How Do I Play The Drums?
Michael Bland . . . Prince / Soul Asylum

FF     How did you get started playing drums... what was that first inspiration... banging on pots and pans, whatever?

MB     There was a band that rehearsed across the back alley from where I lived, like, down the alley and in the basement. And, I heard them practicing one day, and, being one with... not too strong a sense of boundaries, (laughs) I just walked in the yard and was looking in the basement window. The drums were set up right below the window, I was watching this dude, and that was my first experience. And he was this dude I knew from around the neighborhood... he was a little bit older than me, probably by about 8 years. He was probably 17, and I was probably 9...

FF     So, 9 years old you were spying through the window at a band practicing...

MB     Yeah, band practice, and we knew them from the local park house... it was in Southeast Minneapolis, I had seen the dude, but I didn't know he was a drummer. So, I start talking to him, when I used to see him over at the park house and whatnot... he went to high school with my sister. So, what happened? I guess I graduated from there to just bashing around on the garbage can lids in the back yard...

FF     Did you ever get down into that rehearsal room and sit on his drums or anything?

MB     Yeah, once, but I didn't dare touch anything, I was just, "Wow"... I was so in awe.

FF     What a great instrument.

MB     Yeah! So I was a little intimidated, so I commenced to bashing the garbage can lids and having the neighbors go, "Hey! Cut out that racket!" And my dad found me a kit. It was an old Gretsch.

FF     Ooh...

MB     The kit came with a 24 inch, the rack tom was a 14 inch, and the floor tom was an 18! I'm 9, trying to push air thru these... So, I think that's where my style really developed. You know, it's weird because... It worked for me. I had a natural aptitude for the instrument. I don't know if I'd recommend anybody and everybody starting off like that... But. A rusty Speed King pedal and whatnot.

FF     So, you had to pound on these things...

MB     Yeah, they weren't just going to give it up. So, that was the kit that I learned on, you know, and my dad was like, "You can only keep 'em if you... if you take lessons." So, we tried to find a popular instuctor, and, the guy we wanted, or heard about, his name was Steve Kimmel. He was out of the country at the time, so... The next guy was this guy named Floyd Thompson, who ran a drum shop with a partner named Marv Dahlgren who was legendary among... he played in the Minnesota Orchestra for years. Um, he had a partner named Elliot Fine... They wrote the 4-way coordination book. So, it was him and Floyd Thompson had Dahlgren-Thompson drumshop in downtown Minneapolis, and, all the real cats came there to buy their stuff. So, they had a practice pad out there, and I was practicing til my dad came to pick me up, after my lesson, and I'd meet all these cats that... Marv was in there, I met Elliot Fine much later, but, I remember trying to read thru those books... By the time I was like 14 or 15, Floyd was like, "Let's try this..." And, man, I couldn't handle it. Those books were so heavy to me, man. But, he led me thru Syncopation, the Ted Reed book, and Portraits in Rhythm by Anthony Cirone. So I went thru those, and all the while I was playing out, and...

FF     Playing out... What do you mean?

MB     I mean... gigging.

FF     Whoops... we're jumpin' ahead here... You started with the lessons, you're on the pad with the cat... Did he take you to a drumset also?

MB     No. Actually, there was a rubber pad... my lesson was always on a practice pad kit. A practice pad set with one rusty, crusty old cymbal. And you hit it... BING! That's all it said, and some real worn out practice pads... a couple of tympanis, a marimba, and some stand-up, like, orchestra bells.

FF     So then, I'm thinking you got home and you had your drumset at home, and that was just sweet relief, to get sound now, after the pads...

MB     Absolutely. The whole neighborhood could hear me man... (laughs) Fortunately, the one neighbor on the one side of the house was deaf, and he had a hearing aid, so he just turned it off... (laughs) And the other guy was into it, and he was another old guy, but he was like, "Yeah, play those drums!"... blasting big band on AM radio next door anyway. So, he was just... cool with it. I was really fortunate that the two people that... the two houses that were on either side were, you know... nobody cared.

FF     And the house in the middle... all kinds of support from your family...

MB     Yeah, yeah, they pressed me on into it. But, the older I got, it was more apparent to me that I didn't really choose music... Music chose me. It was a very... strange process, it was un-natural... It was TOO natural, that's what it was. There really was no other option. Um, I started on piano when I was a kid, and, sometimes thru school, I had been playing baritone horn and whatnot, and I just arrived at the drums. It took me all the way til high school to realize that I had perfect pitch. The band director said something to somebody... "Okay, play it now with the B-flat.", and they played a C-sharp or something, and I was like, "That's not concert B-flat", and they were like, "How do you know? You're in the drum section." I said, "I just know." And so, he went all around the room in different sections, different instruments, he would whisper in people's ears, "Play this note," you know? And have me spit out whatever it was.

FF     Very cool.

MB     It was like, "Class... Michael Bland has perfect pitch. How many of you know what that is?" A drummer with perfect pitch. The combination... was just there. I didn't really have a choice. Music just said, "Alright man." (laughs) After that, my grades started droppin'...

FF     This all sounds familiar...

MB     My dad was upset, so he was like, "What are you going to be, a musician?" And he was all... he still played in the church every Sunday, plays organ, or he plays piano... And being a musician is like being an athlete, you know, what are you going to do if something happens to you physically? Like, "Take the safe route," you know? "Put your mind to good use." Because, if you're emcumbered physically, that's it.

FF     I have a conversation sometimes with Johnny, from my band (Cracker), and it's like, there were people that would say to him, "You should have something to fall back on," and what he would say to them was... "But, if you have something to fall back on, you fall back on it." I have plenty of friends that stopped playing music, because, that "fall-back" job became bigger and bigger, and there was more and more pressing...

MB     Exactly.

FF     ...you know, there was a car payment or insurance, whatever...

MB     Something in me knew that. I went to college, I went to Augsburg, kind of to appease my parents, because I knew they wanted me to take higher education. And I wasn't going away to school, I thought about applying at Berklee, (Berklee College of Music, Boston) this and that and the other thing, and... Hiram Bullock, of all people, talked me out of it. I did a couple of gigs with him when I was, like, 17, and I subbed for Charlie Drayton, Charlie went to do the Headhunters reunion, the first one. And, Ricky Peterson, a local legend in Minneapolis... just played with John Mayer last year, on Hammond... did a lot of work with David Sanborn... he took Hiram out, to see his sister sing, and I was playing with Ricky's sister Patty, and Hiram's like, "Who are you, man? How old are you? 17?!" And then, next time he came to town, he wanted to hire me to play the gig in town, and then I flew out with the band to NY... We played at Mickel's, 97th and Columbus. Then, we flew from there and did the Three Rivers Festival in Pittsburgh.

FF     This is when you were 17? Awesome.

MB     Yes. That was my trial by fire, man. The biggest audiences I had ever played for, at pro-level. Like, I was the weak link in the chain. That was when it kind-of came [to me]. My real weaknesses were revealed to me thru that trip. That's what actually gave me the right set up, the right foray into working with Prince, because my time was still a little funny, and if I didn't really concentrate, I would start to drag.

FF     So, what did you do for time improvement? Did you work with a metronome?

MB     Yeah, I worked with a metronome, listened to a lot of James Brown records, and I was like, "How do they do it? How is it this guy starts at one tempo, and by the end of the song, it's in the same tempo no matter WHAT... How is that possible?" I started listening to Motown records, like, Benny Benjamin. These cats didn't move, man, they were just... solid as a rock! It's possible, and they weren't cuttin' to click thru it.  Well, they might've...

FF     Maybe later on, right?

MB     Yeah... So that became what I was interested in for, like, two years. By the time I was 19, I met Prince at a club that I still play at in Mineapolis called Bunkers Bar and Grill, I play every Monday... Sundays just got added this year, every Monday night at Bunkers, 8 to 1, downtown, that's where I'm at pretty much... I started playing there when I was 17, and that's kinda where I got my chops together, and got my head together with time. And Prince came walkin' in, he had fired his whole band from the LoveSexy tour, and kind of started with me... regrouping, rebuilding.

FF     So, you met him at your gig. You didn't know him before that?

MB     No.

FF     And he just came in, said, "I want you."

MB     Kinda did, yeah. He heard about me from a friend.

FF     That's a wonderful  thing.

MB     He sat in, I think we played 'What Is Hip', and the whole time, I was trying not to pay too much attention to what he was doing, but he was just... watching my hands the whole time. I think he was expecting the time to be a little bit more like, you know, "funny", you know... But by then I had figured out how to make it lock. So, it took me that two years, to really get serious, and understand what was... necessary.

FF     We'll jump back to this, but... your first band experience, of getting a few people together and playing. How did that go?

MB     It was just me and a guitar player from up the street, his name was Nate Pate. One of the most gifted musicians I still know, to this day. But he would rather be a custodial engineer at a church than go thru what this business can actually do to you. He just doesn't want any part of it. But he's brilliant.

FF     I've got a friend like that also. It's more than just playing music.

MB     Yeah, you have to have the right... disposition for this business.

FF     So, you guys played together...

MB     Yeah, we'd jam on Zeppelin covers, Van Halen... All the album rock we could stand, we went thru it. And then we both bugged-out when we got ahold of some Sly Stone records, went elsewhere, you know? So, it was him, and then we got a bass player, and we had a punk rock trio for awhile... From there, it was also like, during the summertime, I'd check out the congas from my high school, and just sort of jam on street corners with a kick, snare and hat, and just play uptown, just rockin' beats in the street. And some musicians actually saw me out there doin' it, and they were like, "Dude, we need a drummer," it was that sort of thing.

FF     And then, I'm sure there was a time when you were the strong link in the chain, right? You talk about that other gig you got into, where you were the weak link.

MB     Yeah, well... I came back from that experience, and it was a quantum leap... yeah. And I would say that Prince just taught me that the drums are the most... really vital to what he's doing. A good drummer can make a good band sound great, and a bad drummer can make a great band sound terrible. He was really the one who solidified my approach, my method. I think I had the intellect, I had the intelligence to understand what he was saying and really apply it. Because he cut drums on most of his stuff himself. But for me, the timekeeper is the one who's hand is moving the most often. He was like, "Really pay attention to your hi hat. Just line your other limbs up to it, just drop them in the slot." And that helped me, you know, just gettin' more metronomic. And he's right, because this is the one that's moving, so if I can get this one steady, everything else is easy.

FF     And you could be dropping the kick and the snare in different holes too, right?

MB     But as long as you're listening to the spatial relationship... you're fine. And that's what it really is, good time is about the area in-between. It's not so much what you're playing as what you're not. It's the air that dictates whether you're playing even or not.

FF     I don't know if kids today are thinking like that...

MB     Well, I was 19, and... I think I'm reasonably smart. But... that's what helps, I just made that... that epiphany happened just talkin' to Prince over the time we were recording. And he was just like, "From bar to bar, play it like you're starting over, you know? Just play it like you're looping." And this was before he was really into all that (looping). And, "Play a little bit more on the back side." He would say all sorts of things, "Play like Charlie Watts, except, when he was good..." (laughs) Stuff like that. That's what he wanted, you know? Those sort of raggedy things that were not so  perfect... I played with him a lot. And we recorded non-stop, so I got a lot of time for self analysis. I got a lot of time to hear myself back and go, "Ooh, that wasn't right... that kick pattern is conflicting with this or that..." Or, "I'm playing too much with the vocal, and not enough with the... whatever." You know what I mean?

FF     And you're hungry for that information, right? That's something that kids need... info.

MB     You gotta want it, 'cause it's not just going to come to you. You got to be on the search, you know? Somebody told me recently, the thing is, if you can formulate the question, you can formulate the response. You have to ask the right question if you want the information. That's what takes time, that's what makes the process.

FF     You know, the whole concept of grooving... it's just, it's really what I concentrate on. And, whenever I want to try to improve myself, and improve my drumming, that's what I want to improve. I don't neccessarily want to learn more flashy fills... And it's funny, because... some of [these concepts], it's really heady stuff. It's like, "Play the spaces in-between." I'm still trying to get to that.

MB     Well, at least you know what it is you're really trying to get to.

FF     The question.

MB     That's the thing. It's like, Ok... now your pursuit is constructive. That is a constructive pursuit. Sometimes I'm gigging, like, Soul Asylum, some bands are cooler because things are pushing and pulling, that's some of it too. I've been in a lot of bands with musicians with erroneous senses of time, some cats push, some cats drag... you gotta learn to just, kinda... stay down the center. It's almost like playing a game of chicken or something. Even with the click, it's like, ok, you know the point where you can't hear the click because you're so on it, you just have to be like, "How long can I do that?"

FF     That's a very interesting thing to me, because I've been working with a click now for, 15, 16 years. And I can go to those places now and not hear it, and not worry about it, but I remember when I first started, the click would disappear, and I'd almost be thinking about it, instead of just letting it happen.

MB     When that happens for me, I just start concentrating on placement. I continue with the same momentum. That's what helps for me. Just measure, man, just measure.

FF     There was this thing that Steve Jordan said on his DVD, and I also talked to him, because he played on a Cracker record, when I was first joining the band, they got Steve and Charlie (Drayton) on the record, we were up at Bearsville studios, and the producer (Don Smith) said to me, "Hey look, I hope you don't mind, we're going to call these cats in... We're gonna send you home and call you back when we need you back." And I go, "No, no, no. Let me stay and watch these cats work," and he said, "I dunno..." I think he thought I was going to have some sort of an ego fit, but, no way! Steve Jordan and Charlie Drayton are coming in here, I'm going to want nothing less than to watch this, to observe, which is what Charlie did with Steve anyway."

MB     (laughs) He just took what Steve did and put more muscle on it.

FF     So, I learned a few things, and to bring it back to what we were talking about, playing the spaces and stuff, Steve was talking about, every note has it's value. I never thought about that, I just thought, BAM! and then it's gone, right? But every note has it's length, you know? It's heady stuff, and it's...

MB     That's why I say, it's like, for a drummer to be really good, you really gotta be dedicated, you can't... what's the word I'm looking for? You can't skip, it's such an important aspect of the group, of the ensemble, you gotta be really good.

FF     And it can sound simple, you can take the simple rock beat, and put ten drummers on that, and it's gonna sound ten different ways... I'm fascinated with that too.

MB     It's weird man, 'cause, um, I did a thing for Yamaha, they do this thing called "Groove All-Stars", every year at the NAMM show... I don't go to the show. I hate the show, but I go to do the thing Yamaha does, and they've been so... good to me, man.

FF     I can leave that out (of the interview) if you want, about, "I hate the show..."

MB     The NAMM show? (laughs) You don't have to leave that out, man... It's like... walking into a big Guitar Center. I don't care what they  think... You know what I mean? It's no reflection on my sponsors. I mean, I'm cool with everybody... Zildjian, Remo, Vic Firth, Yamaha, I have a fantastic relationship with the people who sponsor me. And I go and I say thank you, thank you, 'cause it's right. You don't have to do any of that. But, the actual show, the NAMM show, it's like... it's a bunch of noise. (laughs) Maybe nobody wants to say that. And I've met musicians there who will remain nameless... You think they're gonna be cool, and they're NOT. I don't mean to be stand-offish, but, a lot of times when I'm in a room full of musicians, ones that I want to meet, I won't approach them first, because, sometimes people are just... in their zone, or they're not particularly social, or they're just downright mean. That's what I've noticed. So I just tend to keep my distance, you know? I don't want 'em ruining my day. And hey, if they wanna talk, I think I look friendly enough, you know? So I just leave musicians alone. They can be very sensitive, temperamental folk.

FF     Well, I had to hold my breath before, when I asked you to do this, I was, "Oh, I hope he's going to be nice..." I wanted to be respectful and stuff. And I wanted to make sure you understood that... these kids (that email me) are like, "How do I play the drums?", and it's very important... I wish I'd have had a resource like this when I was a kid. Because, a lot of stuff, I had to learn the hard way. It took me until... I mean, I had been playing for 25 years before Steve Jordan said to me, "I don't stick the (bass drum pedal) beater to the head... I hit it and release." How many years did I play where I was sticking the beater to the head?

MB     But see.. that's how I play. I actually do stick the beater to the head.

FF     Me too... But, on slower stuff, I kinda bring it off, you know? A different application.

MB     I've seen guys who can do that. That's a really difficult thing to me, to do that. Because also, I play heel down a lot. Since... I was 15. (laughs) If I gotta go back and be accurate, I'll use the ball of my foot. But usually I'm all back like this (demonstrates technique)

FF     Just blasting it...

MB     Yeah. I guess it's part of my sound. And, I understand the value of being able to hit it and pull it back...

FF     It's like a tidbit from here and there, it's not for everybody, but just to have that resource... You know, I've read Modern Drummer magazine, say...

MB     Me too. Billy Cobham with all his hardware, in that Tama ad, where he's all just sitting there, three snares here, like "What the..." (laughs)

FF     I was trying for years to play Celestial Terrestrial Commuters off of Birds Of Fire (Mahavishnu Orchestra), and I couldn't figure out how to subdivide that bitch. And one day, I was talking to Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs, Winger), he's a good friend of mine, and he said, "Just divide that into bars of 4, and there's 3 extra", because... it's in 19/8 (!)

MB     You're into more odd rhythms than I am, man...

FF     Well, I'm not all about odd times. But that song... I used to love  the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I'm not really a prog guy. (I'm sure I meant fusion jazz here...) But their musicianship was just so up here, I was just amazed by it. And there were no dopey lyrics, anybody prancing about or anything...

MB     Sure, sure...

FF     It was about the music. So, I guess, what I'm probably saying here is, and I'm just kind of realizing this, I never really took any lessons. I probably needed more of that, I needed more exposure to cats...

MB     To build the intellectual process... As you well know, you have to control a lot of things when you're playing drums, it's a balancing act. You have to control your adrenaline, you have to control the balance, the sound. Lately, I've been on this kid back home, he's just a basher, he bashes the snot out of the cymbals, and I'm like, "Dude!" I'm explaining to him, "Eventually, you're going to be in a recording studio, or you've done sessions, and somebody should have told you..." Because, they use a lot of compression on drums these days. Like, the more your cymbals are out of hand, man, the bigger problem you're creating. You're creating a problem anyway, if you're bashing the snot outta your cymbals, 'cause it gets into the vocal mikes when you're playing live... it's just... a painful thing to listen to.

FF     And there's a point beyond which they don't sound any better.

MB     Exactly. That's the other thing that you have to know. And I had to learn that too. Years of recording, hitting the cymbals... pshhh... and it was gone. And this one guy finally said, "Look, hey, if you just glance at the cymbal, it rings a bit longer, you capture more of the actual sound that way." A lot of things happened, tuning and everything, I had a really healthy balance of playing live, playing Europe with Prince, I'm playing in stadiums and whatnot, and then I'd be in the studio, and I developed... I figured out a way to merge the two. When I'm playing on records, I think I have a very live sound. It's got energy, but it's also got control.

FF     Do you have the same approach live as in the studio?

MB     I kinda do, it's become that. I really listen to my balance, even when I'm playing live, it's like - the hi-hats, I balance it like I want to hear it.

FF     In a similar situation, how much is anybody in the band going to be depending on sound acoustically coming off the stage, and how much are they going to be depending on monitors? In a stadium situation, they (the other players) are going to be far away, right?

MB     Side fills. Prince used to have two sets of side fills. In front, and at the middle point.

FF     So, it's not like a younger musician, say, doing club dates in a rock band, trying to be heard above, like, Marshall amps or something. It's not like that, right?

MB     It's not so much a matter of volume, it's a matter of balance. What should be dominant? The kick and the snare. With that kit. That's what I'm talking about, with this band, Soul Asylum, it doesn't really matter. Wherever we are, I approach it the same.

FF     I notice you hit the hat harder in this than you did with Prince.

MB     That's because that's how the records were recorded. If you listen at the show, Sterling (Campbell, formerly with Soul Asylum, currently with David Bowie) would just whack 'em (laughs)... But, on the new record, it's a bit more controlled, because that's more my approach. But for the old stuff, I want them to hear it the way they're used to hearing it. I try to improve on it somehow, but I try to keep back... I tune the snare way down, and I put gobs of tape on it...

FF     And it's all snare-y sounding, instead of konk-y sounding...

MB     Snare-y... also, I'll get lots of the bottom snare mic in my monitor, because that's that crispy sort of sound.

FF     With Prince, was your snare tuned up higher and konk-y?

MB     Not konk-y, but it was high... BAP! But I was also using DDrum triggers, there was one on the snare, so, quite often, something would require a deeper snare, sometimes I would just get the sample off the record.

FF     You played with one snare drum onstage though...

MB     One snare, yeah, and for stuff that needed it, there was a default patch.

FF     Another thing I'm learning late in my career, for the past couple of years is... hitting the snare in different places... and having a whole different snare drum out of that alone.

MB     Ah...

FF     I spent my whole drumming life playing rim-shot. All my (left hand) sticks have this beaver-chew in the middle, right? But I started learning recently that some songs... This band I'm playing with, Cracker, the songwriting is all over the map, which is really good for me. There's loud rock songs, there's ballads, and some soft stuff... So. I can do songs where I'm not making any contact with the rim, and this is a revelation to me. After all these years, it's a revelation.

MB     I tried that. That's just hard for me to do. An engineer was like, "The snare would sound better if you just play it in the center, without resting on the rim. And, if I really concentrate, I can get it.

FF     Yeah, who wants to concentrate?

MB     Yeah, well... that's what I found, so. I took as much as I could adapt, or bring in to my own idea of what I sound like.

FF     So, I gotta ask you... if a kid comes up to you and says, "How do I get started playing the drums from scratch? I've never played any drums before..." What would you say? What kind of advice would you give them, for that initial start?

MB     (laughs) I would tell them to take six months of piano lessons. Because what helped me to understand my place in the music was playing another instrument. And piano is sort of a percussion instrument anyway, the hammers. So, improving your sense of music in general, I think that's better preparation for a drummer. And, a lot of drummers play piano. Vinnie Colaiuta is BAD, man. He plays be-bop. He's hard core, man. And to a lesser degree, somebody like Phil Collins. You have to understand music. You can't play drums just for drums sake, you gotta understand structure. That's the thing... a lot of these young cats, I'll sub out gigs and come back, "How did he do?" They'll say, "He doesn't set up the sections properly." A-ha. Kids that don't understand, when the chorus is coming, you gotta build into that.

FF     It's a dynamic.

MB     It's a thing, yeah. It's like, dude, you learn that from listening to the Beatles records, you know? They didn't just go right there... Ringo set it up. (sings fill) Kids who don't do that, or don't know   to do that, it's weird, man.

FF     Do you start wading in and just bashing around?

MB     Just know there's structure going on, not only do you have to acknowledge it, but you have to broadcast  it. You gotta show everybody else what's going on. That's why the drums are so important, man.

FF     So now, (chuckles) I gotta ask this... If somebody doesn't want to take piano lessons, they just want to start on drums, are you going to advocate a pad, or get a drumset, or just a snare drum, or... What's going to get a kid to enjoy bangin' on some drums? Now, that's great advice, piano, it is. But I have a feeling there's a lot of kids that're going to say, "Oh, I can't do that."

MB     I could have gotten a free ride at the University Of Minnesota, Jazz Band 1, uh, Doctor Frank Bencriscutto came to our high school, and we were playing one of his compositions for wind ensemble, and he pulled me aside. "Want to come to the university next year?" I said, "Yeah, sorta." [He said] "Well, Jazz Band 1, we go to Europe every year. We this, we that... you'd be a great asset to the group." I was like, "Well, what do I have to do?" "Well, you have to take a year of piano..." Oh, man. So... I know. Now, I wish I would've. But I had started on piano, and I had some knowledge, but I was... anxious to get on with it. But, looking back, really the right thing for me to do was to learn... I needed that. You have to learn to play music before you learn to play drums. If you want to be any good, or if you want to make any money doing it, because, I mean... fair enough... I mean, you heard what I did. (at the Cheap Trick / Soul Asylum / Cracker show) I didn't do anything flashy. It's because I don't play... for the drummers in the room. You know, they're... irrelevant to me. What is  relevant to me is that the music is served correctly. And the only way you can serve the music correctly is to understand  it. So, if you're one of those dudes who wants to just... you and your buddies, you know... I know at least five or six church drummers. You know the "church drummer type"?

FF     Gospelchops.com.

MB     Extremely muscular approach. My approach is muscular too, it's a matter of leverage in my case. With them it's like, it's almost... It's a vulgar display of just... (laughs) subdivisions, and high tuned toms, and... That whole thing just kind of got past me. There's a place for all of that, if that's what you wanna do. But... a lot of those dudes aren't making a whole lot of money doing this. And I've got a life to live, you know? And I need money, man. And I learned the sure, industrial uses of my instrument, far and away before. Plus, I love music for what it is, no matter what it is I'm playing. So, if I'm playing that sort of thing, there are records where I'm doing... things I wouldn't ordinarily do, you know. But I don't suggest them, or have anybody on a wild goose chase lookin' for 'em, because... It was what was required for that context. But. How I make my money? You just saw that. I'm going, 'BOOM-BAH, BOOM-BAH!' They don't want  me to do anything more than that. They love  me for that. (laughs) That's all any other musician would want  from a drummer. Just be SOLID.

FF     And, play the song.

MB     Play the song for the song, you know? Don't be so self-conscious about what the drummers in the room think. Because that's a conflict of interest.

FF     I SO  don't come from there, because... I think Charlie Watts is GREAT.

MB     He's great.

FF     And I've had conversations with cats that say, "Ugh, he's terrible.", and I'm like... End of conversation. You don't like Ringo either? End of conversation.

MB     Exactly. How are you gonna... admonish the dudes who basically wrote the book on that stuff? (rock drumming)

FF     Exactly.

MB     So.

FF     One thing I've noticed... and I've never been a rudimental guy, but one thing I noticed is, the more I can  do with my hands, but don't use it? The better it informs the overall groove, and my ease of playing... So I'm not always on ten, at the top of my ability.

MB     Sure.

FF     There's a bunch of stuff in reserve, so I can just sit back, lean back...

MB     But you get that also thru, like... as you get older. Just... maturity. It's like, when you're young, you might say a bunch of stuff you might not actually mean. And, the older you get, you go, "Oh, nevermind."

FF     You gettin' this, kids?

MB     (laughs) You know that game? If you run your mouth all the time, nobody wants to listen to you.

FF     Absolutely. Well, this has been great. We're blessed, you know. To be drummers, and get to play our instruments.

MB     I agree. I couldn't be no... square, I couldn't be working at 3M, you know, Honeywell, or whatever, (laughs) up in my neck of the woods, building widgets...

FF     (laughs)

MB     I couldn't do it, man.

FF     And, I have this joke I tell people sometimes... (leans over and whispers conspiratorially) "Shhhh... Don't tell anybody, but I would do this for nothing."

MB     (laughs) Uh-huh.

FF     In a way.

MB     And you might. Every once  in a while. I know I do, still. It doesn't stop.

FF     Well, somebody wants to make a CD. And you say, "What kind of budget you got?" ... "Well, we really don't have a budget." You still want to make the CD, right?

MB     Yeah, you still want to do it. And I'll usually work within the framework... that they can afford... And I've done freebies. And it depends on, also, where they're at in their  skill level, I'm much more willing to... work with somebody with a natural gift for nothing, than I am to overcharge some hobbyist. You know what I mean?

FF     Yes I do.

MB     I will charge a hobbyist an arm and a leg. Because, you're making me suffer bad music. (laughs)

FF     (laughs)

MB     And, you're not really serious about this. So you're gonna pay me for my time. But for somebody who's got the gift. You know, the magic eye... I'll give the world to 'em.

FF     You want to be part of that.

MB     Because, that's constructive to me.

FF     Yup.

MB     So, yeah. I totally agree. It's privilege, what we do.

FF     Thank you, Michael Bland.

MB     Thank you, Frank.