Profile: Gumby (John Louis Pinto)

Gumby is twenty four years old, but has been playing almost as long as anyone in the local pop/rock industry. As a child he went to many a Christian wedding where there was always live music. Gumby would stand transfixed before the drummer who seemed to be the most happening person in the band with stomping legs, arms that were a blur because they moved so fast and making the biggest noise. By the time Gumby was six, he was happily banging away on pots, pans and tables around the house. By 1984 he was playing in a church choir.

Noticing his interest, his uncle (Gumby's father passed away a month before he was born) bought him a kit when he turned eleven. It was nothing fancy, just a basic kit made in Sialkot, but it was enough for Gumby started practising and became one of the finest drummers this country has seen. The encouragement helped. He would play. His mother would sing. People would clap.

As a child Gumby entered the fantasy that his reality is rooted in today. He would play a CD and imagine himself playing at a concert. A crowd cheered him while he did drum rolls. Practice continued to bring him closer to perfection and his dreams fuelled the ambition that blazed brightly in his twelve year old mind. By the time he was in his sixth year at St. Paul's, he got the urge to leave school. Gumby had tasted the excitement of playing live with other musicians.

His first professional gig came in 1989 with Junaid Jamshed, Aamir Zaki, Imran Ali (keyboard player) and Bosco D'Souza (bass player). It was his best summer ever. He would jam everyday at Zaki's house and his inborn talent blossomed in the company he kept. His drumming got better, his academic performance slackened and he told his mother that she was wasting her money and his time by keeping him in school. On her insistence, he kept studying for another three years and then dropped out. Louis Pinto had found his true calling in life.

He played with Aamir Zaki and his band for a year and a half till Bosco left for the States and Aamir hooked up with the Vital Signs. Left in the lurch, Gumby joined Milestones, with Candy Pereira (vocals), Ziyad (guitar), Ali Tim (bass) and John Saville (keyboards). Milestones were a top ten band; that is, one of the ten commercial bands around at the time, and with them Gumby tasted his first commercial success. His curriculum vitae became more impressive and his playing improved. Hotheaded as he was, (and still is) Gumby quarrelled with them and left.

He headed off into metal, which was a different ball game altogether. No matter how good local attempts at metal are, Pakistan just isn't ready for it yet. Even when popular bands try it out, they temper that one metal song with five commercial ones. Money always has the last word. The band Gumby joined went kaput after one gig and drowned in the quagmire of wasted anonymity that swallows most musicians who dare to do come up with anything that is not pleasingly catchy. Gumby couldn't afford to sink. Not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he had to make enough money to support himself and contribute towards the bills.

In 1992, he started playing with the Sheraton Lobby Band. It was a tight enough 4-piece band that played covers of songs previously done by American and British bands. Gumby's rendition of Santana's "Black Magic Woman" where he unleashed a brutal staccato at the climax got many an encore whenever they got the occassional appreciative audience. Musically, the experience tempered Gumby. Playing at the Sheraton gave him a sense of volume control. It is difficult for a drummer to play softly, but Gumby did not have a choice. A lobby band does not have the liberty to crank up the volume, in case the general manager throws a fit. Three years at the Sheraton lobby were enough for Gumby who wanted to play hard and loud. He joined Awaz in 1996 with his longtime partner in rhythm Aamir Zaki.

Gumby went on his first ever international tour with Awaz. The band was half sequenced, because it was rather difficult for Haroon and Fakhir to sing, play music and gyrate energetically at the same time. Gumby went electronic with his drums. It was difficult but not as much as playing with the overtly meticulous Zaki. With Awaz, Gumby sharpened his instinct for playing pop which was tough for him. He had to have perfect timing to keep the tunes catchy and danceable. Gumby learnt this art for two years and during this time started teaching his craft as well. One of his more talented students is currently studying music in Boston and was hobnobbing with the likes of Neil Peart the drummer of Rush.

Soon, the back-to my-kind-of-music bug bit him and he left Awaz along with Aamir to work on Najam Sheraz's "Roop Nagar". That "Roop Nagar" was put together by pop industry virtuosos is obvious on first listen. It is pop rock's finest hour with not a bad track on the album. He then joined the Vital Signs for their BBC concert to mark 50 years of Pakistan. It remains the best show he has done from the light and sound perspective. On his return to Pakistan, he went back to playing shows with Aamir and soon got a call from Salman Ahmad. He said that Junoon's drummer, Malcolm had migrated to Canada.

Gumby joined Junoon in 1999 and he maintains that it is the most professional set up he has worked with. The money he made through them was enough for him to order his dream drum set from DW Drums. Though his priorities lie with Junoon, Gumby does his own thing jamming with musicians both big and small. "Ishq", his first album with Junoon, is ready for release. Nowdays he is spending time in the recording studio for Ali Azmat's first solo venture.

Now Gumby wants to explore the drums and bass option amongst other things. Now that his dreams have come true, he can afford to dream some more.

Muniba Kamal
January, 2001
The News International, Pakistan