interviewed by arjan deelen
Anton Fig is someone who doesn’t need an introduction; the list of people that he has worked with is truly a ‘who’s who’ of rock music. He’s probably best known for being the regular drummer in the ‘Dave Letterman Show’ band since 1986. For this interview, we talked to him about his work with Robert…
Your association with Robert Gordon dates back to the Link Wray era. How did you get to play for them?
It was the late 70’s and I played in a band with Rob Stoner. He and Howie Wyeth, the drummer, who both played with Robert at the time were going off to play with Dylan, so I got the audition with Robert just as he was about to go on a European tour. I was very new to the scene then, so it got me going. I recorded Links ‘Bullshot’ album soon after that and also Ace Frehley’s solo album the day after I got back from the tour.
What was it like to work with Robert during rehearsals and on stage?
I don’t remember rehearsing too much – ever – but he had a very clear idea of what he wanted to hear and was pretty adamant about getting that sound.
Did you ever record in the studio with him?
I did some studio dates – a few of the songs ended up on ‘Too fast to live, Too young to die’.
You toured Europe with Robert and Link in the summer of ’78. Some of the highlights of that tour included an appearance at the Pinkpop Festival in Holland, an appearance on U.K. television on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ and the German television special ‘Rock Palast’. Any memories of that tour?
I remember the fans went nuts when we played. In the clubs they would stamp their feet for an encore. Often the dressing rooms were under the stage – so we really heard it. Pinkpop was the largest audience I had played for at that time [about 40,000] – so that was a thrill. I remember us going into Checkpoint Charlie to stay in East Berlin as there were no places in West Berlin where we had just played. Halfway through the proceeding they decided they did not want to go to East Germany – a pity as it would have been historic. We ended driving back all night to West Germany.
Robert and Link decided to end their association during that tour. What caused it?
I don’t really remember what happened there.
Shortly thereafter, Chris Spedding took his place. How do you rate Chris as a guitarist?
Chris is incredible – he has a very identifiable sound and he is an understated player – so everything he does is very unique. It’s always great to play with him.
The Robert Gordon / Chris Spedding concerts at venues like the Lone Star now have an almost-legendary status. What made these shows so special?
The band with Robert, Chris, Tony Garnier and myself played together for about 3 years straight and did tons of gigs at the Lone Star. The band had a killer instinct – we just knew that every time we would hit it would be great. It was a great time in NYC. I remember being up on the Lone Star roof between sets in the summer – really hot with the dressing room packed. And then we would go down and burn through a set – it was great. That combination was really a special one – we were like a retro-future band – if you know what I mean.
Is it true that you got the job with Dave Letterman because Paul Shaffer took one of the producers to a Robert Gordon gig?
At the time when Paul Shaffer was checking me out for the gig, he came down with Will Lee [the bass player] to hear us play. I assumed they were checking me out because I had not seen them there much before. A few weeks later Paul called me to substitute on the show and about a month after that I had the gig permanently.
You must have some great stories to tell about your years with Robert. Any particular memory or anecdote that stands out for you?
I can’t remember any one anecdote – there were many. I just remember Robert always putting together great bands and that it was always a great time. I played with guitarists Link, Danny Gatton, Lance Quinn and Chris Spedding and that was just my times with the band. There were other great combinations that he put together too.
Robert appeared on the Dave Letterman show on at least two occasions, if I’m not mistaken. Was that your doing?
I’m sure I lobbied for him at least the one time – but I have very little influence in that area.
How do you look back on your years with Robert?
Really fondly – it was a great time personally and the bands were so vibrant – especially the one with Chris and Tony. It will always be a special part of my musical history. Maybe one day that band can play a show again.
For more information about Anton Fig, please visit: www.antonfig.com
From left to right:
Link, Anton, Rob Stoner and Robert.