Roger Pope is highly regarded for his work with Hookfoot, Elton, China and Hall and Oates. He recently took time out to speak with Eltonjohnworld.com's Chief Editor, Cheryl Herman, about his career and what people he thinks are headed for success.
EJW: Many people are aware of your contributions to Elton's Rock of the Westies album. But you had played with him well before that, appearing on 1969's Empty Sky. What do you recall about your very first encounter with the singer?
RP: Elton was an unassuming guy back then. He seemed to know what he wanted musically but needed some help when he was making Empty Sky and so we joined in. It was all new to me as well so I got a lot from working on that album. I met Caleb Quaye with Elton for the first time then, as well as Dave Glover who was supposed to take part as well but he didnt, and instead Tony Murray took over on bass. The Empty Sky record got me working with Dave and Caleb and this marked the beginning of Hookfoot.
EJW: Growing up, had you planned on becoming a performer? Who inspired you?
RP: I always wanted to be a musician and drums have always been a part of my life. When I left school I wanted to be a drummer but I got my first job in a men's clothing shop: I didnt take it seriously as I assumed I would end up as a musician soon after I started. Initially I was influenced at the start by the big band drummers like Art Blakey, Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa but as my career progressed, I started to enjoy the music of the Stax and Tamla drummers. You couldnt ignore the Beatles and the Stones as they hit the big time about two years before I started my musical career, and so they were certainly an influence.
EJW: What was your first group like?
RP: My first band was called The Countdowns. We were young and inexperienced but we had a lot of fun and it was a good grounding in the business. We were very loyal to one another so I had enormous difficulty when I was offered my first professional opportunity with the Soul Agents (who would have Rod Stewart as their vocalist), because they were such good friends but I asked my Dad what I should do and his advice was move on.
EJW: Has your musical taste and/or style changed over the years? How so?
RP: I can honestly say that I love every type there is: even opera! As you mature your preferences changes and certainly when I was at my peak, I was working with some of the best artists around, and they influenced my tastes as well. I met a whole broad spectrum of musicians in the business and they introduced me to a wide spectrum of music; it was important for me to stay open to the sounds as a session drummer.
EJW: What sort of projects are you involved with nowadays?
RP: I am helping Aron Fisk, a young producer, with his record label and recording studio called Silentrooms, based just outside Southampton. I am very keen to help youngsters in the music business and Aron is a future Gus Dudgeon. I am playing drums for a young singer-songwriter called Georgie Cullum and she is a future talent. I am currently working with Martyn Ford (the arranger on Elton's Blue Moves album) on a new project called 20/20 Vision on a movie soundtrack.
EJW: Have you collaborated with--or kept in touch with--former bandmates like Ray Cooper or Caleb Quaye?
RP: I havent worked with Caleb since Hookfoot, the Elton John Band and Hall and Oates. He was - and still is - one of my oldest mates and we keep in touch. The same goes for Ray. Davey Johnstone keeps in contact but we havent played together since our China release. I would love to collaborate with them again, and with Elton, but circumstances and distance make that difficult at the moment.
The full story of Rogers life in the music industry, including his memories of working with Elton, can be read in the upcoming book Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John. This is by Roger's manager, Keith Hayward, who was assisted by Nigel Goodall.