Our 2nd interview in the ëIn Time’ series, we caught up with Jamie McGrory. Jamie has been a feature in the Scottish music scene for a number of years now, playing the function circuit in a variety of different bands.
He has toured in Asia and Germany, he teaches at the Rock n Pop School of Scotland in Paisley, where a handful of his students have gone on to the final of the Young Drummer of The Year competition with his latest student to get to the final, Tom Potter, taking the crown in 2015.
He also spends his time rocking out with Bad Mannequins, a power trio that have music featured on American TV. We spent some time catching up over some food and talked drums like two real drum geeks.
How are you?
Yeah I’m good thanks man.
So musically, what are you doing just now?
So at the moment, . I play for an original band called Bad Mannequins, its great to be playing original music, its been a while. It’s a 3 piece rock thing, it’s been ages since I’ve made a big racket up the back of a rock band and it’s great. I play for a touring show, ìThe Scottish Music Parade” that tours all over europe, asia and america doingÖit’s almost like Riverdance but Scottish stuff, so pipe bands, highland dancers etc and I play in the house band for the show (Aceltica) I’m really enjoying that. Appart from that, I do lots of functions and lots of corporate gigs with a band called Replay/Killer City Sound.
Teaching wise I’m till teaching at my Dad’s place – the Rock N Pop school of Scotland. And that’s me basically.
Great! So what‘s you favourite thing about each of these projects and what do you have to change in order to play them, as they‘re all very very different in terms of what‘s required?
I suppose my favourite thing is that are all so different. I don’t really spend too much time doing the same thing over and over again. Em. Usually how it works is, the touring show does 2 blocks during the year – so one around May and one around October – Christmas so that’s 2 defined times where I do my Scottishy stuff.
Right in the middle there’s loads of weddings and usual stuff. And Bad Mannequins is sporadic throughout the year.
So my favourite thing of it all is that I’m not doing the same thing too much. In terms of what do I change?ÖI don’t know. It’s strange. Not a lot changes. I try not to think about playing in boxes. I just play what I need to play. And although the playing in each gig is slightly different, my approach is similar. I thnk the practice room is for getting different styles, genres and stuff down. When it comes to playing live, I try to just play. The gear changes a fair bit, cymbals, snares n all the usual stuff.
Do you have a lot of creative input in Bad Mannequins and the touring show?
Aceltica is kinda weird as it’s a mixture of the Scottish songbook (Caledonia, trad songs etc) which means I’m really just playing the parts from those songs. A lot of the time because of the instrumentation on the show, the arrangements change from the original so there’s bits and bobs of coming up with parts and arrangements with the rest of the band. With BM I basically get to do what I want, so that’s really great. It’s been awesome going into the studio and being creative.
Sometimes when you do a lot of weddings etc you can start to turn into a wee bit of a robot – you listen to the song, you copy the song which is fine, but after a while you can start to forget what it was you loved about making music in the first place.
Well on that, what was it that got you into playing the drums?
HmmmÖ I don’t really know. 2nd year music at school, I got a shot of the drums, kind a found that IÖdon’t wanna say I found it easyÖbut I found that I could do it quite quickly and I enjoyed it. I could play grooves and stuff. And at that time a couple of mates played guitar so it made sense for me to play something different. And I just kinda fell into it. I think the big thing was my background as dancer when I was younger, although without actually realising it then, made it easier. I grew up moving my two legs and hands at different times.. so I dunno if that helped.
A lot of people start playing drums and kinda have to be brought to music, so..if you started at the same time as friends, did you start playing music right away?
Yeah! Absolutely. I think I got my first drum kit in 3rd year at school so..maybe 13 years old..and we had a PA System in the garage so within weeks I was playing with my pals. But I didn’t really have lessons for the 1st couple of years, I would just put on records and try and copy them.
As a teacher, does the way you learned inform how you teach people and do you think that‘s missing from how a lot of people learn now?
Yeah I definitely think there’s a huge value in not always knowing at the beginning what it is that you’re doing and just doing what you think and feel is goodÖa lot of copying.
I’ve kind of seen both sides of it. I taught for Yamaha for years which was great. Their teacher training and techniques are amazing – second to none. But it’s very academically led – it’s systematic and from books and exam focussed. And it was great but one thing I realised very quickly is that the kids that could play well, grade 5 say, once you took their books away, they couldn’t playÖ or I’d put an easy song on and ask them to play the groove on the song and they couldn’t hear or decipher it. So in my private teaching, without ignoring things, the first good chunk – the first year say, is grooves, fills and learning to play music. Because I think the quicker you get that under your belt, the quicker you’re off and running.
I think that‘s great. Our instrument is perhaps the only instrument the doesn‘t use pitch in the same way to teach music.
I also think it’s important for the student. Going back to me as 14 year old, I’d have been really disheartened if that after a year or 2 in, I wasn’t playing along to the records that I loved. I reckon I’d have patched it by then. Cause for me that’s what it was. I wanted to put on Zeppelin records and play ëGood Times, Bad Times’ (laughs).
So with that then, who was it for you at the beginning? Who fired you up to play?
Strange actually. I got into music as I said, through getting a shot of drums at school. And my pals who played guitar have older brothers, so they already had a developed taste of what they liked and what they didn’t as a 13 year old. I really didn’t, I just knew that I enjoyed hitting drums. My first real thing that I fell in love with was that I went into McCormack’s (Music – former Glasgow music shop) and came away with a Dave Weckl DVD. I used to watch it all the time – couldn’t play any of it, but I loved it. I ended up getting into drummers before I got into loads of music. But very quickly from there the first guys that I really loved, from growing up in the 90s in Britain, so Oasis were massive. Loved them. Bonham with Zeppelin was huge for me. Steve Gorman from the Black Crowes. The Black Crowes back then were probably what I listened to more than anything else. Loved him. Super groovy. It was always band guys..not sure why. Aaron Comess as well, the Pocket Full of Kryptonite album. Loved that album. Mega drums! I listen back and a lot of that album is quite muso-y but at the time, I loved it. What a drummer.
Your Dad has always been a big influence for you musically, so did his record collection help straight away or was that later?
He came into play straight away really. I came home and said I want a drum kit etc and managed so save up over christmas and birthdays until I had enough to buy a kit. I was going to buy this rotten starter kit thing from McCormack’s and my dad dragged me out moaning and we picked up this second hand Premier kit that was infinitely better than what I was going to buy. So he knew about drums, he’d pals that were drummers, he played brass in a marching band, he was into American Drum Corp. and had friends in that so he knew what was good and not so good.
Though the marching band thing he was pals with Gary (Montgomery – DO Teacher) and Alan (Parker) at The Drum Shop (Glasgow dum shop) and that’s how I started going to lessons with Gary which was probably the worst decision of my life (both laugh). Na he was great! That changed the whole thing for me from hitting drums in a garage to this is how you get better – a clear path, this guy can give me things to let me do what I can hear other people doing on albums etc.
Were you a practiser
Yeah. I practised loads. For the first few years I don’t know if I can call it practise, but I played a lot. I’d come home from school and play till 9pm every night. Wasn’t constructive ëpractise’ as such but more playing along to songs and trying to work out things that I could hear. As soon as I started getting lessons from Gary and was given The ëFat Back’ stuff (Gary Chaffee bass drum patterns) and the Syncopation (Ted Reed book) I definitely shedded all that.
Puts some of that Weckl stuff into perspective?
Yeah. When you go back and watch it starts to (half) make sense.
Because your Dad was into the drum corps did you ever get into that and get really dialled into hands or was it all still music?
For the first ages it was all about music. It wasn’t till about 19/20 – I had stopped going to lessons for a while – when I went back, I wanted to see if I could make a go of it and actually be a drummer. At that point I got lessons of a guy called Iain McMillan who’s one of the American drum corps. guys. I went to him for a few lessons to do Traditional grip stuff. I also had a few lessons off a guy called Gordon Smith, Scottish ceilidh drummer with crazy hands. Other than that all the hand stuff I’ve ever done has been from DVDs or sitting by myself. I’d actually, in all honesty, love to do a lot more of it.
That‘s a pretty comprehensive introduction, great!. Has there been anything that you were taught in the beginning that still resonates now? As much as you‘re much more formed as a player, has anything remained consistent?
I don’t know. I think the biggest thing would be the drummers that I like haven’t really changed. I’ve gone through spells, especially when I was practising certain things – latin or chop things etc, I go through phases delving into those kind of guys. But when I come home and put a record on or whatever it’s always the same guys I listen to. And maybe because of that, my approach to playing has remained the same. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I play what I play because that’s what happens. I try not overthink it.
What gear are you playing these days? You‘ve seen a fair few kits in your time. (both laugh)
Em, I have quite a few. My main gigging kit is the Craviotto Solid Maple kit. So 22,13,16 and 14◊6.5 snare. Which is new actually – I’ve never had a 13″ tom. But I’ve been loving them. I think that comes back to the guys I was listening to at the very beginning. Bigger drums, slightly less intrusive. Band song guys rather than kit player, players.
In my teaching room I’ve got a Yamaha Beech Custom Absolute 22,10,12,14,16 so that can do anything I need it to do and it’s perfect for practising. And it’s Yamaha so it sounds like great drums! So thats pretty much what I use kit wise. I’ve a vintage Rodgers kit that makes an appearance now and then for different things. And that’s pretty much it.
Yeah. I have a set of As. 15″ New Beat Hi Hats. 18″ and 19″ Thin crashes and a 21″ Sweet Ride and I use that for the Germany tours wth Acetica and functions. Straight down the middle, sounds like cymbals, cymbals. Nothing quirky about them. They sound like great cymbals. And then I’ve a set of big daft, dark Ks (both laugh) that are really just for my own enjoyment and studio stuff.
Let’s totally nerd out on drum heads. What heads are you using and why? I‘m an Emperors guy.
Coated Emperors. Cause they sound like drums?
There you go. Never a truer word been said (both laugh).
I’ll be honest man, I’ve tried everything. Various Aquarian heads, various Evans heads, Remo. Double ply, single ply, dampening rings, stuff, stuff , stuff. Coated Emperors. When I put them on and tune them they just sound like drums.
Do the make your Vintage drums sound as good as they should?
Yeah man. Every bass drum I own has a Coated Powerstroke 3 on the Batter and Resonant. Every single tom has a Coated Emperor on the top and a Coated/Clear Ambassador on the bottom. And it just works. I think the inherent difference between vintage and modern is in the drums.
Have you seen the Matt Chamberlain video of him playing his 1948 Gretsch Broadcaster vs. his 2016 model? It‘s great. Where are you on the Vintage vs. Contemporary drums thing?
Man I’ve been done this path for a while. I bought a bunch of Vintage gear. Some of it was really good and some of it was really bad.
I don‘t think it‘s true that vintage drums were made better than contemporary drums. Some drums were hardly round.
I’ve got Slingerland toms that you need a crow bar to get the heads on. You know how you put the head on, rim on then finger tighten all the lugs and it starts to make a tone. By the time you get the head over the bearing edges of my 13″ tom it’s already making a tone because it’s so tight! So they’re not better. Definitely not.
Manufacturers nowadays go on about bearing edges being flat or round or 30 degrees or 45 degrees. I don’t think it was even properly on the radar of drum makers back in the 60s. So were they checking for all this stuff?
I think we’re very used to hearing it which is why people are so fond of it. And from a studio point of view, it’s handy because they don’t sustain the way that modern drums do so you spend half the day trying to kill the sustain. But from the opposite side, if you want big sustaining toms, you’re not getting it from a 60s Ludwig or whatever, it’s never happening. If you want to play live and play a lot of weddings and functions and that kind of thing, the sound great but they don’t project in the same way that modern drums do so they’re really quiet. So you can be struggle to be heard. That being said, if you want that old school sound you need old school drums and when it works its amazing.
You‘re newer set, your Craviotto. That‘s some drum set. Does it have something that your past kits don‘t?
Well it’s got the different bearing edges top and bottom. The baseball edge make a huge difference because there is tons more wood touching the head so if that’s on the top they don’t have the same attack and sustain as say a Yamaha Maple drum. (Jamie’s drums feature different bearing edges on the same drum so can be reversed for a different sound.) But they have thisÖ.clarityÖI think because there are no plies or glue there’s nothing to interfere, they have a clarity of tone that’s really quiet something. I don’t really know how else to explain it.
What are you practicing?
Recently it’s been hand stuff. I played Traditional grip for the longest time a while back, purely because it’s something I wanted to get in to. And for teaching so I could answer questions about it. But I’ve gone back to matched it feels easier to play loud. But my left hand is kinda funny. Obviously the motion is very different but my left hand still wants to move like it’s in traditional grip so I’m working on ironing that out. I’m watching loads of that guy Bill Bachman – his YouTube stuff and website is great. So trying to do bits of that. Outside that, tonnes of metronome work – making bars of click disappear and come back in n all that to really see where your at. Then really just maintenance work and using the Syncopation book and using the various ways of exploiting that.
I’m not one of these guys who can learn it once and it’s always there, I have to keep doing or I lose whatever it is I’m working on. It doesn’t always take a whole lot of work to get it back but if I don’t do it for 6 months then I know about it.
Great! Sound awesome.
It‘s no secret round these parts to those that know you that you‘re quite an accomplished teacher – your students have won awards (Tom Potter – 2015 Young Drummer of The year). What do you think about music and drumming education?
I think drumming education is probably a lot further on than most instruments. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve spoken to my Dad loads over the years about this but there’s a huge community within drumming that I don’t think exists in any other instrument, to my knowledge. We do loads of clinics, all the best guys have books and DVDs, we’re all sharing whatever they have to share. I think as an instrument, we’re way ahead.
I think that teaching techniques and styles maybe have to move on slightly. You know this kinda putting the pad on the stand and wrapping the students knuckles for not reading it properly doesn’t really work today. I think the world is quite instant now – you want food, you hit a button on your phone and it turns up at your door, you want a new t shirt, it’s the same thing. Everything happens instantly. I think it’s important for a teacher to realise that to tell a ten year old kid that they won’t be able to play the things they want to play till they’re 18, is quite hard now.
Does that inform how you teach then?
Definitely. I think that’s a lot of the reason of why I spend a good chunk getting them to play, cause at least if they’ve been coming to lessons for 6 months to a year, then they can go home and rattle off their favourite song, or at least the interpretation of what they’re hearing. I would hope that the fun in doing that keeps them on the path to getting better. Whereas the kinda old school vibe of sitting on a pad for 3 months before you’re allowed a drum kit – I don’t think kids today would respond very well to that.
Do you use any technology in your teaching? iPads etc
So all my notes and books are all pdf’d. I dunno if a metronome counts as technology but use one of them (both laugh). I’ve got this cool app actually, it’s called Tempo Slow. It’s free and and anything in your iTunes library, you can run it through this app and it’ll slow it down without changing the pitch. So I use that alot. EmÖI use an app called Beat On – metronome app. So you can get progressively faster with that – you can set it to change every X amount of bars. So that’s really great. You can remove the click after so many bars etc. My teaching kit is rigged up to Pro Tools at all times so I can record anything that anyone is playing. I’ve got Go Pros on the kit so I can film anything that needs filmed and we can watch it back. So yeah I use all that.
How do you find parents to deal with? In the main I‘m assuming they‘re supportive but have you ever come up against any issues there?
I don’t knowÖI’ve been quite lucky. I think because I’ve had a few good students, I get a lot of people coming to me because they want to be good. Which helps. I still teach a lot of people that don’t practice n all that, but most of em are really great. I think the set up my Dad’s got is really great – he teaches every instrument then puts people together into bands and they have a tutor that does band workshops with them and they do gigs etc. So we kinda get through the door, people that have sought that out and want experience playing with people. So we end up with a lot of families that are pro active and into it.
I’ve never had a parent that’s been blocking the whole thing or anything. Money can be an issue for people obviously – an hours one on one every week can be a lot of money. Over a year or so, that’s a serious amount of money. And I think from their point of view, I’ve had parents that get nervous about it – they want to know if they’re wasting money or if it’s working.
Have you got a way to measure it for them?
It’s really hard because I think to someone who doesn’t play, even quick progress can sound really slow. Realistically what someone thinks vs. what they actually get done in 6 months can be a shocker. You’ll know yourself, there’s been times in my lessons when we’re doing independence exercises from Syncopation and you can spend 3 months on 1 page. Again with my Dad’s thing, we do loads of gigs n stuff which keeps parent enthused and see their kids playing in a band it’s easy to visualise.
Going back to the money thing, for anyone teaching, you just need to make sure you’re doing your absolute best. We do 45 minute lessons usually, so I just try and run it really tight so that the when a lesson finishes, it finishes about 2 minutes before the end so that the change over time is minimal and I can talk to parents while someone is setting up. And give them as much time as possible. I write a lot of lesson plans which I learned from Yamaha and they’re great. I always try and have a short, medium and long term plan set so that the lessons are tangible for parents. It means you can be clear with people.
So you‘ve mentioned about technology in your teaching but what about your playing?
Yes. I’ve an SPD-S with kick and snare triggers and an extra one pad thing that plugs all into it so I run samples and kicks and triggers from it and all that stuff. A lot if gigs I do, I don’t need it. The Bad Mannequins gig, I don’t even need toms for (laughs). I take a floor tom actually and just one big 20″ crash so there’s nothing technological in that.
An old teacher of mine Rick Chandler (Calvin Harris) was majorly into all of that stuff. I saw him do it all. So I got into all of it and spent a bunch of money on an Emu sampler and a Roland Octapad at the time and then this device to sync the two and Reason for my laptop to then load things in to the sampler. This was like maybe 12-15 years ago so you had to record all the samples and physically play them in to the sampler and then adjust them in the sampler which you couldn’t do without and honours degree so essentially I bought a whole bunch of stuff and never used it because I could’t figure it out. (laughs). I recently got back into it with this Roland stuff and it’s a different world – you just turn it on and it works. It’s so easy. The software editor lets you drag and drop the sample onto the corresponding pad and it’s just there. Amazing. Beyond easy to work. That’s been great and the fact that it’s so easy to work means you use it – it doesn’t put you off.
So in terms of how I use it – I did a gig with some of the Bad Mannequins guys in a band called Model Jet Pilot and on that gig I had kick, snare and toms, all triggered. So we’d mic the kit and have an acoustic kit but I’d have all the samples from the studio on the kick, snare and toms going through the Roland, running backing tracks and click tracks and a couple of loops. I used it loads and loads on that gig and it’s fun. It’s an odd discipline. It’s not like drums. On beat 2 of such and such a bar I’m going to hit pad 4. Doesn’t correspond to drumming as such – it’s outwith the parts you normally play. So it’s cool to try and get it in to your playing and try and remember when to hit what. Or where the big STOP button is incase it goes all wrong (Laughs).
If I’m running loops I alway try and keep them as short as I can possibly have them which makes it a bit of a pain sometimes because you have to keep launching the sample but it means that if you launch it in the wrong place it’s not going to be too much a car crash. But I think you only need to turn the radio on to realise why it’s something that we should all have a handle on if we can. It seems like a necessity now for that kind of music.
So I‘m gonna ask this to everybody. Top 5 records and why?
Haha. You know when you asked me about this interview I knew you were gonna ask a question like this. I was gonna sort it before I came here and I haven’t (laughs).
Right. So it changes every week, new records come out etc but I bunch that have stuck with me from very young until now and I can always got back to and find something to enjoy –
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the Beatles.
Massive. I could listen to it probably everyday. Love it. The whole record it great. Ringo is brilliant. And just the end of it, for anyone reading this (laughs)
Shake Your Money Maker – The Black Crowes
That was massive for me when I was 15. That was my first rock n roll moment – they all had long hair and cool looking, with killer songs.
(What‘s The Story) Morning Glory? – Oasis
This was huge as well. Not something I spend a great deal of time on nowadays but when I was younger it was massive.
Sign of The Times – Prince
I only say that one because I’m only allowed one but really all of my top 5 could be Prince.
Inner Visions – Stevie Wonder.
Classic. Great songs, great playing. Just magic. Controversial but this is my favourite Stevie wonder record.
*So Chris gave me this to proof read and I figure im gonna squeeze in some more while I have the chance and see if I get away with it haha. Go on Chris, leave them in.
Led Zepplin – 1
Michael Jackson – Off The Wall
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
King Crimson – Court Of The Crimson King
Herbie Hancock – Headhunters
Great. All good choices. Gimme some advice for younger players/students?
A bit of a broken record with this but I think You Tube is the best thing since sliced bread. If that was about when we were younger I don’t think I’d have ever left the house. It’s amazing. BUT. I always try and tell my students if they’re going to go watch a video of Buddy Rich or Vinnie or whoever, try and not watch the 40 second chop or solo clip but instead the 9 minute clip that has the same solo or chop but also the whole song. Try and hear these guys playing music. It’s easy to hit a button and hear a 300mph blushda mental fill in being slowed down for you to learn – which is cool right and I love it – but it’s easy to lose the context in which these guys are using it. Thers much more to these dudes than their technical ability.
Great, thank you. So in the length of time I‘ve known you, you‘ve done a lot of travelling and touring. Are there pit falls as a player to all of that? How do you deal with jet lag and playing in humidity? Cause you played in Indonesia where it‘s really hot etc.
With the humidity bit for a start, I just didn’t deal with it. I was absolutely dying, It was horrible. We did like 6 weeks in South East Asia and it was the height of summer. 40 degrees outdoor festival gigs and it was just too hot. Talcum powder on my hands, sanding drumsticks down just to keep them actually in my hands and just sweating buckets. I travelled actually with loads of those wee..I think they’re for diarrhoeaÖrehydration pouches so they’ve got loads of salts and minerals and you pop it in a pint of water and down it. So I travelled with loads of them. I was coming off stage all shaky and feeling burst. You know when you sweat and then you sweat another level and you have those white marks from all the salt coming out of you? That was happening. I was a mess. I really just got on with it. But those sachets were great.
Apart from that, the jet lag thing, for the most part tbh a tour manager organises it and you either do or you don’t. I think you just need to try and behave yourself. The more you behave and go to bed when you’re supposed to, the easier the whole thing is. If you stay up and party, it’s going to be hard. Sometimes it’s worth it, most times it’s not. Trying to find a balance is key. I should maybe listen to my own words more often (laughs).
What do you about gear? You‘re at the mercy of what turns up for you.
For the most part you send a tech spec and they accommodate as far as they can but aye you do get hit with some shockers. Tuning is major. If you work on tuning on your own gear and use things like toilet roll and gaffa tape – things that you can get more or less anywhere then you can get a decent sound out of most kits. Then after that when you’ve got it sounding as well as it will, you just need to try and forget about it. You know forget that it’s a 26″ bass drum or whatever. Don’t sit behind the drums let all that stuff get in you head – the cymbals sound dreadful or what ever it is. Cause it’s not gonna change or get better so just forget it and play the drums. At least that way you’re gonna do the best you can do. Which is easy to say, and for someone like me who is a gear geek it can be challenging. Turning up to things like that breaks my heart. Especially when I know what gear I have at home.
If you didn‘t play drums what would you do? Would you still dance?
Na. The dancing thing was amazing and I was really lucky – did a bunch of tours with big companies – but it’s not a world for me. It’s very competitive with people all trying to get one up on each other and I never really liked that side of it. And by now I’d be retiring so yeah.
I went to uni and I have a degree in Civil Engineering so I think by all accounts I’d be doing that but whether or not I’d be overly happy about it..I’d maybe have more money but I’d have less drums and nae pals (both laugh).
HA! Indeed. Let‘s talk about recording. You‘ve already said your studio is always set up with Pro Tools so I would assume that one does sessions from there and how do you find that?
It’s something that I got into fairly recently. I really love recording and I think anybody reading this will know that there’s not really much of a scene in Glasgow for getting a shout to go do a session. It might exist in London but it’s not a Glasgow thing for the most part. You get the odd call to do some things but it’s not overly regular. So I kinda figured that the only way I was gonna get to do more of it was to do it myself. And do it relatively cheap so that people could afford it and get it done quickly. And it’s great – really good. Kinda daunting at first – the responsibility of getting paid and sending the guy the stuff and hoping it was good enough.
So I spent ages doing favours for mates and recording things and letting engineers I knew hear it to make sure I wasn’t gonna send something to someone who’d paid me and it was rubbish or it wasn’t what they’d wanted in terms of the quality of the recording.
The only weird thing is, and it’s not so bad if you’re working with people that you know, but if it’s people that you don’t then the trickiest bit is trying to get them to explain to you what they want. Cause I think a lot of the time they know what they want, they just don’t know how to vocalise it. Whereas a drummer would be like ëgive me this kind of vibe, a la this guy’ or whatever’ and you can kind quickly get an idea of what they’re after. Whereas most songwriters don’t have that vocabulary. So in that case I just get them to send me a bunch of songs that they want it to sound like or that they like the feel of.
Did it change your playing or teach you anything about playing?
Yeah. That I should have done lots more work with a metronome when I was younger.(both laugh) It teaches you a lot. It goes into the computer and you’re convinced that it’s not you. You listen back and you find out that your pocket is maybe not what you thought it was or the big one for people is that their cymbals are too loud. Its very telling. Great practice tool. Even just using the mic on your phone.
So did that make you buy different gear or inform what kind of gear to buy?
Aye. Totally. The sound of the drums is totally different – I’ve got quite a lot of dampening on my drums. Typically, my snare drums tuned really quite low, kinda baggy and puffy sounding. Diffent to how I would normally have them when playing live. Cymbals – darker, bigger stuff that aren’t going to get in the way quite as much. You know what it’s like. I’ve got A’s, I’ve got K’s and all the sounds are kinda covered in there.
What‘s your favourite venue to play?
I’d love to play the Barras. Like we all would I guess. And I’ve kinda done it. I played a battle of the bands thing when I was 15 and it was there but I’m not letting that count. But in terms of places I have played – I played in Taiwan last year in this huge Amphitheatre that was broadcast live on the telly n stuff. It was the first time I’d done any kind of live broadcast thing so it was pretty nerve-wracking. If you make a mistake, a lot of people are gonna notice. But it was great, really huge – 15,000 people or something crazy so that’s been the biggest crowd I’ve played to.
In terms of a one off gig that I played that was amazing was the Hague Jazz Festival in Holland. I was only like 19/20 and I had one rehearsal before we flew out. And I got there and Dave Weckl’s drums are on the stage (laughs). So he was there playing with Hiromi I think it was and Billy Cobham played that day with Level 42. There were loads of guys – can’t remember them all but it was amazing. So basically it was this serious jazz festival all weekend and then on the Sunday night when it was all finished in the main hall they had a big party basically, for all the ticket holders and artist to wind down. Ray’s music is kinda acid jazz, dancefloory type so he was almost like the entertainment for the big party. So I got to play Ray’s gig with all of those folks having a beer and dancing and watching.
Amazing. Shittin bricks (both laugh). Horrid.
Gigging in front of Weckl. Class. So. What was your first impression of Rhythm Base?
Well the thing is, like we mentioned earlier, it’s all about toys for me. Kid in a candy store vibe. My first impression was that it was bigger than anything I’d seen, had more of things that I loved than anywhere else, a lot of top end stuff, that I think now is taken for granted. Back then, a drum shop would have a wall of sticks, 10 cymbals and 2 kits. To go into a big ass drum shop was amazing. To see and to get to play that kind of stuff.
We‘ve spoken about this before but I guess not everyone has. So how important do you think a shop like Rhythm Base is to the local community.
It’s key. And it’s so easy to justify why it’s so important. For guys at all levels. Pro guys who’re touring and need heads in no time at all because they burst at soundcheck. You also can’t go into Amazon and ask a guy who’s been playing at a decent level for 20 years whether or not a Constantinople Bounce Ride is better than a Medium Thin Low. Amazon doesn’t know that. But you and Paul do. Gordon doesn’t. But he’s a nice guy (both laugh).
Do you know what I mean though? It’s dead easy for me to walk in say I need some that does this and and you guys will point me the right direction.
For me, and I think Rhythm Base is pretty clued up to online prices, it’s the expertise that you can’t quantify. Especially for the wee guy who’s saved up all his money and he’s got £600 and he’s saved for a year or 2 and wants to buy a drum kit. Is he gonna be better off speaking to you guys or hitting a button online because he likes the colour. It’s you guys all day long. That’s the big thing.
The other thing is, we spent time talking today about the community vibe and how drummers teach each other, n all that. All that stuff dies for me if you don’t have drum shops.
I can genuinely say I only have any kind of ëcareer‘ if you like because of there. I hadn‘t met anyone before I started in there. It‘s been amazing.
Totally. You don’t get that sense of community if there’s no hub. And to go one step further and be quite militant about it – and I don’t work for Rhythm Base – but if you’re gonna use their experience, expertise, go to their free events, all of that stuff. Don’t go and buy your cymbal from Amazon for the sake of a fiver or whatever. Just support the store so that all of that other stuff keeps happening. support your local drum shop kids (laughs)
Great. So what was the last gig you went to?
Eh. Paul’s. I went to the Bee(f)cake gig (laughs).
Ha! I‘m actually gonna write Beefcake.
(Laughs) If his vinyl wasn’t so beautiful it’d have written an F on it. But aye that was the last one I went to. It was great! Before that I can’t remember. Id love to go to more gigs but im usually gigging at the same times.
Smashing. So how important is the relationship between drums and bass for you?
Aye well that’s just it really, isn’t it?! It’s major. Everyone has an idea of what the feel etc is and there is definitely wrong. But within the bracket of right there’s a lot of variance. Wether it’s slightly pushing, slightly behind, right on top, kinda swung, absolutely straight, there’s loads and loads of wee things. I think you either find guys who it feels really good to play with straight away or you work with people to find that common ground and make sure that it ends up feeling good by the time you’re on a stage.
It’s learning to pick your battles too. Either you go with them if you think they could be right or sticking to your guns if you think you’re right.
Slightly off topic but I hear drummers talk about more bass in the monitor or more click, or more hi hats or whatever it is, but for me, it’s hundreds of vocals. Loads of vocals. If you’re doing a singer/songwriter gig like that, then to the audience, there’s a singer and then there’s some stuff going on. There’s a vocal and then there’s texture and that’s really it for joe bloggs. I think especially as a drummer in that sort of role, when you’re not playing anything overly technical or whatever, your major job is to make sure the song gets delivered the way it’s supposed to. So if you go with the vocals and everyone goes with you, it’ll be fine. At least for me anyway.
Studio or live?
I don’t know man. I think right now, studio, because I’m playing live so much. But I think if I didn’t play live a lot then I’d want to be.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
(laughs). I dunno man. Still pulling my drums up the lift in Oran Mor. I think the older I’m getting I’ve been thinking a lot about taking my teaching even more seriously. In terms of my development of how do I make money playing drums and make it suit a lifestyle I want to live, then the teaching thing is going to be bigger. So I want to try and start some sort of website and do Skype lessons is my plan. So I’d like to do more of that.
Apart from that, the Bad Mannequins recently got a song place on the HBO show ëLimitless’, we have an albums worth of material ready and a video in the bag so its exciting to see what will happen there. From when I was about 16 I’ve pretty much always been a hired guy and it’s great to be a band guy and get a taste of that for a while so I’d love to more of that cause it’s great. Aside from drums, me and my wife are due a baby any day now so there will be big changes there and im really excited to see what that has in store haha.