How We Met: Clive Deamer & Robert Plant

'He was pirouetting and pretending to be Bobby Darin – good music makes Robert sparkle'
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The Independent Online

Robert Plant, 59, is Led Zeppelin's frontman. After the band had broken up in 1980, he pursued a successful career collaborating with various musicians, and helped set up blues band Strange Sensation in 2002. He lives in Worcestershire and Woodstock

My first memory of Clive is of me staring dewy-eyed at him across a crowded floor at my daughter's wedding, in about 1991. He was on stage, drumming with the Big Town Playboys. As a rhythm section they were quite startling. It's very difficult to find white rhythm sections that can dig those Chicago/Kansas City grooves, but these guys had it down really good.

That night we got talking. It turns out he has had a career of great endeavour and versatility with a cock-eyed slant into the absurd. Eventually he ended up joining my band Strange Sensation and we worked together for probably eight years. I've never heard so much tapping and rattling in my life; he is a spectacular polyrhythmist and a huge music fan, which is why I like him so much.

One time, I think it was about 2003, we were on tour and arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The great [jazz drummer] Elvin Jones happened to be playing that night. It didn't surprise me at all to see Clive queuing up with all the other jazz drummer aficionados with a snare drum skin and a felt-tip pen. Bless him.

It is with Clive that we travelled to Nordkapp, the northernmost point of Europe, to play in a visitors' centre to 200 Sami [Laps]. Afterwards Clive and I discharged ourselves of our crew, and spent three days in a boat sailing south.

Those were the sort of gigs we both love to do. We played in a Roman amphitheatre in Carthage, supported by a Lebanese death-metal group, and last summer we decided to see how far east we could get so we travelled through Turkey to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Unlike me, Clive likes structure and commits himself to strict personal regimes. He often disappears at a high rate of knots tilting slightly forward with a yoga mat in his man-bag to seek a quiet place to sort it all out. He's charming. He doesn't drink, although sometimes I wish he would.

We're on sabbaticals at the moment. He won't like that term, but we'll probably reconvene on the tip of Vesuvius at some point and give it some more of that neo-Saharan bong rock.

Clive Deamer, 47, is a drummer who played with Portishead in the 1990s and on the Mercury Music Prize-winning Roni Size album New Forms. He has played in Robert Plant's band Strange Sensation for the past eight years. He lives in Bath with his wife and son.

The first time I met Robert I was working with an R'n'B band called the Big Town Playboys. He came to see us with his daughter and son-in-law-to-be to check us out as a potential wedding band. He asked if he could sing with us and requested Bobby Darin's Multiplicaton. It went very well – he was pirouetting and dancing and pretending to be Bobby Darin himself. Good music makes him sparkle.

Shortly after that I saw him play a gig in Frome with his band The Priory of Brion. Someone told me to come backstage and meet Robert. It was a bit of a non-event. I said, "Hi, how are you" and that was it. He was blown out from having just come off stage and was sweaty and a bit dazed.

So I was quite surprised when just over 10 years later he phoned me up and asked if I'd get involved with his band. I didn't think the way I played would interest him, but we quickly discovered how much we had in common – our love of American roots music really brought us together. On the first night of our tour we discovered Elvin Jones was playing in our hotel. Robert spent the entire gig sat there like an over-excited kid twitching all over and getting delirious whenever Jones went into a new improvisation. It set us up for the whole tour. People who play from the heart and have fearlessness about taking risks are what made us want to do what we do. My relationship with him is all about that.

One of the highlights for me was a gig we did in Norway for Nelson Mandela's charity. I've got a photo of the whole band standing behind Mandela, seated in a leather chair. We all met him before the gig. I've never seen anything like it. All these celebrities with huge reputations – Robert Plant, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel – and as he entered the room it was as if he was the headmaster and everyone else was just a silly schoolkid. It's a good reminder what nonsense entertainment is when you see what he has endured. Robert felt the same. I don't think I'll ever have a more poignant day in my career.

Recently Robert has been having a great time playing with Alison Krauss so in the meantime I've been working with my band The Blessing. I'm also doing stuff with Portishead again. You can't just sit there on your bum expecting things to come to you just because you've played with a few big names. If you want to be taken seriously you have to keep kicking yourself up the arse and taking risks. That's what Robert does. And who knows, maybe one day the tables will turn and it will be me asking him to come and sing for The Blessing.

The Blessing's album 'All is Yes' is out now on Cake. The Blessing are touring until 11 November. For more information, go to www.theblessing.co.uk

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