On an unseasonably warm March day, Vinnie Colaiuta and I are making the most of the unexpected London sunshine with an al fresco lunch at a little Italian deli he's been keen to try since arriving in the capital.
Currently back in the UK with Sting, on his Back To Bass tour, tonight the band will play the second of their three sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo. "It's actually quite poignant that we are performing there," Vinnie explains, "because it's where I played with Frank Zappa on my first trip to London all those years ago..."
With a remarkable versatile session career that, in addition to Sting and Zappa, also boasts Joni Mitchell. Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Jeff Beck and Faith Hill to name but a few, Mr Colaiuta has become one of the most in-demand and revered players of his generation - his awesome technique, sublime groove and impeccable musicianship inspiring and influencing a plethora of drummers in the process.
"I have so much to be thankful for," he reflect, "and I'm blessed, deeply honoured and so grateful to have had the privilege of working with so many people that I love and respect."
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the young Vinnie's interest in drums was further fuelled after he saw Ringo Starr perform with The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. "That's when I started hounding my folks for a real drum kit," he laughs. And, once he'd got his hands on one, there was no stopping the dedicated student and his insatiable appetite for knowledge and self-improvement...
After leaving school Vinnie continued his studies at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, and would have enrolled for a second year had he been able to afford to. Instead, with just $80 in his pocket, he jumped on a bus with his drums and travelled across the United States to LA in search of that first big gig. "I thought at least if I was starving I wouldn't freeze if I had to sleep outside," he chuckles. But, as fate would have it, not long after arriving in the City of Angels, Vinnie heard that a certain Frank Zappa was looking for a new rhythm section. He bagged himself an audition and the rest is history.
After three intense and challenging years with Zappa, Vinnie decided that it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a session drummer and left the band to with Frank's blessing. "I wanted to play all different kinds of music," he explains. "It was a risk, but I had to take that chance." It paid off in spectacular style because, after three decades on the session scene, Vinnie remains one of the most sought-after drummers in the business...
It's great to see you back with Sting... How has everything been going on the Back To Bass Tour?
"Good, really good... The old guard - Sting on bass, Dominic Miller on guitar and me on drums - has been joined by Dominic's son Rufus, on rhythm guitar, Peter Tickell on violin, and Jo Lawry on vocals and violin. This particular touring segment has a freshness too, because we are playing things that we haven't done before and Sting has also been focussing a lot on narrative. We have great songs, great content and great stories, and I think it's so important to be able to engage with the audience on all those different levels.
"Let's face it, Sting is a master lyricist and his command of the language, and his knowledge about how to encapsulate that in a song, is of an extremely high level. This is the songwriting art form, coupled with musicianship and all the skill sets that structure demands, and there are very few situations in this day and age that require those capabilities on so many different levels. As a musician, when you are privileged enough to enjoy that kind of an experience, it's like soul food - it's good for you - and you want to give your very best back."
For the rest of this lengthy interview check out the July 2012 issue of Rhythm which is out now.