This picture at Duke University, Raleigh, N.C. in late 1971 shows Bill sound-checking his complete two-floor tom Hayman kit. Note the Hayman snare has been demoted to spare in favour of his ‘Roundabout’ Ludwig snare. Pic courtesy of Michael DeAngury.


Questions from Mike Yocum, Robert Howie and others, answered below, make me think it might be a good idea to point you to the interviews and articles pages on this site. I go into many of the more frequently asked questions in some depth, and the stats indicate it’s a relatively lightly used resource.

Mike Yocum – Date: 06.05.2011 asks – if I would ‘comment on some of the great bass players you’ve worked with over the years, e.g., what you liked about them, songs that stand out to you, etc.? You always come up with such a great complimentary drum part with the bassist that you’re playing with that not only serves the music, but becomes a great stand alone part of it’.

Mike, I can refer you to an article on this very site all about bass players and my tin-pot thoughts about working with bassists. Go here and scroll down to ‘2003 bass players’. Aside from that, I always liked the bass line from Discipline which I think I wrote, Jeff Berlin first played, and ended up with Tony Levin on Stick. Earthworks’ Mark Hodgson had unbelievable strength on upright, but not such a pretty sound as Eddie Gomez. Jeff Berlin’s solo on Palewell Park from ‘Gradually Going Tornado’ was a world-beater for form and melody. Too many, too many nice bass parts… Chris Squire’s ‘Lucky Seven’ from his first (only?) solo album ‘Fish Out of Water’ was always very popular. Tony Levin’s great part in the dreamy road-trippy mescalin-induced haze of the middle section of Neurotica (from King Crimson’s ‘Beat’ ) always sent shivers down my spine. I could go on all day. The problem with lists, of course, is all the people you leave out.

Dan Summers – Date: 14.05.2011 asks – if I’d ever ‘considered doing a piano/drums project with Dave Brubeck? You could have called it Double Brew (or Double Bru, if you like)’.

What a wit! My records were always racked after Brubeck’s in the store, in the old days, when they had record stores. He always had dozens to my one or two if I was lucky.

Robert W. Howie – Date: 14.05.2011 – ‘Some of the stuff you do, I just can’t get, like the off time stuff. Is there any professional advise or tips you could give me, or is there some good training material that won’t break the bank that would help me out – i.e. odd time sigs, compound time sigs. And I would also like to ask if you would share with me your favorite pieces of music that you have done over your career’.

Robert, there is so much stuff on the net to help out. I’m a bit out of the loop on current fashionable books on odd-time signatures, but none of it will break the bank. If you like the drummer, see if he has a book out. Just type ‘odd time signatures’ into your browser and you’ll find a ton of information. Without knowing your current ability it’s hard to make a recommendation, but I hear Ralph Humphrey’s book ‘Even In the Odds’ is very good.

Take a look at FAQ 10 about some of my favourite albums, and there will be lots of material on this in some of the articles on this site listed under ‘Interviews’. Funnily enough I quite like some of my work on the ‘Sound of Surprise’ by Earthworks. I say funnily, because it wasn’t a big seller and is underrated I think. Unlike most of my stuff, which has been somewhat overrated!

Armin – Date: 17.05.2011 asks – ‘are there still things in your recording-library that are destined to be put on CD or DVD? Moreover, any plans to promote/read your book for people outside UK (which means evt germany, BeNeLux or so…)?’

Armin: As you may know I’m doing a high-end limited bespoke edition version of the book with all sorts of bells and whistles attached, with Foruli Publications. As part of the package, there will be a vinyl album called ‘From Conception to Birth’, which offers the ‘sketch’ or ‘demo’ of the master first, each demo followed immediately by its master. This invites comparison of first thought with final production. Sometimes the difference is marginal, sometimes substantial, but always intriguing, I hope. Visit Foruli for updates.

I regret I have no plans to be reading in Germany or Benelux. Irrelevant to you, I know, but I shall be doing more in the US this Fall.

Bill Donnelly – Date: 17.05.2011 – Have you listened to any new and exciting music you think some of us might be interested in knowing about?

Bill, I’m way behind with my listening. Having collected much too much music over the last 40 years, I’m enjoying kicking back and listening to some of it. A classic symptom of advancing senility is that I increasingly find the music of my youth not only stands up well to newer material but appears to have as much or more fire, invention and passion in the grooves.

Mark Epperly – Date: 17.05.2011 – Hi Everyone. Does anyone know what model remote Hi Hat that Bill is using (either currently or very recently). Any info would be appreciated. Thanks, fans!

Mark, back in the 80s I used to use a new, now discontinued and not very good, Tama remote cable hat. I suggested some improvements to Tama and they made me an excellent custom two-legged Iron Cobra version. My understanding was that Tama didn’t put that on the market because a) lack of demand and b) possible copyright and patent issues with DW. Evidently DW also have a good remote cable hat. I haven’t tried it – part of the difficulty of being an endorsing artist is that you spend very little time trying out the instruments of other manufacturers.

I never found the hat particularly sluggish, but since it was a central component of my symmetrical kit and as such had to be carried around the world to gigs, it had those logistical problems. Here’s a brief clip of me playing it.

All best till next time. Bill