Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Rob Palladino : Memories, Passing Rhythms and Boundless Possibilities

By Rob PalladinoApril 30, 2012


Rob Palladino
Rob Palladino is a drummer, editor and writer.  He’s been playing drums for 30-odd years, has been part of bands that no one has ever heard of but he is really proud of, has recorded, toured and has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

He is currently listening to Alison Krauss, Rush and Slipknot, but not necessarily in that order or at the same time.

Rob has lived in many wonderful places.  Most recently in Austin, TX, the self-styled “Live Music Capital of the World” and home to SXSW and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and the much more relaxing and enjoyable “Austin Kite Fest.”

He is living in a small, pleasant, non descript town in Essex… at least for now.

I. First Thoughts

Writing this piece has been an interesting experience. When I was asked to put together something that pretty much amounts to a personal biography, I was completely, well, stumped.

Sure, I’d done quite a lot of things in my life. My three main loves of telling people they can’t write (editing), being told I can’t write (writing), and hitting things with sticks (do you really need me to tell you that one?), have taken me to many places.  The only problem occurs, at least for me, is when I try to put memories, or experiences together on a page they just don’t seem well, exciting enough.

When I told a friend about this, he said: “just put your favourite memories and thoughts together and see where you go with it.”  Well.  It didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time (and how many times have I said that?).

Being that this is a magazine for musicians, I’ll stick with my experiences as a drummer (am I a musician? Really? Aww shucks, thanks guys…).

II. Good Times, Good Times

My first memory of wanting to play, or at least hit stuff, was when I picked up a pair of my mother’s knitting needles and played the leather couch in the front room.  Over a number of days, maybe weeks, I had succeeded in gouging a couple of huge holes in the thing, and leaving both my parents distinctly unimpressed.

For some reason, and I’m not sure of the logic behind this, they obviously saw that I wanted to hit things with sticks, so they bought me…an organ (ahhh, but of course!).

I remember being a little non-plussed, but sort of fascinated.  I wanted to hit it to get the notes out, so I did, but after a while I realised that I didn’t actually have to.  This was where my fascination with keyboards pretty much ended.  After being forced into playing “Beautiful Dreamer” until I was virtually comatose, the dream was over and I was looking for the knitting needles again…but for some reason I never found them.

It wasn’t until a number of years later that I actually got a chance to play a set of real drums.  My brother led a band in the East End of London and the drummer, my all-time drum hero Terry Murphy, had a beautiful set of silver sparkle Ludwig drums and, I think, a mix of Zildjian and Paiste cymbals.  I’ll always remember the way the lights of the studio glinted off the sparkle of them.  It was magical.

Terry gave me a few lessons on that kit, and I’ve never forgotten it.  He taught me how to play 4/4 and waltz time.  Valuable stuff for a budding drummer.  As time went by I finally fulfilled my ambition of having my very own Ludwig silver sparkles and Zildjian cymbals.  Although they sound beautiful, Terry’s Luds still sound better (at least in my head they do).

In those days my drumming influences were many and varied (as they still are).  From Neil Peart, to Levon Helm (RIP), to Max Weinberg to the incredible Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, I soaked ‘em all up and still do.My first band, which was formed with some school friends, was called Warpath.  We wanted to be a heavy metal band, but never quite made it to that stage.  We were kind of stuck between “Wheels on the Bus,” and KISS’s guitarist Ace Frehley’s first solo album.

NOT the school band gig but me performing at a show in Austin (photo by Frank Ragan)

Our first gig was a school dance.  I was playing a set of borrowed Premier (aren’t they every young drummer’s first kit?), and one pair of sticks.  I remember distinctly the feeling of the bass drum rolling away on the wooden floor of the hall we were playing in, and dropping the sticks and having to get up to go get it from about a foot away.  But, the kids were dancing and after the gig we all felt like stars as the girls looked on admiringly (ok, that might be a bit of a selective memory, but let an old man keep it if you will).

Later in the day we plotted our world domination plan in the bass player’s house, then went to we play football in the park and had a row over who would be Martin Chivers and who would be Bobby Moore.  Good times indeed…

III Words As Rhythm

Drumming to me is not only a musical expression, but it defined me as both as a person and a professional.  I believe I became a writer/editor because of the closeness of rhythm to words.  To me, they feel like the same thing. I’m not a technical person at all, and I don’t claim to be, but when I speak I feel the rhythm of the speech.

When I edit, I edit in a rhythmic way.  When I’ve worked at national newspapers, usually on sports desks for some reason, I edit with the intention of making the sentences and paragraphs bounce (for want of a better term), and giving the reader a sense of rhythm to make the story more readable.  Plus if I can make some of the writers make sense too – not an easy task at times – then I’ve done my job, and kept my word/rhythmic need intact into the bargain.

IV So, What Now?

That’s always one of those endless questions, I find.  As I get older, graying, but certainly no wiser, I ask this question of myself a lot.  It’s not a negative question either.  It’s a question of boundless possibilities, and endless opportunities.  It’s a beautiful question.

My “So, What Now” is to keep writing, keep playing and keep loving my life.  It’s a short stay here in this world, but it never stops amazing me, making me laugh, making me cry and filling me with hope and dreams.  I, for one, thank God for it.

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