As it turned out, the Stones drummer wasn’t there to make any criticism. He just wanted to talk drums. “I finish, I go: ‘Charlie, nice to meet you.’ [Imitating soft English accent] “Oh, man, you look good. “” Oh, wow, thank you. And I had a green spark battery at the time. He said, ‘Oh, is that a new one?’ And I said, ‘No, the company makes them.’ And he said, ‘I have one; [jazz drummer] Mel Lewis has one like that. It was his thing; it is linked to the color of the drums.
For Smith, the moment perfectly captured both the understated demeanor of the late Stones drummer and his demanding aesthetic sense, the way he knew exactly what he wanted from his instrument both visually and sonically. It would take nearly 25 years, but Smith, a longtime Stones fan, was finally able to enjoy a longer face time with Watts – and soak up decades of drumming tradition – when he passed. a day with him in Oxnard, Calif., visiting the headquarters of the DW Drum Company and interviewing him for Drum Channel. Smith took some time on Wednesday to recall that magical day and to reflect on Watts’ unassuming mastery behind the kit.
I had the chance to spend a whole day with [Charlie]. … This DW company, he plays their snare drum and so do I, and I had the chance to hang out with him. We went through their factory, [me and] him and Jim Keltner, another great friend of his and another amazing drummer. And then I had the opportunity to interview him for about an hour and a half, and, you know, Charlie Watts, he’s known to be pretty shy and he doesn’t do a lot of interviews that I know of, but he was friendly and wanted to talk drums. And above all, he only wanted to talk about jazz: … [saxophonist] Gerry Mulligan and, “I heard Charlie Parker and I wanted to go to New York and do this. “…
We went out for lunch in this little restaurant where the president of the company, Don Lombardi, takes everyone. It’s a little hole in the wall. It was in the afternoon and it was probably around Tuesday or Wednesday and there’s about six people in there and we go in. And, you know, I’ve been with other recognizable people, and you see [people] pointing and the whole thing, but it was interesting to see – first of all, he was immaculately dressed, as he is famous for, a nice light blue linen suit and his shoes weren’t the same color as his shirt but assorted in a very good taste, classy way. He looked super cool like he always has. And the drummers sort of have a reputation for being the gruff guys in the background and the drummers who drag their fingers that [mock-caveman voice] hitting stuff for a living. Charlie wasn’t that; he was smart and articulate, but he was really interested in everything, and he was very good friends with Keltner and wanted to know what his family was like, and what he played on and what new ideas for instruments [he had]. He was just very curious, which I found informative because he could just sit down and say, “Hey, that’s what I’m doing and that’s it. I’m fine. He looked really young that way.
But all the people in the restaurant, like the busboy, would come in, “Can I get you a new little plate?” And the guy was coming with the water, like everyone in the restaurant wanted to be around the flame, and he was very gracious to all of them. Great, super nice and looked very authentic. No tunes and no tricks, just talk to people [at DW who were] making the shells and rims of the drums, and wanting to know what their thought process was on how they make these beautiful and always so complimentary instruments. He kind of flowed with that grace.
And again, he just wanted to talk about everything jazz related. He was a drum collector from drummers like Elvin Jones and Mel Lewis and he would buy their instruments and he would say, “I never see them. … They’re somewhere in my warehouse, but I’m picking them up because I want people to know that these instruments are supported. So there’s a warehouse full of drums, like amazing drums, that Charlie Watts owns, and he’s not a collector like, “Oh, I’m gonna try to collect this one and sell it,” or something. like that. He just wanted them to have a house and to be taken care of. I found it really sweet, sweet and kind.
And he said to me, he said, “Chad, I see so many drummers who want to play fast and a lot of notes, and that’s great. I marvel at it. But the most important thing is your ears, to be a good listener. He says: “All the great jazz players, because they improvised so much, you had to be a great listener. And I learned that very young.
The [John] Bonhams and those guys there was more technical stuff… and Ginger Baker with his long drum solos. I don’t think Charlie Watts ever did a drum solo, did he? It was [in] a support role: “That’s what I do; it is my role in the group. And I know how to do it, I do it right, I make it feel good. … ”
[And] he continued to play forever. Ringo Starr, also an incredibly amazing musician, but you have to remember that, [the Beatles] stopped touring in 1966. The Stones never really stopped, and kept making records, so we got that full spectrum. [of work].
To come back to what I was saying, he was curious. Even the peppers, [he’d ask], “What are you listening to? “Or” What do you like? »Interested in new things, but not trying to copy [them] – just be open to that influence and it’ll seep into your game.… And I think that’s why [his playing was so adaptable to various eras]. To me it didn’t sound like [the Stones] were trying [to play current musical styles] premeditated. It was just, “This is how we do it ”- always Mick Jagger, always Keith Richards, always the Stones and always Charlie. Like “I miss you”, four on the floor? They weren’t doing that in 1965, 1970, but it was awesome! It didn’t sound like a disco scam. It was the Stones doing this because they liked it.
What a body of work. I really like the Stones of the Mick Taylor era, the Exiles, and Sticky fingers. … I mean, you put on “Brown Sugar”, and you should be dead not to dance to it. It’s incredible. And again, nothing fancy, just the feel of it. … A Charlie Watts backbeat, that’s where you put it. Fast or slow, he was awesome. He could play those great ballads: “Wild Horses”, and, I don’t know, name a Rolling Stones song that doesn’t feel right. You may get lucky once or twice and make a recording, but doing it for 58 years playing so many iconic hits, to me that speaks for itself, his work. And that’s what’s so great, that we’ll always have that, the legacy of that, and we can listen to that music forever. It is a beautiful gift.