My first memories of Denis Palatin come from a review I did of Ana Popovic at Cafe Hahn in Koblenz some years ago. I remember he was at the bar with Ana’s then bassist Fabrice Ach after doing the early evening soundcheck and it struck me that he was still tapping his fingers on the bar counter in between sips of coffee. Even taking a break he seemed in search of rhythm it seemed. I’d jokingly asked if his neighbor’s were relieved whenever he went off on Tour – living next-door to a drummer must be Hell I suggested, unless you’re deaf, and even then it must be unpleasant when the plaster jumps from the ceiling. Maybe, I pondered,it was one of those neighbors who in a search for peace and quiet gave Thomas Ruf a call and suggested Denis would make an excellent Road drummer for RUF’s Touring Show the Blues Caravan? Or quite possibly Mr Ruf saw Palatin, with his congenial temperament and adaptable drum technique, as the perfect man for the job. After asking my first question in 2006 it seemed time for another, and following the Show at Bonn Harmonie I asked it, and another…
First a standard question Denis – Why did you become a drummer?
I started to play drums when I was 15. I grew up very fast and my nervous system was really upside down, so the only calm moments I could find were when I played on the drums. That was so good for me. I never stopped after that!
Do you still teach drumming in France? And what advice would you give to anyone starting out as a drummer today?
Yes, I still teach at the Music Academy International in Nancy. I also released an instructional CD on drumming technique through CARISCH distributors titled: superflu donc indispensable; (Superfluous yet essential) it means that you don’t need it, but you HAVE to get it!
What can I say to a young drummer? It´s always better to take proper lessons, but at the same time, to use the Internet and see if there’s anything there he can use to help him learn too. There is so much good stuff available now!
Who are your own favorite drummers and why?
Right now I’m listening a lot to drummers from New York. Adam Deitch (John Scofield, 50 Cent, Def Jam) and Chris Dave (Adele, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny…). Both are really modern and their drum approach is a great mix between Jazz and Funk Music
Do you remember your first gig? And what was your first professional band?
My 1st gig was In a garage, after 6 months I bought my first drum! My 1st professional debut was in a rock band called Matadors. I only played with a few bands before turning professional.
We were playing covers from Led Zeppelin and Status Quo
Now of course You have become the ‘House’ drummer for the Blues Caravan shows. How did that come about?
I was on tour In France with Anthony Gomes, but because I had no working permit for the States I couldn’t go back there with him. I met Thomas Ruf, and Thomas offered me the job of drummer with RUF Records touring show ‘The Blues Caravan’.
You’ve become an integral and very popular part of the show over the years, but isn’t it hard to play drums for three different musicians in just one evening? How do you change style between say Shakura A’Saida and Jimmy Bowskill – two totally different musicians?
To me, I always try to play the music as close as possible to the original records. For Jimmy, that was the most specific drumming I had to cover. His is a really laid back classic “Led Zeppelin” sound. I hope I was close enough, because his music really requires that feel, it wouldn’t work so well with a different drum sound. Shakura needed a different approach, because she doesn’t sing as loud as Jimmy, I use to play little bit more with a soul spirit, let‘s say more like Steve gadd than John Bonham!!!!!!
After so many Tours, has one of them been particularly special?
I don’t really have a favorite Blues Caravan tour… each one of them was a great time on the road. Maybe the easiest going was the one with Joanne (Shaw-Taylor), Erja (Lytinnen) and Oli (Brown) but this year was so good too…probably the most tiring for me!
Putting you on the spot. The regular bass players with the Caravan have been Roger Innis and Mike Griot. Which of them do you prefer to play alongside?
Mike Griot or Roger Innis? Mike was the artistic director and bass player, Roger is the bass player. That’s the only difference. Both are really great musicians!
It’s hard to believe with the Caravan’s busy schedule, but you also play in other bands too I believe?
Actually, I play now with the French singer and guitar player, Fred Chapellier. The one who reminds me of Fred this year is Bart Walker. But I really enjoy playing with Jimmy too, with Joanne, Erja, Meena, Shakura, Coco, Oli…to me that was a real honor to play with all those great singers and guitar players!
You’ve been able to play with some very talented musicians on the Blues Caravan. If you could choose to be drummer with any Band in the World though, who would it be?
Toto would the band. I would love to be their drummer…but I think Simon Phillips does a real good job!!!
Thanks for answering my questions Denis and good luck riding on the Blues Caravan.
Thanks my friend!!!