A Conversation With Drummer Tommy Clufetos

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Tommy Clufetos may not be a household name, but you certainly know who he is.  Tommy has been behind the drum kit for people like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Ozzy Osbourne, Dead Daisies, and, yes, Black Sabbath.  He just released his first record under the name Tommy’s RockTrip.  The record is called Beat Up by Rock N’ Roll and he recently sat down to talk about it.

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com conversation with Tommy Clufetos –

On why he started a new band – Because there was nothing going on if really want to know the truth. This worldwide shutdown has afforded me this big block of time.  I make music and I got an offer to make a record. I kind of go, “I’ve never done that. I’ve never put a band together. I’ve never written songs. I’ve never written lyrics. I’ve never done anything like that. So what better time than this whole year?”  It actually only took me two weeks. I wish I would have taken a lot longer, I would have filled up some more time, but I was either really good at it or really rushed and stupid about it. We’ll let the people who listen to it decide. It was just kind of a little experiment. I looked at it as a little experiment for me to make a cool little rock and roll record, first and foremost for myself, if people dig it, that’s a bonus. :55

On creating a band rather than guest musicians –People almost expect guest musicians now. I’m sick of guest musicians. I mean, there’s great things that happen and stuff like that. But I wanted to make it more like a cool rock and roll record possibly that when you listen 10 years from now, you go, “Oh, that’s kind of cool”. When you find these little hidden gem records maybe from the 70s or you put on like a Joe Perry Project album that maybe wasn’t so popular and you go, “Oh, that’s kind of a cool rock record”. If I could get a little tinge of that, maybe, coolness, that’s what I was asked to.  I’m not comparing to anything, but that was kind of the motivation. Again, I fully understand it’s not going to top the charts and it’s not Sgt. Pepper’s. But if I could make a cool little rock and roll record that I created then that’s kind of a little gift to myself, and it doesn’t make me want to puke when I listen to it. Sometimes when you listen to things, you go, “Oh my God, is that me?” But I was very happy with how it came out.  I accomplished what I set out to do and what I did in my head. 2:15

“Got To Play Some Rock N’ Roll”

On taking the vocals for three songs – It was really no big deal because I didn’t set out to do so. The only reason I did was I was making these scratch vocals. And if anybody’s not familiar, scratch vocals are just kind of a guide track so maybe Eric (Dover) could know what I wanted him to sing. So I’m doing these guide vocals and squawking away on them the best I can. The three songs that ended up on the record with my horrible vocals actually were just scratched vocals because I listened to them and I go, “Well I kind of like the vibe they’re kind of in the pocket”, and I was doing a scratch vocal on the couch and not caring and just with a regular handheld mike. It kind of had the vibe that I was going for and it didn’t bother me. So I said, “leave it”. Sometimes in rock and roll, you kind of just got to go screw it. It is what it is. Sometimes when you try to redo things and it never comes out that as great as before. So that’s kind of the approach of this record. I didn’t want to do any demos or do any of that kind of stuff, because a lot of the time when you do demos, they come out great and then you try to recreate that and then it’s not so great because you already kind of (did it). Sometimes there’s the first, initial vibe that you get that you capture on tape and then you try to recreate it, it doesn’t work as well So we didn’t do any demos. We just rehearsed. I’m sitting in my rehearsal room that I come in every day where I rehearse the band and I practice my drums. We rehearsed here, amps blaring, drums blaring, just like a band would actually do, what a concept rehearsing. Then we went right down the street to my buddy’s studio and we recorded it. One hundred percent live. There was no click tracks. There was no headphones, no headphones, meaning I was literally listening to the amps and the room and they were literally listening to me.  So there was nothing, we were very free and it felt like we were just jamming because we were just jamming. 

The one song is called “Make Me Smile”. That’s about my beautiful wife. If you listen to the sexy rock and roll lyrics, it’s tailor made for her. So if I had somebody else sing that she may fall in love with them, it’s so good. So I had to sing that one. There’s a track called “Power of Three”, which is the last song on the album that about my lovely daughter and about having her. It’s kind of a rock and roll nursery rhyme love song that I wrote for her and Daddy had to sing that. To be honest with you, she loves it. She loves that song. It’s like she asked to put it on in the car and I’m very happy to play it over and over for her. Those two are two songs or my little love letter gifts to the two most important people in my life.I also sing “Beat Up by Rock N’ Roll”. Literally, because that was the scratch vocal and it was like this really lazy kind of stoner vocal, even though I don’t do any dope ever. It just had a real lazy effect to it that I like that track and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 4:22

“Make Me Smile”

On being from the Detroit rock scene – Detroit is unto itself. I didn’t realize how special me growing up there and playing music there was until I moved to Los Angeles where everybody’s a wimp, basically, and I’m half-joking. But it’s a different thing out here. There’s a lot more posing and there’s a lot more guys that they don’t really know the roots of music, how I was raised. There’s a lot more blues-based rock and roll.  I don’t know about maybe today, but, you know, that 60s, 70s thing that was the epicenter of rock and roll, and it was all based on taking from blues guys and speeding it up and making it frantic and so many great bands out of there. But Los Angeles is much different. Sunset Strip and I like L.A. I met my wife here and all that kind of stuff. But the music, it’s two different things. Even if you go back, it’s Beach Boys versus Motown. It’s the Eagles versus MC5. Detroit is just grittier, man. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s gray. It’s car factories.  You’re lugging your drums in the snow when you’re playing dump bars. Bars out here like kind of nice restaurants with little nice music or something. Bars in Detroit, people are, when I came up, you’re playing five sets, they’re wasted. They’re partying. It’s smokey, it’s filled with smoke, you stink like smoke and everything’s covered in beer. It’s a little more hard-edged, the life approach. Cars are rusted, it’s just different. S the music reflects that. It’s definitely harder-edged. I play that way. I play a little harder edge west coast kind of thing, and I’m very proud of it. I really love that style. I wanted to capture the essence of where I come from on the record, meaning there’s a certain tightness and there’s a certain energy in Detroit rock without it being derivative rock. It’s not trying to be like, “Oh, I’m sounding like MC5”, or whatever, like “Kick Out The Jams”. Like, come on, it’s been done and you’re never going to do it. I just wanted to do my own take on it with the essence of that underneath. If that makes sense. Retro’s cool and maybe to wear vintage clothes is cool. But when it comes to music, you kind of got to do your own thing or you’re just a bad version of what you’re trying to do. 8:28

On whether Ozzy will continue his Farewell Tour after the pandemic – I definitely think so. They’re saying he will be out. So I take his word for it. You can’t stop the Osbourne’s. They’re true rock’n’roll survivors. So if you look back on these,  Ozzy’s had a career that’s 50 plus years and he’s been down and up and down and up and he keeps riding through. So I have all the respect for them and I wish him nothing but the best. I’m sure he’s going to be rocking and rolling until he chooses not to do so. That goes for the whole Osbourne family, they’re true survivors. That’s a lesson to me. You’ve got to survive in this business and plow through. I’ll always play with Ozzy as long as he asked to play with him. 11:30

On replacing Bill Ward in Black Sabbath – I’ve done it so many times where I’m coming in, I’ve always come in after somebody. That was a higher level of that. But knowing that I’ve replaced by a name drummer every time I’ve come in, and eventually, I’m kind of maybe possibly this much of a name drummer now, even though I pride myself on trying to stay under the radar. I was prepared for that situation and I understand that Black Sabbath is Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, Bill Ward. I get that there’s four parts to that and I feel that I went in respecting that. I know that you got three guys that I was playing with, there’s three leaders. So you’ve got to earn.  Ozzy knew me. He had my trust and I had to earn Tony’s trust. I had to earn Geezer’s trust.d I don’t do that by saying. “I’m your guy”. I do that through going in every day and knowing every song. that’s how you earn people’s trust. So I think I won them over that way. I think going and playing the gigs, I won the people over that way. There’s always going to be naysayers and that’s part of the business. But my goal was to go out there and kick ass every day.  I can I can bet that nobody walked out of the show unhappy. So that’s the only thing I can do is do my best playing drums and just go through it. If I didn’t do it, somebody else would. 12:48

On playing the last Black Sabbath show – I try not to go too deep into those things because I have a long career ahead of me. I love playing with those guys and I respect them to the highest level. But at some point, I got 20, 30 more years to go. I can’t dwell on “I did this”.  To me, you’re only as good as your last gig. So it’s a high point, but you just kind of got to go, “Well, that was that”, and it’s a shame that it ends. But everything ends. But I have the highest respect for the standard that they kept through the years up to that very last show. I’ve never been in a band where there was three other guys like myself, and I’m not comparing but I did rise to the occasion. We will we were all up there giving one hundred and ten percent. A lot of the times when I talk with other guys, they’re on their phones or they’re taking pictures or they’re out with their buddies before or after or whatever. There’s all of these distractions, Two and a half hours before the show, I don’t talk to anybody. I’m in that dressing room getting ready for the gig, and so are they. It makes me go, “Oh, I’m doing exactly the right thing. I’m not an idiot, I’m doing what to be great you’re supposed to do and that’s supposed to give one hundred and ten percent all the time”. Ozzy is so professional. He does his vocal warm-ups. He’s one of the greatest frontmen, he’s the greatest frontman I’ve ever worked for. He can manipulate that audience like no other. I mean, he has the magnetism to me of an Elvis Presley in heavy metal. He really does. He walks out there and he smiles and he has them right there before he even says a word. That’s not to take away from his amazing vocals that he doesn’t get enough credit for a lot of time too. Tony Iommi plays with such concentration that he’s just perspiring just from focusing. Geezer Butler is one of the greatest bass players to ever walk the face of the Earth. It’s him, it’s John Paul Jones, it’s James Jamerson. There are only so many of those guys and I got to play with those guys. What a pleasure. 14:48

On joining Dead Daisies – They just needed a new drummer and they called me up. Supposedly, I guess, because I did an OK job (filling in in 2015). It’s not just that I’m one of the most handsome drummers out there. It does have a little bit to do with my drumming. I really look forward to playing with Glenn (Hughes). I’ve never had the opportunity, but we’ve hung out a few times before. We’re supposed to be going to go do some rehearsals and working on some different tunes and seeing which feels right and which doesn’t kind of thing. So I’m really looking forward to it because what a great vocalist and what a great old-school bass player. 17:37

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