Drummer to the stars! He's drummed for Foreigner, the Storm, Richie
Sambora, Cher and ex-Journey/Santana member Gregg Rolie and many more.
|1. What are you currently up
I've been playing on the road with the Gregg Rolie Band and
working on various projects in the studio when I'm home. For those
people who don't know, Gregg is the original lead singer, keyboard
player and a founding member of both Santana and Journey. He's a
member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and is the guy who is that
sang the lead vocals on such classics as "Black Magic Woman", "Evil
Ways" and "Oye Como Va" with Santana, as well as songs like "Just The
Same Way", "Feeling That Way" and "Anytime" with Journey.
I've known Gregg since our days together as members of a band
called The Storm in the early '90's and we've remained good friends.
A few years ago, I convinced him to do another record and we did
that, in large part at my studio. The record is called "Roots" and I
wound up co-producing it with him, as well as playing drums and
engineering a lot of the basic tracks. Since making the record,
everyone that's heard it has really liked it and we were having so
much fun that we wound up deciding to go out and play live, which is
what we're doing now.
Besides the stuff I'm doing with Gregg, I've also been playing on
various tracks for other people and I'm getting ready to put out a
new set of multi-track drum loops that I hope will be ready in the
next month or so. If you want to learn more about that stuff, check
out my website at www.ronwikso.com and the Gregg Rolie Band website
What has been the highlight(s) and lowpoints(s) of your career
That's a tough question! There have been many high points...I
would have to say I've been very lucky in that way. I've been
fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with some of the
greatest musicians in the world, I've gotten to travel the world and
see so many great places and meet so many great people. The tours
I've done with Foreigner, Richie Sambora, David Lee Roth, Cher, The
Storm, the Gregg Rolie Band and others have, for the most part, been
an incredible experience. There have also been a lot of great
recording experiences...making the "Roots" album with Gregg Rolie,
making the "Eye of The Storm" album, recording with people like Bill
Champlin...the list goes on and on...
As far as low points, I guess it would be some of the dues I've
had to pay along the way. Playing with terrible musicians in terrible
circumstances just to make a buck and pay the rent...yikes!! I try
not to think about that stuff though!
|3. You played on both Storm albums. How did you hook-up with the
band? Any chance that there will ever be another Storm album?
Actually, I only played on the second album, "Eye of The Storm".
Steve Smith (former Journey drummer) played on the first album and,
when the band was getting ready to go on tour with Bryan Adams and
make a video (for the song "Show Me The Way"), Steve decided to bail
on the band.
As it turns out, I was recommended to them by several people. The
first person who recommended me was Pat Torpey, who played drums with
Mr. Big. He told Herbie Herbert (Journey, The Storm and Mr. Big's
manager) about me and gave him my number. I was told that I also
recommended to Herbie by Deen Castronovo and Steve Smith.
Additionally, I got a recommendation from Mickey Curry (Bryan Adams'
drummer) when he heard that The Storm was going to be on the tour
with Bryan Adams.
Anyway, after all the referrals, I wound up going to the Bay Area
to audition for the band and, after listening to about 20 or 30 other
guys, they asked me to join the band. I wound up having to give my
notice to Cher, who I was actually rehearsing with at the time in
preparation for a European tour but, as it turns out, she didn't like
the guy that replaced me and wound up calling me back to do some more
shows with her when I was not on tour with The Storm. So, I actually
wound up going back and forth between both tours that year!
As far as whether or not there will ever be another Storm album,
who knows? At this point, unless there were some really compelling
reason to do one, it doesn't seem likely but I've learned never to
rule things out. Right now though, Gregg and I are really
concentrating on the Gregg Rolie Band - and digging every minute of
it - and Ross Valory is busy playing with Journey. Kevin has his own
band, is playing with Alan Parsons and occasionally comes out and
sings with us in the Gregg Rolie Band when we do some of the Journey
material. I don't really know what Josh is doing but, suffice it to
say, there is nothing planned at the moment for The Storm.
|4. Foreigner - what was it like joining such a well-established band?
Did you get much chance to improvise on stage or was it a strict musical environment?
Playing with Foreigner was awesome! I was always a big fan of the
music and, in particular, Lou's singing, so getting to play those
songs with him at the top of his game - which he was when I was in
the band - was really cool.
As far as there being a chance to improvise on stage, there was
some of that but it was really mostly about playing the songs and
supporting Lou's vocals and Mick's guitar solos. I wouldn't call it a
strict musical environment but it also wasn't like playing in a jazz
band where it's all about improvisation.
Probably the most improvisational touring bands I've played with
were Richie Sambora's band and the Gregg Rolie Band, which I'm
currently doing. With Richie, he would sometimes just call things out
of the blue and we'd jam them on the spot! With the Gregg Rolie Band,
we are doing a lot of the latin/rock flavored stuff, including a lot
of the original Santana stuff that he made famous, and a lot of that
music is built around soloing and improvisation.
The band we have is pretty awesome at it too - besides me and Gregg, we have Alphonso
Johnson (ex-Weather Report, Santana, Phil Collins, George Duke and
many others) on bass, Wally Minko (ex-Jean Luc Ponty, Tom Jones,
Pink, Toni Braxton) on second keys, Michael Carabello (original
Santana conga player) on congas, Adrian Areas (son of original
Santana timbale player, Jose "Chepito" Areas) on timbales and Kurt
Griffey (our secret weapon) on guitar. Both Gregg and I have said
that we think this is probably the best band either of us have played
with in our careers, and that's saying a lot, considering some of the
other bands we've been involved with over the years.
|5. Have you ever wanted to form your own band or perhaps record a
Well, the thought has crossed my mind but I've never really
pursued it in a big way...I always seem to wind up doing other things
that require the type of commitment that would make running my own
project impossible. I have talked with Dave Amato (guitarist/singer
with REO Speedwagon, Ted Nugent, Richie Sambora, Jimmy Barnes, Cher
and many others) about doing a record together and we've even been
approached by a label that was interested in putting it out. Neither
of us have really had time to put that together though, at least not
Of course, I am a full member of The Storm and, the way we've
done things in the Gregg Rolie Band, I'm about as involved in that as
I would be if it were my own project too so, I guess in a sense, I
have fulfilled that aspect of my career.
|6. World Classic Rockers - how did you become involved in this
touring project? What sort of set is played and what have been the live highlights?
Well first, to clarify, I'm no longer a member of WCR...I left to
concentrate fully on the Gregg Rolie Band and I've been replaced in
WCR by Aynsley Dunbar.
The way that I got involved with WCR in the first place was that
they were looking to replace Bruce Gary because they weren't getting
along and Fergie Frederiksen (former Toto singer), who sings with
WCR, recommended me as a replacement. I didn't really know Fergie
that well at the time but I had just played on his solo
album "Equilibrium", which was produced by a good friend of mine,
The main thing that appealed to me about WCR at the time was that
it was a band that didn't travel for long, extended periods of
time...most of the gigs were one-off's and we'd fly in, do the show
and fly home. Also, 99% of the gigs were for corporate events so we'd
go to some exotic locales for a lot of them. During the time I was in
the band, we played in Monte Carlo, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the
Caribbean (Nevis to be exact), Dubai, the Philippines, Guam, Holland,
New York, Palm Beach (FL), Palm Springs (CA) and many trips to Hawaii
(mostly Maui, Kauai and the big island of Hawaii), Florida, Arizona
and other places.
As far as the set list that was played, it was pretty much a
collection of songs from the bands that we were primarily associated
with. That was the concept of the band, particularly as it related to
the corporate event market...a bunch of guys from fairly well known
bands playing songs from those bands.
The members for most of the time that I was in the band were me,
Randy Meisner (the Eagles), Denny Laine (Wings/Moody Blues), Spencer
Davis (Spencer Davis Group), Michael Monarch (Steppenwolf), Fergie
Frederiksen (Toto) and Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf). There were
also 3 backup musicians, one of whom was Kurt Griffey, who is now the
guitar player in the Gregg Rolie Band.
|7. Is there any band(s) you would love to join and play with? Have
any of the artists you've worked with been an absolute pain?
Well, I would have loved to be in the Beatles!! In lieu of that,
I would love to play with any of the surviving members of the
Beatles. Of course, there are so many other bands/artists that would
be great to play with too. Sting, Don Henley, Eric Clapton, Elton
John, the Rolling Stones, Van Halen, AC/DC...I mean the list could
just go on and on if I really stopped to think about it!
As far as artists that I've worked with that have been an
absolute pain, sure, there have been a few of those but I'm not going
to bother spending any time thinking and/or writing about that now.
Life is too short...I'd rather spend my time thinking about the
positive things I've been involved with and looking forward to other,
better things to come!
|8. How did you first get into the music business? Who have been the
main influences on your career to date?
Well, I sort eased my way into it I guess. I started playing
drums at the age of 7 and I did my first gigs when I was around 12.
After I graduated high school, I decided to attend a music college
(Berklee College of Music in Boston) and, after attending 2 semesters
there, I wound up getting a gig with a band that was traveling around
the Northeast and Midwest during the summer. After doing that, I
wound up getting other gigs in the New York area (where I grew up)
and just never wound up going back to college. So I guess, at that
point, I was in the music business!
As far as who my main influences have been, that's a tough
question because there have been so many. I have tried to expose
myself to as many different kinds of music as I could since I was a
teenager. That was something that was instilled in me by my drum
teacher, Larry Ramsden, when I was growing up. He was actually a big
influence because he not only taught me how to play but he taught me
how to appreciate so many different kinds of music and that, in turn,
has influenced my playing, the work that I've done and my overall
I have listened to and played everything from Led Zeppelin and
the Beatles, to Earth Wind & Fire and Tower of Power, to Chick Corea
and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, to Broadway show tunes and music for
film and television. My ability to work and play in so many different
styles has not only influenced my playing but it has allowed me to
work in many different capacities in the music business because I'm
As far as drumming influences, I've listened to and learned from
people like John Bonham, Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta,
Jeff Porcaro, Phil Rudd and so many others. I could probably spend
all day listing them!
|9. What do you do in your spare time outside of music?
Well, at this point, I spend time with my family (going to see my
kids in their various activities and stuff like that), I play golf
occasionally, I love baseball and I'm really interested in a lot of
the new computer technology that's available now, a lot of which I
employ in the work I do in my studio.
|10. Message to your fans...
Well, I'd just like to say thanks to everyone who has been so
supportive of all the music I've been involved with over the years.
We couldn't do it without them! I hope they continue to get enjoyment
out of the things we're doing and I hope to see everyone at a gig soon!
Interview © 2003 Jason Ritchie/
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