Gary O Toole Interview – 2011

TEJ: So then what happened after your tom tom calamity?

G: I went from that and ended up in China Crisis in the 80s. I had worked for Rose Morris as the tea boy first in Telephone Sales and then I bought a double bass drum Vistalite kit (Ludwig), which was all cracked so I got a great deal on it. I bought a Ludwig silver sparkle kit and also a concert tom kit, eventually I sold off all that stuff the only thing I kept was a Ludwig Black Beauty (Snare Drum) that Martin Drew picked out for me from the factory. I then bought a Yamaha 9000 Recording series kit, which was phenomenal, it really was, and I worked with China Crisis with that kit in ’83 and ’84. That was amazing. I had that kit stolen unfortunately. But after that I got the Pearl DLX and the Pearl I have had for a very long time and I have kind of retired that and I still have the Old Saturn Mapex kit that I used and I will at some point have that in the Studio as a studio kit. [Home studio]

TEJ: Was that the drum kit you took out on Steve Hackett’s 2004 tour?

G: It was, and it’s only now that I have gone out and upgraded to a triple bass drum set that I have got today (Mapex) – the sort of Simon Phillips wannabe model.

TEJ: It’s heading that way.

– Laughter –

G: I love Simon’s playing. There are so many good players out there.

TEJ: Yeah people think that drummers just play 4/4 yet a lot of drummers play 4/4 differently to each other.

G: Well it depends on the critic, which is anybody who has an opinion

TEJ: That’s unfortunate really.

G: Well, it’s a fact of life but some of them are unnecessarily nasty and some of them are just flippin’ accurate.

– Laughter –

G: So, you just got to sort the wheat from the chaff.

TEJ: Well you go to gigs and it’s never been drastically bad, yeah there can be technical difficulties and it wouldn’t be live music if there were none.

G: Isn’t that the truth!

– Laughter –

TEJ: But in all the Steve Hackett gigs I have attended there have been a few technical difficulties but never because of a lack of professionalism. I went to one gig on one of Steve’s tours and you had a Trap Kat MIDI triggering pad on a stand,. You were hitting it hard and the way you had it set at such an angle it wouldn’t have taken much for it to topple over, and it fell over and I recall Dave Cobby coming over trying to rescue it.

G: Well in Middlesbrough we had actually stopped at the end of the section before Steve did his acoustic bit in the middle and it was before I got my SPDS pad; it might have been one of these D Drum pads [points to the pads sat on his right]. What I can remember is it was all on my left and it was all set up on one stand and there was lots of it.

Gary on Stage (Copyright Lee Millward)

TEJ: It didn’t half look heavy!

G: And what happened was as Steve was about to start the acoustic section, the top half of it (the stand) went ‘Nah I’ve had enough’ and it just went Crash! It was very funny because Cobby said to me after “I was sure I was going to get my P45. I was sure the manager was going to give me the sack that night.“ and Steve said “You alright?” and he just got on with the songs and we tried as quietly as we could to actually put the thing back together and it was fine. Steve is the ultimate gentleman and when it comes to stuff like. He has actually helped me in so many ways to actually grow as a player and to cut myself a bit of slack. You know if you’ve had a bad night and you start playing I made a mistake there and I didn’t do that there and you tell yourself about it and you think, RIGHT I got to work that one out. Sometimes we get a bit heavy and we don’t pat ourselves on the back for stuff. With Steve I remember we did a song that was on ‘To Watch The Storms’, it was a slow song that we did about his Dad.

TEJ: Serpentine Song?

G: Yeah, Serpentine… and Steve wanted it a certain way at the end and we went round it and round it and I was getting really upset. Steve couldn’t quite explain to me what he wanted because I was coming out with things.

G: But it wasn’t quite what he wanted and to be fair he is the artist so I was getting frustrated so I said “Look I got to take five” and I went outside and I was really upset and he came out and he said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “ You know I don’t want to lose this gig and I know that I am not giving you what you want and that’s the gig.” and I know that if and I mentioned a couple of big names had actually done this they were have got it in the first take and he went “You don’t know that” He said “if you have been there when they had done a recording you don’t know what goes on there or what they do” I went “I suppose so”. One of the names he had mentioned had actually gone in to do a session, I think it might have been for Tony Banks, and he said that he had asked this guy to do this thing and that he had tried it and he said, “It isn’t sitting, lets do it again and try it again.” And they pulled it and pushed it and this guy still couldn’t get it, just couldn’t get it and in the finish of it they got somebody else in to do it, and Steve said you can’t understand what somebody else goes through to actually attain a performance for somebody you can only do your best and that’s it, and I went yeah alright we went back in and within an hour I had it and he was like ‘I like that.’

TEJ: That cannot of been easy?

G: It was more the fact that it was how I had remembered us being on tour and how we had done it a certain way and I presumed unless he told me differently that, that was what we had to do. But the area that was actually causing a problem wasn’t the area that I was addressing and as soon as we narrowed it down BINGO we got it so it was really to do with my communication skills and my understanding of what he wanted.

TEJ: But that is hard because Steve has been very good at picking the best drummers over the years but at the same time he isn’t a drummer, and so for him to potentially explain to another drummer what he wants them to do I suspect it’s not going to be a direct route.

G: It is an interesting one isn’t it?

TEJ: For example, I cannot read music, yet I know that there is written music for Drummers but what you read on a page is open…

G: Yeah open for interpretation

TEJ: Yeah the interpretation is down to the individual, because it might be notated to use the bass drum now it doesn’t mean to say that the drummer will do that.

G: Your right, my mum put it best she said “Look, the best musicians are neither the ones that rely on solely on their ears to decide what’s coming next nor the one’s that solely rely on their eyes to decide what’s coming next the best musicians do both. They see what’s on the part, they decide if it’s going to fit and if it doesn’t quite or they have a better idea how to make it fit then they do it and that’s when a performance comes together it’s interpretation.”

TEJ: Yeah for some people sight-reading works very well especially in productions in Broadway (NYC) and the West End (London), but it would be really strange and alien to go to a rock gig and watch the drummer sight-read all night.

G: But it happens.

TEJ: Sadly it does happen. For something like War Of The Worlds they have to sight read because of the structure and the drummer cannot go off and solo in the middle of Horsell Common.

G: Yeah

TEJ: Because it would be David Essex’s part of the Artillery Man because it would sound weird but that’s why it is a performance that is sight read but it does sound too clinical.

G: As you know I read (sight read) a lot of the stuff and it’s really because I have so much going on stage that I don’t want to forget anything, Steve has often said to me you know if you need the lyrics up there just put them up there’s no big deal, and I went look I’ll do that. He would rather you did that than not.

TEJ: Yeah it’s like he is offering you help and if you turn it down and something goes wrong….

G: Yeah, what I tend to do now if I get the chance to rehearse then that’s usually enough, but I keep it up there as a safety net and so it just feel’s like if I get stuck or I forget the words. I can’t remember the last time I forgot the words on things like ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ but equally having just done ‘Watcher of the Skies’ that was a completely different thing because there was no way that I’m able to read that whilst I am on stage.

1 Comment on "Gary O Toole Interview – 2011"

  1. rick tuffnell | November 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm |

    i/m glad gary has got where he has by sheer hard work,i had lesson/s from gary 25 years ago and bought his ludwig kit from him ,a great teacher

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