Mike Clark is a seasoned drummer who started his craft right around the same time that he started kindergarten. With his father being a drummer as well as a railroad man, Mike was exposed to a lot of different regional music, when he took train rides with his dad. By the time he established himself as a sought after drummer in his early adult life, Mike had already sat in with top jazz bands in New Orleans, Texas and other major cities across America. Although Mike could play in any genre, he would wind up becoming a major player in the Jazz and Funk field. He eventually became a member of Herbie Handcock's Headhunters and recorded on the groundbreaking "Thrust" album. Throughout his career, Mike has worked with a variety of top notch musicians and bands such as "BrandX", Les Claypool, Fred Wesley, George Clinton, and many others. He has also led his own groups, and continues to experiment with different lineups. He currently stays busy with a variety of projects. He leads a new version of the Headhunters, and also works with bassist James Genus and guitarist Dave Stryker. Clark, Genus and Stryker will be appearing at The Iridium in New York City 2/10/16.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your career up to this point. In your upcoming show at The Iridium in NYC, what would you describe as the musical output that James Genus, Dave Stryker, and yourself, plan to showcase there?
M.C. - Thank you! We play straight ahead jazz, blues, and R & B... and at times combine them all at once. We all love to swing and have had backgrounds playing blues and funk.
R.V.B. - How did the three of you get together? Did you know each other from the road and/or from the studio?
M.C. - I have done quite few gigs with James and he was on one of my CD's. I played recently with Dave and really dug playing with him and have been listening to him for some time.
M.C. - I would say as a child Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Zutty Singleton... then later Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Tony Williams to name a few.
R.V.B. - As you were developing your style in the 60's, what kind of music did you first tackle and how did some of your early gigs go?
M.C. - I played be bop and some big band also jazz piano trio and worked with many well known artists. It was fantastic and we worked 7 nights a week all year for 20 years.
R.V.B. - What is the history of your drum gear from the 1st set to the current setup?
M.C. - I had a small Gretch Broadcaster set from about 5 years old until I was 20. I had many of those then with the Headhunters I used a Pearl set with a bigger bass drum then I signed with DW and have played them for a very long time. My favorite ever.
R.V.B. - How did you enjoy your years with The Headhunters?
M.C. - I liked what we did on Thrust and for a few years it was fantastic. Then it became to commercial and not much creativity so I was bored. Now we have a new version with Donald Harrison and it is great. I went back into the band about 20 years ago.
R.V.B. - What were some of your favorite live performances up to this point?
M.C. - I have done a live CD at the Iridium with Randy Brecker and Christian McBride that I really like, I like playing with Antonio Farao. The Wolff and Clark Expedition is my favorite as we are an actual band so it is very exciting, swinging and totally creative.
R.V.B. - Is there any difference in your approach to playing the drums when you're at a smaller club as opposed to a larger venue?
M.C. - If it is jazz gig probably not except that you have to sometimes wait to be able to hear things in a larger venue, to adjust whereas in a club I can usually get right to it. If it is a fusion or funk gig in a big place I may be in for a long night however I don't do those type gigs too much anymore.
R.V.B. - In general, what are you most proud about in your career in music?
M.C. - I like all of it and feel appreciative for having played consistently my entire life.
R.V.B. - Do you try to re-invent new techniques and styles as you experiment with different genres of music?
M.C. - Sure.
R.V.B. - Do you enjoy studio work as much as playing live?
Yes, it's all a creative process for me... so I am focused.
R.V.B. - What are some of your favorite studio performances?
M.C. - Thrust, BrandX, Wolff and Clark Expedition 1 and 2. The Funk Stops Here, Summertime, I am the leader on this one.
R.V.B. - Good luck at the upcoming Iridium show? What's in store in the future?
M.C. - A new acoustic jazz CD of mine, a new Headhunters CD and a new Wolff and Clark Expedition CD. Go to
www.drummermikeclark.com to buy lessons, books, videos and see what shows I am playing.
Thank you for considering answering there questions..Your welcome, good questions I enjoyed that!
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Mike Clark visit this website http://www.drummermikeclark.com
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