The Police were brilliant. With their jaunty rhythms and pummelling guitar hooks and bleached, blond hair, the band may be derided now, but their body of work is impressive, to say the least. In Sting, they had a charismatic frontman, who played bass like a lead guitar; in Andy Summers, they had an accomplished guitar player who imbued the melodies with a tremendous sense of harmony and peace; and in Stewart Copeland, incidentally the man who founded the band, they had a percussionist who could produce sounds once thought impossible of a drumset.
We interviewed Copeland earlier in the year, and our conversation flitted from the chuckles he enjoyed with 10cc guitarist Lol Creme, to the instructions Oliver Stone gave him in order to make his soundtrack more truthful and complete. We asked the percussionist was about John Bonham, considering the fact that they both use their back pedals to drum up the energy to keep the guitars flying in the air.
“I’m more inspired by him now than I was growing up,” he replies. “It was all Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell then and Bonham came later. I liked the fact that Ginger used his tomtoms a lot. He was playing more of his drums than the others, as was Mitch Mitchell who was probably the most inspiring out of all them. It was between him and Buddy Rich. Mitch Mitchell just had that electric spark that was just perfect for Jimi Hendrix on guitar. As a frustrated guitarist myself, that was a problem; ‘Who am I?’ ‘Am I the guitarist, drummer or both?’”.
Another percussionist up for discussion was Ringo Starr, far from the hackneyed trope that “he wasn’t the best drummer in The Beatles“, Copeland suggested that drummers definitely respect the man who played the barrelling drums on psychedelic anthems ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Rain.’
“At long last, he’s being appreciated for the musician he is,” Copeland replied.”Normally, singers and guitarists just want a backbeat: ‘Give us a simple backbeat, nothing flashy.’ Ringo did more than that, and it was refreshing to hear a drummer who did.”
So, that gives us five drummers who have inspired Copeland, whether it’s the rubber balletic swing of Starr’s work, to the propulsive drum patterns Mitchell and Bonham favoured during their time playing behind the kit. And in their own unique way, the five drummers inspired Copeland to create his own idiosyncratic style of drumming.
The interview now holds a sadder quality, considering that Copeland named Foo Fighters man Taylor Hawkins as one of his favourite contemporary drummers. At the time of the interview, Hawkins was alive and well.
Stewart Copeland’s five favourite drummers:
- Ginger Baker
- Mitch Mitchell
- Buddy Rich
- John Bonham
- Ringo Starr