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.

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