Guitar Centre Talks to Mick Fleetwood


Mick Fleetwood is best known as the drummer of Fleetwood Mac, a band which he co-founded in 1967 with Peter Green. Mick has since been responsible for keeping the band alive through all it's various incarnations. Mick cut his first solo album, "The Visitor", in 1979 and his second solo album, "I'm not me", in 1982. We caught up with Mick in the studio working on the next Fleetwood Mac album where we talked about; the band, the music, his Sonic Foundry Signature Loops, and the technology that helps pull it all together.

GC: So you're involved with Sonic Foundry, obviously doing some loops....

Mick: Yeah, the whole concept of doing these loops for Sonic Foundry was partially an education. This whole concept of offering up drums, guitars, all sorts of different things for people to mess around with, becoming part of a creative process -- that really appeals to me. And then the dialogue with Sonic Foundry was obviously one where I was saying, "This sounds great." I became aware of the care and attention that they have in terms of their programs.

I went into a studio for the better part of three days and hit the living daylights out of my drums, bearing in mind the recording history of a band like Fleetwood Mac, going back to 1967, which was when the band was formed. We were playing all different types of music during all those years, blues music to start with, all sorts of different things leading up to the band people know today. I had to retrace some of those time periods in terms of what I was doing, listening to a lot of stuff that I played on records and try to get back into that. I then became aware of things like what drums was I playing, what skins was I using, what cymbals, to try to allude to or pay tribute to those periods. It was a lot of work.

GC: Are there going to be a lot of other people's songs out there that will have your drumming on them?

Mick: I hope so. I'm waiting to hear some things on the radio using my drum loops. It's endless. I've sort of rambled on about one of the things that they have done: they've got a female voice structure of loops that is very organic. It's real vocals and all sorts of different tones and dynamics in terms of being forceful and creative. All of these things really demonstrate that the company is going into areas that haven't been explored and that's a really interesting thing. I've heard some of these things that actually aren't out quite yet, especially in the vocal area, which was sort of forgotten about. I think they'll be able to do more of that with some of the other artists that they're dealing with.

I'm happy about [my contributions] because the nature of being in a rhythm section, being a drummer, is that you're pretty useless without a band. So the whole principle of sharing and being supportive is a very natural thing for me. Yes, they have wonderful things in Sonic Foundry's library with all sorts of different sounds, styles, guitars, horns, and voices. But drums are pretty fundamental. You've got to start somewhere and rhythm percussion is it. You can't get rid of me or us.

GC: There were a lot of reports last year, about the new Fleetwood Mac album. Can you describe how that process is going?

Mick: We've been working for about 11 months actively on this part of the album, which are Stevie's songs. Stevie was out on the road and Lindsey, John and myself were in the studio. Then she came back with some new songs on top of the 18 songs she left us with. So that whole process has been going onward and it looks like we're going to be doing a double album. And, as such, we need a little more time to finish it off. It's very different. It's the first excursion without Christine McVie.

Vocally, it's the reunification of Lindsey and Stevie who I brought into the band all those years ago as they were an unknown duo, very talented obviously. Hopefully that speaks for itself, the history they had with Fleetwood Mac. Now with Christine gone, they actually are getting back to some of the vocal elements they had when they joined Fleetwood Mac, which was exactly why they were asked to join, because of their harmonies.

One of the things on this album, me and Lindsey ended up talking about some of the concepts on the next section and what we were going to do. I had actually been listening to a lot of old Fleetwood Mac stuff. In "Rumours," very tight, very dry, compact drum sounds--almost sort of jazzy in a way. I've sort of gone, "wow" because I've been opening up and getting big John Bonham stuff, which is what we've got a bit of on this album. I really wanted to explore and get back sonically to crafted sounds that just become sort of ageless in a way because they work musically. Lindsey works that way with his guitar playing where you put aside your desire. Most drummers, including myself, feel there's nothing like hearing the thunder of a tom-tom in a bathroom, like "Whoa, that sounds great." We're making music that we want to listen to or want people to listen to 30 years from now. Some of that you definitely pay attention to. You get rid of that player ego stuff and you look at the piece of music and say, "What would be cool here?" It might be a Kleenex box with a little high end rolled onto it. It's very crafted. We've also got major elements of "balls to the walls." So we've had a good time with it. It's almost the full circle. In fact, someone thought that was a good name for the album.

GC: Is Stevie doing the lion's share of the writing?

Mick: Lindsey and Stevie--equally right across the board. Lindsey's arranging Stevie's songs, like he wanted to do in the old days. It's very different, a lot of guitar playing, a lot of great acoustical stuff, finger picking, some real off the wall stuff. A lot of hard hitting. I think people are going to be woken up with this album. The guys in the band are unleashed. And we've gone back to some real hard-hitting rock and roll. I had a lot of fun. Very eclectic.

GC: Are there differences in approaching the recording process this time around?

Mick: Absolutely. First of all we're staying very true. There's no Pro Tooling until later on. We cut everything in this house, so it's very organic. A lot of it's that way. But Lindsey's also done a lot of multi-tracking, total freedom. It is a very different album because he's done all the engineering on this section of the album. Prior to that, Lindsey and I worked in the Brian Wilson school of taking great lengths to work things out; there's some elements of that. There are also some elements on this album that were done very quickly. It's all handcrafted. It's the old school approach. Then we go into a new phase towards the mixing, where we are open to Pro Tooling and we will do some of that in terms of drum tracks. We play them until we get it right.

GC: Can you describe your current drum kit that you're playing? What do you use and why you use it?

Mick: I've been using DW for a great many years now - a very caring company that is extremely gracious. In terms of when I'm overseas working or doing a session, one phone call and there's a drum kit there. They're very amiable. The care they have in terms of the tuning of the shells is very traditional. That is why I am still there. I would not imagine departing from them. They listen. They spend a lot of time perfecting hardware, which is like a drummer's nightmare. It takes a beating and keeps on going. That's so important. I'm sure they listen to people who come into Guitar Center and have comments. It's all about listening and getting feedback and not just punching out stuff where the manufacturing is compromised. They just care. I could talk for hours about what they do. They find wood at the bottom of lakes in Canada. They're making my whole next set of drums out of, basically, the Great Lakes. It's been underwater for like 200 years! They got permission to go and dredge this stuff up. They're using this now and it's a whole different deal because this wood is unbelievable, it's so hard and the timbre of the wood is unique. They're just wild people and they really enjoy what they do. I'm definitely a DW man.

GC: Can you tell us about your cymbal set up in your kit? What cymbals do you use?

Mick: I use Zildjian. I'm very happy. Before that I was using Paiste--great cymbals, just a whole different mind-set. And I might add, some players that are starting out, you're well advised to spend the time choosing cymbals and not being embarrassed about getting a set of cymbals that really speaks properly to each other. It's all a process. I think certainly at a music store like Guitar Center there's an ability to go try things out. You guys have the proper facilities that enable that to happen.

I have favorite cymbals that come out for certain things, especially in the studio. And If someone sets up my drum kit, I'll know in an instant if two sized cymbals are the same. It's like your favorite living room. It's like your couch. You like things in the right place and comfortable and sounds the same. And I think it pays off for people. Some people think it's almost sort of embarrassing to get too specific, but it's not.

GC: About the band itself, in times of conflict, when things were not going as well as they could, how did you guys manage to pull it together?

Mick: Well in truth, nothing ever really got that terrible. I think people sometimes look at Fleetwood Mac and maybe think of a dysfunctional band like Spinal Tap, where everyone is beating each other over the head with guitars. There's no doubt that emotionally we were very often unhappy about certain things. In my opinion, very early on, during the making of "Rumours" there was a chance to say, "This is over, we can't do this." It was never contemplated, that I remember, with any depth at all that we were going to do anything other than carry on and make the music that we loved making. That sounds corny, but it did actually keep this band together.

GC: As a founding member, did you feel a responsibility to mediate in these conflicts or sort of coach the team?

Mick: Christine and John were married, and Stevie and Lindsey weren't married, but they might as well have been. And they all were in this band. So I became like Lindsey said in one of his songs, "piggy in the middle." The reality is that every single person in Fleetwood Mac had their relationship in pieces, at the same time, that in itself is quite unusual. The hard thing was for those four people in the band, not myself, because they had to work together. It was right at the beginning of this tidal wave that we were looking at and going, "We're off to the races here. It's going great. I'd just come off a hit album, are we going to make it?" A lot of people thought for sure we would break up. From that moment on, there's no doubt, my responsibility, from just the way I am as a person, has very often been to always find a way to glue it together. And we made it. In good humor, especially during the making of this album and the last Fleetwood Mac tour maybe 5 years ago now, was an extremely happy one. We're all grown up - but these are people who've been in love with each other, seriously in love with each other and are able to take the physical element out of it, but emotionally and musically reconnect in a way that is very special. That's definitely apparent on this album, very specifically with Stevie and Lindsey. I think there is a lot of reconnecting in some of the songs, which will translate as only they can and have done in the past. There's some magic there that has so much history to it that survived in the nicest possible way where people can come back together and say, "My god, we're not in love but we love each other in a way that means something."

GC: So going back to the Sonic Founding Libraries that you've contributed to, what are the names of them? How soon will they be available? And how might somebody use some of these loops to create music?

Mick: "Mick Fleetwood Total Drumming." It's available right now. Generally, you can draw on really endless amounts of sounds and textures. And you can take it wherever you want to go. Sonic allows you to fill in the frame any way you want, change it around, manipulate it, and you have basically endless genres of music available that are pre-ordained for you to mess with. You can take it as literally as they are presented to you. Or you can go in and tool the situation to a more boutique representation of how you want to manipulate them. You can stretch the beats. You can stretch out the chord structures. You can change the pitch. You can basically do pretty much anything.

It gives you so much freedom. To me, it's a whole new way to be able to participate in the creative process and have something that wasn't available 15 years ago. It's something that can be interchanged so easily. Again, it's not a toy. It's real! It actually brings a lot of creative enjoyment and I know people who are at the cutting edge of their professions who welcome this whole loop philosophy into their world.

There was a time many years ago, a long time ago, when I'd look at the whole computer thing and digital recording and would say, "Huh?" It's how you use it. Sonic allows you to call the shots. How cool is that? So go out there and have a ball.

GC: Do you shop at Guitar Center?

Mick: Yes. I think it's great. It's a one-stop place for a musician. I'm constantly amazed at the amount of odd and strange stuff that you have there as a percussion player. I have a pair of clay Moroccan bongos that was actually given to me by Peter Green at least 35 years ago. I've still got them. But they're broken. I wanted a sister pair, which I thought I would have to go to Morocco to get, but I found them in your store. I think you have people who really know their stuff. It's a great place.

<<-- Visit to Download Mick's Drum Loops.

This interview was originally posted here -

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Last Updated - 15 February 2004

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