An interview with Mick Fleetwood

By Eliot Van Buskirk
Senior editor, CNET Electronics
22nd July 2002

Sonic Foundry recently announced the availability of more than 800 drum loops recorded by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac at a professional studio in L.A. Normally, finding good analog drum loops to use while recording music on your computer can be impossible--if not illegal. But these pro-quality loops are freely available for anyone to use as they please, and no one must pay royalties to Fleetwood or Sonic Foundry. I spoke with the man himself to find out how this progress was made.
Note: Present during the conference call were Dave Chaimson, Sonic Foundry director of marketing; Jonathan Todd of SabreMark, executive producer of Total Drumming; and Adam Renfrow, Catapult PR-IR.
Mick Fleetwood: Hello, sir.

MP3 Insider: Excellent, how's it going Mick.

MF: I'm doing good, Eliot, thank you.

M: This [Mick Fleetwood's Total Drumming loop library] is a pretty innovative thing. How did this project come about? Who's idea was it, and all that stuff?

MF: All that stuff�

M: Yeah.

MF: Well, my sensibilities have always been--hopefully at least--looking out for things that sometimes I don't understand but I find intriguing, and one of the things that is a constant with me, probably from the nature of having been a drummer for all these years, that the actual process of really sharing the experience is one I can't function without, so that whole premise comes very naturally to me. What I really look for are platforms and things in my world that bring people together and enable--I love to see things that are made possible--or made easier--for people because I have some of those basic frustrations by the nature of what I do. I don't play a chordal instrument, for instance, so I'm endlessly looking for ways to express myself. I really understand what that process is all about and how important it is, especially with young folk and creative folk that love looking for some platform that makes it easier for them to express themselves. Knowing that this is not just about that, but certainly that's one of the main appeals for me: seeing something like this grow into all the different areas that it can grow into. This format was brought to my attention by Jonathan Todd, and we've been loosely talking about doing this type of thing, and upon certain deliberations found that Sonic [Foundry] was in a league of its own with respect to some of the different entities out there that are doing similar types of things, or heading toward doing similar things. So that was the comfort zone�

M: Right�

MF: �in terms of how we got to Sonic. And upon having got there, the question I had was that, No. 1, the premise of doing this and sharing who I am and what I am musically doesn't freak me out at all�

M: [Laughs]

MF: �because it's a natural thing by the nature of what I do; that's what I do, anyhow, I can't function without other people, and interpreting--being part of an interpretation process--that was something that came very easy to me and appeals to me. What was of concern to me was how it was done--the integrity of it. And that was something that immediately became apparent, because as I was about to open my mouth, Jonathan was very privy to some of the constraints and thoughts that I had in terms of, "I think this is a great idea, but it has to be done really well, and it has to be done this, and this, and I want to express myself, and I want my style to exist" �all of the things that live and breath in these loops, in their finality, were things that I wanted to make sure really were there.

M: Right.

MF: But that worked incredibly well, and it made it very easy to really get into the nuts and bolts of the exciting part of "What are we going to do," to represent the real long--the fact that I am 55 years old and have been playing drums for my whole life--it offered up the obvious, and something that I welcomed, and they certainly were enthusiastic to do that and made me more enthusiastic about really digging into the body of work that I've represented through the years and the styles and the various forms of music that I've touched on. So I'm known--and actually so I'm unknown, you know, or relatively unknown, such as the stuff in Africa and the whole experience I had there. We got into a whole bed of hand drums, exotic drums that I had in my�

M: Yeah, I was going to ask that actually�

MF: �which "et cetera," but it became--once the platform, the stage, was set--the rest was hard work, but it was fun, you know, it was artistic, all the things that I'd needed to know were in place were on the table in front of me, so I felt great about it, and I think, speaking for everybody, we had a ball doing it. A lot of care and attention was made, which was something that was very important to me, that it had the sense�the way things were put down to the digital format, et cetera, was done in the very best of ways, meaning the quality of this thing was first-rate.

M: Oh, they [the drum loops] sound great.

MF: Oh doesn't it.

M: Yeah. How long did it take to do all those loops, what was it, about 500 loops or so?

MF: Uh�I think there's actually a few more than that�

Jonathan Todd: A little over 800.

M: A little over 800, sorry about that.

MF: So�we were working away there for two, I mean the setup was the day before, in terms of getting the stuff [much of Mick's previously used drum equipment] there and getting the studio tweaked, all of those things were done before I arrived, but it was two very, very, long, full days.

M: Wow.

MF: [Laughs] Which�uh�you know�

M: That's incredible.

MF: The lads were very gracious in saying, "Well, you know, Mick"--in some instances 'Mr. Fleetwood' but mostly 'Mick'--those that didn't know me in the studio or something, that we'd planned to stop for dinner and this, that, and the other, well, the reality is we didn't stop for anything. We stopped for nut bars and stuff, because I was really on a roll, and when I'm playing, one thing leads to another, and I had all my equipment there, and we were getting great feedback from the studio, from behind the glass, and we just really buckled down and didn't even leave the building that I remember. A couple of guys that smoked cigarettes, Jonathan

All: [Laugh]

MF: �occasionally Jonathan would leave to have a cigarette, and that's about it.

M: Wow�so do you think�I mean, there's a lot of carping from certain artists and certain aspects of the record industry about, "Technology's stealing our livelihood, and technology is the enemy," and what I really like about this project is that it's a new way for artists to express themselves�

MF: Absolutely�

M: It's a new revenue thing, I mean, do you see other artists being as courageous about something like this, do you think this is a viable new model?

MF: I hope so, you know. I mean, for me personally, I'm always looking for new experiences in everything--and more and more and more and more so the older I get, so whatever story you want to tell about that, you can probably tell some deep psychiatric flaw in my makeup, but I like reaching out and doing things that�[are] completely and totally about what the musical process is all about. It's all about allowing something creative to come out of something technical, and it's made possible by really cool things being put together, technical platforms�it's so what I love to see happen. These are the stories that when the advent of digital and things were happening, and various platforms were being set up and people got maybe a little bit too carried away here and there, and it�just depersonalized certain things with regards certainly to music�this is so much not that. It's about taking something, it's about giving, it's about exchanging--it's like being at a swap meet, you know. [very quick] "What have you got? What are you going to show me? What can it do? How can we do it? We can do this." Or, "I can give you a lower price, a higher price, a lower note, stretch the note--whatever." All of these things add up to--not to beat the drum too loudly�

M: [Laughs]

MF: I do like the fact that this is so absolutely cool for young people entering the musical process, that they maybe don't have the experience, the natural abilities sometimes, and yet they have the yen to do something�one thing that is precious to me is the fact that someone can grab this, and it takes them on a journey that they might not have dreamt of taking, you know, and I know how important that is, because I took it when I was a young man and did something that I love to do, which was to play music.

M: Are you looking forward to hearing how people use the stuff?

MF: I can't wait. The great thing is, I'm so ready for that. And I'm also, you know, hey--people are going to take things more or less as they are, then they're going to get in and carve it up and stretch and throw it around, and I feel like I'm going to be in sort of one of the biggest rock-and-roll bands in the world.

M: That's absolutely true. And also, speaking as someone who's tried to do this on an amateur level, the drums are the hardest. I mean, even if people knew how to mike drums, they don't have a drum set�

MF: Yup�

M: So you end up with this electronic drum sound that's not a choice, it's a necessity for some people, so I think this is a great idea for�

MF: I know it is, and it's something that�I'm learning, and doing this with Sonic certainly for me has been a thrill, knowing that I'm in [garbled], in terms of where my stylings are�and I know that it's truly something that I feel really comfortable with. And then knowing that it's going to be taken and people are going to run with it�but that to me is another process that I'm�you know, I don't understand how people would for one moment see this as threatening, or something that's not super, super relaxed to be doing. Because again, all my experience from being in a rock-and-roll band is that it's all about the best sessions, and the best musical moments in my life have been when you're giving something to someone else and they're giving it back. That creates the magic, and that's the wonderment of the musical process and how precious that is. [It's] the only thing that perpetuates that, that survives that actually--not to get too heavy and artsy-fartsy--it is a profound thing, and this format truly allows that. They had something with character. For better or for worse, that's who I am, that's what I've done after nearly 40 years of doing what I do, and [I] had fun with it and do what I like to do in the studio. Lindsey [Buckingham, of Fleetwood Mac] would turn around to me--and there's no right, or wrong, or anything--and I'm sitting there, and I'm playing a Kleenex box, you know�

M: [Laughs]

MF: And if someone said, "Oh, well that's a great snare sound," I said, "Well actually, it's a Kleenex box."

M: Wow.

MF The point I'm making is, "Go to it." Take something and do something and have fun with it.

M: Yeah, and hopefully computers will allow them to turn a snare [sound] into a Kleenex box [sound] or vice versa.

MF: [Laughs] There are no Kleenex boxes on these loops, just so you know.

M: Well I guess we're just about out of time here. I have one question to close with that I ask every time, which is "What was the first rock concert you ever saw," because mine was Fleetwood Mac.

MF: Wow.

M: Isn�t that a ridiculous coincidence?

MF: I am pretty damn sure it was Bo Diddley--playing down a really seedy old club--that I went to actually see. I was at concerts, but I didn't remember, the one I really remember was Bo Diddley, with all the ladies out in front playing maracas. And hence, that meant a lot to me as well, because I'd heard Buddy Holly, wondered where that was coming from, some of the rhythms and stuff, "Sheila" and all these songs. And Bo Diddley was, and still is�all that tom-tom stuff stayed with me.

M: It's been a real pleasure talking to you, and it was a great first concert for me too, so thanks for that.

MF Well I'm flattered, and you'll be happy to know the band itself is alive and well. We're in the studio finishing off what appears to be a double album, which will be out in the new year--early new year, after Christmas--and we will be seemingly behaving ourselves and rehearsed on time to get out on the road in mid-April.

M: Well it's been great talking with you, Mick.

MF: Great. Pleasure.

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