Contemporary Drums
An interview with Rick Latham

Image Credits: Rick Latham © Luca Vantusso

November 22, 2017
Educator and session man among the most important internationally, Rick Latham has played with B.B. King, Rick Derringer, Neal Schon, Pat Travers, Howard Roberts, Jerry Coker, David Samuel and many more. Rick is the proof of how the music is an infinite passion and, as soon as you have the possibility, you should hold your drum sticks and show your soul to the world. His friendliness and kindness make him a very big personality.

Why did you choose to become a musician? Why did you choose to play drums?

It’s funny that since I was twelve years old, I could think only about being a drummer. I was drawn to music at an early age just from my environment, growing up in Columbia, South Carolina (East Coast of America). I was always listening to Pop, Rock, Gospel, Soul and Jazz on the radio; my brother was four years older and played piano and was also in the High School Marching Band playing Tuba… My Parents were into early Big Band things like Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, etc. Also, I would see the great musicians on Television and once when watching Buddy Rich, I decided, “This is what I want to do”. At twelve, I began to play, initially self-taught and playing along to records and jamming with some friends in my neighbourhood and from school. Later, I joined the High school band, then went on to study music in University and eventually earned my Master’s Degree in Music and began to play professionally. I guess the rest, you can say is History… Ha. I always tell my Wife: “I’m a Drummer, not a Plumber” meaning that this is what I am and cannot do much other than this…  This is all I’ve ever done and it’s been an incredible life so far and I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love and make a living at it.
How has the life of a musician changed since you started to play?
The music business has changed so much since I began playing. Especially with the invention of digital media and all the technology available today. Some good and some not so good I feel. Also the idea of music has changed among the people. Most clubs and other venues seem to want to spend less and less on good music and see it as a secondary thing, whereas in the past, it was more important for having a good clientele. To stay busy playing music today you really must work very hard for always finding work in all situations, whether it is live playing, touring and studio work. Also, budgets have also changed because the delivery systems are different now. People can get almost anything from the internet, so this is the thinking of many fans, club owners, and artists as well. Many big studios are closing because of the use of home studios. I even have a personal studio as well, in L.A. and in Milan. So the need for spending is much less for recording music and the clubs can often get musicians to play for less money because there are not as many gigs and some musicians will play for a cheap price just to keep working. Of course, like anything, you get what you pay for!!!  I do many things such as playing live, studio recording, private teaching and doing many masterclasses and clinics, because many schools around the world use my books and DVDs, which were published over thirty years ago. Also, there seems to have been more “referrals” from other musicians years ago but now everyone wants to be sure to keep the work they have and hold tight what they are doing. It’s only natural and the ways things progress. However, as a musician the art of “networking” is very important. Keeping in touch with players, producers, and venues, etc.
Internet and the music: a gift or a curse?
I love technology and I use it every day. However, I feel it has damaged the music industry in some ways. As mentioned, the delivery system has changed. People do not have to go out to buy or hear music. They can go to the Internet, not the same experience for sure. This is one thing that has also affected the live playing situation for musicians. The public often becomes lazy and thinks “Why should I go out and purchase a physical CD when I can just download the music and stay at home”! Crazy but true and again not the same experience! Live music is always best and more fulfilling and exciting. On the other hand, I get many jobs from the internet. Other musicians sending me their music, I play drums on the tracks and send my part back to them via the internet. It saves the money of a big recording studio and the quality that I can now get at my place is as good or better than some studios, not in every case but in many, this is the way it is. I also do teaching by Skype and live streaming. Also, great for me and not available years ago. Having a presence on all social media is now very important for keeping in touch with the public and your fans.
What would you suggest to a youngster wishing to be a pro?
“Networking”, be the best you can be and also try to find and cultivate what make you different from all the others. It’s very important for a musician to find his own voice or style and really refine that voice or style. There are many others trying for the same work, so a young musician must be able to offer something that stands out from the others. Also, there are many factors to consider in becoming a professional. Be on time, know your instrument well, have good equipment, transportation and just be a nice person to get along with. These are all things that will help you in many ways. There have been many instances where the best player maybe did not get a certain gig but the nicer, easier person to get along with got the job.  
Is there a special moment in your work with B.B. King that you would like to share with us?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with many fantastic Artists that have all made a huge impact on me as a musician and as a person. The one small moment with B.B. that really meant a lot to me was the first time I played with him, in Chicago. We began to play a shuffle and after about eight measures he turned around and said to me “Man, Where you from” as in saying he was surprised that my shuffle feel felt so good. In a way this was a huge compliment because I was only twenty-five years old at the time. It was a sort of “OK” you are cool and a good player: from The King of the Blues, needless to say I was happy and relieved!
Which are your next projects?

I am always working on new projects and always writing and producing music (I also play piano a little). Most recently, I am spending a lot of time with my Italian Trio which includes Ruggero Robin – guitar and Nicola Sorato – bass. This is a really great, exciting group project and we are playing festivals and venues all around Europe. We are trying to find the time to record a CD with this project. I will also be traveling around Europe and Asia with more masterclasses and drum clinics as mentioned. I will go to Russia in February and then various gigs in Germany, Italy, France and the UK after this. I am also working on a new drum instruction book that I hope to finish later in 2018.

Reservados todos los derechos – All rights reserved – 版權所有 – 版权所有;  Contemporary Drums An interview with Rick Latham copyright Jazzespresso 2017.
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