Were you the singer or drummer in your first band?
Oh, the drummer. I started my first band with Jon Davison, who’s now the vocalist in Yes. We were school pals, and it was listening to Live Killers by Queen that inspired us to want to form a band. At the time, Jon played and wasn’t yet a singer, but he could do all those Freddie Mercury moments from that album.
How’s your relationship with Dave Grohl?
It’s great. What helps is that he’s just a drummer who sings. Hey, that sounds bad, doesn’t it? What I mean is that he can relate something to me with a few words. He might say: “Ringo Starr shuffle,” and I’ll know immediately what he wants me to do.
Was Alanis Morissette hard to work with?
Nope. She and I had a strong rapport. I got what she was about from reading the lyrics on the Jagged Little Pill album and knew it was gonna be huge. I played directly off what she was doing, in the same way that John Densmore did with Jim Morrison in The Doors and Keith Moon did with Roger Daltrey in The Who.
Who are your favourite singing drummers?
Roger Taylor, absolutely. I also love Don Henley but always think of him as a singer, although he is a great drummer. But Roger’s the man for me. When you hear him on something like I’m In Love With My Car, that’s special.
How difficult is it to play drums and sing simultaneously?
It’s really tough. I don’t mean to suggest that doing it is somehow remarkable, but it takes a while to get the co-ordination right. What can make it even more complicated is when you’re playing something difficult, like a Bill Bruford-style rhythm, and singing. That can do your head in.
Is there a secret to drumming and singing at the same time?
It’s down to practice. If you leave it for a while you become rusty. But like riding a bike, once you’ve got it down it doesn’t take long to get everything locked back in. I recently did a TV show with the Foo Fighters and my vocals were a little off. My wife, who’s my strongest critic, noticed straight away and told me I’d gotten it wrong. But that’s because I hadn’t done a gig for ages. The next time it’ll be better.
What makes a good singer?
Someone who pays attention to the melody. That’s what people remember about a song – a killer tune. If a singer has that, they’re gonna make an impression. For me, Alanis lost it when she paid too much attention to her lyrics and not enough to the melody. Why did Bob Dylan make such an impact? Because his songs had great melodies. Without those he’d have been writing poetry.
What’s the secret of a great song?
Having Bee Gees harmonies. It doesn’t matter what style of music you’re in, get those pop moments into your songs and you’re a winner.