(interview by Kristi Wachter)
Eddie Cleland is the drummer for Big Umbrella.* On record, he's all pro, deftly punctuating the band's guitar-heavy sound.** In person, he's friendly, polite, and immediately likeable.***
** Reasonably objective description
*** Totally subjective description
I interviewed Eddie over the phone on Wednesday evening, May 17, 1995. This is one of a series of interviews with Racer artists intended for online publication.
Racer: What's your birthdate?
Do you have any brothers & sisters?
Eddie: I have a stepbrother and a stepsister.
Racer: What's your marital status?
Racer: Do you have any children?
Racer: Do you have any pets?
Eddie: Yes, I have an American Eskimo dog and a stray cat that I rescued.
Racer: Where did you grow up?
Eddie: I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Racer: Where do you live now?
Eddie: I live in Los Angeles.
Racer: What's your favorite color?
Eddie: My favorite color would be ... hmmm ... probably blue.
Racer: What's your favorite food?
Eddie: I'd have to say Italian.
Racer: Do you have any favorite books or authors?
Eddie: I have a lot of favorite books. Let's see ... I like Stephen King, of course; I can't think of any titles off the top of my head.
Racer: Do you have any favorite movies?
Eddie: That's a good one. I like movies. Favorite movies ... yeah - Amadeus. I like some of the classics - you know, good old classics, like Gone With the Wind.
Racer: Do you have any hobbies?
Eddie: Yes, I play hockey, and I like video games.
Racer: Who won the game last night? (Big Umbrella played
a hockey game the night before I spoke with Eddie)
Eddie: We ended up in a tie ... which we barely pulled off. They should have won. We pulled off two goals in the last minute, so it was pretty exciting.
Racer: What position do you play?
Eddie: I play anywhere from center to left or right wing.
Racer: What instruments do you play?
Eddie: I play drums primarily, and some percussion, and I dabble very little on keyboards.
Racer: Do you have any keyboards?
Eddie: Not at the moment.
Racer: What previous bands have you been in?
Eddie: Out of high school I was in a band called the Generics, with Russ and Derek actually, and before I moved out here I was in a band called Eros, a funk band, and I did a record with them and toured the world, toured Japan and everything with them. Then I've done freelance recording type stuff, and that's about it.
I did a blues project with a guitar player that used to play with Aerosmith, a guy named Rick DuFay, and that's in the stores right now.
Racer: How did you like Japan?
Eddie: It was great. I've been there four different times over four years, for about a month at a time. It was interesting - a different culture ...
Racer: What day jobs have you held while being a
Eddie: When I was younger, I worked in a glass shop until I saw someone cut their finger real bad, so I got out of that, and then I played drums for a living for many years, until moving out here, and then mostly I was a pool man in LA.
Racer: What made you move to LA?
Eddie: I wanted to do more original projects, instead of cover music.
Racer: Who would you cite as your major musical
Eddie: I would have to say, drummer-wise, Terry Bozzio, Steve Gadd, and Neal Peart. Those are the three biggest ones I can think of.
Racer: If you were going to be stranded on a desert island
and could only take 10 albums or less, which ones would you
Eddie: Oh, that's a tough one. Let's see:
King's X, Out of the Silent Planet
anything by Steely Dan
probably a Led Zeppelin album, I'm not sure which one
Sting, Nothing Like the Sun
The Jackson Five's Greatest Hits
the Beatles' White Album ... how many is that? (I think that's six...)
Vinnie Colaiuta - I actually have it right here, it's my latest favorite. He's a terrific drummer. He played in clubs in LA for a long time and blew everyone's mind. Right now the most famous thing he's doing is playing with Sting, and he has a solo album out. And he used to play with Frank Zappa.
Another album would be definitely be Soundgarden, and
Chick Corea, The Leprechaun
Racer: What's your recollection of how Big Umbrella came
Eddie: We knew each other out of high school, me, Russ and Derek; and I came to LA and got a hold of Russ just because I had a number on him, and Russ came and played on a demo of mine that I was putting together to try to find work, and called me up a couple months later and said, do you want to come play with the band that he was in at the time, and so I did, and we played with them for a while, and then we decided to X the management that was managing the band and X the keyboard player and form Big Umbrella. (What was the name of that band?) That was called Great Rivers of the World.
Racer: What are your favorite Big Umbrella songs?
Eddie: My favorite Big Umbrella songs are always the newest ones, of course, but as far as the ones that have been recorded so far it would have to be "Crackerjack Ring," "Sunflower," "Joy" has always been one of my favorites ... off the top of my head those are my favorites.
Racer: Do you get tired of playing the old stuff?
Eddie: No, not at all, I'm just more excited about the new stuff.
Racer: I've heard some of the stuff from the forthcoming
album. Do you have any favorites from that?
Eddie: Yeah, I really like "Lifter" a lot, and one of my favorite new ones is "Superslide" ... I like a lot of 'em, I like 'em all, really ... it's hard to pick favorites. "Use A Gun" is another one of my big favorites.
Racer: If you could put together the ideal band, who would be
in it? Who would you want to play with?
Eddie: I would get a kick out of playing with Sting, just to see how his creative mind works. But I've actually never had as much fun as I'm having playing with Big Umbrella. It's the best band I've ever been in. It's hard to say until you meet people whether you'd like playing with them or not, 'cause I've played with people that are more well-known that are jerks. (laughs) You never know.
Racer: How did you get started playing music?
Eddie: As long as I can remember I always wanted to play drums. My mom even said when I was five years old I was banging on things. It was meant to be.
Racer: Have you ever had a strong interest in playing any
other instruments besides drums?
Eddie: No. It's just been one thing. And I didn't get into sports until later on. I was really obsessed with just playing drums. It was a big deal in my life. Not until later on in life did I start even having other hobbies.
Racer: If you were doing an interview like this, what
questions would you ask?
Eddie: I'd probably ask the same things, who are their influences, who do they like now, what excites them, what makes them feel passion, things like that ...
Racer: What kinds of musical things have you been hearing
lately that have excited you, besides Vinnie Colaiuta?
Eddie: I've been listening to some older stuff that still turns me on, a lot of old Genesis I really like, it's really creative, they weren't afraid to experiment and just do anything, they weren't worried about making a hit, they were just trying to create. That kind of excites me. I like a new band called Satchel, I think they're kind of neat. And I like anything by King's X. There's something about that band - They just have a sound that's totally unique to them, and it's always the same. They always have that unique sound about them.
Racer: What other things do you feel passionate about,
Eddie: Mostly music, but I do really enjoy hockey. That's about it.
Racer: Do you follow any particular teams?
Eddie: Of course I follow the Kings, 'cause they're a local team, but I like a couple of other teams. I like Vancouver a lot, I like a couple of players on their team, and I like Philadelphia.
Racer: Do you have any other questions you'd like to answer,
or anything you'd like to spout off about?
Eddie: Boy, I can't think of anything I want to spout off about. I guess if there's younger people, kids that are getting into music, all I would say is just "Go for it". Be real passionate about it and just do it. Don't worry about success and money, just focus on the music and just do it.
Any errors are the sole responsibility of Racer Records.