I imagine that this must be one of the earliest interviews ever done with this excellent drummer. The way that Mr. Makowski singles him out of the line-up of the band shows you that he had enough musical clue to know who`s good and who`s not. No wonder Mr. Makowski have done so many great contributions to the music press.
Enjoy this article with a man who have played with artists like Pat Travers Band, Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, Yngwie Malmsteen, Patrick Rondat, Motörhead, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent, Vinnie Moore and more…
`If I wasn`t doing this, I`d probably be a mass murderer or something like that.`
–Tommy Aldridge. Drummer, Black Oak Arkansas.
`Oh, um, must rush now Tommy, I`ve just remembered – I`ve got to get some new bicycle clips.`
– Pete Makowski. Reporter, Sounds.
Now I`m not going to claim to be one of Black Oak Arkansas biggest fans, and it wasn`t Jim Dandy`s cavortings that attracted me to the band, oh no squire, to tell you the truth I found the band to be slightly… er uninteresting until Tommy “Dork” Aldridge went into his drum solo, and Christ, what a solo!
Y`see until then I found solo`s to be a good excuse to go out for a quick pint, with a few rare exceptions, but the `dork` showed me what solo`s are supposed to be like.
Not being musical technicians, most of us don`t know a twin flick underarm paradiddle when it`s staring us in the face. Of course, the skill of percussionists like Ian Paice and Billy Cobham is a different matter, but the usual solo consists of the regular stuff culminating with more of the regular stuff – a bit boring.
Aldridge managed to combine his skill with one of the most potent visual acts I`ve seen in years and for an unknown quantity he seemed quite capable of stirring up plenty of dust.
The band arrived last week to play a couple of concerts, giving me the opportunity to speak to this regular four star laid back Southerner. Away from the Blitz Krieg of dork type rock and roll, Tommy is a quiet composed character who spends most of his time taking photographs, with the help of an impressive collection of photographical implements lying in the corner of his room.
Tommy is the band`s most recent acquisition and began his career playing in local bands. “Ah always played down South, Georgia, jamming around jest lookin` fer a gig. I really like Buddy Rich he kinda inspired me, I don`t play anything like him, but I like the way he plays.”
Aldridge kept moving around playing with bands long enough to earn a crust until around three years ago. “I had a friend who was in the sound system business, in Memphis Tennessee, and he was doing the sound with Black Oak, he was an old, old friend of mine from way back. And he told me the band were looking for a drummer, and I did an audition with them in Memphis.”
What was his first impression of the band?
“When I got into the band it was on a different level. They weren`t making much money but still it was the best thing I`d been in. It was still at the foundation level.”
Were the band just as visual in their early years?
“Well I don`t know, I guess we`ve got a little crazier in the last few years. We`ve always been known as a visual band, not so much a theatrical band, but more of a visual band than say a record group.”
Would the band like to broaden their hemisphere musically speaking?
“On stage it`s kinda hard for us to do anything rather than what we do `cause… well here it`s different. In America people expect certain things from us, so we have to more or less stay within those limits. But over here people don`t know what to expect from us `cause they don`t know us that well. So we`re not really restricted to a certain thing here.
The band made quite an impression (almost literally) on the British audiences when they did a support tour with Sabbath earlier this year, were they pleased with the results?
“We thought it was okay, it`s not near the response we get back home, but we wouldn`t expect that. At first it was kinda weird cause the audiences were really quiet, checking us out more or less and we didn`t know what it was going to be like, but after the first couple of gigs it was alright.”
I asked Tommy what he credited the band`s success to. “I guess most of our success is down to consistency, we`re on stage a lot. We didn`t have all the hype and the push of the AM airplays, the recognition and momentum you get being constantly exposed on the radio. We had to do it manually. We had to go out and be in front of people physically and God, did it take us a long time.
“We spend a lot of time on the road and give the people a little something to look at, it`s not really theatrical, it`s all basic, we`re just a showband.”
What kind of music do you like listening to back home?
“I like kinda laid back things, I like Joni Mitchell a helluva lot. I like rock and roll too, but I`m surrounded by it so much and I play it so much.
“We all kinda let loose on stage. `Cause living in these lil ol` hotels and eating all this bogus food, and generally living on the road, makes you get kinda cynical if you don`t watch yourself. We`ve been able to release all that by playing on stage `cause that`s all we really do.
“We don`t have much of a personal life, we can`t go out gallavanting on the town `cause we don`t know nobody and we don`t stay around long enough to make many friends, so you gotta get the tensions out some way. If I wasn`t doing this, maybe I`d be a mass murder or something like that.”
The band have never really come out with anything substantial on record and their performance seems to rely on atmosphere. This is lacking on record and Aldridge is aware of this.
“We haven`t really concentrated on the records, playing live is where our strength lies, our strength hasn`t been in the records, we do okay but we have to stay out on the road to do what we wanna do. But this new album we`re working on has got the feel we`ve been after. We`ve already laid down three tracks and we`re production it ourselves.
“The last album we did was with Tom Dowd, whose a genius without a doubt. It`s just that it was a kind of formal atmosphere when we were in the studio and we`re very informal.
“We`ve been trying to figure out why we don`t come across so well on record as we do live. We recorded our recent material at Isaac Hayes` Buttered Soul studios and that was great, it`s captured our feel.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ron Wood, The Sharks, John Cale, Michael Fennelly, John Sebastian, Sparks, John Entwistle, Maggie Bell, CSNY, Scott English, Tom Scott, John Grimaldi, Brian Robertson, Steve Howe, Lorraine Ellison, Tony Visconti.
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