Freelance Drummer
Roy Martin

Biography

Liverpool is not a bad place to be born if you want to be in the music business. It has a certain kudos worldwide due to my uncle Ringo and his mates (just kidding about the uncle thing!). I got my first gig with a band when I was 14 due to the bands drummer dying in a bizarre boating accident ... destiny.

Since that day, the drumming bug bit and I was hooked.

It's an interesting ride, sometimes brilliant, sometimes scary. Playing "dives", moving continents, practicing, not practicing enough, meeting great people (musicians are the funniest people on the planet) meeting not so nice people (record executives are NOT the funniest people on the planet!) playing beautiful venues in countries I never would have visited and generally feeling very lucky to be able to make a living at the thing I love the most.

Most of the 80's were spent back and forth to New York, which became my home for 5 years. There I became professional, more confident and a more experienced player after doing a lot of gigs, a lot of little sessions and my first big budget sessions with people like Regina Belle, Aretha Franklin and David Sanborn. The New York experience taught me everything, as I met and played with so many great musicians. I also did a bit of studying at the Drummers Collective.

I got the taste for touring too, completing two long crazy jaunts around U.S.A with platinum selling indie popsters: Modern English, playing every city on the map, it seemed. I thought all tours would involve stage invasions, fans throwing themselves at our moving cars and revelry of the highest order, but no ... it doesn't always happen like that. In fact, it has never happened since!

On the birth of our first child we returned to the mother country and I basically started again. Not easy, but since then, I have managed to continue to play some great music with some wonderful people, touring and recording in equal measures all over the place. Not living in London and therefore not being part of any 'clique' I have found myself playing with some non mainstream, artists from far flung parts of the world, such as Israel, Germany, Australia and France. This is great as you get a cultural experience as well as a musical one.

Adventures.. Prog-Rock, Pop, R+B, Blues, Acoustic, Indie Pop, Rap/Dance, Country, Folk, Avant-Garde, Experimental Instrumental, Gospel.

That's what the last 30 years of drumming has encompassed. Never a dull musical moment (No ... actually, that's not exactly true!!).

With all the negative stuff you have to deal with as a freelance drummer: the uncertainty, the diplomacy, the absence from your family, the insecurity, I occasionally sit behind my drums and look out at a venue, such as a Roman Amphitheatre on a balmy Mediterranean evening and I realise why I keep doing it, despite everything.

Cheers, Roy

Influences

My earliest influence was my cousin Ian, who played drums with a band during the Merseybeat boom of the 60's alongside The Beatles, Gerry & the Pacemakers and the rest. He showed me my first rhythms when i was very small and i still remember the feeling of hearing his drumming on a vinyl single as it went round on the turntable. I thought it was the coolest thing!

When i was 10 years old i went with my elder sister to see Deep Purple at Liverpool Stadium and was floored by Ian Paice, my first drumming hero "In Rock", "Fireball" and "Machine Head" were then my drumming bibles. He is and will always be, for me, the greatest ever rock drummer. Groove, power, precision, invention and taste. It still always makes me smile when i listen to his playing.

When i was further into my teens though i started to discover the American groove masters and three drummers in particular really affected me and inspired me to emulate their approach. Andy Newmark, Jeff Porcaro and Steve Gadd.

I met Andy Newmark in 1985 and we became friends and it was a great priviledge and pleasure to sit and talk drums to him as a 23 year old wide-eyed novice, as it is to this day. He remains, in my book, the ultimate pop/groove player with a totally unique feel.

The late great Jeff Porcaro seemed to be on so many records that i liked as i was growing up. Strangely it wasnt really the Toto records that drew me to him, but the breadth of different artists and styles he was called to play, always sounding so sympathetic to the music and forever with that astounding groove.

Steve Gadd, as everyone knows, is just about perfection. Immaculate on every note. He plays quarter notes with an intensity I have never heard from anyone else. Each and every note has his heart and soul in it. It wasn't the early jazz/fusion records that inspired me but the later, simpler grooves that i could relate to more easily. He is a true genius i believe.

The more I listened and read about these players i then discovered other players who inspired and were admired by them. People like Jim keltner, who was Newmarks hero, John Robinson and Steve Ferrone and of course Bernard Purdie, who I once had the opportunity to have a lesson with, but was too intimidated to go!! Idiot!!

Roy's Recommended Listening

Andy Newmark
  • "In Time" from album "Fresh" by Sly and the Family Stone
  • Double Fantasy - John Lennon
  • Avalon - Roxy Music
  • Young Americans - David Bowie
  • The Beauty Stab - ABC
  • Jungle Fever - Neil Larsen

Jeff Porcaro
  • Secret Combination - Randy Crawford
  • Middle Man - Boz Scaggs
  • If Thats what It Takes - Michael McDonald
  • Best of - Larry Carlton
  • "Lady Love Me" from album "In your Eyes" by George Benson
  • The Nightfly - Donald Fagen

Steve Gadd
  • If Thats What it Takes- Michael McDonald
  • Rickie Lee Jones - Pirates
  • Aja - Steely Dan
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Live in Central Park

Roys Top Ten Groove Merchants:
  1. Steve Gadd
  2. Andy Newmark
  3. Jeff Porcaro
  4. Jim Keltner
  5. John Robinson
  6. Steve Ferrone
  7. Bernard Purdie
  8. Al Jackson
  9. Steve Jordan
  10. Rick Marotta

Past Work

Artists worked with include:

Athena
Ant & Dec
Black
Jimmy Barnes
Jack Bruce
Billy Brannigan
Joan Baez
Breed 77
Regina Belle
Barclay James Harvest
The Christians
Cock Robin
The Cheap Seats
Sad Café
Diesel
David Essex
Aretha Franklin
Gavin Friday
Thea Gilmore
Roland Gift (Fine Young Cannibals)
David Grey
James House
Shalom Hanoch
Patricia Kaas
Elisha La'Verne
Connie Lush
Lightning Seeds
James Morrison
Erin McKeown
Dave McCabe (The Zutons)
Glen Matlock
Donna McGhee
Mansun
Modern English
Nut
Oui 3
Mike Peters (The Alarm)
Robert Palmer
Ronnie Peterson
Terry Reid
Nigel Stonier
Show of Hands
Viv Stanshall
Teitur
Gerry Thomas (Fatback Band)
Gene Watson
Snowy White
Pete Wylie
Russell Watson
Paul Young (Mike & The Mechanics)
Mark Butcher
Sari Schorr
Larry Gatlin
In addition I recorded the grooves for Yamaha Samplers and Keybords in 1998

Have recorded many jingles and library music in U.K and U.S.A for Warner Chappell, Atmosphere (London) and OmniMusic (New York).

Been featured in drum magazines: 'Sticks' in Germany, 'Batteur' in France.

Featured on film soundtracks for the movies:

  • Blame it on the Bellboy
  • End of the Orange Season
  • Don't tell Mom the Babysitters Dead
  • And Now Ladies and Gentlemen

Also recorded drums for the walk on music for the Champions League theme.

Equipment

Pearl Maple Custom Shells
  • 24" x 16" Kick
  • 12" x 14" rack tom
  • 16" x 16" Floor tom

Snares
  • Natal Stave Snare 14" x 6"
  • Ludwig Black Beauty 14" x 6.5"
  • Ludwig Keynote Maple 14" x 6.5"
  • Pork Pie Custom 12" x 6"
  • Gretsch Wooden Hoop Maple 14" x 5.5"
  • Orange County Custom drums 14" x 6"

  • Cymbals: PAISTE (endorser)
  • Various models and sizes including TWENTY, Dark Energy, Formula 602, Signature Traditionals, pstx and Prototypes
  • Sticks: Los Cabos Extreme 5A (endorser)
  • Heads: Remo Coated Ambassador and Emperor
  • No Nuts Cymbal Sleeves (endorser)
  • Baskey Rug Lugs (endorser)

  • Misadventures

    I decided to call this section Misadventures because I have heard, as most musicians have, so many funny episodes from being on tour that inevitably somebody suggests that there should be a book of them (there probably is). But as I am too lazy to try to compile a book or even worse, attempt to get it published I thought I would put some of the stories I remember on the site...

    The Orchestra Pit Story

    An old friend of mine was playing guitar in the pit band of a very famous Broadway musical of its time, in the mid 80's, called "Dreamgirls". There was a matinee performance after which some members of the band went to eat. During the evening performance, the drummer suffered a violent stomach upset at which time the meal vacated his body at both ends, shall we say. But this is Broadway, folks. The show must go on. He continued pounding the vomit splattered skins drenching his band mates in their bijou orchestra pit for a further hour and a half!!

    The Naked Roadie Story

    This is a story that is an absolute nightmare scenario. Sleepwalking is a particularly hazardous affliction if you spend many months sleeping on a tour bus. A tour that a friend of mine did had a crew member who was constantly waking up the other guys trying to climb into their bunks. Or he would be found lying in the gangway the next morning after wandering around the bus falling over whilst fast asleep. This particular night, they were in the middle of the Spanish countryside and the bus had stopped for fuel. The sleepwalking technician, who also happened to habitually sleep naked (no I wouldn't either if I walked in my sleep!) sauntered out of the open door of the bus, unseen by the driver who was busy refuelling. He wandered into an adjacent field where he curled up and resumed his sleep. After paying, the driver left with the bus and the sleeping, naked tech was left sound asleep in a field. I have no idea what happened when he woke, I didn't hear the rest of the story I was laughing too hard.

    The Funny Story

    I was once having a conversation side stage with a famous Israeli comedian, him having appeared as a guest with the artist I was working with. This was a very large stage erected in a park with an audience in their thousands. I told him a funny story and he laughed heartily. So heartily in fact, that he stepped backwards and disappeared. Fifteen feet he dropped and broke his leg. Well I know it's not funny, but he was laughing as he went....

    The Disappearing Driver Story

    When I was in my teens playing in one of my first bands, we had no one in the band who could drive. One of our friends volunteered to drive us, so we managed to buy an old van and he, having just passed his test at 18, careered round Liverpool with band and gear flying around the back of the van. One night I was sitting next to him in the front seat and we were travelling fairly slowly in a quiet side street, when for some by now forgotten reason, he put the gear stick in neutral, opened the door and jumped out! I was left behind with a moving van, no idea how to control the thing and the echo of the madboys laughter in my ears. I managed to grab the wheel so that it at least stayed in a straight line and it then gradually came to a halt, as we had been climbing a slight incline. At this point, it began to move backwards towards crazy-jumping-boy, who had been lying in the middle of the road giggling. I then managed to have the presence of mind to pull on the handbrake to prevent a squashed crazy-jumping-boy. It would have served him right.

    The Hotel Room Story

    A musician friend of mine, while on tour, cheerfully one day breezed up to the hotel reception and asked for his key: "Room 452 please". His key was given to him and he entered his room with a pressing need for the bathroom. Whilst spending some time on the toilet, he thought he'd call his wife. (Strange, I know but...) He chatted happily to his wife who happened not to be in the same country as him, therefore racking up a hefty phone bill. As he left the bathroom pulling up his pants, he noticed the other articles of clothing in the room were unfamiliar to him. Room 452 was his room number in the LAST hotel he stayed in, not this one!!!

    The Window Story

    America. Mid-West. Motel on a highway miles from anywhere. It was a hot night and a sleepless one for me. A drink, that's what I needed. When you are lying in a bare hotel room staring into blackness in the middle of the night willing sleep to arrive, a small desire becomes an absolute necessity very quickly. Drinks machine at the end of the corridor. I attempted to leave my room. I couldn't open the door. Nothing worked. Stuck fast. I had to have a drink. The window. Ground floor. No problem. Out in a flash, I jumped down and walked towards the corridors end along the grass. I passed window after window. Got the drink by pushing through the fire escape door. Now back to my room. Satisfied. I'm faced with 25 rooms, exactly the same, all with their windows open on a hot night!! Retraced my steps, expecting, hoping, desperately to recognise mine. Blackness through every cheap hotel net curtain. Its this one, or....maybe that one. One of the two I was sure. Took a guess. 50% chance of success. Boosted myself up and pushed myself through the slightly parted curtains. I'm in. Black. Edged my way to where I knew the bed was, until I could just see.....the 20 stone lighting guy in bed with his wife!!!!!!!! Exit quietly. I was 50% wrong.

    The Handbag Story

    A famous American drummer, who shall remain nameless, was staying in the South of France with his girlfriend. After a day on the beach, during which they had consumed a welcome seafood lunch, they were invited to a chi-chi dinner party at a house a drive away from their own. During the dinner my friend started to feel the results of his lunch not quite being as fresh he thought it was. He excused himself and left the table hurriedly for the bathroom. Unfortunately he didn't arrive in time. Thankfully after scrutiny, his trousers were untouched but his underpants were unwearable. As he was standing there wondering what to do with them, he suddenly realised that between him and the dining room was the bedroom were all the coats and bags were left. He would wrap them in toilet paper and put them in his girlfriend's bag. This, he did and on returning to the table they politely excused themselves and left. In the car when explaining the problem to his confused, but concerned girlfriend, he told her that they were in her handbag. "But I didn't bring a bag" was her reply!!!!

    The Drummer Revealed Story

    A friend of mine, the drummer with a very successful rock band of the last 40 years, who is sadly no longer with us, had a period of time when he would imbibe a little too much pre-show, therefore frequently wanting to visit the little boys room mid-gig. One particular evening he could hold it no more and frantically signalled to his drum tech to get him some kind of receptacle for him to relieve himself in. Having a very large and intricate set up in front of him he figured he would be able to quickly do the deed in between songs, as the lights were dimmed, unknown to the audience in front of him. Unfortunately the lights went up before he had finished, revealing the fact that the band were playing 'in the round' that particular evening, which had slipped his mind and there were a thousand people behind his drum kit with a perfect view of his actions!!!

    The Lost Bass Player Story

    During a tour in France we were playing in Lyon at a venue which is at the foot of the tallest building in the city. In this tall building is a bank and the top few floors are a hotel, in which we were staying, which affords you a wonderful view of the beautiful city of Lyon. We had walked the 30 metres from hotel to venue to do the soundcheck and between the check and the show, our bass player had decided to go for a walk to try to find a phone box. This he did and eventually found one not too far from the venue. But, on returning he had forgotten the way and therefore phoned one of the band for the name of the venue, which he had forgotten. At this point he was told the wrong name (the first problem) When he asked a passer-by, in pigeon French, where this venue was, he was given directions, which whilst walking towards, he thought seemed much further than he had come. (Why he didn't look up to see where the tallest building was, I will never know!!) On arriving at the venue he had been told was the correct one, he realised it was the wrong place. At this point he began to panic. He was a long way away from a place he had no idea how to get to and the time was now short. 30 minutes before showtime. He called again to a band member who then gave him the correct name and he started to look for a taxi and to walk in the direction he had just come. Taxi after taxi passed him before, in absolute desperation, he opened the back door of an occupied cab and showing his tour pass tried to bribe the passenger into taking him to the venue with the offer of free tickets. The confused passenger had no desire to see the show and was also dubious about letting a strange looking English musician into his cab. A stand off ensued with him pulling the door closed from the inside and my friend puling it open from the outside PLEADING for his careers sake!! Ultimately with a few euros passing hands he got the lift he needed and stumbled into the dressing room as white as a sheet, completely stressed and 2 minutes before stage time. We all laughed a lot. He didn't.

    The Walking Off Story

    During a Patricia Kaas tour in 2002 there was a song on which I didn't play, so with the percussionist, also surplus to requirements, I would leave the stage to stand side stage with my tech. After doing 60 odd shows, it becomes a very familiar routine and is almost second nature. This one particular evening, I cant remember whether the set list had been changed or not, but I proceeded to leave the stage, as usual, in a casual manner. It was a large stage and therefore a 30 metre trip to the wings where my drum tech was standing. As I was approaching him I couldn't understand why his expression was so perplexed. By the time I arrived in front of him he looked as if he was about to explode. "What are you DOING???!!" he gasped at me. I looked back onto the stage to see the percussion player looking over his shoulder at me with an expression of absolute horror mixed with total confusion. It suddenly hit me that I had walked off one song too early!!! Thankfully Patricia was talking and not standing waiting for me to start the next song. I strolled back on as cool as could be, arriving on my kit just as Patricia turned to me to start. Professional.

    You can book a lesson with Roy at his Liverpool City Centre studio by contacting him through his email address


    Copyright © Roy Martin 2020