- THE DRUMMER – November 2011
At what age did you start playing the drums?
“I got my first drum kit when I was four. I had been hitting pots and pans from around the age of two, so my parents decided to get me a kit. My dad sent my mum out to get a ‘small drum kit’, as in a drum kit for kids, but instead she got me a full sized kit, with less drums and cymbals. I think I was about ten or eleven when I realised what it was to play along to albums. It was then that I started to really feel it and enjoy the communication with the drums. I would listen to bands and want to understand what the drummer was doing. It was exciting to listen to something and master it. There was more live music to be watched when I was a kid, so I would be going around to about 4 or 5 gigs a month which really got me into the whole drumming scene.”
Which drummers have inspired you most?
“The drummer that I would most like to play like or capture some of his spirit would be Jimmy Copley. He played with Jeff Beck, Tears For Fears and Go West. Everything about what he does is fantastic. In terms of the most complete drummer out there, I would have to say Vinnie Colaiuta. From about the age of 13 I have been listening to and watching him. His skill almost scares me it’s so amazing. There is an album that he plays on called Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa and there are tracks on the album that show how remarkable he is. In terms of the guy who has everything a drummer needs, it would be him. It’s kind of a hard question for me to answer as I appreciate all drumming. Another influence is Buddy Rich; I don’t think there will ever be a better drummer than Buddy. There are things he did that people still don’t understand. Other big influences of mine are Terry Bozzio, Stuart Copeland, Alex Van Halen, Chris Frazier, Dave Weckl and Joe Vitale.”
Did you have a favourite band when growing up?
“The musician that has influenced me the most would be Frank Zappa. I first heard him when I was about 12 and couldn’t even understand it. It was too rhythmically dense and complex but I knew that when I could understand it, it would help me greatly. Every single one of his drummers (Jimmy Carl Black, Aynsley Dunbar, Chester Thompson, Bozzio, Colaiuta…) were the perfect choice on the albums that they played on and are inestimable in their impact on my own playing. Beyond the fact that Zappa was a genius composer, he was the most amazing guitarist also.”
What drum kit are you using at the moment?
“For the last 18 years I have been using Tama drums. I am a big fan of Japanese drums and I particularly love the Tama brand. When I was growing up, all of my favourite drummers used Tama and I have stuck with them since then. For cymbals, I use Zildjian. Each cymbal is unique which is a good thing in finding your own sound, but a bad thing if you break them and need to find a replacement. However, if I have to be honest, I could play on any drum kit and still sound like ‘me’. I collect drums and probably have 40 or 50 cymbals and 20 snare drums, but in my opinion you can buy as much gear you like, but really you need to find your own sound. That just comes from practice and time.”
How often do you practice?
“When I was a teenager I would probably practice on an average day for about 2 and a half hours on the kit and two hours on the practice pad. I really tried to play as much as I could. When I got into my early 20’s I would do about 6 hours a day. It would almost be like a job. I would get up, play, have lunch, play. But that didn’t last long, with gigs, travel, work and all the other day-to-day things, my practice times have decreased. But what I learnt, and I would urge young drummers to do this, was to practice more than one thing at a time. So whilst doing rudiments I would practice my footwork. That way I would be working on stamina and co-ordination whilst learning something at the same time. I didn’t have many lessons as a kid, I was largely self-taught. However, I was lucky enough to be in touch with an amazing drummer called Thomas Lang who lived close to me. He taught me a lot in terms of professionalism and great technique in my playing. Although Thomas is known as I marvellous technician, we would cover Moeller technique and groove playing more than anything else. Beyond that, I learned more chatting over a cup of coffee than I did directly on the kit with Thomas.”
What bands are you playing for at the moment?
“The main bands I am playing with at the moment are ‘From the Jam’ and the Original Rod Stewart Group that goes out as ‘Apart from Rod’. There are a number of touring and recording dates which will cover festivals throughout the summer, gigs around England and possible gigs in Europe and Australia. As I working musician, I have many other gigs lined up with a variety of bands too, teaching work and some exciting projects that I can’t really talk about yet.”
As a drummer, what is the best way to join new bands?
“I would say that all of the best opportunities that I have had, somebody has called me after I have built a reputation either in the studio or on the road. That comes from being younger and taking on gigs that haven’t been glamorous or recordings that did not go anywhere in which I would still give it my all. People would see that and remember me for future work. It’s harder than ever to break into things nowadays as a drummer and the music business is shrinking. It’s a tough business and it takes a long time to build up a reputation. However you need to persevere and something will happen.”
What advice would you give to new drummers?
“Find someone who can help you buy a good second hand kit because it will last longer than a cheap new kit. A quality second-hand kit with new heads from either Remo, Evans or Aquarian will sound way better than a new kit with low quality heads. Don’t be put off that your drums do not sound like your favourite recordings yet. You have to remember that what you hear on an album has been recorded by top engineers, mixed by a great producer and mastered, all of this is done on equipment that costs as much as a house. Also, read a lot of drum magazines, it helps you learn so much more about playing and also about the business. Try to watch drummers play live, see what they do and begin by playing along to albums you enjoy.”
What are the things that you wish you knew when you were younger in terms of playing drums?
“Anything is possible to play as long as you start at a really slow speed and gradually build up the tempo until you get it. Also, I wish somebody had told me to concentrate as much as possible to ensure that my hands and feet hit at the same time precisely and consistently. It makes drums sound so much crisper when the hands and feet are in unison.”
What is the best thing about being a drummer?
“For me, the best thing about being a drummer is being able to interact and play with other amazing musicians. You really get to have the best seat in the house when you are behind the drum kit. You are able to not only watch, but be part of great music. It might sound big headed, but I have absorbed so much of my many influences that I enjoy hearing myself play. All the drummers I love have made me who I am, so being up on the stage and letting the influences come through me and my drumming is the greatest pleasure in my life.”