The Company He Keeps: An Interview with Matt Chamberlain
"I’m not a big fan of drum records, so I didn’t want to make one of those," says one of today's most accomplished and prolific drummers.
The late Bruce Gary, drummer for the Knack, is quoted as saying he was disappointed when he found out that his ten favorite drummers were all Hal Blaine. It speaks to the fine line that great studio musicians have to walk in their careers, of having to be able to both blend in without being anonymous and stand out without overwhelming everyone else. It’s a trick few have managed. Matt Chamberlain has been pulling it off for over two decades, from his earliest recordings with Edie Brickell & New Bohemians and one season in early 1990 with the Saturday Night Live house band, up through his most recent work under the Company 23 moniker. He played the highly identifiable grooves on the Wallflowers’ "One Headlight", Macy Gray’s "I Try", Fiona Apple’s "Criminal", and Sara Bareilles’s "Love Song". He’s toured extensively with Tori Amos and recorded with David Bowie, Morrissey, Bruce Springsteen, Faith Hill, Sarah McLachlan, Bill Frisell, Liz Phair, Shakira. Robbie Williams, the Indigo Girls, and Elton John, to name just a very few. And have you ever seen the video for Pearl Jam’s "Alive" and thought, "Man, that drummer is really amazing?" Yes, that’s Matt Chamberlain as well. Once you start noticing him, you may start seeing him everywhere.
Company 23, his latest solo work, is a collection of 10 instrumentals that he recorded in pieces to a laptop while on the road and during sessions and then cemented together with his live drumming. "I always carry my laptop with me and write on it constantly," says Chamberlain. "Whenever I get downtime, whether I’m on tour or even in the middle of sessions, I’ll just put down ideas; kind of like a sketchbook. Then whenever I get free time I go back through it all and pick out the ones I think are worthy of expanding on and adding things to. So, a lot of it is synths, software synthesizers, and things like that. But, I’m not a big fan of the sound of software synthesizers so I thought maybe I should just blast them out of bass amps and mic that and get air moving and get some kind of visceral quality to it."