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Dave Weckl joined the Special Edition of the fusion band Metro for their Summer of 2008 tour. At the concert the band gave in Peñíscola (Spain), bandleader and guitarist Chuck Loeb introduced him as “the best drummer in the world.” Just before the sound check the former Chick Corea Elektric Band drummer talked to Isabel Pastor (Castelló Cultural) and Arturo Mora (Tomajazz.com.)

Isabel Pastor, Dave Weckl and Arturo Mora

ARTURO MORA: Tonight’s is the second of two concerts in Spain with Metro. You just played yesterday in San Javier. How did it go?

DAVE WECKL: The concert was great, but I lost my suitcase coming to Spain. Really crazy, I had to get buy clothes... but the concert was great, people was great.

ARTURO MORA: What can you tell us about your joining Metro?

DAVE WECKL: [It's being] a lot of fun, I’ve been doing a lot more sideman work lately playing with different people. I first played with Mitch [Forman] back in 1980-81 in New York, and later on I played with Chuck [Loeb], I actually played on his first record, called The Shining Hour, I think, that was in ’84. But this is the first time that I get to play together with Mitch and Chuck... the group is great, the compositions are fantastic, so wonderful.

ISABEL PASTOR: You’re paying homage to Michael Brecker. What would you like people to remember about him as a musician?

DAVE WECKL: First of all he was a really really sweet man, a very very nice person, a gentle giant as far as his ability to obviously play the saxophone, try the EWI and all that kind of instruments. Just an incredible musician. I was first influenced by him when I was growing up in St. Louis playing to Billy Cobham records, I was sixteen or so. I got the opportunity to play with him a lot, both in his own projects, in the Brecker Brothers, and I had him on my own records as well. He’s very very much missed, both as a musician and as a person. He’s unfortunately one of many that have recently passed, it’s life, but it’s not fair sometimes.

ISABEL PASTOR: And how are you going to make a tribute with music?

DAVE WECKL: Well, the best way to give a tribute to anybody is just play with the feeling that we all know someone likes to play with, playing together that way with the spirit. There’s not really way to write special music for somebody like Michael Brecker or anybody else who was such a genius.

ARTURO MORA: You’ve been a key reference in modern drumming for at least the last two decades. Have you felt some kind of pressure being at the top?

DAVE WECKL: There used to be a pressure when I was younger, you know. I don’t really care anymore [laughs], because I learned a lot of time ago that you can’t please everybody. There used to be a whole thing about this guy being better or this better, people liked to say, you know. The bottom line is: as musicians we’re all trying to create good music, to have fun playing, to communicate within ourselves as a group, to communicate to the audience, to give something positive. That’s why I do what I do. So for people that have negative things to say about, it’s crazy, it’s so unnecessary, because everybody has something to say. These people that find what’s wrong instead of listening to what somebody’s actually doing, that’s human nature: “oh, that’s wrong, oh, that’s right”.

I didn’t put myself at any level or placement as far as whatever you think that might be, or whatever magazines say. I didn’t put myself there, I’m not trying to keep myself there, I’m just playing music like I always did. But for me actually at this point in my career I don’t think about it anymore. When I was younger there was definitely some pain going through. Now it’s like: “whatever”. I’m just here to play, and stay healthy. As you get older that becomes the most important thing: to keep the body healthy and to be able to make the music that you took for granted making. I’m just happy to be able to keep on playing, and everytime I get on the stage I think it is my last time, and that’s it.

ARTURO MORA: It seems that there was a special point in your career when you studied with Freddie Gruber. How did he influence you?

DAVE WECKL: Yes, that was in the mid-nineties. I’ve had a lot of teachers, but he was really the one that actually showed me the physics of drumming. He taught me how to understand the way things work naturally applied to drumming techniques and drumming approaches. It helped me to understand my own playing better, and other players that I had admired, like Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd. It enabled me to really see things that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a more natural approach to playing, more in tune with the body, the way the body moves, to not have to move the body in unnatural ways to keep things, and that’s actually because of him and his approach concepts. It really has allowed me to do what I do at my age now as easy as I can do it, because it used to be harder, so it’s easier now than it used to be.

ISABEL PASTOR: I heard that it was Michael Brecker who suggested Chick Corea to hire you for his Elektric Band.

DAVE WECKL: That’s correct. Michael Brecker was among the ones that mentioned my name to Chick in the very beginning of Chick’s search of musicians for the Elektric Band, which was 1984-85.

ISABEL PASTOR: How was that experience?

DAVE WECKL: With Chick it was great. I grew up listening to his music, playing to his records, mostly because Steve Gadd was playing drums with Chick. When I had the opportunity to play with him it was phenomenal, we had a lot of fun, it was a successful band, it was a thing.

ARTURO MORA: There was a recent reunion of the Chick Corea Elektric Band. How was it to join the guys back?

DAVE WECKL: There’s been a reunion almost every year since 2002. Generally speaking every time we get back together we get a lot of fun, whatever musicians there are. The bass chair usually revolves, John Patitucci is pretty busy with Wayne Shorter, so he hasn’t been able to make all of the reunion stuff, but we found some good bass players, like most recently Victor Wooten, that has been a pleasure to play with.

It’s kind of like sitting in an old rockin’ chair, you know, playing the old stuff, but everybody has grown fifteen years, there’s a whole other level of maturity, and the musical and personal experiences that we’ve all had are huge, so it’s a lot of fun.

ARTURO MORA: As a drummer, what do you look for in a bassist and who are the bassists you’ve felt more comfortable with?

DAVE WECKL: Depends on the gig, depends on the music. Sometimes a more functional bass player is necessary, that has a really big sound, that plays the notes, that doesn’t play too much; but sometimes I need a bass player that plays more the ghost notes, that plays more of the vibe that’s going on with the music, that responses more, that doesn’t just play the parts, so it really comes out of the musical situation. But regardless of what it is I like the bass player that understands the function of the bass, that understands the bottom of the band has to be carried from that instrument. But it’s a big question, it’s not so simple.

And I’ve played with a lot of great bass players, and they’re all different, they all have great things that the others don’t have. I’m very fortunate.

ISABEL PASTOR: You’ve just been talking about your career, but I’d like to talk about future drummers. What would be the most important thing you would say a future drummer?

DAVE WECKL: Everybody has a different idea about what that is. My personal take on this, what I try to teach and what I try to tell young players that I see coming up is to tend to keep the music important in their drumming, so it doesn’t just become a display of drums. A lot of drummers today come off playing licks, not playing with the band, having the fastest feed, or controlling the sticks the most, you know, stuff which is part of the entertainment of, you know, of being and entertainer. I’m more of a purist when it comes to playing the drums or playing jazz. I like jazz so much, because I don’t approach it like a purist, I’m more open-minded in a sense to create within that label of jazz, to be free to create, and bring other influences of different styles or other cultures into the music.

A lot of young players today are more focused on how much stuff they can play instead of playing with other musicians. There’s not a lot of bands out there like Metro, or... I did a lot of touring with Mike Stern, I’ve toured with my own group for years, there’s not a lot of this out there anymore doing this kind of music, and we have to, in my opinion, keep this at a level, ‘cause people still like to come see live music, and I think it’s an important part of the being of humanity, in a sense that people need that kind of thing, we’re so blastered with all that stuff, Internet and TV, and people forget about the real essence of communication throughout and what music can do as a positive inspiration. I mean, I got so much of my positive inspiration as a kid from listening to music, and it created a better environment for me to exist in. I think a lot of kids are missing that, they don’t really get it.

The young drummers that are playing well, to specifically answer your question, must reinforce the idea of making music, try to play with the musicians and support the music whatever it is. It’s still a musical statement instead of a drumming statement.

Dave Weckl and Arturo Mora

ARTURO MORA: Are there any upcoming plans for the Dave Weckl Band?

DAVE WECKL: At the moment no. I’m kind of going through a phase right now where after the last inception of the band it was time to stop that, I kind of needed to stop. The responsibility of being a leader is kind of hard, it’s a lot of work. It’s hard to do on your own without management. I don’t have management, I have great booking agents, but as far as managing and like doing all of the work it’s all on me, so a lot of work.

And then it’s that thing of being a musician to have change and variation and variety, and I like being a sideman as well, I like being able to play with different musicians, so I can’t say what’s gonna happen in the future, but right now I don’t have that pressure from a record company to do that work or anything like that. I’m sort of in the middle of everything, you know, kind of a transition period. I don’t know about the next step, but right now I’m happy playing with different groups.

Text © 2008 Isabel Pastor, Arturo Mora Rioja
Photographs © 2008 Irene Gómez
Special thanks to Castelló Cultural