Terry Bozzio played 11 songs on the world’s largest tuned drum and percussion set, and shared a few stories with the audience, on the 50th anniversary of his first drum lesson, on July 15th, 1964.
He was always banging on pots and pans, and everything else since ten years old, but it was after seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show that he knew that he wanted to be a drummer.
Little did he know at that time that he would play with some of the best musicians in the world, including Frank Zappa, when Bozzio was only 25-years-old. Prior to this, he had played with some of the finest jazz musicians in his hometown of San Francisco.
I went to the sound check, and arrived about an hour after Terry Bozzio and Ben, his drum tech, started constructing the ‘sculpture’ (as Bozzio calls it). It was fascinating to watch, as he hung up various bells, gongs and even a wind chime to the sculpture.
An hour later, they were ready to do the sound check. This took about an hour as Ben guided Andrew, the sound tech, through the various pieces of this amazing kit. The drum set was miked and fed through 27 inputs on the mixing console.
The crowd came in and you could feel the anticipation as people filed in front of the stage for a closer look at the monstrous drum kit. I think every drummer in town showed up.
At 8 pm, Terry Bozzio came on stage and entered the kit. He started off with a bunch of mini shakers, as he brushed them across the cymbals. There was a slight glitch, as one of the mini shakers broke off, hitting a tom.
Then, the magic started with the first tune, ‘Africa’. A powerful, rolling number, which was an indication of what we were in for this evening. Very impressive stuff as he fluidly rolled through tunes with ease.
‘Flute Loops’ was the next tune, followed by a composition called ‘Debussy’, who Bozzio explained is one of his favourite musicians.
Next up, the master drummer walked over to the left of the stage and sat on the Cajon (hereinafter referred to as ‘the box’) to do some “manual labour” as he tied bells and noise makers, that he bought at a 99-cent store in Japan, to his boots because they “won’t do it themselves.” The box, as he explained after the tune, is the most popular selling percussion instrument in the world.
Bozzio also talked about the history of the box, and how African slaves, who were brought to the Caribbean, would drum on shipping crates, as they were not allowed to have drums.
Before he played ‘the box’, he played the ‘Devil Sticks’, two 3-foot long bamboo sticks split lengthwise, which he played like drum sticks on his knees. Then, he drummed on the box with his hands, as he accompanied himself by stomping his ‘shaker boots’. It was quite the spectacular scene to witness.
Before he finished off the first set that ran 56 minutes, he spoke to the audience about the four panels of his art work on the stage. He said he was influenced by Captain Beefheart when he joined Zappa’s band in 1975 for the ‘Bongo Fury’ tour.
The last piece of the first set was entitled ‘Slow Latin’, which certainly had audience members awestruck.
After the intermission, Bozzio came on and tuned the drums for a few minutes, after which someone in the audience marvelled, “How do you do that?” Bozzio explained that,”… harp players, they spend 99 percent of their time tuning, and one percent of the time playing out of tune.”
The first song of the second set was called, ‘Pat’s Changes’, which was a tip of the hat to his friend, Patrick O’Hearn.
The third tune was an improvisational piece on the Korg Wave Drum, out of which he pulled some interesting sounds.
Three songs (yes, they were songs, not drum solos, but outright, full blown musical journeys) into the second set, Terry Bozzio shared another Zappa story that included his good friend, bassist Patrick O’Hearn, who Bozzio had played with in some of those jazz bands in the early 70’s, and who he has continued to play with over the years.
After one of Patrick O’Hearn’s jazz gigs in the late 70’s, Bozzio brought O’Hearn over to the studio in which Zappa was working. O’Hearn had this 17th century upright bass, which he brought into the studio with him, and Zappa told him to “whip it out,” after which, Zappa got O’Hearn to play until about 8 in the morning.
Part of the amazing jam between these three accomplished musicians showed up on the Sleep Dirt album as ‘The Ocean is The Ultimate Solution’. This was one of the last pieces that Terry Bozzio worked on with Frank Zappa before Bozzio branched out on his own. O’Hearn joined Zappa’s band shortly thereafter.
The second set was about 47 minutes, plus a 7 minute encore. I noticed that Bozzio only performed 10 pieces in most cities; we were fortunate to get an extra one as he came back on stage to a standing ovation.
Bozzio had been to Winnipeg a few times and mentioned that, “I love this place,” saying that he had one bad experience one time, when someone broke into his car and stole a bag of dirty clothes and his Doc Martens, which “hurt my soul because they were my ‘worked in’ playing boots.”
The co-ordination and skill that was exhibited that evening baffles me. Each limb is used independently, and as Terry explained, each hand will be playing two different time signatures at the same time. Wild stuff.
My drummer friend Neil, who brought his son Conan (14-years-old and playing drums since age 7) were sitting beside me in the front row. Neil said he was spellbound and amazed at the things Terry pulled off that night.
I’m sure a lot of the drummers (and everyone else in the audience) felt the same way. Mr. Bozzio truly is the s**t, as someone in the crowd yelled out, to which the very humble man replied, “No I’m not.” YES, you are Terry.
Photos by Doug Kretchmer
Photo of Terry playing drums courtesy of Terry Bozzio
Check out the preview story on Terry Bozzio and phone interview in October 8 CNC story by same writer.
For more info on Terry Bozzio go to terrybozzio.com
Check out his art at terrybozzioart.com