Interview: Gregg Bissonette

Randy Allar: You have a new disc out in which you and your brother Matt wrote and perform on all the tunes.

Gregg Bissonette: Yeah, Matt's my favorite bass player.

Randy Allar: Do you guys come as a pair?

Gregg Bissonette: We do. You know, we get a lot of calls to do stuff together and it's great because a lot of times they'll just call, like a one stop rhythm section.

Randy Allar: Like when you get married, one call does it all.

Gregg Bissonette: Just call us and we'll get drums and bass going for you.

Randy Allar: The self titled disc features 11 tracks, most of which are strongly composed, guitar oriented music. As a matter of fact, 10 guitarists strong. Talk about your new release.

Gregg Bissonette: Well, it features George Bernhardt and Doug Bossi from a great band with my brother called the Mustard Seeds, The disc also features Scott Henderson, Steve Lukather, Andy Summers
from the Police, Steve Vai, Michael Thompson, Paul Gilbert from Mr. Big, and Mike Miller from Chick Corea's band. We got some of my favorite guitar players and wanted to do drums, bass, guitar oriented instrumentals. I did sing on one tune, a remake of a Badfinger song. I've always loved the Beatles and Badfinger and we did a version of "No Matter What". I also played trumpet on a tune that features Ty Tabor from the band King's X. I played a piccolo trumpet at the end. Kind of a Beatle'ly kind of "Penny Lane" thing. Matt wrote every song on there except for a remake of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein".

Randy Allar: "Frankenstein"? That one seems to be getting a lot of coverage these days. And why not? It is a great song. Bissonette twists it just a little.

Gregg Bissonette: Now on "Frankenstein" what's really interesting is that there are no keyboards. It's all guitar and George Bernhardt play all the synth stuff, really complicated stuff on guitar. People freak
when they hear it, but in the middle where the drum solo goes, I wanted to make a nod to all my favorite classic drum type grooves. People always ask how many people in the band? Well, there's three musicians and the drummers always get the short end of the stick. So I wanted to show what songs these are just by the drum grooves. It goes from "Wipeout" to Led Zepplin's "Rock And Roll" to "Manic Depression" by Jimi Hendrix, "Rosanna" by Jeff Pocaro, "Walk This Way", the "Frankenstein" groove, Ringo's classic THE END from Abbey Road. It's really neat because there are like 10 different drum grooves on there.

Randy Allar: I had an opportunity to catch up with Bobby Rock when he was in town and he wanted to hear your disc. He was able to name every one of the tunes in the solo. I had trouble with some,
but Bobby Got every one.

Gregg Bissonette: Really, that's great. I'm honored. We always stump a few people. We couldn't stump Bobby, but we stump a few with Don Brewer and "American Band". In the midwest, that one was
big. When I went over to Europe they say "I've heard that song but I don't know what that song is."

Randy Allar: When you are a world class drummer, other drummers ask you to do their drumming, as well as other musicians. You faxed me your a discography of what you have been on, and it is too long to read. You've been with everybody.

Gregg Bissonette: Well, I feel very honored lately. I've had a good cool month. One of my heroes who I've always wanted to record with is Don Henley from the Eagles and his solo stuff. A friend of mine, Stan Lynch, the drummer that was with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is producing Don Henley now and here I was getting to play drums a few weeks ago on some new Henley stuff and there's Henley and Stan in the same room. I'm going "Man, I'm in some stiff company," cause they're two of my favorite drummers, but I've gotten to work with him this month. I did a soundtrack with Garth Brooks, Shawn Colvin, a bunch of great artists. I've just been doing a lot of really fun recording. I just love playing on different people's stuff, it's so challenging.

Randy Allar: It's really bizarre that Don Henley would actually have other drummers on his stuff
considering that he is a drummer himself.

Gregg Bissonette: Yeah, he never plays on his solo stuff. He still plays on the Eagles stuff, although they have a great drummer, who plays in the Eagles' band too, but he never seems to play on his solo stuff. I remember on "The End Of The Innocence", he had Jeff Pocaro, God rest his soul, playing drums on it and Stan Lynch playing drums on it, and Steve Jordan. I guess he is thinking about being
the front guy, the singer.

I understand that you had my buddy Steve Lukather on the air recently.

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Randy Allar: Yeah. He was a lot of fun. He is a wildman.

Gregg Bissonette: We had a ball on the road together.

Randy Allar: Is he as wild on the road as he sounds?

Gregg Bissonette: He's as wild. Man, he has so much energy. He gets up at the crack of dawn just ready to go. He is really an inspiration because he's a great player and a great singer, a real hard worker. He's a blast to be with. He's always making you laugh.

Randy Allar: Something that is hard to believe is the fact that after 30 years experience and all the recording sessions that Bissonette has completed, he remains humble enough to think that he still has
room for improvement. You 're not that old, you haven't been playing that long, or have you?

Gregg Bissonette: Well, I'm 38 and I started when I was ten. I probably started younger, like when I was about eight, so when you think about it, I've been playing for 30 years. I should be a lot better then I
am (laughs).

Randy Allar: You were with Maynard Ferguson. Then you did stuff with Steve Vai on "Fire Garden", and you're on the new Steve Lukather disc.

Gregg Bissonette: Yeah. I'll tell you one of the funniest sessions I've done in a long time was getting this call from this guy that says, "Hey, we're going to do this big band down at Oceanway Studios in
Hollywood. It's not just a big band, but an orchestra with background singers. We're going to play jazz arrangements of heavy metal tunes. Pat Boone is going to sing." It was so much fun, Pat was the coolest guy. He didn't take it too seriously. All of a sudden the cd came out and he was losing his TV show. It was like how could Pat Boone do this? Come on, he's just telling you he likes all kinds of music. We'd go to Denny's and the lady'd say "Can I take your order? Oh, you're Pat Boone." He'd say "Yes ma'am, great to talk to you." He'd talk to her for half an hour. "Well, I'll have a root beer and a BLT, please!" He'd say he was related to Daniel Boone. I get a chance to work with so many different people, that's what keeps it fresh.

Randy Allar: Keep looking for Gregg Bissonette, and you will find him on many things in which you listen. He remains one of the dominant drummers music today. His discography is both enormous and
impressive, yet his attitude down to earth. He is a remarkable musician and one of the nicest guys in the industry. MUSIC'S BOTTOM LINE and Radio Station WCSB wish him continued success.

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You have heard his drumming since he is perhaps the busiest drummer in L.A. He's played with the Maynard Ferguson big band. Flipping the page, he's recorded on all four of David Lee Roth's solo releases. He's recorded for Andy Summers and Gary Hoey. Recently. He went as far as to record with Bette Midler. That's some resume! The name Bissonette should be associated with virtuostic ability. Gregg Bissonette had been
drumming for over 30 years. What is more amazing is the fact that there is another side to Bissonette. His brother Matt. Many musicians are finding out that the name Bissonette brings an entire rhythm section into the recording studio.

Matt Bissonette wrote most of the tunes on the disc released on Shrapnel Records. In an interview with Radio Station WCSB, here are some of the comments Gregg Bissonette had to say about his career, ability, new disc, and his hero, his brother Matt.