Cliff Hackford Interview

Cliff Hackford Interview
"Drum Master Cliff Hackford"

Interview by Roger Zee (03/16/16)

RZ: Who or what inspired you to pick up the drums?
CH: Growing up, there was a guy living in my neighborhood, Buddy Neely, who owned a drum set. I listened outside to him when I was about four or five. The sounds he made fascinated me. I just always remember wanting to be a drummer! His wife let me in to play his kit when he wasn't there. Ha ha! She gave me a pair of his sticks and I played them for my Mom on a magazine on our coffee table. She would put on some show music and I would drum along. My folks would wake me up at a young age to see Buddy on the tonight show. Later they got me a snare, then in a few years, gear from Kent. I played constantly. Then a Rogers kit when I hit Jr. High School.

RZ: What drummers did you focus on growing up?
CH: In my early years, I concentrated on everything on the radio and whatever records I owned -- Buddy Rich, Blind Faith (Ginger Baker), The Beatles (Ringo Starr), Jimi Hendrix (Mitch Mitchell). Then in my late teens -- Miles Davis, Elvin Jones' Merry Go Round, Weather Report (Alex Acuna), Wes Montgomery. Also, all the ECM stuff, Keith Jarrett, Chet Baker, and Kenny Wheeler. DeJohnette and Jon Christiansen were the drummers usually.

I got into playing Reggae at nineteen. That opened me up to performing tons of groove music, like Fullhand, AK-47, Al Anderson. Then later Ken Booth, The Melodians, Marcia Griffiths, Agustus Pablo, Pablo Moses. It was like playing backwards! I got deep into it. It was a very creative time in my life. The drummers I listened to then included Carly Barrett, Sly Dunbar, Tiddly Neck, and of course, Leroy Horse Mouth Wallace.

I always aim to be in the moment, wrapped up in the music, focusing on the groove and feel. Keeping it steady and grooving. And open and listening to the other players, not just myself!

RZ: Did you receive any formal drum training?
CH: I studied at seven with Pete Heywood, a local drummer in Stony Brook, Long Island, NY. Later with Elvin Jones, Norman Grossman, legit master Al Pollick, and tabla master Samir Chatterjee.

RZ: What other instruments do you play?
CH: I play tabla for Indian classical and devotional music. Tons of percussion instruments. And some guitar, bass, and keys -- enough to write and lay down a track or two in the studio.

RZ: Do you teach music?
CH: Yes, I have given private lessons most of my adult life. I put on clinics and work in schools as a percussion teacher.

RZ: I first met you when I lived in Teaneck, NJ and saw your band, "Cadillac Moon," at a local club, Geronimo's. I bought your record, "In the Kitchen," and loved it. Does the group still perform together?
CH: Not often. We put together a side project called The Walkers. We all remain good buddies and occasionally do a Cadillac Moon reunion gig. We also see each other on sessions or gigs with other artists.

RZ: What other groups do you currently perform with?
CH: Well lately, I do a variety of stuff. On drums -- Tasty Mike Murphy (Paul Bisbano, David McDowell), Frank Louis Pisani (J.D. Durante, Artie Dillion), Pat Tomasso and Simpatico (Bill Conway, Jim Wacker), Collateral Damage (Jim Wacker, Andy Bassford, Ray Detone, Fred Weidenhammer), Vincent Pastore and the Gangster Squad (Frank Pisani, Eddie Denise, Baron Raymondi, Tommy Buddha, J.D. Durante, Al Orlo) Johnny Feds' Monday Night Jam at The Bayou (big man Elmo), Koko and the Dubsters (Keith Fluitt, Gary Hasse, Peter Valentine, Jerome Harris, Paul Pimsler), and Deep Pockets (Peter Valentine, Jim Gatley, Gregory Jones). On tabla -- Sonic Bliss Kirtan, Satya Franc, Damadar Das, Dee Harris, Robert Een, Indrajit-Roy Chowdury, Abhik Mukherjee, and many others...

RZ: Talk about your studio, "Park Hill Recording."
CH: Much of my time and energy goes into recording music. I love doing this. Love making records! The studio has a nice vibe to it -- large glass windows with nice honey-wood trim, good sight lines for everyone, and great gear. It contains a control room, isolation booth, and an awesome sounding drum room, naturally! Lately I have been engineering and producing local as well as regional artists. I also work via the World Wide Web, recording drum tracks and emailing them to folks all over the place. I also run a small label with a handful of artists called We cover the whole process from start to finish -- recording, mixing, and mastering. My partner, Angela Lee Chen, handles the CD design and artwork.

2016 Roger Zee