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David Kemper


Drummer David Kemper joined Focus for the Mother Focus sessions in Los Angeles in 1975. He appeared with them on their spring 1976 tour of the UK

How did you get involved with Focus in 1975?

I got a call from engineer Eric Prestidge here in West Hollywood Ca. asking if I was available to record an album with a Dutch band called Focus. I had heard Hocus Pocus, but that was all I knew of them. I had a open time slot and said I was available. We recorded in the small studio of a complex owned by a friend of mine. The studio was later sold and renamed Studio 55.

This was a time in Hollywood when producers were in love with the fat drum sound and studios were setup to get that dead sort of sound, it was like pulling teeth trying to get a live and cracking drum sound back then. This concerned me, but after day one the songs Thijs and Jan brought in were sort of soft jazz rock style (I haven't heard this record since it was released, so my memory might not serve me well) I enjoyed and had fun with everybody involved and was even given a royalty contract for future sales of the record.

I think we went on to do somebody's solo project as I remember being in the same studio with Thijs and the famous Motown bassist James Jamerson. I can't remember if this was at the same time or later. We cut basic tracks live with everybody playing and I guess overdubs were done after each basic song was completed.

What are your recollections of the 1976 tour?

I was asked to do this tour and as I liked everybody I agreed to do it. We rehearsed in Baarn Holland in an old and lovely estate with long private road, a pond with swan, the utimate rockstar home, although I don't think they owned it or lived there, but this was a long time ago and I don't think I asked. We set up the gear in a big room on the first floor, very civilized, break for tea or coffee.

I remember Thijs replaced Jan with Phillip Catherine, about 5 days before our first show in England, so we quickly put a band together and hit the road. Phillip is an amazing musician and a wonderful person, and he jumped in feet first. He was primarily a jazz guitarist but at the time the lines between and rock and jazz were getting blurry.

I just remember driving the motorways and country lanes as we all fit in Thijs' Citreon, music and laughter filling the car. I don't however remember much of the music or the shows. Belfast I remember because of the search I got from the customs officer at a small airport somewhere in England. We were using a chartered business plane to do the Irish shows because of the problems in northern Ireland and I guess we looked suspicious to him.

What did you do after Focus?

I don't remember how long we played together or how many solo projects we did, Bert produced the Otger Dice band, recorded at Morgan studios in Brussels, Thijs and Paul Buckmaster did an album - I played a small part. There might have been more but I don't remember.

When these things were done I went back to the L.A. session scene and did records up until today.

In between I was a member of the Jerry Garcia band, for 11 years from 1983-1994, later the Bob Dylan band for five-and-a-half years, 1996-2003 touring and recording for both bands. I have just returned from Nashville where we recorded Bernie Leadon's solo album.

I love my job and look forward to the next project, the next new musician for me, the next flight to Europe, the whole life as a musician.

© 2003 David Randall. All rights reserved.

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