Spirefocus - How did you get into drumming?
Pete - My dad was a singer in bands from before I was born and so I grew up with instruments around the house. When I was 4 my Dad’s drummer gave me a beat up old kit and that was what I gravitated towards, and from there I just played with my dad at home and mates from school. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I started to do professional gigs (with my Dad), so I guess he was key in getting me started. I also had formal lessons with Bruno Santoro, and I did a short stint at WAAPA under Frank Gibson Jr. Later on I had lessons with Tony Floyd, John Corniola, Darryn Farrugia and David Jones. I had a lot of strong guidance early on.
SF - What kit are you currently using? Does your setup change depending on who you're playing for?
Pete - Right now I am using a DW Classics kit (13”14”16”18”24”) which just arrived, and I have to say I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m a sucker for big vintage drums and have a lot in my collection, but this Classics kit has that old vibe with a bit more hi-fi and consistency, and it's a lot more robust for the road. They were kind enough to make it for me in the old style green sparkle so it looks rad too. My set-up changes pretty much from gig to gig. Right now with Bertie Blackman I use 24” kick, 18” floor, 16” Roto-Tom, an SPDS, a couple of snares and various Zildjian Cymbals. But for Gossling it’s more of a 4pce thing with shakers and weird percussion sounds.
SF - With your busy roster do you ever have problems with your availability? If so, do you have an agent or how do you choose which job to take?
Pete - Yeah it can be a juggling act at times but usually the artists I play with are pretty understanding and respect that I can’t physically do everything. I have a couple of great fill-in guys that I call on from time to time. I have to choose by importance and commitment... It is actually quite hard to be honest, I lay awake thinking about it a lot. I really try my hardest to make everyone happy.
Does a wife count as an agent?
SF - Do you have any opportunities in being a part of the writing process with any of the artists you play for?
Pete - Not really a whole lot with the writing side but usually I’m allowed to go into my corner and do my thing in the studio. Gossling is an artist that really lets me do my thing and she (Helen Croome) is really honest about what she wants so it’s creative within walls but she is willing to take chances and also trusts my input. I really love making records when the artist lets you do your thing. I played on UK songwriter Passenger’s record this year and he (Mike Rosenburg) was so open to seeing ideas through no matter how odd or fruity they seemed, and that made it a memorable experience and everyone was really proud of the work.
SF - Is there a genre that you are best suited to and/or enjoy more?
Pete - I don’t know, I guess I’m essentially a 'pop' drummer, whatever that means, but I listen to a whole range of music. I enjoy all the aspects of Bertie’s gig where it is really dynamic and eclectic and then the sensitivity of Gossling... then there is the all out rock of Dan Sultan. I get a lot out of my system musically and I am excited about the challenges that each artist presents but generally my approach to the music is the same, to make it as good and honest as I can.
SF - Do you find it hard to adapt to different sized shows all the time?
Pete - I’d like to say no ha! I’m kind of lucky in that all the bands I currently play for are on a similar circuit really so there is a lot of continuity with the gigs. I enjoy the varying energy that both small and large venues give, but generally it really depends on how we are feeling as a band on the night and what the audience is giving back to us. Some gigs require in-ears for tracks and others are free from the click so I’ll use fold back monitors, so that can be a varying factor as far as a stage sound is concerned. Right now I’m using in-ears with Bertie & Gossling. However, I still usually set my own drums up and load them into the van, I’m working class baby!
SF - Do you find time to practice on your own? If so what do you work on?
Pete - I do try to make time to practice whether it’s a pad on the road before a show or full kit at home. I really need to keep on top of the physical side of playing otherwise it all falls apart pretty quickly. My buddy Michael Iveson and I had a daily routine going for over a year, a 'two men enter one man leave' kind of thing and we’d work on our game for hours until one of us said “I’m out” (usually me, haha). I think it’s important to have someone to practice with to inspire new ideas and it’s a good hang. I’m working on independence and open hand possibilities, permutations with all limbs and time keeping at various tempos... it’s a constant development. Playing along to records is really important too.
SF - What's your career highlight so far?
Pete - I played on a Dave Arden track last year that Paul Kelly co-wrote. Paul came in to produce it and sing his part and we tracked it live. Hearing Paul through my headphones was really incredible and I kept thinking "Yikes, I’m playing with Paul Kelly... don’t screw up!!" There was no click and in a couple of takes Paul was happy and that was it. Also playing on Dan's album 'Get Out While You Can' which won an ARIA for best Blues & Roots album in 2010 is something I'm really proud of.
SF - What is the funniest thing to happen to you on stage?
Pete - I remember I was doing a really bad covers gig one time and during a song a really drunk woman came up on stage and forced her way on to my lap and started hitting the drums with her hands. I thought it was hilarious at the time so I let it her go for it. The audience went nuts however the band did not appreciate it so much... I thought it was the most musical statement of the night.
SF - Any tips on keeping your sanity on tour?
Pete - I have a couple of hard-drives of music/videos/series etc that I take with me on the road... so there is a lot of pad and video in hotel rooms. I don’t really party so I’m pretty content back at the hotel. Also I’ve been playing around on Ableton for my own personal creative outlet so the flight time seems reduced when I’m doing that.
SF - Do you struggle with the physical aspect of touring?
Pete - To be honest I love being on tour, I’ve traveled my whole life so I think it is part of who I am. The physical aspect of touring can be taxing on your body so you just have to take care of yourself. Sitting on a plane or in a car for hours and then doing a show takes mental preparation, which I’m still trying to work out how to do.
SF - What are your future drumming goals?
Pete - Lately I’ve been thinking about who I’d like to work with in the future i.e. my heroes and artists/producers that I respect. I would like to eventually put out my own music that I have been working on. At some stage I’d like to spend some time overseas to make music. I have a pretty strong gravitation to LA, there is a certain limitless and inspirational atmosphere there that I’m attracted to... there is also something about looking in the gig guide and seeing Zigaboo Modeliste is doing a show around the corner tonight and "oh look Abe Laboriel Jr. is playing tomorrow night", do you know what I mean? (Editor's note - I know exactly what you mean!)
SF - What do you do away from your drums?
Pete - I collect vinyl and drums and that’s pretty much it. I’m a bit of an inventor, too. I’d love to build a time machine one day... but pretty much vinyl and drums.
Watch Pete in action here