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Rufus Taylor - A Drummer Heads Up

With a pedigree fit for a Queen ...

 

by David Philips

 

Rufus Taylor is a relative newcomer to the drumming scene. As the son of legendary Queen drummer Roger Taylor, his pedigree is undeniable. Though he has enjoyed an insider’s view of the rock world and practiced his craft on some of the larger live venues in music, he’s honed his playing skills the hard way and done things on his own terms. David Phillips delves into this rising star’s latest gig, and sheds some light on his blindingly bright future. 

 

David Phillips: How did you land the gig with The Darkness? 

Rufus Taylor: It’s a bit of a Spinal Tap story; I was in Australia and I had two days left until I was flying back home when I got a phone call from Dan Hawkins explaining who he was (to my surprise). He went on to tell me they had a press gig in London at the Gibson showroom in two days’ time. They were doing eight songs from the new album and asked me if I could play it. I had only two days to learn the entire set. I stayed up on the 26-hour flight back and kept everyone awake learning the songs for the gig! 

 

DP: What are the drumming challenges in playing a Darkness show? 

RT: In the beginning, it was learning so many songs in such a short space of time. As soon as I played that first show, we were straight on to the next. It’s a physical show and everyone is giving it everything on stage, so you always have to feel, as the drummer, you either match it or overtake it. It was a learning process about how to play with the band. It was really easy with these guys; Dan’s rhythm playing is phenomenal, and his timing is impeccable which means we don’t even have to look at each other, we’re just locked in. Justin and Dan have this great telepathic power (as they’re brothers) of being able to read each other’s playing and know who is going to take which solo. There’s never a dull moment on stage with Dan, Justin, and Franky! 

 

DP: Is there room for improvisation in the set? 

RT: Yes, all of the guys have given me the freedom to make it my own. With Justin as a frontman, you never know what’s going to happen next. Basically, you have to stay on your toes. 

 

DP: Do you still jump over the kit during the show? 

RT: Still do. 

 

DP: Have you had any accidents doing that? 

RT: I’ve had one accident; I thought I’d broken my hand at the start of the US tour. Justin always lies on the floor when I go to jump over the kit, but this one time we were playing in Santa Cruz and Justin was lying down, but he had his Les Paul sticking up from the stage, so when I landed I smashed the back of my hand on the guitar.

 

DP: Can you talk us through your setup for The Darkness?

RT: It’s a DW Collector’s Series Pure Maple Lacquer Specialty in Pearlescent Black with black hardware. I’ve been switching the drum sizes I use at the moment: 24x22” kick VLX (it’s a beast), 18” floor VLX, 2 rack toms (changing between 12”, 13”, and 14” all VLT) and 6.5x14” snare VLT with no reinforcement rings on the shells. 

 

DP: Massive rock sound with those sizes and the VLT/VLX combo! I’ve heard rumors about a possible Darkness documentary?

RT: Yes, this is still in progress. It’s going to be about the history of the band, gathering together footage from over the years including Ed, the original drummer. It’s a really interesting story, but the launch date hasn’t been finalized even though it’s close to completion. 

 

DP: You mentioned that you’re working on a new album. Are they the first recordings you’ve done with the band? 

RT: I’ve done two recordings with them. One was for a track on the deluxe version of the last album, and the other is a recording called “Rack of Glam,” which hasn’t been released yet. This new album is the first full record I’ve been on. We’ve only recorded demos, so far, in Inverness, Scotland and also in Cornwall. The drums were recorded in a London studio. 

 

DP: You’ve also been playing percussion and drums with Queen + Adam Lambert. How have you managed to juggle both gigs? 

RT: With difficulty! I never thought it would be possible, but luckily for me all the dates have worked out well for both bands.

 

DP: How have the Queen shows been going?

RT: We just finished the Asian tour, including six countries Queen had never played, so the audiences were going ballistic! It started off in Tel Aviv, Israel. We played the Budokan in Tokyo three nights in a row. That was probably the most special because it was Queen’s 20th gig there. 

 

DP: What’s your setup with Queen?

RT: Two timpanis (Roger calls them the king of drums), a big China for accents, two crashes, hi-hat and DW Collector’s snare, KAT for various trigger sounds, two timbales, a bell tree, and some woodblocks, shakers, and tambourines. 

 

DP: Do you have the freedom to improvise on percussion or are the parts very structured?

RT: The parts are structured for set cues to ensure the songs aren’t changed too much. 

 

DP: You play a drum battle with your dad during the show. Is this different every night? 

RT: It is slightly different every night, although I do have a routine I try to stick to. Some nights we do mix things up. 

 

DP: What’s it like using your dad’s kit for the drum battle?

RT: He goes up to the B stage and I play a couple of songs on the main kit whilst he sings either “A Kind of Magic” or “These are the Days of our Lives.” We then go into the drum battle; he goes back to playing the main kit and I come back to play “Tie Your Mother Down.”

 

DP: Any particular shows that stood out in your mind?

RT: The Singapore F1, just because it was the biggest one of the tour, approaching 100,000 people. It was an unbelievable sight to see from the stage. 

 

DP: You come from a musical family. How did that influence your playing?

RT: I realized at a young age that I wanted to play the drums. Having the opportunity to play drums whenever I wanted, and having drum kits at home kept me inspired. 

 

DP: You later studied drums in London. How did this affect your playing? 

RT: Yes, I studied at Drumtech. I enjoyed it, and it was a great experience playing with different bands every week and playing new tracks all the time.

 

DP: You played in the Queen’s musical We Will Rock You, both in London and with the touring production. How is playing with a musical different than playing a live show with a band?

RT: Completely different. On the musical you’re in a little box with your kit, with only a tiny screen with the MD (musical director) giving you cues. I also had headphones with a click. It’s all very controlled, but there are some phenomenal musicians playing in the band. All you can see is the back of the curtain, until the last song where the band is revealed. Playing with a band is a completely different experience; the interaction, the energy.

 

DP: Did you have to read music for this show?

RT: When I auditioned I told the MD I couldn’t read music, but would learn the show from start to finish. They were a bit wary, and the first day was a bit nerve-racking, but there was this lovely guy in the band who’s a brilliant percussionist, Matt Mclaughlin, and he helped me and convinced the MD that I could do a good job. 

 

DP: You were nominated for Best New Drummer in the Rhythm Magazine Reader’s Poll last year. How did that feel?

RT: I had been reading the magazine for years and seeing my heroes in it, so it was a weird realization that my name was in the magazine. It was really cool!

 

DP: Can you talk us through playing drums on the Brian May tour? 

RT: It was the first big band adventure for me. That was actually what stopped me from completing my Drumtech course. My final exam was on the same day that I was due to play on the Royal Variety performance. We did a UK tour for a month when I was just seventeen. It was the first time I’d worked with him one-on-one as his drummer. It was slightly surreal. 

 

DP: I heard you also played some shows with Jeff Beck. 

RT: I played three gigs, and also did a load of studio work with him at his house. 

 

DP: How did that come about? 

RT: My dad’s friend runs a festival in the country called Wintershall. It’s a charity thing; Andrew Roachford, Eric Clapton, Mike Rutherford, and others have played there. My dad was headlining the festival in 2011 and was playing a 10 song set and wanted me on the kit. Jeff showed up and played the set with us. He threw “Manic Depression” on me at the last minute, and a couple of others. 

 

DP: You played on a couple of songs with Foo Fighters. Can you tell us about that? 

RT: I was in London and I got a call from Taylor (Hawkins), who is like my godfather/big brother and he said, “Do you want to come to the Leeds Festival for our show?” So I flew up with the band. Once there, I was enjoying the backstage hospitality and when it got to the encore Dave and Taylor asked me to play. 

 

DP: So, it was literally thrown at you at the last minute? 

RT: Oh yeah, it was terrifying! 

 

DP: What did you play? 

RT: It was “Tie Your Mother Down.” Taylor got on the mic and introduced me quickly and said “Here’s my good friend Ru on the drums who, by the way, is sh*tting a f***king brick right now!” The whole crowd was laughing. Amazing, a real dream. 

 

DP: Any advice for drummers looking to become professional players? 

RT: Don’t concentrate too much on people telling you how to play. I was often told I was not playing the correct way and I found it hindered my learning. In the end, I found my own way of playing, which was much more comfortable. The most important thing is to play for the song. Don’t play for yourself, play for the song. 

 

DP: What are your plans for 2017?

RT: We’re recording this new album, which is really fun, then we’ll campaign the hell out of it this year! 

 

 

_______________________________________________

photo credits: David Phillips

 

David Phillips could be called the UK's drum whisperer. He has backstage access to iconic drummers that's only reserved for a handful of elite authors and photographers in the world. His two books A Drummer's Perspective and From The Riser - A Drummer's Perspective II  are available from his website

 

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