The Iso Files: John Mahon (Elton John Band)

Wednesday, 10 June 2020 12:31 pm

digitaldDrummer speaks to John Mahon (Elton John band) about isolation ...

Where you are in isolation: I am in Los Angeles, just north of the city, Woodland Hills area. LA looks like it did when I moved here in 1983. Very little traffic on the freeways, which is a fantastic change from the normal stand-still and crawl. It’s weird not being able to go to dinner, but honestly, for me, that’s the worst of it. I don’t mind having to stay home. I’m still out cycling and walking as much as possible and a trip to the hardware store is inevitable!

What projects you are working on: I have a few people that need percussion and drums on their songs. My little home studio is working well for this. Paul Cardall is writing songs, so I hope to play on his new record soon. I’m finishing up an instrumental record with an Ohio pal, Dave Marchione. It’s more like soundtrack music, but we’re having fun with it. Also, I am writing songs to complete my own singer/songwriter project. Being on the road so much is harder to work, but the COVID restrictions have their advantages. So, besides playing percussion and drums on some outside projects, I am mainly writing songs and learning my software and hardware gear that I let slip. I even busted out my Zendrum that I’m using to play more like a guitar with chords and notes as opposed to percussion sounds.

What gear you are using: I made a small version of my Yamaha 950 DTX kit using the Yamaha DTX-M12 with the DTX kick pad and snare pad. Works great for playing into Battery, Logic, etc. I’m trying to get my head around Maschine after being an Akai user for so long but I dove into Native Instruments, so here I am using a little Maschine Micro 3. Mostly, I like to just play my parts in when I can on the drum pads (we’re drummers, right?). I like to use the Korg Wavedrum for beat textures. I have this weird thing called the Slaperoo - it’s Australian actually - which is a metal bar with a stretched band and a pickup. Primitive, but through FX, it’s very cool. I love using old drums into weird FX, so snares, giant kicks, cajon-type instruments like the LP American lap cajon can make some groovy textures and beats.

What you miss most: Of course, touring with Elton John. I don’t know when we will tour again but after taking a couple months off, I see that I really miss playing live already. It’s scary how quickly you get out of touring shape, especially playing hand percussion at that level: every other night at least keeps you in strong shape, so I need to keep myself hitting the congas!  And needless to say, the travelling that comes with touring is something I really enjoy - like the three months I spent in Australia/New Zealand was fantastic. I cannot wait to return there.

How you think this experience is going to change music production going forward: There will be even more tracks being transferred and flown into DAWs! Crazy how the music business flip-flopped from everyone needs to tour to make money because the royalties and record sales were not cutting it. Now, we are back again to figuring out how to get people to actually buy music. I think we will see some concerts being put on in a “pay-per-view” setting, but that will be difficult to pull off. It works in sports like big boxing matches, etc., so maybe it will work for the more in-demand artists. As far as people buying music, I can only bolster the idea that we need to support the bands we enjoy and pay for their albums now and then. $10 bucks is not unreasonable. Musicians (ones I know) are notorious for not buying other bands’ albums; so next time, open the wallet and spread some love musically to your favourite band.

I know this will all pass but I think it’s going to be some time, so keep playing and creating and doing what you love - life is short.