Style: Jazz, Swing, Rock
Influences: Ian Pace, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Rich, Steve Upton
Kenny: I had always played in club, C&W and wedding bands and I was in an Irish show band for 6 1/2 years, that went as far as late 1989, then I started looking for a new band and answered this advert that was up at the time. It was Rollin Joe advertising for a “Rock n’ Roll Drummer”, so along I went and I thought I did great but I didn’t hear back from him. I wasn’t sure who this guy was and I found it hard to get a hold of him because the only name I had for him was “Rollin Joe”! So, I finally got a hold of him through one of the guys that worked in McCormacks Music at the time and asked him what was happening and he said “Come along on Monday night!” So I went along on Monday night and did the jam session….and I was there for 8 years. I was in his band 2 years full-time and about 7 years part-time after that. Rev Doc was part of that jam as well. We had a fantastic time at Wintergills back then…there were times you couldn’t get into the place it was so packed!
Basically, that’s were I met the whole Glasgow Blues crowd…Rev Doc, Big George, Al Brown, Fraser Spiers, Jim Ward, Davie Boyle, Davie Ritchie and the Kingpins. I played with them for a couple of years and Violet Leighton. There were so many great players that went there at that time. Those jam sessions were amazing
Kirk: It sounds like you picked up a lot of work and experience from these jam sessions. For any young players out there, what are the benefits of going to session like that nowadays?
Kenny: Yes it’s a kind of double-edged thing, going along to a jam session in a city like this. Firstly you get the experience of playing live in front of an audience but you also let people see what you can do and they’ll come up and speak to you and you can get work out of it.
Seriously, from the State Bar jam sessions, we have launched the careers of many a musician.
Kirk: How did you end up switching from Wintergills to the State Bar?
Kenny: I phoned Joe up in January 98 and basically said that I needed to move on. The sessions were dying off around that time and I was looking for a change. So a month later, I started with the State Bar session and here I am 17 years later! 17 years…every Tuesday night….
Kirk: So when you think back across all of those Tuesday nights, does it all merge together or are there some outstanding experiences that shine out from the rest?
Kenny: Yeah, I’ve played with a few outstanding musicians over the years. Great, great bass players like Alan Thompson, Tim (Clark), Sandy but one time that stands out for me was playing with Chris Glen from The Sensational Alex Harvey Band! He came down this night when I was on drums. He had been down previously with Ted (McKenna) but this time I got to sit in with him. It was like playing beside a “Wall” that did not allow you to move in any direction! I can’t really explain it. You could still move around within the groove but it was absolutely solid. A lot of musicians seem to “float around” within the music but not Chris. He was rock solid, I loved his playing.
Kirk: Were you a big SAHB fan?
Kenny: “Stories” By SAHB is one of my top 1o favourite albums of all time.
Kirk: So you said Ted came down a few times to the State Bar
Kenny: Yeah, I like Ted McKenna and also admired him because he was Rory Gallagher’s drummer.
Kirk: You were a big Rory Gallagher fan then?
Kenny: Well, when I was growing up I was into The Beatles, The Kinks, even The Monkees…I loved these bands but then my big brother introduced me to Jimi Hendrix and Cream so I started getting into Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell. And then he introduced me to “Taste”…Rory Gallagher and he took me to see Taste when I was 12 years old. At that time I couldn’t quite get the Blues at that level but I enjoyed it, the experience was fantastic. I even saw Derek and Dominoes but then I discovered Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash and my life was never the same after that. I believe I’m basically a clone (probably not a good one) of Steve Upton and Ian Paice with a tinge of Mitch Mitchell.
Kirk: So was it always drumming that you focused on from an early age?
Kenny: Rory Gallagher and Ritchie Blackmore were a big influence on me as well and Wishbone Ash…it’s always really been guitars believe it or not.
Kirk: What does your big brother play?
Kenny: He’s a great guitarist, really loud but he also does Country & Western as well…great singer!
Kirk: So is he still playing?
Kenny: Yes. He’s 63 now and still rockin!
Kirk: I’m finding this quite a lot with people I speak to. In some cases there is a close family member that is encouraging the young player in the family whether it’s the father, uncle or big brother.
Kenny: Yes and I think genetics also play a part. My Grandfather and Great Grandfather played in a Jazz band, my Great Uncle was secretary of the Musicians Union then it skipped a generation as it often does and then it re-appeared with my brother and I.
Kirk: You said earlier it was always guitars. Can you remember the first one you owned?
Kenny: Yes. It was a Rapier 33…. Watkins Rapier
Kirk: I’ll look that up! Never heard of that. What colour was it?
Kenny: It was red. The 33 stood for the 3 pickups. There was a 22 and a 44.
Watkins Rapier 33
Kirk: Did that get sold to buy drums?
Kenny: No, I got a Gibson SG so I just sold the Rapier…wish I hadn’t….
So guitars have always been in the background with me. I’ve built up quite a collection over the years.
Kirk: You’ve got a guitar with you today? Is that a cigar box with 4 strings attached? I’ve never seen that before, tell me a bit about that…
Kenny: I saw these in the States and just bought this one online. It’s good fun but I prefer my National, I just brought this as a prop.
Kirk: Back to the drums if you don’t mind Kenny. The Blues has loads of dynamics, light and shade and when everything starts pumping it can get quite a difficult beast for a drummer to keep hold. The pace picks up, the volume goes up how do you react when a band starts speeding up?
Kenny: There’s an old saying…”If it’s really going well and you’re really having a great time and the music sounds fantastic…you’re probably going too fast!!!” (laughs) But usually, if I’m made aware, and if the feel is still there I can always bring it back and as long as the singer can still fit the words in you should be ok.(Joking) When I’m recording I will always use a click-track and I’m fine with that. It can stifle your inventiveness but sometimes that’s a good thing. It’s good to keep it simple.
Kirk: You mentioned Buddy Rich as one of your greatest influences earlier on today. Did you ever see him play live?
Kenny: Yes, twice and I’ve shook his hand and got his autograph.
Kirk: Really? When was that?
Kenny: I saw him back in ….mmm….must’ve been about 1981, 1982, something like that? At the Kelvinhall. I saw the queue at the end of the gig. He always waited at the end of the gig to meet the audience. So I got to him and he gave me his autograph and I said “Can I shake your hand Mr Rich?” and he didn’t even hesitate and he shook my hand. There he was, the greatest drummer in the world. Wow! People think he has a reputation of a rough, tough, arrogant loud mouth but he was a musician and he loved music.
Kirk: Has your style changed over the years?
Kenny: Yes. I’m settling down a bit and growing away from attempting the complex “rocky” style and I’m more into a quieter and more restrained style through necessity. and I’ve built up a collection of over 2,500 albums and cds which is very eclectic. Everything from Walt Disney to Madame Butterfly.
Kenny: Yes, mostly vinyl, kept in an enormous cupboard
Kirk: So what’s next for you now Kenny? Have you got another 20 years in the State Bar lined up?
Kenny: I wouldn’t mind, I love the State Bar! It’s great, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve seen hundreds of musicians over the years and have had the opportunity to pick up bits and pieces from each one and it makes me a better musician. You meet a lot of really enthusiastic people. I have met and played with many musicians because of the State Bar Jam but Currently I’m playing in Fraser John Lyndsay’s Blues Incentive with Charlotte Marshall on vocals and sometimes bass, both of whom I have met through the State Bar and we, as you know, have a Jam Session at Swing on Thursdays. This is now 6 months old and a new group of friends is being made.
But moving forward, what I’d like to do is play more guitar. I do some open mic nights and play guitar and sing. That slide you saw me playing with? I made that at school in 1970. That’ll give you an idea of how long I’ve been playing.
Kirk: What? In metalwork class at school?
Kenny: Yes. Mr Beaton went out the class, I cut the brass pipe. He went out again, I buffed it down and shaped it, I’ve had it ever since. 45 years.
Kirk: So we’re sitting here in this beautiful, amazing room looking out over the grounds through this massive bay window…what’s you connection with this place Kenny?
Kenny: This is Holmwood House, the finest surviving example of an Alexander “Greek” Thomson designed dwelling house . I am a part-time volunteer here. My wife Louise has been here since it was opened to the public 17 years ago and she is the head guide. I love this place. When I win the Euromillions Lottery, I’m going to make the National Trust an offer they can’t refuse.
In my opinion, this place represents a significant part of Glasgow and I think, for my money, Thomson was one of the finest architects that Glasgow has ever produced. He probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. This is an oasis and you wouldn’t know it’s here.
Kirk: Well it’s been a great location and it’s been great talking to you. Thanks Kenny.
Kenny: Thanks very much Kirk. I’m flattered to have been asked.
Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 18 – 105
Focal length: 18mm
Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/6.3
Time of day: 10:45
Lighting: 3 speedlights 24″ softbox, 20″ umbrella, orange gel with honeycomb on drums. Balanced against nAtural sunlight through bay window
Flash controlled using Yonguo triggers.