Veteran drummer Mike Travis has a winning musical formula in EH15, as

Rob Adams reports Travis beats out tour trail

IDON'T like talking about the past,'' says drummer Mike Travis. ''I

prefer to move on.'' Engage him on that very subject, however, and it

becomes clear that the real reason he doesn't like talking about his

past is: it takes so long.

The programme for the Big Picnic described Travis as vastly

experienced. It didn't lie. To back it up he has a whole catalogue of


Like the time when, as a callow 17-year-old during an Edinburgh

Festival-time jam session, Travis suggested to the late, lamented alto

saxophonist Joe Harriott that they play something up-tempo. The facial

expression leaves no doubt that come-uppance was received -- big time.

''The number collapsed into a shambles within a few bars,'' says Travis,

recalling this salutary lesson with a guffaw.

Travis's wide-ranging career began as a guitarist. With school chums

he formed a skiffle group. They were well into the first verse of a

Lonnie Donegan-styled It Takes A Worried Man when they realised they had

great rhythm -- but knew no chords.

Travis stuck with the rhythm and got some drums. It was a major figure

from the 1960s folk scene, guitarist Davy Graham, who gave Travis a

musical vision that lives on in his band EH15 -- which begins a

five-date tour of Scotland on Sunday. He introduced Travis to records by

jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown, Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, then

blues legend Big Bill Broonzy. When the pair later played gigs, the

mixture would be just as eclectic. Travis says: ''He taught me to listen

to everything.''

Having established himself in Edinburgh, Travis felt the traditional

Scottish urge to prove himself in London. He got a day job to support

himself and looked around for drumming work.

He played in the original Hair band with Alex Harvey and took on a

residency at an after-theatre club with singer Jon Hendricks (of

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross fame) which proved a magnet for American

musicians passing through -- guitarist Kenny Burrell and Crusaders

pianist Joe Sample being among the many who sat in.

Through working with ex-Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, Travis got

the call from Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta, a visually-stunning

performer who would arrive on stage in full Samurai garb. While working

with Yamashta, Travis saw the way the music business was going and

didn't like it. 'We were playing Liverpool University and the congener

said: ''That was quite good but next week we've got Slade!

Shortly afterwards, feeling that he wasn't progressing and doubtful

about having his two children grow up in South East London, Travis and

his wife moved back to Edinburgh.

After 14 years all his contacts had disappeared and, starting from

scratch, he played in clubs backing comedians and country singers,

obtained some jazz gigs with visiting soloists such as saxophonist James

Moody and trumpeter Art Farmer, and took up acting -- spending three

years with Wildcat Theatre Group.

Aside from working with Savourna Stevenson, the Cauld Blast Orchestra

and Clan Alba, he has always had his own bands and is fully aware of the

perception of drummers' bands being vehicles for lots of drum solos.

This is patently not the case with EH15, where Travis is uneasy with

his role as nominal leader. ''It's a co-operative band. Writers bring in

raw ideas and we all work on the arrangements.

''But someone has to organise things, and drummers -- since we have to

organise ourselves getting from A to B -- tend to be the organisers.''

The band's current line-up has developed the original pot-pourri of

jazz, rock, Spanish, Latin American and North African influences

featured on their 1991 album, The View from Where, to a stage where, on

the strength of the last two gigs I've heard, the forthcoming dates come

into the not-to-be-missed category.

Travis said: ''All we ask is that people leave their jazz baggage at

home and come with open ears. We think they'll be pleasantly


* EH15 play the City Hall Bar, Glasgow on Sunday January 22; Volunteer

Hall, Galashiels, Wednesday 25; Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 26; MacRobert Arts

Centre, Stirling, 27; and Music Box, Edinburgh, 30.