You've got to swing. You've got to keep time. And you've got to listen to the feeling of what's going on. I still do and I'm very happy in that mode. I hope and believe eventually I am man enough to say I became a better drummer. For years I was very insecure.
Musician's Friend: I'd say it's worked out pretty well.
Fleetwood: Yeah. I play everything backwards because I still don't really know what I'm doing. So I'm actually quite childlike. If you want to really know a secret, every time I walk on that stage I think I'm about to (expletive) up. But it keeps you like a child, which I think has, although it's a torture sometimes, the reality is I think that's part of the attraction with Fleetwood Mac.
But all of us aren't super, super slick. You often hear stories like The Beatles. To me they're great players. People say, “Oh, you're all great players,” but the real truth is we're more than adequate players. None of us are interested in being super showoffs and we're all better cradled in the safety net known as a band called Fleetwood Mac. When people talk about the magic of a Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, that's the stuff. When you get it, you're deemed to be lucky and blessed, and I feel that way.
Musician's Friend: When it comes to tone, who would you say your top influences were or are?
Fleetwood: In the old days, my top influences were all tom-tom merchants and a lot of the Big Band players, of course. They were so proficient, but they played so much melody on tom-toms with huge abilities. I always go to that to express myself through funny little things I do on tom-toms. Louis Bellson was, is a great favorite of mine because he just was Jungle Jim. I loved Sandy Nelson because he was a tom-tom freak. Actually became almost like Duane Eddy on drums for a while.
Then later on I really, really, really listened and became a huge fan of Sonny Freeman, who played with B.B. King's band at that time (on the album),
Live at The Regal. He was the king of the shuffle. That's probably sort of my epitaph [sic] through all the blues stuff that I've done. It's shuffle after shuffle, shuffle after shuffle, and I am very comfortable doing that. John and me are good at it. We're good at it. Onetrick ponies.
Musician's Friend: [Laughs] Like I said earlier, I think it's worked out well for you guys thus far. So what are some modern innovations that you've incorporated into your setup of late?
Fleetwood: I mean, modern for me, quite honestly, into the setup was being able to start using in-ear stuff, which I went into screaming. I was such a traditionalist with monitors and stuff. Then we wanted to do things that, quite frankly, you need — we do some stuff to click and I can't play very well to a click. I don't really want to, so Steve [Rinkoff], who works with me, worked out a partial click so that we can run things to augment our sound, which is number one. Plus I've gotten used to it now and I actually truly like it.
The rest is really just some pads with sounds on. Not that I do it anymore. My whole drum [vest] thing for a while became lunatic, where I beat myself up. Go out the front with all these triggers on, working with loops. Actually many, many years ago, without realizing how the world of loops and all this stuff has really become integrated, I was I think by default a vague pioneer of using all that and triggering moments.
So now I just use some pads. I’ve got about five or six pads up there which we can trigger different sounds. I have very organic sounds on there: some chimes and couple of rivet cymbals. I love working rivet cymbals. Sometimes I just can't get to the real McCoy, so I can quickly do that. That becomes a nice way to orchestrate. Musician's Friend: If you could transport yourself back to 1967 and take one of your modern accessories with you, what would it be?
Fleetwood: I'd take the snare drum. This is an amazing drum. You pay a lot of attention to that. I would say that I'd take the snare drum and the microphones that we use, if I might be so bold.
Musician's Friend: Last one, here. What is most treasured to you in your gear collection? Anything that has such sentimental value it's a keeper to you?
Fleetwood: The most meaningful, because it reminds me of a trip that was like a drummer's heaven, dying and go to heaven. I went to Africa to make an album in Ghana called The Visitor. I brought back some really roughly hewn drums, African drums that were in themselves; sadly they've lost the art of using a lot of woods because they have been stripped.
There was a chap there who used to play with Elvis Presley doing a musical exchange teaching them how to make drums again. I have some of those drums and those are really important to me because the whole premise of putting and seeing something that's so unbelievably musical, when you see children and people really doing their thing.
I used a lot of children on my album. They understood how to play rock-androll. Some of the older musicians, the polyrhythm thing, they couldn't see it so easily. So that reminds me of that lovely trip when I made that album in Ghana. I have those drums and they're very precious to me.
Fleetwood Mac's Extended Play EP is available now wherever great music is sold.