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6 March 1971
BUNKER: IT'S TIME TO GIVE TULL'S DRUMMER HIS DUE
JETHRO TULL — strange band of contrasting personalities and images. It's even difficult to know quite the image British have of them now.
Do they set them as a jazz-rock combo? A sell-out chart group? A blues band with a touch of the Bonzos?
During the last few years the Tull men have travelled widely. Now they are embarking on a tour of the homelands and soon we shall know the reaction.
Having seen them work recently in Italy and having talked to Ian Anderson this year for the first time since their inception I am fairly clear in my own mind.
They are fine band of musicians, determined to explore their own potential and not adverse to entertaining.
Ian is undoubtedly the central figure, an arresting character and fine musician. But away from his flute and microphone, he is a quiet, affable, interesting conversationalist, no more prone to standing on one leg than your average jet plane commuter.
And the rest of the band have an equally important role on stage and on record. Those with an ear for the music as well as an eye for Ian's frequently hilarious stage antics, will note the brilliance of John Evan's piano playing.
There is the solid support from Jeffrey Hammond's bass and Martin Barre's lead guitar work. And exceptional drumming by Clive Bunker.
Clive is the most modest, unbelligerent drummer who ever hammered tom toms through the floor and battered bass drums. The contrast in his off-stage manner and the way he lays into a drum complex is remarkable.
He never gives interviews usually, but with his command of the drums, it was felt time to give Mr. Bunker his due.
In his attack, he comes into the John Bonham school, but with two bass drums, and low slung snare, he can pile idea onto idea that sets him out on his own. When Clive gets his two bass drums locked in deadly combat, you know he means business.
"Have you ever heard John [Bonham] play two bass drums? He played mine once, while I played his kit. He was fantastic."
Clive settled on a stool in a hotel bar in Rome to talk about his ideas on drumming and early career.
"I first learnt to play a guitar when some mates formed a group. As the others played better guitar than me I was put on biscuit tins and knitting needles. Just before I left school my Mum bought me a snare drum. Then it was a Broadway kit and then an Olympic.
"I played in a band with Mick Abrahams." (I think Clive said the name of the band was Jensen Trolls, which sounds a bit of a nightmare.)
"As soon as I got a taste for drumming I went to watch all the drummers — good or bad, and picked up ideas. I never had any lessons but I'd ask a few questions. I think it you get too much into technique you lose the beat. Jon Hiseman — he's very good technically, but he loses the excitement of naive, basic bashing!
"I used to listen to drummers like Louie Bellson, and some different jazz LPs Ian used to have."
Had Clive ever thought of striking out on his own?
"Oh no, I love being one of the band. The songs are always interesting. Sometimes you hove a good swear, but you never lost interest. Ian gets a basic idea and we all work out our own parts. In 'Song For Jeffrey' Ian thought of the drum parts — and it really worked out well."
"It's funny, when we started the band, we didn't dream about being successful. Mick Abrahams was looning about — it was a gradual coming together."
How did Clive enjoy playing a heavy solo nightly?
"There's a lot of time in our arrangements where I don't play at all. Then I let it all out in the solo. I don't always know if it will come off. I like to keep a good rumble going! My solo is bits of excitement and bits of technical phrasing. I've got to work towards that excitement, and there are lots of stops and starts. I enjoy doing the solo and there is always the occasional night when something new comes out. If I go on saying, 'Oh, I'm fed up with this,' something good comes out. If I go on feeling confident, it doesn't always work. At the Isle Of Wight last year, I was really nervous. But the solo worked out well.
"I don't like doing solos on LPs. For recording, you've go to play as straight as possible. That was the mistake I made on our first album. Ringo is one of the best recording drummers. His time is brilliant."
"Clive is deaf in one ear," Ian told me as we bumped through turbulence in a DC-9.
It was to break the monotony of our flight from Milan to Rome that Ian embarked on a kind of mini-reaction, an off-shoot of the MM's well known feature.
[Note: it is Ian who is posing the questions here, followed by Clive's answers]
NOISE: "It's something one can get used to within the limits of physical hurt. It always appears to me when I'm in a noisy place, that noise is repressive and makes you neurotic. The same applies on stage to a large extent. It's very difficult to get an objective look at how loud you are. I feel when the music demands it volume can be effective, as with The Who and Led Zeppelin who I really enjoy. I wouldn't call Grand Funk Railroad music. They present volume in a frequency that can destroy your ears!"
FREE CONCERTS: "It depends what you mean by free. Free improvisation or playing for free? Free con-certs have attracted too much of the wrong kind of public-ity. I think it is better to keep concert prices down. By playing big places in the States and making a lot of money you can afford to play the smaller theatres. Once we had a guy stick up a notice saying: 'You f——. Why are you exploiting the people?' I replied, if you call me a f—— whatever you paid wasn't enough. That sort of attitude is just uninformed. We really don't make so much money. In spite of that, the idea of a free concert is on the whole really nice. But if we did a free concert it would be for a purpose. We did one in New York for a drug centre, somewhere the money will be useful."
SPACE EXPLORATION: "Nixon is putting a block on the number of moon flights after 1971. A lot of the arguments against it are in terms of money and the original purpose was probably just to get there before the 'Commies'. But there is a lot to be said for it, if looking at the earth from a distance can show us how to live in harmony. It puts everything into perspective. From what I can see, the problems of race and doctrines will be rather less important than stabilising world economy. The problem will be feeding the mouths. Only a system of co-operation is going to work. We shall have to distribute and share our natural resources. The racial thing will have to take second place to that. I think space exploration has already done good — it is making us more aware of the world's problems."
OIL POLLUTION: "It's a very small part of something bigger. There are all kinds of waste deposits and pesticides that kill being dumped. We shall just have to stop using them or risk crop destruction on a huge scale. There are pessimistic reports that due to dumping everything, including radio-active waste, into the sea, there will be enormous ecological changes. And there are a lot of facts kept from the public. It's already affecting the fishing industry."
Thanks to Harry Auras for this article.