- When you first started did you ever think that all these years later that you would still be drumming for a living?

I'd always really wanted to be a drummer in a rock n'roll band and right from the start hoped that this would be it for me. You better be careful what you wish for `cos you never know when it will come true. Luckily for me my wish did come true.

- What would you have done if you hadn't been a drummer?

I've never really given it much thought as drumming is all I've ever wanted to do but probably a secret agent or a criminal... I think I'll go with secret agent!!!

- Is it true that you auditioned for Kiss when Peter Criss?

There were 2000 people in for that and it ended up down to me and Eric Carr. I played "Detroit Rock City", "Black Diamond", and "Dr. Love" at the audition. I guess at the time I could see myself in the make-up and costumes. I actually played with them a few times and they videoed it, so there's a video of that out there somewhere. I couldn't have played any better; I played really well at those auditions. I think they were looking for someone who could sing more. I didn't want to sing...I didn't want my hair to fall out again!!!! I think they wanted someone a little less well known. I was quite well known in the New York area at the time.

- How did Ritchie Blackmore end up asking you to join Rainbow?

I'd been trying to get in touch with Ritchie for a while as I'd heard that he was living quite close and that Cozy was on the verge of leaving. I'd left messages but hadn't heard back. One night I was in a club showing the drummer of a band performing there how to do a drum fill during their sound check. Afterwards this guy came up to me and said Ritchie was interested in seeing me. This guy was connected to Ritchie in some way. I think he had been in prison for a couple of days or something and had been released early and wandered into the club where I was and that's how I got my introduction to Ritchie.

I had jammed with Ritchie for a while around the time that I was auditioning for Kiss but hadn't heard back from them yet. I actually had Ritchie Blackmore on hold for a while waiting to hear from Kiss. Finally I told Ritchie I'd do it and he asked what if Kiss called. I just said that I'd tell then that I had a gig. Anyway, a couple of days later I got a sort of "Dear John" letter from Kiss saying "Thanks, but no thanks!!"

I was always a Deep Purple and Rainbow fan so I ended up where I was supposed to be. It all turned out well in the end.

- You joined Rainbow at probably their commercial peak. What was it like coming into an established band?

We got more well known in the States after Difficult to Cure came out. The year before they were playing theatres. When I joined we started playing arenas. It was great, it felt very good. I always believed I would make it so when I joined a big band it didn't really feel that weird. It was like, this is what I had been expecting and this is where I was meant to be. I hadn't done anything anywhere near this size before but I was pretty confident of my ability. On my first tour in the States, I think we were supported by Pat Travers or someone like that. Anyway, I went up to their drummer after the show and said how well he'd played. He said that it was only his fifth major show and hoped that one day when he had as much experience as me that he would play as well as me..I had to tell him that that was my first major show and he was in fact more experienced than me!!!!

- Were you wary of Blackmore's reputation?

You bet I was!! I'd heard all these stories and wondered what he was going to be like, but you now what? We got on really well. I've got a lot of time for Ritchie, after all he gave me first break so I've got a lot to thank him for. He's not as bad as every paints him out to be.

- It must have been a daunting task filling the shoes of someone with Cozy`s status?

I knew it would get me a lot of attention. I always liked Cozy's playing. I was honoured to take his place, I wasn't really intimidated. I thought I'd do it my way and he did it his way but it was a great place to be. It was a baptism of fire for sure but I think it worked out well.

- Was Graham Bonnet still in Rainbow at the time you joined?

He was in for a short while. We only played together a few times. I think he only laid down the backing vocals to "I Surrender" and not much else before Joe Lyn Tuner joined.

- What was the high point of your stint in Rainbow?

Probably playing at Madison Square Gardens. That was such a high for me. It was my home town and it was the biggest and most prestigious venue so that was a big thrill.

- Why did you leave?

You know how Rainbow worked. One minute you're in, then you're out. I was about ready to move on anyway but Ritchie has his ways and he likes to change things about and bring in new members to keep things fresh. I parted on good terms though and have no regrets.

- There has been talk of various members of Rainbow playing together at some point; would you be up for that?

You never know but I haven't had any calls yet. Nobody has mentioned anything to me but I wouldn't be against the idea if I was asked and in fit in with what I was up to at the time.

- What did you do after leaving Rainbow?

When I left Rainbow I was supposed to form a band with Felix Pappalardi from Mountain and my brother Teddy on guitar and Jeff Fenholt on vocals. He was involved in Jesus Christ Superstar and Joshua and I believe he was briefly in Black Sabbath too. He was an amazing singer. That project was actually on the table when I was in Rainbow. When I eventually left Rainbow Felix was killed and that but that project to sleep. It's a shame as that would've been a good band.

- Of all the projects you have been involved in which would you say is your proudest moment, the one you'll tell your grandkids about?

Well, I have lots of highlights from my previous work but hopefully my finest moment has yet to come. I'm always trying to improve on what I have done, so hopefully it will come in the future. If I had to pick one I'd have to say Rainbow playing at Madison Square Gardens or the first time I played with them in Manhattan.

-- You can read the complete interview including more questions on The Lizards, Blue Oyster Cult & Black Sabbath here --

© Mick Burgess, Metal Express Radio - February 17, 2006