Interview with Robin Goodridge - Dec 09
I met up with Robin about 3 years ago on a night out with some drummers and ended up in an after hours club in Camden town. We talked about the Bush days, why a UK band which was massive in the USA and would play in front of 80,000 people struggled in the UK, what made him come back to the UK and losing his passion for drums. I told him we need to get together and do an interview it took us this long to get it sorted out!
Since that night Robin has given up London life for the fresh air and seaside of (my home town) Brighton and has got a new gig with The Stone Gods. We met up after the band opened the Download main stage.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the 90s, when you joined Bush.
Yeah, I wasn’t the original drummer, Spencer was the original drummer and he went on to play with Morrissey. I went down and saw the band and I loved them. I went in the studio in my usual way and told them that I should be their drummer. I auditioned and got the gig and we started writing songs. They had a couple of songs written and a few I didn’t really rate so Gavin, Nigel, Dave and myself all started writing together. ‘Everything Zen’ came out of the first session and there was an identity appearing in the band, the rest is history as they say. We got very lucky with a record deal in America. We were a very good live band; we went out and did our job playing five shows a week, 78 dates on an American tour. That’s how we achieved what we did more than anything.
In American you would be out there playing in front of 40-50,000 people and then in England it was the complete opposite. Why do you think that was?
A lot of it was politics to be honest. I think the press in the UK were just really upset that everyone was going on about us in America. In 1994/95 we were the biggest band in American and it upset everyone because Oasis were doing everything over here and it was like ‘No, we want Oasis to be exported to America’. The Americans were bouncing back saying ‘No we’re not bothered about them, we like Bush’. This went on for quite a while and I think once that happened I think everyone got very entrenched.
A lot of people like Steve Sutherland, just flatly refused to get involved in us, so we basically became a rock band for the rock fans. Thankfully Kerrang and the true rock magazines, they came in and were like ‘No, we dig it’, it was a really hard time for English rock bands, 1995, it was really tough. There wasn’t anybody of our ilk so they were happy. It’s become so much more entrenched now; rock is in another world now, whereas at that time you couldn’t hear rock music. There was Radio 1 Rock Show and then regional Rock Radio. I mean you’re never going to get massive playing on regional Rock Radio. Now there’s so much more out there, so many more places to go out and find bands, that particular scenario wouldn’t happen. If you went out to America and got massive you would be massive over here in 2 weeks because people would just be going for it.
Did that annoy you guys?
No, not really. It was boring because politics shouldn’t get involved with music but in the greater scheme of things that’s not such a big deal. I loved the fact that America embraced us, to be honest with you, everywhere in Europe, we were in Germany, the Netherlands, Northern Europe we did great. Southern Europe, not the same - Spain never really worked out for us. Japan, Australia really good, it was just the UK, Spain and France that didn’t.
No-one really understands why nobody likes bands in France and Spain. We did really well, we worked hard, we did loads of festivals in Europe, we played Reading. I thought we were great that day; we got a lot more kudos out of playing it. We played Glastonbury twice and got a lot of kudos out of that, but no-one really wanted to give it up for us and when you’ve got an agent in American going ‘Why are you bashing your head against a rock when you can just come over here and play wherever you like to 30,000 people?’.
The Internet never really was in force in that day, it made things a lot different. We were lucky. For god’s sake when we played in America there was only MTV and VH1 and we had 3 videos an hour on MTV at one point, which would never happen now. There’s so much diversity now I don’t think we would ever have been as big but we were really big because MTV just loved us that much that they kept playing our videos and that was the only source of TV access rock music. In three years it completely changed, there was MTV1, MTV2, it spread into a thousand different channels.
So you moved out to America.
I was in LA for four years, It’s a funny place, its great when you’re working, coming in and out of it, a few days in your house, a bit of sushi, then off for another tour; I really liked it, but when Gavin pretty much said ‘I want to go and do a solo record’ I just thought I don’t want to live in LA waiting around for Gavin to decide what to do, so I moved back to London where I was from and hung out with my mates; I had 10 years where I didn’t see my best pals very often, so I thought I’d go back to London and get on with other things. I was right, because here we are nine years later and Bush still haven’t done anything, I would have been sitting in LA.
So Bush has not broken up.
No. It isn’t finished, 3½ years ago Gavin contacted everyone and wanted to do another Bush record but the songs he’d written were as a solo artist. Everyone listened to it and got together and we were like ‘Gavin you’ve written a solo album, just go and release a solo record’. It’s like you’ve got a pair of trousers and you’re trying to cram three other people into one pair of jeans, it’s just not going to happen. Just go and do your thing and if and when we want to make a record that everybody’s happy to do we’ll do it but otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.
I would be much more interested in just going out and playing the hits for an hour and 20 minutes, that would be great fun because I wouldn’t have to do anything, I’m playing it as per the record, if that was ok with everybody, there would be not creative input because that was done back in the day, you’re not going to mess around with your hits, so from that point of view I would like to do it. There is an inevitability about it but it’s not my priority now because it has already happened, what I want to happen now is I want Stone Gods to be a big successful rock band in their own right.
So after some time out you joined up with Spear Of Destiny. Tell us about that?
I was in Bush from 1992 and there was a lot of tours, a lot of stuff, four albums - it was nice. After Bush I had a couple of years where I didn’t do a lot, I did a few sessions, did favours for people and then I started touring with Spear of Destiny and I found I really enjoyed touring again, it was easier, it wasn’t 75 dates, it was 20 dates in the UK, Europe. And the musicians were amazing - Craig Adams (Sisters of Mercy and The Mission), Adrian Portas, Kirk Brandon. I was like ‘Yeah I’d love to play with those guys’ and that turned into a really great re-entry into touring again, without all the dinosaurs and dragging trucks around, it was just four musicians, a couple of techs and a splitter bus and I loved it, I got back my passion for playing again. There was a lot of baggage with Bush, when a band gets the size of Bush everything gets really big, it’s like why can’t we just do a small show without all the rig? Well it costs £10,000 to get everyone together and it’s like ‘Well how does that work, I’ll set my drums up’. It got to that point where it becomes a giant machine you’ve got to start up. It’s cool, but you can’t do things for fun. Vince this tech guy who did the guitars and the drums, we had such a laugh and I thought I’m all right, I can play and I enjoyed it and I don’t need all that other crap.
Did you doubt yourself?
I didn’t doubt my playing, I lost being right there at the front line, you’re just used to sitting in this bubble and then get plonked on the stage and play to 30,000 people. Everything was done for you - I never tuned my drum kit - I just thought I don’t really enjoy this anymore. When I got back into it I opened up flight cases in the lock up and I’d go ‘I didn’t know there was all this gear in here’, I was finding snare drums and things, we’d obviously been sent or bought and I just either never used them or I’d use them on one day and then go ‘No I don’t like that’. It was great fun going out on the Spear Tour and saying ‘I know, I’ll take that snare drum I found the other day, I’ll take that as a spare and see what it’s like’. I got back in touch with what it’s about, I really enjoyed it, and from that it made me able to get involved properly and be creative again.
Now you’re with the Stone Gods how did that gig come around?
Well, Ed, the original drummer, (ex-Darkness drummer) got an injury about 18 months ago so my first ever gig with Stone Gods was Download last year. I took the job just for a three week tour and it just kind of turned into the way the band played, they really enjoyed it and they asked if I was interested in making it a full time thing.
I have a certain way of playing and a certain way I like to play with other people and if they’re open and want to do that then that’s great and that’s how it happened, they were really happy to adapt the music slightly to let me do what I like to do as well, from a feel point of view, because a lot of it was quite straight. If you listen to it, it’s quite straight and I like to have a little more groove in it than was on the first record.
With the success you’ve had with Bush and now Stone Gods, what advice would you give guys and girls who want to get into this business?
I read your interview with Dave Mattacks who is a bit of a historical gem. I was in a blues band when I was about 18 and Dave Mattacks came to see us. He was playing with Richard Thompson and he had three months off and he nicked my job for 3 months in the blues band I was in. The guys were all in their early 40’s and I was about 19 and he became friends with them and ended up doing my gig which was cool. I went to see them play, I love Dave Mattacks, he’s a legendary great technician, sound, time; unbelievable. So I thought, fair enough, if I’m going to lose my seat for a few months I better go and watch what he’s doing, so I can get my head around it. I was playing in a blues band but I was playing more like the drummer in the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Dave Mattacks told me when I talked to him about stuff later on, the name of the game is to find the music that you really do play well and play that. Because a lot of drummers make the mistake of trying to be a rock drummer, funk drummer, jazz drummer, they never get to the real depth and roots of one particular discipline and if you can get that discipline and really study it that’s where you start. If you start there you’ve got a much better chance of getting on in the world of music I think.
Words Mike Dolbear
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