My name is Mal Holmes and I’ve been a pro drummer for about a millions years. From my late teens until 2013 (with a break in between) I was the drummer for Electro Pop Lords OMD, so I played on all those catchy OMD pop hits of the 80’s. Many of which defined the band and are still loved today.
I’m not a big social media fan so this is the best place to find me.
Birkenhead is a hard tough town and it taught me a lot. My dad was 1 of 11 kids, so as you can imagine there’s plenty of family that still live there. Beware !
Alf, my dad was a joiner, a good one. You know those gun emplacements you see on the coast from WW2, well my dad and his mates built them. He was a serious grafter with serious sense of humour and a big, very strong heart.
I got my hands on my first drum kit when I was about 10 years old. My brother brought one back to our house in Broxton Ave. Hav’nt a clue to this day where he got it from but at the time that didn’t matter. It was lying in bits in the front room so I figured out how to set it up and that was it. It was drums for me. I completely fell in love with them. That kit disappeared as quicky as it appeared. Again, no idea where it went.
With the drum kit gone I had to improvise. My mums knitting needles, biscuit tins and their lids where next best thing. So I used to hammer away to Macguiness Flint on the stereo and drive everyone mad.
My mum and dad saw my love for drums and a year or so later I was allowed to flog my Raleigh Chopper bike and put the money towards my own kit. Alf found one in the Liverpool Echo for 30 quid.
Finally I managed leave school earlier than I thought and pursue my passion for drumming. We had just moved house to the posh side of the Wirral and relocated to Meols. Here I made new friends and made a few phone calls from this phone box.
After leaving school I signed on the dole (as you did), worked at the world famous burger joint ‘What’s Cooking’. I’d practice my drumming skills on the onion and pepper containers in the kitchen with the kitchen knives whilst rustling up a couple of quarter pound chilli burgers.
There were so many successful bands and artists that came out of the Wirral at this time. Some really good young guitarists, drummers and keyboard players who I used to spend most of my time with.
There where also a few talentless dick heads that did well, but that’s just ‘Rock n Roll‘.
I’d play drums with anyone who would have me. What genre of music didn’t bother me. I wasn’t arsed with being part of a particular scene, I just wanted to play.
Depending on where the rehearsal or gig was, I would blag a mate to help carry my kit to the nearest bus stop, wait for the bus then load us and the gear on the bus !
Thanks to a good bus service and what was happening locally with new and inovative bands I had a chance to play drums and pick and choose who I wanted to play with.
We all wanted the best gear so if you didn’t go down to Birkenhead and nick it from a shop or nick it from another band you had to find another way.
I asked my brother if he would lend me the money to buy a new kit and couldn’t believe it when he said yes. The 7 quid a week dole money I got paid him back.
So armed with a cool looking new kit I was on my way.
After playing with a variety of bands I became joined at the hip with The Id. We would book our own gigs and sell the tickets ourselves.
The Id got a bit a name for themselves locally and ended up recording a few tracks for the Street to Street compilation album along side of Echo and the Bunneymen and The Teardrop Explodes.
‘Julia’s Song’, ‘Electricity’ and ‘The Misunderstanding’ made it to the album. The classic Id song and fan favourite ‘Malcolm is Sitting in The Window’ didn’t quite get there !
The Id faded away and Andy and Paul became OMD. They had been making music together for a while. I started playing with OMD shortly after they signed their recording contract and my adventure continued as I stepped into world of pop as a naive and gullible little drummer boy.
The idea for being a pop star and appearing on telly never entered my head when I was bashing containers in the burger restaurant.
I had the choice of going to live in South Africa or taking a shot with Andy and Paul and Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark. The band was the way to go for me. After recording a few tracks with the guys in Paul Collisters garage and a session with Martin Hannett early on for Tony Wilsons’ Factory Records I went into Advision studio in London. There I re-recorded the drums on Messages for the single. I wasn’t the best drummer in the world and it took me about 2 days to put the drums down on the track. I think I drove the producer up the studio wall, but I was made up with how the drums turned out. Messages became the 1st top 20 UK hit for OMD. It was also going to be the 1st track I was going to appear on TOTPs with.
Here I am in OMDs’ 1st video ‘Messages’ not knowing what I’m about to get into and wondering WTF I’m doing in a freezing cold warehouse.
Next up was Enola Gay, Souvenir, Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc, Tesla Girls, Locomotion and loads more. The Gold disks kept arriving at my mum and dads house in Meols. Over the years I put my drumming stamp on a massive catalog of OMD songs that have amassed 10s of million sales. I’ve lost count of how many gigs and TV shows I did with the band performing and promoting the songs all over the globe.
Over time I saw managers, record companies, agents, accountants, promoters and crew come and go whilst the band forged ahead. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with the worlds best record producers and engineers. I have great memories of working with the team at DinDisc, our early managers and road crew who all set the bar really high.
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’. Depending on which way the wind was blowing I could be either/or.
At the end of a USA tour in 1988 we split up. For me, I’d worked my ass off for 75 quid a week for years in a band that sold millions of records and had nothing to show for it. I’d had enough of being last on the list and bottom of the food chain. It just wore me down in the end.
We hit the nuclear button and that was it. Maybe we just needed a break but It would be a while before the 4 of us would get back together as the proper band once again.
In the meantime I recorded an album with Mart and Paul, started a record company, helped build the odd recording studio and wrote some music for TV, Film & Animation. Later on I went on to develope a digital music company with a group of business entrepreneurs and had the incredible rewarding experience of teaching drums and the in’s and out’s of the music industry in schools and colleges. Each of these are story in themselves.
In 2007 I was shopping at Sainsbury’s in Chester when I got a call from Paul. He said Germany’s ‘The Ultimate Chart Show’ TV show had asked us to come and play Maid of Orleans on a it. We went and did it and it was great. For me it was as if we had never been away. We just slipped backed into what we were best at straight away. Things quickly went from strength to strength for OMD again and we embarked on a UK tour. I would say it was the best tour I’ve ever done. Completely different to when I toured with the band in the 80’s. We had all grown, It was great fun and I wasn’t as naive.
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.
In July 2013, whilst playing live in Toronto with OMD, I came face to face with my own mortality….. again. The show was hottest gig I’ve ever played. Apparently it was 46 degrees in the venue probably hotter on stage. Anyway, believe me it was no fun.
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. It stopped for about 3 minutes. I don’t remember much. However what the ambulance driver said to my great 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. It changed anything. Life is a lot more straightforward now, it’s easier. It’s Simple.
I decided to put my OMD drumsticks to one side after conking out in Toronto. Maybe one day I’ll knock a few drums for OMD again. Who knows. I know I miss a few things. Like the audience and looking at lots of happy people.
I miss Mart on the back riser with me and Paul and the laughs we had on stage. I miss Andy and our vocal warm up’s before the show and lots more.
I saw a Facebook post the other day asking ‘What’s he doing now’. Well …. It’s taken a long long time to get fully back on my feet. My heart took a major kicking that night and it’s not been an easy ride. Finally though I’m feeling as good as I was before the Toronto gig. So I thought I would celebrate and buy a new drum kit ! I always wanted a Ludwig kit as a kid so I went and bought one.
I’m doing lots of things from making music with artists to cutting the hedge in the garden. From time to time I bounce back into working on my website and have a few changes planned over the coming months.
Have a look around the site, you might find something you like.