Matt Letley

Frequently Asked Questions.

How did you get the gig with Status Quo?
"Do you fancy joining Quo?" the voice of John 'Rhino' Edwards, the band's bass player, came down the line. I didn't have to think too long about my answer!

What led to that call, however, goes back to 1980..

Being able to read music, I was often asked to do sessions at a local studio in Rochester, Kent. One session led to recording the master track in London where I met bass player John Giblin. John was working with artists such as Kate Bush and
Peter Gabriel and was a last-minute replacement for Mo Foster who couldn't make it. Perhaps our paths were meant to cross..
John got me in on more sessions and in 1983 put my name forward for a tour with Judie Tzuke. I also did her next tour in1985, which saw Rhino on bass. Incidentally Mike Paxman, who has produced Quo, was Judie's guitarist.

Over the next 15 years, Rhino and I played the odd gig together, some with his own band Rhino Express and a few sessions including one for The Pet Shop Boys. In 1999 I recorded a couple of tracks for
Rhino's Revenge (Mike Paxman producing) which Rick (Parfitt) and Francis (Rossi) played guitar on.

Early in 2000, just as rehearsals were underway for a tour with Hank Marvin, I got 'the call' from Rhino.
I toured Scandinavia with Hank before joining Quo in May
Who are your favourite drummers?
In no particular order: Simon Phillips, Steve Gadd, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Coliauta, Dave Weckl, Graham Jarvis, Billy Cobham, Mickey Curry, Buddy Rich, Jeff Porcaro.
Who are your influences?
I grew up listening to the Stones and the Beatles and also big band jazz such as Buddy Rich,
Maynard Ferguson, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

By eleven, I was into bands like ELP, Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis. Then my drum teacher put me onto Steve Gadd, which led me to jazz/fusion performers like Chic Corea, Bob James and Lee Ritenour.

Nowadays, I enjoy all kinds of music, from Stravinsky to The Scissor Sisters.

What's the most bizarre thing you've been asked to do in your career so far?
Miming on a radio show, definitely! That was in France with A-ha in 1988. It was for the benefit of the studio audience - so not quite as daft as it sounds.

What did you do before becoming a professional drummer?
It's all I've ever done. I began gigging with local bands at the age of 12, toured Holland with the
London Youth Jazz Orchestra at 15 and turned professional at 16.

Do you write your own songs?
I’ve written a couple of songs for Quo: “You’re The One For Me” (“In Search Of The Fourth Chord”) and “Running Inside My Head” (“Bula Quo”). I also co-wrote a track with Andrew Bown for the “The Party Ain’t Over Yet” album. Prior to joining Quo, I co-wrote the score for a corporate music video and some incidental music for the BBC sit-com series, “As Time Goes By”.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy being at home with my family and climbing mountains.

Schedule permitting, I manage to bag a few summits on tour. Francis (Rossi) sees this as my Yeti side. During a David Essex tour, I managed to climb the Three Peaks, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike & Snowdon within a week - all on show days!

During the Quo Winter Tour 2010, I managed to climb Snowdon twice on the same day, bringing my total to 100 ascents. Not that I’m obsessed or anything.

My other passion is astronomy. I feel privileged that touring with bands has allowed me to practice my hobby from many different countries.

What was it like working with Hank Marvin?
I enjoyed Hank's tours very much. Needless to say it was a completely different gig to Quo and I found it one of the most dynamic gigs I've ever had to play. By that I mean there was a lot of contrast in the playing level. Quo can be physically demanding because it's 'full on' nearly all of the time but in a way that can be easier to play than very quiet and exposed pieces where nothing less than complete accuracy is vital 100% of the time.

Hank is also an extremely nice guy and let's face it, a 'Guitar Legend' so I feel very privileged to have worked with him.

What advice would you give to young musicians aspiring to make it in the music industry?
Ideally, join a band. If you can't find a band to join maybe start your own. It's all very well practicing four, five, six, seven hours a day, and that can be very important, but there's no substitute for actually playing with other musicians. If you don't have other musicians to play with, play along to CDs. You will soon learn song structure and it will do your time keeping no end of good.

Right from when I first started to play drums at the age of six, my father would get me to play along with him on the piano. He used to buy the sheet music for the top 3 records in the charts each week and we would play them, just piano and drums: but not necessarily in the style that the records were recorded. He would say, "OK Matthew, let's play this one as a Bossa Nova...or a Swing...or Rumba...Pop...Cha-Cha..." This gave me a good grounding in lots of different musical styles and taught me how music could be interpreted.

Above all, keep an open mind and listen to as many different styles of music as possible - you can always learn something to help develop your own particular style - vitally important! This could make you unique and maybe one day, indispensable! Just look at Rick and Francis - they both have unique styles. Let's face it, no one plays guitar quite like they do!

Practice hard, meet and play with as many musicians as possible, and when you do a gig, turn up on time. Quo are impeccable timekeepers - never late for a gig or any appointment - which is how it should be. And if you do a good job, people will recommend you. That way you establish a good name for yourself.

Royal Observatory Greenwich 2003 Summit of Snowdon 2004 For the 86th time!

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