STICKS MAG interview, 2000

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Below is a translation of an interview with Roy from German magazine - Sticks - from 2000. For a PDF of the original article (in German), please follow this link: -


Although we did not know who would play the current tour with Patricia Kaas. We (the editorial staff) all agreed on one thing: it must be a good drummer. After all, the studio recordings, but especially the 3 live CDs gave proof of above average, tasteful, drumming qualities. Just as excellent are the drum programming of older albums as regards their artistic creative grooves. Could it be possible that Patricia herself shows extraordinary qualities in choosing first-class drummers? We wanted to find an answer to these questions at any rate and so we called the management, to get an appointment for an interview with the "unknown" drummer at short notice. They, however, were obviously surprised:" What? An interview with the drummer? He is not the star, he 's a musician!...

"Oh, yes!" Roy laughs, "that was our tour manager, and he is used to booking interviews with Patricia. That was also the reason why all of the band were really amused about the photo session, as normally all the photographers make a fuss about her - but suddenly all their attention was directed at me.

Rep.: But now back to you and your work. Roy Martin is not necessarily a name, which everybody knows. Why is that?. Where do you come from?

Roy: I'm from Liverpool and I live between Liverpool and Manchester. I have always been a freelance musician and I used to work in different situations, did studio work with English artists - but for the last few years I have mostly been working with Patricia, as the job is very extensive. The first tour with her lasted for about 12 months. After that there was a short break, which I used for doing a few gigs in England and then work with Patricia continued.

Rep.: Have you always been a drummer on a freelance basis?

Roy: Yes, I lived in New York for 5 years freelancing and even made a single with Aretha Franklin, which in the framework of my career surely counts among the most important and greatest events.

Rep.: In what field do you mostly feel at home? Can one say that you are a groove drummer?

Roy: Definitely, I'm a true groove-pop drummer and not so much the jazzy type.

Rep.: How did your career as a drummer start?

Roy: That was really a rather strange story. To tell you the truth, at that time I really was far too shy to perform in front of an audience. I was 14 years old and played the drums just by myself in the house of my parents. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and there were some boys, who must have heard my drumming. They introduced themselves as a band and they were looking for a drummer for a gig on the following Saturday, because their drummer had had an accident. I first said "no" to them, but my parents persuaded me and thus my first public appearance came to pass. After that I started drumming for various local bands. It was nothing spectacular and you did not get to far-away places.

One of the bands had a management deal in New York and so it happened that I recorded some demos with this band in New York for 2 weeks. I loved New York, a city in which many drummers lived, who I had always admired. That was the reason why I decided to go there for a longer period of time. But it was a difficult time. How could I make ends meet ? I used to hang around, hardly had any money, lived on cornflakes and tried to establish some contacts to form a basis as a musician. Fortunately I soon got the chance to play and I got to know a number of musicians, who worked on a higher level in the business. Moreover, I started studying at the Drummers Collective, which was incredibly important for me. I did not only get to know other good musicians but I also became more professional and for the first time started to make a living.

From then on I had more contacts and I played various tours with some successful American bands in America. This gave me some sort of credibility when I got back to England. In fact, in the music business it is very important to have a good reputation. Everybody is always interested in the people you have already worked with. And the first thing people ask you is: What are you doing at the moment? And if you answer "nothing" them you have already lost (the game). However, when you tell them that you spent some time in New York and when you are able to drop a few famous names then you will attract a bit of attention - as if you are a good drummer. Of course, this is utter bullshit, as the quantity of your work does not say anything about its quality.

The business is hard and there were also times when I had nothing to do for about 6 months and I waited in front of the telephone for a call. Success is not easy to achieve and I thank God for my really fortunate position at the moment.

Rep.: Did you admire some drummers in your younger days? Did they serve as role models?

Roy: Andy Newmark is my real hero and for that reason also my role model. He had a great influence on my playing. It all started when I listened to his recordings with David Bowie, Ronnie Wood, Randy Newman and Roxy Music in the late 70s. Then I started digging out all these old records, which he featured on and I was totally enthusiastic about them. I love his fantastic groove and his special gift to decorate a song with very subtle and inconspicuous things - without getting in the way at all. For me he still is the ultimate pop-drummer. By means of some contacts I later got to know him in New York . He helped me a lot at the time and supported me, as I did not know anything about sessions then. Now he is living in London and we have become good friends - and I am proud of being offered some of his jobs when he has not got the time to do them himself. But I have also always admired Jeff Porcaro, Steve Ferrone and Steve Gadd.

Rep.: You have just characterized yourself as a groove drummer. Do you only take your jobs accordingly?

Roy: It all depends on the producer that books me. And as a rule they know beforehand (prior to calling me) where my strong points lie. Of course, there are also some very spontaneous auditions and I have to find out in a very short time what it is all about. And this is definitely one of my strong points, i think. I am able to realize that quickly and to act accordingly - to offer the artist the necessary style and feeling for him or her to feel secure. And this has to happen quickly and as musically as possible.

Rep.: Which is definitely not easy, to fathom the stress of the situation correctly.

Roy: Very true. You have to be very sensitive and musical. I don't play any other instrument apart from the drums and I am not a technician like Vinnie Calaiuta or Dave Weckl. I listen to a lot of pop music and I also love Jazz but nevertheless I'M a pop drummer. But listening to music widens your natural understanding of music. In this way I have often and automatically taught myself, and therefore music is something very natural and I don't need a lot of concentration to play the right grooves at the right moments. I listen to a composition and I think, with my experience i instinctively know what to do. By means of my working with many different world-class artists I have managed to improve this ability and to play the right thing at the right time. And if I'm invited to a session, people generally know me and how i like to play.

Rep.: In the meantime you have been working with quite a number of well-known pop-acts. Can you make some statements? What about Modern English, for example?

Roy: I played my very first headlining-tour with them. They were very successful in America and sometimes things happened in Beatlemania-style, because there were also these mad stage invasions - it was absolute rock'n'roll.

Rep.: And "Black" ?

Roy: Looking back I see my work with him as a very important one, which as far as my performance is concerned ranks among my best. I have to be grateful to the great work of the producer Robin Millar. It was him that indirectly supplied me with the job with Patricia when he produced her very successful album of that period.

Rep.: The Christians?

Roy: Well, that was mainly a session, which I played with Henry Priestman, the songwriter of the band and a sound engineer. We recorded some drum overdubs for an already finished film music production. It was easy and very relaxing.

Rep.: Jack Bruce?

Roy: Jack Bruce is as we all know, a rather eccentric guy - i did an album session with him that tended to drift towards chaos. Playing with him was a rather unique experience and strange at the same time. It felt like I was playing with a guitarist not a bass player.

Rep.: Paul Young?

Roy: This Paul Young is the singer of Mike & the Mechanics and I played some gigs with him. Paul is a super musician and a wonderful character.

Rep.: Diesel?

Roy: Very, very loud. We had a terrific band, toured through Europe, did some festival.gigs and supported Prince, Tina Turner and Rod Stewart.

Rep.: What is the secret about playing with Patricia Kaas?

Roy: She is fond of sensitivity, open sounds and she likes power whenever necessary. But she also forces silence when the situation requires it. She is the first person in the band who notices when something is slightly wrong and she gives me a wink.

I find it rather easy to work with her. She does not give herself airs, she is no diva and musically she allows the band absolute freedom. At the beginning of the work she gives very clear guidelines, after all she is the boss. But that was it. She does not appear after every show to comment on this or that - super, fantastic, terrible - we don't talk a lot about music at all. It's sensitivity and dynamics that she is looking for in music.

Rep.: Especially sensitive playing is not necessarily easy for the drummer, in particular concerning breathing, economic (sparse) grooves.

Roy: Absolutely. The show-off drumming is comparatively easy, but in very "economic" arrangements every single beat and its position is very important. I'm a musician who supports. With Patricia it is especially important to create the right and suitable sound to enable her to produce a good show. Nothing else matters.

We're a 9-piece band, and if a set like this with all its dynamic elements is to be perfect you really need intensive rehearsals, which, in fact, we had at the beginning of the tour. All the details were worked out, however there are also some loosely knit general outlines, so that not every note is the same every night. Patricia wanted some songs to follow the albums quite closely; other material is open to free interpretation. She had some of her very old songs arranged completely anew, as for example "Regarde les riches", by her MD, who has also created the drum parts. However, it happens quite regularly that the parts are evolving as we go through the tour. In this way certain agreements and obligations develop within the musical arrangement, which don't leave much room for spontaneous playing. But basically the motto is "less is more"!

Rep.: How do you deal with the programmed studio tracks and how do you adapt them to the live situation.

Roy: I never had to reproduce a 1:1 copy of the programme or the models of my predecessors like Christophe or Abraham.

Rep.: What is your opinion about "drumsound"

Roy: I believe that I have got my own sound as a mixture of tuning, combination of drums (skins) and quality of strike. But there are moments in which you can lose control of your sound, namely when sound engineers create the sounds (tone colours) in accordance with their own ideas and you cannot influence them any more. But this is not the case with Patricia as the technician has been with her for many years and he is one of those engineers who every once in a while come on stage themselves to listen to the acoustic, natural sounds of the drum set. Moreover we occasionally swap positions during a sound check and the drum tech plays, while I'm sitting at the FOH to listen. Of course, it's not exactly the same sound because everyone's 'strike' is totally different. That is the reason why I will probably never find out exactly whether the sound outside is really my sound. But sound is very important to me, basically - as I believe that sound is responsible for your personal identification.

Rep.: How have you tuned your set ?

Roy: I work with open tuning, nothing is muted. Only on the snare drum there is a very small muting ring. On the current tour I have changed the skin of the bass drum and I use a Remo "Powerstroke 3", before that it was a "coated ambassador" for a long time. But the "powerstroke" offers a lot more low-end. As I'm playing with headsets a good sound in the monitors is extremely important, naturally.

Rep.: Next to the Pearl Drums of the "Masters Custom Extra" series, you play a DW/Craviotto snare drum. Your favourite?

Roy: I got that one a year ago. I'm a person who likes to try the different types of snare drum. So I change this drum from time to time and now i have found a very personal sound with the DW/Craviotto snare drum. Insofar this drum belongs at least for this tour to the definite set-up. It creates a special, not necessarily "normal" snare drum sound, as the wooden body is really thick. Nevertheless the sound is not too high-pitched. The skin is really very tight, although it sounds rather deep. Our sound engineer loves the compact sound of this snare and I like its short bite.

Rep.: Isn't there also a little story about your cymbals-set-up?

Roy: Yeah. only yesterday I changed companies and i have a contract with Istanbul. We will indeed play in Istanbul shortly and the people will offer me quite a choice for the sound-check, so that I can put my set together. Istanbul has got a branch in Belgium and Patricia's drummer is interesting for that company, of course.

Rep.: Do you work with trigger-systems?

Roy: No, nothing of the kind. It's a purely acoustic drum set.

Rep.: I'M asking that question because you use a small side-mixer.

Roy: This is for directing my monitor sound and the click. I play 90% of the show with click.

Rep.: Who starts the sequencer and the click?

Roy: The keyboard player does that, our MD of the live band.

Rep.: What click sound do you work with? Is it a Cowbell, a cross-stick or shaker?

Roy: Some songs are worked with Cowbell. With other songs I prefer Cross-Stick. Many of the studio songs are recorded with sequencers after all and when they are transposed to a live show you simply need a click. Moreover it frees you from the responsibility as far as the tempo control is concerned. I don't have to rack my brains about that and I know that I'm always right tempo wise.

Rep.: Instead of using the many loops or the sequencer percussion tracks one could have hired a percussionist...

Roy: On the one hand it is a question of the budget - and this production is very costly. An additional musician would have been an expensive luxury - after all, we are 9 on stage. On the other hand Patricia wanted to present the subtle effects of her new CD live - also regarding the drum sounds. And in such a big band this is not very easy. That is the reason why the sequencer has been engaged. But don't forget my act as percussionist at the edge of the stage together with Patricia, where I play Shaker and Darbuka !!

Rep.: Why on earth did everybody laugh about your drumsticks throughout the soundcheck?

Roy: Oh yes, I had some problems with the grip and with letting them slip, so that my drum technician had to tape the sticks. And he only had tape in pink and yellow. And these are of course, the most terrible colours, which are luminous under the stagelights. It looks like black theatre and naturally does not fit this serious Patricia Kaas show at all! - With its wonderful Moroccon stage set. And they all laughed because you took some photos of me and they all felt that these ridiculously illuminated sticks would really show in the picture!!

Rep.: Do you have any plans for the future and the time after the P.K. tour?

Roy: Not really, I'm not the type who plans well in advance. In the past I used to do that and it almost drove me crazy because there was no planning to be done and I thought: "My God, what is going to happen?" By now I feel pretty sure that something will develop eventually. But I really had to learn this attitude and now I prefer living for today. I enjoy my time now.

Look, three years ago I would never have thought of playing a tour with Patricia Kaas, but it happened and it will happen again. I am happy and I do enjoy my work.

Today the 39-year-old Englishman counts among the most sought-after members in the international music business, a drummer who has established himself in the world of the great (drummers) with concentrated grooves and self-confident empathy. It is hard to believe that the youth of the past was indeed too shy to get a taste of Liverpool's nightlife as a drummer. However, fate meant well and so, as a teenager, he played with some local bands of his hometown. In 1984 Roy moved to New York and studied at the 'Drummers Collective'. At the same time the first session-gigs started, followed by studio jobs for film and TV soundtracks as well as work on Cock Robin's hit "When your heart is Weak" together with David Sanborn and percussionist Jimmy Maelen. In 1986 he went on a US tour with a successful band from that time (Modern English) that lasted 98 days.

Personal success soon developed automatically and productions and large-scale tours with international acts were steps on his career ladder, as for example Aretha Franklin's top-twenty single "Jimmy Lee", Sports arena concerts with the Israeli rock star Shalom Hanoch during the years 87 and 88 (a live CD). In spring 88 - back in England - he recorded with Billy Brannigan, played with the Israeli star Rannie Efrom and with the band 'One More Story' from Liverpool. After co-operating on the soundtrack for Willy Russell's film "Dancing through the Dark" and recording the successful "Modern English" album "Pillow Lips", he started his important work with platinum star "Black". More creative co-operation developed with Jack Bruce and also with the band "The Christians" in 1991, which resulted in the soundtrack to the Dudley Moore film: "Blame it on the Bellboy". In 1992 he toured through Europe with Gavin Friday and recorded with the singer/songwriter David Grey. One year later he encountered "Diesel", a triple-platinum selling Australian band and toured with them through Europe. Then he worked for the Australian superstar Jimmy Barnes and his N0. 1 album: "Flesh and Wood". The year ended with another "Black" tour. 1994 was the year for various projects and his schedule was filled with artists like The Lightning Seeds, Paul Young, Mike and the Mechanics and David Essex plus projects with the Spice Girls co-writer Elliot Kennedy. And in 1995 he stayed in his own country for a change, toured with the dance/rap formation "Oui 3" in Great Britain and recorded an album with the Blues guitarist Ronnie Peterson. In 96/97 he worked intensively with various female vocalists under contract of "Epic Records" on demos and recordings, plus productions with "Mansun" and James Turner as well as "The Cheap Seats". Moreover he toured with "Ant and Dec" and worked for Yamaha on the development of a new drum-sample. The work with Patricia Kaas started in 1998 and the band immediately started to go on a world tour. In between he worked with Thea Gilmore and played a few gigs with ex-Fine Young Cannibal singer Roland Gift. In October 1999 Roy again started touring round the globe with Patricia Kaas. In September 2000 this spectacular show from the Frenchwoman will be shown on German TV. Additionally German TV will broadcast a few live-recordings from various concerts in autumn.