With his sophisticated snare work, funky hi-hat and thumping kick grooves, Mel Gaynor drove some of the greatest, most anthemic pop songs of the '80s with Simple Minds, including 'Don't You Forget About Me' and 'Alive And Kicking'. He was also Rhythm's first ever cover star, back in 1985!
Brought up in a tough neighbourhood of South London, Mel was at school, oddly, with other musical stars of the '80s including Level 42's Mark King and Style Council's Mark Talbot. He began drumming at 11 and first played a pro gig at 14. He joined Simple Minds in 1981 as a session drummer on some of the New Gold Dream album. Suitably impressed, Jim Kerr and the Scots rockers hired him, and he's been their drummer ever since. Oh, except for a very brief period following band tensions over the recording of the 1989 album Street Fighting Years. Here's Mel had to say to Rhythm about his recorded contribution to the band's massive sound.
Sparkle In The Rain (1984)
"It put the stamp on the Simple Minds drum sound. We got a great sound on that record. It was the Phil Collins, 'In The Air Tonight' sound. That was the first time I started to write with the band and the drums were at the forefront. I'm a pretty adaptable player; I don't play loud all the time. It's down to the music and the artist, but that was a loud album."
Once Upon A Time (1986)
"We really took the time to sort out the songs and find some great ideas. We wanted to get the hits so there was pressure to come up with more singles on that album. We were cracking the American market, which was very important so there was a big transition at that time. The studio was in the middle of nowhere. We spent the best part of five months in it, then came out and went straight into Live Aid."
Street Fighting Years (1989)
"I got totally disillusioned by what [producer] Trevor Horn was doing to the band. He was getting me to play with brushes – not the band's style. He was getting me to play ridiculous things. I was just doing it for the sake of it, playing to please Trevor Horn – playing packing cases, bass drum cases… I thought, alright, I'll let him get on with it. But in the end I just snapped."
Real Life (1991)
"Real Life came back to the real Simple Minds sound. Itwas a great album to record. We had Steve Lipson working with us and he got some really fantastic sounds. I had a Pearl fibreglass kit, which was kind of a one-off. I went to Japan and just picked out some shells that were lying around in the factory. It was a very loud kit but it had a warm tone."
Check out:Simple Minds: 'Waterfront', 'Don't You Forget About Me', 'Alive & Kicking', 'All The Things She Said'
For 100 moreDrum Heroes, get yourself a copy ofRhythm Presents 100 Drum Heroes, available in the shops,onlineand onNewsstand foriPad, iPhone and iPod Touchright now! It's got loads of interviews and profiles with a ton of drummers, plus it's beautifully illustrated with classic and new photographs!