SKF NOTE: This exchange is from my 1983 interview with Dave Weckl for Modern Drummer. Most of this interview is not published anywhere. Portions of it were published in MD as a profile of Dave Weckl. I first heard of Dave Weckl around the same time I met and interviewed Gary Chester. Here’s the back story.
Weckl was age 23 when we met. He was living in Bridgeport, CT getting ready to go on tour with Simon and Garfunkel — arguably the first major gig that put Weckl on the map.
Dave and I were talking about his rehearsing songs for the 1983 Simon & Garfunkel tour. That’s where this part of our interview starts. Two more points: this interview took place about two years before Gary Chester’s New Breed drum method book was first published. Also, a great place to learn more about Gary Chester is the In Memory of Legendary Drummer Gary Chester Facebook page.
Scott K Fish: When you were practicing the songs did anything challenge you technically?
David Weckl: No. I had to work out something new on Allergies. There’s two drummers playing the track on the album. Steve Gadd was playing the beat under Simmons drum fills by Steve Ferrone. There were two parts going on and I had to take the main ingredients of both and come up with a groove.
That was challenging because I ended up playing a left hand hi-hat part and Simmons fills with the right hand — while keeping the groove happening underneath. It was all the stuff that I’d learned from Gary Chester. If I have to do something left handed now it’s no longer a big deal. Because I went through a couple of retarded stages with [Gary Chester].
I’m still studying with Gary off-and-on now. But I plan on studying with him full-time again when I get off this tour. I’ve been studying with him about seven months.
SKF: How had you changed from your first lesson with Gary compared to the way you were playing seven months later?
DW: My concentration level had changed. It had gone up considerably just towards concentrating on what I was actually playing. I was actually hearing what I was playing instead of letting a little ghost note go in here or there.
Every time I walked in to a lesson I felt [like a novice]. [Gary] would come up with a different system every week. I’d go home and practice it and get it down so it was cooking.
I’d come back the next week and [Gary] would tell me to do something else with it that I hadn’t practiced — and make me feel [like a novice] all over again.
It was great though. His lessons are such a challenge.
At first I had no idea what Gary’s teaching was like. My friend, John, said, “You should go talk to Gary, man.” Because I was getting impatient. This was even before I’d gotten the gig with French Toast. I was spending a lot of time practicing, and I knew what I could do if just given the opportunity.
John said, “You should talk to Gary. He’s got so many connections. He could help yo out and get you into the studio.”
I said that I didn’t want to just approach [Gary] and say, “Hey, could you turn me on to some studio work? I can play.” I was just interested in taking a couple of lessons to see what he was all about.
Gary said, “Well, what I’m going to teach you I can’t really do in a couple of lessons. Either come study with me on a steady basis or it doesn’t happen.”
So I agreed. I wanted to find out what was going on. I went up there with the attitude that if I could do whatever he wants me to do, then after a few lessons I want to talk to him about some studio work. And if I can learn something from [Gary] — great.
I walked in there, man, and after I was done I felt like I was starting over. On my first lesson! I was embarrassed to death. Any idea of me even talking to him about wanting to do anything just went right out the window after the first ten minutes.
He was laying this stuff on me that had to do with hand and eye coordination.
For instance, one of [Gary’s] systems is keeping a consistent bass drum pattern, keeping a consistent hi-hat pattern, and then there is a snare drum line to read in-between. And on top of that, you sing the quarter note, you sing what you’re doing with the bass drum after that. Then you sing what you’re doing with the snare drum. You do this left-handed and right-handed.
Then he comes up with all these other ways to play the bass [drum] line. It gets nuts. And that’s only one of the things [Gary] does.
The coordination thing is unbelievable because you actually have five coordination things going on when you’re singing something against it. That helped me out with my time so much. Not that I had terrible time before that. But it just made me concentrate on it that much more. I could actually feel and sing the quarter note to myself — or sing the eighth note, or whatever — to help me really concentrate on what was going on.
If you’re able to do that and play against it, it’s unbelievable how much it helps lock it in so much more.
SKF: So [Gary Chester’s] is a very valid teaching system.
DW: Oh yeah. It enables you to take a line — something you hear in the music — and what you’re striving for from all this is to be able to play it any way.
Say, for instance, that a producer comes up to you and says, “I’d like you to play this type of thing.” The idea is to be able to say, “Okay,” and do it. Not to then sit down and work it our for an hour while you’re trying to figure out what to play.
A lot of people get hung up on reading. They say, “I just can’t read that well.” And a lot of times they can read rhythms fine. A lot of it is having the coordination to fit those rhythms in along with the beat, and try to make it all groove, and try to make the music happen.
You have hot to be able to see that whole thing and be able to see the beat as you’re playing
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