Interview with Joachim Fuchs-Charrier in September 2008 - Ethnic Studies In Search Of Archaic Rhythms

In the days when dinosaurs walked the earth they were the first "drummers" creating thundering sounds with their trampling feet. Not so long ago the cavemen probably used dead tree trunks to play their first rhythms on them. Joachim Fuchs-Charrier would have been very interested in these rhythms, but also today there are so many rhythmic structures to be discovered. Mr. Fuchs-Charrier travles the globe in order to get in touch with different drumming cultures and he adapts the newly found rhythms for the drum set. His playing is highly musical and very creative, his technical skills are awesome and he released several solo records long before Terry Bozzio made solo drumming popular. This should be reason enough for an interview.

ragazzi: "At what age did you start drumming?"

Joachim: "At the age of 15."

ragazzi: "When did you start to develop your polyrhythmic concepts?"

Joachim: "It was in 1977, when I returned from my first trip to Northern Africa. I was highly impressed by all those wonderful and colourful rhythms of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco."

ragazzi: "Which drumming traditions were formative for your drumming?"

Joachim: "Nearly all of them! I loved everybody who could express himself on a drum. The most inspiring drumming traditions to me were Basel Drumming, including the Swiss drum star Charly Antolini, traditional jazz drumming like Gene Krupa, Joe Jones, Sid Catlett and others and the jazz rock monsters of those days like Billy Cobham, Michael Walden and Alphonse Mouzon."

ragazzi: "What brought you to travel to the most famous drumming cultures all over the earth?"

Joachim: "You know, if you hang around with your drums every day for many hours and you had listened to those greats like Art Blakey, Ginger Baker, Billy Cobham, just to name a few of my heroes and all very ethno inspired drummers, you have to go one day for yourself to find out where it all comes from and what it's all about. They all are mainly influenced by African rhythm sources. Therefore you go to Africa - to West Africa. And there you may probably find some connections to Cuba and Haiti. So you travel to the next places, get your impressions and so on and so on - until all money has gone..."

ragazzi: "Does it make sense for modern drum set players to study the Basel or the Scottish drumming tradition?"

Joachim: "Surely! Look at all the great drummers. Nearly everybody was or is inspired by those rudimental traditions. Krupa, Rich, Morello, Gadd, even Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham and all the youngsters too. All technical knowledge came from those traditions..."

ragazzi: "Due to globalization many cultures are disappearing these days and with them their rhythms. Do you have a suggestion how to rescue endangered rhythms?"

Joachim: "No, I'm sorry! This is a real global black hole! The pure capitalistic point of view is killing all the special varieties of art on our planet. It is also killing many special varieties of life."

ragazzi: "Some weeks ago you returned from a trip to South America - can you tell us about your new experience relating to drumming?"

Joachim: "My impressions of that trip were so intensive, that it would easily fill out the space of another interview or an article about the spiritual relations to drumming!"

ragazzi: "Wouldnīt it be a good idea to write the evolutionary history of drumming or even better to produce a DVD about that subject? I know that you wrote a histoy of drum set playing already."

Joachim: "As far as I know there already is a great book on the market, published by an old English drumming legend - I can't remember his name at the moment - who showed and described the beginning of global drumming in very serious and fascinating chapters. I do not feel, I could do it in a better way!"

ragazzi: "By the way you released multiple fantastic drumming videos in the 90s - do you plan to rerelease them on DVD?"

Joachim: "Yes! In that very moment, my videos are just going to be digitalized. In a few weeks they are going to be released as DVD's again."

ragazzi: "Are there any plans to rerelease also your solo records on CD?"

Joachim: "Not at the moment. But who knows what the future will bring?"

ragazzi: "What was the reason to record solo albums in 1979, 1980 and 1982 and which reactions did you get?"

Joachim: "I did those recordings, because I knew that I was creating some completely new approaches to the drum set. My drumming ideal of these times was to get the sound of a small percussion band by myself. And after some years of rehearsing I did succeed in that way. So it had to be published and by that time it was easy for me to find record companies which were interested to release such exotic drumming music. The reactions in Germany were mostly curious. A "nameless unknown" comes out with such recordings..., some "jazz people" were speechless, some others gave me a chance and listened to my developments, brought them to radio stations and encouraged me to do live performances, such as the "German Jazz Festival" in Frankfurt in the late 70s."

ragazzi: "Terry Bozzio is a solo drumming super star and he just does what you did years before him but you are relatively unknown, even in your home country Germany. I think you were ahead of the times concerning your solo drumming, do you agree?"

Joachim: "Firstly, Bozzio is a fantastic musician and secondly, Bozzio's way was completely different to mine. Bozzio was Frank Zappaīs drummer for a long time. He had already a name on the scene. That was the main reason, Remo Belli asked him in 1984 or 1985 to do some workshops for his company. Remo just invented a new drum series and wanted to have Terry as an endorser. And to fill out this job without getting bored by playing everyday the same basic rhythms, Terry composed drum solo pieces. So the story goes - it was written in a drum magazine years ago. But his developments and his presence have not so much in common to mine, as you probably might think. We are working on the same instrument and sometimes with a similar power, but our approach is completely different. He is a long term ostinato player and improvises over his foot generated ostinato grooves intensively for 15 or 20 minutes. I do not stay to long on one idea and I like more jumping between the grooves and to surprise my audiences with many various colours in one piece. And to give regards to the right people - I was not the first to play musical drum solos. Blakey, Roach and Morello for instance did that too, decades before me. And the explosions of Billy Cobham's solo style gave the drumming of the 70ies a whole new dimension."

ragazzi: "In the mid-90s you did some clinics in Germany but then you vanished into thin air; what happened?"

Joachim: ""During that time I was working as a clinician, I worked with the German distributor of "Pearl Drums" and "Sabian Cymbals", called Musik & Technik. I liked that work very much, also because of the knowledge trade among the other clinicians. It was amazing how much we all learned from each other... To stay hip among those crazy drumming enthusiast, I practised again many hours during my free time and recorded my new developments and performances on video. I released 12 different "infotainment-videos" with different set ups, different techniques and different ethnical approaches. I did that by myself and with my own money, but always thinking of getting finally the financial support of the company I worked for. They just appreciated what I was doing, but besides that - silence. So one day I was tired of them and I left that company."

ragazzi: "You lost your endorsement deals after you werenīt in the public eye anymore; do you have any endorsement deals at the moment?"

Joachim: "In 1998 I had a brief relationship with "John Goodīs DW" and the "Zildjian" company, but their German distributor "GEWA" was just a whole catastrophe to their German endorsees. Bye, bye, blackbird. In 2002 Sibi Siebert introduced me to "Anatolian Cymbals". This is my only contemporary endorsement deal."

ragazzi: "Are you working as a drum teacher to pass on your knowledge?"

Joachim: "To teach drumming is a very important and serious job. I like to pass on my knowledge any time but only to serious students."

ragazzi: "One can say that there is an information flood nowadays - there are thousands of drumming books and DVDs containing many rhythmical concepts. Do you think this situation is an advantage or a disadvantage for beginners?"

Joachim: "This question is quite difficult to answer. The most important fact is to find the right teacher. With his help you may be able to separate the right informations from the wrong."

ragazzi: "Would it be helpful to develop a basic practice concept?"

Joachim: "I think there are many useful basic practice concepts around already. No need for more..."

ragazzi: "How can a student find out if his drum teacher is suitable for his progress as a drummer?"

Joachim: "That depends on the kind of sensitivity the student has. When he finds out that his teacher blockades his creativity, it is time to leave."

ragazzi: "What is the right time for a drummer to detach oneself from role models?"

Joachim: "This is an individual process. We all are born to imitate and to admire but the right moment for starting our own business is just up to the individual development."

ragazzi: "Which role models were important for your growth as a drummer, as a musician and as a human being?"

Joachim: "When somebody is young he looks for idols, when he gets older and wiser he is in search of his own self and when he fortunately found his way, he is lucky when he gets the idea to forget about that all... My role model is BEING and GROWING - spiritually!"

ragazzi: "Most of your drum compositions are technically very demanding. Are you able to communicate with the audience while performing on stage or did you ever feel the loneliness of the long distance solo drummer?"

Joachim: "I always communicate with my audience. When I'm on stage my job is to entertain the people and to give them a good time. I do not play only for myself..."

ragazzi: "Do you only compose for drum set or also for bands?"

Joachim: "I wrote several compositions for smaller or larger groups. Jazzy ones, ballads, rhythm & blues tunes and piano pieces with minimalistic structures. But some of them just got played in small clubs or unofficial rehearsals."

ragazzi: "Are you currently playing in a band?"

Joachim: "I play in various groups as often as possible. My most fragile project is the "Friedbald Rauscher Piano Trio". We play European Jazz, inspired by Debussy and Strawinsky. Another very unique experience is the "Wieland Harms Guitar ensemble. This band plays Flamenco and Oriental inspired music with strong Latin influences. Besides these two groups I work with an artist, who is a clown and a juggler, named "Klikusch" in some variety shows. Last but not least I am the drummer of a German Charity project called "Beggar's Opera". During the performances of that ensemble we show the sinking balance of contemporary German social structures."

ragazzi: "Do you have a favorite playing style?"

Joachim: "No! When I can play how I feel, every style is perfect."

ragazzi: "Would you accept if you got an offer from a fusion, a progressive rock or an avant-garde band to join?"

Joachim: "Why not. But Germany is not the country where you can play such music professionally and earn money with it."

ragazzi: "How about avant-garde or extreme metal bands?"

Joachim: "I am not very familiar to these styles of music. But I think itīs a challenge for every double bass drummer."

ragazzi: "You are a classically trained percussionist who also studied many differnet drumming traditions. Did you ever think about composing a concerto for world percussion and orchestra?"

Joachim: "Yes, several years ago but family affairs, weaknesses and other duties kept me away from this idea."

ragazzi: "Which plans do you have for the future?"

Joachim: "Music, music, music! Growing mentally and musically. Changing diseases into wellness and not taking personal problems so serious!"

Frank Bender