Terry Bozzio on auditioning for Thin Lizzy and wishing he could play with Zappa again

That's Terry Bozzio on drums at Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta.


By Steve Newton

Terry Bozzio is among the most revered drummers in rock, but these days you won’t catch him tearing up the kit in concert or laying down tracks in a studio. The 52-year-old skin basher is more apt to be leading a drum clinic, like the one set for Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre on Saturday (May 31). Bozzio has been voted clinician of the year twice by both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazine, and—as he explains by phone from Las Vegas, before a drum-store clinic there—it’s a role he adores.

“For me it’s more like a solo performance,” he says, “with complete artistic freedom. I really feel grateful to have the support of companies like Sabian [Cymbals] and DW [Drums], and kind of under the guise of a commercial for them I get to do these solo performances without the restrictions that most people in the music business have.”

Bozzio was 13 and growing up in the Bay Area when he saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and started begging his dad for drum lessons. By ’69 he was taking pointers from members of the San Francisco Symphony, and in the early ’70s was playing in local jazz groups and in rock musicals like Godspell. Then in ’75 he embarked on a stint with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. “That was a great learning experience,” relates Bozzio, “and an amazingly entertaining three years of my life.”

After being dismissed by Zappa in ’78—“He was sort of like a good father kicking me out of the nest”—Bozzio replaced Bill Bruford in British art-rock act U.K. At one point he also auditioned—unsuccessfully—for the job of touring drummer with Thin Lizzy. “[Lizzy guitarist] Gary Moore was interested in having me try out,” recalls Bozzio. “So I auditioned, and the playing and everything went well, but one quirk about my lifestyle at that point was I had hooked up with Dale [former Playboy bunny Dale Consalvi], who was later to become my wife, and I wanted to tour and bring my wife on the road. But Thin Lizzy was kind of a get-drunk-fuck-and-fight band, and I just didn’t really fit into that sort of mentality.”

After getting hitched, the Bozzios formed the cheesy new-wave band Missing Persons, which had a gold record with 1982’s Spring Session M. “I always looked at it as like my 15 minutes of fame,” says Bozzio of his Missing Persons period. “My motives were to be rich and famous, and that’s what I got; then I found out it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. So I’m happy to be more anonymous and more true to my art form, and still able to make a decent living.”

Bozzio is widely recognized for his playing with guitar legend Jeff Beck and keyboardist Tony Hymas on Beck’s Grammy Award–winning Guitar Shop album of ’89, which he also cowrote and coproduced. More recently he recorded Nine Short Films with bass god Billy Sheehan, singing his own poetry and handling all keyboards. His résumé includes sessions with Robbie Robertson, Herbie Hancock, Gary Wright, and Dweezil Zappa, and when asked who he would most like to perform with today—if he could choose anyone, living or dead—that old Zappa magic weaves its spell.

“I would love to play with Frank again,” he says, “because the way he played guitar was just amazing. And with my maturity—not bein’ such a young, look-at-me guy—it would be great to back him up with what I know now.”

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