Player Of The Month - Beat Instrumental - No 97 - May 1971
'I STARTED with an ammunition box as a snare drum,' says Robert, "an old metal clothes horse for a ride cymbal and a typewriter for hi-hat which went whuck-woo whuck-woo and that was my kit.'
When the Wyatt family lived back in Canterbury, a drum teacher from California came to lodge with them for a year. Instead of paying rent for the accommodation he gave drum tutorship to 14-year-old Robert. From this unlikely beginning has grown the musical career which has taken him through straight 'pop' group Wildeflowers and on into the accomplished Soft Machine. It has taken him from the dance halls of Canterbury to the Royal Promenade Concert of 1970. Of the latter gig Wyatt is not too proud, although he is full of admiration for the electronics wizard Tim Souster ("a really beautiful person") who first proposed the group for the appearance.
He describes his function as drummer as being the pulse of the group. 'It's a social act really,' he explains. 'It takes the dynamics of the people you're playing with. It dictates how clearly your beat is to be split up and how much space there is between a beat and a bar. When you're drumming
you determine the pace that everyone is at - its affects what the other people do.'
Besides the Soft Machine albums One, Two, Three and now Four, Robert has been active in other musical areas. He was involved in the Centipede project and has also released his own album The End Of An Ear. On the back cover of this release Wyatt credits himself as being 'An out of work Pop Singer (currently on drums with Soft Machine).' This is probably the strongest indication he has given of where his personal artistic ambitions lie. For a drummer he has must surprising ambitions. 'I like a touch of madness,' he says, 'it's one of my favourite human characteristics. The basic thing that I always end up going back to is not really related to rock or jazz at all.
It's related to strange tapes and voice things - more influenced by the Goons.'
The drummers that seem to have influenced Wyatt are to be found in the rock world. 'I was listening to a Traffic album last night,' he said, -and Jim Capaldi is one of my heroes for a start. I prefer the idiom of rock actually because it has a warm chunky feel. I like thick decisive rock drumming which is clear and easy to work with. I'm an admirer of Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Mitch Mitchell has been a great influence on me.
'Since I last saw myself in print admitting that I couldn't really play properly,' Robert added with a smile, 'I've actually been learning to play quite a lot. It's come almost by accident because we've been doing so much playing and I now feel quite proud of being a drummer. Had you come up two months ago and said that I was to be Player Of The Month I would have really been embarrassed.'