US rock act Mr Big's drummer big on positivity

US rock act Mr Big's drummer big on positivity
BIG ACT: US rock band Mr. Big comprises (clockwise from left) Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert and Pat Torpey.

When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease six months ago, Pat Torpey admitted he sank into depression.

He became isolated, refused to meet people and "hid under covers" to escape from the world.

He also rejected medication for a while.

But the musician has since picked himself up and put aside the negativity, thanks to his family and bandmates.

Torpey has been the drummer of US rock band Mr. Big for a significant part of his life.

Despite his condition, he joins his bandmates - lead vocalist Eric Martin, bassist Billy Sheehan, guitarist Paul Gilbert and stand-in drummer Matt Starr - on their current world tour, promoting their latest album, The Stories We Could Tell.

Mr. Big are best known for churning out chart-topping hits like To Be With You and Wild World in the early 90s.

When they play in Singapore next week at the Kallang Theatre, fans will still see Torpey behind the drum set he shares with Starr. But Torpey, 60, admits that he will not be able to perform like he used to.

"There's really not a lot I can do about it but I realise if I work hard and remain positive, I can find my way back. I still have a family I need to take care of," he told M over the phone from Osaka, Japan.

Torpey noticed symptoms of the illness almost four years ago.

"I would lose my strength and stamina, feel tremors on the right side of my leg and foot and played erratically," he recalled.

'BLOOD BROTHERS'

Now Torpey remains upbeat despite his health, crediting the support of his wife, son and bandmates who are like "blood brothers" to him.

He was initially apprehensive about going on tour, despite persuasion from the rest.

Eventually he relented.

"They said it was all or nothing - if I didn't come along, they wouldn't go," he said.

For him, it is different being on tour this time round.

The reason? Age has caught up with him.

"I need to sleep longer, sometimes get a nap in between," he said, laughing.

"Mick Jagger ain't got nothing on me!"

Torpey shared his excitement about returning to Singapore after Mr. Big's last visit in 2009.

"I remember it to be a paradise on earth. The people are friendly and nice; all the guys will tell you the same thing. I can't wait to be back," he said.

When they were here for their reunion tour then, Mr. Big were treated to Indian cuisine at a restaurant and did some shopping.

"I remember the food was so good and so was the coconut drink that we had," said Torpey, adding that he hopes to sample more local cuisine during his time here.

Asked about plans for the group, Torpey said they do not know what the future holds.

"We don't have long-term plans yet. We're all busy with our own lives - Paul just became a dad. I love Mr. Big and we have really good chemistry despite previous bumps on the road. But it is something I will be a part of for the rest of my life," he said.

As for coping with his condition, Torpey said he will continue to keep his head up. "I'm thankful I can still play. I still have the brain of a drummer, I've had it for 45 years. I might not be able to play the way I used to but at least I can still go on," he said.

FYI
WHAT: MR BIG LIVE IN SINGAPORE 2014
WHEN: Nov 26, 8pm
WHERE: Kallang Theatre
HOW MUCH: $98, $128, $158 and $178 from Sistic at www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555

ashikinr@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 19, 2014.
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