Nature Abhors a Vacuum

No, it’s not me when I was younger. It’s an unidentified dance-band drummer at Mark Foy’s Empress Ballroom, Sydney, Australia. Date unknown.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Build roads, attract more cars. Empty cupboard space. Can’t stand it, let’s find some things to put in there. There’s space for just a few more things on that empty shelf. Let’s fill it up! Nature abhors a vacuum, as do we consumers. If not the whole function of the artist, it may be his pleasure to reassert some control over all this spatial profligacy. An artist may control space. The space between the notes, the aural environment – or acoustic space – in which his music is heard, the negative space from which his sculpture draws its meaning, the impossible space of an Eischer staircase. Space temporal, space physical, space environmental, space aural, how we insert ourselves into these spaces and how we use this space, is the business of the artist.

It’s certainly the business of the drummer. The space between the notes – the space between the bar lines. If it is your predeliction, or enjoyment, to wait until the last possible moment before you play the next note, you will surely sound different from the guy who thinks it’s fun to play the next note at the earliest possible moment. I come across younger players who could benefit from considering these things. When you sit down to practise today, set the metronome slow, at about 60 bpm, and try to play accurate quarter notes, or a simple rock rhythm in quarter notes. Then simple phrases with a few notes as possible, and wait till the last possible moment before you play the next note.

In other words, try to play as slowly as possible while staying in time, and give all your attention not to the notes you’re playing, but to the vast chasm of space in between each one. That’s where the music lies. If you get it right slowly first, the faster tempos will look after themselves. If you don’t get it right slowly first, it ain’t ever going to work out. The three key qualities needed to begin life on any musical instrument are patience, patience, and patience. If the successful career is built on a 90/10 split between perspiration and inspiration – or stamina and luck – then the successful building of technique is 90 percent patience and 10 percent determination.

C from G – Date: 19.07.2011 – Dear Bill, speaking of the “Roundabout Ludwig snare”: Do you still have this drum? If you do, but feel like decluttering the homestead – I’d volunteer to give it a new home…

Yes, I do still have the drum, but I think I’ll hold onto it for a while yet! I’m not much of a collector or drum-enthusiast, and much of the kit I used was either handed back to endorsing manufacturers as they gave me the knew shinier one, or left or lost in storage wharehouses on one continent or another. A lot of the Simmons kit went back to Simmons as the instruments got better, and I understand there is a brisk ebay trade in older electronic drums and equipment. I’ve been a bit sloppy about this in the past, so I think I’ll hang on to the Roundabout snare for the time being!

Eric Stoutenburgh – Date: 24.07.2011 – is ‘a longtime fan (who) just wanted to say your angular style and polyrythmic prowess inspired me to keep playing bass guitar even when times where tough. Thanks a billion.

Thank you, Eric for the kind comment. There are some thoughts on some of the interesting bass players I’ve had the good fortune to work with in the Interviews on this site, if it interests you.

Michel – Date: 28.07.2011 – wants to know did I play on Yes’ demo “We can fly from here” in 1980?

No. I was Crimsoning.

2017-11-22T12:18:20+00:00 August 2nd, 2011|