I had the good fortune to interview Terry Bozzio on the phone last Saturday, where he shared stories of his experiences of playing with some of the most accomplished musicians in the world.
Terry Bozzio celebrates his 50th year of playing drums this year, and he’s decided to hop into his SUV with his wife and drum tech and do a tour across North America.
He packed up his massive drum kit (which he calls a sculpture) into a trailer and hit the road on August 8 in Ramona, CA where he started the tour.
He will be playing the world’s largest tuned drum and percussion set at the West End Cultural Centre this Friday, October 10. As well as his ‘sculpture’, he will be bringing along some of his art, which he calls [Rhythm] and [Sketch] (www.terrybozzioart.com.) which was unveiled earlier this year. This involves the new medium of rhythm on canvas, a process of creating abstract artwork through the documentation of rhythmic performance and light movement.
Best known for his drumming with Frank Zappa in the 1970’s, Bozio has played drums behind some of jazz’s best musicians in his hometown of San Francisco, as well as performing with a San Francisco theatre group’s 1972 production of ‘Godspell’.
At 13-years-old, he was inspired to play drums after seeing the Beatles (along with 73 million other viewers) perform on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 (an event that is vividly etched in his memory).
Another date he vividly remembers is July 15, 1964, the day that he started taking drum lessons after practicing in front of the mirror, imitating Ringo Starr for a few months.
Growing up in San Francisco, he caught the live shows of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, as he was “swept up” in that whole scene of interesting, experimental music.
When he auditioned to play with Frank Zappa in 1975, Zappa liked what he heard and hired him on the spot. His first gigs with Mr. Zappa was the Bongo Fury tour in 1975, which also featured Captain Beefheart (who inspired Bozzio to start doing some sketches).
The last piece of music that Bozzio played with Zappa, called ‘The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution’ was from the Studio Tan album. It’s a mind-blowing live jam with Frank Zappa on guitar, Patrick O’Hearn on electric bass bass (with some dubbed in acoustic bass) and Terry Bozzio on drums. Apparently, this was a 45-minute jam that Zappa edited down to 13 minutes.
Bozzio played on some of Zappa’s most successful albums, on which he was allowed plenty of freedom; in fact, it was Bozzio’s idea to play the devil in ‘Tittie’s and Beer’, which Zappa agreed to after Bozzio showed up wearing a devil mask for a live show.
Frank Zappa wrote a very complex piece of music (specifically for Terry Bozzio) called ‘The Black Page, which has been described as a musician’s nightmare with so many notes on a page that it makes the page look black, (hence the name). Bozzio had no problem playing this.
During that three year tenure, he was on ten albums and did three world tours.
After a few years with Zappa, Bozzio played with the Brecker Brothers, and in 1978 hooked up with UK.
In the early 1980’s, Terry Bozzio, his wife Dale, and former Zappa sidemen, Warren Cuccurullo on guitar and Patrick O’Hearn on bass, formed ‘Missing Persons’, releasing a few albums until their breakup in 1986. After this, the very versatile sticks man did session work with musicians as diverse as Andy Taylor, Robbie Robertson, Herbie Hancock, Gary Wright, Don Dokken, XYZ, Paul Hyde and Richard Marx.
Shortly after being called up to work on a video with Jeff Beck and Mick Jagger, he was asked by Beck to co-write, produce and perform on the Guitar Shop (1989) album with Tony Hymas and Jeff Beck. It’s an amazing album with which the band did four tours.
The first tour in 1989 with Stevie Ray Vaughan, had each band alternating as the headliner. So, when Jeff Beck headlined, Stevie Ray Vaughan would come on and jam with Beck’s band; and when Stevie Ray headlined, Jeff Beck would jam with Stevie Ray’s band.
The second tour was in 1995 with Santana. In 2000, they toured with B.B. King, and then in 2005, they did a Guitar Shop tour in Europe.
The 1990’s saw Bozzio releasing solo drum albums, forming two bands, ‘The Lonely Bears’ and ‘Polytown’ (with David Torn and Mick Karn). From 1995 to 2002, he toured and recorded with Tony Levin and Steve Stevens as ‘Bozzio Levin Stevens’.
Terry Bozzio has kept very busy over the years doing drum clinics, making instructional drum videos, and playing with some of the best musicians around.
In 2012, Terry reformed UK with John Wetton and Eddie Jobson as they did a tour of the world.
He has won many awards over the years for his drumming, including being named #5 in the top 100 drummers of all time in Rolling Stone Magazine in 2013. As he told me, he wants to keep on doing it as long as he is able. After this tour, he’s off to Japan for another tour.
When I was living in Vancouver in the 1990’s, a few of my drummer friends saw one of Bozzio’s drum clinics, and they were blown away. So, I can image that this show will be even more amazing.
Be forewarned, it’s not a drum clinic, it’s “making music on the drums.” Terry Bozzio will be performing songs from his 50 year career.
All photos courtesy of Terry Bozzio
You can listen to my phone interview with Terry Bozzio here: