Interview: 1985-??: Clem Burke Talks About Eurythmics To Modern Drummer

BLONDIE’S CLEM BURKE

 

From Modern Drummer

 

Of course, fame is often fleeting, By the early ’80s Blondie was gone from view. Besides lead singer Debbie Harry, who released the occasional solo album, and acted in some offbeat films, Burke kept a higher profile than any of his bandmates, recording and/or touring with Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, The Eurythmics, Dramarama, Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, The Romantics, and the Plimsouls.

 

Technically speaking, though, Blondie never called it a day. An official breakup announcement hadn’t been made, and their business affairs weren’t officially dissolved. It was more like the band was put on ice for…like…sixteen years.

 

Now the four core members of Blondie—Burke, Harry, guitarist Chris Stein, and keyboardist Jimmy Destri—are back. The band’s brand-new album, No Exit, features the exquisite hit single “Maria”, which debuted at Number 1 on the British singles chart and almost as impressively at home. Primo late-night TV appearances and a scalding performance on this year’s American Music Awards knocked out thirty-somethings with skinny ties in their closets and baggy-legged No Doubt kids alike. And Web simulcasts, VH-1’s airing of their February 23 New York Town Hall concert, and tours through Europe and the States proved the once mighty band could still bring a cauldron of contagious live energy to boil.

 

In each forum, Clem Burke provides the sights and sounds that literally draw you in. This particular fan clearly remembers, as a teenager, being completely floored by Burke’s Keith Moonish abandon on an American Bandstand performance of the gloriously tom-heavy hit “Dreaming”. Twenty years later, Clem looks barely a day older perched behind his red sparkle Premier kit, trademark Beatle shag making a blur with each roundhouse 16th-note fill. Like a poster boy for the drums, Burke visually and sonically represents the pure joy of hitting like very few other players do.

 

That Blondie has reunited at all is due in no small part to Burke’s dedication and enthusiasm. At a Chelsea studio during a break between rehearsals for their current tour, Debbie Harry put it this way: “Ever since I’ve known him, Clem has been dedicated to rock ‘n’ roll and being a pop star and musician. That’s really all he ever wanted to be. It’s his dream. he’s worked for it, and now he’s done it.”

 

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It’s not just the trappings of fame that interested Burke in a reunion. even more than working with legends like Dylan and Townshend, it’s Blondie—the players, the music, the idea—that’s closest to his heart, and the drummer says he and the others had no interest in simply retreading past glories. “The whole impetus to get back together was to make a new record,” Clem insists. “It wasn’t to go out and play some kind of revival thing. We wanted to make a musical statement.”

 

Though Clem says Blondie’s record company initially wanted to release a best-of disc with a couple of new songs, “That was ludicrous in everyone’s mind. There have been so many reissues of Blondie stuff, and I think it’s unfair to people who are interested in the band to have to buy all the old songs again just for one or two new songs. I also think that our starting up again is somewhat of a media event, and it would have been a waste of time and energy to publicize the fact that we had another greatest hits album. So everyone agreed that if we were going to do this, we’d take our time and write new material.”

 

According to Clem, Blondie’s resurrection didn’t come out of nowhere. “We always remained friends,” he explains, “but we approached getting together to make music again slowly at first. We tried to become ‘a band’ again—finding a place to rehearse, figuring out what songs to dom what kind of haircut to have…. No Exit has been three years in the making. We didn’t want to jump into this.”

 

Tentative baby steps or not, after extensive rehearsing in Chris Stein’s basement studio in downtown Manhattan, it becameapparent to all that a Blondie for the ’90s was indeed possible. “I don’t think there was any one moment where we all went, Wow, this is great!” Burke clarifies. “It was more like, This seems like it could work; let’s continue and see where it takes us.” Where it took them into a proper studio for six months with Craig leon, who in 1976 produced the band’s first, self-titled record. “We only spent six weeks of that time recording,” Burke says, “but we did a lot of pre-production and writing. We all contributed to the album.”

 

No Exit starts off with “Screaming Skin”, an uptempo ska-rock number seemingly written with Clem’s drum style in mind. “That sound at the beginning is a press roll from another take of the song that we processed,” Clem explains. “I like that song a lot; it’s one of the songs that we do live now.” Featuring a four-on-the-floor bass drum and a signature five-stroke roll orchestrated differently throughout the song and ending on a snare/crash accent on the upbeat, the tune is all energy, and reintroduces the band in a grand fashion.

 

“Forgive and Forget” sounds like it’s programmed, but Clem corrects, “There is programming going on, but not drum programming. First I overdubbed the 16ths on hi-hat and the basic 2/4 on kick and snare over the keyboard sequence, and then I overdubbed the tom-tom pattern. That tight percussive sound is an empty water cooler that I played with my hands like a conga. That sounds very much like a sequencer, especially when you compress it. The whole percussion track was then mixed and processed. I’ve done that kind of thing before, like on ‘War Child’ from the last Blondioe record. I learned that from dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. there’s a song on their Sweet Dreams record, which I didn’t play on, but during the bridge there are milk bottles being played live over a sequencer. I like using organic sounds, like tables and chairs. In the old days they would use a guitar case a lot for percussion.”

 

“Maria” proves that Blondie can still construct the perfect straight-ahead pop single. “I’m really happy we chose that song as the first single,” Clem enthuses. “It’s like a classic Blondie pop song, in the tradition of ‘Sunday Girl’ or ‘Dreaming’. We were talking the other day, and out of the four Number-1s we’ve had, one aspect of Blondie that’s not been a big hit is the ‘Maria’-type sound. ‘Heart Of Glass’ is a disco song, ‘The Tide Is High’ is a reggae song, ‘Rapture’ is like rap/funk, and the ‘Call Me’, which was co-written with Giorgio Moroder, was kind of based on a shuffle-boogie riff transposed into an electronic medium.”

 

No Exit’s title tune is a rap-rock piece featuring Coolio on vocals. Before you accuse Blondie of catering to the latest trends, though, remember that “Rapture”, from 1980s Autoamerican album, successfully mixed rock and rap at a time when Rage Against The Machine were still staring food fights in grammar school. According to Clem, “For the drums on that song, I was basically trying to cop a Bonham feel. There have actually been a lot of Led Zeppelin samples that have turned into rap songs. In fact, Puff daddy just did a thing with Jimmy Page with a similar vibe to it. ‘No Exit’ was a quick take for the drums, maybe the first take.

 

Burke states that No Exit’s title was his idea. “We were rehearsing on a particularly frustrating day,” he recalls, “and I happened to look up and see a ‘No Exit’ sign. I studied some existential philosophy in college, and there’s a play by Jean-Paul Sartre with the same title. It’s basically about these people in a room who have died and are waiting to see if they are going to go to heaven or hell, and it transpires that they are already in hell, because they just keep getting on each other’s nerves. that’s sort of like the downside to being in a band. Nietzsche said that there is only madness in groups. If you’re one your own, no one is going to think you’re insane, but if you get out in society, that’s when it’s noticed. And there is a certain madness that arises out of being in a band situation. the third reason that the record was called No Exit is because Blondie has never really left me. People say, Oh, that’s Clem from Blondie, or, That’s debbie from Blondie. It’s always been with us in some way. You turn on the car radio and there might be a Blondie record on. We grew up with it. It’s part of our lives.”

 

Other cuts Burke points out are “Night Wind Sent”, a quiet tune that he uses rods on, and the closing track, “Dig Up The Conjo”, which was written around a drum groove inspired by Ringo’s part on The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Perhaps most unusual in the Blondie oeuvre is the half-time country waltz of “The Dream’s Lost On Me”. “I like playing in 3/4 and 6/8,” says Clem. “But I was disappointed because there was supposed to be a tambourine overdub on that tune, which made it into a 6/8 feel, and for some reason the tambourine got lost. But I like country music a lot; I love Hank Williams, and I go to see Buck Owens play a lot. It’s been said before, but I guess as you get older you realise that there’s only two kinds of music: good and bad.

 

We’ve always played different styles,” Clem relates, “and I think that’s part of being a good musician—and certainly being a good drummer. the songwriter might come in with a song in a style you may not be used to playing, so it’s good to be well-versed in different types of music, like understanding what a shuffle is and what a waltz is.”

 

Clem suggests studying the masters to hear how different styles should be approached. “One problem I have is that a lot of rock drummers don’t make it swing. If you listen to Chuck Berry or Little Richard or someone like D.J. Fontana on the Elvis records, they are doing a triplet swing beat. If someone starts to play ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and starts banging out straight 8th notes on the hi-hat, that’s wrong. Steve Jordan was so great in the Chuck Berry movie Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N Roll because he really got that style down.”

 

As Clem points out, Blondie has always betrayed various influences. In fact, the drummer insists that the members’ shared taste for The Ramones, The New York Dolls, The Velvet Underground, and girl groups like The Shangri-La’s—whose “Out In The Streets” Blondie has finally committed to tape on No Exit—is what kept them together through their tough early days. “We had mutual musical ground that a lot of people didn’t have at the time,” he recalls.

 

Conversely, their individual obsessions also guaranteed that they not only mixed their common interests into one identifiable sound, but pushed each other into uncharted waters. “We all influence each other,” says Clem. “Chris was always heavily into R&B; ‘Rapture’ was basically his song. I have a little more of a pop sensibility, but I also love Tony Williams and Miles and all that stuff. Over the last fifteen or twenty years I’ve been getting more into jazz—not that I’m a jazz player, but since Debbie was working with the Jazz Passengers, I decided to write some sort of fake jazz song, ‘Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room’. We all like soundtrack music, too, and if you are doing a film soundtrack you’re not really writing one type of music. If you go back to the first Blondie record, we may not have executed all the styles we were attempting—maybe our thoughts were beyond our skills at the time—but we did have a lot of different styles on there.”

 

As Debbie Harry suggests, Clem has always been driven to succeed in the rock ‘n’ roll world, and his recollections of life as a young drummer in Bayonne, New Jersey bear this out. “Everybody around me seemed to think that becoming ‘a rock star’ was unobtainable, but I never felt that way. I felt that this was how I was going to be able to escape my working-class existence. I was on a quest to find the perfect lead singer. I always say that when I met Debbie I sort of found my Mick Jagger.”

 

Burke says that as a kid his drum heroes were “the obvious people”: Bonham, Ringo, Charlie Watts. “Early on I was always in one of the better local bands,” Clem recalls. “We would do the whole Battle Of The Bands thing, and it wouldn’t be unusual if we were the winners or in second place. My high school entered this contest with deejay Bruce Morrow of WABC AM. You would record a song and send it to the station—and they played ours on the radio. The finalists would get to go and play at a ballroom like the Hilton, but that year it was at Carnegie Hall.”

 

Later Clem would hang out at a bar in New York called Club 82, where a band called The Stilettos, featuring Chris Stein and Debbie Harry, would open for The New York Dolls. “I was very influenced by that,” Burke says. “There were a handful of bands that I liked that my friends didn’t particularly like—Bowie, The Raspberries, The New York Dolls. I did have one friend in high scholl who was a couple of years older than me, and he was a big jazz freak. he actually toured with The Jazz Messengers at one point, and he influenced me in a lot of ways as far as stepping out side of AM radio. But when I saw David Bowie at Carnegie Hall in 1973, that was a big turning point for me. There was great musicianship going on, but it was also complemented by a great show and a great image. that’s the direction I thought I should head in.”

 

Around this time Chris and Debbie put an ad in the Village Voice that Clem saw. “I was probably about eighteen at the time, and I came over from New Jersey with my girlfriend on the bus to a little rehearsal loft on West 30th Street to meet them. It wasn’t an ‘audition’ so much as a ‘chat’, and we found we shared musical ideas and had common taste in bands like The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, and The Shangri-La’s, and soundtrack composers like John Barry and Ennio Morricone.

 

“More than anything else, I think they liked what I was wearing,” Clem laughs. “We were doing and interview with People the other day, and Chris was saying. ‘I really liked the shoes that you had on.’ I had seen a picture of Keith Moon with a sailor suit on, so I had a blue sailor shirt on. But I was immediately taken by Debbie’s charisma.”

 

Clem wasn’t the only one. During a very early gig at a bar on 13th and 3rd called Monty Python’s, during a time when “Platinum Blonde” was their unofficial theme song, an unusual incident hinted at things to come. “These people came in and wanted to hire us for a party in his townhouse downtown, for some equestrian show. All they said was, ‘Just make sure the singer wears those boots.’ Debbie had on these high-heeled boots with some kind of fur around them, but the point is that they were really taken by her. I’m sure we sounded pretty sloppy and horrible.”

 

That amateurism wouldn’t last too long, however, and as the band improved and scored more gigs on the seedy lower east side, they found themselves ensconced in a scene that would become the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll lore. With clubs like Max’s Kansas City and an ex hillbilly joint called CBGB’s as the focal points, New york’s East Village became the breeding ground for the bands that would change the world. Rule-breakers like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and Television found themselves crowned as kings and queens of the Americamn punk revolution. Their individual styles might have been radically different, but their ideas pointed in bold new directions that wold influence legions of bands for years to come. Blondie was right there in the think of things, and would eventually become the most successful group of the whole lot. But—and this is well documented—it might not ever have happened for them if not for Burke’s persistence.

 

“I think the first time I played at CBGB’s was the night our original bassist, Fred Smith, quit. In between sets, he told us he was leaving to join Television. Blondie briefly kind of dissolved because of that, but I brought in a friend of mine, gary Valentine. The two of us were living in a storefront on East 10th Street, and even though he wasn’t really a bass player, he was very artistic. He didn’t really audition for the band; he just read some poetry, then sat down at the piano and sang one of his songs. So then at least we had the nucleus of a bad once again, and we continued from there. But when it looked like the band was going to stop, I decided there was no way I was going to let that happen. You know, perserverance is a big part of and endeavor.”

 

After adding Jimmy Destri on keyboards, Blondie recorded their debut, which included the Australian hit “In The Flesh”. Valentine left soon after, and the remaining four released Plastic Letters in 1977, which featured “Denis” and “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear”, which catapulted he band to instant fam in Britain. Blondie-mania in America wasn’t far behind. The follow-up album, Parallel Lines, featured an expanded line-up that included Frank Infante on guitar and Nigel Harrison on bass, but more importantly contained the hits “One Way Or Another”, “Hanging On The Telephone”, and the disco-crossover “Heart Of Glass”. Blondie found themselves the focus of media frenzy.

 

Nineteen seventy-nine saw the release of Eat To The Beat , which spawned two more hits: “Atomic”, and the leadoff track, “Dreaming”, a showpiece for Burke’s crazed full-kit abandon. When it’s suggested to Clem today that a lot of drummers would never be able to get away with playing with such “enthusiasm” on the follow-up to a hugely successful album, he replies dryly, “Honestly, even I was surprised that one got through like that. When we did Eat To The Beat, there was a real exuberance in the studio. On Parallel Lines, producer Mike Chapman was very much of a taskmaster; he’d be in the studio conducting us to keep the meter, almost like a Phil Spector type of thing. He worked really hard at making that record perfect, and it ended up being Chrysalis Records’ biggest seller ever. We were on a roll, so he kind of gave us free rein on Eat To The Beat. So on ‘Dreaming’ we were like, Let’s go for it! A lot of people say that they like the drums on that song.”

 

Despite their huge success, the pressures of stardom began to wear on the band. Their next album, Autoamerican, though containing the hits “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture”, received less enthusiastic praise, and egos, substance abuse, and a tireless schedule conspired to drag the band down. They managed to squeeze out one more album, The Hunter, before letting the whole thing fizzle out.

 

Initially Burke joined Nigel Harrison and Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols in the band Chequered Past, which toured and recorded one album. In 1985 the drummer worked with Pete Townshend on the album White City. “That was one of the high points for me,” enthuses Burke, who can be heard on the cuts “Brilliant Blues” and “Second Hand Love”. “Blondie was very popular in England, so Pete’s management called mine—that’s how I get most of my gigs, by word of mouth—and I went to Twickenham, where Pete had his studio, the Boathouse. Pete hadn’t picked up a guitar in quite some time, and we hung out for about a month and jammed.”

 

Clem was in heaven. An avowed Who fanatic, he relished the opportunity to occupy the seat his idol Keith Moon sat in for so many years. “Early on,” Burke recalls, “all I cared about was Keith Moon and The Who. When I was about eleven or twelve, my favourite part of drum lessons was the last ten minutes, when I’d get to sit at the drumset and play along to my favourite record. I’d bring in ‘My generation’. At the end of the song, the drums go nuts. ‘My Generation’ was a turning point for me because before that it was all the Charlie Watts and Ringo type of thing.”

 

The experience clearly stuck. Rarely is one drummer’s influence on another as clearly identifiable as Moon’s is on Burke. September 7, 1978 Moon died of an overdose of anti-alcoholism pills, Burke was quite shaken. “I remember very distinctly where I was when I heard the news. We were on tour in Rotterdam, and we were ready to go to London to do three or four sold-out shows at the Hammersmith Odeon. The British tabloid press was full of headlines like “Who Drummer Dies” and “Keith Moon Dead At Thirty-One”, and I was completely in shock. We played that night, and at the end I just kind of…actually, I wanted to get an ax and some gasoline, but no one would give them to me. So I wound up basically throwing all my drums into the audience as sort of a sacrifice to Keith. The roadies retrieved them, but I didn’t want them back. I was really, really bummed.”

 

Clem had in fact come close to The Who’s inner circle earlier, in 1980 when he befriended Ringo Starr’s son Zak. “Zak played drums on The Who’s recent Quadrophenia tour,” Clem explains. “He’s such a great drummer. The first time I met him was at a club in London. I went to see a band, and this young kid came up to me and said, ‘You’re a drummer, right? My dad’s a drummer.’ And I go, ‘Oh yeah? Has anybody ever heard of him?’ He was such a sweet kid, really young.

 

“Zak invited me out to his house, where he had a set of Keith’s drums—actually, the last set he had, the white ones with brass fittings. The Premier people told me that Keith wanted them to be white with gold fittings, but gold is very fragile so they told him, ‘You’d better rethink this, Keith, especially if you’re going to be smashing them!’ Plus, I’m sure Keith, had a full endorsement, so….” Clem laughs at the thought, and continues, “Zak and I went out to where his dad was living and set up the drums and played them. That’s something that I’ll always remember. We’ve kept in touch; in fact Zak came to one of the shows that we just did in London.

 

“I was actually at the party for Kenney Jones when The Who asked him to join the band,” Clem continues. “He was very happy. He’s another of my favourite drummers. I love The Small Faces, and I always listened to Kenney’s drums; he was so great on all that stuff. That’s why I like that band The Raspberries; I think they tried to copy The Small Faces quite a bit, though they had their own thing going on too.”

 

In 1986 Clem recorded the Eurythmics’ Revenge album, which contained the Grammy-winning single “Missionary Man”. Though the album was stylistically less adventuresome than any Blondie release, Burke explains, “With the Eurythmics I became a lot more groove-oriented, but I always wanted to find a balance between Al Booker of Booker T. & The MG’s—who I listened to continuously—and Keith Moon. The Revenge record is a favourite of mine; I learned so much from working with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart.”

 

Clem had actually met Lennox several years earlier, when he was living in London. “After we made Autoamerican,” he explains, “we took what turned out to be a two-year break. I was at a club one night…it seems I used to get a lot of work from hanging out in night clubs, doesn’t it? I don’t really hang out that much anymore, so it’s lucky I’m back in Blondie! But anyway, ironically they had been playing Autoamerican in the club from start to finish. This very attractive woman came up to me and introduced herself. I was somewhat disappointed when she started talking to me about a band she had, but she said she maybe wanted to work with me. She told me she was a fan and that she had been in a band called The Tourists with her ex-boyfriend, and now they had this band The Eurythmics. They were going to Germany to make a record, and she asked if I would be interested in going.”

 

Clem was, and went with Lennox and Stewart to a farmhouse outside of Cologne to work on In The Garden, beginning an on-again/off-again relationship that continues to this day. “I did some TV shows with them when the record was released, but I moved back to New York after that. We remained friends, though, and they would come and visit me at my apartment here. Late they regrouped and rethought things, and just the two of them made the Sweet Dreams record, with synthesizers and drum machines. They decided to put together a band to promote it, so just as the record was released, I went with them on a tour of the UK.”

 

Burke was in the right place at the right time, because the album, which contained the hit title track, quickly became a smash. “England is such a small place,” Burke explains. “You could release a record and six weeks later see it become this huge hit, and if you’re on tour, the momentum really builds. So we went in a van and did a college tour of the UK, and at the end of that six weeks Sweet Dreams was Number 1. It was like something out of a movie. They asked me to join the band, but Blondie was still going at that time—even though right after that Blondie kind of ended.”

 

Clem got a second chance with Stewart and Lennox when he joined up for the Revenge album and tour. Another huge hit, the record’s success saw the band playing a three-year tour that included 70,000-seat stadium gigs in Europe, such as a Nelson Mandela benefit concert in Wembley Stadium. Dave Stewart turned the band’s popularity into a lucrative producing role, including work for Bob Dylan, and he recommended Clem for the gig. “We spent a couple of weeks jamming,” Clem recalled, “and I was convinced we were making the next Blonde On Blonde. I thought, ‘This record is going to be great,’ and then one track came out like two years later on the album Knocked Out Loaded.” Clem good-naturedly laughs at the way things worked out—he’s used to such things in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, after all—and is just thankful for the opportunities presented to him by people like Stewart. “When Blondie was in London last, I had lunch with Dave, and there’s talk of us doing some more stuff because they are thinking about doing another project. Dave has always helped me along with gigs. We have an interesting relationship, because I befriended him when I was more of a success than he was, and now he’s obviously got more success than me!”

 

Of course, Clem’s being modest in his self-assessment. In addition to his work with Blondie, The Eurythmics, Dylan and Townshend, his drumming graced the splendid 1991 album Hi-Fi Sci-Fi by Dramarama, a band he was a member of for three years. he’s also been a sometime member of The Romantics (of “What I Like About You” fame) and critics’ darlings The Plimsouls, both of whom have new records out soon. He even worked with David Bowie on an unreleased cut intended for the recent Rug Rats film soundtrack.

 

Perhaps contrary to current drum wisdom, Clem says he gets calls not so much because he is some kind of musical chameleon, but rather because of his individual qualities. “I’ve been lucky,” he insists. “People usually want to work with me because of what I do, so they do give me somewhat of a free rein—though of course I have to be aware of my situation and not go too overboard. With people like Dylan and Pete Townshend, a lot of the musical communication that goes on is not necessarily verbal anyway. Bob communicates through his guitar a lot, through his grooves. Pete is a little more eloquent about what he wants. But I think most musicians communicate through their music. I find that people who are so anal about what they want don’t really have a clue in some ways; they don’t let the musicians do their job, and they’re not really setting the tone for good musical interaction.”

 

A big part of what other musicians love about Clem Burke’s drumming is simply the boundless energy he brings to the table. Go back to Blondie’s “Dreaming”, or the new album’s opening track, “Screaming Skin”, or Dramarama’s “Hey Betty”, and you’ll hear an inherent liveliness that you don’t necessarily get even from triple-scale LA studio cats. Perhaps that’s because Clem treats playing in the studio just as he does playing live: “I just go for it when I play. In concert, I try to envision what I would like to see if I was in the audience. i am really inspired by people like Moon and Gene Krupa—such showmen. Buddy Rich too. I really like playing live, I like being in front of the audience. Blondie, The Romantics, The Plimsouls—they are all great rock bands in the traditional sense. Everyone rocks out.”

 

Clem also understand that, well, you gotta look good while you’re rockin’ out, too. “One of the luxuries of being on tour is that we have a wardrobe person. Tommy Hilfiger has been sponsoring us, and he made us all these great clothes, kind of like leather Rat Pack suits. It’s kind of impractical, though. Even Charlie Watts, who is like a sartorial man of elegance and is always seen in a suit, doesn’t wear one when he plays. The problem with wearing suits when you play a heavy rock gig is that the linings shrink.”

 

When reminded of classic old photos of Gene Krupa, where you can often see proof of his vivacious performance in the huge patches of sweat on his suit, Clem can relate. “Yeah, that was part of his style. Krupa was amazing. And Jerry Nolan from The New York Dolls, he’d always wear the greatest clothes. I can understand why musicians, drummers especially, come out wearing shorts. But it’s just not my style.

 

Lest we forget, it isn’t just about being exciting and looking good with Clem. He’s got the chops to back it up, in particular a strong bass drum foot, which he often uses in neat patterns with his hands. “Independence between your hands and feet is an important thing to develop,” Clem insists. “I try to think of the foot as another hand. Practising paradiddles between your hands and feet is one way to improve that. That gets your foot working on double strokes.”

 

Though Burke’s busy schedule has kept him from taking proper lessons, he says he’d like to find a way to work with some of the great drummers he’s met since moving to LA fifteen years ago. “There’s always room for improvement,” he states. “There are a lot of good people in LA, like Ed Shaughnessy and Joe Porcaro, and they both give private lessons. I’d also like to take some lessons from Earl Palmer. I go and see him play quite a bit in LA. He plays every Tuesday night at this place near my home, and he’s such an inspiration to me. He’s got to be in his seventies, but he looks great, the chicks dig him, and he’s such a gentleman. When Earl has his jams, all kinds of people turn up. Last time The Stones were in LA, Charlie Watts and Jim Keltner were there just studying his moves. Hanging there has really opened me up to a lot of interesting, great musicians.

 

“It’s important not to get too complacent,” Clem states firmly. “There are a lot of physical aspects to drumming, especially rock drumming, and as you get a bit older you really need to keep your muscles in tune. I’m an avid jogger and I lift some weights and things like that. I just really feel a need to be able to do that in order to help my playing. Plus, working with people like Dave Stewart and David Bowie is always a really good experience. That’s how I learn.”

 

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