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It was just before Christmas that Rhythm met up with Rihanna drummer Chris Johnson in a decidedly posh hotel in West London. Chris was just about to wrap up a string of sold-out nights at the O2 Arena with the controversial pop superstar.
It’s fair to say that, with her provocative lyrics and outfits, Rihanna would not have met with approval in Chris’s household as a child. He grew up playing gospel music in the church where his father preached in Los Angeles.
“Only gospel music was allowed in the household,” says Chris, who had to wait for his older brother to vacate the drum seat before he had a chance to play.
“My dad had four boys so he had a whole band basically,” he says. Chris is naturally left-handed but playing the right-handed set-up in church led to him developing an open-handed style.
“It was hard at first but I like challenges,” he says. “I just cheat a bit and put the ride cymbal over to the left to make it a little easier.”
Chris started his professional life with gospel singer Donnie McClurkin and had his first taste of international touring with Anastacia.
“That was actually my first arena tour in 2004 or 2005,” he remembers. “I didn’t realise how big she was here in Europe. She lives in the States but it’s like no one knows who she is. We did a two and a half year run, on and off. That got my feet wet for arena touring. That was a fun gig.”
Here we bring you pictures of his kit from that Rihanna tour, along with snippets from Rhythm’s interview, which you can read in full in Rhythm 201. Or you can subscribe to Rhythm Magazine to read interviews with the world’s top drummers each month.