A great man (I think it was Mr Miyagi from The Karate Kid) once said:

"There is no such thing as a bad student. Only a bad teacher".

Wise words.

And some that really make sense to me, having been involved in drum and music

education professionally for the past 10 years. In that time I have been extremely

fortunate to have met some truly inspirational teachers and I would like to dedicate

this blog/magazine - (you could call it either a blogazine or a blagazine, depending

on if you think I know what I'm talking about!) - to those drummers who have really

made a difference in the world of drums and drum education.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Darren King - Mute Math

I am new to Mute Math.  I only discovered them this year when a good friend of mine posted this video on his Facebook wall.  I was, as you will be, completely blown away.  Not only a fine slice of energetic guitar/piano pop, but one of the most exciting live performances in 4 minutes you are ever likely to see.
Amazed at their performance I immediately contacted their label in LA and managed to get an interview with Darren King, the heartbeat of the band.  A unique drummer and fine performer, Darren captured my drummers heart with his on-stage emotion...

Drumazine: Hello Darren!  Welcome to Drumazine!  For those people reading who might not already know you, please can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career as a drummer.

Darren King: Hello, I'm Darren. I grew up in the very small town of Marshfield, MO. I had a lot of time to myself as a kid and spent a large portion of it either drawing Ninja Turtles or drumming on things.  My first drum kit was comprised of basketballs aired down to make different pitches.  My drum hero is Gene Krupa.

Dzn: Mutemath are a band who I only recently discovered, although you have been carving out your career for some time…  How hard is it to “break” a band in the world today?

DK: From the time I was 14 I wanted to be not just in a band but specifically in a band with Paul (our lead singer).  It took a long time for that to happen.  At this point I am very happy to get to be playing shows and creating music with Paul and Roy, and now Todd.  

Dzn: What do you think is the most important thing to concentrate on for any young bands serious about “making it” reading this?

DK: I like Carl Sandburg's quote, "I was either going to be a writer or a bum." I am very blessed to have linked up with someone like Paul who is fearless and ambitious. Our personalities work well together and we work very hard.  We endure lots of arduous and frustrating circumstances to get to the fun stuff.  And it is still really fun.  

Dzn: Onto drumming: Are you an expert at many different types of music?

DK: I try to be.  I love music.  I collect records.  I think that for every single style of music there is someone doing something wonderful. 

Dzn: When you first started learning drums, did your teacher have good advice about practice and different types of music?

DK: I didn't take many lessons.  I did get one lesson with Chester Thompson about ten years ago. 
He was great, really calm and cool until he hit the drums.  My great awakening was discovering the sampler and the ability to chop stuff up. That experience started an insatiable hunger for drum breaks and samples. I learned a lot by dissecting beats in my sampler.  I recommend it. 

Dzn: How did you find inspiration as a young drummer without taking many lessons?

DK: I learned a lot from watching a drummer at my church in Springfield, Missouri named Dave Sharon.  He was great.  I played drums in school as well.  My best friend in school, Jonathon Altman, was a drummer too.  He was the one who told be about Buddy Rich.  It made it so fun to be a drummer to have a friend to share it with growing up. 

Dzn: Do you teach drums?

DK: I've taught a little, it was tougher than I expected to start from scratch with young kids.  I hope to more someday.  I enjoy it.  I love kids.   

Dzn: What would you consider to be your first “success” in music?

DK: Just getting into the band.  I am a few years younger than Paul and tried really hard to impress so he would invite me into his band.  That's what got me started recording instrumental songs.  I auditioned for Paul's previous band and just didn't make the cut.  Two years later, when they lost their drummer (who was amazing) I tried again and barely made it in. 

Dzn: Would you describe this as a “defining moment” in your career?

DK: Yes.  I feel a page has turned.  I turn 30 soon.  I feel like I am really learning what attitudes are helpful when creating music and which ones stifle and intimidate creativity.   I think the next record will be a very important one for us. 

Dzn: You’ve talked about success; have there been any bad times you can tell us about?

DK: Plenty, and often the good and bad times are so close together.  I remember once I finally got in a band with Paul I wrecked his van.  The trailer full of gear separated from the van and flipped over 3 times.  The van didn't flip but did a 180 and ended up in the grass.  Nobody was hurt but I felt like a failure.  It took me a long time to get over that.
We've had plenty of arguments and disappointments.  I have a deep respect for Roy and Paul, as friends, as musicians, and as husbands and fathers. 

Dzn: So, would you describe the problems you have encountered as physical or psychological?

DK: I went through a phase where I experienced intense fatigue during the recording of armistice. 
I don't know if it was mono or some kind of crazy allergy, or what, but nothing came easily to me during that time.  Sleep was never fulfilling. I just felt weary constantly.  It didn't last.  
I think the biggest obstacles are all fears. Fear of failure and embarrassment.  

Dzn: How did you combat this problem?

DK: The fatigue problem didn't change despite my best efforts.  It sort of just left on its own. 
The fear stuff, I feel like I'm beating it as I'm getting older.  I'm learning that I must make music that I love no matter what anyone else might think or say about it.  As I get older I feel I have less time to talk myself out of doing that thing that  is scary but exciting, I think of this mainly in regards to song creation.  

Dzn: A question from a reader, James Maynard - "Could you ask Darren what inspired him to combine jumping on pianos with banging drums?"

DK: Ha!  One night while playing at Stubbs in Austin I fell off of my drum seat.  It was during a break down so in an attempt to make it look intentional I took the floor tom over to the Rhodes and played it over there.  After that it just became a part of the show. 

Dzn: 2 questions from a reader, Chris Young -  "How much Gaffa tape does Darren use to hold his cans on?  And what's with his really loose snare skin?!"

DK: I usually wrap the gaffe tape around my head at least 3 or 4 times each show.  
I usually go for a deeper "thud" snare sound I suppose.  Lately I've been tuning it a little tighter.  

Dzn: Do you play any other instruments (or sing)?  

DK: Yes.  I play acoustic guitar at home.  I try everything.  No formal training or understanding of what I'm actually doing.  I have Paul and Roy for that.

Dzn: Do you write music (songs for the band or lyrics etc...)? 

DK: Yes.  OddSoul (here is a link to an amazing music video experience) is the first album where I have contributed substantial lyrics.  I have always written the music with Paul though.  We recorded Odd Soul ourselves at Paul's house. 

Dzn: How important do you think it is to have a good and diverse understanding of other instruments as a drummer?

DK: I think it only makes you better.  I just like trying new things. 

Dzn: Onto equipment!  For all those gear-heads out there, what kit (drums/cymbals/anything else you would like to mention) do you play?

DK: I play a 68 Rodgers kit.  This cymbal company called "Dream" gave me some cymbals and I really love them but they are all cracked.  I use a Tama 'Iron Cobra" kick pedal which I break every 14 shows on average.  

Dzn: With the advent of new technology on what seems to be a daily basis, what modern technology do you incorporate into your practice, live work, recording and teaching?

DK: I use Logic to record everything.  We use logic live as well and run SMPTE tracks to the video rig to cue the live background videos and keep them in sync with us.  

Dzn:  So, what does 2012 hold in store for you?

DK: I am going to make as much stuff (music, videos, concerts) as I can.  We have some new destinations in store for us this year, some exciting shows up ahead.  

Dzn: Is there anything else you can tell us about - website/links/releases/merch/tour etc etc etc...? 

DK: I was honoured to play drums on my wife's new record.  She goes by the name "Sucré": Beautiful music.  Mute Math are going to set up the studio again starting this June! 

Dzn: Do you have any other advice for young drummers reading?

DK: Become a student of the greats.  Aspire to be a great entertainer and not just a great drummer. Record yourself and listen to it.  Judge your music the same way you would the music of others.    

Dzn: Finally, Drumazine! would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Darren King for his time - Now go buy some Mutemath, sit back and enjoy; or, even better than that, go and watch their ridiculously good live show... (That is not a suggestion; it's an order!)

DK: Yeah!!!  Thanks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Drummer On The Round Rock...

Today see's the start of an interview onslaught!  Upcoming are interviews with 4 completely different drummers in attitude, style and personality from across the world... well, mostly America.

We start by getting to know a drummer that most of you (no disrespect intended) have probably never heard of:  Ed Francis is a drummer from Round Rock, Texas.  He is more than a drummer actually.  A lot more.  He is an educator.  He is an inspiration.  He is an animal on the kit.  And he is a really really nice guy to boot!
A man completely after my own heart, Ed seems to thrive on the education, inspiration and encouragement of young people.  His thoughts are clear and concise, aiming to be the best at what he does through an explicit student-led teaching methodology.  This provides Ed's students with a fun, encouraging, safe and happy learning environment and is conducive to them learning quickly but thoroughly from someone who, in my limited time talking to him, seems to be "a total legend"!  I sincerely hope one day to visit Round Rock and meet with Ed, as I am sure he and I share extremely similar attitudes and a passion for our job.

I did manage to gain some valuable insight into Ed's life and career via email however, and here is what he had to say:

DZN: Hey Ed!  Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.  

Ed Francis: I  live in Round Rock, Texas And our city is actually named for a large round rock located in the middle of a creek.  I had always wanted to play my drums on “The Round Rock.” As far as I knew no one had ever done it before - and that made it all the more appealing. Many years went by and I just seemed to be too busy teaching, planning shows, competing in “Drum Off” competitions, giving drum clinics, practising in my band, helping to raise my 5 boys (okay, you get the picture…) - so realizing my dream of making some wonderful music on our city’s namesake had pretty much remained a dream. That is, until one day when we found a moment.

DZN:  We need to ask - how did you become known as “The Drummer on The Round Rock”?

EF:  My wife, Kim, and I thought it would be appropriate for me to celebrate my 20 year anniversary of teaching by realizing my dream. During November of 2010 Kim and I lugged one of my drum kits onto what I consider to be the coolest “drum-riser” ever created by nature! Surrounded by the beautiful and mirror-like water, and hearing the generous applause provided by the swaying trees, I lost myself while playing on my drums. It was a surreal experience to watch as drivers slowed down to catch a glimpse of what was making all of that bombastic noise on the Round Rock. I even think I saw the same woman drive by several times to check up on me - and she didn’t look too happy. But I was having a fun time, anyway.

DZN:  I’m glad you had a great time.  Perhaps that woman who kept driving by was in shock?
EF:  Or maybe she contacted the police!  It wasn’t long before we attracted a crowd and people began stopping to see this crazy drummer on their Round Rock. We also gathered the attention of our Round Rock Police Department who related that “…someone called reporting some suspicious-looking activity on the Round Rock.” Our police department was content to let this eccentric musician beat the heck out of the drums on the most famous natural landmark in Round Rock, Texas.

DZN: And so what's been happening with you more recently?

EF: Things have been pretty busy. I mean, outside of teaching I’ve had many opportunities to speak to kids at our local schools and share what music can mean in their lives.

DZN: And what it means in yours…?

EF: Absolutely.

DZN: I understand you were recently invited to the United States Air Force’s2012 World Wide Talent Competition. What did you share at this event, and what was it like?

EF: In many ways it was similar to what it feels like to revisit a place where you grew up. The familiar sights and sounds brought back many memories. It also reminded me of the heart and soul we all put into our performances. I usually feel relaxed about my playing and a bit anxious about speaking - but this time things were reversed.

DZN: What was different about this time?

Francis: It had been 20 years since I competed in the World Wide Talent Competition, and this time I was introduced as an authority in my field [drumming]. And playing in front of Mr. Thomas Edwards (the Director) - not to mention all of the talented performers - made it all the more intense. Things went well, and I really enjoyed answering all the questions.

DZN: Can you share some of those questions, and the answers you provided during the clinic?

EF: I’ll do my best to recall them…

Q: Who are your main influences/did you have any formal training at school [college level]?

EF: As a child I had many great teachers who invested themselves and poured their time and talent into building me up as a young musician. Some encouraged me with their intensity and belief in what I could one day become, even when I had difficulty believing it for myself. Others invited me to participate in groups which helped me to find my identity as a drummer and fine tune the rudimentary skills I continue to practice to this day. I could rattle-off a list of great drummers (and I do have a wonderful list), but some of the most influential people early in my drumming career are those who are not necessarily drummers. Several influences include bass players, singers and even…(gasp) guitarists!
The only “formal training” I received was in Jazz Band while in college and later with Ernie Durawa. Drum Master (Texas Tornados). Everything else learned was the result of playing in local bands, performing in the World Wide Talent Competition, participating in the Guitar Center’s “Drum Off‘s,” and listening to lots and lots of music.

Q: How do you form your solos, and what do you see as the most important role of a drummer?

EF: When considering the drum solo I think in terms of creating “brief snippets of coolness,” punctuated with well-thought transitions and presented with lots of raw emotion and energy. When I’m playing a solo I try to emulate what I imagine as the essence of what an super-energetic marching band might exude while exploding onto the field to give a great performance during a half-time show with a stadium that is filled to maximum capacity.
A good drummer listens - that’s our most important role. We listen to the song, members of the band and to ourselves. Listening enables us to better musically support the song and assist in bringing it to life. In many ways, our role is to do the opposite of what a drum solo is (unless the song calls for that particular approach - and we need to listen for that, too).
We are not the band - we are a part of the band.

Q: Have you ever had a time when you lost that desire to play - and if you did - how did you get it back?

EF: There was a period of time when I lost my hunger to drum. I thought to myself, “your only teaching kids how to play the drums.” All I could see was I wasn’t playing out there like the “famous drummers”; I felt like a failure and even considered doing something else for a living.  My thoughts were negative.
This negativity reminds me of what many of my adult students have told me they have experienced while growing up.  I hear this same story all the time: One of my students (who had just turned 70) told me that her teachers, friends and family all convinced her that she couldn’t be a drummer.  No one even gave her a shot at it!  She didn’t begin taking drum lessons until she was 69 years-old.  As a young lady, my student was unable to do what she loved [drumming] - for the first 69 years of her life - because she believed all the negativity; and she felt like a failure, even before picking up a pair of sticks.
She has told me, “when you speak to people you tell them my story so they will not wait to do what they love to do.  TELL THEM TO DO IT NOW.”
My student’s sad experience can be taken as cautionary.  I wish there was a happy ending to her story.  Unfortunately, due to her advanced age, multiple physical issues and pain, she has since stopped drumming.
As for myself, it wasn’t until I began pouring myself into my students, and investing a great deal of effort into our music program, that a renewed excitement made it’s way back into my life.  I even began learning new things on the drums for myself because it sounded exciting!
I was glad not to let a few negative thoughts destroy my lifetime of loving to play the drums.

Q: What helps you to keep that “spark” of enthusiasm?

EF: Watching others who are great at what they do helps me to maintain that “spark.” I have found inspiration in watching a saxophone player belt-out a mind-blowing solo at the Newport Jazz Festival, dancers fervently practicing their physical craft in gymnasiums, and even discovering inspiration while witnessing some of my own students as they find their own voice and passion on the drums.
Knowing that no matter how good I get - I can always get better helps, too. Watching an inspiring drum DVD, going out to experience live bands, reading an interesting article about some cool drummers (Makedrums.com), visiting and speaking with drummers who I admire; these all continue to assist me in maintaining my passion.

Q: How do you get your name out there/ what do you do to advertise yourself?

EF: Doing good and doing it for free is a good start! People love to talk [previously pointed out in 11 Ways to Achieve Your Personal Drumming Goals in 2012]. You may as well give them something great to talk about. Your qualifications will travel faster and more broadly on the wave of free gossip than on any form of paid advertisement.
The truth is we don’t spend money on advertising (unless you count our really cool t-shirts!). I was talking with my grandfather on the phone and telling him the great news about all the recent free press we’ve been receiving from our community. It dawned on me that I don’t pay to advertise in any newspapers or magazines as those same publications consistently contact us to do interviews. After hearing about this, my grandfather humorously pointed out, “you don’t need to ask for anything… all you need to do is say ‘thank you.’ And your pretty good at that.” To which I responded with a tongue-in-cheek “thank you.”

Q: What’s the most important thing you have learned since competing in the World Wide Talent Competition?

EF: The greatest gift we can give to ourselves is to remain teachable.
It’s when we think we know it all that we stop learning.
I see each of these attitudes in my own students. Those who falsely believe they have mastered something grow much more slowly than the one’s who honestly evaluate themselves and truly seek to understand how to get better. Remaining teachable is a key to a lifelong love of our passion. And our passion provides a springboard not only to a life of happiness for ourselves - but to a life rewarded by giving that same gift to others through our playing and/or teaching.
We get what we give.
I’d also like to add that I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what it means to try “being the best” Vs. “doing your best.” There’s a huge difference in these two mind-sets. One aims to beat others, while the other seeks to learn from others.

Amazing to talk to you Ed.  You have made me want to go and practice more and to be the best I can be!  Thanks for your time, and happy drumming!  And please keep in touch and let us know how things are on the Round Rock...

If you live in or near Round Rock, Texas and would like to learn the drums, I highly recommend you contact Ed directly.  You can find out more on his website here:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Break Time!

Sorry for the long delay in posting interviews.
I have been travelling and gigging and teaching all over the UK.
And now, the interviews have piled up!
I have lots of Editing to do, but once it's done I will be posting interviews from:

  • Ed Francis - Drum Teacher and mentor and The Drummer On The Round Rock
  • Colin Bailey - Jazz Legend and one of the fastest bass drums in the game
  • Darren King - Mutemaths rhythmical genius and performance wizard
  • David Garibaldi - Tower of Powers original funk monster

So, keep a look out for these amazing interviews which will be posted in the next few weeks.
Rich - Drumazine!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dame Evelyn Glennie Interview

Sitting in a small Café in Neukölln, Berlin on a snowy February afternoon, I made a telephone call to the UK.  I was extremely nervous as I was calling Dame Evelyn Glennie to discuss her life and career in the percussion world.

This photograph and "Snare Photograph" below courtesy of James Wilson/© Evelyn Glennie

Ms Glennie, if you don't already know, was the worlds first solo percussionist.  This is some feat.  Not only because of the struggle to convince the musical world that such a thing could be achieved, but also because of the fact that Evelyn Glennie is deaf.

The conversation started with an obvious question about Evelyn's early life...

Drumazine: How old were you when you first found an interest in music and percussion?

Dame Evelyn Glennie: When I was 8 years old I first started playing piano and at the age of 12 I found drawn to percussion.  The area I am from in North East Scotland and the schooling I had was deep rooted in traditional Scottish music.  The [secondary] school I attended had a fantastic music department and the teachers there really tried to find a connection with the children as individuals.  They really helped to bring out our potential and help us to find our creativity through music.

Dzn: So would you say that your early influence was from your teachers at school?

EG: Definitely.  My first percussion teacher, (a peripatetic teacher) - Ron Forbes, really inspired and encouraged me.  He taught me from the age of 12 to the age of 16 and treated me (and all his pupils) as musicians first and percussionists second.  Also, my classroom [music] teacher, Hamish Park,  really helped by, again, finding individuality in each student and encouraging our creativity.

Dzn: Your school sounds amazing!

EG: The teachers and the music department really were fantastic!  A lot of the teachers of the academic subjects played musical instruments and so were always performing with the school band and at school concerts.  I think as a young musician in this school, I really was lucky and found a connection with a lot of the teachers (even the ones not in the music department) who also found out more about me through music.  Every pupil was valued and inspired and there was a brilliant sense of  camaraderie and mutual respect.  This was invaluable and so I gained encouragement from lots and varied places and people.

Dzn: And so who inspires you now?

EG: Well, I wouldn't say that any one person in particular inspires me any more.  I gain inspiration from the things around me - it could be anything or anyone in everyday life which triggers a concept or thought process to a creative idea.

Dzn: So would you say it is a good idea to be open-minded in your approach to your career?  Not just musically, (playing many different instruments and styles), but also to have a diverse career and not just sticking to one thing [playing]?

EG: Definitely!  My first teacher [Ron Forbes] made a point not to specialise in any one area.  He taught me a good foundation of basics in many areas on the snare drum & drum kit as well as other percussion instruments such as the Timpani & the Xylophone.  These are tools which enable you to be a divers musician and it was so good to be exposed to so many different musical forms at such an early age.

Dzn: Being diverse in your career seems just as important.  You are not only [the worlds first] solo percussionist, but you also have a prolific career spanning several areas, including teaching, composing, motivational speaking, global consultancy and jewellery design!  Are there any particular areas of your work which you enjoy more than others?

EG: I obviously really enjoy all areas of my work, but I do really enjoy collaborating as a soloists with the orchestras.  I also very much enjoy other collaborations with, for instance, visual artists, dancers, narrators and so on.

Dzn: You are extremely busy!   There's also the jewellery?

EG: Well, I have been designing jewellery for about the last 4 years.  The first range was called "Percussion", however I am just releasing a new line in 2012 including some smaller pieces like handbag & mobile telephone charms and also some pieces which will play some music!  You will be able to find out more later in the year via my website. My new e-commerce site is currently being developed. 

Dzn: You have [in past interviews] described yourself as being "naturally stubborn".  Would you say you have a certain "drive & determination" which is instrumental in your success?

EG: I would say rather that anyone wishing to succeed in their chosen career should start by having a clear goal and visualising the aim.  You need to have belief in your own goal and create your own opportunities!

Dzn: Ok, so what would you say was your first success in music?

EG: I think my first long-term success was proving that I could survive as a solo percussionist, but I think every event or gig is a stepping stone, so it all depends on your perspective.  For me there have been lots of moments of achievement that have all lead up to this point in my life and my career.  So, for instance, up to a certain point there was one goal achieved and then up to the next point there was another goal achieved and so on...

Dzn: Maybe now is a good time to ask a question from Drumazine! reader "Andrew Cox": "How did you feel when you got your first professional work/gig?"

EG: Well that's a tough one!  I can't really remember the first one!  I do remember however, when I was a student, getting certain opportunities;  I was asked to take part at an after-dinner performance which I guess was one of my first proper gigs, but basically I took as many opportunities as possible!  Another big moment for me was being asked to perform a percussion concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra which was my first professional concerto performance.

Dzn: Having talked about successes, can you tell us about any bad times, failures, defeats or problems you have had during your career?

EG: Well, if we didn't have problems we wouldn't be human!  Everyone has ups & downs - that's just part of life.  Being reflective and taking time out is very important, so for me personally I use the down times to take stock.  Sometime not practising is just as valid as working hard...  I guess the challenge that I have faced was making people believe in "solo percussion" as a career.  It was very hard initially to find a repertoire or to find money to support commissions, so that really was the biggest challenge I have faced.

Dzn: Some more questions from Andrew Cox now: "How did you feel about proving yourself in a career usually pursued by people with hearing?"

EG: Ooh...  I'm not sure...  I'm not really a person out to prove anything to anyone.  Maybe I was more out to prove how good I could be to myself more than anything.  I think that is probably a much healthier way of approaching things.  It's interesting too how "disabilities" are perceived.  It's not really a negative thing; in fact I would say that it could definitely be used to revolutionise things like equipment or at very least the way music is approached and perceived.  As I said before, musicianship far outweighs the technique of playing percussion and so for anyone learning to play any instrument it should be more about sound creation and experimentation than preconception or tradition.

Dzn: Andrew also asks: "What was your most challenging gig and why?"

EV: That's really hard to say!  Every time you play a brand new piece of music it's a challenge.  I think the most scared I was on stage was the first ever time I played a full improvised concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.  At that time I thought "I will never do this again!", but now improvising is such an amazing way for me to be expressive - I really enjoy it and I give many improvised performances.

Dzn: (AC): What's your favourite percussion instrument and why?

EG:  Well, if I was stuck on a desert island and I could only have one instrument with me, then I'd have to say the Snare Drum.  I use the snare in nine out of ten concerts and I just love to play it.  It's one of the most challenging instruments to play and I don't think I could be without one!

Dzn: (AC): If you could play with any band, artist or orchestra (that you haven't already), who would it be and why?

EG: I would love to play with Eminem!  I like his work a lot and I would love to write a concerto and fuse it with rap and hip-hop!

Dzn: Wow!  I wasn't expecting that answer!  So, have you approached him?!

EG: Yes!  Although I haven't heard anything back yet...  As always though, you have to go through so many channels...

{Dzn: Maybe if anyone reading this knows Eminem, maybe they can pass on the idea!?  Back to the interview:}

Dzn: Something else I found out about you is that you made a film recently called "Touch The Sound".  How did that come about?

EG: I was approached by the director, Thomas Riedelscheimer, to make a film about sound.  The emphasis being on how sound is all around us and how we experience it.  I was the vehicle for the film.

Dzn: Another amazing fact about you is that you are "Dame Commander of the British Empire" (awarded in 2007)!  How did that come about?

EG: I have no idea!  Ha!  I received a letter in the post!

Dzn: Well, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you and a real insight into your life and career.  Before we bid you adieu, do you have any words of advice to aspiring young musicians?

EG: Well, I think try to vary your practice "routine".  Actually, the word routine is quite a bad one.  Being varied and as creative as possible is much more valuable.  Or at least try to get a balance between specifics [rudiments, score, technique], and improvising and creativity.  Try to explore different techniques, sounds and be as open minded as possible.  Try to get some experience writing music or "making something".  Have belief in yourself, practice hard, take opportunities and be creative.  Also, self analysis is important for improvement too.  Be really ruthless with yourself!  And finally, remember this about the music business:  Don't pander to it because without you, the musicians, there is no music business!

And there ends an amazing interview with a true inspiration.

For further reading and information:

Evelyn's Official Website
Evelyn Glennie has written some wonderful texts which you can read on her website here.  She also has some new releases this year, one with the Taipei Traditional Chinese Orchestra and also her work with composer John Corigliano.  New releases and a full discography can be found on Evelyn's website here.
She is also busy touring throughout the year which you can keep up to date with here.

Photograph courtesy of "Cambridge Newspapers Ltd"
Photograph "instruments" above courtesy of Eric Richmod

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bengt Lagerberg

In 1998 The Cardigans released the album Gran Turismo.  For me (a rock and metal fan at the time), this album completely changed the way I perceived music and especially drumming.

I liked the album on first listen.  It was very different from the type of music I would usually listen to, but it was catchy and cool and had a certain edge I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Obviously, it was all programmed drums...  Or was it?!
Amazed to find out that a drummer had played everything, I was completely blown away at the boundaries being broken; I mean, it was common for drum machines and programmed drums to try to emulate real acoustic kits.  And electric drums were really making a mark in music as an instrument completely unique of acoustic drums
The advent of triggering, samples and loops had already happened and was becoming ever so more popular, cheap and easy to use...  But a drummer emulating a drum machine?!  A real live drummer doing that!  And fooling me!!?!  (I was young and naive and thought I knew everything about everything - only now am I realising how much there is still left to learn...)
Anyway, this moment in musical and drumming history was a massive turning point for me personally.  I honestly think that this drummer, Bengt Lagerberg, and his recording on Gran Turismo, was the single most inspirational moment in my career.
So, it was with ultimate honour that I got to speak with Bengt Lagerberg himself...

Drumazine: Hello Bengt! Welcome to Drumazine! For those people reading who might not already know you, please can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career as a drummer.

Bengt Lagerberg: Hello! Thanks for having me! Well, I´m 38 years old, I live in Malmö, Sweden with my wife and three sons. I have been playing the drums since I was around 15, most notably in The Cardigans.

Dzn: In 1998, you recorded the album "Gran Turismo" with The Cardigans.  I remember reading an interview with you somewhere at the time, in which you said something about how you wanted to emulate a drum machine on the record.  This is very intriguing to me as a recording artist; can you clarify what you actually said and what you meant...?

BL: Gran Turismo is an album we wanted to sound more modern than the previous ones. Also we wanted a more dark feeling to it. I remember we listened to a lot of albums trying to find production references. Amongst others we listened to albums by Depeche Mode. Since neither our band, nor our producer Tore Johansson had any experience in programming drum-loops or working with drum-machines, and also we wanted everybody in the band playing our instruments, we thought it would be a good idea to have me play patterns in a really monotone way, like a drum loop.
At the start of the recording process, Tore invested in a Pro Tools rig. It was a trial and error kind of start, with recording and reading the manual simultaneously. After a while he learned how to loop parts of the drum tracks.

Dzn: Gran Turismo was The Cardigans 4th studio album. Had you been in the band from the start?

BL: Yes, the band was born in october of 1992, and I was in from the start.

Dzn: So can you say why you think this album, in particular, was so successful?

BL: I think there are a couple of reasons; we were lucky to have two great songs as singles (My Favourite Game and Erase/Rewind).  We had a record company that believed the album had a commercial potential and thus worked hard to promote it.  We as a band worked hard as well, promoting and touring constantly.
Also I think we were lucky to come out with this album at the right time.  The production did sound kind of modern, and I guess so thought a lot of people.  I can´t say it was groundbreaking, but it definately was something new for the Cardigans and it had something special and up to date.

Dzn: How about before that time; How long had you been playing before your "big break"? And had you been in any bands before The Cardigans?

BL: Well the band started in october of 1992.  Quite early on we started recording demos that we sent to record companies and also to Tore Johansson who we knew had produced an album that we really liked with the band Eggstone.  That album (In San Diego) was recorded in Tambourine Studios in Malmö.  It was Tore and Eggstone who run the studio, and we thought it would be nice to perhaps get a chance to go there an record a single.  Tore invited us, and at the same time (in the summer of 1993) a record company got back to us and wanted to release a single (Rise and Shine).
It´s hard to say when the "big break" came. Everything happened quite fast for us. We felt it was huge getting a recording deal in just 6 months.
And I did have a band before the Cardigans called Dykare och Giraff (Diver and Giraffe) with two friends and one of my older brothers.  It was mainly a cover band doing songs by The Clash, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Petty.  We never did any recordings though...

Dzn: What would you consider to be your first “success” in music?

BL: Actually my first musical instrument was the Bassoon.  My grandfather was an organist and a cantor.  When I was around 13 years old we did a little tour in churches playing at confirmations.  This for me was a really nice experience, and I guess I felt successful performing music in front of an audience.

Dzn: Would you describe this as a “defining moment” in your career?

BL: Well I guess in a way. The feeling of doing my best in front of an audience was a strong one (even though the reactions from the audience was none(!)).

Dzn: You’ve talked about success; have there been any failures, defeats or bad times you can tell us about?

BL: Actually no failures or defeats, but we have had bad times.  This has been when we´ve worked to much.  When you release something new, you´re really eager to talk about this, and you´re really greatful if people show interest.  For us, with the huge success we´ve had, we got to talk a lot!  After a while one starts to get bored with the sound of ones voice, and it feels like everything is being said by a robot.  Then the eagerness to talk about the new release is gone.  This has happened quite a lot to us I must admit.  If you compare the amount of time, there´s been so much talking and so little performing.
For me personally though, this has never affected the performances which have always been fun!

Dzn: How did you combat that problem?

BL: By telling myself I´m spoiled and in a very sought-after position as a musician.

Dzn: Onto equipment! For all those gear-heads out there, what kit (drums/cymbals/anything else you would like to mention) do you play?

BL: Actually I have thirteen kits.  It´s crazy, I know, but when on tour, we often went to vintage music stores, and there would often be really nice kits which I never could resist buying...  Especially in the States they could be found at good prices too.
The first I got on tour was actually in Sapporo, Japan.  It´s a Ludwig Vista Lite, red, white and blue, and that is probably the kit I have used most live.
When recording our albums we´ve used a lot of different kits, or parts of kits, and in many cases the kit used would be drums from maybe five different kits.  All to have the perfect sound to a specific song.
So I don´t stick to one favourite, but I have noticed that the Vista Lite (which are made of plexi glass) tend to sound the same regardless of temperature or humidity.  This is a good thing.  Also they are beautiful when the stage lights come on...
As for cymbals, I use a Paiste 2002 Ride that I´ve had forever, and Zildjian crashes and hi-hats from the 70s. They are very dirty and sound great.

Dzn: With the advent of new technology on what seems to be a daily basis, what modern technology do you incorporate into your:
a) Practice?

BL: At home in my apartment I have a Roland V-drum kit which is great since it does not disturb the neighbours or the family.
In the rehearsal space I don´t have any new technology, only my old drums.

Dzn: b) Live performance?

BL: With the Gran Turismo album, we used backing tracks with additional drums and some other sounds. Also we used trigger mics on the drums with drum sounds from that album.  When mixing these trigged sounds with the acoustic drums you get a very nice and powerful sound that really suits the live adaptation of that album.
On later tours I played with a click-track in my ears to some songs.

Dzn: c) Recording?

BL: No new technology there really.

Dzn: And now you play drums for the band "Brothers Of End".  Can you tell us more about this band?

BL: Yes!  We are a three piece band consisting of my fellow Cardigan Lasse and an old friend of ours named Mattias Areskog (who also played in my first band Dykare och Giraff). We have released two albums and are currently working on a third.  The music is quite mellow with a lot of harmonies.  Our record company-guy calls our music "fine-indie" and that is something to agree with!
Of course you can find our music both on iTunes and Spotify.  Also you can order our albums on vinyl on our homepage:


Our ambition is a simple one; we enjoy playing music together as much as we enjoy spending time together. We have no commercial expectations what so ever, and we don´t tour a lot.

Dzn: Do you have any other jobs than "drummer"? Is this a financial necessity or because you enjoy a diverse lifestyle?

BL: Yes, I have a day-job. It´s in a store called Byggfabriken. Byggfabriken manufactures a large range of products for renovation, restoration and decoration for old and semi-modern buildings and interiors in a Scandinavian tradition.
I work there both because I enjoy a diverse lifestyle, but also out of financial necessity.

Dzn: Is there any other news you can tell us about?

BL: Actually, The Cardigans are doing a couple of shows this summer. We were asked by the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden to perform the whole Gran Turismo album live. We thought it sounded like a really nice idea so we´ll be doing that festival and a few others. We haven´t played together since the fall of 2006, so I´m really looking forward to it!

Dzn: I feel honoured to have spoken with someone who completely changed the way I thought about playing drums.  Thank you so much Bengt.  Good luck with Brothers Of End.  And enjoy the Cardigans shows this summer...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lester Estelle Jr!

Oh my, oh my, oh my!!!

Well, this is an interview I have been looking forward to for a long time;

I was introduced to Lester's drumming a little while back by a Drumazine! reader and was completely blown away.  Not only by his technique and technical skill, but also because of the interesting background that he seemed to have.  From Christian Rock band "Pillar" to Country music superstar Neal Mccoy, Lester is certainly making his mark in many areas of the music & drumming world.  But how did he get from playing in a college band to a being a Grammy nominated super drummer?!

I spoke with Lester to find out more...

Drumazine: Hello Lester!  Welcome to Drumazine!  For those people reading who might not already know you, please can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Lester Estelle: Thanks so much!  Glad to be apart of it.  I'm Lester Estelle.  I'm from Kansas City, now living in Nashville TN.  I've been touring since the age of 14.  I currently tour with country artist Neal Mccoy.

Dzn: You were very young when you started playing the drums, (I think I read somewhere that you were 2 years old!)  How did that interest start and eventually develop?

LE: My father is a guitar player.  I remember going to gigs with him and watching the drummer.  Someone gave me a pair of sticks and that was it.  I was hitting on everything!

Dzn: Who was the biggest influence in your early learning of the drums?

LE: Early on it was a lot of guys living in the KC area.  Scott Coulson, GoGo Ray, Jim Riley, and a few church drummers.  I grew up on gospel and jazz. When I was 13 I started to listening to more styles and more bands.  I got into Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band: pretty heavy.  Also listened to "Ten Sommoners Tales" from Sting so i got into Vinnie Colaiuta big time.  Also Chad Sexton from 311.

Dzn: And who inspires you now?

LE: Currently everybody!  haha.  I'm on youtube for hours watching drummers.  I love Chris Coleman, Thomas Pridgen, Calvin Rodgers, Morgan Rose, Tony Royster Jr, Questlove, Chris Dave, Chris McHugh, Greg Morrow....the list goes on and on.

Dzn: Now a question from a Drumazine reader, Francois Naudé: "You have had a varied musical background and have played for a very diverse range of artists.  How did the change from playing in heavy rock bands to playing country music come about?"

LE: A bass friend of mine told me about the audition.  I was looking for something different at the time so I called the musical director and asked if i could audition.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Haha... Its been a great.  Working for Neal Mccoy is a privilege and he loves to showcase his players.

Dzn: Would you say that it is a good idea to be open-minded in your approach and play many different musical styles?

LE: Absolutely!  The biggest reason I got into playing all styles is I love recording.  When i lived in KC, I wanted to be one of the main guys producers or artist would call to drum on their records.  The more styles of music you can play, the more work you will get.  Every gig that I've been on has opened more doors to more musical situations.

Dzn: I heard a rumour that you play other musical instruments, one of which is Bass Guitar.  Does being able to play other instruments (bass in particular) help with your musicality as a drummer?

LE: For sure.  There was a time before I joined Pillar that I was playing more bass guitar than drums.  It helps me to not do my own thing on the kit...really concentrate on locking in with the bass.  Its not about me.  Also I got into engineering and producing which really helps you focus on the band as a whole.  Changes the way I listen to music.  I use to just pay attention to the drummer... (although I still do mostly! LOL)  

Dzn: What would you consider to be your first “success” in music?

LE: I think my first success was leaving high school to homeschool so I could travel on the road.  I can't believe my parents let me do it but they knew that it was a great opportunity to be able to make money and play music at a young age.  While kids were going to prom and playing sports, I was on the road in a van and trailer!

Dzn: Would you describe this as a “defining moment” in your career?

LE: In 2007, Pillar was nominated for a Grammy.  It was a huge honor for us to go and be apart of such a major awards show.  All the hard work, bad shows, good shows, long writing sessions, interviews had paid off.  It was a great day for us.  We didn't win but we were happy to be mentioned.  Went from 4 guys from the mid-west playing rock music in college to being nominated for a Grammy....good stuff!

Dzn: You've talked about success; have there been any hard times or "learning experiences"?

LE: There was an audition I was in:  It came down between me and another drummer.  I didn't get the gig.  It was good for me because I'd never been a part of anything like that before: I learned what to do, what not to do, what to say and what not to say.  I also got some great exposure.  

Dzn: And how did this experience affect your career?

LE: The next audition I had was with Neal Mccoy.  It worked out perfectly!  I just approached the whole thing different than the previous audition.  This turned out to be a better gig for myself, my family and i wouldn't change anything.

Dzn: Another question from Francoise: "How do you get to be so fast with your feet?!"

LE: haha...  Honestly I don't really know.  I learned on a crappy pedal(?!)  When I join Pillar, there were some double bass drum parts and at the time, I didn't want to buy one so I figured out how to play it with a single.  A lot of learning anything is repetition.

Dzn: Onto equipment!  I understand you play Risen Drums.  I also know you have 5 (?!) drum kit set-ups:  Francoise and Drumazine need to ask - "Can you explain your reasoning behind the different set-ups and also which one is your favourite and why?"

LE: Well, currently I have 8 different kits.  Its mostly for studio situations.  I keep a drum kit on the road and the rest at the studio.  Like I said earlier, I wanted to be able to cover all styles so i have 3 vintage kits and 5 modern type kits.  My favorite is probably my Risen maple with wood hoops.  Its deep but real punchy!  I love it.  All my kits sound completely different from each other and I just try to cater to the style of music I'm on the gig.

Dzn: What other gear do you play?

LE: I play Sabian Cymbals.  Mostly HHX and AAX.  Lots of different models and sizes.  My favorite crash is HHXtreme 19".  My favorite ride is 21" HHX groove ride.  
I play Evans Heads. Emad 2 on kick, reverse powercenter on snares, clear and coated G2 on toms.
I use Promark Sticks.  The Teddy Campbell signature model are my favorite.  It feels like a slim 5B to me.

Dzn: Francoise also asks: "What's so great about the 13"AAX Fusion Hi Hats?"

LE: Haha...  I don't know! I think that I'm use to that sound: fast, quick, nice stick definition and higher pitch.  My first good set of hats were 13" AA fusions.  Currently i'm using some 16" prototype hats.  I LOVE THEM!!!

Dzn: With the advent of new technology on what seems to be a daily basis, what modern technology do you incorporate into your:

Dzn: Practice? LE: Youtube!  I don't even have to buy drum dvds any more!  LOL.  

Dzn: Live performance? LE: Live I use my mac and a program called Ableton Live.  Its great for adding loops (and clicks) to any gigs!  

Dzn: Recording? LE: At my studio we use Pro Tools and Apogee converters.  With my [overseas] clients, I'm able to track and they can watch me on webcam.  I record for artist and producers overseas all the time.  Its a great way to get work and connect with other players.

Dzn. Teaching?  LE: I use Ableton Live at drum clinics for my backing tracks.  I also demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate this to live playing.

Dzn: What current projects have you got on at the moment?

LE: The new Neal Mccoy CD comes out in March.  I'm on that.  I'm producing a couple of artist who's name I can not mention yet but its gonna be fun and I'm looking forward to it.  

Dzn: Can you tell us more about your recording studio?

LE: The studio is called "OFF THE WALL STUDIOS" and it's in Nashville TN.  I have the studio with 2 of my friends:  Robert Venable, who engineers, produces, mixes and plays drums and Josh Gleave does everything but play drums!  They're both great guys.  I love being in the studio!

Dzn: Are there any other links you can lead us to to find out more about you and your work?

LE: Check out:

Dzn: Amazing stuff!  It just remains for me to say thanks to you Lester, and then want to go practice some country drums...