SKF NOTE: I recently uncovered this circa 1983 interview with drummer Frank Briggs. Edited slightly, I’ve retyped my original introduction below, followed by scans of my original transcript, complete with proofreaders marks.
I don’t remember to what magazine I submitted this interview. Probably Modern Drummer. I have a vague recollection of submitting it on speculation — none of MD’s editors were familiar with Frank Briggs — only to have the interview rejected.
Still, on re-reading this piece almost forty years later, it holds up. My original intro gives insight into how new electronic drums were at this time, and this, hopefully, will be of interest to Frank Briggs fans.
Caveat: In case you’re wondering — I typed some of these pages on the reverse side of Gretsch order forms. You can see the bleed-through on those pages.
When I was a Gretsch sales representative, most of the best music retailers from Albany, NY, all the way up into the Northwest portion of NY State, asked me if I knew of drummer Frank Briggs.
“Oh, man,” they’d say, “you have got to check this guy out. He’s amazing.”
I’d ask the retailers what kind of music/drums Frank played. They’d answer, “It’s hard to say. He doesn’t sound like anybody else. He plays his own stuff.”
Then one day in a little drum shop in DeWitt, NY, I noticed a Frank Briggs poster tacked onto a bulletin board, announcing that Frank was accepting drum students.
“Does Frank Briggs live around here?” I asked the storeowner.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I hear he’s pretty good.”
“Oh, man,” said the store owner. “He’s incredible. He’s easily the best drummer in this area.”
So I telephoned Frank Briggs. Over the next few months we kept a good correspondence. He sent me a copy of his band’s (805) album, along with some tapes of solo drum music he recorded. Eventually I saw 805 perform at a club in the New London-Groton, CT area.
This interview is important for a few reasons.
First, there has been quite a bit of controversy about Simmons drums. For better or worse, most of the Simmons advocates and practitioners use them to achieve drum sounds aurally resembling mushroom clouds. BOOM!
Frank Briggs is one of the few people I’ve encountered who doesn’t approach Simmons drums as acoustic drum replacements. He’s taken the Simmons at face value. The results are always unique and often beautiful.
Second, this interview happened with Frank Briggs at a career crossroads. One decision he had to make and continued wrestling with, is strictly an electronic drum phenomenon. One that electronic drum enthusiasts would do well to think about.
The dilemma is this: You buy an electronic Simmons SDS-V drumset and create a brand new drumming concept using them. Simmons then releases an “improved” model. You sell your SDS-V, buy the new model, and then find out the electronic brains for the improved model cannot reproduce the sounds you liked on your SDS-V. On top of that, the SDS-V is no longer in production.
Another of Frank Briggs’s crossroads involved a career move. Frank Briggs is beginning his seventh year with 805. Once a copy band, 805 evolved into a band writing and performing original material. The band was discovered and released its first album, Stand in Line, on the RCA label. The album sold reasonably well, but their second demo tape was rejected by RCA for, said the label, having little or no commercial potential.
That action put Frank Briggs and the other 805 members into some soul-searching; trying to find the elusive balance between writing/performing music with integrity, and writing/performing, as Briggs calls it, “accessible” music.
As of this writing it seems 805 will be signing with a different record label for their second album.
No doubt you’ll hear more about Frank Briggs. I am fortunate he was kind and candid enough to discuss with me his drumming and music, not at his career peak, but at one of those tough times every drummer, will have to march through.