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Interview with James (drums)

Mama at Playhouse 2 ShawSummer break is coming to a close and Mama has two upcoming shows, preceded by a lengthy interview with James, on the drums!

We’ve had a long Summer break – the longest break we’ve ever had in fact (I think). Okay, it’s killing us! We just can’t wait to get back on the road and play some more Genesis for you. But first, we will be holding a few rehearsals to polish the set list. In the meantime, we finally got chance to sit down with our drummer extraordinaire and quiz him about this whole Genesis / Mama thing he has going on. We swears he knows every note from every song on every tour that Genesis ever did, along with every Phil Collins interview, word for word!

Before we get to the interview, here’s the next two show dates for your diary:

  • 25th June 2016 – Playhouse 2, Shaw (near Oldham)
  • 8th July 2016 – The Brindley Arts Centre, Runcorn (not near Oldham)

And now, the interview….

Webmaster: Phil Collins and Chester Thompson are obviously huge influences for you, but why did you choose to play Sonor drums and Zildjian cymbals instead of using the type of kit they used over the years?

James: Good question! Yes Phil and Chester are really why I started playing as a kid. I’d heard bits of Genesis and Collins solo stuff on the radio and on record at home too. In fact, the first piece of Genesis music I heard was the album A Trick Of The Tail. My mum used to play that album at home when I was a nipper. Anyway, I was a little older (high school years) and Genesis released the Invisible Touch show at Wembley, on video. The thing that hooked me was the drum duet. This to me was the best thing I’d ever seen and it was that duet that made me want to play drums in a band. I was always messing about the house with my odd pair of sticks that a drummer pal had given me and often enough he would let me have a go of his kit, but from that moment I had to get my own kit and practice.

James - drummer with Mama GenesisJames: As for the kit I use now and what Collins and Thompson used, it’s open to debate. I use a Sonor birch kit because I love the tones that it gives playing live and to be honest it’s all down to how it’s tuned too. But if listen to the Genesis drum sounds over the years, the tuning was always really high whatever make of kit Collins or Thompson played. When Thompson joined Genesis in 1977 from Zappa, he was playing Lugwid, then played Pearl until the end of the Invisible touch tour. Then he moved again to Sonor and has moved again since to DW Drums. His choice of cymbals has changed too over the years and is now with Sabian which is what I use. Prior to that, he was using Zildjian. Collins also used Sabian. He was with Zildjan for many years and used a variety of drum companies from Ludwig, Premier and Pearl. Then, as we all know, he settled with Gretsch Drums. So I suppose in answer to your question, it’s all about getting as close to that sound that you need.

Other musical influences

Webmaster: What other musical influences do you have? Who would you be listening to when you’re not listening to Genesis and why?

James: Another great question. How long have you got? [laughs] There are so many other drummers and bands I love but I have to say not many of today’s artists. I have what you might call an old head on young shoulders when it comes to my taste in music. Genesis I love and will always, but this love for music goes back to what was being played at home when I was a boy. ELO, Santana, Wings, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Roxy Music, Cream and Eric Clapton. Then there is jazz and big band tunes, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Art Blakey. I could go on and on but for me the main reason why I love these bands and artists is the groove that was laid down on most of the records they made. You just don’t hear that anymore from the bands of today, that are played on radio.

James on the drums for Mama GenesisJames: If I was to mention any later influences on my playing, I’d have to say drummers like Simon Philips, Steve White, Steve Gadd, Dominic Howard, Gavin Harrison, Dave Weckl and even Dave Grohl. But even most of these chaps have been around for years too. They all bring their own style and feel to the kit and that’s what I love about being a drummer. Just to be able to play a groove on a kit is an amazing feeling. It can be the most simple thing you ever play but when you play with a band and that groove ties everything together, its simply magic.

Webmaster: What has been your most enjoyable show with Mama and why?

James: To be honest, I enjoy every venue we play whether it be a three hundred seater theatre or a smaller music venue that holds a hundred and fifty. Each has its own feel and vibe which I really like. As for my most enjoyable show, well I have a few that spring to mind. But for me it would be The Cavern in Liverpool. Being a Liverpool lad and being able to play The Cavern is just amazing. When we played there back in January this year we sold it out and that night was incredible. Everyone that came to see us sang word for word and at one point I could see the odd person air drumming along with what I was playing! So The Cavern for me holds a special place in my heart.

Webmaster: What ambitions remain for you with Mama?

James: To take Mama as far as we can. We are in our fifth year now and what we have achieved in that short space of time is great, but I want us to continue for many years to come. There is always room for improvement! [laughs]

Webmaster: Your drum solo… Is it structured or do you improvise?

James: As JW calls it, two minutes of sheer thunder! Due to me playing in a Genesis tribute band, the solo is based around what Collins and Thompson did on the duets they did together. But as the band only have me on the drums I pick out the parts that I can play and put them in a solo that everyone will pick up on. Some parts in there are me. I use my parts to link the Collins / Thompson parts together. So you could say my solo is improvised, with an outlined structure.

James on drums for Mama Genesis closeupWebmaster: Quick-fire round! First prog record?

James: Selling England By The Pound, Genesis. Still my favourite Genesis album!

Webmaster: Guilty pleasure in your album collection?

James: [laugh] Erm, Kick by INXS (on vinyl). Great album!

Webmaster: First gig attended?

James: I was about fourteen years old. The venue was called Kirklands in Liverpool back then and it was a jazz trio. That was my first taste of live jazz. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the trio. Silly me!

Webmaster: Mastermind specialist subject?

James: Erm, probably Star Wars. Love it!

Webmaster: Most expensive piece of kit?

James: Erm, all of it! [laughs]

Webmaster: Favourite venue to see a show?

James: I love to go to the Liverpool Philharmonic. Great venue! In the last few years I have seen Level 42 and Steve Hackett twice there.

Webmaster: Prog hero?

James: I was never really into prog as such but with the link to Genesis it has to be Phil Collins for some of the best drumming, live and on record.

Webmaster: Last album you bought?

James: The last album I bought was The Beatles, Love Album. The production and the way the tracks have been mixed is simply outstanding.

Webmaster: Last gig you attended?

James: Simon Phillips with his band Protocol at Ronnie Scotts in London only a few weeks ago. Even now thinking about that gig, it blows my mind and even made me look at how I play and how I can improve.

James drum kit for Mama GenesisWebmaster: Your idea of a good night out?

James: [laughs] Tricky one! I love nights out with my other half Rachel, as we have great nights out. But I also love to play. So a mix of the two would be great! [laughs] She’ll kill me for this!

Webmaster: Favourite prog song?

James: Dancing With The Moonlit Knight. Just love it! It’s like a fairy tale on record, with some amazing playing.

Webmaster: Artist you would most like to work with?

James: Too many to mention. Would like to work with the amazing drummer that is Gary O’Toole. Or Gavin Harrison. His drumming with Porcupine Tree is a wonder to behold!

Webmaster: Favourite book or film?

James: At the minute, it’s the new Star Wars film, because I’m a lifelong fan. But I also like Life of Brian, anything with Robert De Niro in it too. Heat, Ronin, Goodfellas.

Webmaster: Ambitions left to fullfill?

James: I would love to play the Liverpool Empire to a sell out crowd.

Webmaster: Thanks very much James!

James: A pleasure! When’s the next gig?

Mama at Playhouse 2 Shaw

Mama at The Musician, LeicesterBass player with Mama, Dave Jones, gives casts his mind back to that very first Genesis LP purchase.

Last chance to get your tickets to see the band live this weekend (30th April 2016 @ The Musician in Leicester)! You can get tickets from the venue website, priced £11.00.

If you’re not around the Leicester area this weekend or indeed any other weekend, maybe you’re in Shropshire? Mama will be performing two shows next weekend (Friday 6th May & Saturday 7th May) at Theatre on the Steps in Bridgnorth. The first night will be an all out Genesis-fest. The second night will feature hits of Collins, Gabriel, Hackett and Mike & the Mechanics. So remember, that’s arguably two completely different shows! Want tickets? Grab them from the venue website.

And now for today’s feature…. Remember your first Genesis album? Our Dave does!

It’s 1973 and I am sixteen years old. I am the bass player in a cabaret band called Chuck and the Young Ones. The group consists of a singer (Chuck – not his real name!) and four lads aged 13 (lead guitar), 14 (rhythm guitar), 16 (drummer) and 16 (me!). At each gig, we take to the stage first and play two instrumentals by The Shadows, then Chuck comes on and we play classic pop songs and current chart favourites. We usually play on Fridays and Saturdays in clubs around the North West. View full article »

Seriously, how does Mama do a show?

Mama at The Slade RoomsMama will be performing their 2016 show at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton, tomorrow night – Saturday 2nd April 2016!

Just a quick update before our show at The Slade Rooms with the John Hackett Band this Saturday.

Last Saturday we were at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale with an almost sell out crowd who gave us a standing ovation at the end of the show. Lots of new friends made and the good news is we will be returning in 2017. On that very subject we are working on some great venues for 2017. Several have already confirmed such as The Cavern, The Met in Bury and indeed Huntington Hall. We also have two shows lined up at The Floral Hall in New Brighton. We have a new venue in Gainsborough as we have had a lot of folk asking when we playing near the East coast in 2017.

Looking forward to all the shows this year including a first time visit to The Maltings in Farnham where you will all no doubt remember Genesis used to rehearse back in the “old days”. We are also in talks to bring Mama to mainland Europe with two shows in the planning stages for venues in Holland in early December this year so really looking forward to that.

Someone asked John W recently if it was “cool” being in a Genesis tribute band. “Cool and a lot of hard work!” he replied, which seemed to confuse the person who asked.

“But all you do is trundle up and play isn’t it?”

Clearly they didn’t know how hard we work as Phil Collins himself may have said at sometime, so in an effort to let you know how much work goes into a Mama show, here is what we did for the recent show at Huntington Hall.

Saturday 27th Feb 2016:  11:00 hrs

John W gets Bessie the band van from her den and loads in his equipment. He then checks and fuels the van and waits for Dave J to arrive with his equipment at 12:00. When Dave safely on board the next step is to collect band roadie and all round great guy Dave Broome. Onward to collect James C and load his drums into the van. We all set off around 12:45 and it is a two hour drive to the venue. Meanwhile Mark C has already been on the road for three hours from deepest darkest Norfolk stopping only for a quick snack and a peek at the girlie mags in the service station (that is a joke – actually he is more likely to be looking at photography magazines!). John C and Jan are also en route after loading his car with his keyboards and other equipment and Andrew and Jules won’t be far behind (Behind? Behind JC & Jan? Wash your mouth out Wilkinson! – Andrew). View full article »

Mama at Huntingdon HallGenesis tribute band Mama publishes two free downloads!

We have another website update for you today, again written by John W (because our webmaster is rather busy at the moment). Take it away JW….

Hi again Genesis fans! Hope you are all fit and well.

Since last our last website update we played two superb venues, namely Lion Quays in Oswestry and Huntington Hall in Worcester. The band enjoyed both shows but sadly I was recovering from a chest infection at Lion Quays so wasn’t on top form. The band had to ply me with iced water to get me through the shows. Just to clarify something while we on the subject of Lion Quays, ALL our two night shows at one venue will follow the following format:

  • Friday night will be the Genesis “Prog Rock” set which means two and a half hours of Genesis’s longer Prog songs.
  • Saturday night will be the “Hits” set which means two and a half hours of the hits of Genesis, Phil Collins, Mike And the Mechanics and Peter Gabriel.

The only exception to this in 2016 is our show at The Brindley in Runcorn where we have been requested for the “Hits” set.

Huntington Hall was a great venue and a first for us as it was an old church complete with pulpit, pews and a huge church organ. I resisted the temptation to sing Jesus He Knows Me from the pulpit however. We have been booked back for both venues for 2017.

Next shows

The next two shows are at The Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on 26th March and The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton on 2nd April. The Waterside is half sold out already and we have a very special guest for the Slade Rooms show; The John Hackett Band!

Today we have a couple of new songs for you to hear. Well, when we write “new” we mean you may not heard us play them before (unless you came to one of the shows this year). Both of these audio recordings came from our mixing console at the Huntingdon Hall show. Dukes Travels & Dukes End (no we have not forgotten about the Duke Album) is first up:

Our new version of Los Endos with a little bit of Supper’s Ready cunningly glued on at the end is next:

Jules charity fundraising

In other news, our very own lighting extraordinaire Jules is still raising money for Cancer Research UK. As some of you may know, she normally has short hair and she thinks the worst thing she can possibly do with her hair isn’t shave it all off, but grow it long. Apparently, it looks most amusing when it’s grown long. So if you want to support a great cause (and keep tabs on her progress by way of funny pictures she posts), head over to her JustGiving page and make a donation. It doesn’t matter how large or how small your donation. It all goes to an amazing charity that is bent on ending the scourge that is Cancer, once and for all.

Hope to see you at a show soon!

Mama at Huntingdon HallToday, we are having our esteemed lead vocalist and expert on all things “chest infection” write us a website update!

Take it away JW….

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year! So what has been happening in Mama world lately?

Well the year started superbly with two sold out shows at The Forum Theatre in Chester and the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Both venues have already re-booked us for 2017 on the strength of this of course. We have been told by the chaps at The Cavern that we were the first tribute band ever to sell out the main backroom stage… and what a great night it was! The crowd sang every line and cheered till they were hoarse.

mama at Chester Forum TheatreWe also had a great time last weekend at The Lion Quays complex in Oswestry, though sadly I was suffering from the after effects of a chest infection. Again the audience helped us through and we will be returning in 2017. Thanks to David Mundell for his efforts to promote live music at this new venue and of course his other venue in Kinross.

The next show for the band is this Saturday at a haunt of a few Genesis tribute bands over the years, namely Huntington Hall in Worcester. This is a new venue for us and we hope to see a lot of folk there who have been requesting shows further South come and support us. Tickets are going well so please buy online to avoid missing out.

mama at Chester Forum Theatre

Sadly we had to cancel our appearance at the Legends of Rock festival on 12th March due to work commitments. The show after the next one is at Sale Waterside Arts Complex and again tickets are doing very well with nearly half the capacity sold.

We are currently in negotiations with a Dutch promoter for some shows in Holland in November this year, so more on that as soon as we have sorted the details out.

I’m currently listening to the re-mastered and expanded Phil Collins Face Value and Both Sides albums and loving them! The original songs seem much improved and the demo’s and extra live songs are a welcome addition for Phil fans. So if you’ve not bought it already, get out there and grab a copy.

mama at Chester Forum TheatreAs a side project myself, Mark and David have joined an original prog band called The Swan Chorus. We will be releasing an album later this year. A little taster by way of a demo will be on our Facebook page very soon and any good mixes we can get our hands on, we will no doubt showcase in the interval of our upcoming shows. So if you’re sat in your seat eating some ice cream and wondering what you’re listening to, it’s probably that!

Also we would like to announce that we have a very special guest for our show at The Slade Rooms on the 2nd April. The amazing John Hackett Band will open the show for us so we are all really thrilled to have him join us for this show. This will do very well and advance sales are good so again please book early!

Finally, if you’re not currently subscribed to our email newsletter, make sure you subscribe right now. You can put your email address and first name in the boxes in the top right hand corner of this web page and click Subscribe. Doing this allows us to inform you when we have shows in your area, so you don’t miss out on tickets. It also helps us to significantly reduce our advertising costs which in turn allows us to spend more money on our show.

Roll on Saturday 27th for Huntington Hall! Kind regards, JW.

Mama at Huntingdon Hall