Double drumming with TV funnyman Al Murray and Angel Witch sticksman Andy Prestidge may not sound like the most likely musical collaboration, but that is exactly what punters at this year's Download festival were treated to.
The pair are part of the latest line-up for rockers Geyser. The band, also featuring frontman Simon Oakes, formed way back in the '90s and have returned with new material and an intriguing live show that sees Al and Andy smash all hell out of two kits on stage. Shortly after their triumphant Donington set we sat down the pair to talk prog greats, drumming duos and more.
Where did the double drumming element of the band come from?
Al: "The double drumming idea came from that 20 years ago when this band first existed my stand-up was starting to go well so we thought we'd get Andy in to do some playing and we thought about double drumming. We had a rehearsal and the singer and bass player said it was like the blitz. We played every 16th note in every bar that we possibly could. It didn't work that time, it was a disaster."
Andy: "It took 20 years of discipline to nail it."
Why didn't it work first time around?
Al: "We went apeshit. We're in our 40s now and I don't play anything like as hyperactively now as I did then. We found a way of figuring it out."
Andy: "We found a way to fill the gaps and realise which gaps to not fill, that came with age and experience for both of us drumming, I think."
Al: "Make no mistake though we filled a lot of gaps. Although I don't think we filled any unnecessarily."
Was experience the key in nailing double drumming?
Al: "It just sounds better when you [play simple]. We did a couple of things where we're playing exactly the same beat and that's harder."
Andy: "You need to get that right. If I'm doing the backbeat and Al's doing the top-end-y stuff, that works."
Al: "There's one song where Andy is doing the backbeat and I'm doing a cross rhythm on it, so you've got two snare beats going on that don't seem to have anything to do with each other but they actually do. It's a part I used to try and play on my own, now I don't have to. It requires less effort, someone else is keeping time so you can illustrate or do whatever."
What kind of preparation did you put in before this show?
Al: "We sort of assembled the band backwards. We had the two drummers and then the guitarist/singer came in and then the other guitarist and then we brought the bass player in last. We thought the last thing we needed was a bloody bass player coming in interfering with what we'd worked out."
Andy: "I think it was important to work out the drum parts first. Al and I spent four or five hours just working on them, We didn't have a lot of time to do it really but I think it worked."
Will you be doing more double drumming from here in?
Al: "I really enjoy double drumming. I don't feel as exposed as I do when I'm playing on my own. I'm very nervous about doing music because I'm not really a musician. When there are real drummers out there my chief worry is that everyone will be thinking, 'What's he doing this for, he's shit.' But when there's two of us it kind of takes that pressure out."
How do you approach working out what kit to use?
Al: "We have slightly different approaches. I have a seven-piece kit with lots of toms and cymbals and then Andy is a one up one down guy. I can do a load of tones that Andy can't because I have the bigger kit and then he can do other things I can't as he has a heavier kit. We're doing kind of like what King Crimson did in the 90s with Bill Bruford and Pat Mastalato, and we're not saying either of us are playing like that, but they were doing that kind of approach with one of them being solid and the other zig zagging around. Phil and Chester was the double drumming that was around when I was a kid. What they did was amazing, with the interlocking and the way they made it swing. That's a very hard thing to do."
Were you tempted to go The Melvins route and share a kit?
Andy: "The Melvins have a lefty player and so do we, so maybe we could do that."
If you could offer one tip to would-be double drummers, what would you say?
Andy: "I'd tell anyone to go for it, it is so much fun."
Al: "Someone else is keeping time and it's not a bloody drum machine so you can go wrong in a human way and no one will ever know."