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Danny Seraphine-Interview
"The Road Back2
"Modern Drummer"

It’s not often in a career as a journalist that you feel as though you’ve reached the core of someone’s being, as though you’ve been given an honest look into someone’s soul. It’s rare that an artist will be so open and selfanalytical that he’ll give you a true picture of what he’s been through. Well, in the following interview, Danny Seraphine bares his soul. Danny Seraphine was my first cover story for Modern Drummer, in the December ’78/January
’79 issue. Like millions of fans around the world, I loved Chicago. Their music was an innovative fusion of rock and jazz, featuring tight horn arrangements in a rock setting and great songwriting. At the center of it all was a drummer with inventive chops and a swing sensibility.
So, years later, when I heard that Seraphine had been fired from the band, I was shocked. And the reasons I’d heard seemed absurd—that his playing wasn’t up to snuff, that he was difficult to get along with, that there might have been substance abuse. It was hard to imagine the man who’d played on such classics as “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” “I’m A Man,” “25 Or 6 To 4,” “Saturday In The Park,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” and so many other classics not being “good anymore.” Today, it’s difficult sitting with Danny, hearing a story of betrayal and personal agony. But he’s the perfect example of how one endures, self-investigates, points the right fingers (even at himself), and gets through it. Listening to him tell the story of his recent and reclusive years was upsetting. But I also had a sense of relief knowing that the musician I always admired was speaking from the heart and was finally emerging from what was obviously a terrible time in his life. “I went from one lifestyle to another,” Seraphine says of his firing. “I was in a great band, and then I wasn’t. It was as if the Lord had flicked a switch and said, ‘Guess what? Your life is changing.’ I went from one extreme to another, from being with seven guys 24/7 for twenty-three years, to being alone.” Now it’s chapter three for Danny Seraphine, and he’s getting back to what he loves most. “I came to the realization that God gave me a talent and I was squandering it,” he says. “You can make the argument that, after all I’ve done, I don’t really need to prove anything with my playing. But it’s not about that. It’s about my soul and my self-expression.
And really, drums have always been what I’m about. I needed to get back to the drums.”


MD: So, where have you been?

Danny: I’ve been back in LA for almost three years now. But twelve years prior to that, I was hiding in the mountains of Colorado.

MD: What happened?

Danny: My firing disillusioned me and hurt me so deeply that it took me a long time to have the courage to come back. It really shattered my confidence and broke my spirit. My firing just happened the way it happened. I’m not saying the guys in the band are the worst people in the world. But it went down in a very bad way, a way in which it should never have gone down. And I’m not saying I shouldn’t have left the band, but I wasn’t treated the way you treat somebody after twenty-three years of brotherhood. It really shook my foundation, and it was a big part of a tumultuous change in my life. Shortly after the band fired me, I got
divorced, so my whole family fell apart, everything. I’m not saying that I didn’t have a hand in it. We always play a part in what happens to us. I was a taskmaster, a tough person to get along with at times. But I was all for the band—I ate, slept, and drank Chicago. The band was my life.

MD: What were the grounds on which they fired you?

Danny: They said it was my playing. In the back of my mind I knew there was something else, but they were pretty much unified in that story, so initially I thought maybe it was true. At that time I was really running the business side of the band, and it’s quite possible I was distracted to the point where my playing wasn’t up to the standard it had been. But look how the band changed. They went from cutting-edge rock, expanding the boundaries of rock ’n’ roll and jazz, and fusing the two, to being a hit-ballad act. That was a tough transition for me, going from having complete musical freedom to no freedom at all, almost like having to play with a hand tied behind my back. That said, it’s a challenge to play simply and leave space. That was the good part about going in that direction. But my firing was portrayed as a problem with my playing, even though in the back of my mind I knew it was a power struggle between certain members and me. I think they put an ultimatum to the rest of band that it was “either him or us.” They didn’t like having a drummer running the band.

MD: Did they come to you first with an opportunity to change?

Danny: It was done in a strange way. I got a phone call from Howard, our manager, saying, “The band has decided they want to use a studio drummer on the next album.” I said, “What?” We just had this big comeback album after Peter Cetera left. I engineered the whole comeback and we did Chicago 19. “Look Away” was the biggest song of the year on radio, and I played on the whole album, so when they said they wanted to use a different drummer for the next record, it floored me. Immediately I thought there was something more to it. But Howard said, “No, you’re going to get paid the same royalties and no one is going to know you didn’t play on the record.” And I said, “Well, I’ll know, and I really don’t like that.” There had been an occasion on Chicago XVII where Jeff Porcaro had played on the
record. But that was a David Foster production decision. I didn’t take that very well either. But this time I think they hoped my reaction would be that I’d quit.
I flew to LA and had a sit-down with them, and they said, “We just want to get the old Danny back.” So I thought, “Okay, they must be right. Maybe my playing has gotten inconsistent and I’ve lost focus because I was so into the business.” But I looked at Jason Scheff and said, “This last album sold almost two million units. We’ve had five Top-5 hits, and my playing hasn’t seemed to hurt that.” And he said, “Well, we’ve discussed this, and we’ve come to the conclusion that the record
was a hit in spite of your playing.” I haven’t forgotten that to this day. Talk about devastating. But I took it to heart, went back to Colorado, and found a good drum
teacher. They started recording the album without me, and I was woodshedding like crazy, taking what they said very seriously. I thought, “Okay, I’ll step out of the business. We have great managers now. I don’t have to be so hands-on. I’ll focus on the music. These guys are my brothers, and they must know something I don’t.”
I worked my ass off, practicing like crazy, and when you work that hard, your playing improves. The next gig was a corporate gig in Phoenix, and it went well. My drum tech, Mike Murphy, said after the gig, “You’re better than ever.” But the vibe with the band was so strange. It was like a Fellini movie. Backstage in the dressing room, they were walking around with headphones, listening to takes from the new album and talking about it behind my back. It was a nightmare. This
whole utopian brotherhood that I had known had turned into an ugly situation, developing right in front of my eyes. I had come back from Colorado feeling good about my playing. But something still wasn’t right.

MD: What had you worked on with the teacher?

Danny: Independence. I went through the Chapin book, which is a wonderful book. I worked on my jazz chops, my reading. When I study, I try to get into the fundamentals, and that gets me practicing everything. It solidifies my foundation as a musician and helps my confidence. So I got back to Colorado, and on
Mother’s Day, 1990, I got a phone call from Howard—and he was almost in tears. He said, “Danny, I feel so bad about this, but the band had a meeting behind my back and they voted you out of the band.” It didn’t really surprise me, but….

MD: Why didn’t they call you themselves?

Danny: It was gutless. But I do want to say that I wasn’t exactly an innocent bystander. I was very tough. I ran the band with an iron fist, so to speak, and I could be difficult. Everything was for the band, and I have to say I was usually right. But nonetheless, I was difficult.

MD: I need you to address something else I had heard through the years—that there was a substance abuse problem.

Danny: With me? Oh God, no. That’s so far from the truth. The first time I tried cocaine I was in New York, and I got so sick that I was bedridden for a week. So you can put that rumor to rest. I have a very low tolerance for drugs and alcohol, which was a blessing for me. I was always the designated driver for the band. I was the guy who was straight all the time while some of the others were partying. I’m glad that you brought that up, because there’s nothing further from the
truth. Once I was fired, the lawsuit began, and it brought me to my knees. I got so despondent over the band firing me that I became hard to live with—plus there had been cracks in the foundation of my life from other things I had done during the years with the band—and It was terrible timing. It also cut me off at the knees inthe lawsuit, and I had to settle for a lot less than I should have. But that being said, I lived a wonderful life in Colorado for fifteen years on royalties. But I missed playing.

MD: What did you do with your time?

Danny: I skied and fly-fished, and that’s okay. I also got into business quite a bit and produced a couple of Broadway plays. I also developed some artists in Colorado, but they never saw the light of day because of record companies. The main thing, though, was that I healed.

MD: How do you heal from something like that?

Danny: It takes time. You learn to accept the things you can’t change. I’m still not completely healed. It’s still painful. It’s not a thing where, “Oh, I hate them and wish them bad.” For instance, I think Tris Imboden [Danny’s replacement in Chicago] is a class act and a great guy. He’s a great drummer and I’ve heard that their new album is really good, so I’m glad. Chicago was like my family, and the main guys—Walter [Parazaider], Lee [Loughnane], Jimmy [Pankow], and Robert [Lamm]—were like brothers to me. Walter and I were on the outs at the time I was fired, which might have been part of the whole thing, but I’m okay now. Everything happens for a reason. I’m a fatalist and I believe that it was supposed to happen. Obviously I needed to get to know myself a lot better, and maybe I needed to be humbled, even though I’d always tried to keep myself grounded with the reality of where I came from—the streets of Chicago, Italian, and that whole thing. But when you’re in a super-popular group, it’s kind of hard to keep yourself completely grounded. Things happen for a reason, and I’m sure there was some karma coming to me. I wasn’t dishonest, and I didn’t steal, but I was mercenary and tough for the cause of Chicago. So I believe it happened for a reason. And maybe the most good that came of it was for my benefit, because I feel like I’m a much better person because of it. And today I feel like I’m a better drummer because of it, because I’m more stable and more settled. I think there are aspects of my playing that are better.

MD: What aspects?

Danny: My time. My concept is deeper. And because I had the fifteen-year hiatus, my body is intact. I have the body of a younger man with the mind of an older man. It feels good to be playing again, and the response has been overwhelming.

MD: Let’s talk about your new band.

Danny: It’s called CTA–California Transit Authority. I know it sounds like revenge, but it’s not really. [When Chicago debuted, it was called CTA, Chicago Transit Authority, but they changed the name to Chicago after the first record.] I always loved the name CTA. When Marc Bonilla and I first talked about having this band, we were excited. We’re all from California now, but the band has the same spirit as CTA—it’s about the music, all music. It’s not about image, or the front man, or the lead singer. It’s about the musicianship.

MD: How did this come together?

Danny: I sat down with Gregg Bissonette, who is a really strong supporter of my playing. He, [bassist] Bob Birch, and [guitarist] Marc Bonilla, as well as Don Lombardi at DW, have been very supportive. Don has been the main man behind the scenes as far as trying to get me back to music. It’s been a wonderful support system. In fact, it’s been Don who has urged me to get back to work and told me that people really missed me. Frankly, I thought I’d been forgotten. Not ‘Oh, poor me,’ but I just assumed I was forgotten. At that point I had pretty much given up drums. They were just sitting in my garage with mounds of dust on them. My drums were gently weeping, so to speak. Don put together an impromptu jam session at Gregg’s house, and I got to meet all these great guys who were telling me that I had made an impact on them. I jammed with them, and we played “South California Purples” [from the first Chicago album, Chicago Transit Authority]. Then, at Marc’s urging, I got a call from drummer Troy Luccketta about a benefit he was organizing for photographer Lissa Wales. He asked if I would like to participate. Marc said he’d put a band together and they’d learn a couple of Chicago tunes. So I said sure. Marc came up with an instrumental version of “Make Me Smile,” which is really cool. We did that and “25 Or 6 To 4.” When we came out to take a bow, I had my head down, and as I lifted my head up, I realized the whole place was standing. I almost cried. It was really emotional. I never thought I’d experience that again. It’s not an ego thing, it’s a spiritual part of connecting with an audience. On January 27 we played our first real gig at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, and, again, there was an overwhelming reaction. There’s no brass in the band—it’s two guitars, two keyboards, bass, drums, and vocals—the guitars and keyboards are covering the brass parts, which really sets us apart from Chicago today. We do “Introduction,” “South California Purples,” “Mississippi Delta City Blues,” a lot of the Terry Kath stuff. We also do a couple of the hits, “I’m A Man,” “25 Or 6 To 4,” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” and some cool instrumental things like “Approaching Storm,” things I never thought I’d ever be able to play again. This is the material I missed playing with the band, like the 19/8 section of “Introduction.” Playing “Introduction” again is so cool, and to play it with Marc’s fiery guitar is like a rebirth for me. It’s filling a musical void, because Terry Kath [original Chicago guitarist] and I were musical soul mates. You can hear it in the way we jammed together and how we moved. I could speed up, and Terry would come with me, and vice versa. He’d go into an odd time and I’d pick up on it and go with him—maybe a six against four thing—and it was so cool. When Terry died, I lost that. My life felt empty musically. But with Marc, I have that feeling again. We’re doing this music with a fresh interpretation without brass, which makes it a little edgier. It’s a great foundation for the band, which will evolve on its own. We’re getting ready to go into the studio. I also recently flew up to Ashton, Oregon and spent three days woodshedding with Steve Smith. All these years I’ve been in the mountains fly-fishing and hiding out, Steve’s been woodshedding, and he is amazing. To me, Steve’s the best all-around drummer in the world. I know there are cats with incredible chops, most of which Steve can play, but he can play them with an incredible feel. He’s a true musician. That old saying, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” is still true for me. It’s not that I don’t admire the chops cats, but a lot of that doesn’t move me. So Steve and I hung out, talked a lot, and woodshedded from eleven in the morning ’til six or seven at night.

MD: What were you doing?

Danny: He showed me a lot of his tricks, which was really cool. He also showed me the constant-release foot thing up close, and I’m working on that. And he showed me a lot of the hand techniques he’s learned and developed. When I was leaving town, Steve called me at the airport and said, “You know, you inspired me so much when I was young, that for me to now be able to give something back feels good.” What a thing to say, because it was a great thing for me. I’m at a point now where I want to learn. I’m practicing two to four hours a day, reading and working on techniques and warm-ups and getting ready to gig more.

MD: What does this new band need from you?

Danny: My goal is to be better than I’ve ever been. My own fear is that I’ll disappoint the Gregg Bissonettes and the Steve Smiths of the world—and the fans. So I’m working hard. I’m now in a wonderful band that is building a nice buzz, and I’m very excited. If it doesn’t make it, I’m fairly wealthy, so I can survive it money-wise. But there are some things in music that I want to do before they throw dirt on me. So I guess you could say I’m back—no, I’m back with a vengeance. I feel like an animal that’s been let out of a cage.

MD: What actually prompted the move back to LA?

Danny: Initially I realized that I had to be in LA if I wanted to do any justice for the artists I was trying to develop. But also, in the back of my mind, I knew I was going to find a way back to playing. I also have grown children in LA and three grandchildren. I like being a grandfather. There’s a certain amount of respect that comes with it, like my grey beard and grey hair. I love it. It’s my badge of courage, so to speak. And my baldness is something I no longer try to hide, which God knows I did for so many years. I’m more comfortable this way than the years I had that hairpiece, which people said looked so good. It’s still a foreign object on your head, which the wind could blow off at any time. [laughs]

MD: What are you playing these days?

Danny: DW made a beautiful new set of drums for me—with two 18" bass drums. I wanted it to be totally different, and I love the feeling of playing an 18" bass drum because it still sounds big, but I feel very limber and light on it. I have a drum setup similar to Tony Williams—three floor toms, 14", 16", and 18". And I’m using one of those DW Sidekick pedals, which strikes the bottom head of a floor tom. It’s very cool, because it gives you another bass drum color. I like a big kit because it’s like being a painter with many colors to choose from. I have a lot of cymbals, too—Zildjians. I love them. I’m not the kind of player who says, “I’m going to play every one of these drums and cymbals to justify them.” For me, each of those instruments is up there to give me options. For heads, I’m using Remo FiberSkyns. I met Remo Belli early in my career, when Chicago was doing our second album. I was actually using calf heads on the first two records! I met Remo, who said, “I can’t have you playing calf heads.” I said, “Well, you’re going to need to make a plastic head that sounds as good as calf.” He took that as a challenge. Now, years later, Remo has been able to duplicate the sound of calf. I called him to say, “Thank you for giving me my sound back.”

MD: When you woodshed these days, what are you working on?

Danny: Steve showed me his workout routine, and it’s very good. It’s on a practice pad, along with a double pedal pad and a hi-hat. I set a tempo on the metronome and do 8th notes with my hands and feet, together. Then I go to triplets at that tempo, alternating from one hand to the other—8th-note triplets going hand-to-hand with the feet, and then going to 16th-note triplets with the hands, keeping the 8th-note triplets with the feet. Then I’ll do paradiddles with hands and feet. I’m really working on my feet for soloing purposes, to take it to the next level. And I’m still working on hand technique, including the constant release that Freddie Gruber showed Steve. I’m probably six months away from incorporating it into my playing, but when I do, watch out. I think I’m the kind of drummer who can really incorporate technique into my playing, just as Steve and Gregg have. I’m also working on reading, because I want to do some big band drumming. Reading is really important. But then I’ll break into stuff I love to play. That’s a problem, because I really do have to fight to stay focused. I can really get scattered. And Steve warned me not to try to do too much at one time, because then you don’t really grasp anything.

MD: When you look back on the body of music you’ve recorded with Chicago, if you had to take three songs with you to the pearly gates, which would they be and why?

Danny: I would have to say “Make Me Smile,” because it really defined me, that whole thirteen-minute ballet. I was really studying Buddy Rich at the time and I was really inspired by him. I was always thinking, “How would Buddy play this?” I think you can really hear his influence in the first two records—the musicality. Buddy was the best at setting up and leading into a horn line, and I did a lot of that. “Make Me Smile” was the first time anything like that went out to the masses, a hit song with a big lead-off drum fill, which was kind of a Buddy Rich lick. And I used a piccolo snare then that got a really cracking, unique sound. And those fills at the end—all of them were inspired by Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. We rehearsed “Make Me Smile” in Atlanta for a week, and we recorded it in sections. But I had time to really think about what I wanted to say. There’s another 6/8 drum fill in the tune that is very Buddy Rich. It’s funny, but I heard the tune on XM radio the other day. They played the entire thirteenminute piece. It was great to hear it again. I’m really proud of that performance. So I guess it would be number one. “Beginnings” had a really good drum part. People don’t talk about it much, but it’s a very melodic, emotional, fiery drum part. There were also some ballads that were cool to me. But I really love “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” I was able to walk the line between rock ’n’ roll and swing. It was difficult because I had to be subtle. I knew if I played the swing beat on top, it wouldn’t work. So I played quarter notes on the hi-hat, kind of a Ringo “With A Little Help From My Friends” vibe, but I swung the bass a little more. I actually saw the band perform one time during my days in Colorado, and they had cut the 5/4 section out. I wondered why; that was the most unique part of the song. They went into something else. I told [keboardist/vocalist] Robert Lamm, “Put that back.”

MD: So you’ve had contact with them?

Danny: Well, with Robert. He’s the only one I’ve talked to, and only on a couple of occasions. He’s the only one who has made any kind of effort, but he’s very uncomfortable about it. I know he feels bad about what happened. But it’s over and done with. I would love to understand it better some day. After it all went down, Robert called and said, “Do you really want to know what happened?” And I was so mad, I just swore and hung up the phone. I regret that I did that because, yes, I would like to know why. I guess if I had anything to say to them, it would be, “Don’t feel bad. I’m sorry that it happened the way it did, and yes, it hurt. But I don’t wish bad on anyone.” Chicago will always be my band, no matter what anybody says, and no matter what any legal documents say. I don’t mean that as an affront to Tris, because I really respect and admire him. He’s a wonderful guy and he’s handled himself with total class. But I honestly think that when people think about Chicago in the future, they’ll remember my contribution.

MD: What advice would you give to other musicians who might experience a loss of a gig or something that feels like betrayal?

Danny: Therapy helps, spirituality helps, but most of all, don’t stop playing. That was the big mistake I made. Don’t relate your selfworth to someone else’s lack of confidence or faith in you. There’s usually more to it than what they’re telling you anyway. It’s hard to do, but the goal would be to use the bad experience to make you better. Adversity can set up sweet success. Don’t let anything defeat you. Look at me now. I’m loving what I’m doing. I don’t know where it’s all headed, but I’m enjoying the ride.

Danny Seraphine-Interview

DS: Danny Seraphine

DM: Do you still play regularly?

DS: I'm starting to play allot more these days, I've been playing gigs with the two artists on my production company: Lyric and Jason Perrin, it really feels good to play again, I've missed it more than I realized.

DM: Would you play in another band and tour if given the opportunity?

DS: I suppose if the right opportunity came along, a tour with Billy Joel, Elton, Sting or better yet a real Chicago reunion, meaning Peter and I with the band, then I would consider touring. If one of my artists takes off I would probably do their first few tours to show them the ropes.

DM: Are there any solo works in the making? do you still write?

DS: I'd like to do a real big band album some day but I'd have to do some real wood shedding before I do, right now I'm really focusing on my production company and getting my artists careers going.

DM: Who were your greatest influences earlier in your life and who has the greatest impact on you now?

DS: Gene Krupa was the single biggest influence when I first started playing, then I got into Buddy Rich who had a tremendous influence on me also, I then I got into guys like Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Tony William’s and Grady Tate and I had the honor and privilege of studying under the legendary Jo Jones. As far as rock drummers Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), Ginger Baker (Cream), Ringo, Hal Blaine, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Bernard Purdy and John Robinson. (Their really isn't anyone that I'm into right now).

DM: What exactly is Street Sense Records?

DS: Street Sense Records is my record company. I'm using it as an alternate way to get my artists to the market place, when the major record companies pass (don't sign) one of my artists then I release their music on my company, I still believe in their music even though the majors don't. As far as I'm concerned their too interested in chasing trends then manufacturing and promoting quality music. Proof of that is the lack of excitement in the market place today. They don't establish long term careers anymore their just interested in fastest hit record and their really missing the boat as far as I'm concerned.

DM: Name some of the acts that you work with.

DS: Jason Perrin, Lyric and Wakeup Call.

DM: Why did you go into producing as opposed to session or solo work?

DS: I always felt that making records was the ultimate in creativity and I really enjoy the role of producer, I feel I'm good at it and have allot to offer my artists. I’ve had the honor of working with some of the great masters of making records and I've learned from everyone of them. (Phil Ramone, David Foster, Jim Guercio, Tom Dowd) to name a few. As far as being a solo artist, it just doesn't interest me right now and I've never been a session player, I love playing in the studio but you have to be in the loop and I have never been in it.

DM: How did you feel about drumming as Chicago moved more and more towards using drum machines?

DS: In the beginning drum machines really intimidated most drummers at first (rightfully so). Here was this machine that played in perfect time and didn't talk back, at least that's what we were told by producers, song writers etc., So there was a resistance by us to embrace them so we simple wrote them off as a fad. We'll they put allot of drummers out of work, at the time as far as I was concerned they were a scourge. When I realized they were here to stay I went out and bought a E-MU R-8 and learned it inside and out, (I was sick of hearing these records with drum parts programmed by a keyboard player or worse yet a non musician) and believe me they sounded like it. I programmed all of Chicago 18 (Foster) was really hung up on drum machines, so it worked out well. The programming sounded like a drummer and David was happy because he had perfect time. To me the bad side of the drum machine is that its deprived allot young drummers of all kinds of work, experience i.e. demos, cocktail bars etc. For that reason alone sometimes I curse Roger Linn (just kidding) but they've also become a staple and a great song writing tool, but at what cost, I'm still not sure its worth the gain (excuse my soapbox.) Fortunately drum machines have found their place and live music is back, both seem to be coexisting today.

DM: In the early part of your career, you were an excellent drummer, but in the eighties your drumming seemed to get less intense. Was this due to the type of material Chicago was playing at that point or was it just a reflection of your feelings about touring and where Chicago was going in general?

DS: That's a good point and believe me I had allot of problems with that and it was a source of constant irritation between myself and the songwriters. Around the fifth album there was a conscious change in the direction by the band (song writers) and Jimmy Guercio. They came to the conclusion that they had to start writing more commercial songs meaning less time changes, shorter solo's more basic grooves, etc. Consequently we became a hit machine instead of a band that took its music to the limits. Now I'm not saying that they were wrong but it was the end of the Chicago that so many people loved and respected, consequently from then on we lived and died by our next hit record. It was a double edged sword in my opinion and we lost many loyal fans at that point, but we gained legions of (not as loyal fans) also. I was constantly trying to put my jazz licks into these commercial compositions (Just You And Me, Old Days, etc.) I guess what I’m trying to say is my role greatly changed in the band and it took me a long time to adjust, but eventually I gave in to what the song writers wanted me to play as opposed to what I thought should be played. It was a tough transition for me, and a sacrifice of my musical integrity in a sense, but I think it was worth it in the long run, I really believe that you have to compliment whatever is going on around you no matter how simple or complicated the music is, that is the essence of a true musician.

DM: How did you get started in drumming?

DS: My uncle is a drummer, he used to play at family functions, weddings, anniversaries, etc. and I would stand on the side of the stage and watch him play, I was fascinated by it and started banging on pots and pans. I expressed a deep interest in learning to play the drums and the rest is history so to speak, I was nine years old at the time. (I was always an intense individual, so playing drums was a natural for me.)

DM: I've always respected your desire to constantly improve. I remember reading an interview from around the time Chicago VII came out where you mentioned studying brush technique with Jo Jones. What was that like for you?

DS: Studying under Jo Jones was a incredible experience. He was very intense and at times pretty tough to work with but he taught me many things about playing, attitudes and discipline as well as his incredible brush technique which I used on Chicago 7 "Devil Sweet." To this day I feel I’m a good brush player and a better drummer because of Jo, he was an great man with intense pride. He always stressed that I sit up straight when I play and look at the audience in the eye when I’m playing, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to study under him, when he came to see me play at Carnegie Hall and liked what he saw and heard, we’ll it made me very proud.

DM: How do you feel about Chicago not getting nominated to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

DS: Of course Chicago deserves a place in Rock N Roll history and I’ll tell you why. Never before or since has their been a band with such exceptional talent (musicianship, vocal ability, song writing) to attain such a high level of commercial success. It was almost a fluke. Can you name me one band that has or had as much talent in so many areas as Chicago (Police, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Yes) and none of those bands lasted nearly as long as Chicago or sold as many records. Chicago has lost some of its luster as of late but the band still very much deserves to be inducted. That would make me very happy.

DM: Have you kept in touch with Laudir de Oliviera at all?

DS: No unfortunately I haven’t, he is a really nice person. I hear that he is back in Brazil teaching percussion and doing very well. I’d like to see him someday he is a fun person with a happy spirit.

DM: I've noticed that magazines such as Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly (they give everyone bad reviews though) have consistently given Chicago bad reviews, do you think Chicago will ever get a good review from Rolling Stone?

DS: Rap and Alternative has forced many of the really talented artists to look else where for exposure. Anyway I imagine its been really tough for those quality artists to sustain their careers, but necessity is the mother of invention. So there‘s been some good for these artists careers, that they otherwise wouldn’t have accomplished, they’ve established strong followings in those marketplaces that they probably wouldn’t have gone after. My feeling is that quality music is going to make a comeback, the major record companies have been chasing trends and ignoring quality artist for too long and its taken its toll on the industry. (sales and excitement level are at an all time low)

DM: In years of late some of the most talented music groups and musicians (such as Toto, Richard Page, and Bobby Caldwell) have been overlooked in the United States yet in Europe and/or Japan they play to sold out crowds. Do you think Chicago was received better by Japanese and European audiences than it was by American audiences? Do you think their musical tastes are more mature than that of the Americans?

DS: Chicago was a major success first in Europe and Japan but that changed when we released Chicago II. Its funny when we became commercially successful over here then our popularity began to fall off over there. Let me say that Europeans have always embraced/appreciated American Jazz artists long before we started to realize what a wonderful art we have in this country. Its only recently that their has been an awareness in this country (thank god).

DM: Where do you think Chicago would be today if David Foster hadn't come around?

DS: Who knows where Chicago would be today if I hadn’t brought David Foster onto the scene. (Please don’t take that the wrong way I’m not blowing my horn here, its just the facts) my friend Bobby Colomby urged me to consider having David produce the band so he deserves allot of the credit. I tried to get the band to have David produce Chicago 15 (thumb print album) but I was out voted by the band and record company, consequently when that record stiffed people were ready to listen. I knew we needed a strong presence in the studio, someone that we couldn’t intimidate with our numbers and musicianship, someone that would co-write and bring new life/blood to our material, it had become stale we were too incestuous, the band was at an all time low and David injected new life. Chicago was also David’s first major success, so it was a two way street.

DM: In hindsight do you believe Peter's departure was good for both he and Chicago?

DS: No Peter’s leaving served no one. Chicago was at a all time high and Peter was at the center of it, its unfortunate because Peter could/should have done what Phil Collins did but at the time he was getting some bad advice and we were being stubborn. Peter went on to have a successful debut but that was it and we struggled on Chicago 18 but we eventually prevailed on Chicago 19 with three top five songs, but neither of us ever attained the kind of success that we had on Chicago 17. I’d like to see Peter go back with Chicago and do a reunion record and tour, I’d love to be a part of it but none the less Peter is a great artist and he deserves finish his career on top, it hurts me to see him struggling, he’s too good for that. I also think it would help put Chicago back in the history books, where we very much deserve to be.

DM: Donnie Dacus seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth when Chicago fired him. Do you know what ever happened to him?

DS: Your right Donnie Dacus did disappear from the face of the earth. He was let go because he really didn’t fit into the band, never did, it was a mistake in the first place. It wasn’t his fault either he was a good guy, he just didn’t fit in with the mix, I know it really hurt him to be let go like that, believe me now I know how that feels.

DM: Although hindsight is 20/20, is there anything you would have done different in your career?

DS: I have so much to be thankful for so having regrets is a little like saying I’d wish I had been with the Beatles. I guess my only regret is the way my tenure with the band ended, it kinda left me in limbo, it should of ended differently, a farewell tour, long good-bye’s you know what I mean. But like I said having regrets after accomplishing so much and experiencing such incredible highs is like tempting the gods to bring the sky down on you, so I think I’ll just be glad for what I accomplished and did with the band and get on with my life, I have allot of music and living left in me.










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