It was really a choice of going to, as it were, an artisan approach, a Renaissance approach, which the company actually has retained because their enthusiasm for the art of drum making is very much alive and well. That's why I — they took care of people. They loved what they did and we just hit it off as friends, which helped and I've stayed there ever since.
Musician's Friend: So the custom cherry wood kit they built for you — can you walk us through that process a little bit?
Fleetwood: Every time I go out on the road or get ready to go out on the road, I always get more involved with what they're doing. Sometimes it's totally different stuff and sometimes they're just riding a brand new wave of approach to a certain type of wood, for instance.
This happened to tie in with the whole premise of John [Good] getting excited about having made a move to work with cherry wood, which is what this kit is. We sat for a couple of days talking about the merits of what it does, which is sort of upper-mid projection, which he felt suited what I do, which it does. Then we got into making the transition from the last kit. I'm always a little nervous about exchanging drums and the proof of the pudding is always sitting behind the kit and knowing that it's going to work for live performance.
Musician's Friend: I'm glad you mentioned exploring because you’ve used a cocktail kit the last couple of tours. On that topic, can you tell us how your setup has evolved over the years playing with Fleetwood Mac?
Fleetwood: I remember the whole premise of a cocktail kit from skiffle days- traditional jazz and skiffle and Lonnie Donnegan. They were such animals, those kits. That's where they came from, skiffle and all the early bebop stuff. So it comes from a definite family. It's nothing new, but it was dormant for many years. Not many people really had them or thought about them.
I loved the premise in the old days, nothing so grand as the one I have now, but it was really useful in playing pubs and stuff because you didn't have any room and you could function reasonably well and put it in the back of your car. So that was the attraction.
“…MUSIC IS ALL ABOUT AN EXCHANGE OF STYLES AND MAKING YOURSELF MALLEABLE.”
For years I didn't really think about it, then went back to the thought. We must've been putting one of our shows together and I went, "That would be good. Get me out front and we could do sort-of an unplugged thing. Bingo [snaps] , let's go back!"
So DW—I'm not sure when—started making them. I'm not too sure whether I asked them to make it and they made one for me, years ago. I wouldn't like to think I take the credit for it, but maybe they had it in their catalog of drums. I'm thinking maybe not.
Musician's Friend: So digging into the topic of simplification and matching styles to music, when Lindsey and Stevie came on board in '75, just huge a shift in the band's sound, the dynamic. How did you adjust your style to incorporate them?
Fleetwood: We didn't [laughter]. But I understand Fleetwood Mac's history is actually, in my opinion, an interesting one. It's so diverse. We started it very much as a blues band with Peter Green and John and myself, Jeremy Spencer back in 1967, then evolved when Peter left and Bob Welch and so forth. So the rhythm section has always been there. So they lumbered with John and me.
Obviously as a rhythm section you are compliant with making appropriate changes, because you don't just sit there, and that's what music is all about, is an exchange of style and making yourself malleable, thus gracious to a fellow player. But truly, Fleetwood Mac always came with the rhythm section and it was “our band” type of thing.
So we got spoiled in a way where we didn't have to make too many things. I think someone such as Lindsey realized it and enjoyed that, but it was such an established institution and it worked. The chemistry worked. Otherwise we wouldn't have all stayed together.
So we were already set and they go like, okay, I can work. This is what I work with. The exchange of what you do and don't do takes place. But the actual basic style of John McVie and myself is what it always was, really. Only you improve and you learn to listen better and stuff, which we were pretty good at because blues players, in my quiet opinion, as simple as people deem it to be — everyone thinks, “well, I can play the blues.” Well, the fact is, actually, you can't. There's nothing worse than a bad blues player.
I was blessed with being with really high-caliber players — Peter Green, John McVie. They came from the schools. I learned to do the right thing very quickly and the right thing is to listen and use dynamics. Which has really become more about my style than anything else. It's certainly not because I'm a super high-powered technician Svengali drummer. I'm more a person that plays drums that finds a lot of satisfaction with expressing really fundamentally in a very simple way, which was learned by playing blues.