STICKS MAG interview, 2005

<< Back to Press Menu

Below is a translation of an interview with Roy from German magazine - Sticks - from 2005. For a 3Mb PDF file of the original article (in German), please follow this link: -

Roy Martin - Grooves Around The World

A feel for aesthetic groove and favouring sensitive drum sounds. That is the signature of this drummer, who has been in the permanent line-up of the French world star Patricia Kaas for seven years. The high definition sound designed live show demands a high level of attention and empathy in order to bring the transparent sounds between French cabaret, blues torch, and pop rock exactly to a point. Five years ago in the first Sticks interview with Roy Martin Patricia Kaas said about her drummer: ' It wasn't easy to find someone who is able to fill the sometimes subtle and at the same time rock music material with his own sound and character. What I like most about Roy's playing is his ability to feel himself into all the different styles of music.'

You told me last time we spoke that you were a freelance drummer, but considering your long lasting work relationship with Patricia Kaas it seems that it has almost become a permanent employment?

No...(laughs) the work with Patricia just demands a lot of time, because a tour isn't just quickly over in two months, it usually takes a couple of years, and if you think after the tour there is time for a break you're very wrong indeed. After that, we're straight into the studio to record a new album and as soon as that is finished it's directly back on the road for us in order to promote the CD. And that means worldwide. I never expected such a long working relationship with Patricia and it has lasted for seven years now. The tour for the current albums 'Sexe Forte' and 'Toute la Musique' (live cd from the tour) was planned to last 12 months, but we're already nineteen months into it playing all over the world.

Patricia is enormously popular worldwide; even in Siberia we had big shows, which were sold out. I'didn't even know that there were so many people living there. Considering the fact that the music industry is a little quiet at the moment I'must say I really got a dream job. But after this tour, probably the end of 2005 (smirks) Patricia definitely will have a two-year break and I can only hope that my telephone rings with new job offers coming in. The problem is simply that Patricia has dominated the last seven years and I will have to refresh my contacts; say hello everywhere and report myself being back in business. If it's going to work, I don't know, but this the other side of the coin of working freelance. Nevertheless, I like that adventurous way of life, not knowing who I will record the next album or go on'tour with.

Is that the price for your freedom?

Of course! And I get to pay when it's not working out that well!

Did Patricia simply fall in love with your style of drumming, or what is the reason'that you're working longer with her than any other musicians?

I think she feels a sense of security having me as her drummer on stage. Before, she used to change her musicians for every tour , but at the moment we have a really well-balanced band with people who have all played with her before at some stage.

Even though the time frame between the tour and recordings with PK is very tight you still found the chance to dedicate yourself to other projects?

That's true. I was on'the road for some time with Barclay James Harvest and will most probably continue with them. We talked about it already. In addition, all the musicians of the band are friends from Manchester, and what could be nicer than going out there with your friends? Not to forget that BJH recently celebrated a great comeback, so I'd love to be part of that.

I also had a few studio jobs in Manchester for some new pop and rocks acts, like for example Johnny Conquest, who play slightly unusual pop music; not really a pop radio format but with a great dance feel and some songs which carry on for about eight minutes with the same groove. Then I worked in the studio and played some gigs with Show of Hands, a folk duo. But the absolute best was the recording for the Champions League trailer.

It was newly arranged for the beginning of the last season with big toms and a gladiator-like sound and played every time the teams entered the pitch. So when my team, Liverpool, played in the Champions League final, in which they won'the title, it of course got played as well. That was the most exciting thing I have done and experienced in the last five years! To hear my drums being played whilst my team enters the pitch (laughs) wow!....that was very cool!!!.

Since the early days and today playing with Patricia Kaas, what in your opinion has changed in your way and feel of playing the drums?

In the early days we had a wide range of styles in the show, going from French cabaret chansons to blues and rock. Today the show is much more straight-forward pop and more guitar-based, which actually suits my natural feel and style more. Before, the different styles and sensitive songs meant much more hard work. On PK's last album 'Sexe Forte' I'did the studio recording on eight tracks which meant I hardly had to re-arrange my play for live arrangements to get the feel right, and I'didn't have to take over too many parts that other drummers played. It always takes a while to make these parts be a part of yourself so that you can let your own identity flow into it. That's what's different today and makes things more relaxing.

Drum philosophy always encounters the question of the ultimate groove?

I don't think that there's a secret. To find the right groove grows with the years and the experience you have by playing with all the different musicians and within the different styles you play with them. Playing the drums with your sound and your groove develops into your signature. At the beginning I always thought the tempo of the song has to stay the same from beginning to end but through the years I've listened to a lot of drummers who work with the tempo and use the timing to drive songs on or to take the tempo out, and it'still remained a great groove. Even non-drummers like Stevie Wonder or Lenny Kravitz sound great despite the fact they aren't playing as smooth as a Steve Gadd or a Jeff Porcaro. Therefore it's nearly impossible to define a great groove but when you hear one you definitely know there is one.

Well as a drummer you are constantly searching to find exactly that aren't you?

Yes, especially in the studio when you're recording, as well in rehearsals. When you're trying out new songs that's when it becomes difficult to find the right touch on'the drums. But you can only do what you do, and you will always sound like yourself. Even when you try a different approach with another drummer in mind, you will discover when you listen to it later that it still sounds like you. The older you get, and believe me, I've been doing this job for a long time, the harder it gets to try to sound like someone else.

Fifteen years ago I was like a chameleon and checked out everything. Today I'm probably the authentic Roy Martin. it's like tuning the drums: the older and more experienced I get the easier it becomes to tune them, but never mind how they are tuned, they will always sound like me.

You once said that not only Porcaro and Gadd are your favourites, Andy Newmark also is one of them, why? What has he got?

He sounds different to any other drummer because of his particular way of playing his drums; he never overplays and keeps in the background. He also has a clever way to create hidden fill-ins. Actually it is more a subtle groove variation'than fill-ins, which he achieves through fine hi-hat accents or 1/16 note figures between hi-hat and snare drum. These are all only small details but make his playing very special. He also sounds very direct and wonderfully controlled, and when you watch him play, he plays hard and full of energy. You can feel that he loves what he's doing. As a fifteen year old I studied his play thoroughly and analysed his style, always wishing to be able to play like him.

And does the way that'someone plays the hi-hats tell you something about his character as a drummer?

Most definitely, and Andy is a good example of that. Usually he plays the cymbal with the shoulder not the tip of the stick, which gives it a certain touch, and therefore a certain sound too. All these details have in one way or the other had an influence on'the sound and the groove. Even the way you sit makes a difference. Andy is a relatively small guy compared to me.

I play the hi-hats more quietly, but the approach depends as well on'the song and if it's an eighths rock feel should it be accented or straight? As on triplet based swing or shuffle feels...hi-hats do really affect the groove!

Do you still play with a click?

Hmm...! I only use it in a few songs on'this tour. on'the 'Piano Bar' production I played with it 99% of the time. The recent show though was arranged in a much freer way and has many more improvised parts and Patricia herself handles the show in a much easier going way too. So, every evening turns out differently, musically and performance wise. That allows us a bit more freedom and also creates more fun. And after hundreds of gigs I think the band can afford that. Therefore click control is very rarely necessary.

When you sometimes use one though which click sound do you use?

I use a cross stick sound playing eighths and play it very quietly because I'don't want to have the timing dictated too much. I can only hear it when I get slightly out of the timing, and on my mixing desk I can regulate the levels of the click, loop, band mix and drum mix.

You still play with headphones and not with an in-ear system. Why?

That's because I have tinnitus. I use ear-plugs AND the headphones combined. This way I cannot hear the drum set acoustically at all, I only hear it from the monitor. No wedges. If I would only play with headphones I would hear too much of the acoustic drum sound and I'd have to increase the monitor level, which doesn't make sense. It is sound-wise much more comfortable to have the set only on'the headphones too. That creates a wonderful stereo band mix. It creates a real CD sound. By the way, my monitor is only fed by the overheads, one bass drum mic and one drum-ambiance mike, which stands sideways between hi-hat and snare drum. I found that it'sounds much better not to have the close mics in the monitor. The close mics are only fed to the FoH system. This way I have the perfect sound combined with the reverb on'the drums. I have a wonderful stereo mix from the band and the drums, which sounds very comfortable.

You've changed your equipment from Pearl to GMS drums and from Zildjian cymbals to Paiste cymbals. Why?

I played some gigs with Barclay James Harvest in Switzerland and there I'met up with some people from Paiste. They made me an unexpected endorsement offer. They put in a lot of work and came up with a complete advertising campaign, this included posters and internet presence. They also gave me some cymbals to test out, which were partly prototypes including the Dark Energy cymbals. I found all of that brilliant of them and still do. The people at Paiste, not only in Switzerland, but France and everywhere else were very friendly and helpful.

The change to GMS drums occurred because a company in France organised the complete set up of equipment for Patricia Kaas. Therefore I was given an offer to take up a complete set on'the road with me.

The drums were good and have a great sound and I thought to myself why not? Unfortunately they didn't have a 24 inch bass drum, which I usually play. So they just immediately ordered a 24 inch model for me to be made in New York and sent it to Paris.

You also separated from your DW/ Craviotto-snare drum?

No I'didn't get rid of it I still have it. I just don't take it on'tour with me! My main snare drum is a Ludwig 14 inch by 6.5 inch Black Beauty - a wonderful snare drum that, I wouldn't want to miss. Once the skin of my snare split and I had to play with a substitute that totally confused me. After hundreds of shows with the 'Black Beauty' back beat, I got very much fixated with that particular sound. Otherwise I also have a Pearl 12inch by 7 inch soprano maple snare drum, which I only use in certain songs because of its special sound.

The skins split with you, but you're not a blacksmith, are you?

I know that Kenny Aronoff changes the skin of his snare drum three times a gig and I always thought 'that can't be, what is he doing!' (laughs) But now it has happened to me and it might be because in this new set from 'Sexe Forte' I play much louder and in bigger shows one's tendency to play harder is higher. At the beginning of the tour I played with the Ambassador skins on'the snare, which I have done now for twenty years. But they lost tension and tone after half of the show and I couldn't keep a constant sound. So I changed to CS snare skins which have a dot glued on from underneath. Even though I'don't like the sound as much, they last the whole show !!

With which drum sticks do you play?

At the beginning I used to play with Pro-Mark 5B sticks. Don't know why, but it is a good stick. Now I play with a Steve Gadd signature model from Vic Firth. I've tried the sticks earlier during the last tour to check out the different feel and because I played a lot of songs with rods and brushes. I got used to them and they're really cool.

After the Patricia Kaas tour which way will the wind blow you when it ends one day?

Sting, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney already asked me. I only have to take a pick (laughs) No seriously, I would like to do a bit more work in the studio and it would certainly do me a lot of good to recharge through the inspiration of a different musical influence.