BILLY SUTER chats to Durban drummer GRANT HALLIDAY about music in general and his latest showband entertainment, Southern Rock Classics, also featuring Ross Tapson, Neil Ford, Yvette Barnard and Aaron Saunders. The show is headed for the Rhumbelow Theatre circuit – appearing first at 2pm on Sunday, February 28, at the Pietermaritzburg branch at the Allan Wilson Shellhole, then at the Durban Rhumbelow in Cunningham Road, Umbilo, from March 12 to 14. It will next be staged at the Rhumbelow at Northlands Bowling Club, on March 20. Audiences will be limited to 50, in compliance with lockdown restrictions, and all Covid-19 protocols will be in place. Tickets cost R160 each (no concessions) and booking for all performances is at Computicket or by phoning Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.
Tell me more about the Southern Rock Classics show headed for the Rhumbelow Theatre circuit soon.
The show is by Durban band In the Flesh, which also performed the Rhumbelow’s Pink Floyd tribute show fairly recently. The group features Ross Tapson (guitar/vocals), Neil Ford (bass/vocals) and me on drums. We now include an upcoming star, singer-guitarist Aaron Saunders, and superstar singer Yvette Barnard, who has spent 12 years working the Barnyard circuit.
We have tried to cross the broad spectrum of Southern Rock with the obvious inclusions of legendary tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, ZZ Top, John Cougar Mellencamp and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
We also dug a bit deeper to cover the less-obvious bands, such as Mountain, The Black Crowes and the Allman Brothers.
Ross really wanted to cover Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh – a surprise inclusion that really works well!
Tell me more about the vocalists for this new show. What have they done before?
Aaron started playing guitar at 13 and was in his first punk band at 15.He has been in metal bands pretty much since his late 20s, the last major one being Contrast the Water. After his last thrash-metal band, he has been on a mission to play his first love – blues and blues-rock. He has been playing at open-mic and solo events since 2018 and in November last year joined our band.
Yvette has made a name for herself on the Barnyard circuit, doing great Pink, Cher and hard-rock tributes, and has also appeared in shows staged at various casinos and at the now-defunct Durban supper theatres, The Cellar and The Dockyard.
What is a highlight moment of Southern Rock Classics for you – and why?
Probably the Grand Funk tracks, as I am a huge fan of that band.
Where and when were you born, and where did you go to school?
I was born on September 22, 1961, in Durban and was schooled in Westville.
At what age did you start drumming?
I started drumming at the age of 10. As with most drummers, I was banging on everything possible as a child. I studied under jazz master Jim Bailey.
What was the first band in which you performed – and what have been other bands you have been in over the years?
I played in several bands at school and at the age of 14 joined the band Track, playing gigs around KwaZulu-Natal. Over the years I have played with Anarchy, Bytsize, Zwarte Piet Band, Sea Level, Bobby and the Dynamites and Salty Dog, to name a few. I have enjoyed the variety of bands I have had the privilege to play with, in diverse genres of music.
What other instruments can/do you play – and what instrument would you still like to master?
I am not fully competent in other instruments. I am a ‘drumaholic’ and have devoted my time to keeping the rhythm and mastering my craft. However, the bass would definitely be my second choice.
How long have you been teaching drums? Also, how often do you teach and how many students do you have?
I’ve been teaching drums professionally since 1996 . I teach daily and hold a teaching post at Thomas More College School of Music. Due to the lockdown, I have expanded to add online lessons and am proud to say I have a talented student in Australia.
Who do you rate as the best drummers in the world – and who doesn’t quite cut it for you?
My favourite drummers are Ian Paice, Ringo Starr, John Bonham, Cozy Powell and Chad Smith. I think Keith Moon was totally overrated and put flash before groove.
What has been your most memorable moment as a performer?
There have been many moments, but probably my favourite was opening for Skunk Anansie and Wishbone Ash. Also, with Anarchy in 1997, playing to a capacity crowd at Oppikoppi with Riki Rix and Elvis Gangiah.
Any other tribute shows being planned for the Rhumbelow?
We have several new shows planned for the Rhumbelow and with the talented Yvette now on board it has opened new avenues for us!
What is your favourite song right now?
I have been listening a lot lately to Monster Truck’s Don’t Tell Me How to Live.
The last album you bought or downloaded?
Rainbow’s Rising, because I love that line up.
Two of your favourite songs of all time?
Black Night by Deep Purple (my ring tone!) and Carry on My Wayward Son by Kansas.
Three of the finest albums ever – and why?
Deep Purple’s Made in Japan, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same and Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous (I love the spontaneous feel of live recordings).
Song you hate the most right now?
I try to enjoy all music. There has to be a groove in there, somewhere!
Worst song in history?
Da, Da, Da by Trio. A monotonous menace.
Song you most associate with your teens?
Ballroom Blitz by the Sweet
Song you most associate with your early childhood years?
The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck. My late mom loved that!
The size of your music collection and the artists represented most there?
I have a large collection of music in various genres.
Favourite radio station and DJ?
Lotus Fm and Dj Lloyd Paul – the best!
The local artists you most admire?
All the musos I have played with over the years.
Artists from abroad that you most admire?
Bands like System of a Down, which came up with an original sound and direction… and which didn’t sound like anyone else.
Most over-all rated people in the recording business?
Most of the modern pop music-makers.
Pet hate/s about the music scene in South Africa?
Playing for “exposure” kills artists’ livelihoods. Last time I checked, you can’t put “exposure” into a bank account.
The one music act you would give the world to see perform live?
Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Ever asked a music personality for an autograph?
No, but I once told Ginger Baker how I loved his work with Cream, and he proceeded to vent his frustration at his former band!
Music acts you have seen live and loved most?
Deep Purple, Phil Collins, Iron Maiden and Metallica.
Best singing star ever?
Ronnie James Dio.
The greatest musician of all time?
Best band in history?
The styles of music you most enjoy – and least enjoy?
My favourite is rock and least favourite is pop.
The most embarrassing artist represented in your music collection – and why is it there?
Marshmallow, because my pupils love it!
The one song that will always be guaranteed to get you on to a dancefloor?
Sweet Home Alabama… and it features in Southern Rock Classics.
The musical teaming you would most like to see?
Some are deceased, but a classic line-up would be Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, John Lord on keys and Ian Paice on drums.
Your choice of karaoke song?
Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, because it’s an anthem.
The first song you ever performed for an audience?
Really can’t remember, but Bad Times by Grand Funk comes to mind.
Guilty pleasure: a song you really feel you shouldn’t enjoy, but secretly do?
Old Town Road.
Worst decade for music?
Hottest-looking music celebrity?
Sheena Easton was good back in the day!
The song you’d like to be played at your funeral?
Highway to Hell by AC/DC.
The song you find the saddest?
Kansas’s Dust in the Wind. It reminds me of the fleeting nature of life.
Two dead icons you’d most like to invite to dinner?
Ronnie James Dio and John Bonham.
Any other news?
Since lockdown I have been posting, online, several drum covers and recordings with Riki Rix. I am pleased that gigs are opening up again and have session recordings scheduled at Durban’s Playhouse studios with Elvis Gangiah.