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Simon Phillips

In 2006, Simon Phillips released a DVD with jazz outfit Vantage Point, (featuring pianist Jeff Babko, trumpeter Walt Fowler, saxophonist Brandon Fields and bassist Alphonso Johnson). He has also co-produced albums by Mike Oldfield, appeared with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood in the A.R.M.S. concert video for Ronnie Lane and performed session duties for a positive who's who of artists - not to mention forming a band (called RMS) with fellow session musos, Mo Foster and Ray Russell. How the hell he also has time to be a fully paid up member of Toto eludes us, Howard Smith cornered him for a chat...

Total Music: You relocated from the UK to LA in '91, then in '92 Jeff Porcaro tragically died and Toto embraced you as their new drummer. Do you feel that if you had not been available Toto could have folded?

Simon: "Actually I moved to LA in 1992, I was in the UK when Jeff Porcaro died (actually I was in Ibiza with Bobby Kimball amazingly enough). I was their first choice [although] I think that they would have done that tour with someone, but whether they would have continued is another thing. And for another 15 years – hmmm – hard to say!"

Total Music: You engineered the last Toto studio CD Falling In Between which took 10 months to complete. Do you find it frustrating that so much effort goes into the making of a disc, when CD sales are dwindling?

Simon: "Ha ha ha – of course. But the most important thing is that the CD will be around for years to come regardless of the sales – and someone will be listening to it. So the amount of effort and time invested is never wasted!"

Total Music: Falling In Between was well received but how does a group that has been together for almost 30 years maintain a fresh approach to song writing and constantly performing?

Simon hammers away for the WhoSimon: "The way we went about making this album was different. We were all involved from day one and the energy of being able to play with the full band... even the smallest of ideas helps lead on to bigger ideas, you can’t beat the energy of four or five people in a room. You just have to be careful not to get a myriad of ideas pulling different ways, but that’s down to production and self editing, and we have been doing this a long time so have the experience to get the job done"

Total Music: Bearing in mind the prohibitive cost of solo touring, do you see more of a future for yourself in the engineering and production side of things? If so, what is in the pipeline solo wise and otherwise?

Simon: "Well it is true that touring in any form is costly but I don’t see not doing it. I have in fact started recording a new solo CD and the plan is to release it followed by a tour to promote it. Basically when I am home (off the road) that’s when I get into the studio and into engineering/producing or writing.”

Total Music: Toto have just released the Falling In Between Live DVD and The Collection (eight disc) boxset, as well as undertaking several tours. What else can fans look forward to from Toto as their 30 years together approaches?

Simon: "Well we have been on the road pretty much constantly for the last five or six years apart from 2005 when we recorded Falling In Between. We are all pretty worn out and in need of a break so we have two tours coming up, Mexico and Australia and the Far East. Then we are going to take a long needed break so we can concentrate on solo ventures and other things. We’ll see how we feel in 2009."

Total Music: Your father was a world famous band leader. When you were young he recognized you had talent but tried to dissuade you from becoming a drummer. Would you offer the same advise to your son (when he is old enough to talk)?

Simon: "No. I would like to give him some different opportunities – ones that I didn’t have – and let him make his own decision. It’s his life and in the end he has to live it long after I have gone so I am just here to guide him and hope he finds something that he loves doing and is good at.”

Total Music: Buddy Rich, Billy Cobham and Tony Williams are some of your inspirations but nowadays you hold drum clinics and have made some instructional video's so It must have crossed your mind that some of the next generation of drummers now look up to you as their inspiration?

Simon: "Absolutely, and it is up to us (my generation of drummers) to pass the message on. I remember being in a dressing room with Art Blakey and Bill Cobham at the Montreux Jazz Festival and Art was giving us a lecture on just that.”

Total Music: Your style of drumming has been described as aggressive (especially in your work with bands like Judas Priest) but you do not seem to have an aggressive nature, so where does this energy come from?

Simon: "That depends upon the music! If a song requires an energetic approach, powerful and spirited, then that’s what I apply. Sometimes a song requires a gentle touch, a laid back approach. It’s just a question of being open to what the music needs. As to where this energy emanates from – your guess is as good as mine!”

Total Music: Lastly, can you think of a defining period of happiness in your life that you would like to share with us?

Simon: "Sitting on the floor of my empty apartment in Studio City when I first moved to Los Angeles in ‘92. I had almost nothing – everything being left behind in the UK. I had been to Bullocks and Adray’s to buy some essentials like Kettle, Phone, Fax Machine, Cappucino Machine, Boom Box, Cutlery and Bedding and some groceries – that was it. I was so happy to finally be where I wanted to be!”

Toto 2007 Tour (left to right: Tony Spinner, Greg Phillinganes, Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather, Simon and Leland Sklar

Toto: The Collection is available now as is the DVD Falling In Between – Live. You can find more info on Simon at www.simon-phillips.com and up to date info on Toto at www.toto99.com

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