By Alfredo Iraheta, exclusively for World Prog-Nation
This is the second part of Alfredo Iraheta’s interview with Marillion drummer Ian Mosley that took place on September 15, 2016. In Part 2, Ian talks to us about his early musical influences, his current favorite players and artists, his time recording and touring with Steve Hackett, meeting with him recently, and the possibility of making new music with him (!!!) Ian shares his thoughts on the current state of music and gives a special message for his World Prog-Nation fans. Thank you Ian for giving us of your time and for being such an awesome guy. Enjoy!
(Click HERE for Part 1)
Ian, you are a very influential drummer. You have been doing this for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit about your influences? What you were listening to in your formative years?
Oh gosh! In my early teens I was in the school Jazz orchestra. In the UK, specially drummers, we all always looked to America, to the big band arrangements. Duke Ellington’s, Buddy Rich Orchestra’s, Count Basie’s, Pat Jones, Mel Lewis, so I was playing those sorts of arrangements in the school Jazz orchestra. Then, for me, the whole Jazz/Rock/Fusion thing happened, which was explosive! For me, it was The Mahavishnu Orchestra that came along, and blew everything out of the water! The rhythm section for me it was “well, I better go practice for another few years.” Yeah, so, I found that a very exciting time. At the same time I was really into bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, I thought John Bonham was an amazing drummer. I mean, I know he’s very highly rated as one of the top, but he really was. The stuff he played was phenomenal! So those were my kind of early influences. At the time I thought the Jazz/Rock thing kind of burned itself out in a way. The Chick Coreas and the Mahavishnus. After that, things for me things got a little bit… seems like they were all trying just to make hits, and that didn’t work for me. Then I’d always been into the musical bands, into Pink Floyd, anything with melodies really. I love their music with all guns a-blazing, and in weird time signatures, but only if there’s a melody. I don’t really want to be counting every bar. I’d rather be playing to a melody. That’s the beauty of the early Marillion music was, is that even if it was in a strange time signature, it didn’t matter because it had a strong melody to it. And I’ve always liked to play in what I call, not Classical music… in movements, you know? Might have two or three sections, rather than just staying or put him on groove all the time. Music that can breathe. Those are my early influences. These days… a few years back, my son introduced me to System Of A Down. I thought they were fantastic, I thought they had it just right as far as the kind of really raw, heavy rock, and melody. They got the balance, and for me they were a real band. Then as far as drummers, these days, a drummer called Gavin Harrison, he’s with King Crimson now, and was with Porcupine Tree before. He’s a phenomenal player! He’s just released a solo album, which is kind of big band arrangements really, but he’s totally captured what the earlier big bands were about. And his playing is just going from strength to strength. I’m kind of jealous in a way. Young drummers they all have YouTube, they can go onto YouTube, and they can learn so much because you just type in any name, any one of your heroes and you can sit there for days, watching them and learning. I didn’t quite have that when I was a kid! (laughs). It was scrambling around trying to find out where a drum part was, you’d just slow it down. In the early days, Steve Gadd was another influence. I think, for me a drummer’s role really is to compliment whoever is singing or doing a guitar solo, just try and be as musical as possible. As I said, I still like the fast stuff. In fact, the slower, half time 4/4 stuff in some ways can be harder to play. It really can! Mentally anyway.
You are an amazing player, and as you’ve stated before, it’s great to have chops, but if you can find that balance between chops and melody, playing under the melody and supporting that. I think that’s what’s set Marillion apart, and you certainly as a drummer are a very influential guy.
Oh, thanks! I don’t really think about stuff like that. Me and Pete just try our best you know, as the rhythm section. People say “the band is only as good as the drummer” (laughs). So if Marillion are rubbish, it’s all my fault! (laughs!)
Well, they’ve kept you around, so that’s a good sign!
Yeah it is! It was a Spinal Tap situation before I joined, there were about two or three drummers before me. I don’t know why it didn’t work out. Some of it was just personality I think. When you’re sort of locked together 24 hours a day, I think, you know, an attitude and a sense of humor is crucial. Over the years, you know, we’ve had our moments, as I said we’ve had our Spinal Tap moments, split up over the wrong dressing room rider or something (laughs). We’re all a little bit older and a little more mature. I’m touching wood here because you never know, this is a band you’re talking about! (laughs) But we all seem to be getting on very well at the moment, enjoying each others’ company. That’s quite good.
It is! Because you hear about other bands that have been together for a long time, but they can’t stand each other. They only see each other when they hit the stage.
Yeah, I don’t know why. I suppose some are doing it for the money. I mean really, that’s sad. We did some gigs a few weeks ago with Queen. Whatever you think of uh… Freddie (Mercury) died and Adam Lambert is with them now. Roger (Taylor) and Brian May, they really don’t need the money. They’re doing it, I can only see the reason they’re doing it is because they love doing it. And for that reason, I think it’s great that they’re still keeping that music alive. it was great hearing all those songs again.
And Adam does a great job, I think.
Yeah! I think he does as well. The gig we did with them was in Switzerland. And it was thundering and lightning, pouring with rain, but they went out and they were playing under umbrellas! You know, they were still just doing it! It’s fantastic!
You’ve certainly had a very prolific career outside of Marillion where you’ve played with guys like Steve Hackett. You recorded with him and toured with him. Can you share some memories from that time with Steve?
Yeah, well I was based at a studio in London because I was doing quite a lot of session work at the time. A place called Redan Studios in Queensway, London, and lots of bands used to rehearse and record there. And one day I was just walking down the corridors, and Steve Hackett was in the studio recording one of his albums. I was introduced to him and he then said to me, “can you walk?”, “yeah, I can walk”, he said “I just want to record someone walking down the stairwell” – Very ambient stairwell – “can you do that for us?”, “yeah sure”, so that’s how I was introduced to Steve! (laughs) I did that for him and then he asked if I’d like to come in and play, and then he asked me to do the tour! That was in, I don’t know, very late 70’s or very early 80’s, 79-ish I think? And all I can say is that Steve Hackett is a phenomenal guitarist and a really lovely guy. And for a young drummer, I think I was about 24-25, me playing drums with him, it was a dream come true because the material was just a drummer’s heaven! Play as fast as you can, and all in weird time signatures! It was a real pleasure. At the same time Steve, of course he was the guitarist with Genesis all those years, whenever he formed a band and toured, the whole responsibility and the whole weight of it was on his shoulders. It was Steve Hackett with an employed band, so it came to a point where he could not afford to keep a band together, and that’s when we just sort of parted company. And then Steve did a lot of solo stuff, acoustic gigs. Although his career now is taking off again in a way because he’s been doing a lot of Genesis Revisited stuff which is great, and it was really good fun to work with him, and as I said it was a pleasure. And I saw him last week! And he asked me whether I’d be interested in playing on his new album, so I said I’d love to, I just don’t want to mess it up (laughs), but yeah, if I could work with him again in the future I’d have no problem, I’d love to do that.
That would be wonderful! You certainly made some really great music together and he has always been, even after all these years, very complimentary of you and your playing.
Yeah, that’s very nice of him because he’s worked with some fantastic musicians over the years. You know, the band he’s got together at the moment, they’re all great! I saw them a few months ago back at the Albert Hall in London and they’re all really good.
It’s really exciting, the prospect of you two making some other stuff in the future, that would be great!
Yeah, I mean, I’m always up for doing stuff outside of Marillion, but unfortunately, you know, there’s a time constraint on me, really. Because Marillion are 24 hour most of the time, and plus I do really want to work with people outside of Marillion, that I can enjoy working with them and have some fun. I don’t want any doom and gloom from anyone, or grief (laughs).
What are your thoughts on the current state of music?
I think there’s some really good things happening at the moment. I was listening to a band the other day, a band called The Pineapple Thief. They’ve really come along in the past few years. When I heard the last album they recorded I was really… “that sounds great!” A band called Big Big Train. I met them a couple of weeks back. I don’t know much about them, but Dave Gregory plays guitar with them, we’ve worked with him in the past. But they seem like a really good band. Thousands of musicians coming up, just fantastic players around. Some of the Heavy Metal… is it Heavy Metal? I don’t know, the real high-energy drummers, some of them are just phenomenal. I went to see Slipknot last year and whether you like them or not… I mean, I can’t really whistle any of their songs (laughs), but what a show! And I love that kind of spectacular thing. That big show with stuff happening all the time, but the drumming, some of it is super human. It’s Olympian. I don’t have to do that anymore (laughs). I never could! I think there are a lot of good things happening. There are some good songwriters coming up. Bands like Elbow, they’re a good band. They wrote some nice stuff. I know it’s not fashionable to like Coldplay, but I think they’ve done some great stuff as well. To get inspired, I still do tend to go back to a lot of my old favorites. One of them is a French band called Magma.
Magma! They’re awesome.
Oh! You know them! Usually, if I wanted to clear my house of people, I’d put a Magma album. ‘Cause they just didn’t get it. Christian Vander is such a fantastic musician and that sort of concept of Magma. I’ve followed him since the 70’s, he’s just great. In fact I got his autograph last year. I still listen to them, I was listening to Magma in the car yesterday on the way to the studio. Still an inspiration. They toured America last year actually.
There was a festival in Spain recently called Be Prog! My Friend. I believe they played there, as well as The Pineapple Thief and some great bands.
Yes, I think we’ve been approached to do that festival next year, I’ve heard good things about it. Steve(n) Wilson, the stuff that he’s doing, some of that I think is really good as well. I know he’s a Magma fan too, so it can’t be all that bad!
John Wesley will be opening. I believe he’s doing a solo guitar set.
For us it could be a little bit of a problem to have a whole band supporting us, just because of the logistics of getting our equipment off an on the stage, and the support band’s equipment off and on the stage. (With) John, we go back a long way. He played at a convention that we did in Canada a few years back, and it’s really nice to see him again. He’s a really talented guy. So yeah, he’s going to be supporting us in America.
He is very talented and I’m looking forward to seeing him as well.
Of course, he was in Porcupine Tree, wasn’t he? Fine, fine guitarist.
Ian I could continue talking for hours and hours but I don’t want to take up more of your time. Thank you so much again for taking the time to talk to me. Is there a message you’d like to leave for your World Prog-Nation fans?
We are all really looking forward to come into the States again, although I’ve got to say your government does make it difficult for bands sometimes. I’ve got to be at the US embassy tomorrow at 7:30 in the morning to get a visa (laughs). I’m sure Paul McCartney doesn’t have to do all that stuff! (laughs) But anyway, apart from that (laughs), we’re really looking forward to it. We just really hope everyone enjoys it, and it will be great to see some familiar faces again which I’m sure will be there. So everyone there take care, we’ll definitely see you next month!
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