Written by NPR Staff from National Public Radio
Peter Gabriel has just finished up the 25th-anniversary tour of his blockbuster album So. Manu Katche, the drummer who provided the driving beats for “Sledgehammer” and other songs from that record, was right there with Gabriel, helping him celebrate.
Katche has been a sideman for lots of musicians — from Sting to Joni Mitchell to Tears for Fears — and he’s been busy putting out his own albums, as well. His fourth comes out Tuesday, called simply Manu Katche.
Katche grew up in the suburbs of Paris, the son of a Haitian French mother and an Ivorian father. He started studying piano when he was 7, and eventually went to the Paris Conservatory to study classical percussion and the timpani. Katche says that helped him approach the drums with an ear for melody.
“I’m tuning those drums like a timpani player,” he says. “I’m really aware of the melody of the sound. Even on the cymbals, it’s not just bashing the cymbal; I used splashes with different tones. For me, it’s mainly the approach of the harmonies and melodies and sounds on the drums.”
On the new album, Katche worked with Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer.
“He sings into his trumpet,” Katche says of Molvaer. “He’s got like a little microphone on the top so you hear him playing a note, and all of the sudden you hear his voice inside the notes, ’cause he’s kind of looping the sound. He’s really into effects and stuff. It makes it pretty much unique and very original.”
Katche says he feels most fulfilled when a composition he hatched alone is brought to life by a full band.
“All of the sudden, you have those amazing talented musicians who are just going to play it,” he says. “You just listen and think, ‘Wow, this is just beautiful.’ And how privileged I am to have someone playing what I wrote on my little corner in France on my piano, and all of a sudden it sounds just amazingly beautiful.”