Sunday, March 24, 2002

Chris Blackwell interview, Part 1

Chris Blackwell played drums on three Robert Plant albums (1985-1993) and two tours (1988 and 1990). He also played some guitar and mandolin for Plant in the studio and on the stage. Chris had the opportunity recently to answer some questions for me.

SS: Chris, thanks for all your help.

CB: No problem- glad I could be of help!

SS: We might as well start from the very beginning. Tell me about your musical influences as a child.

CB: According to my parents, I started hitting things when I was 3! Our neighbour used to play the drums and we would often hear him through the wall practising. Sometimes he would let me go and watch. I remember vividly that his kit had a very interesting smell about it, and of course it was very loud! He later emigrated to South Africa and didn't want to take the kit with him, so my Dad bought it and gave it to me for my eleventh birthday - that was that!I've been in bands since the age of 14 but picked up the guitar at around 10, bass at 17, and keyboards at 20. There were always instruments lying around at rehearsals and so I would amuse myself with them during the breaks.The first album I ever bought was Led Zeppelin 4, and this had an undoubted effect on me. I also loved Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughan Wiliams and Return to Forever. All very much a part of me now as a musician. I firmly believe that music is an all encompassing thing - you miss so much if you close your mind to certain genres!

SS: So you were a Led Zeppelin fan. Had you heard any of Plant's solo work before joining his band?

CB: Funnily enough, some friends and I drove from London, England to Northern Spain. We covered about 1,000 miles in 24 hours. And we played Shaken 'n' Stirred all the way down! It had just been released then, and my friend had just bought it and kept playing it! The drumming is very complex on the album. I remember saying to my friend "I'd like to have played on this album!"

We [Plant's band] did "Pink and Black" live sometimes, and some of those fast rolls are very difficult to fit in!

SS: Tell me about how you got to be in Plant's band.

CB: I did a lot of session work in and around London and was always in the studio doing something or other. Anyway, one of the people I used to work with a lot was Phil Johnstone. I had drummed on a few of his demos, and Virgin (Phil's publisher) had sent some of these tracks to Robert as potential singles for his new album. Robert liked one track in particular ("Heaven Knows") and also happened to like my drumming (I was on the demo).

Next thing I know there's a message on my answering machine saying "Hi, it's Robert Plant" and would I like to join his band? He didn't even get his manager to call me!

SS: That must have been exciting. Did you call him back right away?

CB: I didn't hesitate in calling him back because I thought it was a wind up! I mean you don't normally get Robert Plant leaving messages do you!

SS: Lots of folks say he doesn't call enough. What did you expect -- musically or personally -- when you got involved with him?

CB: I'm not sure really . . . the first meeting was a terrifying experience 'cos I had all these preconceptions of how he would be I guess. As it turned out he was (and is) a really nice bloke. Any nerves I had totally disappeared after our first handshake! Musically it was a session for me because as far as I knew I was contracted to record the album and that was that. After the recording was finished Robert started talking about us as a band and about the upcoming tours and so on. I had no idea at that time of the fun that was in store!

That's all for today. You can read about the fun that was in store in Part 2 of the interview, in the March 31 edition.

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