David Bowie 'Likes the Struggle' of Winning Fans

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How many songs total did you work on?

There's only 17 on the album when you count the bonus tracks. Do you think the others will come out eventually? Maybe another album?
Yeah, I would think so. There's plenty of stuff there. One of the songs we worked on was a leftover from Lodger. I think it was called "Born in a UFO" when we worked on it, but I didn't see that title on the record. Maybe he changed it. I don't know.

Did David ever mention the possibility of playing any of this material live?
Well, he did . . . I think it was at the end of the first two-week installment. On the very last day he asked if I would be available to do any promotion. I said "Yes!" But that was in 2011.

By "promotion," I assume he meant playing live in some capacity, right?
Yeah, I would think so. 

I guess at the very least he was thinking about a TV appearance or something. Most people are telling me he isn't doing a single thing. Do you think that's the case?
I'm hoping he changes his mind. I've haven't spoken to him personally since the sessions, so he really hasn't said anything to me. I've just found out from reading things on the Internet that he's said he'll never play again. I'm just hoping that something changes his mind. But I'd be surprised if he never played again. 

Why's that?
Well, because he seemed so excited about the music, and from touring with him, I know that he's always loved performing.

I know you toured with Bowie when he was on the road with Nine Inch Nails in 1995. What was that like? It had to be tough facing a diehard NIN audience that maybe didn't know Bowie's music very well.
Absolutely. On top of it, we were a brand-new outfit of guys that hadn't played together, and we're playing after a group of guys that just finished the Downward Spiral tour. They were a well-oiled machine, and they were coming back on the road just for David. We had to follow them and find our own feet. It was tough. That's a hardcore audience. Some fans were not going to stay for David, but some fans loved it. I mean, we played a lot of old material in addition to the new songs. 

Right, but you're playing obscure stuff like "Andy Warhol" and "Teenage Wildlife."
Exactly. Some of it he had never played before.

It would have been so easy to break out stuff like "Ziggy Stardust" or "Rebel Rebel" and just destroy the place. He really made it hard on himself.
He likes the struggle. He likes to have to win the audience over. It's the same reason he went into Tin Machine after all that "Let's Dance" fame. That's what really excited him. When everything is presented for you in a silver platter, it's ultimately kind of empty.

Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about your time Springsteen?
No, go ahead.

When you joined up with him in 1992, he'd been playing with one drummer for nearly two decades. Did you feel a lot of pressure because the fans were so familiar with Max Weinberg's work?
I felt confident I could do justice to Max's parts, and at the same time bring my own personality into the group. Again, I know he received a lot of flak changing bands. Fans are loyal. But I also know that we sold out 11 nights at Brendan Byrne Arena. So it obviously wasn't a big enough issue to spell disaster for us. We did end up playing less and less of the new material and more of the old material as the tour went on. But I think Bruce was very careful in putting together a band he felt wasn't going to sound like studio musicians, yet at the same time a band that was going to somehow bring something different to the music, and be able to handle the breadth of emotion necessary for his catalog.

When you played Saturday Night Live the band was very small, and when the tour began it had really grown.
The SNL band was very early in the game. After that we went back and auditioned more musicians and singers. 

It's similar to the Nine Inch Nails/Bowie tour in that you have a hugely iconic rock star shedding his past and really trying to move forward.
Yeah. I feel like for whatever reason, Bruce needed to explore another side of his musicianship. In this case, I know he listened to a lot of musicians. There was a huge audition process. I felt very fortunate that he chose me. It was a great experience working with him.

Did you get into the studio and work with him after the tour ended?
Yes. We went into the studio and I maybe worked on four or five songs. 

Did they ever come out?
I know that "Secret Garden" came out. I don't know if it's a new version, or if he overdubbed my parts. I'm pretty sure it's Max on drums, though. The other tunes I have not heard. It's funny, though. Someone recently told me there was a tune from that period that came out. I don't remember which one. 

You always hear there's one shelved album with songs built around drum loops in the style of "Streets of Philadelphia," and another one that's primarily songs about relationships, sort of like Tunnel of Love. It sounds like he was working on that one with you.
The only other song I can remember is "Back in Your Arms."

He put that one out.
I don't know if it's a version that I play on.

You played "Streets of Philadelphia" with him at the Oscars, right?
I actually got a great compliment after that gig. A drummer that I respect named Charlie Drayton came up to me and said, "Why did you guys mime to that song?" And I said, "Actually, we didn't." [Laughs] That was a huge compliment.

In hindsight, do you think that no matter how well you well you guys played with Springsteen, the fans would never truly accept you because you weren't the E Street Band?
Yeah, I would definitely say that. And in hindsight, I understand it. You know, there's just something very special that gets built from the band. I mean, Max's blood, sweat and tears are in those songs. 

Thanks for doing this interview. I'm really looking forward to hearing the Bowie album.
As am I. 

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