The new station is a limited capsule radio series, Give the Drummer Some. Named after a reference to James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” created by host J-Zone as he will invite some of the world’s best drummers to take their seats on the throne, tell their stories and talk about what makes them tick. J-Zone and a drumming luminary engage in an open-ended chat about their career, style and favorite techniques, using the kits to provide examples and context.
On the debut episode of the series, Questlove of The Roots and the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. This week Bernard Purdie this week (Aretha Franklin, James Brown), foremost American jazz and funk drummer Mike Clark (Herbie Handcock) and more.
In the interview with Questlove they talked the early days recording with The Roots, his childhood growing up backstage in Philadelphia with a musical family and much more.
Check out our exclusive interview below.
Give the Drummer Some, why that title for the radio series?
It came from all those James Brown records and concerts, when Clyde Stubblefield was about to take a solo. It’s a pretty popular term in hip-hop circles also.
So you decided to start a series that sheds light on some of the top drummers, have you always wanted to do this?
I’ve always been a liner notes junkie and the musicians who played on a lot of great records are unknown to the general public. But their work is ingrained in our ears from years of the records being played and sampled. Even before liner notes, a lot of session players went uncredited. When I eventually started playing drums and producing records myself, I started to dissect a lot of the playing and was fascinated with a lot of the things being done rhythmically on the records, and who these musicians were. Around 2015 I started this series as a written interview column and just started reaching out to a lot of legendary players that inspired me for interviews. It was three-fold in terms of benefits: It fulfilled my inner music nerd, answered all those questions I always had and allowed me to get insight from some of my favorite drummers.
As a kid, when did you know you wanted to be a drummer?
I was a bass player as a kid. Then I became a hip-hop producer. I didn’t start playing drums until I was 35! I may be the latest bloomer on Earth. I got really frustrated with the music business and lost the passion for everything I was doing. I left music for a few years and realized I needed to find some new type of passion or just be bitter forever. I was planning to go back to playing bass, but I saw some videos of James Brown’s drummers in concert on YouTube and it changed my life. My dad actually encouraged me to go for it, because he saw I was so jaded and disconnected from making music, which was always my passion. So I bought a pair of sticks and some rudiment books and just started working on it, as a hobby. About 6 months later I realized it was all I wanted to do – but I was a grown man! So I had to capture the spirit and habits of an 8-year-old as a man with bills – somehow make a living and still practice 5 hours a day. Those years weren’t pretty at ALL (laughs). So I odd jobbed in the evenings and just practiced from 11AM-4PM for years, eventually started releasing breakbeat records for people to sample and soon after made auditions for some bands and started my own band. It all happened in my late 30s and I was flying by the set of my pants, which is bizarre. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone scared of instability! But I had a passion and felt I had to chase it before time ran out.
How is it getting an opportunity to have the legendary Questlove on your show?
Spectacular. We had known each other through hip-hop circles back in the day, but it was amazing to sit down with him in the drumming realm. He’s a true craftsman and chameleon of styles – a cultural icon.
What was your favorite topic to discuss with Quest?
Having to adapt so much throughout his career. Learning to play like a drum machine in 1996, then unlearning it all a year later to play the J-Dilla “drunken” style with a really exaggerated swing. Most musicians – unless you’re extremely lucky – spend a huge part of their career reinventing or being forced to learn and unlearn based on whatever music they’re playing at the time.
Bernard Purdie is your next guest for the show he worked with both James Brown & Aretha Franklin. How cool will it be to have an opportunity to speak with him?
We already did the interview a few years back, but it airs February 12th. Purdie is the consummate professional and The Godfather of funk drumming. He’s one of the main reasons I chose to play drums. A groove machine!
Do you think you will get a chance to chop it up with drummer, Sheila E?
I’d love to! She’s a true master.