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Rhythm magazine, England, February 2000
Paul Deakin at the
                              Hammersmith Palais, London
Two more photos here
Rhythm cosies up to Mavericks drummer Paul Deakin, a man partially responsible for either brightening your year with the most infectious slice of radio-friendly country pop in living memory, or making every day of it a living hell.

Dance The Night Away was a colossal hit, one of those records that you simply couldn't escape.  No matter where you were in 1999, if there was a radio, a jukebox or a TV set within earshot, you were going to hear 'that song'.   It's tempting then to view The Mavericks as one hit wonders.  

In fact, the band have a major label pedigree stretching back a decade, and roots that extend even further, deep into the alternative music scene of their native Miami.  Their latest album, The Best of The Mavericks, is a chance for UK audiences to catch up on the band's evolution from left field country honky tonkers to the kings of kitsch who, today, are hip enough to make the middle of the road look cool.  

Drummer Paul Deakin studied jazz and played everything from funk to punk before teaming up with his best friend Robert Reynolds (bass player), Raul Malo (singer, writer and producer) and, a little later, Nick Kane (guitarist) to form the Mavericks.   Last year the band played six nights at the Royal Albert Hall, where Rhythm grabbed Paul on a break between filming to ask the big questions.   Like...

Why are you the only Maverick without a beard?
I did have a goatee for a short time.  A soul patch they call it.  I think it was in one video.  But when I shave I have the toughest beard you can imagine.   I have to shave every day, but it doesn't grow in certain places.  It's one of those beards that's a pain in the ass because you can't make it look good.

Why wasn't Dance The Night Away followed by another hit?
Somebody told me that that record was such a hit because it was really rainy and then the sun came out and everybody wanted to party.   It was a real phenomenon over here and a total surprise to us.  The second song they decided to go with was a ballad.  But Trampoline, the album, sold more than half a million copies over here, which is like selling four million in the States.

What attracted you to drums in the first place?

I took piano lessons as a young child but then, I guess, I got the rock 'n' roll bug.   I liked The Beatles and The Monkees.   They say the reason every musician starts in high school, and I halfway agree, is to get girls.  If you played sport you could get girls and if you played an instrument you could get girls, too.  As for drums, I just loved the instrument.   But I wasn't necessarily tapping on everything as a kid.  When I was eight years old I had my first drum.   I took it outside and bounced stones off it and I broke it.   I started crying and blamed it on the local bully so I wouldn't get in trouble.

What was your first proper kit?

I started with a Ludwig.   I bought it piece by piece, starting in eighth grade, and I had a full kit by the time I was in tenth grade.   I remember buying a bass drum pedal and before I got a bass drum my dad made a little block for my pedal to hit.

What are you playing today?
For the past five years I've endorsed Slingerland.   I have a Gretsch kit, too.   I'm not necessarily a tech-head.  I love basic six-ply maple kits.  I tend to like smaller drums, too.

Are you into electronics at all?

I had a Simmons kit in the '80s, which was fun.  Then I had an Octapad that triggered all sorts of things.   But I'd rather run sequencers and play acoustic drums.  I love that mix, electronic bands that use live drums, like Beck.  

Actually, we recently did 'Hot Burrito #1' on a Gram Parsons tribute record.   We wanted to do something different so we talked about using a loop.   They were going through this drum machine and trying to come up with all these programs.   It so happened I had a little sitdown cocktail kit in my truck that I had Slingerland make up.   I had a little eight-inch snare drum and played like a minute on that.   They took two measures and recorded it and that became the loop.   But honestly, when The Mavericks came about I wanted to get away from electronics.   In the early days of The Mavericks, for a long time all I had was a kick, snare, a floor tom, a hi-hat and a cymbal.  It was really about getting back to basics.

Having studied jazz at university, how did you get into country music?

I was a latecomer to country because I really didn't like it.  I still don't like a lot of what they play on country radio.   But about 15 years ago, Bob and me travelled to Europe backpacking.   We saw these busking bands playing Hank Williams Sr and stuff and it sounded so nice.   I started listening to Hank Williams records and the high lonesome sound of his voice really affected me.   Then I saw k.d. lang on The Tonight Show and I thought she was awesome.

What did you think of country drumming?
The drumming I was really attracted to was Johnny Cash's band.  It was somewhere between a shuffle and a straight two-beat. But the way I approached The Mavericks was you don't have to play like a country drummer to be in a country band.  

The Mavericks started playing in the original alternative clubs.  We actually did shows with Marilyn Manson in Miami - imagine that crowd.  So we had to play a bit harder or more aggressively.   The drummer from the Clash [Topper Headon] is about my favourite drummer.

Nick Kane has made a solo album and Raul Malo is doing a Spanish album.   Is there a Paul Deakin solo project on the cards?
Let's hope not!   I do write, but if I sing in the shower the water turns cold.

You're not one to demand a 15-minute solo in every show then?
I've never liked drum solos, although there are obviously people who can do them justice.  The best rock drummer I ever heard do a solo was Rod Morgenstein.   He's one of those drummers who lets you hear the melody.  But I personally do not believe in drums as a solo instrument.  I love rhythm.  My happiest place - on a good night - on a bad night it's the worst - is behind my drums when I have a groove going and I'm just playing straight.  That's an amazing feeling.

What would be the best example of your drumming in The Mavericks' catalogue?

One of my favourite groove songs is What A Crying Shame.   I think that's when I started playing much better in the studio, because I'd only done a couple of records before that.   There's a song called Things You Said To Me that I really like.  That was just a great shuffle.  Then there's something like Melbourne Mambo, where I got to use my Latin chops, which was rare for us.

What was your first impression of Raul?

Well, I first met Raul when he was about 15 years old.   He was playing bass and singing back-up in another band and three bands were sharing the same drum kit in this club.   Raul hung around to watch my band but the other drummer just went home.  He said 'That was really rude that he didn't hang around to help you with your drums.  Let me help you.'  So he helped me carry my drums to my car.   That was the first and last time Raul has ever carried my drums.  So I had a very good first impression of him.

How have you coped with fame?
I've never really taken it seriously.   I was 30 when I started this band so my happiness wasn't based on the success or failure of this project.

Robert and I both had this view that if you keep your dreams at arm's length more will come true that way.  Every rung on the ladder was like the last success for us.  When we made our first independent record it was like 'Whoa, we have a CD.  If nothing else happens we'll have that forever.'   Then, when we were signed, it was like 'If this doesn't work we've been a major label act, which maybe one in ten thousand bands get to be.'

Got any tips for drummers?

I'm a studied drummer but I do believe, at least as far as college goes, that it takes four years to learn your chops and ten years to unlearn then.  Chops aren't everything.  Technically, I'd say play with records.   Whenever I used to work out anything, I'd play with Janet Jackson's 'Control'.  Everything was at 120bpm and that was kinda my metronome.   And I totally believe in working with metronomes.

What advice would you offer bands who want to enjoy the longevity of The Mavericks?
If you can get past five years I think you should take time off and do other projects.   A band shouldn't be like a monogamous marriage.   It can only be a positive thing for somebody to bring in something new from other experiences.

Before our last album we were on the road so long we got to the point where we said 'God, I never want to see you again.  I never want to play another Mavericks song ever again.'   Our manager very wisely said 'Take a year off.   Do other things.  Play other music.'   Which we did.   We took seven months off and went in to do Trampoline.   It was the most fun we'd ever had making a record.

Words:  Douglas McPherson
Photographer:  James Cumpsty
Rhythm magazine (England)   "By drummers, for drummers"
February 2000

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