At the age of ten or eleven, I began a quest to find as many sounds as I possibly could from paint cans, old kitchen pots and various household items and implements. Nothing much has changed!
Before this I was very interested in drawing, and it felt like that same visual sense entered my music playing.
My first instrument was a pair of old cheap bongos which I loved. Then the first drum was a Combo snare drum, which was one of those cheap snare drums with an attached tiny cymbal. I used to have my brother and sister turn the snares on and off at the appropriate time to achieve a tom tom sound on cue.
At home, I played to all different styles of music, even classical music… and would purposely not play what the drummer on the record was playing. Youthful arrogance! I used to detach the speakers from the record player and hang them out the window so I could play on the front lawn to an adoring crowd of ten young kids on the fence. And so my career began. I loved music and drumming so much I would practise before and after school and on the wekends. Luckily for my family I was into brushes and mallets, not just sticks.
The first serious lessons were much later, at age 15, with a wonderful teacher Garth Thompson, at Billy Hyde’s in Melbourne. He certainly passed on some wonderful things, particularly about chart reading, and polyrhythms.
The lessons lasted around a year and a half. Up to that stage I was mainly self taught from the many drum books of the time. I observed technique and hand positions etc from the photos in the books. And a great influence was seeing people play live or on television. Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson were particularly inspiring.
Right from early on I was known as someone with “big ears” because I would turn up to gigs as a 12 or 13 year old, and be filling in for drummers 3 times my age without any rehearsal!!
At 14 I was doing 3 nights a week regularly, whilst still at school, and a yearly feature was to play solo at the school dance for the oldest students of the school – what a blast! My parents drove me to all the gigs, and my mum became an expert at setting up my drum kit!