Interview: Ted McKenna (Rory Gallagher, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Michael Schenker Group)

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HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: April 2013. He had the great pleasure to talk with a great drummer: Ted McKenna. Ted has played with Rory Gallagher (1976-81), The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB), The Michael Schenker Group (MSG), Greg Lake, Ian Gillan and Tear Gas. Currently, he is touring as Band of Friends with Rory’s classic bassist, Gerry McAvoy and Marcel Scherpenzeel on guitar and vocals. They will give two shows in Athens on 12th and 13th April at Kyttaro Club. Read below the very interesting things he told us:


Which are the current projects you’re involved in? Are you doing any recordings this period?

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There are already gigs and tours booked to the end of 2013 with Band of Friends. We have also been doing some pre-production on original ideas for an album. I also recorded an album two years ago with guitarist Paul Rose called “White Mountain Road” which will probably be released next year. I’m planning a few projects such as a drum DVD and book and master classes/drum clinics.


How much emotional is playing again after all these years, Rory’s songs with Gerry McAvoy in Band of Friends?

It’s amazing how it all came back when we rehearsed. I guess we played the songs so many times and toured with Rory so much, that they are permanently in our memory. It has always been great playing with Gerry, we don’t have to think about it. The three of us, Gerry, Marcel and myself get on well together so it really is fun. Rory still amazes me.


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How much artistic freedom did you have the period you played with Rory Gallagher? Gerry told me he was very demanding and focused musician.

That’s true, he was focused. In the studio, Rory might make suggestions but generally he’d be happy with what I’d come up with as a drum part. He knew what he was looking for so that meant we would do many takes of a song before he would pick the final version for an album. The most demanding part I’d say was the live performance and the constant touring. The onstage energy level was incredible. I don’t think I’ve never been so physically fit as I was with Rory. He wore out the audience!

Are you surprised with the cult status, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB) albums have? Are you proud of being a member in that band? Extra question: Chris Glen (bassist for SAHB and MSG) looked always like Roy Orbison?

No, I’m not surprised but I think unless you saw the band live and followed the albums, like most of our hardcore fans did, you might find it difficult to appreciate the diversity of the material we did. Because of that and the fact we were made for MTV but broke up before it started in 1981. Because the band influenced so many people, there’s a slow burn effect where people trace back the influences of their favorite artists. When it came to marketing, I think SAHB was a record companies’ nightmare. We did too many different types of material so we were difficult to pigeonhole.  Roy Orbison…haaaaaw!

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Do you have happy memories from your recordings with Greg Lake (“Greg Lake” and “Manoeuvres”)? He was a super-star then and the line -up was great: Gary Moore, Steve Lukather, Jeff Porcaro, Clarence Clemons..

I don’t remember much about either Greg Lake album I recorded, apart from meeting Gary Moore for the first time and becoming friends. It was also great working with my old buddy Tommy Eyre (Joe Cocker, Gerry Rafferty, Garry Moore, Wham!)  on keyboards.


Did you feel at any point pressure replacing Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Brian May drummer) in Michael Schenker Group? Is Michael Schenker an easy going person to work with?

No! I felt very comfortable joining MSG. Michael’s excessive behavior could be quite difficult to deal with in those days but he was always pretty professional when it came to playing. He was much more together when I toured Japan with him in 2008.


How much important was Martin Birch’s (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath producer) involvement in MSG’s Assault Attack” album? He is one the greatest producers ever…

Very important! He got a great drum sound on that album as well as everything else. I think it’s probably one of Michael’s best!


Who are your influences as a drummer? I don’t know. I’d tell John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) but he was a contemporary of yours, not an older one.

I have many influences. The early ones were Fred Astaire’s feet; Sandy Nelson (“Let there be Drums”). Tony Meehan and Brian Bennett of the Shadows, Bobby Elliot from the Hollies. Later, Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge, then jazz drummers Buddy Rich and Tony Williams (Miles Davis) to name only two. Too many great drummers to mention but my band supported Robert Plant and the Band of Joy in 1967 and I saw and met John Bonham. We both raved about Carmine Appice but watching him play changed my attitude towards the drum kit.


You’ve played with many great musicians in your career. Is there any one musician you’d like to play with and hasn’t happened yet?

I can’t think of anyone at the moment!


What music do you hear this period?

Pat Metheny.


Have you ever been to Greece?

I played an open air rock festival at The Temple of Zeus with Ian Gillan in 1990. I also worked with Gerry in an earlier incarnation of the Band of Friends when we played in Greece during the 2004 Olympics.


Send a message to Greek fans.

I’m really happy to be coming back to Greece. I know there are many, many Rory Gallagher fans there and I look forward to playing Rory’s music for you with the Band of Friends.


A huge “THANK YOU” to Ted McKenna for his great answers.

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