Taking a Chance on Fish


Taking a chance on Fish
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • November 30, 2018

Looking back almost 40 years I can’t imagine not crossing paths with Ron Spagnardi, founder and publisher of Modern Drummer magazine. We were both drummers, entrepreneurs. Ron in New Jersey, me in New York. At about age 34, Spagnardi saw the success of a 10-year-old magazine devoted to guitarists, Guitar Player, and wondered, why not publish a magazine devoted to drummers?

Next, Ron bought two small subscription ads. One in Down Beat magazine, and one ad in the New York Musician Union Local 802 newspaper. Spagnardi’s ad copy was pretty basic, something like: Interested in subscribing to a new quarterly magazine exclusively for drummers? Send $10 to: Modern Drummer, 47 Harrison St., Nutley, NJ. (I don’t remember the exact amount for a subscription.)

These ads were Ron testing the waters. He told me he had a separate bank account for subscriber’s money. If at least 2,000 people subscribed, Ron said, he could afford to publish the magazine. He didn’t know what he was doing was illegal. Without a Modern Drummer product, soliciting paid subscriptions was a no-no.

Spagnardi’s said his plan was, “If I don’t get at least 2,000 subscribers, I’ll send back their money.”

Full story

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Barry Keane — Studio Drumming in Toronto 1981

SKF NOTE: Modern Drummer’s first decade was a time for discovery. Never before in my lifetime, and I think the same is true of most MD readers, had we so much indepth access to great drummers. And pro drummers never before had an opportunity to speak at length to the drummer community. That was especially true of MD’s feature interview drummers.

Having a career as a studio drummer held strong appeal to many drummers in 1981, when I interviewed Barry Keane. When we met, Barry was touring with Gordon Lightfoot. As of this writing Barry Keane is still Lightfoot’s drummer. Lightfoot’s is an amazing band of listening musicians.

In addition to his concert work with Lightfoot, Barry earned his living as a studio drummer. In 1981, backstage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate NY, I interviewed Barry for his Modern Drummer feature interview. Here I ask him about the reality — as opposed to rumors and guesswork — of being a studio drummer.

Clarifying that his answer pertains to Toronto, this is Barry Keane’s answer.

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Imprisoned by Ding-Dinga-Ding-Dinga

SKF NOTE: Ed Soph’s video clip above brought back my long, long struggle with the ding-dinga-ding-dinga ride cymbal beat.

Soph demonstrates that beat and then says, “We all know that a ride pattern is not this, even though there are thousands of books that would make us think that it is.”

When learning to play the drumset was my life mission, playing exercises in popular jazz drum method books against a ding-dinga-ding-dinga ride cymbal beat was usually tedious, too mechanical, and not musical.

I’d hear jazz drummers on records playing ding-dinga-ding-dinga on slow to medium tempo songs. Not always, but often.

On record, during tv appearances, and in concert — drummers abandoned ding-dinga on uptempo tunes.

Great drummers like Roy Haynes, Paul Motian, and Elvin Jones, I eventually discovered, ignored a repetitive ding-dinga-ding-dinga at all tempos.

While music and rhythm evolved, Ding-dinga-ding-dinga remained static, and young drummers were told they had to use it.

What utter nonsense. Ride cymbal pattern phrasing should be musical phrasing. When ding-dinga-ding works best — use it. Just don’t be imprisoned by it.

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Neil Peart: A Musician is a Guy Who Gets Up in the Morning and Goes to Work

SKF NOTE: Here’s the back story for this interview excerpt. I remember the room Neil, Claudia Fish, and I were in for this interview. But I can’t connect it to a place (New York City?) or to the published interview. I’ll keep looking. It all has to be somewhere.

Neil Peart was telling me about his goal to write when he was no longer with Rush. As long as he was committed to Rush, and as long as both he as a drummer, and Rush as a band, were improving — he’d stick with it. When he arrived at the “inevitable” time when he and Rush peaked — Neil would turn the majority of his time to writing. He was sure he couldn’t both stay as committed as he was to Rush and write.

I start this excerpt asking Neil, “Do you have things you would like to write about?”

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The Strange 1972 TV Appearance of Buddy Rich

SKF NOTE: Starting with the album cover, continuing with the opening sound of Buddy Rich’s sticks on his hi-hat cymbal bell(s) on Side 1 Track 1’s “Space Shuttle,” Buddy’s 1972 “Stick It” album is excellent. I bought the album when it was first released, and it remains a favorite. Buddy’s drumset is recorded very well.

That’s why a YouTube post of Buddy’s 1972 on The Tonight Show caught my attention. But what a crazy show. Whenever Buddy was a guest on Johnny Carson’s tv show, the two friends always threw verbal barbs back-and-forth. But this show takes the barb throwing to new heights — including some censoring before air time.

Grady Tate is in The Tonight Show Orchestra drum chair. Using Tate’s drumset, Buddy sits in with the band for a number — likely the oddest performance I can remember. It’s an extension of the barb tossing to the bandstand until bandleader Doc Severinsen and the whole band are in on the act.

Finally, I am at a loss to explain why Grady Tate’s drums sound awful. On acoustic jazz records especially, Tate always has beautiful sounding cymbals and drums. Buddy is visibly uncomfortable with the drums. Maybe Grady was deferring to the wishes of the tv sound engineer.

Quite a piece of Buddy Rich memorabilia.

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Freddie Gruber – Bass Drum Foot Pedal Approach

SKF NOTE: Here’s the back story on this interview with Freddie Gruber.

In this excerpt I ask Freddie about his bass drum pedal teaching. Heel down? Heel up? We also discuss bass drum pedals with light construction vs heavy construction.

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Keith Copeland – Jazz Drummers Who Influenced Me and Why

SKF NOTE: I rediscovered my Keith Copeland interview transcript in July 2015. Keith and I spoke over dinner at a Centre Island, NY restaurant. I have forgotten the restaurant name. Neither do I remember how this interview came to pass. But re-reading the transcript for the first time in about 30 years, I am impressed! Keith and I had a good rapport, both asking very good questions and giving very good answers.

In this excerpt I asked Keith if he could give me a chronological list of jazz drummers who most influenced him, and what it was Keith liked most about the drummers and their drumming.

The highlights in Keith’s answer, for me, are his reflections on Thelonious Monk and Monk’s drummers, and Keith’s thoughts about Elvin Jones.

Final thought: the audio quality is not the best, but it is very audible, and Keith’s insight is well worth adding to the public square.

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