SKF NOTE: “Scott Fish?” Joe Morello said, shaking my hand. “You’re everywhere. Like tapeworm.” It was 1979-1980. As a freelance writer I interviewed Joe Morello in 1979 for a Modern Drummer feature interview, later moving to Saratoga Springs, NY.
It was a tough transitional time in my life, personally and financially. I had given up on my lifelong dream of earning a living as a professional drummer and I had no backup plan. Age 28, starting life over.
So when I read in a local newspaper Joe Morello was playing in Schenectady, NY, I scraped together the money to go. The venue might have been the still existing Van Dyck Lounge.
An indication of my state of mind at the time, I can’t be sure if Morello had a trio or a quartet. Neither do I recall anything about Joe’s drumset except for his natural wood snare drum. I was surprised to not see Joe playing his signature Ludwig 400 Supra-Phonic snare drum.
When Morello’s group took a break, I went up and re-introduced myself. “Hi Mr. Morello. Scott Fish. I interviewed you for Modern Drummer a while back.”
Shaking my hand, cocking his head to one side, Joe said, “Scott Fish? You’re everywhere. Like tapeworm.” I asked Joe about his snare drum. He said it was an Eames snare drum and he asked how it sounded.
“It sounds a little choked,” I said. Joe was making adjustments to the snare several times during his group’s first set. To my ears, the drum did not sound as open and crisp as Morello’s Ludwig .
Joe nodded, telling me it was a new snare drum built for him by a “a kid,” I learned later was Joe MacSweeney.
“How does the group sound?” Joe asked me. “It sounds good,” I said. “You could bring the mic on the acoustic piano up just a bit. It’s hard to hear when he solos. The volume is fine when he’s comping, but not when he’s soloing.”
I went back and rejoined friends at my table. A few minutes later, Joe Morello is standing at my table with the club owner. “This is Scott Fish,” Joe says, introducing me to the club owner. ” Joe asked me to repeat to the club owner what I said about the piano mic volume. So, I did.
It seemed to me the club owner was not pleased with this meeting, not sure why he should care what Scott Fish thought about the club sound system levels. Had Joe Morello not been standing there, my sense was the club owner would have told me to get lost.
“Just a little bit,” I assured the club owner. “It sounds great, but instead of being able to enjoy the whole group while the pianist is soloing, I have to strain to hear the piano solos. And that takes away from hearing the group sound.”
During the second set the piano volume was indeed a bit louder. Just right.
Looking back, that Schenectady night was a unique convergence in the world of drumming. Not long after, I was offered and accepted the newly created Managing Editor’s spot at Modern Drummer. Joe MacSweeney went on to a great career building legendary Eames drums and drumsets. And Joe Morello’s career continued expanding as a performer, a teacher, and as one of the Last of the Red Hot Drummers.
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