This is the section of the website where you can submit questions to Stuart about his work. We will regularly post answers to questions submitted here that we feel are of interest to fans. Below are the most recent questions and answers. As we receive and answer more questions, we will archive them here also. Please use the form at the bottom of the page to submit your questions. When you have completed the form, please type the text you see in the recaptcha box. If the text is unclear, then hit the recaptcha refresh button for a new image. Then press the submit button.
Question-Backing vocals on Year of the Cat
Stefan from Germany submitted the following enquiry:
I've got a question about your credits on the album 'Year Of The Cat' by Al Stewart. On the album credits list for the backing vocals appears the name Stuart
without any further explanation. Besides the drumming and percussion, did you do also some backing vocals
on that album? If so, do you remember on which track(s) you performed as background
singer? Thank you for any information and best luck for your next projects.
That credit is referring to Stuart Calver who was the third member of Tony Rivers vocal group. Stuart sadly is no longer with us
Daniel Matthews from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
What are your 5 most influential albums that have shaped the way you play drums?
Rather than specific albums, I get my inspiration from drummers who play the perfect part to compliment a great song.. Ringo on just about every track he ever payed on with the Beatles.. Steve Gadd and his amazing contribution to Paul Simon (50 ways to lose your lover) and Rikki Lee Jones (Rik E's in love) albums. Joe Morello's playing with Dave Brubeck, Even the kid who played on the early Robbie Williams songs inspired me with his energy and musicality.. The drum and bass and Dub Step movements also gave me ideas to incorporate into my playing.. However, One album featuring Jeff Porcaro that was a major influence and inspired a huge change in my playing was Boz Scaggs "Silk Degrees" Hope that helps!
Best Regards ,
Julia Macfarlane Smith from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
Since you are a drummer who also played with other artists who recorded the studio version with a different drummer and after having watched the 1997 Night Of The Proms where you played with Simple Minds (which by the way I think you did an amazing job playing Mel Gaynor's patterns but adding so much of your own touches enriching the songs): How much should a drummer respect the patterns, tempos, fills and use of crash cymbals before adding or skipping or changing them? What should be left alone? (the time signatures?)
Seeing your previous answer on favourite drummers you mentioned Jeff Porcaro and his famous half time shuffle groove has been played the same by Simon Phillips but he also changed the fills and some songs sounded even better than the studio version which leads me to the next question: what, according to you, is owning a song?
Like your pattern for One Stage Before which you said isn't complicated but some other drummers can't play it. How good and flexible should a drummer be to play live without?
for example a drummer who has played hard rock for years can join a band that plays soft rock and lastly, is it ideal to use a click to play live or an experienced drummer should have a good timing naturally?
Regarding your 1st question, I always start with the original but only usually replicate the main pattern/beat and any important recognisable fills other wise I just do it as I feel it which changes from performance to performance.
Owning a song is all about playing it with passion and conviction. You can do that by playing your own ideas or someone else's. It's all in the delivery.
It is good enough to just learn a song and play it like the record if that is what is required but its a lot of fun just responding to a piece of music and do whatever comes naturally.. There are no rules really, you have to be sensitive to what the artist requires.
If a drummer is freelance for hire then it is essential that he is flexible.. If he only does one style then he should expect to anly attract work from artist who want only that.. On the other hand it is perfectly OK to specialise in one thing if that makes you happy but if you want lots of gigs and sessions then flexibility is the thing.
A drummer should have a good sense of timing naturally but will also need to be able to play to a click as they are so common now.. One good side effect of playing with a click is that you do over time develop a sense of timing.
Question-Drum Transcriptions and Running up that Hill
Andy Finlay from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
Do you have any drum transcriptions available? I'm in a covers band and trying to learn "Come up and see me". I would also love to know how "running up that hill" is actually played on the toms, I have loved this songs since I was a young boy and especially love the drums which compliment the song so well. I can't find any transcriptions on the net, and my ear is not so great at figuring out this stuff!
Sorry but I don't have any transcriptions of any of my drum parts.. Re Running up that Hill.. If you look at the video on my website of the live version I did with Kate and David Gilmour you will see I played the tom pattern with one hand (right hand) and filling in the extra beat after beat 3 with the left hand on a tom in between snare hits which completes the pattern.. R RR R RR RLRR R RR (Right hand plays floor tom, Left plays hanging tom) bass drum plays 1 and 2 or 4s and snare on 2 and 4 This is of course only one way to do it.. There are other approaches which also work.. whatever is most comfortable for you is best.. Another way if your right hand can't get around it is to play is as a single stroke between the two toms ie R LR L RL RLRR L RL Experiment with it! I also had triggers attached to the tom rims which triggered the electronic fills and explosions in the middle section... Hope this helps!
Question-Electronic Drum kits/pads
Fernando Medina from Spain submitted the following enquiry:
I notice that on the Ammonia Avenue album, you combine the use of acoustic drums with electronic drums. Also, I think it's pretty obvious the use of electronic drums on the Stereotomy album. But, I'm not sure if you used an acoustic or electronic kit throughout the Vulture Culture and Gaudi albums, as electronic drums could sometimes sound as acoustic. Also, what about the Try Anything Once album? I think the drums on Wine From The Water sound electronic, but not sure about the rest of the tracks. Thank you very much! I really enjoy your drumming. Hope you play with Alan again sometime!
Yes you are correct in that from Ammonia Avenue to Gaudi I did use some triggered electronics on the snare particularly on the snare.. Try anything once was different in that I used electronic drum kit / pads with real cymbals and hi hat. If you are wondering, I have long since ditch all electronics from my setup and back to good old acoustic drums.
Will Maclennan from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
Who were you're favourite drummer's growing up? And who do you listen to now?
My father was a drummer so I grew up with the old jazz masters. Buddy Rich pinned me to the wall but one drummer that particularly captivated me (and still does) was Joe Morello. When I hit my teens It was Ringo, Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker that won my attention.. In later years Steve Gadd was a big influence then along with Jeff Porcaro and of course the groove master himself, Bernard Purdie .. More recently I have discovered and am really into Chris Coleman.. His playing is something else!
Question-Tips for Keeping Tempo
Albert William from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
I'm writing to you on behalf of my cousin who is an amateur drummer. He has had some difficulty with keeping up the tempo with the rest of the band and tends to speed up as the song progresses. What's the best advice you could give? Thank you.
Hi Albert, The only solution to this is to buy a metronome and practice practice practice with it until it is comfortable.. when it does start to get comfortable, reduce the number of clicks to the bar until you can play a steady groove with only one click occurring per bar.. ie play a groove at 120 bpm but with a 30bpm click which will give you one click per bar. Get comfortable with that without drifting and you've pretty much nailed it. Oh.... and relax! Tension destroys timing.
Question-Drum Patterns on Cockney Rebel's Judy Teen
Steve from Northern Ireland submitted the following enquiry:
Hi Stuart, congratulations on the high quality website. 'Judy Teen', Cockney Rebel's first top ten hit, was creative in so many ways, but can you explain the unusual drum patterns and how they were devised and arranged to fit the song? Many thanks and good luck.
I get asked this question quite a lot. I wish I knew myself but I'm afraid I have no idea how the parts came about in that song. All I can say is that the sum total of all I had learned up to that point just came out.. Even to this day when I play with Steve I slip other beats and patterns into that song.. It's just a process of messing about and experimenting and when something sounds good, work it into the routine. I could have played any number of things that would have worked but that's what I chose at that time.
Question-One Day to Fly
Bonnie Gem from Australia submitted the following enquiry:
Hi Stuart, While listening to the song you wrote One Day To Fly on the On Air album, I found the lyrics so rich and complex same with the music, perfectly balanced in those 3 different parts. Really makes one feel like "flying" I was wondering how long did it take you to write it and what was the background of it?
I wrote the music for One Day to Fly but the Lyrics were written by Scott English.. I think the music part took me a couple of weeks of writing and making adjustments. The background to the lyric is basically inspired by Leonardo Davinci and his dream of flying..
Question- Reunion Concert & Singing and Playing Drums at the Same Time
Julia Macfarlane Smith from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
Hi Stuart, if Alan would ever want to make a reunion concert with all of you (Lenny, David, Ian) would you take part of it? & Can you sing and play the drums at the same time?
Hi Julia, Well if the conditions were right and there was a serious advantage to reforming then yes I would.. Maybe one day!
Unfortunately I don't sing and play drums at the same time... I could if I practiced I suppose but never really got round to it...
Julia Macfarlane Smith from the UK submitted the following enquiries collected from APP fans:
Q1 How much freedom did the musicians have in bringing in their own ideas. Or looking at it from the other direction: to what extent did Eric and Alan already have the drum patterns (rhythms, "grooves", breaks etc) in their mind? One example is the end of "Can' t Take It With You" with the change in time signatures, was it your idea?
A1 We had complete freedom and made up all our own respective parts including all my drum patterns . I can't remember who's idea it was to go 7/4 at the end of Can't Take It With You, but it certainly wasn't me on that occasion.
Q2 At what stage of the recording process in a given song did the drums come in? For example, was it the first thing recorded (which I could imagine for "Hyper Gamma Spaces" but not for "In The Lap Of The Gods"?
A2 Usually first with the rest of the band. Hyper Gamma spaces would have started with Alans sequencer and electric piano then the drums after that. In the Lap of the Gods was the whole band first then orchestra and Zither were added later.
Q3 How many "takes" were recorded for any given track and did Mr. Parsons then use only the best take or did he "stitch together" parts from different drums?
A3 That varied from track to track but Alan didn't really stitch bits of tracks together. We just played them the way they are.
Q4 How many microphones were used to record the drums for the Pyramid sessions?
A4 One mic on each drum plus a pair of mics overhead to capture the overall sound of the kit.Question-Drum Kit Used on Kate Bush's Moving
William Turner from the UK /Sweden submitted the following enquiry:
Hi Stuart, was wondering what kit you were using on the track Moving from the Kick inside album? Strange that i love all Kate bush albums, and yet it´s the drums and the cymbal work on Moving, Kite, Babooska and Breathing that always stick out in my mind. I´ve been learning to play drum on a digi kit, now i´m ready to buy a real kit :-) Cheers, William
Hi William, The drumkit on that album was centred around a premier jazz kit, 18" bass drum 12" tom" and 14" floor tom, I augmented it with two extra Gretsch tome 13" and 16" floor.. The snare was a 5 and a half inch x 14" wooden premier and the tom heads were REMO fiber skins as I recall which they don't make anymore...Question-Favourite Album
Julia Macfarlane Smith from the UK submitted the following enquiry:
This might sound like a typical question: What's your favorite album? And is there any particular song you feel you made a great and special drumming contribution? And the third question (3 in 1) On the credits of Eye in the Sky, The song Children of the Moon it says Stuart Elliott on drums and percussion. So you played the percussion at the end of the song or/with the orchrestra together?
Hi Julia, I don't really have one particular favourite album but my favourites are: Al Stewarts Year of the Cat, Kate Bush's The Kick Inside and the APP Pyramid most probably because they were the first sessions I did and the making oh them was a particularly magical time for me. As far as me making a "great and special drumming contribution" to any particular song, I would say its not about doing anything technically outstanding as much as creating something unique for a song that is the most impressive thing any musician can do. One stage before on Year of the Cat is an example where I came up with a unique drum pattern that isn't difficult in itself but Al recently told me that every drummer he ever worked with really struggled with playing it and some just couldn't do it. For me It just came perfectly naturally from nowhere and I never played it again on any other track. On all APP albums I played various hand percussion but the orchestral sessions were an entirely separate thing that I was not part of. At the end of Children of the Moon, I seem to recall it is me and the orchestra playing military snare drum, but my part would have been overdubbed before the orchestra went on.Question-Best APP memories
Giorgio Rizzarelli from Italy submitted the following enquiry:
I'm a long time APP fan and would simply ask you which are your best memories of the Project years - any story you have about the recording sessions, working out the arrangements with the other members of the APP "rhythm section", the atmospheres or camaraderie you guys had in those years... Thank you very much!Answer
Hi Giorgio, Well, there were so many great memories its hard to know where to start but right off the bat, recording my first AP album Pyramid was a very special occasion for me. I still think it is one of the most inspired works from Eric and Alan. The camaraderie was universal. We all hit it off musically and socially. Of special significance was when we recorded outside the UK.. Eve was recorded at Superbear studios in the south of France and Turn of a Friendly card was recorded in Paris at Acousti studios. Seeing the world, making great music, and eating out in fabulous restaurants all added to the excitement of it.. As far as the arrangements were concerned we would largely all stand around the piano whilst Eric played us the next song, we would then just get behind our instruments and play them as we felt it, by dinner time we usually had it nailed. One thing that really impressed me at the time was how when we had finished a take and went back into the control room, Alan presented us with a very polished, produced playback which was very inspiring to then go back and do further takes knowing that it was really taking shape.Question-drum setup during APP years
Craig S. Wilson from the U.S.A submitted the following enquiry:
As a life long follower of the Alan Parsons Project,I wish to pass along my admiration and respect for your contributions to the epic musicianship in The Project. I have been moved and inspired by your incredible playing and technic. I can try to copy your playing but will never duplicate the precision. All my best to your current and future projects. I eagerly await them. Would love a breakdown of your setup, cymbals too, during The Alan Parsons Project years.Answer
Hi Craig… That has certainly got me thinking! My setup changed so much over the years that I can't really give a 100% accurate answer but here goes..
I started the Project in 1978 with a blue pearl Ludwig 4 piece kit, same as Ringo. I hadn't joined Zildjian at that time so my cymbal collection was a mix of 15" Paiste sound edge hi hats, a 20" Tosco ride cymbal, Zildjian 18" thin crash an old brown Zyn 18" sizzle cymbal my dad gave me (he was a drummer) and a 16" crash which I recall started life as a bigger (18"?) cymbal so I had it cut down by Eddie Ryan who was the drum repair man all the drummers went to in the 70s and 80s.
in 1979, I bought some odd vintage round and square badge Gretch drums 12, 13, 14, and 16 toms a 20" bass drum and a 51/2" chrome snare.
In 1980, I joined Zildjian (who I am still with) who gave me about four sets of cymbals, thin crashes in all sizes, 12" 13" and 14" hi hats, 22" china sizzle, 18" china.. Over the years I have gone back into the Zildjian warehouse and swapped out cymbals as my tastes changed.
I still have the 14" quick beat hats and both chinas, but most other cymbals have changed slowly over the years. I tend to go for "Ks" these days which are a bit more characterful.
In the early eighties, I signed a deal with Sonor and got myself a massive double bass drum, Eight tom setup with 2 lovely 61/2 chrome snare drums all which I still use to this day albeit scaled down (see photo on my studio page) I recall using this kit on the Eye in the Sky album amongst others.
In the middle eighties, i went with TAMA drums, again 2 bass drums a set of power toms and a set of regular dimension toms and an assortment of snare drums. I still my Sonors in my own studio and have a Yamaha maple custom setup for live engagements.