Marco Minnemann is commonly recognized as one of the world’s greatest drummers—a point vividly confirmed when he was one of seven timekeepers invited to audition for the coveted drum stool with progressive-metal giants Dream Theater, replacing Mike Portnoy.
The German-born Minnemann didn’t get that high-profile gig (it went to Mike Mangini)—but he’s won plenty of other ones, including his current, ongoing stint drumming with guitar star Joe Satriani. Minnemann also was the drummer for Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson’s brilliant 2013 solo CD The Raven That Refused to Sing: And Other Stories and subsequent tour. He also drums in the instrumental trio The Aristocrats (in which he’s joined by Steven Wilson bandmate Guthrie Govan on guitar, along with Bryan Beller on bass) and recently released Levin Minnemann Rudess, an acclaimed collaboration with King Crimson/Peter Gabriel bassist Tony Levin and Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess.
Clearly, Marco Minnemann is a world-class musician who hangs with other world-class musicians. But the question of what kind of music this gifted player would make on his own was recently answered with the release of his latest solo album, Eeps (Lazy Bone Recordings).
Eeps finds Minnemann not only drumming, but also playing guitar, bass, keyboards—even singing! It’s a terrific CD in which Minnemann crafts tracks in a variety of styles, from playful pop (“OC DC”) to wacky instrumentals (“Eeps”) and funky fusion grooves (“Live Ghost”). A strong King Crimson influence is felt throughout the album, and Minnemann’s instrumental skills are up to that task—not just on drums, but also on guitar, bass and anything else he gets his hands on here. Minnemann’s use of sound effects and studio trickery recall the early solo work of former Crimson frontman Adrian Belew in his most playful The Lone Rhinoceros mode. But Minnemann balances out the fun stuff with more challenging pieces such as “Right on Time and Out of Tune,” which as its title implies, veers towards atonality in the best possible way. And then there are melodic vocal tracks such as “Sunshine,” which plays down Minnemann’s proggy tendencies to emphasize harmonies and a nice acoustic guitar lead. There’s no doubt of Minnemann’s versatility after a spin of this CD.
Minnemann is one of our finest drummers, but Eeps shows just how fully rounded he is as a recording artist. This album is a great listen, start to finish, for those seeking ambitious musical adventures that reveal new depths and colors with each playing.
When I interviewed Minnemann, he was on the road with Satriani, so the following exchange took place via email. We discussed his current activities, solo adventures and future plans.
Marco Minnemann: Yes, I played multiple instruments on my albums before as well. It feels natural to me and I actually compose mainly on guitar or piano/keys, since I started playing these instruments before I picked up the drums.
Whitman: What’s your favorite instrument to play?
Minnemann: Drums and guitar. Drums, I’m definitely most versatile and I have a lot of experience with that instrument live and in the studio. Guitar, I’m pretty good at composing and certain techniques. But before I go onstage to shred I’d really have to practice the parts where to go :-).
Whitman: Tell us about your songwriting process. How did you come up with the material on Eeps?
Minnemann: I always compose at home or on the road and have studio equipment with me to capture the ideas. So when enough material is collected to make a full-length album with a nice flow, then the next release is coming up.
Whitman: Any chance you’ll do live shows as a solo artist? If so, what would you play?
Minnemann: I play some of my solo material with The Aristocrats. But mainly my solo albums are really just studio efforts and designed to be that way. I would have to bring out an orchestra-like band to realize some of the songs, hahahaha.
Whitman: I really enjoyed the album you did with Tony Levin and Jordan Rudess. Will there be a second CD from the LMR trio? How about touring?
Minnemann: Oh, thank you for liking it. Not sure, this one also was designed to be more of a studio collaboration. So I have to answer your question with “maybes.”
Whitman: You were one of the drummers who tried out for Dream Theater. What was that experience like?
Minnemann: Well, they gave me three songs and we played them. Not much to say about that really. But it was fun and a good vibe.
Whitman: You’re currently on tour with Joe Satriani. How does playing with Joe’s band compare to your work with Steven Wilson or The Aristocrats?
Minnemann: Joe is a great guy to work and hang with. Joe and also Steven want me to play and deliver my own ideas, which I really appreciate of course. Freedom is always the best thing to happen in music I believe.
And with the Aristocrats, well, that’s our own band. The three of us write the music and design how it’s going to be produced. So that’s a slightly different animal then being a side man.
Whitman: Will you be working with Steven Wilson on his next album? Any idea when that will happen?
Minnemann: Yes. We will record the new album pretty much now and that’s all I can say about that for now.
Whitman: What new artists/musicians do you find exciting and stimulating?
Minnemann: Good question. I should maybe listen to more new music, hahahaha. Do Tegan and Sara still count as “new” artists? I liked their album The Con.
Whitman: You’ve made solo albums and done distinguished work with a number of artists. What’s next for Marco Minnemann?
Minnemann: Next for me is finishing up a new Aristocrats live CD/DVD with material taken from our Culture Clash world tour. Then recording for the new Steven Wilson album. Also a new Joe Satriani CD will be in the making and new Aristocrats material is on the way as well. Apart from that, touring.