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.

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...