5 Drummerszone artists - Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas
United Kingdom
Ian Thomas is one of the UKís most sought after and respected session players.

Ianís musical credits see him playing in diverse musical genres from Big Bands through to working with artists such as Eric Clapton, Sting, Elton John, Seal, Tom Jones plus many more. Ian is currently touring with Mark Knopfler.

Initially from Wales, Ian Thomas relocated to London where he has firmly established himself as top UK session drummer.

Ian Thomas, who has a credits list as long as your arm and works on records, jingles, TV themes and feature films, including the Oscar-winning Leaving Las Vegas. On occasions, he'll have up to three different drum kits set up and ready to go in various parts of London on the same day.

He started playing at 12, but apart from a few lessons, had no formal music education. He moved to London from his native Wales in 1984, in order to play in a trio performing in a late-night hostess bar. Aside from these 8.30 pm-3.30 am nightly spots, he was the backbone to NYJO, which led on to loads of jazz gigs.

The first big name he worked with was Cilla Black, when he was called in as a last-minute dep on a Middle East tour. But it was at a jazz festival in Edinburgh, playing with the John Altman Big Band, that his first major session came up. He was asked by Mr Altman "are you doing anything next Tuesday?", which as luck would have it he was -- a summer-season gig with Ms Black. But luckily the bass player knew what the gig on offer was and gave Ian a sharp dig in the ribs, which made him think about getting a dep. The session was 'Kissing The Fool', a track on the first solo album by George Michael, with whom he's worked many times since.

When Ian went for a gig with Seal he was the last of 20 drummers to be auditioned, and since he hates auditions and thought the gig had probably already been taken, he decided to go crazy and play what he wanted -- kind of Keith Moon reborn in a world of hot jazz. Seal liked what he heard -- in fact they ended up jamming all night -- and yes, he got the gig.

One of Ian's most bizarre jobs of late was working on George Martin's final album, In My Life. The day started badly and he was running very late for the 10 am start, so he decided to make use of the bus lane. Luckily for the safety of all of us, the police stopped him and gave him a jolly good ticking-off. When he eventually arrived at AIR Lyndhurst he realised he'd forgotten to tell his roadie to drop the kit off. So he'd got to the studio with no time to spare, and no kit. Just as he was going to confess to the greatest producer of all time that he didn't have a drum kit, he bumped into the riddum programmer who'd been booked to lay down the click track. Ian told him his dilemma and it turned out that the angel-of-mercy programmer was also a drummer, with a Gretsch kit in his car which he didn't need: phew!

The track Ian was booked to play on was 'Golden Slumbers'. Halfway through the song there's an added 16-bar drum solo which calls for the drums to go mad. A drum solo added to a song written by the undisputed greatest pop beat group of all time, on the swan song album for (arguably) the most influential producer in the history of recorded sound? A stroke of luck or what -- bastard. Then, at the end of the session, George Martin came up and said "I don't know if now is the right time to tell you, Ian, but we won't be using a note of what you've played. Phil Collins is coming in next week to replace it all."

(Sound on Sound, October 1998)