What’s more unforgettable about Ringo Starr — the sound of his drums, or the sound of his voice? Imagine the latter revealing the secrets of the former. That’s just what our ears heard in a comfy Manhattan hotel, the day after Starr released Y Not, his 25th release since The Beatles broke up.
Fans of Ringo’s Earth-altering groove — and we mean that quite literally — will be mesmerized by Y Not. Produced by the master himself, the album’s ten tracks hear him performing half the cuts on his “organic” drums, and the other half on a Roland electronic kit. Before long, it becomes clear that the legendary drummer may be playing at the top of his game. Right here, right now.
According to Ringo, groove is inspired first and foremost by the people around you. “I think you have to play with other bandmembers!” he says. “I’m invited to play with people that are so click-tracked — they need it perfect — and I’m no good for those people. Because I think that I’m the click track. I have good time.
“And I believe that in the human part of playing, there is a bit of up and down. Not mad slow or mad speed, but when it gets to the chorus, pick it up a few clicks, because we’re all excited at the chorus, you know? And then you’re back to the verse. But yeah, I love to play with players, and keep it in time. That’s the deal.”
Considering his indisputable track record, Ringo’s modesty can disarm even the most seasoned music journalist, such as when we referred to the “Ringo groove.” “Thanks for calling it my groove, because it’s embarrassing to say, ‘I’m Ringo. I’ve got the groove.’ So I’ll let you say it!” he laughs. “It’s just how I play. There’s no explanation I can give you for it.
“I have been playing when I thought, ‘I haven’t got another fill in me. I’ve played all the fills I’ll ever play,’ but then you’re playing one again. But I’ve got to hit drums. And it’s just where you hit ’em, really. But me, I’ve always thought that not hitting them was as important. That’s part of how I like to play. Let the song happen.”
Propose to Ringo that you have to be born with a natural feel for groove, and he won’t disagree. “Well, I think that it’s a God-given gift,” he says simply. “My dream was to be a drummer. I became a drummer. I played with great people.”