Maxine Peake & Mike Joyce: "It's quite funny when one of your rock'n'roll heroes comes to your house with a box of his veg"


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Maxine Peake, 40

After studying performing arts at Salford Tech, Peake was awarded a scholarship to Rada. In 1998, she got her break in Victoria Wood's 'Dinnerladies' and has gone on to appear in TV series including 'Shameless', 'Silk' and 'The Village', while on stage she has won plaudits for her title roles in 'Miss Julie' and, last month, 'Hamlet'. She lives in Salford with her partner

Just over two years ago I was looking to learn the drums for an audition. A friend had given me a script for a film slightly based on Frank Sidebottom and said that I should read it because it was all the music that I was into. I loved it and chased my agent about it, and was told there was only really one tiny part I could play, as Maggie Gyllenhaal was lined up to play the lead and that was a female drummer. I then got slightly obsessed with this tiny part. They said they wanted a real drummer so I thought, "Fine, I'll learn to play the drums."

I asked my friend, the DJ Marc Riley, if he knew anyone who could teach me and he said, "Oh, I'll get someone to give you a ring." I was walking in Salford's Media City and my phone rang and the voice said, "Hiya, it's Mike Joyce; I believe you want to learn to play the drums." I nearly fell over the curb. I was such a huge fan of The Smiths, so it was probably one of the most surreal conversations I'd ever had.

I went over to Mike's house as he has a studio downstairs with a couple of drum kits. He was brilliant; so passionate and such a wonderful teacher. He really made me wake up to the sense that it wasn't about being a brilliant drummer, it was about selling it and performing. In the end, the job didn't go my way but we really got on, so we stayed in touch and we'd go to gigs together.

Sometime later the [BBC 6 Music] radio producer Michelle Choudhry got in touch to ask me if I wanted to write a radio play about a woman who is into drumming. I'd seen Mike acting as himself in a little video, so one of my first thoughts was to get him in the play, which is called My Dad Keith. He acts and drums in it and he's just brilliant. I certainly didn't have to help him with the acting, anyway. I've seen proper actors more daunted than Mike was.

I ended up buying an electric drum kit so that I can practise on my own. I've tried to keep at it, although I haven't played for a couple of months now. I heard that Mike's been teaching some others to drum, too; he's become the go-to drumming teacher. I think he had sort of put it to one side a bit so it's great that he's gotten back into it.

Mike and his lovely wife came to my 40th birthday in July. Mike has an allotment and he brought a big crate full of his veg as my present. That's quite funny, isn't it, one of your rock'n'roll heroes coming to your house with a box of his veg?

Mike Joyce, 51

In 1982, Joyce formed The Smiths with friends Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke. After the band broke up five years later, Joyce became a session musician for artists including Sinead O'Connor and Suede. He currently works as a DJ and broadcaster. He lives in Manchester with his wife

I've taught drums in the past but because it has to be quite intensive, I felt like I couldn't take time off, so I didn't really keep up with it.

But Marc asked me if I might teach a friend of his. I knew of Maxine and I thought it would be interesting to see why she wanted to play. She told me about the audition and I told her that obviously I couldn't teach her to play drums in six weeks, but she seemed like she had a genuine interest in playing anyway, which helped. I thought, let's just go for it.

It was great for me in terms of playing, because I was in semi-retirement and I just wasn't feeling inspired. It was a nice catalyst for me to get playing again.

She came over and it was brilliant. I explained to her that it would be hard to learn in such a short period and it would have to be about 95 per cent acting, which Maxine is obviously pretty fantastic at.

I was trying to convey the idea that if someone doesn't really have the technical wizardry and ability, they can make up for it in attitude. When I watch drummers, I always want to see energy. It's not about the proficiency of the musicianship, I'm just into the vibe and excitement of it. With drums, it's such a primeval thing.

I actually had a couple of lessons myself. It was while I was with The Smiths. Johnny and Andy were such fantastic musicians that I felt a little bit behind in terms of my capabilities, so I went to have a lesson with a guy in Stretford. I sat down and he said, "Your feet are wrong, you're sitting wrong, your hands and wrists are wrong, and your arms are wrong." I just felt like an idiot. It put an awful dent in my confidence. I had a natural way of playing, and that really affected it, so I tried to bring that into my teaching with Maxine; not to mess with her natural style too much.

I've seen lots of her television work and my wife bought us tickets for Hamlet [at the Royal Exchange in Manchester]. I'd never been to see Shakespeare performed in the theatre before. I had no idea what to expect but she was fantastic. I was in awe watching her.

When we were going in, I heard the bell to signal the start of the performance and my stomach started to go for her. It was like when you go on for a gig. I remember playing the Royal Albert Hall and a guy would say, "Ten minutes to stage time," and I'd get so nervous. And so at Hamlet, I thought, "Will she hear that bell? Of course she will." And I wondered whether she felt the same.

'My Dad Keith' will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 28 November at 2.15pm