Sunday, January 08, 2017

Gadd on time

Another item from Rick Mattingly's 1983 Modern Drummer interview with Steve Gadd. It's encouraging that a lot of the very common fuzzy talk about time makes no more sense to the greatest studio drummer in the world than it does to me. He also makes a very important point in his first answer, about managing your energy and enthusiasm.

RM: Jim Chapin quoted you as saying that coming from a jazz background, you
tended to put an edge on the time, and you had to learn to lay back.

SG: Yeah, it had a lot to do with that energy level that I was talking about. It was just that feeling of aggression—that personal thing between me and the drums— and the way I projected that into the music. And then eventually I was able to channel that energy into an enthusiasm for the music, and sort of separate myself from the drums, personally. I was able to channel it and start playing less. You start realizing that when you put that much energy into it, you might be on the upper side of the time. You just have to think about the other way to do it.

RM: How did you eventually learn to lay back? Did you sit down with a metronome and work at it?

SG: It's not that complicated. It was just something I realized I was doing, and when I was aware of it—when I understood it— then I could see how it could be different. It's just an awareness of something you have to look at inside yourself, and all you have to do is listen to yourself. I did it by being in a situation where I was recording, and then when I heard things back, it was like, "It felt one way when I was playing it, but now it doesn't feel the same way." So you have to realize that as comfortable as it felt at the time, this is what it sounds like. I think the only way to find out about playing on top is to put a click on, and then play loud and soft with it. If you can understand that it's real natural to get on top when you're playing loud, then you can start to understand it.

Time is a funny subject. It really is. It's a little bit different every time. And it gets confusing when you start talking about "playing on top" and "laying back" because those phrases are used in so many different situations. One person can say it and mean one thing and another person could say the same thing and mean something else.

RM:  I remember the first time I heard one of those terms, years ago. I was playing with a group, and things were really feeling good that night. Afterwards, a guy came up and said, "I really like the way you lay back when you play." I was thinking, "Oh really? I lay back?"

SG:  But it felt natural when you were doing it?

RM:  Yeah.

SG:  That's what I'm saying. Someone came up and said, "It felt good because you were laying back," and you didn't even know what the hell he was talking about. That's how vague it is. So the thing is, when they tell you it was happening because you were laying back, it might make as little sense to you as when they ask you to lay back.

RM:  Judging by the letters we get, people are hearing these terms and getting confused about what they mean.

SG:  There are a lot of confusing things that don't need to be that confusing. I think it will finally make sense to them when they finally play with people who make sense musically. Then they'll understand.

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