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The Exclusive Interview with Matt Chamberlain
By Billy Donald, Rock Interviews
(more articles from this author)
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You would be hard pressed to find a drummer that has put together the body of work that the great Matt Chamberlain has. His list of credits read like Rock music's A-List eaturing work with the likes of David Bowie, Tori Amos, Pearl Jam, Fiona Apple, Elton John, and countless others. Matt was gracious enough to take some time put of his extremely busy schedule to talk about some of the more interesting projects that he has been busying himself with lately!

[Billy Donald] Matt, thank you so much for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule to join me here for this interview! I wanted to start off by asking you what you have going on at this time? Are you mainly working around your studio?

Matt Chamberlain I have been working on writing. It is a whole new world to me that I find really exciting. I am also about to go in the studio with my friend Jon Brion to finish a bunch of projects that we have started, but for one reason or another have not finished.

[Billy Donald] I just have to ask you right off about an interesting project that you were taking part in last month in Nashville. I was shocked to read on your site that you were recording some tracks for a new album by William Shatner! It sounds like you had a lot of fun doing this, and I can easily see why it would have been fun. What was the atmosphere like?

Matt Chamberlain It was really open and creative. We went in with only a few pieces of music done, so most of the time, Ben Folds was writing and teaching us parts right there. The highlight was when I got to do an improv drum solo to Shatner and Henry Rollins ranting--with Adrian Belew making animal noises on his guitar.

[Billy Donald] I am very familiar with Shatner's music from the 60s, and of course, it is the stuff of pop culture legend. Did it seem to you like he was taking the music very seriously when you were working with him or was he loose and just enjoying himself?

Matt Chamberlain It was a little of both, but for the most part, it was very relaxed and fun.

[Billy Donald] I am not too familiar, really, with your background as a drummer. How long have you been playing and who were some of your earliest influences?

Matt Chamberlain Well, my earliest influences were the classic rock drummers like John Bonham, Ringo Starr, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, and Terry Bozzio.

[Billy Donald] I had the pleasure of seeing you playing live with Tori Amos a few years ago, and one of the highlights for me was watching you play. Your drumming is just so fluid and full of motion, it was honestly very inspiring to me. Did you have any formal training? Have you always played with the traditional grip?

Matt Chamberlain Thanks. I did study with a few people. David Garabaldi was my 1st teacher. We really worked on groove, sound and his sound levels concept, which is basically to be very conscious of your accented notes and unaccented notes. I studied with Murray Spivack on my hands. Murray was about 80 years old when I studied with him. He was a guru of hand technique. He taught Louie Bellson. Chuck Flores taught me four way independence, and Gregg Bissonette taught me how to read charts and the importance of transcribing and learning from other drummers.

[Billy Donald] On the equipment side, I know that you are an endorser of DW drums. Can you tell us what makes DW products stand above the other drum manufacturers out there today?

Matt Chamberlain Well, to be honest, most drum companies make amazing sounding drums. For me, the reason I'm with DW is because they are available if I travel and need a kit. Usually, they are always around and the people, John Goode and Garrison, are really creative and can make whatever crazy drum idea I come up with.

[Billy Donald] You have also been doing a lot of work with one of my very favorite musicians, Adrian Belew, not only on the Shatner record, but for Adrian's upcoming solo album. A Chamberlain/Belew collaboration just seems like a dream project to me! Knowing that Adrian is a drummer himself, did he give you creative freedom to put your own unique stamp on the music?

Matt Chamberlain He just sent me a hard drive with a bunch of his songs that were written with a drum machine, so I need to go through them and add my stuff. Not sure yet what it will sound like.

[Billy Donald] When I think about all of your recording and touring credits, I am just blown away! Everybody from Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Elton John, Lisa Marie Presley to Peter Gabriel, Pearl Jam, Chris Issak - it is just unbelievable! You also worked with another of my musical idols, David Bowie, for his two latest albums, Heathen and Reality. What were your experiences like working with David?

Matt Chamberlain Bowie was really a dream come true. We set up for two weeks in this great studio called Allaire in the Catskill Mountains. It was just Bowie, Tony Visconti (producer/bass), and an assistant. A typical day would be: Bowie wakes up at about 7:00 a.m.(He has a baby) to write. I usually would wake up around 9:00. We would eat at about 11:00, then just do drums all day. I think we tracked about 23 songs. Bowie was very open to anything, so if I had an idea I was able to go with it. A very fun record to make.

[Billy Donald] With all of those recording credits behind you, I know that you are sometimes limited to what you want to do creatively, depending on the artist. Given time and resources, what would be your dream musical project, something to do completely on your own?

Matt Chamberlain Wow! Given no limits, I would have to say a record with Brian Eno on synths, Dave Holland on bass, Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) on guitar, Brad Mehldau on piano and Liz Frazier on vocals.

[Billy Donald] Are you considering releasing your own album sometime in the near future?

Matt Chamberlain Yes, hopefully by this summer.

[Billy Donald] Matt, I want to thank you very much again for your time to answer my questions here, and I want to give you the opportunity to plug your website, upcoming gigs, or anything else you'd like as we wrap up here!

Matt Chamberlain The new Critters Buggin record will be out in June and we will be touring most of the summer. Please check or for more info.

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