Here is legendary drummer Simon Phillips in an exclusive interview for the drummers’ website Shot at the Pro Drum store in Warsaw, Poland, on June 11, 2017 before the artist’s clinic at Hard Rock Cafe.
“The reason why I was given that big break at 12 years old to join a fully professional band was simple. It was 1969. His [Simon’s father Sid’s] brand of music was typically the 1930s. It was dixieland, but not Kenny Ball dixieland. Kenny used to play with my dad, actually. It was much more organized. It was written out like a big band but it was a smaller band because the finances of running a big band in post war England was impossible. There was only a couple of bands doing it and it was tough. My dad felt he could orchestrate to make this band sound bigger than it was, so he went out with a nine-piece. However, by 1969, there were not many drummers around that could play that style. Everybody either wanted to play bee bop or they wanted to play rock and roll. Even the older session guys were not really still playing that kind of music authentically. I grew up playing that music. All the drummers: John Bonham, Ian Paice, John Hiseman, Mitch Mitchell. All the British drummers grew up playing skiffle and dixieland. Cozy Powell. I mean, all of them.
They still ask me about Judas Priest. It’s amazing. A lot of young heavy metal drummers come up to me and say: ‘Man! That was my favourite album! That’s what started me off!’. Jason Bittner, Charlie Benante – they all said: ‘We grew up playing to this when we were kids’. At the time, I had no idea it would be so influential. The ‘Sin After Sin’ album was the pivotal point of heavy metal. I think that was the first way of getting into heavy metal because we didn’t have it back then.
The thing is, where I was coming from, playing that album was not heavy at all, but it was still fiery. My thing was to play heavy rock with a funk groove and to sit back on it. That was the difference. Most rock in those days was kind of on top, except for Ian Paice and Cozy Powell. They had that kind of pocket. And Ian still does, it’s beautiful. I loved Ian’s playing because of that. So I always tried to bring that to the table. Let’s sit back just like I’m playing with James Brown, except it’s ‘Sin After Sin’. A lot of people won’t even hear that in the music but in my mind I’m thinking: ‘How would Bernard Purdie play with Judas Priest?’. I used to do that a lot. Conversely, when I would play an R ‘n’ B session or a soul session, I’d think; ‘How would Tony Williams play this?’ or ‘How would Cozy Powell play this?’. Splashier cymbals. It was a very good way of making the music sound a little bit different. That’s what was going on with ‘Sin After Sin’ and Whitesnake and all of these records.”