The week that lay between auditioning Ant and our first rehearsal with him the following Wednesday I remember as being fraught. I hadn’t played with a drummer of Ant’s quality since Zhorro Varamezov and Ivan Latrinov in the No Breaks years in Bulgaria (93 to 96).
I must have been intimidated by him, although looking back now I can’t see why, but my memory is certainly of a deep-seated worry that he was going to turn round and say: ‘On second thoughts… Nah!”
I think this was probably reinforced by the fact that he didn’t respond to any of the emails that Nige and I were batting around. We had agreed, all three of us, that we would rehearse the following Wednesday, but for some reason, Nige and I thought that we needed email confirmation.
By August 2nd, Nige and I were really worried and Nige was starting the hunt for a new drummer. And then came an email. It had a surprised tone to it: “Been away doing a session in Wales since Thursday morning. Got back about an hour ago. Thought I already told you I was interested and was ok for Wednesday 7th? I'm ok for next week’s gigs too. I enjoyed last Wednesday. Thought we played quite well together for the first time. Cheers, Ant.”
And that was that. We got together the following Wednesday and Ant was officially our drummer. All of us had said at some point during the whole auditioning and hiring episode that we should get a dep trained up, too… This was forgotten.
My job now was to tell Angus he was out of the band. It took a while to pin him down. He kept wanting me to tell him why I wanted to meet up with him and of course the reason I wanted to meet up with him was to tell him what I felt would be wrong to tell him over the phone.
Eventually Angus got round to mine after work one evening and was completely cool and understanding. He knew what was coming, of course, and he even outlined to me (very accurately) why he thought he was being sacked. Since then, unfortunately, he and his girlfriend have taken exception to this blog, but, for the record, Angus is a fine drummer and decent bloke. Circumstances were against him and his priorities were different to mine and Nige’s. That’s all.
The rehearsal with Ant was a blinder. We went through just about everything and, as is the way with a quality drummer, Ant made us sound ten times better than before… And we sounded pretty good before. He also made us sound hard, heavy, down and dirty. A fine guitarist once said that drummers dictate the sound atmosphere of a band. I had noticed it before, but never quite so starkly as now.
On the Thursday I got a call from Gez that the Chequers gig had been cancelled and would not be reinstated. The pub had decided to go through an agency in Henley to get its acts. I was a bit pissed off.
South African Mark, the manager, would not talk to me about band arrangements and Gez, despite being told at least twice by me, would not go in and talk to Mark. Thus Mark said ‘enough’.
I went in and complained that you can’t cancel a gig the day before without paying something.
“How much?” asked SA Mark.
“Full price!” I responded.
“On your fucking bike!” came the retort. Fair enough. I knew I was pitching it a bit.
“Ok, how about half price?”
“I’ll give you a hundred.”
And thus, when meeting at the Cannie Man in Bracknell for our Saturday gig, Ant became the first muso I have ever known who got paid for playing with a band before he had ever played with them! Pretty good going.