Having trained at the Mackenzie School of Speech & Drama and taken LAMDA examinations regularly since the age of eight, Cambridge-born Chris Maitland became involved in theatre as an actor between 1985 and 1993, performing in many roles, often Shakespearean. During this period Chris built up a practice of private percussion pupils and from 1989 took on various posts as a professional drum teacher.
After being the drummer for No-Man on their Autumn 1993 tour (and playing on two tracks on the Flowermouth album), Maitland was asked by the band’s Steven Wilson to join his then side-project, the psychedelic rock band Porcupine Tree. Moved to take up the drums after seeing a big-band concert by The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, and coming from a musical background which had mixed heavy rock, theatre work, pure pop and even Elizabethan recorder music, Chris wasn’t an obvious candidate for the Porcupine Tree drum stool. Additionally, he was initially unimpressed by the music that Steven played him from the first two albums.
Despite his misgivings, Chris opted to join and soon found matters improving: “On our first rehearsal I was nervous and when we were starting to play together I’d really done my homework and tried to get what was on the CDs. And Steve said, ‘That’s not what I got you in this band to do.’ He wanted me to do my own thing with it. And that’s been the best thing for me as a drummer in this band, in that I’ve been allowed to throw it all in and then sieve it later.”
Porcupine Tree continued to grow in the ’90s and early ’00s, releasing a slew of beloved albums such as Signify, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun and Recordings. Wilson and company signed to Atlantic Records offshoot Lava, their first major label, in mid 2001. However, several months later Chris left the band in what would be the only line-up change in the band’s history. Intriguingly, Maitland later re-emerged as a member of Wilson’s highly regarded side-project Blackfield. On the self-titled 2004 release Chris shared drumming duties with Gavin Harrison, his successor in Porcupine Tree, although Chris did not appear on 2007’s Blackfield II.
“Chris Maitland is no longer part of the group. Is there a particular reason?”
SW: “Actually it’s more practical… Aviv lives in Israel and me in London. At one point we decided where we wanted to base the group. In Israel or London. You can not constantly fly 2 or 3 people. Basing the group in Israel, it’s only me who needs to fly and it’s better because the round trips are expensive. Keeping Chris, it was necessary to make travel each time 2 people instead of one. Do the math. It’s just because of that. But I always get on very well with Chris and I love working with him when I have the opportunity.”
In a 2005 interview Steven said “I’m gonna sidestep the subject of what happened with Chris, except to say that nowadays we’re great friends again, and what seemed important then doesn’t seem so vital now. Due to the Atlantic deal there was a lot of pressure on us at the time. We really had to stand up and be counted in terms of professionalism and commitment. The saddest thing of all was losing Chris just as the band was on the verge of some kind of breakthrough.”
Between 2004 and 2005, Maitland was a member of the progressive rock supergroup Kino with musicians such as It Bites’ John Beck and Marillion’s Pete Trewawas. Throughout his career, Maitland has also been involved in several West End musicals. From 2005 onwards Chris has played drums on the Mamma Mia! International Tour.
Since Kino, Maitland has appeared on albums such as Guilt Machine’s This Perfect Day, Nosound’s Afterthoughts, and Steve Hogarth & Richard Barbieri’s Not The Weapon But The Hand as a session musician.
In 2015, Maitland was hired as the live drummer for Ray Davies, the classic songwriter from The Kinks.