THE DAVE GARIBALDI INTERVIEW
"Squib Cakes", "Mahdi The Expected One", "In The Slot", "Can't You See"... No doubt, this guy can play.
Dave Garibaldi really needs no introduction, but I guess I'll try to weasel one out anyway. Though he's been an active session drummer for many years, you most likely know him as the backbone of Tower of Power. His totally unique style not only kept the Tower of Power tracks movin' along, it helped insure their permanent place in the history books. He's been one of the most influential men ever in the development of modern funk drumming, even winning the Modern Drummer Magazine readers' poll FIVE YEARS STRAIGHT. He's literally a living legend in the music world, and he agreed to hang out for a minute to let me pick his brain.
If you collect drumbreaks, then you have undoubtedly come across his work. If you love drumbreaks, then you have undoubtedly been moved by his genius.
I'm curious how you got the drumming bug. I've read that you began playing in elementary school, but in what capacity?
Who knows why when you're 10 yrs. old...I started the drums in the elementary school band...I was really scared of the music teacher and used to hide from him when it was lesson time...he yelled a lot...a very nice man but at the time...scary!
Was yours a musical family? Or did you come into music on your own?
My family was not overly musical...my mother and her sister played the piano and sang. My parents were creative people...I think I have an abundance of the music genes (or something) and they just naturally took over.
Assuming that you continued your drumming throughout your school career, do you feel that the bay area school system was a catalyst for your creativity and development or a hindrance?
I'll always be indebted to my school music program and my teachers for encouraging me...my elementary school teacher: Chan Henderson, my high school teachers: Jim Campana and Tony Caviglia, and then my college teacher: Gene Graves.
Can you tell us about any musically eye-opening experiences you had during school? Any significant musical influences?
The most eye-opening, if you want to call it that, was the first time that I actually played a drum set...I was 15 yrs. old and was in the band room watching an older boy play rock n' roll beats on a drum set. I watched him and thought to myself that I'm going to try this as soon as he leaves. After a while he left the room and I sat down for the first time and played a beat that I heard him do...it came out so easily that I was in shock! Actually it was an incredible moment because it awakened something in me that I realized was quite powerful.
Having gone through the Oakland Public School System myself, I am painfully aware of the trend to drastically cut-back funding for "unnecessary" classes like music and art. What are your thoughts on this subject, specifically on:
1) How children and parents can expose themselves to music and musical education amid these cut-backs...?
Private lessons are very important and also encouraging the kids to start their own bands...doing creative things is incredibly stimulating and can teach a young person a lot about the abilities that lie within them.
...and 2) What effect this trend of cutbacks will have on the future of music (or musicianship)?
Of course it changes everything a bit; but really, people who truly want musical, creative experience will eventually find one. I'm not too good at predicting the future!!!
I read that you were (or are) heavily active in "the field of education". Can you expand on this? I'm curious to hear about your interactions and methods in teaching.
My teaching experience started with a thought as a youngster that I would like to teach someday...this went along with an intense desire to play the drums. Eventually I began to teach privately, which has over time evolved into clinics, videos, books and articles. My continued playing experiences help the teaching to be effective...
At the age of 20 (?) you joined the US Air Force for a 4-year gig. :) What attracted you to the military, and how did that experience help you grow as a musician?
"I was 19 actually and I had no choice in the matter...it was during the Viet Nam war. I was drafted into the Army but enlisted into the Air Force because I was afraid of going to Viet Nam...fortunately I ended up in the Air Force music program. I was eventually stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, WA with 724th USAF Band...the band was full of varying degrees of abiilty...young guys, veterans...we had an excellent symphonic band which I enjoyed very much, as well as many other ensembles...I liked it a lot."
Upon leaving the military in 1970, you joined Tower of Power, a Bay Area funk group that ended up creating a new sound and revolutionizing the funk scene. How did your association with T.O.P. come about?
I was playing in niteclub in Oakland, CA called "The On Broadway" with a band called the "Reality Sandwich"! Mic Gillette and Skip Mesquite, two of TOP's original memebers, used to come in and play...when there was an opening in the drum chair, they asked me to come and check it out. The first time I saw the band I knew I was going to be in it...Rocco the bass player was a kid and he was incredible then.
Now in your mid-20s, you're a member of a very successful band. Please tell us a little bit about what things were like for you at this time. Specifically,
1) How did you feel about the band's music, its members, and its direction?
We were right in the middle of a music revolution here in the bay area. The TOP music was original, very cool and very focused. I was completely into it...it was a very exciting time here. The whole TOP experience shaped my music life in an irreversible way...it allowed me to be myself and to discover what I was musically, to develop my own voice. I'm forever grateful for that.
2) How instrumental (no pun intended) were you in arranging and selecting the band's music?
We were all in it together...it was a total group collaboration and everyone had a role in making the music work.
I'd like to find out more about your musical motivations during the ‘70s T.O.P. time period. Compared with he funky-drumming pioneers like Clyde Stubblefield, Bernard Purdie, and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, your sound is much more controlled and "tight". In my opinion, it is also a lot more "musical" in the sense that everything you play flawlessly integrates with and accentuates what the band is playing. It's one thing to play a funky beat that keeps the music grooving, but it's another thing--something at which you are peerless--to create rhythmic patterns and fills that groove AND add so much more to the arrangement and syncopation of a track. In short: how, your majesty, do you do it?
You're very kind...the gentlemen who you mentioned, along with some other James Brown drummers, invented the language of the funky groove...they are the reason for all of the rest of us. All I did was take what I liked from about 6 or 7 of my favorite drummers, and than made one drummer out of all of that. My goal was never to be them, but to have my own sound and personality like they did. The individuality of my 'heroes' is what I most admire about them.
I'm also curious about the physical recording sessions. What kind of gear did you use (drum set, sticks, mics, cymbals, processors...). That early ‘70s sound was so awesome and hasn't really been effectively recreated since.
I couldn't tell you too much about the recording equipment per se, other than to say that we worked with some incredible engineers...Jim Gaines, Tom Flye, Fred Catero, Ron Capone...all very famous in the recording industry. They knew what to do...as far as my set-up I had a set of 1963 Slingerland Drums, which my parents bought me in high school...a Ludwig Super Sensitive snare drum, a Camco chain drive pedal from the Professional Percussion Center in New York City and some Zildjian cymbals. I had no idea of how to tune anything...it was all experimental and I used to take forever to get a decent sound...I just didn't know what to do...the 70's sound was the equipment, and how those engineers used it...no digital stuff then...all analog 2" tape, spliced with razor blades.
If you don't mind, could you walk us through a typical, early ‘70s Tower of Power recording session? Specifically, how much of the recordings were over-dubbed section by section?
The TOP sessions were quite a lot of fun, at least for me, and were very creative. During that period we used to play much of the material we were going to record on live shows so we would get the kinks out before getting to the studio. The sessions ranged from starting with the drums only and then layering everyone else on, to just live rhythm section; no horns, to the full band playing together...as we got tighter, there was a lot of full band stuff in the studio. The process is very similar today.
What are your thoughts on live performances vs. studio sessions? What are the mental differences you experience and what effect, if any, do they have on your playing?
Live performances are a bit more loose (at least for me) and the studio is more orchestrated...the tape doesn't lie, so you have to be very focused on parts.
And, I have to ask, because I've wondered for years: WHAT IS A SQUIB CAKE!?
What effect have the personnel changes in T.O.P. had on your experience and your perception of the quality of the band's music?
It's not my place to comment on the quality of the band's music when I wasn't a part of it...for sure different personnel bring different flavors to mix...TOP has always had a tradition of great players. All of my musical experiences with the band have been tremendous.
When did you leave the band, and for what reasons? Was it an amicable separation?
I left the band 3 times, the last time being for 18 years! During those early we were all very young and many ways immature....the past is all "water under the bridge" as the saying goes...people grow and learn together. Since coming back to the band last year, I've realized that this is where I belong.
If you could somehow sum up your experiences in Tower of Power for us, I'd be really curious to know what you feel you took away from that whole part of your life. How did it feel to shape the future of popular music?
Maybe you're not aware that I'm still in the band! I'm still enjoying the process of making music with the TOP and I haven't really sat dawn and evaluated all of that...I'm still growing and learning. I wiil say that the TOP experince has allowed me to find myself musically...I'm not reflecting because there's still so much there in front of me. As far as the impact of the band on music, I'll leave that evaluation to others.
You'll have to tell me what you were up to after leaving Tower of Power. I know you won the Modern Drummer Readers Poll (R&B/Funk category) for FIVE consecutive years, from 1980 to 1985. What were you doing at this time, and what effect did the obvious approval of your fans and peers (FIVE consecutive years!) have on you and your career?
After leaving TOP I had to find more about myself...it took me a while to learn to function in other musical situations because I was so used to doing things in the "Tower way". I never really lost my heart connection to the band and to be honest, missed the freedom that it gave me to be myself...I did many gigs, in many situations and tried to learn something from all of it...I was learning how to survive, how to follow my dreams.
As far as recognition from my peers, it's very nice but there's really too much left to do to be thinking about my "place in history"...it's nice but...
1) I'd like to know a little about your current projects (Strokeland Superband?) and what sorts of music you're really interested in now.
Strokeland is Doc's (Steve Kupka) project and was one of the manin reasons that I rejoined the TOP. During the recording process which took several months, we discovered how much we liked working together. When the drum chair opened up, Emilio called and asked me back. At first I was a bit unsure about how I would like it after so many years...but after playing with the band a few times, I realized that it was my home.
2) Also, if it falls under this same category, how did you come to re-join Tower of Power, and what is it like now compared with "back then"?
..."back then" we were very young and full of creative energy and also very naive. Today we have an excellent group of people who play well together and understand how to play the TOP style...we're still naive I guess, but it sure is fun!!!
No more career chronology, now onto the intangibles: your opinions on the following:
1) Your views on your own drumming. Are you one of those artists who doesn't enjoy listening to his own work? Or can you appreciate the genius, too? :) What does the self-critical Dave say about his own playing?
I don't listen to myself very much...there are certain recordings that I've done that I listen to occasionally. I'm still growing and experimenting and it's difficult to listen sometimes if I feel that I "missed it" on a recording. The main thing for me is to keep after my vision of myself...keep going for what I want to become. This takes time...
2) Your views on the trends towards programmed drum tracks and electronic recreations of the real thing. Has this made you more in-demand for your uniqueness or shut musical doors in your path?
I haven't ever got too many calls to recreate the TOP type of drumming for someone else. As far as programmed drums, it doesn't bother me if I like what I'm hearing. The programmer has to be able to think like a drummer and know his equipment well enough to recreate what he or she is hearing and feeling about the groove. I've never been 'in-demand' so I can't give you a proper answer.
3) Your views on "sampling", as it pertains not only to drum loops but to musical phrases as well. Does sampling open up new worlds of musical possibilities to the masses, or does it serve to dilute the musical quality and inventiveness of the current scene?
I think that sampling is best utilized in tandem with a live drummer. Any new concept has to take time to develop and to find its way into practicality. I have no problem with sampling as a way to help acheive a musical result.
4a) Your views on "sampling," as it relates to YOUR OWN work being recycled without your involvement, and often without reimbursement.
No one likes to be stolen from...the downside of sampling.
4b) Have you ever heard your own work show up somewhere and been surprised? Insulted? Flattered?
5) On a related note, your views on unlicensed drumbreak compilations. I feel that they effectively motivate people to buy and collect records by the original masters and also pay a form of tribute to the beauty of the solo drumbreak*. (*In writing this question, I had in mind comps that feature out-of-print, rare, and unavailable material. I meant to specify that but forgot to.)
If the people that put out these compilations wanted to really pay tribute to the original artists, they would call these people asking for permission to reproduce their performance and then offer the artist some payment. Otherwise the artists' creativity is stolen and then released as an alleged 'tribute'...this is bullshit. SHOW US THE MONEY!!
In closing, I'd like to invite you to speak your mind about anything else that you would like to discuss. Since this interview is being done via email, we haven't been able to interact spontaneously, and so I'd like to allow you to take the wheel if you like:
If there's anything that I would like to add to this, it would be that I'm truly thankful for all of the experiences that have brought me to today...I'm here today with as much, if not more, focus as I've ever had at any time in my life. I think that this comes from realizing the value of being myself and staying on course. This is available to anyone...it requires patience and perseverance...without those two elements it's difficult to move forward. [David Garibaldi / Friday, March 12, 1999]
Okay, David, I really appreciate your taking the time to do this. I know I'm just a small-timer, but I hope that my sincerity and love for your work has shown through. Without ever having met me, you have given me countless hours of musical inspiration and enjoyment. For this, and for your time here, I am grateful. Keep the funk alive!
I hope this interview has been informative for y'all. I STRONGLY encourage everyone out there to go out any pick up LEGAL copies of all of Tower of Power's early albums, but DEFINITELY:
East Bay Grease - 1970
Tower of Power - 1973
Back To Oakland - 1974
In The Slot - 1975
(Some information gathered from www.BumpCity.com.)