Interview by Andrea Lami, translation by Monica Manghi
During the MONFEROCK festival, a new event born in Asti’s countryside, we had the pleasure to meet and have a nice chat with CHRIS SLADE, the man who starts as session man with Tom Jones, together with John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page in the ‘60s and then, became legendary AC/DC “Thunderstruck” drummer and later of Asia in “Aura”.
RRM: Hello Chris and welcome on RockRebelMagazine. Thank you so much for your time for this interview. I know that you already play together with F.E.A.S.T./Mister No before. How do you feel on stage with this band?
CS: Yeah, very good, they’re a really good band. It was a pleasure to play with them and I’m sure we all will have fun, a lot of fun tonight.
RRM: We know that during your career you've played with important bands belonging to different music genres, from jazz fusion to hard rock, without loose your “imprinting”. How have you been able to do it? Is this because you play with an “open” method so you can play easily in different genres or did you adjust it for each band?
CS: Yes, I try to fit in wherever I go, I take on the colours of musicians I work with and the bands I work with.
RRM: While talking with some drummers friend of mine, they highlighted me that with AC/DC you have two bassdrums overhead on left and right of your set. This disposition is not so common. Where did you find this idea? Is it only a show matter or is a technical arrangement to play better?
CS: It was very organic the way I came to it because when we recorded “Thunderstruck” we put this “boom boom” and, when we came to do the video I thought “what can I do there?”. This was, maybe, one day or two before we did the video and I thought normal toms are not big enough and I need something bigger. So I thought “two bassdrums up here to my arms, why not?”. I said to the drum tech who’s with the band forever, and firstly he said “what?” and then “ok boss!”. (laugh) We worked on it together and we found a way to do it just a couple of days before the take. There’s a lot of history on that but I’ll save it for my book. (laugh).
RRM: During the 90s you were part of AC/DC and worldwide success arrive, how do you feel thinking of recording album like the “The Razor’s Edge” and “Live” two AC/DC albums of great success, after a period uninspired, that will remain in a band’s history? How do you feel to be part of this success?
CS: It was amazing, just to be in that band for 3 or 4 years, it was an amazing experience, the guys are fantastic they are just really easy to get on with and also enjoy that renewed success. I think we went everywhere, three times more or less to play everywhere. Three separate tours, we tour for three month when we started, and then it turns in a three years tour, so it was great be in the band, it was absolutely fantastic.
RRM: AC/DC are the best band where you play or do you prefer other bands?
CS: No, every band is different, not better or worse.
RRM: You think it depends on the success you have with this band or maybe from what you feel while playing?
CS: yes, it doesn’t depend on the success but how I feel to play, each band has different characteristics, of course AC/DC is the one I’m most famous for, I’m very proud to said I work with people like Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and many other people I work with. I’m just really pleased that I’m still playing right now my age, I’m playing quite well (laugh).
RRM: Then you played with THE FIRM, a super band including Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers and Tony Franklin. Four musicians that belonging to history of rock. What do you remember about this band? How’s the band born and why didn’t it have a follow up?
CS: Of course, Jimmy Page is a complete legend. There’s so much mystery around Jimmy Page, but he’s a very nice guy actually, very quiet, I never saw him cause any problems. With organization or anything, so it’s quite surprising that he doesn’t feel like a big star. He feels like a normal guy, he has no pretentions and he’s very dumped to earth. It was great to work with him and also with Paul and Tony, I have connected with on Facebook just three days ago and I suggested to get The Firm back together. And Tony said “Yes Definitely, when we start play?”.
RRM: One of last step of your career is the collaboration with ASIA recording two albums with them. What do you remember of that experience?
CS: Yes I played with them for two album and a third live one, and it is another way of drumming, I’m very pleased that I can do both styles (AC/DC and Asia ndr). AC/DC is “four to the floor” as I called it, but with a feel. People miss the point that the feel is the most important thing and musicians know what I mean, but it’s hard to put that across to someone who doesn’t play an instrument. It’s not just like a boom boom, as if you don’t care about it, every single beat must matter, you must feel it internally. It’s a feeling so, you can not define it and you must click and tick over. I never use the click track with AC/DC so all those track are natural tempos, and then with Asia there’s more complicated music, some time signatures, there’s some time signature in AC/DC and nobody have ever thinks about that, there’s few strange bars in some of their songs.
RRM: And not only in these bands, if i’m not wrong you are a professional since you were seventeen, right?
CS: Yes, I turned professional when I was seventeen and I start with Tom Jones in the 60s. I recorded 7 albums but not all with Tom, I did few albums with him and one was “13 smash hits” where bass player was John Paul Pones and Jimmy Page was also on it on the guitar. We were all session band on those days.
RRM: Always with AC/DC it was so impressing the sound’s power of your drum with all your energy. Also during lives, as drums start and the concert is bring to life. Which impression did AC/DC has first time you did rehearsal with them?
CS: Well, I auditioned along with other drummers, I was number one hundred, they try other people I don’t say the name because they were in already known bands, but they want to play for AC/DC. I thought I did really badly, my wife said “how did you do?” and I said “not very good” and she said “They just called” before I got home from the audition and so I got the job.
Thank you to Chris Slade for time dedicated to this interview. He’s another musician that wrote important milestones in rock history with many bands. Not only AC/DC, but also Asia, Uriah Heep, The Firm, Tom Jones. A special man very easy to talk with, after has played on stage in front of millions of people, he plays with the same feeling as it would be the very first time also here in a town named Grana near Asti.