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Posted April 1st 2015
After more months than I care to remember our 1950s house has finally been dragged into the 21st century. It's been a long haul, and stressful at times, but it just had to be done. Now, at last, I have a studio in which to write and record and so I've been busy setting that up and putting down a few ideas of my own. It's been great fun doing something completely different and being creative is what's really important to me at the moment.
It's been good to spend a decent amount of time at home, even with all the building work. I actually enjoy getting my hands dirty so when there's an opportunity to make a log store or scramble up onto the roof to replace a few tiles, I'm there! Last year I even erected a summerhouse in the garden…not too difficult for a drummer with years of experience in the art of shed building!
Life without Quo has taken some getting used to. With a re-run of the "Hello" documentary on BBC2 the other week and tracks being played on the radio, there are plenty of reminders of my time with the band. I had 13 great years with them but it was the right time for me to step away and take some time out.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer last year I was certainly glad not to be touring and able to spend time with him. He finally lost the battle last November, having faced his illness with stoicism and dignity. It was a great source of comfort for me to be with him, together with my mother and brother, Mark, during those final days. The philosophical way in which he approached his illness and faced death was inspirational. For me, he turned it into something quite uplifting…a remarkable man.
My father was always my greatest influence, inspiring me with his self-discipline and dedication to daily practice. He was still playing and teaching the accordion until just a few months before he died. It was his support and encouragement that undoubtedly helped me to succeed in this incredibly competitive industry. As a semi-professional accordion player he performed in pubs and clubs for over 60 years and was a victim of passive smoking. Although the law to prevent smoking in public places changed in 2007 it was, sadly, too late for him. It is also a law not easy to enforce, as I know only too well having lived on a tour bus with 4 smokers!
With the paint barely dry in my studio, one of the first sessions I recorded was for a band in Russia called "208 Talks Of Angels". All amazing players and singers with a number of musical influences. It was an absolute joy to put some drums down for these guys and I think the track sounds fantastic:
I hope to be doing a lot more recording this way in the future... it was musically very rewarding. Of course there's nothing quite like the vibe of playing alongside other musicians but I believe it still produces outstanding results. It's also a luxury when the journey to work is just a little over five yards!
See you out there sometime…
Posted Friday 24th 2013
Well, that must be one of the longest exits in rock’n’roll history!
As it happens, I’m really glad I agreed to do Australia and Mexico in the end - we played some really great shows on both tours. In fact, the second show in Mexico was probably one of the best I’ve played with the band. The crowd were simply amazing and we really fed off their energy – it was electric. The ‘engine room’ was certainly firing on all cylinders that night! St.Tropez, my final live show, was also a ‘rocker’ and memorable too for seeing some of the forever faithful British fans in the front row. Their loyal support never ceases to amaze me.
On our return, I said goodbye to the guys (for the second time) only to get a call a few days later asking me to do the National Lottery TV show, to promote ‘Bula Quo’. How could I resist? My Quo career began with a TV show so it seemed only fitting it should end on one. A neat way to square the circle! Then it was “goodbye” for the third and final time.
So what next?
Apart from renovating my somewhat dilapidated house, I shall continue to write and record my own music and have plans to do some collaborating with a friend of mine. And who knows, perhaps the ‘phone will ring like it did thirteen years ago!
Quo was a challenging gig (on many levels) and it also lead me into some interesting situations. When I first joined the band I could never have imagined I would appear in ‘Coronation Street’ or end up in a feature film, having written a song for the closing credits. It’s quite a story…!
Having been on the road for the past thirteen years, it will be quite novel to stay in one place for a while. However, I suspect the novelty won’t last long…I feel a mountain beckoning already!
I hope to see some of you at the “Bula Quo” premiere in July...I’m sure it’ll be a hoot!
Posted Wednesday 13th February 2013
Did I say the O2 was my final gig? Well, as it happens…
With the logistics of shipping sets of equipment around the world and the imminent ‘Frantic Four’ reunion tour, I’ve agreed to join the guys for some of their shows in 2013. That means I will be doing the Australian tour and, I must say, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to play to the fans over there once more. One of my favourite places on the planet, it’ll be great to return following the success of the album and the Coles ad campaign.
Following Australia, there are a couple of other things with the band in the pipeline, which will likely conclude in early May.
Looking forward to the FF shows… see you there!
Posted Saturday 22nd December 2012
To the best fans in the world,
I’d just like to say that I’ve been completely overwhelmed by your response to my decision to leave the band. It’s been very touching to read all the posts on the message board and to receive so many kind emails. I honestly had no idea how you felt and to receive such recognition from the fans means more than anything.
The O2 Arena in London was a fantastic gig and I can’t think of a more fitting venue for my ‘last hurrah’ with the band. I will never forget the electric atmosphere, those brilliant banners and receiving the warmest of cheers as John and Andrew pushed me to the front of the stage for a final wave goodbye. I’m not one for ordinarily going to the front, as you probably know, but I’m glad I did on this occasion.
I have no idea what the future holds for me but I hope it involves playing drums out there somewhere!
I will always feel proud to have played my part in Status Quo for almost thirteen glorious years.
Thank you... it’s been a blast!
Posted Monday 17th December 2012
It’s been a fantastic journey over the past twelve years or so but I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave Quo and move on to something new. My final show will be at the O2 on Wednesday.
No doubt there will be much conjecture that this is somehow related to the upcoming reunion gigs but I’d like to assure everyone that it has no bearing on my decision. Indeed I wish the guys every success with this tour and certainly hope to come along to see one of the shows!
I should like to take this opportunity to thank the guys in the band, our fantastic crew and Simon and the girls in the office for their friendship and professionalism. Most of all I thank the fans without whom I should not have had the chance to play with one of the best rock and roll bands in the world.
Posted Monday 13th June 2011
Water, water, everywhere... or not?
It’s funny how events can take a wild turn...
Earlier in the year my dear wife spotted something she thought would be right up my street. It was a fundraising dinner in aid of “Fresh2o”; a charity run by innovative photographer (and new neighbour) Candice, who is well known for her spectacular underwater photographs. This event was to feature Buzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon. He was going to have his underwater picture taken during the day then mingle with guests at a special dinner. Brilliant... I may get an opportunity to chat to him, I thought, and having had a significant birthday recently I couldn’t have wished for a better present.
Unfortunately, a week before the shoot Buzz injured his back and the event had to be postponed until later in the year. Oh well, that’s that...or so I thought. However, a few days later I received a call from Candice saying that as they already had everything booked for the shoot would I consider submerging for Fresh2o? The charity’s aim is to improve health and prevent death by providing wells for clean drinking water and sanitation purposes globally. It’s a worthy cause but I’m no water baby. However with lots of cajoling from wife and daughter I agreed.
On arrival at the location I discovered I was not going to submerge in a special tank, as is often the case, but in an outside swimming pool... in March! I was met by Candice for a quick briefing and then make-up and hair assistants set about transforming me. Candice wanted the effect of drum sticks floating above my head so Vicky, the hair stylist, had the tricky task of wiring a pair of sticks into my hair. Not exactly pain free!
Clad in jeans and leather jacket and looking worryingly like Edward Scissorhands I then did a series of interviews for the charity to help raise awareness. Not being that confident in these situations I realised that today was going to push me well out of my comfort zone.
The next thing I remember was sitting on the edge of the pool thinking, “There’s no turning back now”. I was told the pool heating system was on full...they were lying! It took 2-3 minutes for me to get my breath back after getting in - yikes it was cold! Not being a great swimmer and not one for going underwater if I can possibly help it, I thought I’ll just take a deep breath and go for it. “No you can’t do that”...Empty your lungs as much possible otherwise you won’t sink.” Yes I get the logic but hang on a minute. “Oh yes... and when you reach the bottom, try to breath out just a bit more so we get the effect of bubbles rising to the surface.” Now I’m seriously wondering what I’m doing here. But then I think of the cause and also that Buzz Aldrin, at over eighty, was up for this so I focus on the challenge ahead.
To my surprise, after a couple of submerges I quickly get used to this strange environment and start to stay down for longer periods of time. For those on the edge of the pool it must have looked as if it was going badly because every time I rose to the surface I was coughing and spluttering like crazy. However, Candice reassured me she was getting some good shots. Towards the end, which was probably only about half an hour or so, I began to shiver quite badly but I have to say, looking back, it was a totally exhilarating experience.
I wonder if my fellow band mates would like to have a go?
If you would like to support a great cause and make a donation to Fresh2o please go to: www.fresh2o.org
Posted Monday 29th November 2010
A few weeks into the Quid Pro Quo UK tour I grabbed the chance to make my 100th ascent of Snowdon. The only problem was my total climbs to date stood at only 98. The solution seemed obvious - climb it twice in one day. After breakfast in Warrington I hired a car and set off.
I left the Pen Y Pass car park at 11.20am and set a swift pace up the Pig Track. After the initial boulder strewn section I rounded a corner and caught my first sight of Snowdon. It was living up to its name with a fine dusting of snow. With very little wind it was a very enjoyable climb and despite the snowy upper regions I reached the summit in an hour and twenty minutes. My father used to keep a log of every climb and how long it took us and apparently I was 14 years old when I first managed a time anywhere near that.
At the top of the mountain snow and swirling clouds made for a spectacular view, but I couldn't afford to wax lyrical or dawdle. After marking the occasion with a quick photo I made my way down the South Ridge. This would take me to the small village of Rhyddu on the opposite side of the mountain. From there, I planned to take the Rhyddu Path back to the summit. The Sun was shining during the descent and it turned into a beautiful Winter afternoon with pin sharp views. It presented me with fabulous photo opportunities but I had no time to stop. Sunset was around 4.15pm and I planned to begin the second ascent by 2pm. This I determined would enable me to make it back to the summit by 4pm at the latest.
Five minutes adrift I arrived at Rhyddu and immediately turned round and started back up the mountain. Endless hours of walking yet I never tire of the scenery. My reverie was suddenly broken by the onset of cramp. "Uh-oh...do I struggle on or hope against hope for a passing taxi to scoop me up and drive me round the mountain?" Hardly! There was no way I was going to quit now. After some water and a handful of jelly babies the cramp left me to my own devices and on I went.
My hundredth ascent reminded me of being seven again. Not because I felt youthful and full of excitement at the prospect of climbing a real mountain, but because I remembered, as a seven year old, that it was one hell of a slog!
I was surprised to make it back to the top in one hour and fifty minutes but more delighted that I had cracked my 100th climb. This time I did spend a few minutes savouring the views from the summit and reflected on achieving my goal.
It was 3.55pm by now and the bright orange sun was hovering dangerously close to the horizon. This was my cue to leave. Remembering most accidents on mountains happen on the way down, I picked my way carefully over the snowy sections of the Miners' Track. Nobody would forgive me if I slipped and broke something in the middle of the tour.
I figured if I made it to the upper lake, Glaslyn, before dark I'd be okay, as the path from there would be easy to negotiate in the fading light. In fact, it was only in the final stages that I had to use my head torch. Only then did I realise it was actually raining! I was back in the car park at 5.30pm.
I have to admit my legs were a tad sore the next day but the show in Warrington that evening was most definitely rocking! Playing drums wasn't a problem... getting on and off the drum riser was!
Snowdon pics by Matt, Matt by Rose Letley and Matt's first summit aged 7 by Roger Letley
Posted Wednesday 26th May 2010
It's long overdue, I know, but here are some recent thoughts...
Val and I made the bold move to the country earlier this year and haven't looked back. It's probably the best move we've ever made and are thoroughly enjoying seeing our new wild garden erupt into a riot of colour. We're feeding the ducks that come and hang out by the back door and seeing deer, rabbits and birds that I've never seen before on a daily basis. It's certainly a change from suburbia! Quo were playing in Oxford on our actual moving date, which was good for me but not much fun for Val. Fortunately she had help from her sister, a couple of close friends and our eldest daughter, Grace. So as Val was wading knee deep in boxes I was talking drums with John Coghlan, who had dropped in to see us at the New Theatre.
Early in March we headed off to Australia. In Sydney, Alan Lancaster came into the dressing room before the gig. It was very interesting to observe the interaction between him, Rick & Francis. It was as if they'd never been apart and were in the middle of a tour. The body language and boyish enthusiasm spoke volumes and I felt like I was observing a scene from the 70s. A surreal, but sweet moment considering their history since he left the band.
I watched the London Marathon on TV in April and can't believe it's a year since I managed to run those 26.2miles around the capital. Remembering that immediately after the race I vowed never to do a marathon ever again I actually found myself wishing I was taking part. It's a bit like going to see a gig and wanting to be on stage rather than in the audience. Ian Botham was at a charity event we played at recently and I managed to chat to him about the marathon. He said a time of 5 hours or less is good but went on to say that he'd walked it in around 4 hours! Getting itchy feet I entered the Hillcrest 10K race again earlier this month and surprised myself by knocking 24 seconds off last year's time. Maybe I'll have another go at the big one next year...maybe!
As you probably know, we were stuck in Moscow recently because of the Icelandic ash cloud and subsequent grounding of all flights. Although this wasn't ideal, it gave me the time and opportunity to check out the Memorial Space Museum which is located about half an hour from the centre of Moscow on 'Prospekt Mira'.
If you're not into space flight, and I'm guessing there's a fair few of you who aren't, I'd skip the next few paragraphs!
I managed to negotiate the Russian Metro by counting the number of stops on the line. I only had to hope I was going in the right direction! It's virtually impossible to read or recognise Russian; their lettering is "not as we know it (Jim)"! Emerging from what I hoped was VDNK station into bright sunshine, I turned left and there it was: a vast slanting obelisk of steel and titanium stretching to a height of about 100 metres, topped by a rocket pointed toward the sky. Phew! I was in the right place. The obelisk's base was faced with granite tiles decorated with reliefs showing cosmic themes and Soviet space explorers. It was set in a pretty park which had statues of many great pioneers associated with Russian rocketry and space flight.
The museum itself was located underneath the huge monument and charts the history of space flight from even before Sputnik (the first man-made satellite) to the present day. It contained many exhibits including some impressive meteorites, some actual used Soyuz capsules and many huge models of Russian rockets. Included was their version of the Space Shuttle called "Buran", which only ever made one unmanned flight in 1988 before the programme was cancelled. I must say the Soyuz capsule did look particularly uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Looking like a relic from the 60s, which it is, it's incredible to think that it's still being used today!
There were plenty of real space suits on display too including the actual one worn by American astronaut, Michael Collins. "Who's he?" I hear you ask (if you're still reading this). Well most people remember Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who walked on the Moon but forget the third guy on Apollo 11 who manned the mother ship. That's Michael Collins. Anyway, after several hours soaking up all this space history I visited the sadly inadequate gift shop and have to confess after being there and doing that, I bought the t-shirt...oh, and a couple of tacky models. My wife says I'm a space nerd and I think she may well be right!
In the end, with the ongoing air travel situation looking less than favourable, we had to charter a plane to fly us from Moscow to Stuttgart. We were met there by a trusty old (in fact I think it was actually brand new!) Phoenix tour bus which brought us the rest of the way back to the UK. I'm sure Rhino will expand on this in his tour log.
On the concert front, Val and I went to see Whitney Houston recently at the O2. Unfortunately, it has to be said, "Houston, we have a problem". It was so disappointing! Probably one of the worst shows I've ever seen. Her voice is no longer what it was and consequently she avoids singing at every opportunity. She had her daughter sing "Clap your hands" for 2 minutes in one song and left her brother to sing a song while she went off to change into some ghastly dress. Then we were subjected to an homage to Michael Jackson which was basically another 5 minutes of waffle. "I Will Always Love You" was just thrown into part of an acoustic set and was not the big power ballad I'm sure everyone was expecting. It turned into a joke when she blamed the keyboard player for a mistake she made near the end of the song. She proceeded to the back of the stage to give him a bollocking. Still, it saved her from another minute or two of singing. Disgraceful! On leaving the auditorium, the sense of disappointment was palpable. We saw one poor lady stuck in her seat, no doubt immobilised by what she had just witnessed. I felt as if I'd been mugged!
However, the next gig we went to was a much more enjoyable evening. This time it was at Her Majesty's to see Francis on his solo tour. And a right rockin' night it was too! Good to see Francis from the audience's prospective for a change and I must say he did seem to be having a great time up there. Also good to see Freddie displaying his talents (he's going to be a star) and of course the brilliant Paul Hirsh. Bass player Gary Twigg is also an old friend; we toured together with Kim Wilde and Judie Tzuke back in the 80s. Nice to see lots of friendly faces in the bar beforehand too. Quo really does have the best fans!
Finally, my youngest daughter Rose has just finished a project for her University course which involved creating a new quarterly 'zine'. It includes an article about Quo's link to denim and an interview with her old man. Check it out at http://thisiszine.tumblr.com/
See you out there soon...
Posted Tuesday 28th April 2009
It was a crisp but sunny Sunday morning as I walked up The Avenue in Greenwich Park, along with several thousand other runners to the start of my first marathon. It felt a bit like we were going to a music festival but in this case, we were not the audience, we were the performers - all about to embark on a rather masochistic journey.
I remember thinking how clever it was that I actually started running just as I crossed the start line. After all, it was almost ten minutes after the gun had gone off. It has to be said that the organisation was absolutely amazing!
The first few miles were at a very gentle pace. With so many runners it felt a bit like running down Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon and was actually a bit hazardous. My heels were clipped a few times and I nearly turned my ankle on a discarded water bottle but I managed to stay on my feet. The crowds were out in force and I remember hearing shouts of, "Rhino, Rhino". Hmm, surely no one was running the London Marathon dressed as a bass player! I managed to overtake Mr 'Save the Rhino' man with ease since his costume probably weighed as much as he did. So many people with different stories to tell (often on the backs of their T-shirts) were raising money for many different charities. It felt good to be part of this special event.
The first hour or so seemed to fly by and I was doing my best to take it all in. As you can see from the photos, my daughter Rose had made some excellent banners which I managed to spot near Bermondsey. Much needed after 11 miles or so! Around the corner, Tower Bridge loomed into view - it was a spine tingling moment. The crowds were very loud and it felt good to be almost half way. Unfortunately, not long after that things started to get really tough and I began to slow dramatically. The interruption in my training schedule, due to my knee injury, meant that the furthest I'd ever run was 14 miles, so I really didn't know what lay in store. I kept drinking regularly and taking the carbo gels in order to prevent cramp and to keep me going. As the temperature increased I realised a good finishing time was out the window. My priority now was simply making it to the end!
Canary Wharf had an electric atmosphere and it was good to see those "Quo Dad Quo" banners again. I knew I would now be heading west all the way towards the finish. Psychologically this was the home straight, despite being over 6 miles long! Stopping and walking brought little relief as I felt my legs begin to seize up. I knew I had to keep running, however slowly. I did see one poor chap in the gutter being given oxygen. It must have been heartbreaking to get so far and then have to drop out. St John Ambulance were taking care of him.
My next target was Westminster as I knew there were going to be Quo fans there. Sure enough, just before the right turn, in front of the Houses of Parliament, I spotted some familiar faces. I tried to give them as big a cheer as they gave me but they drowned me out spectacularly! It gave me such a boost that I'm sure my pace increased. The final mile certainly seemed to fly by. I saw my family for the third time in Birdcage Walk - a lovely surprise as I'd completely forgotten they were going to be there!
With 200 metres to go I suddenly became aware that after all the months of hard training I was finally about to reach my goal. It was quite overwhelming. I crossed the finish line after running for 4 hours 50 minutes and 26 seconds - I'd done it!
As well as thanking my family, friends and fans for their loyal support I'd also like to thank Mike Hrano for organising the printing of my running vest; physios Sarah Baechi and Joe Kitson for helping with my injuries; and my brilliant masseuse, Anna Skogman, for increasing my pain threshold ten fold and keeping my legs going throughout my training. I only hope she can get them working again in time for the next tour!
And of course, a massive 'thank you' to all of you who sponsored me. Didn't we do well?
It has been really inspiring to read your comments and see the total increase steadily over the past few months. So far we have managed to raise over £5000 for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. I'm looking forward to meeting up with the DSWF team in a few weeks time.
Photos by Mrs K and James Stretton.
Posted Monday 20th April 2009
Just a week to go and I'm as ready as I'll ever be for the Marathon on Sunday.
My knee injury turned out to be a bit more of a problem than I first thought and prevented me from running for four weeks - that wasn't in the schedule!
I was really starting to panic, thinking that I may not even make it to the start line. However, some physiotherapy and sports massages paid dividends and gave me the confidence to put my trainers back on and start running again. Slowly and patiently I've managed to build the mileage back up to where it was a few weeks ago.
By contrast, this week I'll be taking things relatively easy in order to conserve energy. I'll be stuffing myself with copious amounts of pasta and drinking gallons of water in a bid to avoid 'hitting the wall' during the race. I've no idea what that feels like but I reckon there's a distinct possibility that I'll find out on Sunday. There are some things that you just can't prepare for but however the day unfolds, I'm determined to get round!
Finally, if you happen to be watching it on the telly on Sunday morning, and have extremely keen eyesight, my race number is 46847. I'll be the one with the navy blue vest... good luck!
Picture by Mrs Killer
Posted Monday 16th March 2009
Well I'm at the half-way point in my training schedule for the Flora London Marathon and so far it's going more or less to plan. The only slight problem I have at the moment is a rather sore knee but my physio assures me it should be fine in 4 to 5 days time. I should be out, clocking up a few more miles, before long.
My dodgy knee is as a result of running in the Lydd Half Marathon last Sunday. I chose Lydd for its extremely flat course, forgetting that 'flat' can also equal 'very windy'! On the day, the strong gusts hurtling in from the sea made certain sections very tough going. I was pleased with my time though - only 11 seconds over my target of 1 hour 45 minutes. Crossing the finish line, it was kind of daunting to think that I will be running twice this distance at the end of April. No doubt the atmosphere on the day will help get me round - in under 4 hours with any luck!
I think I'll have to take a view on entering any more races before the marathon as they do take their toll. It's very useful experience but for me, the competitive nature of the event makes it all too tempting to run too hard. It's nice to get a medal though!
A big thank you to all of you who have sponsored me for the Flora London Marathon. It's really inspiring to read your messages of encouragement and also see the total go up. It's a great start. There is still quite a way to go however, so if you're one of those who hasn't already done so, please check out my fundraising page at: www.justgiving.com/mattletley
I appreciate these are tough times but whatever you can spare will be greatly appreciated. We can do it!
Pictures by Mrs Killer
Posted Friday 6th February 2009
A couple of blogs ago I told the story of my relative success in a local 8K race last May. In the euphoria of the moment I rather hastily mentioned to Simon, (Quo's manager) that I fancied running the London Marathon. A week or so later he called me, rather unexpectedly, and said, "Right, you're in!". "Eh...what?", I croaked. "How do you fancy running on behalf of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation?" This was too good an opportunity to miss so I'll be one of 30,000 lining up at the start of this year's marathon on 26th April!
David Shepherd and his grand-daughter, Emily Lamb, donated brilliant paintings for the 'Pictures' auction last November, which raised a lot of money for the Prince's Trust. Now I hope to be able to return the compliment and raise some money for DSWF, which does very important work protecting some of the World's most endangered species. To find out more, check out: www.davidshepherd.org
The reality of running the marathon will be quite a challenge but one I am looking forward to very much. Definitely not to be underestimated but I imagine the atmosphere on the day will be something quite special.
Training was going pretty well until I got ill during the UK theatre tour in October last year. That knocked me for six and I was out of action for some time. I started running again when we got back on the road in Germany and I also did a bit on the UK arena tour. Unfortunately, in the extremely cold weather we had just after Christmas, I over did the training somewhat and ended up with an injury to my achilles. Very frustrating! This required a couple of weeks rest and it's only now that I'm finally getting back to serious training. In fact I'm now in the third week of my final fourteen-week schedule, which I hope will get me to the start line and ultimately, the finish line!
Finding places to run on tour isn't always easy but so far on this tour I've been lucky. A seven mile session on the towpath alongside the Manchester Ship Canal was very muddy but enjoyable. I even ran past Manchester United's 'Old Trafford' - I never knew it was there!
And over in Ireland, the Killarney National Park, despite being bitterly cold, was excellent for hill training. Determined to stick to the schedule, I braved the snow (and the traffic) in Dublin to find a park for some speed sessions (no, not that kind of speed; that was seventies Quo!). Oh, and of course there are the gigs; they're quite a work out too!
So...if you feel like sponsoring me for one of the biggest challenges of my life please give whatever you can. Any amount, however small, will be gratefully received and to make it as easy as possible I've set up my own page on the 'Just Giving' website. Here's the link: www.justgiving.com/mattletley
Please don't forget to click the gift aid bit if you're a tax payer...every little helps!
Now let's see what we can raise for this very worthwhile charity and help improve this planet of ours...
Posted Sunday 26th October 2008
Just when it was all going so well...
Monday 13th October began like many days off for me: breakfast in the hotel in Manchester followed by an hour or two of sorting out 'stuff'. I'd arranged to meet John at one o'clock to visit the Museum of Science and Industry. A friend of mine had told me that there was an exhibition there depicting the history of Manchester's waterworks and sewerage systems. It was all very interesting but at the same time quite disturbing to learn of the horrendous conditions that people had to endure only a relatively short time ago. Cholera was certainly no picnic. We moved on to the display of steam engines next door, which was also very impressive but by three o'clock I was beginning to flag and feel distinctly 'odd'. We decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel.
By four o'clock I felt so unwell I went to bed. It is amazing how the human body knows what to do in these situations - it was saying, "No food, just water and rest." A pretty awful night ensued with sweating one minute, shivering the next and by the morning I was in a really bad way. A doctor was called and he diagnosed a viral infection - in other words 'flu'. "There's no cure, you'll just have to sit it out and it'll take its course," he said. He thought I'd feel 80% better by the next day so with that in mind only the Hull show was cancelled.
The following morning, Wednesday, I was no better and after seeing the doctor again, regrettably, the next three shows were pulled. Being confined to my hotel room, I was confronted with the delights of daytime TV. I soon discovered a daily diet of 'Loose Women', 'Countdown' and 'Deal Or No Deal' was hardly conducive to a speedy recovery! Fortunately John had lent me a book about a parallel universe which I dipped into when I felt up to it.
Thursday night came and I took a turn for the worse. Shaking uncontrollably and feeling I could collapse at any moment, I managed to contact Lyane, the band's PA, to ask for the doctor again. Next thing I knew, I was being carted off to Manchester Royal Infirmary for tests. The paramedics were great, unfortunately I can't say the same of the member of staff who greeted me at A&E. The paramedics had told him who I was and he let rip. "Status bloody Quo, what a bleedin' joke....what's that single with bleedin' Scooter all about?...they ain't no Run DMC and Quo ain't no Aerosmith," he wouldn't stop! I didn't have the strength to respond and fortunately another member of staff ushered me into a side room to await the arrival of a doctor. A nurse took some blood samples and hooked me up to a saline drip. During the course of the next two hours, a couple of doctors examined me and suspected I had appendicitis.
They moved me upstairs to the Emergency Surgical Ward and so began the long wait to see the consultant. My temperature was topping 39 degrees so they changed the drip for one containing Paracetamol. I started to feel human again. The rest of the day I tried to sleep as best I could.
At 11pm I enquired as to the whereabouts of the consultant. He was still in theatre! If it was appendicitis I wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of him operating on me at two or three in the morning! Around 11.30pm another doctor examined me and didn't believe it was appendicitis. Hallelujah! Having been 'nil by mouth' for thirteen hours I was finally allowed to have a drink. That glass of Mancunian tap water was the best drink I've ever had!
At three o'clock on the Friday morning, in order to completely rule out the appendicitis theory, I was woken up and wheeled along several draughty corridors to the X-ray department. Apart from that I had a pretty decent night. At 8.30am I met the consultant. Much improved now, he recommended I eat lunch and go home to recover - just so long as the food had no adverse affects. Great!
I arrived back at the hotel around 2.30pm to find my room just as I had left it the night before last i.e chaos! The band party, or what was left of it (as some had quite rightly gone home) were keen to move on to Cambridge. After a much needed shower I stumbled around my room bundling my stuff together as quickly as I could. Arriving at the hotel in Cambridge I began to feel something was still amiss.
On the Saturday my wife, Val, could tell I needed looking after and drove up to Cambridge with a bag full of pills and potions. Later in the day I felt I was beginning to improve. It wasn't until the next day at the Corn Exchange when we played the sound check that I realised I wouldn't be able to get through the show. It was a real low point knowing how many people I was letting down. I was taken to see yet another doctor and then taken home.
Early Monday morning I went to see my GP who calmly diagnosed food poisoning. "What?" Having seen five doctors and a consultant he was the first to seriously consider this possibility. Later in the day the results of my hospital tests filtered through and confirmed food poisoning and a viral chest infection. A double whammy. No wonder I'd felt so grim! Having lost almost a stone in weight, I was prescribed antibiotics and told to rest.
It is the first time in my career that shows have had to be cancelled because of me and it is a horrible feeling. A big apology to everyone who has been affected by this unfortunate episode; I know the extraordinary lengths some of you go to to see the band. It's just one of those things that can happen to anyone, anytime. I just wish it hadn't been me at this time!
I'm immensely grateful to the paramedics and staff at Manchester Royal Infirmary - they do a fantastic job. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank our excellent crew, the management team and the guys in the band for their support and understanding. And special thanks to Andy Taylor for putting it all into perspective.
Finally, a huge "thank you" to all of you who sent good wishes and messages of support. It really means a lot...
Now, let's rock...soon!
Posted Tuesday 29th July 2008
|Matt the Runner - Hillcrest 08
|JC and Me.
Back in April I decided it was about time I started running again as a means to maintaining a level of fitness. There has been an article in the press recently that suggests that drummers are fitter than premiership footballers so I wouldn't want to let the side down. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7517867.stm
I entered an 8K race in Surrey for the middle of May to give myself a goal to work towards. I knew the course from four years ago - mainly off road and rather hilly. My training consisted of just a two mile circuit every other day for about five weeks. I only increased the distance to four miles the week before the race.
On race day I lined up alongside a hundred or so competitors, all looking the epitome of health and fitness...and youth! I found out later that there were actually sixty or so in my category of "veteran" (that's the over forties) so I was pretty confident I wouldn't be last. The tension rose as "Chariots of Fire" blared out of the PA system but quickly dissipated as the starter gun failed and somebody had to shout "GO".
Two laps of the field had to be completed before we were sent out to "Riddles Down" for the real work to begin. It was a glorious day and the views quite stunning. For me it was really all about the time and not getting injured. After all, it was the day before we started rehearsals! I was delighted to get round in 37' 23" - about a minute faster than I did four years ago. The bonus was I came 10th in the vets category and 17th overall. Well chuffed! What next? The London Marathon? Ah, but that's 21 miles and 385 yards further. Hmmn...
At the gig in Westonbirt I got the chance to meet John Coghlan... and what a thoroughly nice chap! Good to talk drums with the original Quo drummer. He was certainly an influence on me during my teenage years and I do incorporate a lot of his drumming into what I play with Quo today. Knowing JC was in the audience and that the gig was being recorded for a live CD made for an exciting show. No pressure - NOT!
During the Eastern European tour Francis he asked me if I'd ever hit myself in the eye with a drumstick. "Only once", I said, "during a sound check with A-ha, in Rio twenty years ago." Sure enough, two days later in Bratislava I whacked myself in the eye with a drumstick, right at the end of my solo. Ouch! The black eye lasted the rest of the week!
Playing at Rochester Castle is a real buzz. I grew up in the Medway Towns and went to school in Rochester, so it's like a local gig for me. During the show it was quite a unique moment to see a giant silhouette of myself covering one side of the castle - apparently a fluke of the lighting. It's a great view from the stage and the audience is always fantastic. It was good to see my mum in the front row, rockin' to her favourite number - 'Down Down'!
The night before Rochester, Val and I went to see Leonard Cohen at the O2 Arena - what a fantastic night! Not the sort of show I would normally think of going to see but I'm so glad I did. A good friend of mine, Rafael Gayol, was in the drum chair. He was the percussionist I played with during A-ha's 1988-89 World tour. It was an immaculately presented show - Leonard certainly knows how to create an intimate atmosphere, even with 18,000 people.
The musicians and singers were faultless. They rehearsed for three months learning virtually every song from Leonard's back catalogue, so that he could vary the set every night. Now there's an idea...
Hillcrest 8K finish by Grace Letley
JC & me by Dave Salt
Rochester solo #1 by PaddyPics
Rochester solo #2 and #3 by Cyndy Gleisner
Posted Tuesday 13th May 2008
|Matt in Portugal - the one sunny day!
|Sunset on the beach
|Y Lliwedd from the summit of Snowdon
|Yr Aran from the south ridge of Snowdon
It feels such a long time since the last Quo gig but that's probably because it is! With rehearsals imminent for the next installment of life on the road, the luxury of this extended break will soon be a dim and distant memory. Can't wait to get back out there though.
January is a time of recovery from the UK tour and a chance to catch up on all those domestic chores that I no longer have an excuse to put off!
In early February Val and I managed to get away for a week in Portugal. We stayed at a fantastic villa, which was just as well as the weather wasn't all that clever.
I played a gig in a tiny pub in Maidstone a couple of months ago with a good friend of mine, Richard Manktelow, who is an amazing guitarist and singer. I've known him since I was 12 years old. Also in the line up was Jack Long, a keyboard player I used to do sessions with in a studio in Rochester over 25 years ago, and bass player John Porter. It was more a jam session and social reunion than a gig - a little rough around the edges at times but great fun.
I used a small kit on this gig which got me thinking about a change of set up for this year. Fellow drummer, Geoff Dunn, recommended Gary Noonan, a custom drum maker, who I'd heard of but never met. As it happens, when I called him, he swiftly told me that we had met before at a gig in Gravesend, way back in 1976! Don't you hate those people who remember everything? I was playing in a prog rock band, called Sindelfingen, with the above mentioned Richard and Gary was in a band called Paddington. He reminded me that I had refused to lend him my hi-hat cymbals for the gig. Oops! In fairness, I'd only just acquired a pair of Paiste 602 13" hi-hat cymbals and they were, at the time, my pride and joy. I think he's forgiven me!
I went along to see the drums Gary makes and couldn't help but be impressed by the quality and attention to detail he puts into producing them. I placed an order and within a few weeks it was ready. For me, one big advantage of a custom kit is having exactly the sizes I want i.e. specific depths. I've gone for a slightly smaller set up but bigger sizes all round and I have to say I'm very much looking forward to taking it out on the road with Quo.
Then there was the gig with the Woodedz:
John drafted me in after Max found himself snowed under with work for his degree. This was a severe test of my memory (it's six or so years since I last did Rhino's Revenge) but after a couple of hurriedly arranged rehearsals it all came flooding back. It was a good laugh going to the gig in Paris in the modern day equivalent of an old Transit van - pretty luxurious compared to how it used to be back in the old days! It was great to have Mike Paxman with us to oversee the whole thing. He did his utmost to try and keep the vehicle tidy but his efforts with a dustpan and brush were completely in vain. The gig went well and it was nice to see so many familiar faces in Paris. I must say John's singing was better than ever and as for Freddie, he's simply awesome! If he keeps on improving at the same rate, who knows where he'll end up - the sky's the limit!
As well as recording my own stuff at home I've also done a few sessions for other people - all via the internet. Ove Wulff
, who did a cover of 'Drifting Away' last year which I played on, recently asked me to play on one of his own compositions called 'This Moment'. He's got a great voice and plays wicked guitar. I love the solo he plays on this latest track which you can listen to on Ove's Myspace
Finally, I'm sure you're all dying to know if I've been up Snowdon this year. Ah, but of course; and in early April it certainly lived up to its name!
See you out there soon...
Posted Sunday 2nd December 2007
|The Snowdon Horseshoe
After the good but rather gruelling tours of France and Germany, for me, there is no better way to refresh and prepare for a UK tour than with a bit of mountain therapy. So on 5th November I slung my boots and rucksack in the back of the car I took off up the M40 heading towards one of my favourite parts of the world, Snowdonia.
I reached the car park at Llyn Ogwen around 2.30pm and soon made keen progress up the track towards the 'Devil's Kitchen' and ultimately the summit of Y Garn. Fortunately, and somewhat unusually, it wasn't raining but it was rather windy at the top. Views from this 3107 foot peak are second to none and with the light starting to fade, it was both dramatic and slightly intimidating. Had to leg it down the NE ridge (the quickest option) and just made it down before dark...phew!
The following day I just had to do what is widely regarded as one of the finest ridge walks in the country, the Snowdon Horseshoe. This involves some airy and quite exhilarating scrambling. It really clears the head when the only thing have to think about is not falling off! It also has the benefit of optimising fitness for that other extreme sport in my life, "Quo drumming"! A five to six hour walk with stunning views and near complete silence in all directions... magic.
|At the summit:
Rachel, Andy, Rhino (just!)
On my third and final day I nipped up Snowdon from Llanberis - the route of the annual Snowdon Race. The weather wasn't too kind so no records broken; or bones fortunately. Down by lunchtime for the long drive home and back to reality. In fact, just enough time to hang the climbing gear up to dry, iron a shirt for our appearance on 'This Morning" and get my brain into gear for the opening show of the UK tour in Southend. Before I knew it, the house lights had gone down and we were into "Caroline"...here we go again!
Three weeks or so later my outdoor pursuits seemed a dim and distant memory. However, we did happen to have day off in Llandudno. "Hmmn...what shall I do?", I thought. I know, hire a car and head back to Snowdon; obviously!
This time I was accompianied by John (going for his 4th ascent) and two Snowdon rookies: FOH sound engineer, Andy, and one of our splendid young caterers, Rachel. The weather was typically Welsh, i.e. zero visibility before I'd finished parking the car at Pen-y-Pass! The rain made an appearance shortly after we got under way but no-one seemed to mind. Spirits were lifted somewhat when a break in the mist yielded a glimpse of the huge lake in the valley below. Copious amounts of cake, bananas and jelly babies provided the necessary fuel to battle the elements and ever steepening gradient and with a certain amount of grit and determination, the summit was finally achieved in a respectable two and a half hours. We were soon joined by seagulls well practiced in the art of swallowing entire sandwiches in one almighty gulp - awesome! Everyone agreed it was a most enjoyable day and I was extremely pleased that we all made it down without incident.
The next day I just had to go back and do it again! (Who ever said all drummers are mad?). Rather than tire me out it seemed to fire me up for a fantastic gig in Llandudno that night. A superb audience and for me personally, one of the best solos I've played.
Aha, I've just noticed there's a day off before Manchester. I wonder if...?
Posted Monday 17th September 2007
It's a long way to Norway - particularly by bus! Yes lots of travelling was the order of the day for many of July's 31 with some of the longest trips I've ever done. I'm not complaining, in fact, it's a great way of seeing parts of the planet you'd never normally see; albeit from a bus or boat window.
One of the other great perks of touring is that we get to see and meet other musicians. A highlight of the Swedish tour for me was watching Chuck Berry from side of stage. He was certainly on form that opening night in Jarvso; and what an inspiration to be out there rockin' at age 82!
|Matt with his preferred mode of transport...
the Apollo10 Command Module
We drove to Worcester via Finland and Holland (like you do) and played the final gig of July in the beautiful setting of Scone Castle, Scotland.
I've been involved in quite a few pop videos over the years and those with Quo have all been great fun to make. There was the Ark Royal and then wing-walking - fantastic experiences, I admit, but the downside is that they take a long time to shoot and inevitably there's a lot of hanging around.
We cracked it with our latest video though by choosing a location that we were only permitted to be in for an hour and a half - the London Eye for three revolutions! A glorious day meant the views from the top of the wheel were stunning. Not that there was any time for sight seeing as it was pretty much full on filming from start to finish (I'll resist saying from beginning to end...but then again...!).
There was no silencer pad for the snare drum so to avoid deafening everyone I had to imitate playing by hitting the rim of the drum which makes a quieter click sound. This is a pretty alien way of playing and there was tho odd occasion when I made full contact with rim and drum (i.e. rimshot) which in such a confined space sounded like a gunshot and made everyone jump! Apologies to band and crew...I didn't mean to!
August saw us playing at the Bulldog Bash. Not a regular Quo gig and we felt we would have to work extra hard to win the crowd's approval. Fortunately they were up for a good time and we were rewarded with a fantastic reaction. Supporting us that night were the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (without the late Alex Harvey of course) and I managed to meet up with an old friend of mine, guitarist Zal Cleminson. He and I toured with Elkie Brookes back in 1984. It's interesting bumping into someone in such completely different circumstances to those in which we first met.
Staggered off the bus mid-morning in Skanderborg to watch a symphony orchestra play the theme from Star Wars - a cosmic and fine start to the day. Next up was the amazing Walter Trout and his band. Got talking to Joey, the excellent drummer, and it turns out he's a bit of a Quo fan! Nice to see him standing at side of stage when we were playing our set.
The UK shows at the end of August brought the "Just Doin It" tour to a close which means it's time to search for that fourth chord. "Can I phone a friend?" someone asked. Actually, that's another story...
Posted Tuesday 10th July 2007
The 'Quo Touring Machine' started up quite gently this year with a couple of one off shows. The first for OK magazine at the refurbished Billingsgate Market and the second, a festival type affair in Hannover. Kim Wilde was also on the bill (I played drums for her over twenty years ago) and it was nice to get the chance to chat to her just before we went on. I think she remembered who I was!
I spent a couple of days in the studio overdubbing some percussion for the new album which essentially involved banging a tambourine until my arm was about to fall off. One or two other things got shaken (not stirred) and there was even a coming together of coconut shells - no, I'm not joking!
|Matt and Steve Lukather
|Wembley Stadium from the stage
It was then back to Germany for a few dates. I was particularly looking forward to the show in Leer because Toto were playing with us. We did a show with them last year in Graz but a bad storm cut short our set and the upshot was I missed their show. This time the venue was indoors and so I stayed behind with the crew after we played our set. At long last I got to meet one of my favourite drummers, Simon Phillips. What a nice guy too! I watched the whole gig from stage left and as well as chatting to Simon before and after their show he even came over for a chat during a break in their set... right after an absolutely mind-boggling solo! So cool!
A couple of days later we played at the "Concert for Diana". This was my first gig at Wembley Stadium and it was very exciting looking at the stage in the morning and seeing the fantastic view I would have later in the day.
It was also rather a special day for me personally because it was my 30th anniversary of being in this crazy business. If someone had told me that exactly thirty years after leaving Rochester Math School I would be playing drums with Status Quo at Wembley Stadium I don't think I would have believed them...funny old world!
Our part in this huge show came and went in a flash which made it difficult to try and take in 'the moment' but it felt good. Sadly, there was no time to see the rest of the show as we had to travel to Cork for a gig the following night.
The weather was kind to us for the gig at Petworth House and also at a big festival the following night in Bobital, France. Not the best of conditions backstage but the crowd were just amazing! It was arranged beforehand that I wouldn't play a drum solo but halfway through 'Gerdundula' Francis turned to me and said, "Go for it". I don't think I've ever been in charge of getting 40,000 people clapping before but they were mad for it and within four beats were with me all the way - what a fantastic sight! Hopefully this bodes well for the French gigs we'll play later in the year.
Posted Saturday 2nd June 2007
It's been a while since I've updated my website and so I thought I'd give you an insight into what I've been up to these past few months.
|Matty goes to Hollywood
Towards the end of last year I was invited to the 50th Anniversary Party of 'Remo'.
This was to be held in LA the day before the NAMM trade show opened in mid-January.
My wife, Valerie, and I decided to combine this with a holiday and were soon on our way. At the party I met up with an old percussionist friend of mine, Raf Gayol (we did the A-ha tour together back in 1988/89).
We spent the next day trawling around the vast NAMM trade show checking out lots of new gear and catching the odd masterclass by the likes of
It was also a big thrill for me when I met the old master himself,
Louis Bellson, having studied his playing a lot as a youngster.
Val and I drove to
Las Vegas, back to Hollywood and then up to San Francisco. A fantastic trip and a great start to the new year.
Home again and it was time to get back to some writing. Two days before I was due to see Francis with the four songs I had now completed, I woke up with a guitar riff in my head. For the rest of the day I constructed a song around this riff in my tiny studio; recording the guitars, bass and finally the drums. The following day I put down the vocal (I'm no singer and it took me ages) and managed to mix it all by midnight. I had never written anything so quickly and was in two minds as to whether or not to play it to him. But then I thought, "Well I've done it now, so why not?" You can guess which one he liked! Will it make it onto the new album? Mmmm...we'll see.
I use a Gretsch kit, which I've had since I was fourteen, in my home studio. It was sounding so good on my demos I thought I'd try out Gretsch on the new album, which we began recording in April. The guys loved the sound too and I've now decided to use a Gretsch kit on tour this year. This wasn't an easy decision as I've been a Remo drums endorsee for a long time. They're great drums but I feel it's time for a change and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gary Mann at Remo Europe for all his support over the past twenty years.
Things are gearing up for the busy schedule ahead so hope to see you on tour very soon...
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