If there’s a man to be trusted with the sticks, it’s Ross Orton.
The producer musician – based in Sheffield – has made rhythm the centre of his life, and the focal point of many of the records to have received the Orton treatment.
It was Orton, after all, who co-produced the Arctic Monkeys’ latest album, AM and Orton who beefed up Mike Hughes’ staggering track, Temple Blues.
But if it wasn’t for a 1980s kids’ programme, Ross Orton’s life may have taken a very different turn.
“I can remember it really well. There was this programme and in it a girl was going out with a lad in a band and they filmed it playing live. It was just a 16-year-old playing in a practice room but it was the first time I saw live drums.”
By this point Orton already had an inkling that his destiny lay with the sticks, but the programme sealed his passion.
“I remember in music class we had these Casio keyboards and I discovered the button that plays a beat and I just kept pressing it over and over again, I thought ‘this is great but then I was kicked out of the classroom. The thing is, I just wanted to hear it over and over again.”
But opportunities at school to indulge his passion were few and far between, so Orton looked elsewhere.
“I became obsessed and eventually started wagging school to go and play on a drum kit that was set up in a youth club up the road. I’d go in the afternoons and the youth worker would say ‘are you sure you shouldn’t be at school’ and just said ‘no’. I’m sure he knew full well that I should have been at school, but drumming was keeping me out of trouble.”
Orton was also in a marching band, playing a huge bass drum and later a snare.
“I went out with this girl when I was about 14 and she told me she was in this marching band. So I joined in. It was great and we’d enter competitions and travel to places like Holland. There were hundreds of us.”
But these expeditions with the marching band would solidify Orton’s desire to be a drummer.
“Suddenly I had an identity. No-one in my family was musical and my parents were very loving and we are very close but they discouraged me from pursuing music. I did it anyway.”
But by the age of 20 Orton had entered into a rhythmic hiatus. “I was welding full-time and it was awful work. But I was at the pictures one night and this man from Red Tape Studios I knew came up to me and said ‘are you still drumming?’
“I told him no so he urged me to audition for a band called AC Temple. They were a proper studenty band, really middle-class and nothing like anyone I knew but I got the job and we were straight into a European tour.”
Orton had also started helping out at a studio in town.
“At first I’d started just letting bands into the building as I’d be in there at night playing drums but then I started to learn about the production side.”
But that was 20 years ago. And he’s never looked back.
Now in a custom-built studio at Crystal Ship, Orton has all the cutting-edge technology, along with some old-school equipment, to record whatever he fancies.
“I love it. But really it’s about the band and the ideas they have – that’s what really matters. It’s the raw material that counts. I just cut out the flab.”
Ross Orton is currently working on material for Drenge, Sheffield-based grungers. Watch this space for details on their latest release.