Mal Holmes OMD Drummer – Biography

My website is important to me. I suppose it’s a means of catharsis and my way of not being airbrushed out of history.

Mal Holmes Playing Live with OMD 2008

Mal Holmes Playing Live with OMD 2008

A while ago I died for about 3 minutes. Heart stopped. The only thing I remember was a white light at the end of a tunnel. It’s was a long way away but it was there. If it wasn’t for the people who whacked me with 6000 volts then it would have been game over for me. It changed anything. Life is a lot more straightforward now, it’s easier. Simple.

Birkenhead and Dodgy Drum Kits

I was born in Birkenhead, across the Mersey from Liverpool. A hard and tough town. As a kid It taught me a lot. It taught me to get the fuck out of there as soon as I could. My early memories are of cobbled back alleys, ship building at Lairds and my dad who grafted for all of us. He was a Joiner. Big hands the size of plates and a big sense of humour that went with them. A good man. For someone who is the son of a Joiner I’m the worst DIYer on the planet. Useless. Give me a saw and I’ll cut my foot off with it. That’s probably why I opted for being a drummer. I suppose it’s a bit like being a joiner in that you sound like you’re building a shed sometimes.

When I was 10 I got my hands on a drum kit. My brother brought it back to our house with him one day. I still don’t know were he got it from and being only 10 things like that didn’t really matter. It was lying in bits in the front room and I figured out how to set it up. Then I figured out how to make a noise on it. All good. Then the drum kit disappeared. Not good.

The rhythm bug had got me though and I needed to continue making a noise and hitting things. I had no idea that this craving actually has a name. With the drum kit gone .. I never found out where … it left me with my mums knittings needles for sticks (which where great because they come in different sizes as every knitter knows), 2 biscuit tins for drums and their lids for cymbals. Not the best looking or sounding drum kit in the world I know, but it stopped the cravings. It sounded great to me anyway, not so good for the next door neighbour though.   I’d put MacGuiness Flint on the record player and groove along to the record. Well … when I say groove … as much as you can on biscuit tins.

Ajax Drum Kit

Just Like This – Ajax Drum Kit

From Biscuit Tins to Ajax

After I had served my apprenticeship on the biscuit tins I got the OK to sell my Raleigh ’Chopper’ bike and spend the 30 quid I got for it on my very own real drum kit. My dad found it for sale in the Liverpool Echo. It was an Ajax kit drum kit with Ringo Stars autograph on the floor tom or so the guy that flogged it to me and my dad said. When I could get my dad off the drum kit then I would have a shot myself.

And then …. Disaster. I sold the kit and got an electric guitar. It makes me feel faint just thinking about it. My cousin had one and I quite liked it so I got one. Like many budding guitarists at that time I thought you just plugged the guitar into the wall and off you went. You would think with a name like Electric Guitar that’s what you did. Nope. Needless to say, that with my low boredom threshold the Electric Guitar was binned pretty quickly.

It was going to be awhile before I got my next drum kit. I was 16. We had just moved house to the posh side of the Wirral and relocated to Meols. The moved was timed really well as I could leave school at that time to. Boy was I glad I got out of that place.

Muso’s On The Wirral

There was a great music scene going on on the Wirral at this time. I know the Wirral … for music. There were so many successful bands and artists that came out of it at this time. Some really good young guitarists, drummers and keyboard players who I used to spend most of my time with.

I managed to get my hands on another drum kit a Shaftsbury kit. Three drums and a couple of the cymbals. I didn’t like the colour so I recovered with anaglypta wall paper and painted it silver …… Cool.

Thanks to what was happening at the time I had a chance to play with many new and invotive bands. Players that are still around today knocking great tunes out. You could buy Rhythm Machines and Synths from your mums catalog so it was boom time.

We would book our own gigs and sell the tickets ourselves. All very DIY. Of course we all wanted the best gear so you either saved up for it or go down to Birkenhead and nick it or nick it from another band.

I was happy with my wallpaper drum kit, it did the job. And then ……. I saw this amazing looking Tama Kit in a shop in Leasowe. It looked great. My brother came back from sea flush with money and said he would lend me the dosh for it if I paid him back. I couldn’t believe it I was definitely heading up market in the drum department. Well pleased. Like everyone who had just left school I was on the dole. I think I got about £7 a week. So that’s where my dole went. My brother got it and I was away.

Greasby Library to Top Of The Pops

OMD - Top Of The Pops

I played with sorts of bands and eventually the drums opened up all sorts of opportunities. I was playing regularly with anyone who would have me. I knew Andy and Paul as we had been making making music together for sometime. I joined OMD shortly after they signed their recording contract.

I was never actually signed to the record label myself so I sat in a sort of no-mans land between ‘Featured Member’ and ‘Session Musician’ (industry names not mine). Depending on which way the wind was blowing I could be either/or. Over time I saw many managers come and go, each viewing me in their own way. It was often frustrating I must admit.

However, over the years as OMD drummer I’ve put my stamp on a massive catalog of songs and have many memories of working with my great friends in the band. Also, I’ve also had the pleasure of working with the worlds best record producers and engineers. I’ve lost count of how many tracks, how many gigs and how many TV shows I’ve performed on travelling the globe. OMD has been a huge part of my life.

Other Stuff

For many years I’ve managed to work with talented new artists. I put a record company together. Helped build the odd recording studio, written music for TV, Film & Animation, developed a digital music company and had the incredible rewarding experience of teaching drums and the in’s and out’s of the music industry in schools.

Merv (Drum Tech), Gavin (Monitors) , Bill (Protools & Keyboard Nonsense), Mart (Mart), Brooke (Lights) and me. Munchin' out in Mexico City.

Merv (Drum Tech), Gavin (Monitors) , Bill (Protools & Keyboard Nonsense), Mart (Mart), Brooke (Lights) and me. Munchin’ out in Mexico City.

Hot Night in Toronto

There must be a couple of angels keeping a close eye on me. They’ve had to pop down on more than one occasion to get me out of trouble and pull me from the abyss whilst I’ve been OMD drummer. In July 2013, whilst playing live in Toronto with OMD, I came face to face with my own mortality….. again. It was a night I won’t forget, the hottest gig I’ve ever played. It was 45-50 degrees on a stage that night with no air movement. I put everything I had into the performance but unfortunately my heart couldn’t handle it and it stopped just before the end of the show. I don’t remember much. However what the ambulance driver said to my great friend and band mate Martin Cooper I’ll never forget.

After the Toronto Fire Dept paramedics gave me CPR and hit me with their defibrillator and amazingly restarted my heart and brought me back to life, Martin was sat in the ambulance and the driver turned to him and said … “The stars where aligned for him tonight”. I’ll never forget that. I know how lucky I am to be writing this.

New Musical Adventures

USPM LogoOver time I have continued to make a steady recovery but decided to put my OMD drummer drumsticks to one side. Maybe one day I’ll knock a few drums for OMD live again and we’re going to keep that door firmly open. So I’m going to say ‘Never Say Never’ on that one. I’m currently working with a variety of bands, a music production company and managing a band which I’m enjoying immensely.

Getting On With It

It’s not the best biography ever written and probably doesn’t tell you much. I should really list all my career highs and lows and the ton of hits I’ve played on etc etc, but fortunately I’ve got a life to be getting on with so that’s what I’m going to do. 🙂