It’s been 18 years since David Garibaldi last played with Tower Of Power. It was with that classic Oakland horn band during the ’70s that Garibaldi redefined funk drumming, by using the complexities of James Brown’s rhythm section as a starting point, and taking syncopation to its most outrageous extremes. After leaving Tower Of Power, Garibaldi played with a variety of artists, including Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, Larry Carlton, Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, Ray Obiedo, The Buddy Rich Orchestra, Boz Scaggs, Talking Drums, Deniece Williams, The Yellowjackets and Wishful Thinking. But the big news is that he is back on the road with Tower Of Power, and beginning to work on new material for the band’s forthcoming release.

DRUM!: Do you remember the circumstances of the last gig you played with Tower Of Power back in 1980?
Garibaldi: I don’t remember specifically the last gig. I remember the circumstances, but they weren’t favorable. But that’s all water under the bridge. It doesn’t even affect what’s going on today.

DRUM!: What’s it like being back with the band again?
Garibaldi: Well, I guess it took a while to get reacclimated to what was going on, but the band plays so well, and Emilio [Castillo, saxophonist] is such a great band leader. He just lets you do your thing, lets you play the music. It’s evolving, the thing is moving upwards right now. We’ve been playing a lot of gigs and we’re starting now to think about and write new material for a new record. But mostly we’re just playing the music, doing a lot of the older songs and resurrecting some of the ones that the band hasn’t played in a long time. We’re doing some of the new material, the stuff from more recent records.

DRUM!: Are you playing your old drum parts on some of the older material?
Garibaldi: I went back to that place because that’s the place that I think is best to start from. So I’m kind of doing the older songs the way that I did before, with a few little twists. I thought at one point that I was going to change everything, but I’m just letting things evolve.

DRUM!: So your parts are changing a little bit.
Garibaldi: Yeah, of course, because I look at things a lot differently. I mean, getting back into the band was difficult, from the standpoint that I was playing a whole different way. I hadn’t played this kind of music in a long, long time. Tower’s really the only place you can play this kind of music and play this way. So it’s taken me a couple of months to get back into the way that I used to approach things and kind of reassemble my concept for this music.

DRUM!: After you got back with the band, did you woodshed a little on the newer TOP material that you hadn’t yet played?
Garibaldi: Absolutely. Sure. Just like I would prepare for any other gig. I made charts for myself, kind of mapped everything out and then when we rehearsed, it was just magic. We just fell right into it. First time we rehearsed we did three days of rehearsal in L.A. in early February. And then it was just magic from the first few minutes, it was just comfortable.

DRUM!: How would you describe the chemistry between you and Rocco [Prestia, bassist]?
Garibaldi: Well, we’re just brothers. Rocco’s one of the most unique individuals on the planet. We always played well together. We always felt the music in the same way. Rocco plays kind of like a drummer. If I was a bass player, I would play like him, and if he was a drummer, he’d play like me. So we sort of feel and play things in the same way. We always end up in the same place. It’s always been that way. I mean, every other bass player that I ever played with, there always had to be some sort of intellectual discussion or some jockeying for position, or whatever. I’ve played with some really, really tremen-dous guys, but Rocco, I realize, is the one.

DRUM!: Back in TOP’s days, you never seemed to repeat yourself. Each beat had its own unique personality, and you rarely seemed satisfied with a simple backbeat. Do you find yourself taking a similar approach to your drum parts with the new material the band is writing?
Garibaldi: I’ll approach it the same way. To me, every song will have to be different and every groove of the song, every section of the song I’ll approach the same way that I used to. But I’m sure it’s going to come out much differently, because my concept has evolved and I think I know a lot more about what works and what doesn’t. On those early records you can hear that some stuff worked and some stuff didn’t work at all. It was just searching and I was too young to say, “Oh, that doesn’t work.” Hopefully, when we’re putting stuff together, I’ll have the brains to say, “Okay, that doesn’t go there.” In the old days, I just wanted to make my parts fit, no matter how weird they were – “This is what I want to do, this is what I’m going to do. It goes here.” I don’t think that way now.

DRUM!: Does that mean that you’ve given yourself permission to play simpler parts today than you used to?
Garibaldi: Yeah. I look at drumming a lot simpler today than I did before, and I want to do things simpler now. A lot of the music that Tower plays from previous eras in the band has a little more complex parts that I have to play, but my mind is going to all these simpler ideas. They’re cool and really interesting but a lot less intellectual.