Modern Drummer Feb 1983

February 1983
Whether listening to Jeff Porcaro
on vinyl or watching him in the
studio or on a live gig, a multitude
of adjectives come to mind. First and
foremost is finesse: an artful delicacy of
performance, a tastefulness and subtlety.
And then there's his impeccable time,
which he is quick to dispute with a ludicrous
utterance such as "My time sucks,"
however spoken in earnest. "Jim Gordon,
Bernard Purdie, and Jim Keltner all have
unbelievable time."

He is serious about even the most simplistic
of studio gigs and conscientious and
concerned about the outcome, always. He
totally immerses himself in the music and
his definition of a good track is the coming
together of the tune where his part must be
totally complementary.
"Nothing has been too ridiculous a demand,
except for hours spent on mediocrity.
That's ridiculous. When something is
ass backwards, everybody knows it, and
yet somebody keeps you there, working
for endless hours, and it's not happening.
There are times when you have to record
six tunes in three hours and do it perfect, or
there are times when you only have one
tune to do and you have all day to do it and
it's a big party. It depends on who the artist
is. But the ultimate is that you've got to
leave there knowing you've done your
best. There's not one record that I can listen
to all the way through that I've done
without getting bugged at how I played.
That's going to be there forever. Sometimes
I'm unhappy about time, feel—certain
things bug me; just things I've let bug
me. In all honesty, I would have to say the
Steely Dan tracks I've done are the most
challenging as far as perfection goes, so I
would say they're my personal favorite

Jeff has played a varied spectrum, from
Steely Dan to Barbra Streisand, and he is
one of the integral forces of Toto. But
then, according to Jeff, there have been an
awful lot of non-successes in his book. So
why do people hire Jeff Porcaro?
"If I asked myself that question, I'd be
staring at the walls, all nervous and
freaked out right now because I've tried to
figure that out before," he laughs. "Seriously,
if I looked at it seriously, half of it
would be political reasons, a la, a name.
No matter how ridiculous that sounds, I
have definitely been hired by people who
could have hired somebody else who
would have done a lot better job, been
more right for the music, and who maybe
was starving a little more to do a better job.
But they hired me because I've done other
records. It's prestigious to have a name
player on your first album, or something
like that. That's one way of looking at it
and that's real honest. In some instances, I
know that for a fact, and I guess the others,
well, maybe they just dig the way I
play," he laughs.

It should be apparent by now that the
adjective "perfectionist" cannot be overlooked,
and when it is suggested that we
are our own worst critics, he responds,
"No, because I'm not. I hate most of what
I've done, seriously. I say this to people
sometimes and nobody takes me seriously,
but I enjoy listening and being a critic more
than I do playing. As far as myself, I'll be
the first to say if I did something cool. I
have done a couple of cool things. I think
most of the stuff I've done with Steely has
been cool. I have no regrets about any of
that stuff. That, and the stuff with Boz
Scaggs, but see, now here's the thing: I listen
to 'Silk Degrees' and I cringe, and anybody
would if I pointed out one particular
thing. As soon as people said, 'Oh yeah,'
they would start hearing that thing all over
the place and it would start bugging them
too. But it was good for its time," he concedes.
Adjectives "quiet" and "shy" are accurate
and "modest" is an understatement,
yet, Jeff is personally assertive. He is the
first to admit that studio work is not easy
and one must roll with the punches. Yet, he
has been known to stand up for himself as
a human being on more than one occasion.
"In this business, you have to put up
with temperaments sometimes, but you
should never have to put up with abuse. I
say that not from having an attitude, but as
a person, you should be treated as one.
You also have to put up with rumors and
people talking, but you can't let those
kinds of things get to you. You can't worry
about what people think.


"I've seen situations where it's a guy's
first session, and a producer or artist destroys
him in front of a lot of well-known
musicians, who the guy was very excited
about being there with. And I've seen guys
cry in the studio. People can get affected
that way, but you can't let someone do that
to you. They're just people, and you've got
to put everybody in perspective."
And he does. He is unpretentious and
attempts to maintain a healthy perspective
on his profession, not allowing it to be an
all-consuming lifestyle.

"I think more people should have a balance.
I think it came on pretty naturally for
me because of other interests outside of
music, like art and landscaping. I wanted
to be a gardener and loved making money
working in people's yards. I could dig interior
decorating also. I think the balance for
me is that I don't have any drums at my
house, so when I'm not working with anybody,
I'm not around drums. I think even
if I weren't successful at music—if I'm
supposedly 'successful'—music and drumming
wouldn't take up any more time than
it does now, because if I weren't successful
at drumming, I'd have a job being some
sort of an artist. That's a job I'm more
comfortable at than trying to get gigs or
letting people know I'm a drummer. I've
never had the moxie to call somebody to
say I'm available. I'm too shy a person to
come on like that."

He had that attitude even on his very
first gigs, even though one would think an
aggressive attitude would have been paramount
to a kid starting out. "It's hard for
me to say. Maybe it would have been paramount
if I had been older and had a wife
and kids, but I left high school doing a gig.
Imagine some 18-year-old kid in 1972 who
listens to Jimi Hendrix and then gets a gig
with Sonny & Cher. I kind of approached
it like a circus more than a serious gig."
Jeff might have actually gone off to art
school had he not gone to Leon Russell's
house one night, where David Hungate
happened to be. About eight months later,
Hungate, who was playing with Sonny &
Cher, suggested they audition the 17-yearold
Porcaro, and in May, 1972, right before
his high school graduation, Jeff left
school to go on the road with them.
"When you're 18 and you're away from
home, as I was on the road with Sonny &
Cher, you're sitting there going, 'Well,
what am I going to do with my life? Is it
always going to be a party like this or
what?' I dug art, but the reality of getting
into art is real ugly. So it was the kind of
thing where I said, like with Sonny & Cher,
if I played my cards right, it was a steady
gig, plus they did a TV show which I did
for their last two seasons. So I figured if I
stayed legitimate here, at least I'd know
there's some security if I kept my head together
and did the gig right. And I could
put some money away if I played Mr.
Straight for a while.

Actually, all the Porcaro boys started
out on drums, due to the influence of their
father, Joe. Jeff can recall watching his
dad give lessons in a drum shop in Connecticut
at an early age. It just so happened
that Mike, who Jeff says was much better
on the drums than he was, switched to bass
and Steve took up piano prior to their
move to California in 1966. Jeff stuck with
the drums and his dad taught him from age
eight to eleven, and aside from a couple of
private instructors and those in school,
Jeff taught himself, either by playing with
records or playing with bands.

"I used to practice in junior high and
every day, after school, I'd go into the den,
put on headphones and play to 'Boogaloo
Down Broadway.' The drums were cool on
that and I used to dig that feel. I used to
play with all the Beatle records, all the
Hendrix records and that's where I think I
got a lot of the versatility as far as being
able to play authentically one kind of music
as opposed to the complete opposite.

It's copying what every other drummer did
on records. If a drummer takes something
Bernard Purdie played on and sits for two
weeks with the 'phones so he can still hear
Bernard but he's also playing along where
he doesn't hear himself flamming with him
or rushing—just grooving with the tune—
the next time he goes to play a tune that's
similar, he might start playing that feel. I
can't tell you how many tunes I've played
where I've ripped off the same thing Jim
Gordon used on 'Charlie Freak' on Pretzel
Logic. The beat I used on 'Lido Shuffle' is
the same thing Gordon did except at twice
the tempo. There's no originality there. I
think it's bad to clone yourself after someone,
although, I actually cloned myself after
Jim Keltner when I was 17 and 18. I
even thought it was cool to wear a vest and
I copied his style. A drummer's own style
comes from eventually being on his own,
but I copied Gordon and Keltner and all
these guys I dug. I remember realizing this,
but after a while, the accumulation of all
the guys you copy becomes your own
thing, hopefully.

"In high school, there would be some of
these little stage bands and then right
across the street from Grant High School
was Valley Jr. College. Sometimes I would
cut school and go over there where they
had the bands that would sight read charts.
When you're dealing with 8th notes and
reading figures that you would do just
hand-to-hand on a practice pad, it's pretty
much the same as reading a chart. The figures
are there; you know what they are and
it's just applying the fact that you're playing
time and then you want to kick a figure
or play a figure. I'm really not an incredible,
incredible reader, but I can read well
enough to do what I've done so far. But
you just get to know it. It's like reading
words. You'll see two bars playing a
groove, and eight bars ahead on the paper
you see this figure coming up and you
don't even have to read it. All of a sudden,
the figures look like a word; you know
what it says just by the way it looks.

"I'm not a career drummer. It wasn't
like, 'I'm a percussionist and if I'm going
to call myself one, I should be as good at it
as I can.' Everybody's situation is different.
I'm just comfortable with the way I do
it and it suits the way I live. And then there
are things I can't do. Zappa's called me at
least once a year for five years to do some-
thing. I've always said 'No' because I just
know what his charts are like and I know I
couldn't sight read one of his things. Guys
like Vinnie [Colaiuta] and Terry Bozzio
are unbelievable with Zappa's work. It's
too hard for me. Once in a while there's a
musical idea that my mind says, 'Go, do
it.' But I don't have the facilities to do it
because with some things, you need to sit
and woodshed and work out before you
can do them. But that takes time, and so I
say, 'Right now, at this point in my life, I
can't sit and take that time off.' Maybe
there will be a time where something will
force me to, but that's a decision that everybody
has to make on his own.

"I wish I took piano. Talk about a guy
who, right now, would have the prime opportunity
to do tons more writing and to
really cash in on a certain situation. But I
can't do that, and for me, personally,
there's not that kind of incentive. But if I
had done it when I was 15, I'd be shakin'
right now! So sure, in retrospect, I wish I
had more training, but this is where those
judgments come along. I say, 'Yeah, I wish
I had more training,' but I can also say if I
hadn't tripped off into the hills to Leon
Russell's house one night, I would never
have met Dave Hungate for him to say to
Sonny Bono, 'Why don't you call this kid
up to audition?' Now, also, if I hadn't
played at Dantes one night with this guy I
couldn't stand, Fagen and Becker [Steely
Dan] would never have seen me play when
they happened to walk into that club that
night to get a drink. Those two nights, for
me, are what I could say started my whole

It was the end of 1973, when, while still
with Sonny & Cher and doing an occasional
stint with Seals & Crofts, Porcaro
was playing at Dantes, a small L.A. club.
He had just turned 19 and was earning
$1,500 a week. But he quit Sonny & Cher
without a moment's hesitation when Steely
Dan offered him only $400.

"When I went with Steely Dan, that was
my first taste of being in what I thought
was a so-called hip, cult rock 'n' roll band.
It was my first taste of being on the road
with a band that I thought was cool. I was
totally in love with the fact that I was playing
with those guys." Although he admits
that recording with Steely Dan is a grueling
experience, it is a creative environment in
which Porcaro thrives.

"Two years ago with Steely on Caucho,
I went to New York to cut the tune 'The
Gaucho.' It was Steve Khan, Anthony
Jackson on bass, Rob Mounsey on keyboards
and Fagen, and I think that was all
who were there. The plan was to rehearse
the tune in the studio because Fagen and
these guys are meticulous. You rehearse
from 2:00 to 6:00, take a dinner break, and
at 7:00 you come back to the studio, start
the tape rolling and start doing takes.
Well, this stuff is rehearsed so heavy that
some of the spontaneity is gone maybe.

They demand perfect time and it's too
nervewracking. Yet, I love it, and I guess
there are some of us who love it. That kind
of pressure with those guys is cool because
from my point of view, their music is the
most prestigious music that's ever existed
and it's great to hear, no matter what.
Some people can't stand the perfection,
though. So we started doing 'The Gaucho'
and they went through every musician's
part so it was perfect. All they were going
to keep at the end was the drum track, but
most of the other musicians didn't know
that. I just knew it from experience. Their
idea is to get everybody else in the band
and put them through all the shit in the
world to make sure they play perfect, just
to get the perfect drum track. And these
guys are sweating—beads of sweat rolling
down their foreheads—nerves, shaking
while they're playing and they don't know
what they're playing is never going to be
used. We went to 3:00 in the morning and I
don't know how many takes we did. Fagen
walked out in the studio and it was something
like, 'Guys, does everybody know
what this tune is supposed to sound like?'
We're all looking at each other going,
'Yeah!' He says, 'Good. You guys know
what it should sound like, I know what it's
supposed to sound like, then that's all that
matters. We're done.' And he splits. So
we're all sitting there in the studio like,
'What?' So we all got pissed and said,
'Screw it, we're going to work on this track
and get it!' So just Gary Katz [Steely's producer]
was there and we continued to do
five or six more takes. The final product on
that album came from those takes. That's
the kind of shit where most people would
have packed up and split, but we just sat
there feeling we had to get it, and we did."
After the first tour with Steely Dan and
recording the Katy Lied album, doors began
to open for Porcaro, who, along with a
cast of characters, were considered to be
quite revolutionary.

"Paich, Hungate, myself and a few
other guys like David Foster and Jay
Winding, all started getting into the studio
thing at the same time. At that time—I'm
talking about '72, '73 and '74—there was a
real echelon of older guys like your Gordons,
Keltners and even Hal Blaine. The
other pressure was always being the youngest
guys being studio players in this town,
doing sessions. We were real radical. I
mean, I know myself, we hated contractors.
I just remember a time observing studio
sessions when nobody said anything.
You didn't speak your mind; it was 'yes
sir' and 'no sir' and you just did your stuff.
We weren't brought up to be studio musicians.
We were guys who played in power
trios; rock 'n' rollers who happened to
read and play Barbra Streisand dates too,
so we were a bit radical and outrageous for
the times. People didn't know how to take
19-year-old cats speaking musical sense. I
was never meant to be a legitimate studio
'studio drummer.' Hey, I just walked in
and played and had fun playing. But I always
hated the politics and how you're
supposed to perform and act as a studio
person. I don't have a book and I don't go
to the phone and call my answering service
and say, 'What's next?' "
Still, he loves his work—and hates it.
The ultimate positive session for him is
leaving a gig knowing he's pleased the
writer/artist. It's the consistent obstacles
that seem to be the nature of the beast that
Porcaro abhors.
"I think the statistics of how many musicians
in the world are allowed to do studio
gigs and why, says it all in itself. It's a
real pro gig. Ask any artist or producer or
engineer who uses studio musicians why
they're using studio musicians and not
their bar band or the guys in their local
town. Why do studio musicians exist?
Sure, there are different levels of music you
hear performed by studio musicians, but
they're not in control of what music
they're playing.
"The only time I'm ever bothered when
I leave is one of these situations where the
artist is a groove, you love him, but you
can't stand the producer. All artists who
don't have a lot of control over the situation
are nervous as hell until the album is
done, hoping that they will get what they
really want, even though they can't speak
their mind most of the time because of a
certain producer. So when you leave
knowing that they got what you have, in
spite of their producer, then I feel good.
But when I leave a session and know I
could have done a lot better, it bugs me.
It's like wasted money.

"Some of the tracks have been done on
the first takes and those are the magical
moments. I did a Jimmy Webb album not
too long ago where almost every track we
did was a first take. And there are those
times when the rhythm section guys are
tuned in really great and it happens. When
I was really into the studio stuff—before
Toto started happening—one morning I
would do Archies cartoons and in the
afternoon I'd do a Helen Reddy album and
that night I'd do a Tommy Bolin album.
So there are those three spectrums. What's
great about studio stuff is that you can
walk in and do, say, a Streisand date where
maybe I'd use a different drumset because
there are live strings and it's all done live.
At night with Bolin, maybe there would be
a headband and deerskin boots and a completely
different attitude and approach,
which I always thought was like an acting
gig. It's fun to change attitudes because
your environment is always changing. It's
like getting yourself psyched up; you're
still the same person, but if I'm playing
with Dolly Parton, I'm going to have a
completely different attitude in my energy
and in my playing than if I'm doing an
R&B thing or something else. That's not
something you can learn, but you can get a
collection together of records of different
styles that you can force yourself to learn,
and if you sincerely enjoy any kind of music,
you know what that attitude is. But say
it's your first gig; you're starting out and
nobody knows who the hell you are. A
contractor hires you for that artist or that
producer and he's your boss. If you screw
up, he doesn't ever hire you again because
his gig is on the line, and that's the whole
political bullshit about the studio system.
Plus, there's the pressure once you're there
and you have your first opportunity to
play. Number one, you feel you want to be
sure you have the kind of energy you want
to give them. You want to give them your
all and try to impress them, which usually
ends up backfiring if you go in with that
attitude. Your whole basic thing is just to
keep time. I have fun helping with arrangements
of tunes or suggesting song structures
and knowing songs, instead of, like
some guys I meet, no matter what instrument,
still to this day have no idea about a
song or tune structure. You should have a
real good sense of a tune or the song—
verse, chorus, bridge, dynamics and stuff
like that. Just keep trying to keep the best
time and be as simple as possible.

"A helpful hint for anybody who is doing
sessions, really the number one rule is,
don't even be thinking about what you're
going to do, or how people in the studio are
going to look over and dig that you're doing
a good job. Try to be completely aware
of the song; try to hear the song as many
times as possible and play for the song—
not for yourself or for the contractor or for
whomever else. Show up early, work with
the engineer to tune your drums and, if you
can, look at the stuff ahead of time in case
it's something that's too hard for you to do
so you can woodshed. Be polite and don't
stay on the phone too long. Don't do any
dope, not because dope is bad, but I know
where certain drugs affect some people's
time or their concentration or their attitude.

The most damaging thing of all, to
me, is the monetary strain it can put on
people, which has bad psychological effects
as well. If you're a musician, that's
not too steady a gig. Don't think because
you're into dope that's going to make you
hip or will get you into certain crowds or
cliques. People would not believe how
many people are not into dope, moreso
than people who are into it as far as working
goes. I can't tell you how many drummers
got too messed up on coke, where
their attitude or something became a problem,
or how many gigs I've gotten because
the guy they used before me was showing
up late or his head was in another space
and people were paying $150 an hour for
the studio time. People aren't going to buy
that bullshit."

Approaching a new musical situation,
Porcaro immediately tries to establish a
mutual comfort between himself and the
artist, "because it's the first time they're
using you and they feel uncomfortable
too. I've run into situations where I'd walk
in and meet the artist for the first time and
they'd be nervous about meeting me too
because it's their first album and they think
I'm some sort of big studio drummer.
They expect to see some tall guy who is 250
pounds or something and I hate that. I hate
anybody thinking they have to bend over
backwards for me. I think, 'Why?' I'd
rather split and not exist if I think people
have to change their ways or something because
of me. There's no reason for it. Usually
I think just my general personality
doesn't threaten anybody though."
Toto was a dream realized a few years
ago, but even before the Sonny & Cher gig,
he and David Paich, introduced through
their musical fathers, would talk about it.
"We knew so much about the realities of
being in a group. That's why we did all the
studio stuff. There was a point where, for
two years, I did everything I could, even if
I didn't feel like playing, just to save up
money so I could take two years off and
give the group a try."

Interestingly enough, however, the fact
that Jeff, along with co-members, are indemand
studio musicians seems to be the
main criticism of the press. According to
critics, studio players are supposedly too
polished and too rigid to create excitement
necessary to stir an audience. Porcaro disagrees:
"Every studio musician I know can
go on stage and play. Nothing happens to
you when you're in front of people. My
God, the pressure of playing in front of an
audience is nothing like the pressure of a
chart with Paul McCartney in front of you
and you've got to do something right.
What is that? You think the people who
write about you and the people in this town
are going to make you uptight and nervous
compared to what we face in the studio?
No way. Because the people who write this
shit about the studio thing don't have the
faintest damn idea of what they're writing

"While I'm in Toto, it's a fact that I will
work every breathing minute of my day. If
Toto isn't doing anything—we're not on
the road, we're not in the studio, we're not
getting together to write—I will stay busy.
I feel sorry for people who don't. I can't
see being a musician and just being in a
band. If you're in a band, you only get to
do one album a year, maybe two. At the
most, you're talking about twenty songs a
year and maybe a couple from previous albums
when you go on tour. So these great
bands—these genius bands—go out and
play twenty tunes. Now I personally love
playing. I get up early in the morning on
days I have free and somebody will call and
ask if I'll play. I'll play and I'll play for
free for somebody. I'll play anytime anybody
calls me to play because I like playing.
At least I know that at the end of the
year I can say, 'God, even if only I know,
I've accomplished a lot of shit. I've played
a lot of music and I've used my full potential.
Whatever gift God gave me for whatever
reasons, I've used it to its full potential.'
And people call and ask if I'll play on
their album. Even when I'm tired or sick, if
they say, 'Will you please play? We'd love
you to play,' then it would be my privilege
to play."

But Toto definitely remains the prime
love and commitment. "I think anybody
would be happy to be given the privilege to
have a group that's yours, and you get to
go into the studio. Money is given to you to
make the kind of music you want to make,
you're the boss and it's your baby. That's
incredible. I think that's anybody's ultimate
goal if they're into doing their own
thing, themselves or with five other comrades.
"It's an emotional investment when you
get six guys together and from the beginning,
you have a dream. I wish I could control
Toto the way I see it, but so does everybody
else in the band. That's individually.
We all keep it to ourselves though. When
we work together, nobody comes on
stronger than another person. We all
pretty much think the same because we've
gotten very used to compromising. What
usually happens is that it comes out kind of
the way we want it individually."
Having been on the road for six months
out of every year since he was 18 and up to
the beginning of Toto, Porcaro enjoys
even the simple elements involved in the
travelling—such as just sitting on the bus
looking out the window or sketching in his
hotel room—aside from the pleasure he
derives from playing live.

"A good touring drummer differs a little
bit from a good studio drummer, but it's
primarily the same thing. You can't be
busy and tripping off because in a band like
Boz's or even Steely, the bands are so big
you basically have to keep time. And you
have to stay healthy so you can show up the
next night.

"Physically it takes its toll. My hands
are small and they're not meant to do what
I do to them. Actually, though, I'm a lot
stronger than I ever was before, drumming-
wise. My hand used to go into
spasms where all my fingers would come
into the center of my palm and my tendons
would stretch my skin. The pain was unbelievable.
You could not physically pull the
fingers from the palm of my hand. It happened
starting at age 15—every other week
during my playing—and what I did to
change that was sand the lacquer off the
end of my stick. What would happen was
I'd be playing and unconsciously hold the
stick tighter and I'd cramp up. So it hasn't
happened in a couple of years. I also think
it has to do with playing and relaxing, even
though it may not look like I'm relaxing.
You've got to stay loose. Nerves are the
worst thing for a drummer.

"I don't warm up before a gig, but I
should. But before a gig, my mind is on so
many other things that I forget to warm
up. I do think it's a good idea to do,
though, so you're loose and stuff. There
have been so many times where the first
tune is a big burner and I didn't warm up
and maybe I hadn't played in two days and
everything was tight.

"I hate solos," Porcaro continues. "I
don't have the chops to play a solo anyhow.
Seriously, I've always hated drum solos.
The only ones I ever liked were Elvin
Jones' stuff—jazz players—because they
played 12-bar phrases and they were real
musical. But I never came across a musical
composition that I played on that was worthy
of a drum solo, aside from some obnoxious
'show-off-your-shit' kind of

Porcaro has always been reluctant to
discuss his equipment since it has changed
so frequently, but before this past tour,
Jeff began endorsing Pearl Drums. What
does he look for in a set? Replying, he
laughs, "I don't know jackshit what I'm
talking about, just what feels right. Most
all drums feel good to me, sincerely.
Drums are drums, depending on the kind
of head and how you tune them. Sometimes
just the look of one will make me
partial to that one for two weeks; just because
it looks different and it's new. I always
set up differently. Sometimes there'll
be a lot of tom-toms, sometimes just two,
depending on what I'm doing. Or sometimes
I'll go into something where usually
I'd have a bigger kit and the music kind of
demands it, yet I'll go in with completely
the opposite, which is kind of interesting.
In the studio, my set changes for every
tune. Every tune on this current Toto album
has a different set or different components.
It depended on the tune. If we were
dong a real heavy tune, pretty broad rock
'n' roll type thing, I used a Gretsch 24"
bass drum and a 14 x 10 or 14 x 12 (I'm not
really sure of the size) mounted tom and a
16 x 16 floor tom and maybe two crash
cymbals and that's it. On some tunes I may
have used a larger set with more toms. It
just varied, depending on the type of tune
and what the tune required from me musically
or from the drums. You play differently
when you set up differently and that's
interesting too.

"Last year when Toto went to Japan, I
went to Yamaha, not for an endorsement,
but because I loved the drums. I was real
shy and all embarrassed and asked if they
could make me a custom set. I mean, I was
ready to pay for it, and two days later, they
came with four drumsets. One was a custom
color and there's no other color like it.
So it's not that I really endorse them; they
just gave me the stuff. But I've never signed

He is endorsing Pearl however, and his
current tour set-up is a 22 x 18 bass drum,
with toms in the sizes of 10", 12", 13" and
16", extended shells. All his drums are
double-headed, and he uses Remo Ambassadors,
top and bottom, although sometimes
a Diplomat on the bottom.

"You're asking the wrong guy about
tuning tips," Jeff laughs, although he
manages to describe his instinctive
method: "I just wish we had one of my
drums from any drumset to take a picture
of. You put it on a flat table and look at it
and you'll see maybe one of the top rims at
an angle. When I put a new head on, I do
not evenly tune the drum around. I've
never in my life hit every lug to see if it's
right. I guess it's all feel. I can tune a drum
to hear a pitch, and I can just tell by the feel
of the key on the screw that goes to the lug,
and how loose or tight that feels, where
that drum is at.

"Every engineer is as different as every
drummer and engineers will drive you up
the wall. With some engineers, you'll walk
in and never hear the words, 'Let me hear
the snare drum.' I know engineers who
don't need you to get a drum sound; they
know how to mike you so they're getting
the sound your ears are hearing out there.
Some guys have everything closed miked
and they've got to do it their way. All studios
are different, all boards are different
and some guys take two hours for the drum
sound. It bugs you when you've just left
one studio and never heard your drums
sound better and people are raving. And
then you take that same set to another studio
and you've never heard it sound worse
and people are getting on your case. You
just have to smile."

He laughs at the mention of his extensive
snare drum collection. "I do have a lot of
snare drums, but I only use one," he
laughs. "I've got it down now, but it all
changes. Four years ago, you could not
walk into the studio without somebody
saying, 'How come you don't have a deep
drum? I want that low sound.' And now,
most of the rock 'n' roll dates I've been
doing, I've got your regular Ludwig 5 1/4"
chrome snare, both heads tuned as humanly
tight as possible. They sound like
timbales with the snares loose; no muffling
on it whatsoever and ringier than all hell. It
all changes. Everybody has his own way.
That's why I always used to have lots of
different snare drums. Now I basically use
three of four I have with me. One is a deep
wood, an old Radio King, and I have a lot
of old antique drums that sound great. I
really don't collect anything just to look

He bought the very first snare drum that
Paul Jamieson made, explaining, "It's all
a matter of who you are if you want to buy
a custom drum or not. It's just like looking
at a painting and asking yourself if it's
worth a thousand bucks or not. You may
not if you don't like it, but if in your eyes
it's a great painting, you'll pay for it. Now,
if you really want to get down to it, you go
try to find a 1934 Radio King shell—forget
about any hardware on it or anything, just
the shell itself—you'll have to go to Evansville,
Indiana, to some old hardware store
to find it. Monetarily, those drums are
worth some money, just for how old they
are and the wood. If I had the money, I'd
buy one. As far as wood drums, the old
shells are better and the rims and hoops are
too. If you buy a new wood drum, you
can't get too live with it. It's hard to explain,
but with the old Radio King shells
that are real thick, I have the insides veneered
and they're real live. In the studio,
I generally use the metal snare. On the road
I always use an old Radio King, and it's
just as live as any metal drum, yet a lot
more musical."

Also before this tour, he began using
RIMS because, "the tom-tom stays floating;
there's nothing going into the shell, so
you're getting the most out of the drums."
He is endorsing Paiste Cymbals, using
two 21"2002 crashes, a 20"2002 crash, a
19" 2002 crash, a 22" 2002 ride, a 22" 2002
China, an 8" 2002 bell and 14" 2002 heavy

He also uses a drum rack invented a
couple of Toto tours ago (1980)." I usually
work on the stage set-up for Toto and I like
to keep everything clean on stage. So when
it got down to the drums, I wanted the
drums mounted on something that would
be real easy to set up and real sturdy when I
play and that would be great for a roadie to
change if anything happened during the
show, like my breaking a bass drum head.
So Paul Jamieson and I got together and
designed this three-sided rail which has
sleeves where all my cymbal stands and
tom-tom mounts go in, plus, all the microphones
and booms clip onto the outside
and go over the drums. There's a banana
cable that runs on the inside for all the
mic's, done by our monitor mixer, Shep
Lonsdale, and this way, nothing ever
moves. Plus, when you look at the set,
there are no floor stands or mic' stands of
any kind, so the only thing that is not on
the rail itself is my bass drum, floor toms,
snare drum, hi-hat and stool. That way,
say I broke a bass drum head. The guys in
the crew would just have to go in front,
slide the bass drum right off without moving
one tom-tom or anything, and slide in another
bass drum, which can be done in two
bars. Plus, it's real sturdy and durable."
And for those who missed the Feb-
March, 1981 issue of Modern Drummer,
Porcaro also works with the Linn LM-1
drum machine with a set of Synares working
from the bass drum pedal, interfaced
with the Linn Machine.

"The machine is fascinating. It's real
drum sounds recorded on digital chips.
Usually you program a beat by hitting buttons.
The way I have it set up, I can sit
down with all four limbs and play spontaneously.
Instead of hitting buttons, there's
a Synare pad that I hit and it's the same
sound as the button. I've got a little Roland
foot switch so when my foot is down
on it, it's a closed hi-hat sound and when I
lift my foot up, its open. Then there's a
bass drum, snare drum and tom-toms. So
it can keep repeating or you can do a five
minute tune where every beat is different. I
just think that the future for that is incredible.
Obviously, in two years, the sounds
will get better, it will be a lot cheaper and
believe it or not, instead of going to Miami
to work for the Bee Gees, all I would have
to do, in theory, is have them call me at my
home. They'd put a time code of a demo of
the tune they wanted me to play on, it
would come over the phone lines and the
time code would go into my machine. It's
just like what everybody does with computers
and telephones. You have a computer
in your hotel, you call the main office,
you put your phone down and all the
computer information stores into your
home office. It's the same thing. The time
code will come in and go into my Linn machine,
so now I know the tempo and the
tune. I sit there at home in the morning and
play my idea and that registers in the Linn
Machine. I call them up, send my time
code to them and the Bee Gees have automatic
arms with real drum sticks and real
drums that, through a synthesizer or computer,
will go down and whack when you
hit something. So my idea will go into their
Linn machine, and from the outputs it will
go to the automated arms and they can hear
my idea for their tune that I heard, exactly,
except it will be in perfect time. That's a
whole other thing. With perfect time,
there's no emotion involved, which is the
drawback, but the potential is great, especially
for drummers. Just imagine getting
up and doing three dates within a two-hour
period of time from your home and having
the rest of the day just to play. Everybody's
whole purpose in doing this is so
they can make money and eventually they
can retire and enjoy music. Realistically,
you want to hear a drummer who enjoys it,
but you also want to buy that computer
thing that costs money and you aren't going
to get it playing some club. So you've
got to do jive-ass sessions and people call
you a funky person and everything for ten
or twenty years while you do that."
Still, all in all, Porcaro enjoys what he
does and makes the best of it when he
doesn't. "No one individual session sticks
out in my mind. They've all been learning
experiences and growing experiences.

Probably there were some that stuck out at
the time they happened, but knowing me,
I'd sit here for three days trying to remember
one. For me, at least, I think every day
has been a learning experience. Every day
there's something, whether you make a
discovery about yourself, or a discovery
about other musicians, or the way people
play together, or producers, or groups, or
a studio, or engineer—just everything.
There's always a new discovery whether it
be bad or good, especially because there's
such a variety of the things I run into every
day. Of course, there are sessions where
the music is unbelievable. If you work for
Fagen or Becker, it'll stick in your mind
forever. And then there's also the opposite
end of the spectrum where you do something
that is so stupid and horrible and you
can't understand why it exists and why
people are spending $150 an hour in the
studio with this person. You don't have to
accept it, but if that's your way of making
your living, then you say, 'Yeah.' And it's
a great way to make a living.

"In closing, the best thing for drummers
is to have fun. Even if you're falling apart
inside, you have a great outlet to express
your emotions, whether you realize it or