That speaks volumes when an artist thinks you know him by his heavy metal gig and warns you his newest work is something different, while you remember him for something very unlike. Yet so it went with Nigel Glockler, who’s not only about bashing the skins with SAXON, you know?
– To begin: how did it come that on many albums your surname is misspelt as “Glockner”?
Don’t ask me! When I was touring with SAXON, people at hotels etcetera were always confused as to how to spell my name! Except in Germany or Austria – there they always got it right first time – it is a German name – and got confused with the rest of the bands names! I got my own back!
– Could you, please, shed a light on your background?
I started playing drums when I was seven or eight – before that I was always digging out tins, metal plates, anything that made a noise basically, and, sitting on the floor with this stuff around me, and a pair of my mother’s knitting needles, would proceed to make one hell of a noise! Then a friend of the family noticed how I was always tapping my knees to records and persuaded my dad to get me a snare drum and a cymbal. I guess, it went on from there, and a bass drum, a rack tom, and a high hat stand followed. However, I then started messing around on my older brother’s guitar but found myself always trying to play the bass guitar lines, so that was something I got into next. I’ve got slightly small hands for normal guitar – I found it hard to really stretch the fingers to reach some of these ridiculously hard chords; hence my nickname The Rex (as in T.REX because of small hands), but the neck on a bass guitar is that much thinner, unless it’s a five or six-string! So I played that for a couple of years, but then, at school, I had a go on a full drum kit and that made my mind up! We got a school band together playing covers and it went on from there, meeting other local musicians, forming bands etcetera, the usual stuff.
– Then, you play not only the drums but keyboards as well, and, I guess, even more instruments.
As I’ve said before, I’m really into bands with keyboards – GENESIS, early KING CRIMSON, CAMEL and the like; in fact, my favourite keyboard sound-wise is the Mellotron – “Snow-capped” from the album is full of it! I used to go out looking for albums or new bands that had mellotrons, if I saw it mentioned in the line-up on the album I’d buy it! I’ve found keyboards really helpful with writing. When we were getting ideas together in SAXON, it was so frustrating not being able to play guitar – I’m useless! – and I would have to sing a riff idea, and, even though I had different parts going round in my head, I couldn’t get the guys to hear what I was hearing obviously. With keyboards I can use guitar sounds, bass sounds, drums and pads and so on and sequence them here at home just to put across what I’m thinking. Then I’d put it on tape and play it to the guys when we went to the studio for a writing session.
– Who were the drum idols for you?
Bill Ward was one of the first – I’d never seen anyone hit a kit so hard! I was a big SABBATH fan – still am – I thought the stuff he did was amazing. Also, of course, John Bonham, and another fave was Carmine Appice when he was with VANILLA FUDGE. Then I got into an Italian band called PFM (it’s mellotrons again!) – their drummer, Franz Di Cioccio, was unbelievable, and he was using a big kit with a full range of toms. I’d never seen this before – I had to have a similar kit – this is where I discovered the melodic side of drumming. I used to sit on my kit in my bedroom at my parents house, wear headphones, and play along for hours to PFM albums, with everything in the kitchen downstairs flying out of cupboards. My mum and dad were great for putting up with it! Phil Ehart from KANSAS was another great fave. Then I got into Neil Peart, Simon Phillips, Phil Collins, Terry Bozzio et al – all drummers that combine rhythm and melody. For pure groove in rock music though, I don’t think you can beat Phil Rudd of AC/DC – amazing! Will Kennedy, who was in the YELLOWJACKETS, is outstanding – he grooves like a mother…! There are some superb players out there, in all forms of music. I almost forgot Chester Thompson, Alex Van Halen and Bill Bruford! – the list goes on and on!
– Do you see drumming as melodic thing, or it’s primary a rhythm?
I look upon drums as both really. Obviously, their main function is rhythm and groove but I also got into drummers that do so much more, as I’ve said previously. Therefore, It totally depends on the feel of the track as to which direction I’ll take.
– You’re one of the few drummers so versatile to play in different styles, but in your case it’s taken to the extreme – from heavy metal of SAXON to delicate new age of Steve Howe. Is it hard for you to be drumming both ways?
I have such a broad taste in music – I listen to everything from metal through to Vangelis to Renaissance chorale music like Thomas Tallis – I just love playing, listening to great grooves, whatever the style. Really, I was never your normal heavy metal drummer – I was listening to Simon Phillips, Neil Peart and the like and so tried to bring a different angle in to SAXON’s music, rather than be blinkered and just listen to what other metal drummers were doing. I wanted to try things from a different perspective.
– You wrote the “Mad Men” tracks had programmed drums patterns to them. Does it mean, you didn’t think drums melodically on the occasion?
Originally, I programmed a lot of the drum parts when I was writing in the initial stage just to get grooves to write to. Also, the writing started after I had left SAXON due to the muscle tear. However, once the writing was finished, and all the guitars were recorded, I went into the studio and replaced all the programmed parts with real drums, adding to and embellishing all the original pieces – by this time I had completely recovered and had been doing sessions again. The drums were almost the last thing to go down, which wasn’t really a problem as there were click tracks on the tracks. I’ve done sessions like this before, being the last instrument to be recorded – it’s good in some ways in that you can do a lot of interplay stuff with the other instruments which you might have missed if you had recorded first. To sum up, all the drum parts are real – being a drummer foremost, I think I would have gone mad if I had not actually played the stuff! And it’s what people expect from me!
– What the album title, “Mad Men And English Dogs“, was supposed to mean? “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, eh?
No, this was the whole point: Doug and I were trying to think of an album title and he mentioned we needed something like “Mad Dogs And Englishmen”. I just turned it around for a laugh and we both liked it, we being the Mad Men. Of course, we then needed English Dogs – a good friend of mine has a Jack Russel terrier (an English breed), so we tried to find a Bulldog too! Really, the title is not meant to be taken that seriously! We didn’t want your typical metal title as the music is pretty diverse -just something a bit more off the wall.
– I seem to have read somewhere of you playing with GTR, although now can’t find the source in my files. So were you with them?
We, SAXON, were touring the States at the beginning of 1987 – I was fed up with the management and was desperate to leave anyway, so I had a phone call at breakfast one morning (we were somewhere in Wisconsin) It was GTR’s management on the phone and I was offered the gig there and then! Quite how they found me I don’t know, but they’d been tracking me down for around four hours trying to find out where I was! The tour finished a week later and I found myself in a rehearsal studio two days after that with Steve Howe and others! The bass player, Phil Spalding, who I’d been in Toyah with, had recommended me for the job. Eventually, we ended up recording the second GTR album, with Geoff Downes from ASIA producing once more, and we only needed a couple more weeks to finish the album when Arista Records pulled the plug – there was obviously a lot going on behind the scenes as the “Wakeman, Bruford, Anderson, Howe” album came out several months later. I think this was being planned in secret by the management as the Trevor Rabin YES was having a lot of success. It was such a shame: the first GTR album went gold in the US and this second one was even better! Unfortunately, it will never see the light of day! But I did get to meet and work with Geoff – we became good friends – and that’s how I ended up doing some tracks on the ASIA album “Aqua”, plus others that ended up on the “Archiva” albums.
– ASIA’s “Aqua” – Steve Howe was there too, and Carl Palmer. Did you meet Carl then?
No, I did my sessions for the album at Geoff’s studio in Brighton, where I live, and I guess Carl’s stuff was done at a later stage. It was just Geoff, John Payne, and myself.
– That second GTR album – there wasn’t Steve Hackett on it, was he? And you should have witnessed the turning point of his departure after the tour you had jumped on.
I didn’t jump on a GTR tour: I was contacted in the middle of a SAXON tour – the next day I went out and got the first GTR album and quietly got to grips with the material when we were travelling between gigs. I think GTR had finished a tour and were preparing the second album – I don’t know what had happened between them and Steve. When I joined we had Robert Berry playing second guitar and keyboards. I never really found out why he left.
– What are your impressions of Hackett?
I’m a big fan of Steve’s playing, both solo and with Genesis and GTR – in fact, I’ve got most of his solo stuff here at home, and GENESIS are one of my favourite bands.
– And a couple of the songs from that album ended up on Max Bacon’s “The Higher You Climb” – those were the tracks you played on?
Yes, “Hungry Warrior”, and “No-One Else To Blame” – how did you know that?! They’re great songs – now you know why it’s such a shame that the whole second GTR album will never come out. It was all this good! Max has got such a great voice.
– What about PHENOMENA project – were you there with Bacon?
No, I didn’t have anything to do with PHENOMENA. Max did play me the things he’d done on it – it was a good album.
– How did you get in touch with Steve Howe?
Steve and I kept in contact, and he asked me if I’d like to play on a track he was doing for the “Guitar Speak” album. That went well and we ended up going back into the studio for the “Turbulence” tracks.
– Was there any competition between you and Bill Bruford who was present on “Turbulence” as well?
Bill and I never actually met during the recording. I did my stuff and he did his. Bill was actually a great help to me when I did some clinics at the Frankfurt Music Fair in 1994 – I was terrified as these were my first ever clinics and people like Simon Phillips, Terry Bozzio and Billy Cobham were around, but Bill put me at ease straightaway. We ended up having a great time, lots of joking around and so on.
– Working on Toyah’s album, did you ever get to play with Robert Fripp?
The Toyah album I was involved with was before Robert and Toyah met. However, a few years later, Toyah rang me up, saying Robert and her were putting a band together and was I interested? I went down to Bournemouth, in Dorset, where they were routining this new material but it wasn’t really my thing: we played some stuff for a couple of days, and it was great to play with Robert and Trey Gunn, but it was a little too off the wall for me.
– What about Tony Martin’s “Back Where I Belong”, one of favourites of mine? There was an impressive bunch of players, like Brian May, Neil Murray – and Ringo’s son to match you in the drumming department.
I was contacted by the producer Nick Tauber, who I did a lot of work with, Toyah included. We were, and still are, very good friends. We drove up to the studio in Manchester on the night Freddie Mercury died – it was really strange because we were talking about him on the journey. Anyway, we started recording the next day and something magical started happening – the songs were so good. I really thought here was an album to equal, if not beat WHITESNAKE’s “1987”! The drum sound Andy the engineer got was incredible: no EQ on them, just natural – they sounded huge! However, after I’d finished my stint there, and went home, something happened to the whole thing, and, personally, I don’t think the final production, mixing and all this did the album justice because I’d heard what it could have been! However, it’s still a great album, but it’s full potential was never realised. On a final note, some sort of political thing went down – I played on more tracks than I was credited for. I actually replaced a lot of Zak’s drums – not because of his playing, but they preferred the sound of my kit. I was really upset about this at the time but it’s water under the bridge now! But, to put the record straight, any track with myself credited as playing percussion I actually played the proper drum track on – in other words, I played all the tracks with the exception of “If There’s A Heaven”, “Angel In My Bed” and “India”, although Nick told me they flew in the first drum fill (before verse one), and a few other bits, of a take I did – therefore “India” is Zak AND me! The wonders of technology! As I said, this is just to put the record straight – there are no hard feelings here, and Zak’s a great drummer. I was just told what tracks to record, as in any session, and I firmly believe I should be credited for them. ‘Nuff said!
– SAXON – what’s special in the band you dedicated so many years of your life?
Yes, most of my career so far has been dedicated to SAXON. We really are like a close family, good friends for life. Biff and I are always in contact, and Doug only lives around the corner from me so we see each other a lot. One hears of turmoils within bands, people not getting on with each other etc, but SAXON wasn’t like that as far as I’m concerned – if there had been problems like that, then I don’t think I could have been in the band for such a long time. My reasons for leaving had nothing to do with anything personal within the band – as I said, we’re all friends for life – me, Biff, Nibbs, Quinny, and Doug.
– The band’s last album was recorded without you, as the press release goes – there was another drummer. Still, you posted the cover on your site? So did you played on it?
Biff rang me up to ask if I would write with them for “Killing Ground”, so I went up to the studio in Lincolnshire and co-wrote “Killing Ground”, “Dragon’s Lair”, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” and “Shadows On The Wall”. I played drums on the writing sessions – it was great fun!!! We also routined “Crimson King” as well to see how we could arrange it for the band to record. Therefore, I was involved with the album, and it appears on my website. “Metalhead” is also on my site as I wrote and played the synth intro to the whole album, but I didn’t play drums as I was recovering from the muscle tear.
– Will there be more of the solo stuff?
Yes, I’m already working on new material for the next MAD MEN album. I also have plans to do some different kind of stuff as well – maybe, an ambient, spacey type chill-out thing! I’m really into Vangelis-type material. Also producing some tracks for a celtic/medieval songwriter – I’ve got my hands into lots of varied things. I have also been approached by Paiste cymbals about the possibility of doing some drum clinics later in the year, but that depends on the time available due to all this other work.
Photo: (c) Fin Costello