Biography: Guest Musicians: Brannen Temple: Cyber-Drum Interview by M. Montalbano.

Brannen Temple has a quiet and somewhat un-assuming personality, something you might not expect from a drummer who has recorded and toured with Sheena Easton, Chaka Kahn, Janet Jackson, Eric Johnson, Ted Nugent, Jodie Watley......the list goes on and on. Brannen just recently finished a brief tour with guitar legend Robben Ford. And his own group "Hot Buttered Rhythm" continues to make some serious statements in the jazz and funk realm. When you listen to his drumming, it becomes quite evident that the man has something to say. And when you read his words, it becomes even clearer. Brannen discusses his work, his life, and some values and wisdom he's willing to share, if you've learned how to listen. It always seems to be the quiet ones who are most firmly rooted in the ground.

How's it going? I hope everything is all right since we last spoke?
Everything's good. Actually, since I've been back (off the road) I feel refreshed and recharged, even personally. You know how it is. When you do something that you really like for a while....you feel good!

I understand you're back on the road with Robben (Ford) tomorrow?
Yeah, just for one date. We'll be up in Duluth for one...

Is there anything new going on with your group, "Hot Buttered Rhythm"? Any new music being recorded?
We're in the middle of writing some new tunes. We had a keyboard player who's recently moved out of town, so we're in the midst of getting somebody in to try to replace him, which is going to be sort of difficult...he's one of a kind.

One thing I got out of the "Hot Buttered Rhythm" disk was how tightly the group really locked in to each other. I imagine losing any one player from that group is going to have a major impact...
Definitely true. The other keyboard players with the group were great players, and fit in perfect, but they both moved! And the other guy who's been with us from the beginning just moved to New Orleans. That's the kind of stuff we have to deal with, as opposed to chemistry problems, you know what I mean?

Yeah...trying to keep people around! What is your goal with "Hot Buttered Rhythm"? Are you planning to tour with that group?
Right now we're going to work more on a regional thing. 'Cause getting out too far...unless you're making the money, which we're not...is rough.

It gets risky, I guess?
Well, it gets overbearing. Everybody has to have this sort of mentality that, OK, we know this is for promotion, and not for money and fame...so, yeah, sometimes we're going to be playing in front of seven folks. It's gonna suck, but we still have to do it. That gets a little tough. So emotionally and psychologically the band has to be ready. At this point I think our best bet is to stay around the region and work that up a little stronger. And still continue to record and write. As far as trying to do the national attack.....

The timing isn't right?
Yeah, I don't think the timing is right. And in terms of trying to pursue a record label, distribution...those things take a lot of time and energy in and of themselves.

It sounds as if you're taking your time with this project, instead of rushing to push it out there.
When we did a tour, we did this little thing going up to Canada and stuff, and we had a great response...great response everywhere we went. But sometimes we'd play in front of seven people, and sometimes we'd play in front of 3 or 4 thousand people. It's kind tough to deal with. There was a lot of stuff we had to do, a lot of drives, so the schedule was kind of crazy, you know.

I know that can be draining...
Yeah, it's not the most enjoyable thing. Trying to drive and get somewhere, do the gig, maybe even drive after the gig, and then try to get some sleep at the next place...you know what I mean?

Or sleeping in the car or van is always a drag...
The one good thing about the van was, we had captain's chairs which made it a little more comfortable to sleep; it wasn't like cats sleeping on bench seats. So that was a nicer thing. Still, it's difficult...

Let's talk a little bit about your beginnings. How did drumming come about in your early life?
I've had a very supportive environment, as far as playing. My folks didn't push hard, but they always wanted me to be involved with something. I started with karate lessons when I was about five. I did that until I was about seven. That gave me the discipline to put my mind to something, especially something I really enjoyed. I moved over to the drums and music when I was about 10.

Was it school related?
Yeah. Actually I guess, my folks were always playing records around the house and I was actually more of an entertainer, at that time, than going after anything specific like becoming a drummer. I would put on shows before I went to bed, dancing to James Brown records, singing and dancing along with Michael Jackson, that sort of thing. A big influence on my music was the fact that my sisters played instruments. My oldest sister played piano, my next sister still teaches orchestra. She plays violin, and gigs with symphonies, and sometimes weddings or at . church. My sister under her played flute in the high school band. Really, her high school was kind of funky. It was a new high school around 1975 (I was about 5) and my two older sisters transferred there the first year. My father started teaching there, physical education and driver's education. The school was set up to take in more black students.

This was in Austin?
Yeah. All my sisters went there. My youngest sister was in that high school band. A lot of the drum cadences were just real funky to me. By the time she was in that band I was in third grade, still another three years from any band program. But at that time, I knew all the cadences. I could tell when they were messing up! (laughs) I knew what was good. I have to say that that was a pretty big influence.

Listening to the marching band and the drum cadences?
Yeah. And the music that was happening at home. I remember going to see my sister who plays the violin--she went to North Texas and played in the orchestra there--I remember certain monumental pieces of music that sort of turned me around. It's like the first time I ever heard Funkadelic Need D when I was visiting my sister for a performance. I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, this is so happening! That probably came out in '77 or '78; I was about 8 years old when I heard that tune.

But you remember that experience to this day!
Yeah! Up until then I was a huge Jackson Five fan. So there was all sorts of music that really influenced me to take notice about music, you know? But I didn't start playing until I was in 6th grade. That was through school band.

And you started with the drums?
Yeah. In 5th grade they made us fill out a card with the three instruments we might want to play. Just in case there are too many people choosing the same one. (laughs)

So I picked drums. Tenor sax was my second choice, and oddly enough trombone for my last...not exactly the gigging-est instrument around! So I ended up in 6th grade on the drums, which was cool. Actually, I started experiencing what I can call "gigs" in the 6th grade. The band director would take me around to different elementary and jr. high schools and have me demonstrate rudiments and such.

You must have had well-developed skills at an early age then...
I guess! I felt like I always kind of knew, you know what I mean? Like I always knew that's what I was going to be doing.

It came easy to you?
Yeah! So I went through school bands. I got my first drum set from my brother-in-law--he married my sister that played violin, and he played drums. He was an influence from church. He played at church sometimes when I was a little boy, about 6 or so. I kept that drum kit for maybe 4 or 5 years.

What kind of drums were they? Do you remember?
No, man. Some copy of a copy of a copy of a drum kit. I think it was called a "MaxTone" or something. It was basically a Sears drum kit. Orange sparkle, no front bass drum head, no front head on the 12" tom...It was like a 20", a 12" and a 14". I don't even know where the cymbals came from. My brother-in-law had a cheap pair of hats...That was my first kit!

Did you get a lot of use out of it?
Yeah. I took them out of the house to do rehearsals for church, and various things. I played a lot in church when I was coming up.

Were your drums set up in the basement of your house?!
No, I played in the garage. It'd be cold out there, or really hot. If it was hot, I'd open the door. I had a lot of fun coming up, you know? Playing along with records...At that point I was playing a lot of funk and stuff, funk and pop or swing...

You played along with records using headphones?
Either that, or I'd play along from memory. Or a loud radio, a loud jam box. Just shedding, that's the point I'm trying to make, shedding a lot in that fashion. I finally got a basic "real" kit when I was in 10th grade. It was a Tama kit. I was proud of those drums, man! It was a Swingstar, you know, kind of a beginner set, but...	

But you loved them!
Yeah, man! It was my first real drum kit.

So all throughout this time you were continuing in the music program at school?
Yeah, oh yeah. I was in all the bands: concert, stage, marching, jazz...all of 'em. Definitely always in the jazz bands in jr. high and high school. I was always in the All-City jazz band. My senior year I made All-State jazz band. So the school program was something that I definitely appreciated.

Was there an instructor in particular who kept up your interest level, that you viewed as a mentor?
Definitely. Plenty of them. Pretty much every band director I had always helped me out. There was Mr. Garcia when I was in 6th grade, Mr. Moody when I was in 7th, and Mr. Shaw when I was in 8th. He (Shaw) still plays some gigs here around town. He's a sax player. I don't really see him often, he doesn't play out that much. He kinda got me hooked into playing jazz. He was kind of an assistant band director, but he....really kind of pushed me. He'd send me home with these Music Minus One records...Sam, Sal Nestico records...they were really helpful, especially at that developmental period. And my high school band director was just so cool. His name was Mr. Williams, and he played trombone. All his sons played. In fact, one of his sons is doing really well up in NY--he plays clarinet, he's a classical player...killin' player. Oh, yeah, another guy that was really supportive was Mr. Pearson. He really pushed me, too, in terms of the jazz stuff. He always wanted to feature me, or want me to play things that were a little bit more challenging. He was a good guy, too.

Do you remember any of the music you were playing in jazz band at that time?
Yeah.....I think we actually played the theme to 'Sesame Street' at one point! And we brought in the theme to 'Bob Newhart'. In jr. high I remember we played "Central Park West", that Coltrane tune. It seemed like in high school we played a Mingus tune, "Better Get Hid In Your Soul".

So you were introduced some pretty nice music at an early age, the Coltrane, the Mingus...
Yeah, we were playing some pretty hip stuff. Like I said, these band directors I had were....it seemed they were all more interested in playing these challenging pieces and getting the not so good scores at contests as a result. Although the high school jazz band did pretty well, playing the more difficult tunes. But the band director just didn't want to play any simple stuff.

He wanted to make you work!
Yeah! So that's kind of what I came up with...guys that were pushing in that direction. So there were quite a few people in school and outside of school who were helpful to me. Even my choir director at church, who I believe was one of the first cats I did gigs with.

Did you drum for the choir?
Well...we did gigs, like...we'd play these private parties, playing jazz tunes and funk tunes. So he was the first guy I did gigs with.

And you were in high school at that time?
Yeah. I was playing gigs by the time I was 14 or 15.

How much time were you devoting to practicing during that period?
Too much. I didn't get anything else done. The routine was like, go to school...come home... play for about three hours...relax and eat...come back on the drums for an hour or two...then it's time to do homework. You know? This was a daily thing.

So in case anyone thinks your career was handed to you...you worked hard!
Anything can prove you need to work at your thing. A God-given talent is beautiful but it'll only take you so far. I know plenty of guys who are just gifted, but they don't have the discipline, they don't put in the time to further themselves beyond what they can naturally do.

Maybe that's where your early instruction in karate helped out?
Maybe! That's what I believe. Part of it, anyway. That and my up-bringing...keeping me straight, keeping me out of certain things. More than anything, though, I really enjoy it. I think when I look back it was great, but maybe I could have been a little more well-rounded with other things

You mean like having more of a social life?
Yeah, well...I didn't really care to have too much of a social life. I didn't really have a lot of outside obligations. By the time I had started music I had stopped karate...I just couldn't do both. The main thing in my life was drums. That's what I wanted to do, that's what I wanted to spend my time on.

What were some of the other earlier projects you recall being involved with?
Like I said, I played a lot with my choir director, and that kind of got me around. He was using cats that gigged, so it wasn't like it was just a church scene...

So now you were getting some exposure with these working players...
Yeah, it was like guys that were gigging around town. So I started playing with them, and my name started getting out a little bit. Soon after that I was playing gigs with a guy named Mitch Watkins, who I went on to record with.

And this was a fusion gig?
Yeah. I was always more into challenging music in that sense. I liked playing straight ahead jazz, I liked playing funk, and I liked playing fusion more so than anything like folk or pop, or anything that in my knowledge at the time didn't challenge me. I kind of was into playing more, as opposed to playing less. (laughs) I think when I was coming up...you want to know how to play fast, you want to know how to do all these things. I still was into making music, but in my past I can see now that other things were not a first priority, like...I don't know, like being as intent on making the song speak.

Instead of putting everything you could into the music, you let the music open up more...
Yeah, yeah. I wouldn't go so far as to say that every song was like a history of drumming, or the Brannen Temple hour, but....

But there was a lot of activity?
Yeah, exactly. I think it's safe to say that I potentially over-played, in looking back at how I dealt with making music. Now, for about a year, every gig I did all I brought was a kick, snare, and hats, and maybe just one cymbal. I tried to approach every gig from that angle.

Do you see this approach as an extension of your maturity on the drums?
Yeah. And I've always had an understanding of what groove is. I listened to a lot of James Brown and that early sort of thing where groove is king. In that type of music, or say the music of Motown, which was basically the music I was playing when I was growing up...those aren't drum features. I mean, those are songs based around something that is grooving really hard, generally. So I had the understanding. I give lessons now and people ask who they should check out in jazz, and so on. Unlike myself, one of the first cats I was introduced to was Max Roach. That was one of the first records my father brought me, a Clifford Brown/Max Roach record. But soon after that I was introduced to Tony Williams. So what I tell cats now is, don't listen to Tony first. When you're coming up you need to understand certain things before you can get to that...(laughs) That's what I believe.

Learn your history?
Yeah. It's like Tony was playing so much of an extension beyond what was going on at the time. It's like, if you start there and then you think that's what you're supposed to be doing in jazz. I think maybe that was the place where I started. Of course I was still listening to a lot of Art Blakey and a lot of Max. But Tony was kind of the thing. I guess I had a large palate, and I think I did the listening and the learning justice. But what I try to impart on students is that they shouldn't start there (with Tony). You've gotta go back a little farther. But, there was Tony, and some of the more contemporary cats like Omar Hakim...he was a huge influence. Especially when he joined Sting's thing, and even before that with Weather Report. I was always hugely a fan of his.

Did you get into Jack DeJohnette?
I wasn't really hip to Jack until later. At that time, it was Tony, it was Omar, it was Elvin and Max. I had some Billy Cobham records, but I didn't really pattern myself after him. And I had various swing records, some Lionel Hampton stuff where maybe Frankie Dunlop was playing...I really liked his playing 'cause he was a little more sparse and melodic. Kind of under-rated, too. You don't really hear a lot about that guy. These are the guys I was listening to, and then after that I really got hip to Steve Jordan. (laughs) Wow! He kind of spoke to me in a huge way. These are like my earlier influences. Jack (DeJohnette) started coming a lot later. In fact, there was a friend of mine who I grew up with who played drums...he turned me on to Jack. And I wasn't really hearing him, you know what I mean? I just didn't grasp it at first. I was still really into Tony. It wasn't until later that I started hearing or being open to Jack. And now... man, he's such a big influence.

What other drummers are you listening to now?
Now...(pause) I don't know, really...

Are you listening more to jazz drummers?
Yeah...but now it's sort of weird. I'm listening to a lot of different things. You kind of learn from, become influenced by those that are around you, and those that you go to check out. There's a guy that's become a really good friend and mentor, someone that I'm influenced by musically...and personally...this guy named Lan Richards. I dig him a lot . He's a drummer out in LA. Funky!

So your influences now center more around people that you watch perform?
Yeah. Even now my influences are based around people I've had the opportunity to meet. Being in the business, now you get to know these guys. For instance, I met Herman Matthews and Lan Richards somewhere around the late 80's. And I listen to their work. They're from Houston. But I didn't meet them until they'd already moved to LA.

Herman Matthews did an interview with Cyberdrum!
Yeah, I checked that out. Even Omar, I got to know him a little bit. And Ndugu...I've met so many people that have extended themselves, or have been really influential.

And you've said that meeting some of these people who've influenced your drumming have influenced you personally?
Yeah, man. Cats like Lan for instance, have influenced me on the personal and on the drumming side. But then, there are people who you obviously don't get to spend a lot of time with. I met Will Kennedy--he's a big influence of mine, I really love his playing. I've heard so much about him personally, too...that really sparked my interest. In terms of him being such a warm guy.

Speaking of Will Kennedy, I know that he has been endorsing the Drum Frame that was created by Bob Gatzen. Are you familiar with that, and have you ever used it?
Yeah. No. You got one?!

No! We've been hoping to set up a demonstration so that we can check one out. I understand that Will Kennedy has been using one?
Yeah. What I know about it, and what I know about Will in particular...Robben (Ford) was an original member of the Yellowjackets. In fact, something else that I didn't know is that he put that band together. His record consisted of Jimmy, Russel, and Ricky Lawson. So he hired that band to do his record, and then they put a band together with a sax player...I guess it was Mark Russo... and got a deal. Anyway Robben just did some dates with the Yellowjackets, in Long Beach I think. And of course Will Kennedy is on the gig. I think that Robben said that was the first gig that Will actually used the Drum Frame on a gig. He's been practicing with it at home for the past year. He (Will) said it was great!

It certainly seems like it makes sense, this Drum Frame. It interests me because it's such a new concept, a new approach to drumming. I'd like to get hold of one...
Actually, I'm interested in getting hold of one myself. But I don't think that will be happening anytime soon! Anyway, it's guys like Will that I've grown to respect, both on and off the drums. If not through my own experience with them, through people who know and work with them. You know what I mean. It kind of feeds itself in a way...you hear something nice about some guy and of course you have your own system of beliefs and values...but it kind of validates certain things. Especially when you hear the negative. It takes all kinds. There've been guys in my past who've been not supportive or complimentary, even jealous. Not even indifferent, but just downright cold, or even kind of dirty in how they've dealt with me. You get that too, you know...

But where does it come from?
I'll tell you where. It's insecurity. And these players I'm speaking of are all working, very adequate players. Professionals. But it doesn't change the fact that that's my take on them, my impression of them. Maybe they were different with somebody else, but I've definitely felt that vibe from them. I don't like to dwell on that. I know some people are like that. It takes all kinds to keep the planet running.

Let's move away from that subject...Do you spend time practicing these days?
Yeah! I don't really get a chance to do drum set a whole lot. I have a snare drum here in the house that I practice brushes with... I just recently started doing that. Practice pad...

You do work with a pad? I think a lot of young drummers may not have found the value in that yet.
Yeah, well it ain't a drum. But you gotta do something, especially living here in an apartment. I really don't have a whole lot of extra time as far as practice. I have a lot of things that I choose to do with my time otherwise. My wife...and my band...And other things I deem important, that I need to take care of. Not to say that other things are less important. But I do indeed spend less time doing them. And honestly, practicing is one of those things.

It's a balancing act...
Yeah. That's what I was talking about earlier. I wish that I had had more of a balance, maybe even with schoolwork.

You mean, back when you were in high school?
Exactly. I practiced so much, man. That's where my head was all the time.

And that took away from other areas of your life? Other things you might have developed or enjoyed?
Yeah. Socially...possibly. But academically, more so than anything. Maybe I could have taken that a little more seriously. I just knew that drumming was what I wanted to do, so I guess that's where I focused my attention. You know what I mean? Like even now, I'm a newlywed and I have a job to do. My job is to be here, you know what I'm saying? There are priorities that one has to deal with for themselves. I guess that if I could impart that on anybody, that's something I would definitely speak highly of. Prioritizing and scheduling. Something I'm really having to learn the hard way is that that's what needs to be a reality. Making time for this, time for that...It's like your practicing and different things get better, when you give yourself a specific amount of time to focus on them.

Yeah, man. I'm still trying to get it together. It's still very developmental for me, this whole concept. It's something that I think is going to make a difference in my life. And then, writing tunes, and learning music for gigs...all those things.

Does it ever get tiresome? Have there been moments when the drumming has felt like just a job, like going in to the office on a day you don't really want to be there?
Generally, it's joyous. I've only done a few gigs in my history that I've felt were jobs. One I kept for too long, and the other I didn't. (laughs) You learn. But I don't want to consider this to be that sort of thing. In fact, I'm beginning to understand... My wife has been such an inspiration to me. She's helping me to see a lot of things about myself. So I'm beginning to understand this a little more...Playing music is beautiful, it's wonderful...it is in a sense what I was meant to do. God gave me that gift, gave me that talent...I need to use it, right? But, on the other side that is not the extent of who I am, or who I will be. It's only a part of me. And then I've also begun to realize, even though it's something that I love, technically it is still just a job. It's not a job in the sense that I think, oh man, I gotta go in to my job! It becomes, yes, this is how I make my living.

So you always approach it from that professional, work-related attitude...it just happens to be very enjoyable!
Right. And I'm beginning to learn how to do that, so I can learn how to turn it off. There are certain times when it becomes an uncontrollable urge, and I have to play. I suspect that's how it will be for the rest of my life. But I think it's important for me to learn how to turn it off, and to learn how to prioritize. There's a time for this and a time for that. You know what I'm saying?

It's all about balancing your real life with your professional life?
Exactly. It's tough...I'm not there yet. But it's something that I'm willing to explore. And that's half the battle right there. (laughs) I've had so many good experiences, really enjoyable experiences playing with cats. I've had the opportunity to play with some really phenomenal people.

You've earned that...you're a phenomenal player yourself. You've produced those opportunities.
Thanks, man. I'd like to continue that, too! Hey, man, I just got this other gig I don't think I've told you about. Yeah, man...Christian McBride. I'm doing a show with him in September. I'm thinking, why can't the first show be in El Paso, or something? But the first show is in Monterey...it's the Monterey Jazz Festival. That's the first gig I have with this guy!

What other musicians will be on that gig with Christian?
Um, Tim Warfield, a sax player who's been with him for a while--he's a really killin' player. And then Shedrick...ah, I can't remember his last name, but he's a young guy who's been playing piano with Kenny Garrett. This will be his first gig with Christian as well as mine. It's gonna be out, man! Playing in front of thousands...the thing about it is, with jazz and with jazz festivals, you've got so many cats there, especially a prestigious situation like this. This is a festival that's been active for over 40 years. So like everybody's played this joker, from Dizzy and Ella Fitzgerald all the way up to Nicholas Payton and the newer guys.

Yeah, there's some history there...
Yeah! Everybody, man! Critics hang out at this joint, all the jazz cats will be there, so it'll be like, OK, so who's this young whippersnapper playin' with Christian? What's up with this dude? I don't know him. He doesn't have any jazz credits. And that's such a weird thing. I've played a number of years, and I've played jazz for a number of years but this is really the first known jazz guy, I guess...

That you're going to be playing with, at such a large venue.
Yeah. Like with Chaka Kahn we played jazz. I guess she's known more for pop, soul, and funk than jazz, but she does do that. And the gig I did was not strictly jazz, it included only two or three jazz numbers within a set. So this will be the first time I'll be playing with an internationally known jazz artist.

You're pretty psyched about this, aren't you!?
Yeah, man! I'm trying to get myself together, man. Trying to get them brushes right! Christian's show is going to be half funk, so that'll be pretty nice. I kind of think that's more or less where my strength is...the swing, the funk. Although I love playing everything.

Christian also plays electric bass?
Yeah. The cats played on well over 150 releases, and counting. Just last week he did a record with Bobby Hutchinson. He was at the studio and called me up...hey, man...I can't talk long but can you do this date? (laughs)

How did he end up hooking up with you?
We first met in 1993 in Nice, I think. We kind of hooked up...I heard him play. I don't know if he heard me play or not. I think he did. He was playing with Pat Metheny, Billy Higgins, and Kenny Garrett, I think. Somewhere around last year he came through Austin and did some clinics and a performance. And I played drums on the clinic. We didn't actually play together. It was my drum set, and revolving cats...he just wanted to hear people play, and play with different people, that sort of thing. We hooked up then, and I sent him a CD later and we kept in contact. And he called at the beginning of this past May to see if I could do a gig with him at the end of June. And I already had this Robben thing happening.

So you said, but hey, don't forget about me!?
Actually he was the one who said, don't worry, I'll call you back at some other point. And he called, and here it is. Get it together.

Well that's great news. Congratulations on that.
Thanks, man. I'm excited about that. This Robben date this weekend I'm excited about. He's probably been the best boss I've ever worked for. Just a very sincere, easy-going individual.

I remember you telling me that when we hooked up at the show, that it's been a very relaxed atmosphere, a very relaxed playing experience with Robben...
I dug the music, I dug the hang...it was just killin'.

Will you talk a little about the products you presently endorse?
Yeah, I'm endorsed all the way across the board, really. Drums, I'm endorsed by Fibes. They've been very, very wonderful helping me get some things that I was interested in. The sound is killin', rock solid. I've played other companies before, and the treatment was a lot less than adequate.

That's an important factor...
Yeah. Fibes doesn't really have distribution in place like the larger companies that I've played before have had. Nonetheless, it's the support that I find a little more important.

That always matters...
Yeah. I have three drum kits from them in a number of different sizes. The kit I'm using most often these days is the one you saw, a 16x18 kick, 8x12 rack tom, and 14x14 floor tom. I've been using that 8x14 snare drum. It's got a midnight satin flame finish on the drums, and the snare has a white satin flame....So, the Fibes drums, the Sabian cymbals...I've been with Sabian since 1988.

Obviously there's a good relationship there...
It's a wonderful relationship. Man, you couldn't ask for a better relationship. With Robben recently I cracked a cymbal, and we were leaving Martha's Vineyard going up to Boston. I stopped through and they hooked me up, and then some! Just a very good relationship with those guys. Vader sticks, Vader percussion...same thing. Highly supportive and always on, the product's always happening. Aquarian drumheads...same thing! I've never received a dog in the bunch. And I've been with them since 1988, too. I've been with Vader since 1988! I've only been with Fibes about three years.

What about your cymbal sizes or classifications--can you elaborate on that?
I really love the HH cymbals. But I play a number of things. I really like this finished ride that they (Sabian) have. It's a 21 inch. It's real versatile...it's killin'! I like the Duo hats, but I'm actually using the Duo hat top and a regular hat bottom. That's working out really well.

What size hats are you using?
14"s. I'm interested in getting some 16" darks.

I've recently heard some discussion about 18" hats, which must be just enormous. I think it was Herman Matthews who was talking about that...
Yeah. I really like 16"s. I used some 15"s on a session once and I really liked them a lot. I'm really into trying the 16"s. I played some crash cymbals that I inverted into hi-hats at a session once, too! They had a nice feel to them. A real nice wash when you had them open. I don't know, man...I'm just sitting there experimenting with a lot of different things.

Would you say that you're still experimenting a lot, or are you rather settled into specific sounds?
I'm always changing what I'm looking for in cymbal sounds. Sabian seems to come through every single time. I don't know, man...The drum gear thing is straight. I've been happy for years. (laughs)

Who are your favorite players to work with?
Man, a lot of people. Robben, especially and all the guys that have been in his band, all the guys in my band...

What new projects are you involved with?
Aside from working with Christian, that's pretty much it right now.

More writing with 'Hot Buttered Rhythm'?
Right. I'm just working with the same folks I've been working with...with Steve Bruden...we're doing a cruise in January, and we'll be playing between now and then.

What do you mean by "cruise"?
This thing called Blues Cruise that Delbert McClinton puts on. We'll be cruising around the Caymen islands, and stuff like that. I don't know, it's like...I really don't know until it happens. I've never had the type of schedule that's booked for a year.

Do you prefer having that type of schedule?
Well...I mean, I don't know anything else. Generally my life schedule has been predictably unpredictable. It's kind of difficult sometimes. I've shied away from making committed plans, with doing certain things and have to miss things like family situations, and things like that. There's always a trade with my profession. Sometimes I wish that that could be a little different.

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