Tuesday 28 December 2021

Johnny Bonnie - Drummer with Trouble Pilgrims


Can you tell us about the new album and your favourite tracks on it?

The new album - Blood, Glass and Gasoline, was put together in 2020 at Hellfire studios in Dublin. We were originally to start in March but because of lockdown we had to cancel. Then we got a window in September where we worked hard for two weekends to do as much as we could. In 2021, Pete finished putting his new studio “Pilgrim Sound" together and the album was mixed and completed there. The album is the bands second and has eight tracks.

My favourite tracks on the album are, “Old Days" written by Tony. He has a great way of writing emotional lyrics to go with the music and this song certainly brings out a lot of passion when we play it.

And Pete's “Light a penny candle” It’s a story of Pete’s experience of walking through Dublin City and encountering the homeless. I feel it will be a become a true classic of Irish Music.


How would you describe your drumming style?

I like to play a very precise and straightforward style as a good foundation. I play hard and like to drive the music à la punk rock.

I came across Dr. Feelgood when they were on a TV show called “The Geordie Scene" and I admired the drumming of John Martin (The Big Figure). They say the Feelgoods were the influence of a lot of the early punk bands.

I have been very lucky to play with a lot of bands over the years and try different styles of music such as country, rockabilly and blues.

I really love that big punchy beat that the audience feels pounding through the PA.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Terry Chambers from XTC

I really liked Terry as he had a style which was his own and when I went to see him perform, I was amazed at his ability. Another drummer I love, who had this unorthodox style was,

Hughie Friel from the Irish band The Atrix.

And of course ...

The great Clem Burke- A left-handed drummer who plays a right-handed kit.

I met Clem at a gig he did in Whelan's a few years ago. That trick of his of throwing a stick in the air and catching it without missing the beat? Well in Whelan's he did it and it hit the ceiling and rebounded back at him fast, but he still caught it,and didn't miss a beat, -magic!


What are your favourite songs/albums?



Dr. Feelgood - Roxette

The Go Betweens- Right Here

The Records- Starry Eyes

Hugh Cornwell -Going To The City



The Flys-Waikiki Beach Refugees

Blade Runner-1982 soundtrack

Calexico-Hot Rail

X.T.C. - Drums and Wires


What advice would you give someone wanting to learn the drums and be in a band.

I started out in 1978. We sat around a table in Ireland's first McDonald's, in Grafton Street and we each picked what instruments we fancied playing. That band was Skank Mooks. I picked drums and at my first gig in Saint Anthony’s Hall, I asked Paul Bibby who was The NewVersions drummer,could I get a go on his kit after he sound checked as I had never sat on a kit before and I was doing my first gig that night!!!

I'm self-taught. I never got lessons, but I think if I was starting off today I definitely would. I suppose I was lucky that punk was just born and that gave me that motivation to get into music. There are now a lot of online learning sites which are mostly free and are worth a look.

Try to play with people you get on with. It’s important that everyone gels and you need to listen to different styles of music. Enjoy what you’re doing is the most important thing.


What drum gear do you use?

I have two kits at the moment.A vintage 1960s Pearl kit with a light blue Pearl wrap and a Tama Star Classic Bubinga with a Marigold sparkle wrap.

The Pearl kit I bought in 1978 and it took me through the early punk years. In later years I gave it a full restoration job and it came out gleaming.

Pearl:  22-inch bass drum, 14-inch snare 13-inch Tom 16-inch floor Tom

Tama:  24-inch bass drum 14-inch snare 12-inch Tom 16-inch floor Tom

The Tama Kit is Bubinga which is harder wood than Maple or Birch but that does make it heavier to carry around. Which kit I use on the day sometimes depends on the load into the venue because of the weight of the Tama.

I also use

Sabian and Paiste Cymbals

DW9000 bass drum pedal

Porter and Davies BC2 silent tactile bass drum monitor.

Wincent XXL5A drumsticks.

Photographer credit;

Tama kit pic, credit John Ward.

Pearl kit pic, credit Vanessa Byrne.