Bob Dylan has an incomparable legacy. Having defined the sound of the 1960s, soundtracked the civil rights movement, and released 39 studio albums, the singer-songwriter is a fundamental part of the American musical landscape. In a notable interview, the legendary musician was asked about some of his favourite drummers and even shared what he required from drummers in his own backing band.
When Dylan was asked to name his favourite drummers he struggled to provide an answer, naming the likes of “[Gene] Krupa, Elvin Jones, Fred Below, Jimmy Van Eaton, Charlie Watts,” as all equally impressive musicians. He went on to add: “I like Casey Dickens, the drummer who played with Bob Wills. There are a lot of great drummers.” But when Dylan was pressed for a solid answer he gave a surprising response “I like the drummer I have now, he is one of the best around.,” Dylan said. “But if he ever left me for some reason, like to join The Rolling Stones or something, I’d have to replace him.”
The drummer performing with Dylan at that moment was Matt Chamberlain, a session musician who was, for a brief time, the drummer for Pearl jam. Chamberlain was born and raised in San Pedro, California. He discovered the drums as an angsty teenager of 15, and quickly fell in love with the instrument, taking lessons with David Garibaldi from the band Tower of Power. Later, he attended North Texas State’s music program but dropped out less than a year in.
After moving to Dallas, Texas, he began playing with bands and honing his skill in the city’s many clubs, bars and venues. After being spotted by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, he recorded two albums with the band before they broke up in 1991.
Soon afterwards he joined Pearl Jam and played with them for about three weeks in the summer of that name year. After becoming the drummer for the Saturday Night Live band, Chamberlain quickly earned a reputation as one of the most reliable session drummers in America and eventually joined Bob Dylan on his Never Ending Tour.
Desciribing the role of a good drummer and what they should avoid, Dylan said: “What should the guy avoid? Probably trying to get to know anybody too quick. No big cymbal crashes on the word “kick” in the song ‘I Get a Kick Out of You.’ So the drummer is not the leader. He follows the steady pulse of the song and the rhythmic phrasing. If he does that and keeps it simple, he doesn’t have to avoid anything,”
Listen below to Bob Dylan and his favourite drummer on ‘License to Kill’.