“It’s where I find the pureness of my expressions,” says world class drummer Terry Bozzio on the subjects of his drumming and music as he prepares for a series of upcoming area shows.
Born in San Francisco, CA; Bozzio began toying with what would become his passion at the age of six by playing along to Tito Puente and Ventures records on whatever he could amass. Coffee cans, bent signs and broken arrows for sticks paved the way for Bozzio who was determined to make music however he could. A change came about around the age of 13, when Like so many others at the time, he saw The Beatles performance on the“Ed Sullivan Show” and he became inspired to dream big.
Most musicians have a watershed moment; that moment when the realization hits that being a musician is you’re destiny. The moment when nothing else seems to matter, for it’s where you find yourself, who you want to become, along with happiness and determination; a determination that will test one’s drive and inner fortitude. Bozzio says that even at this stage of his long and storied career; it’s still an evolving process. “Oh man,” he started with a laugh. “Wow, oh man, there have been so many, that’s a really good question; can I say it’s still happening? When I was a kid I’d make a drum kit out of anything. I obtained a set of bongos and dismantled them to create a makeshift drum kit. High school was where I started taking the path and then I went to college and those first two years were a big influence; I was a music major. There I had exposure to Coltrane andWilliams and jazz and with every experience like that I realized it’s what I wanted to do.”
While in college, Bozzio was well on his way to becoming an accomplished percussionist; performing regularly with local symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles. The early ’70’s saw Terry turn his interest towards jazz and he began performing with area groups along side of “A List” players; even recording his first album on Fantasy Records. “I don’t knock education but no music education can match learning through experience,” he stated with confidence. “The things or drummers which have influenced me? No one person has directly influenced me; meaning I never tried to play like or imitate anyone. The ones I admired could all do certain things; not better than the others but differently. I found my own way and I only did that through my experiences. I have some favorites like Dennis Chambers but to this day, nobody has surpassed Billy Cobham. To me, nobody beats him as an educator or a drummer. I also learned that being in the background isn’t a bad thing either; could you imagine the Rolling Stones without Charlie Watts? Him,Ringo, these guys weren’t flashy but they were solid. I wouldn’t want to hear the Stones or Beatles without either of those guys; it wouldn’t be the same. They are two of the most tasteful drummers around.”
1975 saw the turning point in his still developing career. Terry auditioned for Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. “I hadn’t had a day job since I was in college. I was playing and I saw dollar signs and Frank, well; do you have four hours? Even four hours wouldn’t scratch the surface of what I could tell you about him. He took a musically educated, semi-classically trained drummer and made me world famous in a month! I was so young, I was 24 when he took me on and it changed everything. Frank was so talented, I’m not sure how many people know just how talented he was as a musician, a comedian, he was so funny and fun to be around and as a classical composer; he was incredible. I do have one regret and that is that I never got to back him up before he passed away. I would have loved to have performed with him as an older and more experienced musician; I know it would’ve been something.”
Terry used that success to parlay it into more opportunities as his stock rose. Now a force to be reckoned with; in 1977 he joined the Brecker Brothers and further padded his ever growing resume. “Those guys could really play,” he stated with respect in his voice.“Today, today’s kids may never know how good they were or even know that type of quality. It’s a shame the way music is now. There are so many great drummers and musicians out there; it’s ridiculous the ones that go undiscovered. Formal training doesn’t equal art and there are many untrained talents who are superior to trained composers. Playing with the Brecker Brothers, so much feel and freedom went into their music that it allowed me to expand my brain (laughs).”
A prolific composer in his own right, Bozzio has 12 discs of material and has appeared on countless others. A new disc and/or possible DVD are in the works and as he explained; there’s much material to pull from. “I’m still doing Terry Bozzio compositions 20 and 30 years after they were written. I’m thinking of and in process of putting together a sort of family history of Terry Bozzio. I want to include a few songs from every band that I’ve played with and use some Japanese musicians to put it all together; I seem to do really well over there.”
Like his talent, Bozzio uses a d w drum kit which seems larger than life. His “Big Kit,” as listed on his web site includes: “26 toms, 2 snares, 8 bass drums, 53 cymbals, 22 pedals (Included in this total are five working hi-hats), 2 electronic drums and miscellaneous percussion.” “I travel around and do clinics and perform my material; I accompany myself,” he said with a hearty laugh. “My drums are not normal, they are tuned to different melodies; chromatic on the left and bass notes on the right. I need octaves to play two hours of solo drums, eight of my cymbals are actually notes in scales; so bringing my kit anywhere is very hard but it’s worth all of the effort.”
One would think that a man of Bozzio’s ability and talent would offer up some thoughts on the state of music today; he did not disappoint as he opined quickly and curtly.“There’s a lot of garbage out there that kids can’t play. Nothing really excites me from many of the new artists and there’s nothing on TV that excites me either. There’s a lot of what I call disposable stuff. Stuff with a short shelf life; no longevity.”
With four shows in four nights, September 22 at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, PA, an already sold out show on September 23 at Havana in New Hope, PA, followed the next night at the Newton Theater in Newton, NJ and concluding on September 25 at City Winery in NYC; Bozzio has his work cut out for him. “I love doing music on my drums,” he stated rather matter of factly. “I play myself! I enjoy the shit out of it but it’s tough. I enjoy playing in New Jersey, the New York energy seems to spread and for some reason the audiences there relate well to me. These gigs in Philly, Jersey and New York are always a great time!”
To find out more about Terry Bozzio and purchase tickets, please go to www.terrybozzio.com
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)