An Interview with
who has John Coghlan's Quo and the Original Drummer of Status Quo
that took place on Monday November 6th, 2017.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
I had just that weekend checked out John Coghlan's Quo @ Plug in Sheffield so we got right to the point of things and chatted all about the show plus future plans and ideas. A few other things came up in conversation too... enjoy the read...
John: Hiya Man, Alright?
Glenn: I'm good man. How are you feeling?
John: I'm good. I'm okay.
Glenn: That was a brilliant show on Saturday night.
John: Yeah! Everyone seemed to like it. Another thing is that we have had some good reports in the past over gigs. The fans seem to really like the band.
Glenn: Yeah? Excellent. How was it for you personally – the show at Plug?
John: It was okay. In fact, it was a great show.
Glenn: Awesome! While you were doing the show, what were your favourite moments of that show or any of your shows for that matter?
John: The response that we get from the audience is great. They are quite surprised to hear a track called 'A Year' and 'All The Reasons' which we love - and 'April, Spring...”. They love us playing them because Francis doesn't do them. We love doing stuff like that because that's what the 70's Quo fans want.
Glenn: They brought 'All The Reasons' back when they did the Aquoustic album and tour.
John: Oh yeah.
Glenn: I saw them at City Hall and it was phenomenal. They had all the extra guys in there. It was such a great show. It was tragic we couldn't see it again. After losing Rick... what can I say?
Glenn: I see your show as a celebration of you – John Coghlan's Quo says it all but I got an impression it was like a celebration of Rick as well. It felt special. You made that a very passionate, emotional thing that flowed all the way through that show.
John: Yeah. Either me or Rick Chase, we always like to mention Rick Parfitt because he was such a special guy. Francis never mentions him when he's doing his gigs.
Glenn: It blows my mind that.
John: It's a bit strange but there you are.
Glenn: When you got up to the front, I was choking up a bit. When the chant's of 'Rick' started up I was feeling for you something terrible because I knew it was hard for you to hold it together, so you said, “Right let's on with the show” went back to the kit. It was such a tearful moment because he was such a special guy – he was your brother so to speak.
John: Oh yes – that's right.
Glenn: Such a lovely speech for him mate!
John: Thank you.
Glenn: No problem. It was nice that you put the humour side in and you were talking about drums. Saying, “Alright who plays drums?” When you were talking about putting the sleeping bag in the bass drum and saying, “Unless you are going to sleep in it, don't do it!” You must have seen all sorts of things through the years – the craziest things that have been done in drum kits.
John: I have. People think that they have to dampen the drum kit. For Rock, you don't. There's no dampening in my drums. The bass drum's empty. No f*ck*ng cushions in there because I like the open normal drum sound. That's why it sounds so good. It's the fact of the way it's tuned. Why would you want to put gaffer tape on the top heads? People do because they don't know how to tune drums. They say, “Oh it rings so I had better dampen it”. They end up with a dead sound. It's f*ck*ng awful. I've seen kits, I've played kits like it.
Many years ago I sat on a kit I was supposed to play and it had all this gaffer tape on the toms. I ripped the gaffer tape off. It makes a funny noise when it comes off. I tuned the drums a bit and took the cushion out the bass drum. The sound man said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I'm tuning these f*ck*ng drums that haven't been tuned!” They sounded great. He said, “That sounds good”. I said, “That's how it's supposed to sound!”. It's a funny thing. You won't believe what some people do. They say, “Oh you've got to have a hole in the bass drum?”. I said, “No you don't because my bass drum did not have a hole in it.”
The PA man just put a microphone to the side of it and it sounded great. I think a lot of people get the wrong idea and say, “Oh you have to dampen it”. Depending obviously on what sounds you want to sound – for me, an open drum kit (is the way). I like the sound that John Bonham got with Led Zeppelin.
Glenn: Yeah the big boom and everything.
John: Mighty big, massive great sounds. Even on the Quo tour when we did the Frantic Four Reunion, Lance Miles who was the drum tech put a microphone inside the bass drum. It's like a spiders web. A big, massive microphone. It sounded great and of course, no dampening on any drums. The rest is history really... It sounds big. That's why I think Zeppelin had that wonderful sound because Bonzo was the same. He wanted that open drum sound.
Glenn: I think I remember reading that for recording, they'd record in the highest room and they'd suspend the microphone from right up in the ceiling to pick up all the echo and boom. That made him have that unique sound that nobody else had. He became so famous for the sound and it made the sound of the band.
John: I'll you an example, if you go into a church with a drum kit – we've got a little church in our village – I've not played my drums in there but I've played drums in the school hall which used to be a school donkeys years ago. It's now the village hall. We set a drum kit up in there and that's exactly the same thing. You've got a high ceiling and a concrete wall. It sounds magnificent. It's how drums should sound.
John: If you took a drum kit into a church, you'd have to bang pretty quietly because it'd be very loud. It's great, great way to record. That's what's what turned me on Zep. The songs of course but the sound that John Bonham got. That was the drummer's drummer sound.
Glenn: Very much so. It sounded incredible.
John: So did my kit sound alright at the Plug?
Glenn: It did yeah. It was coming out well. Everything was sounding good.
John: Did you go to the Quo Convention at Minehead?
Glenn: No I didn't unfortunately.
John: Oh you missed it! Man, that was great! We had Rick Parfitt Jnr up there. We had Alan Lancaster.
Glenn: That would have been pretty amazing.
John: Alan did three encores. We did 'Backwater', 'Bye Bye Johnny' and another number. That was awesome. That's coming out on DVD.
Glenn: Oh brilliant.
John: You'll be able to see that. Loads of people filmed it on their phones. But you know the trouble with those phones? It's all top-end. There's no bass on it. There is a DVD coming out.
Glenn: I'll get that. There were two or three bands I always wanted to see in my entire life. A couple I can't see any more properly – the other one was you guys – the Frantic Four. I got my wish to see the Frantic Four. I've seen the Francis and Rick version (bless him) quite a few times but I never got the chance to see you guys. I was only 7 (in 1981) when the Frantic Four broke up as such.
To actually see you play, it was at Manchester on the second tour and I took my brother in law. It was either the first or second night at the Apollo. I was in the photo-pit and it was just mind-blowing. My brother in law, Paul said that's the best gig he had ever seen. He said, “I've seen Francis's version but that's the real Quo I've just seen right there. That's the hardcore, dirty, bluesy, raw Quo”.
John: Yeah sure.
Glenn: It was the real deal. No doubt a lot of people have asked you this but what were your favourite parts of that tour or when you actually got back together and got the cameraderie going? Did it take long to bounce off each other so to speak and get it going as a personable thing?
John: I remember when we did the first tour that was the UK – six gigs. But I thought we should have done Europe. Of course, we did Europe the second time around. That was great but I think the one for me was playing at Dublin – the O2 - the last gig.
Glenn: A good gig that.
John: Yeah. That was great. That was built for Rock 'N' Roll that place. I just think it was good. It was all good. Manchester was, Wolverhampton – the Civic Hall – I remember that. Hammersmith of course being our favourite of all time really. The Hammersmith was good to us in its day. We'd like to do that again but maybe next year we'll do something with PLC. We'll see.
Glenn: I remember seeing Motorhead at Hammersmith and it was mind-blowing. I've got to ask you, the current line-up of John Coghlan's Quo – how did that come to be?
John: I got to meet the band who through Mick whose not with us anymore. We got introduced to them through some friends. Then they joined. Mick left because he had a throat problem. After that, Mick Hughes found Rick Abbs. He's a great guitarist. He's the youngest out the band. He sings great, looks great and plays great guitar.
Glenn: Yeah looks such a young guy. The vocals start up and he is phenomenal. The songs that really got me... obviously 'A Year' was brilliant and 'All The Reasons' too. The way you played '...Matchstick Men' was incredible.
John: Oh yeah. We've reinvented it in a way. It's quite different near the end than the actual recording was.
Glenn: Yeah you've extended it a bit.
John: Yeah! We've got this surreal ending that sometimes works and sometimes it doesn't. (We laugh) But yeah, they love that. I think the fans all love it because it's something different.
Glenn: Definitely. Did it take long to get the material together with the current line-up or did they all know a lot of it anyway? Did it come pretty quick?
John: We didn't do a weeks rehearsal. In fact, I think we did a day on, if that!
John: Everyone knew the arrangements anyway. We just got together and played. The first gig for Rick Abbs was The Half Moon in Putney. He lives up in Leicestershire. Me and Rick (Chase) live in Oxfordshire and Mick Hughes is from Berkshire near the River Thames. Rick (Abbs) is furthest away but it works a treat. We all get on well. The good thing about my band is, you notice, no-one is trying to be a lookalike which I don't like.
Glenn: Yeah! There's no point. There's no panto wigs going off or any of that sh*t.
John: I hate all that. We've seen bands – pictures and DVD's of people spending a fortune trying to look like Francis and Rick. They can't play! Wouldn't you think they'd learn to play the guitar fist? That's one of the things about doing Quo. Why not just play songs, do it properly and not worry about what you look like?
Glenn: It doesn't matter.
John: Of course it doesn't. Why would you want to look like Francis anyway? Get all your hair cut off and look like him? (he's joking of course!) (We laugh)
Glenn: What would you say your favourite Quo album cover was?
John: I don't really know. There's so many. 'Blue For You' was cool. 'If You Can't Stand The Heat' maybe?
Glenn: With the record on it and the cut away bit.
John: Yeah. I think the worst one was 'Picturesque Matchstickable Messages' where we're all sitting on matchboxes.
Glenn: Yeah it is pretty appalling.
John: It was the time in those days. It was different. Everyone is trying to be so clever all the time with album covers. The Beatles did one that was so plain it looked so boring.
Glenn: The Beatles one (The White Album).
John: I think it was. You thought, 'That's made a change. It's the music that counts'.
Glenn: Yeah, exactly.
John: I suppose record companies want to have an amazing album cover so when you walk in a shop it's supposed to stand out. “Oh look at that!”
Glenn: Exactly. But it's the music that counts.
John: Well I think it is. Absolutely.
Glenn: How is that project coming on with Rick Parfitt Jnr and Alan Lancaster? You mentioned about Rick Jnr coming down and playing next year while at the Plug show.
John: I think Alan wants to do a show next year like the Quo convention that was in Minehead. We've got to get some product out first which we will in time.
Glenn: Is anything happening with regard to the Rick Parfitt songs. Will that stuff be coming out anytime or is it kind of canned now.
John: I don't really know what's happening with Rick's stuff. I really, truly don't.
Glenn: I think the main thing is that Alan is going to come over again.
John: Yeah. That'll be great. It's got to be worth his while. The thing is, if we do anything next year, which I'm hoping we will, it will be with Alan, Bob Young, Me and Richard Parfitt Junior. That's up in the air at the moment. It's an idea that Alan wants to do. I said, “Well I'll do it” and of course we will, but it's got to be a proper tour or say, six dates to make it work and everyone's worthwhile if you know what I mean?
John: It's got to be done properly, organised properly and not just doing it on a budget. It's a small budget bit it's got to be done right like it was if it was a Status Quo show.
Glenn: You don't want it to sound like a bad show with you all in the line-up because it would be tragic. It's got to be good. I'd love to see an album come out. Technology as it is, you can fly tracks to each other (via e-mail) unless you prefer to all be in the same studio at the same time.
Glenn: Can you imagine having a Quofest like what Michael Schenker has just done recently and have all the guys that have ever played in Quo on stage at the same show? All the various drummers playing their own bit. It could be dedicated to Rick Parfitt and have it as a big Charity event. It could be so nice to have something like that.
John: Yeah sure.
Glenn: Get Roy Lynes in too.
John: You know what, Yvonne Handle mentioned that to me today with all the drummers. I don't think Pete Kirchner plays any more.
Glenn: Yeah. I heard he has retired from buddy, Steve Cooper (a big Quo fan).
Glenn: It's a pity about that.
John: I think we need quite a few drum kits. If we do it, we don't want to be all playing the same kit because it doesn't work like that. The thing is, everyone has a different style of playing, a different drum kit. But you know, I don't know. Imagine having Alan Lancaster and John 'Rhino' Edwards on stage together playing?
Glenn: That would be cool to see how they blended together. I noticed as well you are left-handed. I never realised that. I am left handed but if I do play drums I play right handed. How did it come about for you playing right-handed instead?
John: Well when I first started, you never saw a left-handed drummer. I write left-handed and I drink beer with my left hand. The thing is, I taught myself to do it right handed because that's how drummers were in those days. I never thought about it. I would see a friend of mine, Simon Phillips. He played with Toto and I know Simon. He can play both ways. Left-handed and Right-handed – he can.
John: He can. I can probably do it if I bothered to try but I'm not very bothered about it. I just do it. I've learnt to learn it right-handed. All the accents are on my left-hand. That's probably why the snare drum was quite loud.
Glenn: Yeah. It makes sense. I saw Simon Phillips back in 1989 at the NEC, Birmingham with The Who. Wow! One of the best drummers I have ever seen.
Glenn: When I interviewed you before Phil Collins was one of your favourite drummers at the time.
John: Yeah I suppose so yeah. He was good with Genesis. He made some great records. I met Buddy Rich. I've got a great picture with Buddy Rich sat on his kit. He was great. A very nice guy. Brian Bennett of The Shadows – a great friend of mine. I like Bobby Elliott of The Hollies – all good drummers. I like the drummers from my past – the 70's. They were good drummers and Brian's great. He writes scores for musicals and for TV as well as being a great drummer.
Glenn: Would you say there are drummers these days that grab your attention?
John: I don't really bother finding out. I don't really follow the scene any more. I don't really watch telly and watch new bands. I used to watch Jools Holland's programme but there's lots of bands on there that don't seem to be very commercial. It's sort of 'going through the motions'. A lot of the drummers don't do much for me. I don't bother watching it any more.
Glenn: Yeah I got fed up with it as well to be honest with you. I saw a programme on YouTube recently with Rick & Francis called 'Straight Talking'. They were talking about the fact that back in the day you'd do table walking – walking along tables and smash everything up in the middle of the restaurant with food everywhere.
John: That happened once when I couldn't get out to go to the loo because we were back against the walls. No one would get out so I just walked across the tables. (We laugh)
Glenn: Right mate, I'll let you get off. Thanks a lot for the Interview. It's been good.
John: No problem man, You're okay!
A big thank you to Gillie Coghlan for helping to set up this marvellous and completely honest Interview with such a great bloke and legendary drummer.
Be sure to check out John Coghlan's Quo at a venue near you!