Paul John Dykes interviewed former Stone Roses drummer, Robbie Jay Maddix, back in 2007. Here is that interview in full:
Robbie Jay Maddix replaced Reni behind the Stone Roses’ drum kit in 1995, and subsequently toured the world with the band. Here, he discussed his earliest influences and musical journey towards that point in his career. Robbie also revealed that he has some unheard Stone Roses demos in his possession, including the ever-elusive High Time, which was premiered at the ill-fated Reading Festival appearance in 1996 before being permanently shelved.
Who were your earliest musical influences?
Louis Armstrong (trumpet), the first man who changed the way we sing songs; Duke Ellington (piano), the first to give us music for late night lovers (soul music); Count Basie (piano), the greatest jam band leader; Chick Webb (drums), the greatest swing band leader; Fletcher Henderson, the tightest band leader; Jimmie Lunceford, best orchestra; Lionel Hampton (vibraphone), the first man to play vibes with a jazz band; Jo Jones; Coleman Hawkins (sax), the first man to take the sax and jazz it up; Teddy Wilson (piano), the greatest piano player ever – nobody has his feel; Bessie Smith (singer); Billie Holiday (singer); Ella Fitzgerald (singer); Fats Waller.
These are a few names that should be carved into each musician’s soul. They are the spirit of modern music, as we know it. What these people went through for the chance to be heard, is the reason I love music and play instruments. May their music live forever; lest we forget them.
Also, Bob Marley, who is without doubt the biggest selling artist of all time (Rastafari); Lee Scratch Perry; Carlton Barrett and his brother Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett – Bob Marley’s ‘ridim’ section – the best of all time and can never be surpassed. They are the closest thing to a heart beat.
How did you first get into playing music?
I started my musical journey with some fine musicians, little did I know that they would become some of the finest musicians the UK has had. I was born into a musical household. My brothers Winston, Ossie and Andrew all played instruments, and my sister Leonie was a fine singer, so naturally I wanted to follow them. My musical journey started in the church playing gospel music.
When myself and other church musicians got together, we never studied gospel music, but jazz was our love. Weather Report, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, Dave Sanborn, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Airto and some crazy jazz fusion. I can say that being able to play that sort of jazz music at an early age is what has kept me in good stead for all these years. I must therefore pay homage to my fellow music friends who have always been an inspiration to me: Paul Bloomfield, Clinton Williams, Barry Williams, Jonathan Beckford, Clive Hunt, Luke Duke Smith, Norris Rosarios.
As well as drumming for The Stone Roses, you have worked with Ian Brown during his solo career. Can you detail for us your musical journey? Which artists have you worked with?
I bang the drums, slap that bass, play the guitar, tickle the synths, slam the beats, write songs, produce records and remix tracks.
The Stone Roses – Ian, John, Mani – thanks, we shared some great moments.
I have been blessed to have worked with, and for, some amazing artists and musicians. Here are my shouts…
The Stone Roses, Bob Marley, Quincy Jones, Grand Master Flash, Rebel MC, Errol Brown, Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy, Tenor Fly, Brandy, Da Brat, Shabba Ranks, Patra, Queen Latifah, The Christians, Ruby Turner, JJ, Viv McKone, Michael Rose, Atlantic Star, Love & Laughter, Incognito, Double Trouble, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kenny Stevens, Mell Williams, The Mossidaz, Wonitta, Riff Raff, Voiced With Soul, Chingy, S5 Madpack, Leon Lopez, Jamie Luke, Rowetta…
On keys – Jon Beckford, Nigel Ipinson, Luke Smith, Fritz Macintire , Paul Bloomfield, Stevie Simpson, Peter Hinds, Loydy, Owen Thomas, Jason Estridge, Norris Rosario, Peter Davis, Andrew Williams, Dave Miller, Matt Steele…
On bass – Lawrence Stewart, Sam Miller, Mani, Kingsley Blake, Paul Turner, Clinton Williams, Barry Williams, Sylvan Richards, Tony Bowry, Mark Coley, Josh Acore, Elliot Colepepper, Clive Hunt, Fish Brown, Fluxi, Gareth Kirkam, Dermott…
On guitar – Ronni Jordan, Jerry Lindo, John Squire, Aziz Ibrahim, Abdul Ibrahim, Chris Cambell, Howie, Big Joe, Danny (From jonnyroadhouse), Jimi Goodwin, Trevor Bygraves, Peter Mason, Jez, Juan, Trevor (tibo) Taylor, Paul Reed, Mike Muir, Dave Fiddler, Nathan Kirkham, Tony Kirkham…
On drums – Steve Gardner, Jerry Brown, Wayne Williams, Chris Bailey, Mikey Wilson, Dave Thomas, Nigel Williams, Simon Moore, Mike Holliday, Mick Grant…
On percussion – Kofi Kari Kari, Cris Macmanus…
On brass – Haggis Horns…
On vocals – Tyndale Thomas, Barry Stewart, Steve Menzies, Sarah Brown, Hildia Cambell, Joe Roberts, Doreen Edwards, Jill Jackson, Danny Heckman, Ivonne Shelton, Geniviv Thomas, Godfrey, Denise Johnson, Jerome Mr J, Omalara, Alex Kovac, Tina Kovac, Maria Panchie, Dezzy Cambell, Veba, “Rappers” JC 001, Stress, Ramir KP.Listen to CELTIC BY NUMBERS with A Celtic State of Mind here:
You faced the difficult task of replacing one of the most revered musicians of his generation when you joined The Stone Roses in 1995. How did the call arrive? What was the overall mood in the camp?
I was asked by the then tour manager, Steve Adj, to meet John, Ian and Mani at a rehearsal room in Manchester. I never knew any of them before that.
The mood of the camp was sad, until they heard me play. At that point they knew the Roses could carry on.
Much has been said and written about the Squire / Brown relationship deteriorating throughout this period. What are your memories of the pair at this time?
I remember Ian and John being very respectful of each other.
At any point during the Second Coming tour, to your knowledge, were any of the band in touch with former drummer Reni?
To my knowledge, they were not in touch with Reni.
You were with the band when John Squire quit. Can you describe the reaction of the band?
Ian and Mani were very shaken as was I, when John called us up to tell us he had left.
The band wrote new songs, some of which were aired at Reading in ’96. Rumour has it that you have the demo tapes for the ever-elusive High Time and a song called Black Sheep?
Yeah I do have those demos somewhere buried.
Reading ’96: what are your memories of the performance and overall experience?
Reading was a bad day at the office. Nuff said.
After Reading, it took a couple of months before the official split. Did you think the band would continue?
Ian, Mani and myself finished the Roses before the Reading festival. We knew beforehand that it was the last one. We had to do the last gigs because of contracts we had signed.
You worked with Ian Brown on his debut solo album, Unfinished Monkey Business. Did you think that he would go on to achieve the solo success he has enjoyed?
I told Ian to go solo and gave him the title for his debut album. I knew he would have no trouble maintaining his appeal. The fans love him, so his success is no surprise to me.
What contact with other members of The Stone Roses have you had?
I see Ian quite a bit and I’ve seen Mani a few times over the years but I haven’t seen or spoken to John since the Roses split, which is a bit sad.
I have been listening to your own tracks on your MySpace page – personal favourite is Rivers Deep. Who plays what on the tracks? Do you have any plans to play any UK dates?
I write my own songs and play the instruments on the tracks: guitars, drums, bass, keys and stuff. It’s good fun, nothing too serious. Yeah I will be doing some gigs in the UK. I’m in Italy recording some tracks at the moment.
What else are you doing now Robbie?
Don’t know if you know this, but I design furniture. I have just completed the world’s first heated watersofa, it’s kind of like the waterbed but not. I’m really buzzing, most shops are blown away with it – Harrods, Stocktons, Unique Furniture love it. There is a sample model at a shop in Manchester called Unique Furnishings on Kingsway.
Do you think The Stone Roses will ever reform? Would you want to be part of a reformation?
If the Roses did reform, I would like to be a part of it but I don’t think that will happen. Ian was offered £10 million for him to reform the band – he turned it down, so I can’t see it, but you never know…
Robbie’s memories of choice Stone Roses gigs:
19th April 1995 – Oslo Rockefeller Music Hall, Norway
My first gig was Oslo. We had been in rehearsal for eight days and the last two days were brilliant, the first gig couldn’t come quick enough. We got to soundcheck and all seemed quiet, a few fans outside and some crew. Ian opened the door backstage and it was mayhem, shouts of “Ian!” and camera flashes. There were so many press people, I was stunned into silence. Up to that point, there had been no press around or anyone from outside the Roses camp. Now the excitement started, we were buzzing before but now we knew the interest was high. Show time!
We could hear the noise from the dressing room – “Roses, Roses!” Ian looked at John with this smile as if to say ‘they still love us’. Mani was in top form, with his shirt off, making everyone laugh. Finally we were on our first gig. I Wanna Be Adored went down well but the on-stage sound was terrible, and only got worse. I think it was the 5th or 6th song and I could see something was wrong with Mani. He just kept shaking his head, then he took off his bass and launched it into his bass amp. I couldn’t believe it. Then John, with the look of thunder in his face, took his guitar off and smashed it into his fender twins. That was our debut gig.
3rd May 1995 – Rome Art Palladium, Italy
This was my worst gig in the Roses. We were booked to do a TV show in the afternoon, then gig later on. We got to the TV station on time and were led to the studio. On the way, Ian turned to this guy and said, “What did you say?” The guy looked shocked that Ian had heard him, and in broken English, tried to play it down, but Ian was not having any of it. “I heard you say ‘nigger’.” I can say I had never heard any racism in my career until then. I was stunned at this point, and before I could react, Ian was shouting, “Get this guy out of this building now. We won’t be performing until this guy is thrown out.” They took him away and told us that he was gone, only for Ian to spot the same guy 10 minutes later. “That’s the same guy. Right, we’re off.” Both Mani and John took their guitars off and we all walked away. The TV company begged us, but nothing doing. Turns out it was the producer’s son. It left a bad taste for the gig later on. Like Ian says, “Got no time for racists.”
7th May 1995 – Madrid Aqualung, Spain
This was probably my best gig. I had settled in well with everyone and we were coming together as a band. Remember, we had only had 8 days of rehearsals, so it was always gonna take time to gel properly as a unit. We got the on-stage sound just right and John was on fire in soundcheck. During the gig, the guys kept looking at me, nodding their approval. As always, Ian was full of praise. That night, I felt a special feeling that I’ve not felt before or since that gig.
20th & 22nd May 1995 – New York Manhattan Center & New York Webster Hall, USA
We had been given mixed reviews, so Geffen the record company were worried that we might not go down too well in the States. We were really nervous because we knew how important playing well in the States was. We took extra time at soundcheck and Mani kept the mood light with his jokes and stories. I can’t remember much of the gigs, but I know we smashed it. Everyone was buzzing. First into the dressing room was Steve Atherton, whipping his fingers together – “That was wicked.” Before that, we were unsure so we were quiet, but that was the news we were waiting for. I can say that Mani, Ian and John love performing and putting in the best performance they can, always. I will also say that Mani, Ian and John probably won’t feel that level of performance again until they reform. There is a special chemistry between those guys. I don’t know if they know it, but I know it.
29th May 1995 – Los Angeles Hollywood Palladium, USA
We got there early – about 11 am – checked into the hotel and were told that there was a swimming pool on the roof. I looked at Ian and he knew what I was thinking (big spliff by the pool) so we dropped our bags on a trolley and headed for the roof. When we got there, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Some girls who we knocked back the night before had caught a plane, booked into the same hotel and were in the open air hot tub before we even arrived. Ian looked at me, “No way the Jay, are you having that?” We were on such a high from the night before that behaving like rock stars was the last thing on our minds. Having four girls before breakfast didn’t seem real somehow, so without a word we checked into our rooms, had some breakfast and built a spliff Bob Marley would have been proud of.
That night, John’s playing was as good as it gets. He really shone that night. The stage was quite big and he worked every inch of it. Mani and myself just laid the foundation and Mr Squire conquered all. At times, Ian stopped singing. After the gig, I asked him if he missed any cues. “No the Jay, the sound was so mighty that I couldn’t sing. I just wanted to listen to this mighty sound.”
31st May 1995 – San Francisco Fillmore, USA
Ian decides he’s hiring a convertible BMW because we had a day off before the gigs. The whole Roses camp goes into panic mode. For those who don’t know, Ian is not a bad driver but he can be a bit careless sometimes. In San Francisco, with all the steep hills, and they drive on the wrong side of the road, so it seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. Everyone was nervous because of what happened when we were in L.A. Mani broke his finger, punching some guy who had nicked some of our ‘Bob’ and wouldn’t give it back, so we weren’t sure if we were doing the gig.
The day passed without any dramas. Mani said nothing was going to stop him from playing so we got ready. In the dressing room before the gig, Mani was in pain. I couldn’t believe that he was even considering playing, but as I said, Mani loves performing. John was really concerned – he said, “What if it gets worse and you do more damage?” but Mani wasn’t having any of it. “We’re playing tonight. End of.” Mani soldiered through the pain and Ian met his wife the next day. John had a terrible accident and broke his collarbone while he was out cycling, so we will always remember San Francisco for one reason or another.
12th & 13th September 1995 – The Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
Japan was crazy. From the second we stepped off the plane, it was full on. Fans following you everywhere you go, and I mean everywhere. We stayed in Japan for three weeks and played some great shows, but for me, Tokyo stood out. We were booked to play two sold-out nights at the Budokan stadium and had also heard that bands were finding it hard to sell out one night, never mind two nights so the excitement levels raised again.
We arrived backstage on the first night and I was amazed to hear the Japanese fans chanting “Roses, Roses!”. It was so loud, you could hear the noise from outside the stadium, like a footy match on match day. Awesome. Once the gig started, we were in full flow. Mani dancing away to the groove, Ian marching along, John in mesmerizing form and myself giving 110 percent. Then something crazy happened. During Daybreak, I’m given like a four-bar solo if you like, so sometimes I would try something special. So i did. The crowd went ballistic and when the song had finished the fans started chanting “Robbie Robbie!” At first, it sounded like “Roses!” but then you could hear it clearly. Mani was buzzing, pointing at me and laughing. “Can you hear that rude boy? They love you!” John was clapping his hands and smiling, and Ian came up onto the drum rise and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. “Yes the Jay”, as he always called me. That night, I knew I was a Rose. The love I felt was incredible, not just from the fans, but by IB, GM and JS.
22nd & 23rd December 1995 – Manchester Apollo, England
We could have played the M.E.N a couple of nights, but Ian and John thought it would be special to play to a more intimate crowd, because it was our homecoming gig. Mani and myself were up for the M.E.N or Nynex, as it was known at the time. The bigger the better, as far as we were concerned, but we understood Ian and John’s point. The gigs were crazy – we had loads of people at the sound check: Oasis, Charlatans and some others I can’t remember. I remember the guest-list was the biggest I’ve ever seen, literally hundreds of names. When some people couldn’t get in, they just rushed the door, no way were they gonna miss a Manchester Roses gig. I liked playing the Apollo – the sound was compact and the people were close. At one point, Ian told the lighting engineer to turn the lights on the people so we could see them. I was looking for family and friends, but saw some Man United players with their hands in the air: Peter Schmeichel and Gary Neville amongst others. We were all Man United fans, so that was great to see. We never put them on the guest list – they came off their own back, so that made it special. Another thing that happened was while we were playing, Ian spotted a Reni banner, got it off the person and started waving it on the stage. As if to say, Reni has gone but he’s not forgotten. I thought it was a top thing to do. After all, Reni was a friend.
29th December 1995 – Wembley Arena, England
During the UK tour, John became a little distant, not that you would think something was terribly wrong but he was a bit quiet with not much to say. When you’re in a big band, it is easy sometimes to get a bit complacent and let things tick along without much effort. I think John might have felt that’s what was happening to the Roses. There is always someone to do things for you, except play of course. I asked Ian and Mani if they felt that John was ok, but they said sometimes he can be like that, just a bit reserved. So nothing could have prepared us for what happened after the Wembley gig, which was sold out, and we rocked the place. It was a triumphant gig. The second night of Brixton was top but this was Wembley, and we didn’t disappoint. After the gig, John left early and that was the last time we played together. Ian and Mani were devastated. They couldn’t believe all that they had gone through was over, and as far as they could see, for no reason.
Thanks for keeping the Roses alive and I hope one day that the band will reform, if not for ourselves, then for the fans. I realise that the Roses’ fans are a very special people, the best fans in the world! After the 11 years that the band has split, you guys are still loyal, it’s amazing…