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Confessions Of A Session Drummer

As a session musician, I have played with some really famous artists. What I’ve noticed is, they do things a little differently than us ‘common folk’…

As a session musician, I have played with some really famous artists: Rihanna, Lionel Richie, and Ricky Martin to name but a few. What I’ve noticed is, they do things a little differently than us ‘common folk.’ (I’ve also noticed that when a millionaire pop star does something a little unusual they are simply being ‘eccentric,’ but if you or I tried it, we’re called ‘weird.’) The stories below highlight exactly what I’m talking about.

Ricky Martin

I’ve never seen people react to a celebrity like the way they did with Ricky Martin. We played a TV show and all the staff members came out to watch the rehearsal – all genders and sexualities were represented (as they later informed me)!

The sound of the band was drowned out by everybody screaming, cheering, applauding and, frankly, cat-calling Ricky. The segment producer even brought out her 95-year-old grandmother to watch the show – Ricky Martin is for all ages, after all. Anyway, the elderly woman used a walker to get around and when she met Ricky after the rehearsal, she told him, “If this gadget wasn’t holding me up, I would have fainted during your performance! That’s how handsome you are, young man.” 

I’m pretty sure she was joking but Ricky Martin took this very seriously.

He called a meeting and said “It has recently come to my attention how good looking I am. Sure, some people may think my music is harmless and corny, but little do they know, when I sing ‘Shake your bon bon’ and I actually shake my bon bon, members of the audience may be in mortal danger! They could faint, fall over and hit their heads – or even dislocate their bon bon! That’s why I’m requesting that everyone attending today’s performance wear helmets.” 

There is silence in the room. I look at Ricky Martin’s manager. His face says he thinks this idea is rotten but he goes along with it because he gets 25%of everything Ricky Martin makes. I’m standing next to his manager and I see him google “bulk helmet suppliers near me.” There is no business like show business!

Author (far R) with Ricky Martin

Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses)

I’m playing at a guitar festival in New Zealand with guitar legends from Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses and Living Colour on the bill. I walk backstage and there is a platter of food. The room is empty besides one man standing in the corner. He’s in his 40s, long black hair and full sleeve tattoos. I recognise him instantly: it’s Gilby Clarke from Guns N’ Roses. And what’s unusual is that he’s wearing a black leather jacket with a chef’s apron over it. “Bold fashion choice,” I think to myself. “But damned if he isn’t rockin’ it!” 

He comes up to me with a proud look on his face and says, “Hey man, feel free to dig into the chow. I made it myself!” 

Gilby explains to me that his real passion is food not music and as part of his contract for this gig, he is not only the guitar player but also the festival’s one and only caterer. 

I look down at the platter of food and I’m not sure what to think. This food looks awful! Or, to quote Gordan Ramsey, “It looks like a dog’s dinner!” Gilby explains, “Some people don’t think chocolate and soy sauce should go together but I’m hoping to prove them wrong.” 

Some people?” I think he means “Literally all people.”

I look at a dish that looks like chicken Kiev, where the chicken is filled with stuffing. I don’t recognize this stuffing. He tells me it’s macaroni in its ‘natural’ state. I ask, “When you say ‘natural’ state, you mean…?”

He goes, “Yep! Uncooked and straight out of the packet! It’s my crunchiest batch yet!” 

Ok, thanks for clearing that up Gilby. I decide to skip dinner before the performance and instead eat the 6 Mentos in my pocket from 3 weeks ago.

It’s still a great gig, and as far as Gilby goes, say what you will about his cooking, but if he can make a chef’s apron look stylish, he’s clearly doing something right.

Author performing at Festival. (Not Pictured: Gilby Clarke)

Rihanna

I’m super excited to be working with Rihanna, I can hardly believe my luck! 

I get to band rehearsal and the musicians are tuning up. She walks in 10 minutes later, and her face lights up when she sees the t-shirt I’m wearing. It’s of the great actor Lou Diamond Phillips. Rihanna says “Oh, I love him! Y’know he’s part Cherokee?” 

“I didn’t know that,” I say. “Thanks, Rihanna!”

“My pleasure,” she continues. “I’m actually a scholar on indigenous peoples and American history.” 

I’m impressed. 

She says “Did you know the American soldier General Custer changed his name?” I shake my head, no. “It’s true. He was originally called General Custard, but thought people wouldn’t be scared of him if he was named after a super yummy dessert.”

I’m 99.9999%certain this isn’t true.

She continues, “Have you heard of the great indigenous warrior, Sitting Bull?

I say, “Yes, of course.”

She says, “Would you believe he changed his name too? Yup! He was so inspired by Robert De Niro’s character in the movie Raging Bull that he paid homage to him with his name. Except he was super chill, so that explains the ‘Sitting’ part.”

Ok, now I know this isn’t true. Sitting Bull died in 1890 and Raging Bull came out in 1980. I try to point this out to her and she leans in and whispers in my ear, “That’s what they want you to believe,” and gives me a big wink.

I’m not sure who ‘they’ are or why they’d be lying to me about basic dates in American and film history, but before I can ask, we’re launching into “Rude Boy” and I’m having the time of my life drumming for one of the greatest pop singers of all time.

Author (Second from L) with Rihanna

P.S. For the record, none of these stories are actually true at all – all the artists were super cool and a dream to work with!


Author’s Pick

I recommend any books by A.J Jacobs. He is super intelligent and laugh out loud funny. Make sure to check out comedians Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr. They are masters of concealing the truth in a joke.

Anything else?

Say positive things and do positive things. Life is too short for negativity.

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Magesh Magesh
Magesh Magesh

As a musician I have worked with Lionel Richie, Rhianna, Ricky Martin, Kimbra, Vernon Reid and a host of other pop stars. As a writer I have written for 'Drumscene' magazine, 'Percussioni' (Italy), 'The Modern Rogue' (USA), 'Aeyons' (Australia), Lessonface '(USA) and 'Penlight' (Canada).

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