert that was to change my entire life and indirectly send me on a journey that would see me living and working in Thailand.
The advert read "bassist, guitar player and drummer required for a five month ski season in the French Alps. Good pay, free food and drink provided." I immediately rang the number. I spoke to this Irish guy called Dave who invited me round to his house. He showed me photos of a resort called Meribel, and told me that he had been playing rhythm guitar and singing as part of a duo for the past 6 seasons. His musical partner could not make it this year and his bosses had urged him to bring a band out.
I brought my drums round to his place (very unusual for an audition) the following evening and met the bass player. He had not yet found a guitar player. So we played some of the cover songs which we would end up playing out there; Bowie, Crowded House (a favourite of Stick, I'm sure), Beatles, Stones etc. Eventually we found a guitar player and headed for the Alps 2 months later. We called ourselves 4Play.
That first season was a blast from start to finish. My first time playing professionally. Playing Apres-Ski gigs and then packing up and playing evening pub gigs, sometimes 8 or 9 gigs a week. My greatest moments were Roger Taylor (Queen drummer) watching us play after a hard day's skiing and playing a private party where the guest of honour was none other than Prince Albert of Monaco (see attached photo). Prince Albert got up on stage with us and sang (very badly) Riders On The Storm by The Doors. More about him in a later submission. Prince Albert was one of the nicest guys I have ever met. I did not get to meet Roger Taylor personally but the fact that he was in the audience made me very nervous indeed – not because he was one of the greatest drummers of all time, he certainly wasn't. But because he was part of one of the best rock bands of all time and the very reason I got into music in the first place.
Anyway, we would spend the following summer back in England playing private functions and weddings. About 5 weeks before our next ski season was due to start, disaster struck. Dave, our lead singer and founder member decided he was not joining us for the next season in the Alps. He had either had enough of the guitar player's drinking or the bass player's sarcastic attitude towards everyone. So we had very little time to find a replacement. Time to advertise in the very paper I first saw the ad for my job. I was faced with 2 problems, I was now managing the band as well as playing the drums and we had no singer.
I ended up getting a reply from a Scots guy called Chris, who had actually worked in Meribel 5 years previous as a pastry chef, but also had a little part-time band going on. They ended up getting signed and after 2 years of success, dropped by their record label.
So he joined us for the following season. As there had been some rumours flashing around Meribel that Dave might be quitting the band, I decided to collect every bar and pub manager's business card just in case these rumours were true.
The only problem was that everyone had known Dave for years, and without him we were regarded as a semi-unknown quantity, so we had to audition. We had four gigs booked with 2 new managers who had never heard of Dave or 4Play and that was going to pay for 2 weeks accomodation. If we flopped, we would be going home after 2 weeks.
Fortunately after our 5th or 6th gig, everything clicked. It was a Christmas Eve gig. The crowd was great, we played the right songs at just the right times in the sets. During that second season, we ended up playing 140 gigs in 5 months. Job done!
After the band had been playing for about three years, our bass player called me and asked me to go out and buy a theatrical newspaper called The Stage. On page 18 was a full-page advert for a covers band required for a 3-month stint in Phuket Thailand at an Irish Pub.
We sent off a video of us playing in the Alps and 2 weeks later received an email telling us that we got the job. In a matter of a few weeks we would be off to Thailand.
To be continued…….
Get to the Thailand bit, please…