James Black: They Don’t Want You to Shine; You Shine Anyway

SKF NOTE – I posted the transcript of this excerpt on my blog on March 24, 2016. James Black’s words, heard in his own voice, are so much better.

I asked Mr. Black if he had a drum philosophy, based on his life experience as a drummer, he passes on to other drummers. James said drummers would have to come study with him to find out. That’s where this clip starts.

But James Black continues anyway to leave drummers with some universal wisdom.

black_james_altitude_cdSKF NOTE: Here is my interview with James Black as it appears in the December 19, 1982 Modern Drummer. The interview back story is there as well.

Revisiting the full interview transcript last night, a couple of passages jumped out at me, including this one on James Black’s philosophies on drumming.

One final point: James Black told me during this interview he had plans to record an album under his own name.  It appears that never happened. If I’m wrong I hope someone will correct me. Meanwhile, in 2004 Night Train Records released a compilation CD of songs James Black recorded over the years called I Need Altitude.

Also, this morning I discovered online a James Black documentary I didn’t know about. I’ve posted the first of seven parts of the documentary now available on YouTube.

Scott K Fish: Do you teach or have you ever taught?

James Black: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of students. I take a couple of students from intermediate to a couple of advanced students. They come to me from time to time and I give them my ideas and basic philosophy on rhythms and what not.

SKF: What do you teach as your philosophy of drums? Can you elaborate on that?

JB: I can’t divulge that information now. You’d have to come to me as a student. But it’s basically a philosophy, as a drummer, about the people you meet, bass players you play with, guitar players, and how to play in a rhythm section.

Not just how to play the drums, but how to play with other people, and how not to get sidetracked. How not to get thrown off. How to keep a certain amount of concentration on what you’re doing — and do that, no matter what the other person does.

I use to depend on the bass player to play. When the bass player would fall down, I’d fall down too.

The bass player and the drummer are the foundation of the band. I got to the point where I’d say, “Hey, man. If you fall down you just fall down by yourself. I’m going to keep playing.”

I try to get my students to realize that, if you’re playing, don’t depend on nobody but yourself. If the bass player falls down, plays a wrong note, has a heart attack, passes over, or goes up in a puff of smoke — you keep playing.

That’s true. If the man goes — POOF! — up in a cloud of smoke, just keep playing. He’ll come back sooner or later.

It’s sort of selfish in a way, but it’s the only way you can play. When you hear it back on a tape you say, “Wow, man. That sounds really good.”

But if you try to play and just go along, you’re limiting yourself to the amount of expertise the other person has. You may have more expertise — rhythmically — than they do. But if you limit yourself up to the point where they are, you never grow.

You’ve got to grow in spite of them. I told my students that there’s a lot of people who are going to hear you and think you’e really great. And they’re going to become jealous of you. They’re going to try to stop you from playing. They want to shine. They don’t want you to shine.

But you shine anyway!


About Scott K Fish

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1 Response to James Black: They Don’t Want You to Shine; You Shine Anyway

  1. Pingback: Audio: Tommy Aldridge on Playing Double-Bass Drums (1982) | Scott K Fish

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