Indie Music

David Webb obituary

My friend David Webb, who has died aged 59 of complications during heart surgery, was an exceptional brother, friend, partner, uncle and drummer.

Dave played in too many bands, and was skilled in too many genres, to mention them all. He took his drums all over the UK, and to South Africa, the US, Canada, Germany, Australia, Cambodia, and doubtless many other countries. An incomplete survey from some of his music friends brought up 27 band names, including Burn, Cambodian Space Project, London City Brass, the Devout Sceptics, the Loose Arrangements, Bo Derelict and the Buster Cornelius Quartet.

He had his fair share of difficult times, but would rather talk about music and art than himself; there was always a masterclass, an obscure exhibition or a new instrument to report on. After he moved south from his native Lincolnshire in the 1980s, he became the quintessential Londoner – revelling in every obscure corner, every seasoned old pub. He loved the stories of 50s Soho: the heavy drinkers and vivid, messy lives. His flat was just a dropping-off place for his drum kits, and a whisky and cheeseboard at the end of a long night out.

An adventurer without an ounce of showiness or pretension, he would travel with his clothes squashed into his drum cases, and relish every experience, reminding you not to take anything for granted. He was hysterically funny; I have many memories of laughing uncontrollably at one of his ridiculous anecdotes. He felt the absurdity of life keenly, but he took music extremely seriously. He could and would play anything. Whether it was jazz, singer-songwriters, brass bands or Cambodian space pop, compromise was anathema to him. His determination made all those who knew him into a kind of family – bound together by arguments over time signatures, tuning, deviations from the recording, and about whether it was too late for one last one.

Born in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, Dave was one of the three sons of Gwendoline (nee Middleton), an infant-school head, and Stanley Webb, a welding contractor, and attended Thomas Sumpter comprehensive school in the town. He asked for a set of drums for his 13th birthday, and never stopped playing. I met Dave through music, and met so many others – including my husband – through his ever-expanding network of bandmates.

Dave gained a law degree at Westminster University in the late 90s, but music was his life. For 23 years, from 2001, he worked long hours in a London law firm, but he somehow managed to make this about music, too – getting free piano lessons through work, or spending his lunch breaks in the Barbican music library. He was always the kid starting bands, ready to take off into the musical stratosphere as soon as school was out.

He is survived by his partner, Lene Hyltoft, and his brothers, Rich and Jon.