Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

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Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby Morgenthaler » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:13 am

I'm not really sure what I want to say by start this topic - but I do know what triggered it: I just learned that Nuno Bettencourt has been touring with Rihanna since 2009.
I'm waaay late to this fact - it's not news by any account, but I just got around to this fact because Rihanna was playing Roskilde Festival a few days ago, and it came up as a fun fact.

What are your thoughts on this?

Vinnie is probably the best example of this, although Sting has been using a stellar line-up at most times.
Virgil toured with Tina Arena in 1997/1998 and with French superstar Michel Polnareff in 2007, earning him a shit load of money (with Bunny Brunel and Tony MacAlpine in the band too)
and giving him great exposure, while playing pretty straight ahead, even poor pop music (my opinion).

What's your thoughts on monster musicians occasionally touring with pop acts for a living?

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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby Rodge » Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:08 am

I don't work on live seting with artist that I don't like, I can do it in studio with everybody, but I don't want be on stage with an artist that I don't respect just for the money.
Well, I guess we all have a price innit... ;-)
I come from Tain, Vinnie, Omar, Jeff, Fish, Stewart, and many more...
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby bstocky » Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:25 pm

When I saw Nuno with Rihanna on SNL I was blown away. Great to see him still working.
All of those pop people have incredible drummers. Alicia Keys, Gaga, Beyonce, Jay Z ...they all play perfectly to clicks/sequenced tracks and have killer chops. Check out Josh Freese with NIN or the "new guy" Ilan Rubin, they're great drummers. I went to see John Mayer a few years ago hoping that Steve Jordan would be there. He wasn't, it was JJ Johnson. Keith Carlock did a tour recently as well. Gavin did Level 42 and a bunch of other pop acts. Todd does Styx. Lots of great drummers on pop/rock gigs.
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby beat hit » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:22 pm

The ones I can think of are: Omar Hakim with Madonna... Dennis with Santana... Steve Gadd with Clapton... Gary Husband with Level 42...
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby thewikiman » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:27 pm

Chad Wackerman with Men At Work...

I like it, it shows they can play music that non-musicians want to hear, which is important.
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby langmick » Tue Jul 09, 2013 2:21 am

One of the baddest guys to play drums that I've ever seen is Jonathan Moffett.

His gigs don't really get bigger, and he totally kills everything...consistency, creativity, control, chops.

He was on SNL with Janet Jackson and laid this groove down that was as steady and powerful as anything I've ever heard. Just that tune was a jaw-dropper.
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby Rod » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:29 pm

I've been interested in this topic for some time. I was also surprised when Rihanna started breaking big a few years ago and saw that Nuno was in the band.

Certain mainstream artists always seem to have top notch players in their bands, i.e. Sting, Clapton, James Taylor, Gino Vanelli, etc..
Then of course there are all the incredible gospel guys doing pop gigs like Spanky with Lady Gaga.

What I find interesting are the more unexpected pop artists who have, for lack of a better term, 'muso' types of players in their touring bands. Here are some other examples of drummers on pop gigs that I can recall from the past:

Van Romaine (Steve Morse Band) currently with Enrique Iglesias
Tom Brechtlein currently with Kenny Loggins
Michael Bland with Nick Jonas
Tony Royster Jr. with Joe Jonas
Gary Novak with Taylor Hicks (American Idol)

And, like Nuno, 'shred' guitarist Greg Howe has been on tour with Michael Jackson, Enrique Iglesias, 'N Sync, and Justin Timberlake.
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby nomsgmusic » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:01 pm

This is an interesting subject, but it's NOTHING new! It goes waaay back, it's called making a living. I am NOT implying that any of these guys is JUST doing this for a "payday," Come into a gig with "that" attitude and you'll be leaving really quickly. Do you think that Simon walked onto the recent Michael Schenker Group tour with that attitude? How about Gregg playing with Ringo? Or Omar playing with Chic a while back? I was with Vinnie the night before he flew out to do the Asia record, and he was really devoting himself to learning their music!

Any of the guys that were previously mentioned in this thread would tell you that they were better musicians because of ALL of those gigs. NO great musicians look down at ANY gig! But EVERY (good or great) musician can find a challenge in doing ANY gig! You don't look down your nose at it, you see it as a challenge to REALLY DO the gig (responsibly, and convincingly!)

Back to my example that this "tradition" goes waaaay back. MANY of the old jazz drummers did R&B tours (and records.) Philly Joe, Chico Hamilton, Big Sid, Papa Jo, Panama Francis, Roy Haynes, Connie Kay, Mel Lewis..... Most of the Motown guys were jazz players, and many of the older Memphis, and Nashville guys considered themselves to be jazz musicians.

Look at all of the great drummers who have done the James Taylor gig since Carlos died (Wackerman, Jordan, Gregg, Gadd, Carlock... Russ Kunkel; Although one could say that HE wrote the book for that gig!) Or how about the lineage of great drummers who have played with Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Santana.........?

What's the difference between Tommy B playing with Loggins (a gig that he absolutely KILLS by the way, I've seen him on that gig a number of times) and Papa Jo playing with Johnny Moore and Billy Valentine or Philly Joe playing with Joe Morris?

At some point it's about "taking care of business." Everybody has bills to pay. You can spend a lifetime sitting at home (or in your parents basement) waiting for the phone to ring with that "hip" gig. That's a really good way to stall, not even start, or cancel a career playing music.

Personally, I would almost rather see a guy conforming his ego to the music surrounding him, and having the patience and maturity to wait for "a spot" (even if it never comes,) than seeing someone play without many musical boundaries all night, and constantly just let it all hang out. Even Billy Cobham checked his ego at the door on some gigs (I saw him with Peter Gabriel in NYC and Bobby and the Midnites.)

I saw Joel Rosenblatt doing Bernie Williams' gig a while back (is he still doing that? He sounded VERY good!) It takes a talented musician to "play the gig," it's takes a "one gig wonder drummer" to get hired, fired, and never be heard from again!

Whose career would you rather have Chester Thompson's or Mike Clarke's? (ABSOLUTELY NO disrespect to Mike!)

I love doing those "unhip" gigs, and will continue to, y'all can sit home waiting for Chick or Holdsworth to call!
I got bills to pay, and a career to maintain!

Nice topic!
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby Rod » Wed Jul 10, 2013 4:35 am

Agree that the aforementioned list of drummers/pop gigs are examples of players who are willing and able to do these types of gigs responsibly and convincingly. I like the idea that these 'monster' players can do a creative, blowing type of gig one month and then also go and play a straight groove pop gig the next - all with the same intensity, musicality, and concept that each gig requires.

A few more 'monster' drummer / pop gig situations that I've enjoyed in the past:
Zach Danziger with Walt Mink
Cliff Almond with Japanese pop singer Utada Hikaru
Gary Novak with Alanis Morissette
Gregg Bisonnette with Spinal Tap

And Tom Brechtlein does kill that Kenny Loggins gig - sings backup too!
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Re: Monster musicians backing mainstream stars

Postby Mark P » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:59 am

I feel quite bizarre posting on this topic, I am no monster player, but I am what I would consider a pop drummer.

My CV includes some pretty well known pop artists, guys all of you would have heard of, and all of them I have been into in one way or another. (You're welcome to check my website if you fancy, although it's not totally relevant - that's not a plug or anything, I just want to lend some gravitas to what I'm saying). I have managed to buy my house in London off my own back, all paid for through pop music. In fact, it's a bit of an ongoing joke in my family, to the point that my girlfriend made this when I moved in...


I'm not saying I've been a fan of every single artist I have worked for, (or at least, I haven't necessarily been so prior to working with them), or even that I would buy their CDs now that I may have moved on from those gigs, but I think there is something in the process of learning and performing that music that gives you a real respect for the artistry, (or lack thereof) involved in the music. Pop music is called pop music because it is popular, whether or not you feel that it is to be dismissed, is puerile, has no meaning, or whatever, the fact that you can play to an audience and they appreciate and have some connection with an artist or with a particular song that means something to them, that can be quite special. Ever heard of someone having a guilty pleasure song? I think the key is to find good things in everything.

When I play with a particular girl band, the material can be very hit and miss! Some of the songs are fantastically written well crafted pop songs and some of them all very much throw away album tracks. It's my job to make everything sound and feel as good as it possibly can. The great thing is, usually there are fantastic musicians on stage and we all look for ways to make what is potentially a cheesy durge, credible, and turn it into something that you can dance to, perhaps rearrange the material, do whatever we can make it sound and feel good.

The challenges to bring credibility where perhaps there is none, but even that sounds very very very very very very very pretentious. Perhaps only a massive wanker would put it that way. Let me try and rephrase.

Credibility to some includes an ardent devotion to a type of music that is very non-admissible. Some jazz Nazis on this board have argued even guys like Brian Blade are tired, whereas guys like Ari Hoenig are pushing boundaries and a fantastic artists paving the way for new sounds. (I've heard people argue this by the way - I happen to respectfully disagree). I would consider those people complete lost causes when trying to argue about the merits of a pop gig. It's best I don't even try to reach out or appeal to those people, they will never change their minds, and why should they?

I think everybody else here, or elsewhere talking and discussing music, is doing so because they are genuine music fans. I believe that there are two types of music, good and bad. The good music is stuff I buy, (and again, this is all very opinion based) and choose to listen to in my spare time. There is literally no type of music that I can't find some sort of merit in, whether it's sheer blistering technique, or, whether it is melodically fantastic and reaches out to my soul, is lyrically superior and says something to me that I can relate to, or just sounds nice. Even the cheesiest of pop music has some pluses, I am very glad that I am not too cynical to find merit in the occasional Katy Perry song or the occasional Taylor Swift tune.

Sometimes the challenge for me comes in terms of making these gigs sit well, for the most part the super pop stuff is very programmed; the task is to bring that to a live audience and animate it. You have to bridge the gap between keeping it so the audience, perhaps mostly kids, can understand it, and give it some artistic credibility, (for want of a better phrase).

There is not a single gig in my life I haven't loved doing, are you kidding me?! Someone gives me money to travel the world play music and hang out with my friends! How is that a chore?
I am writing this from Japan where we are staying in the Ritz hotel, having amazing food and drink, all paid for, playing to sold out arenas full of adoring fans, seeing one of the most amazing cities in the world, and being paid for it. I understand that this board isn't the sort of place that normally warrants a good chat about pop music, but it is just that, M-U-S-I-C...

Again, the title of this thread is "Monster musicians backing mainstream stars", and I feel a bit out of place even commenting in it. I'm not a monster musician, (I don't believe that anybody would ever consider themselves such) but I can tell you from somebody who has made a living and bought a house doing it, it is the most fun job in the world.


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