Steve Jordan, the late-Charlie Watts‘ replacement, broke his silence to Vanity Fair about taking over the drum chair for the Rolling Stones.
Jordan, Keith Richards‘ collaborator and drummer in his X-Pensive Winos solo band — is also known for his work on the original Saturday Night Live, the Blues Brothers, the Late Night with David Letterman Band, along with sessions with the Stones, and co-writing their 1989 Steel Wheels track, “Almost Hear You Sigh.”
He explained that filling in for Watts — a close friend for decades — is both difficult and easy in many ways: “It’s very natural. But, y’know, I’ve been listening to these records since I was eight years old. Some of those ‘fills’ or whatever are embedded in my DNA. I can’t listen to the song without playing the exact fill that Charlie played, because that’s part of how you breathe, y’know? People equate hooks to guitar lines or vocal melodies. But there are hooks in drums, too. And Charlie played a lot of hooks. And if you don’t play the hooks, then you’re not playing the song. So it’s imperative that I quote and play these hooks.”
Jordan shed light on how he’s been approaching the material onstage: “I’m not trying to do an impersonation. It’s just part of the song. And that’s not going to go away. I’m always going to do that as long as I’m playing with these guys. But it’s got to feel great. It’s got to swing. And they all know how to swing.”
He added, “My approach is I go back to the original stuff on the records and then work my way back, as opposed to trying to pick up where the band left off in 2019. Because I would say a good portion of the original recordings have been abandoned over time, which is a natural evolution. They don’t want to play it the same way for 50 years. But I can’t come in and start playing it like that. I have to come from the beginning and work my way through it.”
Steve Jordan explained that the job requires him to connect with the music while still remaining true to both the Stones’ history and current groove: “I’m going to play it how it is on the record I loved and bought when I was a kid. So we’ve been able to implement some of the original flavor (on tracks such as ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Paint It, Black’) and make it work. And where it doesn’t work, we don’t make it work. We do something different. So that’s part of the discovery and rediscovery of this music, and basically a way to honor Charlie.”
Keith Richards admitted that throughout the ups and downs of the Rolling Stones’ long and storied career, allowing a certain element of the music to stay alive and in the moment is what’s kept the band honest on stage: “It’s a strange balance of things, but, as I say, for a lead singer, for the frontman — so to speak — it’s important that he feels, like, totally confident in that he has a band behind him that’s not gonna fall apart if he tries anything. Be ludicrous, if you like, I mean — we’ll be there. Every gig is different, which is why I never got bored doing this stuff. Take the Stones on stage 1963 or now, it’s still that same sense of adventure.”