fb-pixel Skip to main content
RI ARTS

Super trio of Chris Spedding, Anton Fig, and Tony Garnier come to Newport

The Chris Spedding Trio stops by Rhode Island on Jan. 20 as part of an international tour. Fig, who studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston, talks about his local connections and the big hits of his musical career.

Anton Fig, who played drums with countless stars on "Late Night with David Letterman," on various albums, and major live shows.Handout photo

The Chris Spedding Trio is a one-off super-group of session musicians whose members have played with and for a veritable Who’s Who of Rock: Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Elton John, Tom Waits, Brian Eno, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson… the list goes on.

Now, guitarist Chris Spedding, bassist Tony Garnier, and drummer Anton Fig are coming together to play Newport, R.I., as part of an international tour.

All three are connected by their incredible musical past, but they have a recent one in Rockabilly legend and New York punk scenester Robert Gordon, who died in October at age 75.

Advertisement



“We used to play with Robert Gordon back in the ‘80s. I played in a few of Robert’s bands; Tony played in a bunch of Robert’s bands as well,” said Fig in a phone interview from his New York home.

They were slated to go out for a run of shows with Gordon around this time. When he died, they decided the show would go on. “So we decided to go out and play Chris’s music,” said Fig.

“We haven’t played together in many years, but I’m sure we’ll fall right back into it. It should be fun. Chris has got a pretty large catalog of songs, so we’ll be doing his songs — “Motor Bikin’,” “Silver Bullet,” “Guitar Jamboree,” “Wild in the Street.”

A longtime freelance drummer, his resume is filled with names like Link Wray, Kiss, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Joan Armatrading, Paul Butterfield, Mick Jagger, and others. His solo album “Figments” features Brian Wilson, Richie Havens, Ivan Neville and more. He spent 29 years playing the drums on “Late Show with David Letterman” and playing with musical guests including Miles Davis, James Brown, James Taylor, Tony Bennett, Pete Townshend, and others, and played at iconic live concerts including Live Aid and Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary show.

Advertisement



As this trio rolls up for their single New England appearance, Fig took the time to talk to us about his New England connections and the big hits of his musical career.

Q: Growing up in Cape Town, were you always musical?

Fig: I was drumming since about four. When I was six, my grandfather bought me a snare-drum and bass-drum. Every year, we added a drum. When I was 10, I had a full kit. I was playing in [neighborhood] bands. I was serious about it.

How did you end up at the New England Conservatory in Boston?

An older friend was already there. I applied and got in. I came to America because South Africa was very isolated in those days, before the internet— very cut off from the rest of the world. All we had was records that people who visited America brought back. That was our link to the outside world. I wanted to hear music and try to play with some musicians. I came over around age 18. I applied for the jazz department, and they accepted me into the classical department. So I did both.

I spent five years in Boston. I played all around the area — I’m sure I played in Rhode Island at some point. We used to go to the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall in Boston, but I don’t think they exist anymore. I lived in Beacon Hill, Brookline, Jamaica Plain.

Advertisement



How did you go from college in New England to Letterman?

A: I moved to New York. One of the first gigs I got was with Robert Gordon. There was one gig at the Lone Star in New York, with Tony and Chris, actually. Paul Shaffer came to the show, and I was pretty sure he was there to see if I could play as a substitute drummer. And after that, he hired me. I substituted a couple of times, then they said, “The original drummer is leaving, so the job is yours if you want it.” I said, “I do want it.” And I was with the show for 29 years.

Do any guests stand out?

We did 6,000 shows, and I probably remember 5,990. Miles Davis, James Brown. Springsteen. Stevie Winwood. Pete Townshend. I’ll see stuff on YouTube and go, “I completely forgot I even did that.”

You played Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert, and on two of his albums, “Empire Burlesque” (1985) and “Knocked Out Loaded.” (1986)

That concert was a highlight. We got to back up Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Neil Young. I was playing with Booker T. & the MG’s that time, and they were hired as the house band.

[For the albums] I was recording some sessions with Ronnie Wood. I opened the door and Dylan was standing there. He came in and played with us. We did a bunch of songs. And then he just took the whole band and we did a studio [session] for him a few weeks later. He just kind of started playing — it wasn’t rehearsed at all. I’m not sure if we played a song twice.

Advertisement



I love that you’ve made your living as a freelance drummer.

I’m happy to say I’ve never done anything else. I’ve managed to keep myself afloat. I never really even decided to play drums — I just always found myself playing.

Do you have any plans for when you come to Rhode Island Jan. 20?

I’d like to take a drive to the beach. I know they have good surfing there. I used to surf a fair amount in South Africa; I’m still interested in it.

Any other hobbies?

Golf. But it doesn’t sound that romantic.

THE CHRIS SPEDDING TRIO

With Chris Spedding, Tony Garnier, and Anton Fig

Presented by Newport Live. At The Casino Theater, 9 Freebody St., Newport, R.I. Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m. $35. Event info here.



Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.