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Malcolm Holmes Interview (2008)

What were your initial thoughts on playing together again in
2007 for the French TV performance?

I first thoughts were could I actually do it. I’d not long been out of hospital, after I was cut me open with
a circular saw and given heart surgery. I couldn’t walk up the stairs and I’d
been suffering from ‘Post Traumatic Stress’.  I was mentally and
physically a wreck for almost 2 years. So my main fear was ‘was I going to fall
over in the middle 8 of Enola Gay’ ….. Did a paramedic need to be standing by
with a 20,000 volts to spark me up if it all went pear shaped. It gave me great
confidence when I had finished the show. It was the first step for me to
playing for OMD again.

 

Did you have any reservations about getting back together with
the rest of the band for the French TV performance?

I had no reservations at all. OMD had always been the best years of my life so to be able to revisit
something so wonderfully positive was a gift from heaven. I knew how lucky I
was just to be alive, so I was really going to enjoy this second time around.
The first time we all got into the rehearsal room it was like we had never been
away from each other. The same as we were when we where into front of TV
cameras, it was completely natural for us all, it’s what we do.

 

Back in 2007 did you have any desire to go on tour?

 

The tour was my goal, it was my complete focus from once I
knew we were going to do it. Nothing else mattered. I hadn’t played
professionally for sometime although I was teaching drums before my heart said
‘Slow Down Mal’. To play with OMD not only was I going to I have to build my
stamina, but I also had to be completely solid against the click track I would
be playing to. There is no margin for error playing drums with OMD. If I come
in out of time with a click then everything is out, music, keyboards, bass,
computer sequence, the projections and there’s no way you can get back in sync
unless we start the song again. To me that’s not an option. If I was going to
do this again then I wanted to be better, stronger and more ‘on the money’ than
I ever had been.

 

Any fond memories of the 2007 tour like gigs you remember that
went well, etc..?

Madrid and Barcelona where just so cool. We we’re on a festival bill with all the hip kids in town, Chemical
Bros, Kaiser Chiefs, Air, The Gossip and there was little old OMD playing in a
big tent. I must say I was a bit worried how we would go down with a festival
audience, but we just killed them. One of my all time favorites, hearing 5,000
people singing along to Enola Gay was just amazing

 Any favorite stops on the 2008 tour?

Strangely I think Dublin was my favourite, even though the
PA broke down and Ryanair lost my suitcase with my stage clothes, playing shoes
and spare snare drum in it. I guess I didn’t really think to much about the gig
I was so wound up about playing in the same clothes I’d just got off the flight
in and if my stage snare went down then it would take some time to fix it. I
think I went a little crazy that night and beat the living s*** out the of my
kit. For some strange reason that was my favorite gig. Liverpool is always cool
to play and even better this time because we were in the new arena. The bigger
the gig for me the better. It was a little strange the 2008 tour because it was
over before it had begun. I was just starting to loosen up on stage and get
into it when it stopped. I wasn’t really happy with how I was played on the
tour. We’d had more time in production rehearsals for the 2008 tour, which meant
I’d settled in to my on stage sound which is really important for me. If I’m
struggling with a balance on stage then it affects my performance, same with
all the guys. It was only in London at the last gig where I had a good sound on
stage.

 You mention having a good sound on stage in London, how do you
determine that, is it what you are hearing during the show in your monitor?

Yeah, it’s what I hear in the speakers (we call them
monitors) I have right next to me and what I hear in my ear phones (we call
them ears). What I hear is very, very, very different to what the audience
hears, its also very different to what the other guys in the band hear in there
speakers and ears phones. I’ll have a lot of click track in my ears but not in
my monitors. The rest of band and the audience don’t hear the click track. It
would drive you crazy if you did. I listen to lots of click track, tons of my
kick drum and snare drum, loads of the computer sequences, a healthy amount of
Mart and Paul’s keyboards and a bit of vocals.  

 What is your “routine” before a gig?

I generally go back to the hotel ,after the sound check if I
can. I catch a bit of chillin’ out time and some space before the show.
Sometimes the guys come back but normally they will stay at the gig and have
dinner at about 6 ish with all the crew. I can’t eat at that time with just a
couple of hours before the show, so I’ll grab something to munch from the
dressing room and nip back to the hotel with a lift from the runner or tour
manager. Then back to the gig an hour before show time and have a quick look at
the audience from side stage maybe check out a song or 2 from the support act. Then
30 mins before show time we’re all in the dressing room getting changed and
putting our ears in. They are the in ear monitors we have. About 15 mins before
show time Stuart our out front sound guy always comes back stage to say ‘have a
good um’ or ‘let em av’it’ or ‘rock em” or ‘kick ass’ to all of us and shakes
our hand. My reply to him is generally ‘see ya later mate’ or ‘are the drums
loud enough mate’. 5 mins before show time the tour manger takes us to the side
of the stage, the house lights go down and its the intro to the show. Andy will
always shake our hands and wishes good luck. I think he does it anti-clockwise,
who ever is standing on his right at time he’ll shake his hand first. We all
shake hands and my reply generally is ‘Nail um’ …….. Then it’s show time no
turning back we all just go and give it 150% and I hope hear I Click, Click,
Click, Click 1,2,3,4 in my ears!

 

Speaking of
sound check, what exactly do you do or what are you looking/listening for?

A lot of bands don’t do a sound
check. They just come and plug there guitars in and they’re away. Not much can
go wrong with a guitar, may be you break a string or something like that. It’s
not gonna stop the show. OMD have a ton of technology, computers that the band
has to sync to to get the images on the screens doing what they should do at
the right time. As the ‘driver of the sync train’ if you like, I have to follow
the computer and the band follows me. We always like to check the tech stuff
and our sound on stage to make sure there are no gremlins that are going to
happen that night. At festivals we don’t have time to do this, so it make
things a little hairy. Also Stuart Kerrison, the sound guy, wants to make us
sound the best he can every night, so he’ll be checking the sound of us playing
in the venue before we do the show for real. It’s at the sound check where he
‘tunes’ the PA to suit the room or hall we are in that evening.

 

What about after a gig, any special kind of routine that you go
through?

First thing is a beer in the
dressing room. I don’t have a drink before the show so I really enjoy it. Then
get changed. Andy and Paul will probably meet some guests in the catering room
for a little while. Maybe I’ll wonder down there to meet some friends. Then
back to the hotel. Andy and Paul will do some autographs and photos outside the
stage door and Mart and I will probably try and sneak off to the bus. It’s not
that we don’t want to sign autographs but I hate hanging around outside waiting
for someone to ask me. If someone wants my autograph they will always find me
somehow. Then back to the hotel for a beer or 2 with the lads, Stewart and the
tour manager.

 

As the hardest working guy in the band, how do you feel after a
2 hour gig, are you completely wiped out?

I think we all work hard on
stage. Mart and Paul may not run around but they have plenty do, with different
sounds coming up in different places on there keyboards everyone has to be ‘on
the money’. Andy runs around giving it all, as if it was our first gig. But for
me, I’m really tried and just slump into a comfy chair in the dressing room
when I come off for 10 minutes or so. The last 20 -25 mins of the set is
physically the hardest because that’s when we ramp it up. It comes fast and
furious and I really start to give it full power on the kit. I suppose its like
running in a marathon, you have to keep a little in reserve for the last 1 mile
if you want to win. Electricity is the real killer. Not only is it 140-150 BPM
but I also play the white noise 8 note part on a pad which kills the forearm of
my right arm. Believe me I’m really glad when I get to the last couple of bars
of the song, it like its the end of the race and the jobs done.

 

Do you do anything to get in physical condition to tour?

 

I play basically. On the 2007 tour I went to a gym and I
started playing months before at home on a Roland TD 20 electric kit to the
‘OMD best of’ with a pair of head phones. I’d get a bin bag and cut a couple of
holes in it for my arms and wear it like a t-shirt to build up a sweat. It
works really well. Then I would play for hours and hours, over and over. On the
2008 tour I would be in the rehearsal room by myself some days. We have made a
CD which is us playing live with no drums and a click track. This means I can
practice when the other guys aren’t there and I’m playing to the real thing,
Andy, Paul and Mart doing their stuff. Sometimes Mart will come too and pair of
us will go through a few things playing to the CD or the Pro Tools sequences. I
started 10 days early than everyone else in the rehearsal room this time to get
my kit sorted out and to start building up my stamina.  The rehearsal room
isn’t one of the prettiest places to go on a Sunday afternoon by
yourself.

What is it that
makes a great drummer?

Someone who can interpret the song in their
own way. Not the text book way. Someone, that when he or she plays, you know
it’s them.

 

Who do you
consider to be great drummers today?

 

Not many really. Richie Haywood, Jim Keltner and the
late great John Bonham, now he was the best.

What are you and the band discussing as far as plans for 2009?

Top secret. If I told you I
would have to kill you Pat!

 Have you done any work or contributed to new tracks on the new
album that is rumored to be in the works?

No, but I’m sure I’ll get a
call nearer the time to come and make some noise for the guys if they want me
to.

 If so, what thoughts can you share with us?

It all depends on if and what the guys want me to play on.
They may be happy with the programmed loops or drums they have already put down
on the sequences. For me, I’d want to create fresh sounds and use &
record the kit in an unusual way like we always did, instead of the same old
drum loops and 4 on the floor, anyone can do that and it doesn’t really flick
my creative drum switches anymore. The likes of the Maid, that’s a great
drum part you never hear sounds or grooves like that, and it’s still valid after
25 years. That’s the sort of thing I would want to contribute to an OMD
album. There’s a million great drummers around who play exactly like the
next great drummer, they’ve been thought all the same things at the same drum
academy by the same tutor and all sound exactly the same. There’s nothing new,
creative or inspiring about them and it just doesn’t do anything for me. I
wouldn’t want to emulate them. My days of wanting to be Phil Collins or the
best drummer in the World are long gone. What I do is what I do, it sounds like
me and I’m happy with that.

 

Changing gears a bit, tell me about what you are doing with Fin
Music?

Finmusic is one of those things
that’s just not going to go away.

What does it take to start up your own recording label?

Well first thing is you need to
be a bit crazy.

 What have you learned from your years in OMD about the music
business that help you run Fin?

Music is all I’ve done since I
was 18. Its the only thing I know. OMD have taught me so much, I wouldn’t know
where start. I suppose the most important thing is that anyone with great music
ideas can have success selling records. They need the right people behind them,
that’s important. But you don’t need Simon Cowell you just need belief in your
music, oh and a little bit of luck really helps.

 Have you ever read some of the stuff on the Official OMD
forum?

I read the OMD forum all the
time. It shows that there is a really wide spectrum of OMD fans who can like
different eras of OMD. I must say that sometimes I wonder whether some of the
people who post actually like OMD. I’ve seen things written that I’ve not
liked, which is a little strange because some of these people will come and ask
me for a photo or an autograph. But generally it’s a great site that PB and Co
created and it helps keeps the whole OMD thing keep alive.

 Would you ever consider signing up and posting on a public OMD
forum?

I am signed up PB sorted it out
a while ago, but I’ve forgotten my login (it’s a drummer thing) and I prefer just
to look from a far. I’m all for an easy life!

 Anything you would like to say to the OMD fans reading this?

It’s cool to see so many happy faces from my kit when we’re
playing live. I remember sitting outside the Glasgow gig in 2007 watching the people
going into the gig. It was weird, these where just regular people, with
mortgages and kids, they looked the same as the crowd of people on any High St
on any Saturday afternoon. Then when I got on stage and I could see the same
people, they looked so different. The big screen behind me light everyone up, I
could see the whites of peoples eyes. The crowd went crazy, we took everyone
away from the real World for an hour and a half and those same people where
somewhere else. It’s a great site.

You should never write OMD off,
if you do there is a good chance you will be proved wrong. Just when you think
it’s all over, OMD will come back and bite your ass. It’s what they do.