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How did you get the gig with Frank Zappa?
In 1981 a bass player friend of mine, Kevin Brandon, called me and said, "I just spent yesterday at Frank Zappa's house auditioning for his band. Here's his number, Frank's looking for a bass player and drummer".

I first thought that it would be pointless, that I wouldn't get the gig. It wasn't until I spoke with Jim Cox who said I had to go and audition, because I'd get a funny story out of it. I thought it over and realized that I had nothing to lose. I called Frank and spoke to him, telling him that I was a drummer who lived in L.A. and was interested in auditioning for the band. He said "Do you read"? I told him I did, then he said "Are you a good reader or are you a phenomenal reader?". Not knowing quite what to say, I told him I had experience in percussion ensemble music, big band, session work etc, but I hadn't seen his notation, although the reputation of his music was that it was complicated stuff. He gave me his address and asked if could I be there in an hour.


 

I packed up my drums and drove up to Frank's house. I was let in the gate and the first person I saw and met was Steve Vai. Steve introduced me to the other core members of that tour - Ed Mann and Tommy Mars. I heard a couple of quick drum auditions, then it was my turn. The pieces he auditioned on were Alien Orifice, Drowning Witch (the classical interlude part). Mo and Herb's Vacation- (which is arguably the most difficult drum part of his compositions).

After somehow getting through the music - (all of the drums were written classical style, bass drum, snare, 4 toms, ride, crash, hi hat, china cymbal, 3 roto toms castanets, cowbell). All of the drums had their own respective lines written on the staff. Some rhythms were comprised of polyrhythms nested in other polyrhythms, and all of the music was beautifully copied.

The next stage of the audition was playing in odd time signatures. We played in 21/16 and 19/8. The other guys in the band were extremely solid on this stuff, and we played these grooves for a long period of time.

Frank then had me play in just about every style imaginable; heavy metal, swing, funk, New Orleans style rock (he called it a Delta groove), a Weather Report type feel, Latin styles, Swing Reggae, Straight Reggae, Ska, punk...Then it was combining an odd time and a Ska feel or a Reggae feel...

After this Frank put on his guitar and played various rock feels, solos, riffs and we began to improvise off of certain feels. This ended day one of my audition. Frank had me return for the next two days for more playing - I got to take home some of the music and we basically just did lots and lots of playing.

At the end of the third day, I went home and got a call that night from Frank saying that he just had a meeting with the band , and they had decided to offer me the gig. This meant 3 months of rehearsal 5 to 6 days a week, 8 hours a day. Frank had about 80 songs that we were to memorize, and arrangements changed regularly. The tour was 3 months in the US and Europe. He then asked me if I was interested in the gig! (I answered yes of course). I was to go to his house the next morning to pick up a stack of music and entire albums to start memorizing, as rehearsals started in 2 weeks. He then said that I got the gig because he liked my feel.

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Why did you move from Australia to the USA?
We spent 10 wonderful years living in Sydney, which is like a second home to me. The music scene was changing dramatically in Sydney and I was getting more and more calls to work in the US, so it just made sense to move back. Since then I have been touring with Allan Holdsworth, James Taylor, playing with my own groups and doing session work.