Gretsch Greatest Hits…And Hitters: Van Romaine
Have Drums, Will Travel.
If you look up “hired gun” in the dictionary, you might see the following definition: “An expert brought in to resolve complex problems or to accomplish a difficult job.”
And right under that definition, you could very well see a photo of great Gretsch drummer Van Romaine.
Van is not what you might consider a “superstar” drummer. Instead, he’s made himself the essential go-to guy for an impressive array of superstar artists, many of whom are international figures that tour all over the world. Working for those artists has put Van on arena, stadium, and festival stages in dozens of countries in Europe and South America, as well as in Mexico, Australia, and Japan.
A quick synopsis of Van’s eclectic career begins in 1997, with what he calls his “first real gig.” That was Blood, Sweat & Tears, featuring vocalist David Clayton Thomas. “My first show was a 4th of July festival in South Carolina,” Van recalls. “We played for 250,000 people—with no rehearsals!”
Van toured Japan, Australia, Europe, and all over the U.S. with BS&T until he got a call to audition for the Steve Morse Band in 1989. Playing with the guitar icon’s high-energy progressive/fusion group brought Van into the drumming spotlight. And while his path in recent years has taken him in several different musical directions, he says that “Steve and I have enjoyed quite a collaboration over the years, and we continue to record and tour when our schedules permit.”
One extremely different direction came for Van in 1999, when he signed on as drummer—and later musical director—for German pop vocalist Nena (famous for her quirky Europop hit “99 Luftballons”). He worked steadily with Nena between 1999 and 2010, and he still tours with her whenever possible—including her first-ever US dates just last year.
Van’s most recent—and perhaps most high-profile—gig has been with Latin superstar Enrique Iglesias. The singer/songwriter/actor/heartthrob regularly sells out stadiums across the globe, with Van serving as the anchor for his extravagant production shows.
But lest it be thought that Van is strictly a live-performance specialist, you can also hear his skillful and dynamic playing on several recording projects. These include Enrique Iglesias’s Euphoria, Nena’s Made In Germany and Chokmah, the Steve Morse Band’s Outstanding In Their Field, Split Decision, Stressfest, and Southern Steel, and Naughty By Nature’s self-titled debut album.
Whether it’s pop, rock, fusion, or virtually anything else, Van Romaine is ready, willing, and able to cover it. And he’s going to do it with skill, creativity, and enthusiasm.
For more on Van’s amazing career, visit his website. And while you’re there, be sure to check out the many video clips he has posted. These include performances with Enrique Iglesias, Steve Morse, and Nena—as well as one amazing show playing with Deep Purple and the London Philharmonic Orchestra! There’s also a great clip of Van describing his complete touring setup with Enrique Iglesias, including his Gretsch Brooklyn Series drumkit.
–by Fred Gretsch
ADDITIONAL VIDEO CLIPS:
Nena’s classic “99 Luftballons” is considerably updated in this 2010 concert clip, with the band seriously rocking out to Van’s drumming:
Here’s Van playing live behind Nena again, from August of 2016:
While primarily demonstrating the use of add-on percussion, Van still plays some great patterns on a Gretsch kit in this clip: