In late 1996, I found myself back in touch with one of my all time drum heroes - the great Michael Zack. Michael has played with so many legends of the Washington, D.C. music scene that it's hard to keep count! For a complete history of Michael's career, check out the book "Capitol Rock" by Mark Opsasnick, where you'll find an entire chapter devoted to him.
Zack and I have a lot in common - he's from the same small town in Pennsylvania as my Mother, he has a rudimental background that he's incorporated into his rock playing, he lived in Beltsville, MD. as I did for many years, and the list goes on. I used to watch Michael play with the Cherry People and be blown away by his right foot, his grooves and his dynamic stage presence. To me, he had it all. I really wanted to be Zack in my early days!
Michael and I had met many times throughout the years, and had an on and off telephone relationship. After coming on the Nils Lofgren Band (a gig he'd had some years earlier) I wanted to get back in touch with him. Fate granted that wish when he arrived at my studio one day to do some tracking with a group from his early years, Lawrence and the Arabians. We decided then and there that we would do a "drum hang" in the near future. It took a bit of time to happen, but in August of 1997, we finally sat down with 2 drum sets to play together.
It's tough for 2 drummers to play together and have it sound musical. When I've done this sort of thing in the past, it usually ends up being a "cutting contest", with each guy trying to blow the other away, playing the fastest and most complicated licks. From the first notes Zack and I played, I knew this was going to be different. It was as if we were talking with one another, having a Conversation. These thoughts were confirmed when we listened to play back of the first things we played. It truly was a Conversation between drummers.
We played for a couple hours that first day, then got together several other times as well. Everything we played was recorded in an "archival" fashion - each kit was mic'd only with stereo overheads and a kick drum mic. Michael is panned left, I am panned right.
There's a story I read somewhere long ago that involves drummer Danny Gottlieb going to play with John McLaughlin. McLaughlin picked him up at the airport, drove him to the hotel, and left him there with a bunch of recordings of drummers from all over the world. I can't recall how long he left him there - I think it was a day or so - but upon his return, McLaughlin asked him if he understood what they were saying to him. "After all, they're speaking your language", he said.
Well, regardless of whether that story is true or not, Zack and I speak the same language. Hopefully, some of you drummers (and non-drummers) out there will speak it, too.
All told, there are approximately 12 hours of recorded Conversations. These clips are from the first Conversation on the first day we got together, and are titled according to their points in time. We hope to make additional volumes of Conversations available in the near future. Click a title to begin playback.