"It's important to believe in what you're doing. If you can't find anything to sing about, then sing about something that is important."
Robert Heaton, born Charles Robert Heaton 1961-07-06 in Knutsford, Cheshire, England. Drummer, second guitarist and songwriter for New Model Army from 1981 to 1998. He retired after a brain tumor operation and concentrated on a lower-key career as solo artist and producer.
His style as a drummer clearly shows its punk roots and is almost military--powerful, very aggressive, and capable of filling space. On several New Model Army tracks his drums play the role of the entire rhythm section while the bass plays the lead. That wasn't all. The man had a built in metronome:
"Glyn asked Robert to double track a small section of ride cymbal on All of This, during the recording of Ghost of Cain. Glyn was looking to produce a slight flam effect, but Robert struck the bell of the ride with such precision every time that the double track was undetectable. Glyn was convinced that either Robert wasn't playing it, or the machine wasn't recording it, because the two tracks were so perfectly synchronised. Having checked the tape, Glyn concluded that Robert was the most perfect drummer he'd ever worked with." --Jason "Moose" Harris
His presence as a musician on stage and in recordings was commanding and reassuring in the manner of other great drummers such as Mark Brzezicki and Nicko McBrain. He also played guitar, bass, and sang backup vocals as needed. Many of NMA's best songs were his work, including their concert anthem Green and Grey.
Outside NMA, he also played on Hawkwind's Earth Ritual Preview EP, an album or two with Rev Hammer, and produced of several Asylum albums as well as writing the score for several indie films. He might have become very famous with any other band but his partnership with Justin Sullivan stands out as one of the most enduring and creative relationships of the punk and post-punk music scenes.
Although it's been a long time since I had the fortune of meeting him in person, I remember him as being really laid-back, measured, and overall highly agreeable. Not one for many words and often philosophical, it's likely that this antithesis with Sullivan's markedly outgoing character provided for good balance in the band. His reputation and demeanour were those of a gentleman--smiling, and always taking the time to swap a few words.
After leaving the band he stayed in the business doing production jobs for smaller and up-and-coming bands in the Bradford area. He died suddenly from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer on 2004-11-04 at the age of 43.
"And by now you'll be further out than I ever went, and is it still painless?
Do you get to float and look down and do all of that?
Tonight would be as good a night as any
You'll see the city alive like a great resting animal
lying in the lea of the hills and the moorland
and breathing little patterns of fire into the cold dark coming of winter"
--Justin Sullivan, in tribute