Monday, 19 March 2018

Stephen O' Brien has rapidly become one of Irelands most in demand drummers. He plays on a full time basis with pop soul Artist BRIAN DEADY, he regularly performs with Voiceworks Studio (Vocal Tuition Centre) as part of their house band, Wedding band The Stars, Soul Driven, Ian O' Doherty and was the drummer for well known original funk outfit Jericho + many many more.

He has played at many of Ireland's and Europe's leading music festivals including Electric Picnic, 3 Arena(Christmas Ball), Longitude, Forbidden Fruit Festival, Body and Soul,  Sea Sessions, Mitchelstown Indiependence, Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival, Wilderness Festival UK, Great Escape Festival(Brighton), Latitude Festival UK, Live At Leeds and recently played the Barbican London as part of the Imagining Ireland gig. Steve has played support to Chic, The Rubber Bandits, Billy Ocean, Omar, José James, Lee Fields, Beardyman and Ham Sandwich to name a few. Steve has also shared the stage with Artists such as Kendrick Lamar, The Lumineers, Kodaline, BellX1, Picture This and Walking On Cars. Steve has played on many national radio stations including RTE Radio 1, NewsTalk, 2 FM, Today FM, Red FM and 96 FM and has made TV appearances including RTE's The Late Late Show. He is due to tour Ireland with BRIAN DEADY in 2018, Check WWW.BRIANDEADY.COM for dates.

Friday, 16 March 2018

When did you start drumming?

It’s hard to say really, I`ve always been a "tapper". From as far back as I can remember I’d be tapping tables, chairs, doors, cookers, anything that made a sound. I used to love standing with my back to the cooker tapping out different beats, I loved the rattles and bangs. My older brothers had a band so I’d busk along while they were practising in the front room, at the same time my sisters would have whatever they were listening to blaring from upstairs. By the time I was about 7 I had already guested on cooker with everyone from Gene Pitney to Deep Purple, I think my Mother worked from the logic of once she could hear us she knew where we were and what we were up to. I got an old set of sticks from my brother and progressed from the cooker to the "bed kit" when I was about 12 or 13, the old folded pillow trick for hi-hats, mattress for the snare and the gorgeous thud of my heel on the carpeted floorboards made a magic bass drum. It wasn’t very practical for lugging around but I’d drift off into my own little space and in my head I toured the world playing the bed with some fabulous bands.

Care to mention who they were?

Emerson Lake and Palmer were one of my favourites to "gig" with at the time, with absolutely no stick response from the pillow or mattress Id let Carl Palmer do all
the flowery stuff and I’d hold down the beat for him on the bed. My first kit when I was about 15 was a mongrel conbination of a bass drum and tom that my cousin was throwing out,
a snare drum with 3 wires left on it that my brother didn’t use anymore, a cowbell, cymbals with chunks cut out of them and hardware that I only found out later weren’t actually made of gaffa tape, they just looked like they were. Everytime I lifted my left foot the hi hat stand went west, so I played closed hi hats until Eddie (my brother) needed a new one. I don’t exactly remember why he needed a new one but I’d safely say I had something to do with it. I’m rambling as usual but what I’m trying to say is I`ve been a drummer of one kind or another ever since I can remember, and I`ve been very lucky, cos its all I`ve ever wanted to be.

What is your drum gear setup?
I play an old Pearl World Series kit I bought in 1986, 22" 10" 12" 13" 14" toms, my snare is a 13"x 7" Sonor, I sit fairly tight to the kit so the 13" snare gets me in nice and close.
It’s a long, long time since I`ve used the full kit but I do use different set ups depending on who I’m playing with, but it’s always some combination of those drums. At the minute I`m using 22" bass 10" rack and 14" floor. I`ve had all sorts of kits over the years but I always go back to the World Series, having said that, I`m looking at a lovely Sonor kit right now so who knows, I`m always open to change, I just haven’t found another kit worth changing for yet. Cymbal wise I use a mixture of Paiste Signature and Sabian HHX. My usual set up is
14" hats, 10" splash, 14" and 16" crashes and a 16" China. My ride cymbal is an old Sabian 20" that I fell in love with many years ago, I don’t even know what range it is but I love the sound and feel of it. I swapped a 22" Paiste 2002 for it at the time so we both fell on our feet, that was a lovely cymbal as well. I still use the cowbell I found when I was rooting in the shed for the Gaffa tape covered stands for my first kit, so let’s just say its old, but it still sounds great, its kinda like my Blankie. I`m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to sticks, 7A Nylon Tip, I`d be more touchy feely than heavy handed so 7A are just right for me. Over the past few years I`ve been using rods a lot, I found wooden rods take a long time to "play in" so I went on a bit of a mission and I found Rohema make a nice range of Poly Brushes. They are pretty much like rods but they have Nylon fibres as opposed to wooden strands. I also use Rohema JB 3 Brushes. I like the balance of the stick grip and Nylon Brush, I feel more in control. Retractable wire brushes with rubber or plastic handles always felt heavy and floppy to me so the JB 3`s are ideal. They`re basically a drumstick with a nylon brush on the end and that gives me the best of both worlds.

Who are your drumming influences?
I mentioned Carl Palmer earlier as someone I would play along with at home, but my main influence would have been my brother Eddie. Eddie pretty much devoted his life to drumming. He played kit with Geraldine Brannigan and Phil Coulter amongst others during his gigging career. He moved from kit playing later on and formed Irelands first Taiko drum corp. He played the Noel Eccles written Taiko piece at the opening cermony of the Special Olympics Games and he's now a Remo Certified Health Rhythmist and runs his own Wellness and Personal Development Centre in which Drumming still plays an important role.
I'm rambling again but that's just a small but Important insight of what was going on around me growing up. I loved listening to him playing, it was a great advantage for me being so young to watch and learn close up from someone so talented. He introduced me to the likes of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ed Shaughnessy, Tony Williams and a few other guys.
I remember he told me once to have a listen to a particular Tony Williams album. He said there was a drum break on one of the tracks that sounded like he just picked up the
kit and threw it down the stairs, so I listened, and his description couldn`t have been better, but it was a real turning point for me, cos although I had been listening to the brilliance of
Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa for years I really couldn`t tell them apart, but this guy Tony Williams was the first drummer I ever heard who didn`t sound like anyone else.
I`m sure what he played was technically brilliant but more importantly for me his style was really individual and at the time I suppose very original, that’s when I really started to listen to other drummers. When i was about 16/17 the flood gates opened. I discovered the likes of Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham and later Steve Gadd and Jeff Pocarro.
A huge plus for me also was, from where I lived in Dublin, since I was say 17, I could walk into the city centre any night Monday to Sunday and watch guys like Noel Bridgeman, Don Harris, Robbie Brennan, Paul McAteer, Fran Breen and others. The gig scene was booming, bands playing every night of the week. It was a great time to grow up and very educational to watch those guys play live rather than just listen to records at home.

Favourite songs or albums?

Not sure if I have a favourite album as such but I still give Al De Meola`s Elegant Gypsy a blast every now an then, Lenny White and Steve Gadd`s playing on it is superb. Lee Ritenour`s Feel the Night album would be another but there are so many its really hard to single out one as my favourite. It`s not all drums for me. I'd have bands like Zero 7, Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps and a few others on around the house, and then again when the mood takes me I love to listen to Paco Di Lucia playing flamenco guitar. Friday Night in San Francisco is a great live album with Paco, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.
Muse, Spin Doctors and Crash Test Dummies are always in the car for long journeys and a Stevie Wonder album would never be too far away. My favourite songs range from Waylon Jenning`s "Dreaming my Dreams" to Muse's "Hysteria", but once again there are so many songs I like it’s very hard to narrow it down. I know that’s a very varied selection of albums and songs but I really do listen to everything.

You got the call from Don Baker, that must have felt good?
Yea it was nice for sure, its almost 20 years since I`ve worked with Don and even then he always liked the idea of intimate theatre type venues. At that time the gigs were mainly rock bars and festivals so it was fairly full on and heavy going for everyone. Don`s recognition as one of the worlds greatest Blues Harmonica players opened doors but it also created expectations of a stomping rhythm & blues set for 2 hours or so every night, the result being a lot of Don`s softer heartfelt songs that really required listening to were put to one side. This current theatre tour is the perfect chance to play some of those songs, and there ain’t nobody I can think of that can sing a slow blues or a soul song quite like Rob Strong. Rob is playing bass and doing a lot of the vocals. I think most people would agree that Rob is without question one of the finest soul singers we`ve ever had in the country, but he`s also a super bass player to play with. His sense of groove, rhythm and dynamic are all gorgeous and his natural feel for bass and drums makes it so easy to lock in with him, he really is solid but he`s a very musical player as well. Salvatore Urbano is on piano and keyboards. I could listen to Sal all day even when he`s not playing the piano, he speaks with the same passion he plays music with. He`s a fabulous pianist with a beautiful blues/jazz/funk kinda thing going on that really is lovely to listen to. That sounds very serious but it`s not at all. There's not a hope in hell of Don or Rob doing a gig without an odd shuffle or two, but there`s a lot for listeners to enjoy as well so I`m really looking forward to it.

In your opinion what makes Irish Drummers different to other Drummers?
God that’s a tough one cos there really are so many drummers here, and different types of drummers at that. Every second person I meet knows a drummer, and the funny thing is they all seem to gig on a Thursday. Nine times out of ten when I tell people what I do they say something like "that's great, I know a guy who plays the drums in a band, can`t think of the name of the band now but they used to do every Thursday in whatchamacallits pub". The only thing they`re 100% sure of is that the gig was on a Thursday, and now that I think of it I can’t remember the last time i read an ad that said "Drummer available for Thursday", so maybe there's something in that. I`m obviously busking here while I try to think of an answer. Actually in saying that, busking is something I`ve always thought Irish Drummers are really good at. I mean busk in a "stand in or dep" situation, most drummers i know are very comfortable with it and enjoy the challenge, but it`s an art in itself so I`m not sure it qualifies to make us different. I think the general view of drummers is that we`re all a bit Nuts.
I`m not necessarily supporting that view but in my own particular case it certainly hits the post so that rules out not being the stereotype for me at least, so I`m gonna have to
stick with the Thursday thing for now, or dancing, god yea dancing, we`re certainly different at that.
What other upcoming projects are you involved in?
I`m essentially freelance so I always have to be up to something. This tour with Don and Rob is priority right now but on days we`re not gigging I'm doing some dep work and an odd bit in the studio. There has already been extra dates added so its very likely we`ll do it all again later on in the year. The nice thing about being freelance is that I never really know what the next phone call will bring. I like the mystery of that and it certainly keeps me busy learning new stuff all the time.

See you all real soon I hope,
Thanks again,


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Colm,when did you start drumming?
As a young kid I was always beating ( with knitting needles or wooden spoons) on upturned pots and pans to my Dad’s rich and varied record collection which consisted of Scottish pipe band music , The Gallowglass Ceili band, Joan Baez, Johnny McEvoy, John McCormack etc. I then progressed to four plastic buckets of different shapes and sizes , then I somehow persuaded my parents to buy a snare and hi-hat.I remember one Christmas my sister got a Chris DeBurgh and a Queen album , we thought we were the coolest !!  Eventualy I got a bass drum, all purchased from a music shop off Capel St , now gone. When I was 13, I worked all summer long in a fleece processing factory and used my savings to buy my first kit, a  black Maxtone 5 piece with cymbals. The first time I played drums on stage was at a school band competition and our intro song was ZZ Top She's got Legs. We were a terrible band with some original material and an equally terrible name ( During Stone Down )

Did you take drum lessons?
I studied under the great Monica Bonnie for a very short time and latterly under Swapan Chaudhuri on tabla. I have always been fascinated with drumming and the rhythm section. I remember my dad taking me to see The Chieftains in the national concert hall and trying to get as close as possible to sit in the wings above the drummer on kettle drums and going to Elvis Costello in the Stadium on the south circular road because I knew Jim Keltner would be on drums. I went up to him after the set and talked for a bit, he gave me one of his sticks which I held onto for years. I love his style of playing and Elvis was good too.

Apart from Jim Keltner, what other drummers do you admire?
I absolutely love Brian Downey’s playing with Thin Lizzy and I would study songs, playing them over and over and the same with Topper Headon of The Clash , Simon Crowe of  The Boomtown Rats , Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Steve Gadd on everything. I find different styles of playing drums fascinating regardless of the music genre , like how one drummer can have a totally different way of approaching a song or phrase to another and how players develop their own style of playing , and where does that come from.

What drum gear do you use?
In my days with Whipping Boy I had a Tama Crestor 5 piece 12" 13" and 16" toms and 24" bass drum and a Ludwig 4 " black beauty. I still have them and they sound good but the hardware is terrible on that model, Paiste cymbals long trashed with holes and cracked to bits and yes, still have those stored. I now play a Yamaha maple absolute grey to black sparkle 12",14", 16" toms, 24" bass drum and I have a selection of snares I made myself, a 7" x 14" solid wood cherry , a 4" x 14" solid walnut and a 7" x 14" stainless steel and I have Zildjian K series cymbals.

What projects are you currently involved in?
Last year we just finished recording our debut album, Rivers End, with Fran's artwork on the cover . Fran is a really gifted visual artist. The album was recorded at Helfire recording in the Dublin mountains with Joe McGrath mixing and Stano producing. It was a long drawn out process but in the end we are all really happy with the end product. We are now in the process of ideas for videos and are looking forward to some more recording with Stano later in the year. We found his approach to recording very organic , not rigid and very quick to make ideas or ditch 'em which really helped everyone relax throughout the recording process.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

When did you start drumming?
I had been playing piano since the age of 7, but always had a keen interest in drums from an early age. Apparently I used to drive teachers mad by drumming with pencils on my copybooks and metal pencil cases. I was thirteen when I got my first drum kit and I was addicted straight away. I never got lessons growing up. I used to just play along to records in my garage and that’s how I learned. A bunch of us started a band in school, pretty early on and I started gigging regularly from the age of 15. After school, I studied music in UCC for four years and then I did a masters in jazz performance in The Cork School of Music. 

What is your drum gear setup?
I endorse Sakae drums so that’s mainly what I play these days. I have the Sakae Trilogy kit, which has that great vintage, warm sound. Depending on the project then I have various sizes. I have 22”, 20” and 18” kick drums and then 12” rack and 14” and 16” floor toms. 
In terms of snares then it’s the same deal. For a lot of live stuff I tend to lean towards a 70’s Ludwig Supersensitive 14”x7” but in studio I have a lot of different options depending on what sound we're going for etc.
Cymbal wise: again I have a good few options but my main set up is Istanbul 22” Traditional Ride, 18” Bosphorus Gold Series Crash, 18” Zildjian Kerope Crash and 15” Meinl Dual Hats. 
Protection Racket all the way for drum cases.
I use a Roland SPDSX a lot for live stuff these days. It’s a great piece of kit!  

Who are your main drumming influences?
I have a lot of influences that have varied over the years so I would find it hard to narrow it down to a few. As a teenager in my garage I was playing along to stuff like Thin Lizzy, Sting, the Police, Led Zepplin and Dave Matthews Band, so Brian Downey, Stewart Copeland, John Bonham and Carter Beauford were all big influences in my younger years. 
Then I started getting into jazz, so guys like Brian Blade, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, Steve Gadd, etc., had a big influence on me. If I had to pick one though I think I would have to say Brian Blade because he can do it all!

How do you approach a song and how do you decide what drum beat works best?
I approach it from the point of view of "what’s best for the song?". I don’t think there is any other way. The main thing is to leave the ego at the door and try and work out what is best going to serve the song. It also depends on the artist you're working with, it’s about making them happy and trying to figure out quickly what they want. Then it’s about finding the right drum sound and knowing what will work for the overall sound. 

Your favourite songs or albums?
Very hard to narrow this down too! I listen to a lot of different styles but if I was pressed to name a few albums they would have to include, Hadestown by Anais Mitchell; the craft of the songwriting and the production on that album is sublime! Also, Abbey Road by The Beatles for obvious reasons, Bon Iver, which is an amazing sounding album, and The Liberty Tapes by Paul Brady - this album just jumps out of the stereo and captured him at his peak. 
When I want to chill I listen to a lot of music without drums, mostly folkier stuff. When you're playing a lot it’s nice to give your ears a break from drums and maybe I’m able to switch off a bit easier. I couldn’t even begin to start listing favourite songs because we would be here all day but the one that I’m kind of addicted to at the moment is Thinking Of A Place from The War On Drugs. 

What upcoming projects are you involved in?
An album I played on and helped arrange music for, Placemats and Second Cuts by Marlene Enright was nominated for The Choice Music Prize so we’re all pretty excited about that! It’s a really great album and she totally deserves it, so fingers crossed. We have to play live at the awards night in Vicar Street on the 8th March (2018), which is going out live on 2FM and filmed for TV. We will be doing some shows throughout the year too so you will see us on the road. 
This month sees the release of the second album from The Niall McCabe Band called The Village Hall. We just got the master back last week and we're really happy with how it’s sounding. We are doing an album launch in The White Horse in Ballincollig and then we will be doing a nationwide tour in March. 
Jack O’ Rourke is starting to record his second studio album over the next few months so I will be in the studio a lot with him and the inimitable Christian Best (best drum sound ever!).
I was in the studio last month with the incredible vocalist Gemma Sugrue. She’s recording her new original material for the first time so it’s a really nice project to be involved in. 
This month I’m going into Wavefield studios with John Blek for his next solo album. It will be some light kit stuff and some percussion bits so should be nice. His last album Catharsis Vol 1 was incredible! 
Anna Mitchell’s second album is out this Friday. I really enjoyed playing on that record with some great people so it will be nice to see that one fly. 
NOTIFY, which is kind of a Trad - Jazz crossover group that I play with are also recording some new music over the next few months so keep an eye out. We are playing at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow at the start of February so looking forward to that. We are also in the process of booking a tour in The States this summer and Japan next November so that should be great!

Other than that I have lots of live gigs going on and I teach in The Academy Of Popular Music and a small bit with Music Generation. I have a couple of shows with Rubyhorse soon and some gigs with Ariel Posen, an incredible guitarist from Canada. Then I have some weekly things like The Jazz Improv session in The Crane Lane in Cork every Tuesday night. I work regularly with trombone player Paul Dunlea and also with Súp, (jazz trio with Cormac McCarthy on piano and Eoin Walsh on bass). Between all of the projects I’m kept going so it keeps me on my toes. I’m very lucky to get to work with so many great artists and musicians on a regular basis.

Note: NOTIFY also played for Tony Clayton-Lea’s Culture Vultures event as part of the Ballincollig Winter Music Festival on the 27th January

You can find more information on Davie Ryan on his website: 

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

When did you start drumming?
I was 13! My younger brother had a drum kit and I just kind of took it from him. It was an awful sounding thing, but I loved it. The cymbals were made from the softest metal known to man, the bass drum was boomy and moved when you played it and the snare head was 90% duck tape.  It was Dan and Paul from Walking on Cars that asked me to join their band (Eire 51) at that time, we played Greenday, Offspring, Blink182 kinda stuff. I remember playing someone else’s kit with proper cymbals and realised how crap my drums were so I saved like crazy and went and upgraded it.

Who are your drumming influences?
Ben Johnston (Biffy Clyro)
Matt Cameron (Soundgarden/ Pearl Jam)
Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine/ Audioslave)
Tony Royster jr (AWOLNATION)
Igor Cavellera (Sepultura)
Tre Cool (Greenday)
Mike Portnoy (Dreamtheatre)
Dave Grohl (Nirvana/ Them Crooked Vultures/ QOTSA)
Thomas Lang
The Rev (Avenged sevenfold)
Zach Lind (Jimmy Eat World)
Glen Power (The Script)
Josh Freese (NIN/ A Perfect Circle)
Fyfe Ewing (Therapy?)
Graham Hopkins (The Frames)
Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy)
to name a few. I have probably learned something from all of these great drummers. They are all very influential and different from each other also. They have their own unique sound and I aspire to be like any one of them! Or if I could be like Buddy Rich that would be class too!

What is your drum gear setup?
It’s a bit of a mongrel setup! Most of the drums are Pearl Masters maple shells, 22 kick, 12 rack tom, 14 floor and a 16 Yamaha oak custom heavily dampened with a towel floor tom. I have two snares I use, a 14 x 6.5 Ludwig LM402 supra phonic which is like a black beauty but aluminium shell instead of brass and it’s not as aggressive as the black beauty, then there is a 14 x 6.5 Hessian walnut snare, which has a conical shell 12mm - 7mm, beautiful warm drum with cool tribal pattern, both very big sounding snares! I use Zildjian K Custom dark and A custom cymbals, Pearl, Tama and DW pedals depending on how I am feeling but would prefer iron cobra power glide, pearl hardware, Ultimate Ears, Vic firth extreme 5b and a Roland Spd sx for everything else. Oh and Evans drumheads obviously!

What are your favourite bands or songs?
I like a lot of music, mainly rock stuff. Biffy Clyro has to be one of my favourite bands and Puzzle, one my favourite albums. Audioslave was a big deal for me, Chris Cornell getting together with the band from Rage Against the Machine, that was definitely a moment in my life. I was big into punk rock or punk pop growing up. I liked the Offspring, Blink 182, Greenday, Jimmy Eat World and that sort of thing. I then got into liking Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Biohazard, Therapy, Sepultura, etc., mainly because the drumming was so cool. I'd listen to a lot of Moderat, X Ambassadors, Dave Matthews band, G Eazy or even Gregory Porter when on the road, to chill me out. So I can’t say I’m a full-on rocker because I listen to a little bit of everything. I am currently listening to Matt Cameron’s Cavedweller and Imagine Dragons new album, I’d love to see them live this year. Favourite songs :
(Therapy) Screamager, 
(Moderat)- Bad Kingdom, 
(Biffy Clyro) - Glitter and Trauma 
(Twenty one Pilots) - heavy dirty soul 
 (Sepultura)- Ratamahatta
(Avenged Sevenfold) - Almost Easy
(Tool) - Vicarious 
(Blink 182) - Bored to death
 (Jimmy Eat World) - Sweetness

You have a busy summer ahead for gigs, what's your preference live or in the studio?
I can’t wait to be back in a studio to do some proper recording, but I do prefer live gigs because of the atmosphere there. We’ve played our songs a thousand times over, but you can’t get sick of them when you hear a song sung back to you, and know the crowd is enjoying themselves. That goosebumps feeling is what it’s all about for me. When the crowd feeds off the band, and the band feeds off the crowd, it makes for an epic gig and I love that!

Can you tell us what upcoming projects are in the pipeline for Walking On Cars?
We are currently writing for our second album in our new rehearsal space. It’s really cool,  with a great natural reverb out of the place and fantastic views; very inspirational stuff! There has been tons of writing done over the past few months, now it’s time to compile it all and polish the songs to have them sounding as epic as possible. We hope to have something out later this year. 

In your opinion what makes Irish drummers different to other nationalities, mainly our UK and USA counterparts?
I think Trad music probably has a big influence on the Irish drummer and that makes us different from UK and US drummers. Every Irish drummer is familiar with those bodhran beats and lively session tunes from your local pub and that rhythm is in the heart and soul of every Irish drummer, I think! It’s a cool thing to have engraved into you, especially as a drummer. Trad music is full of odd times, triplets and unique sounds that are truly inspirational to any musician, even if they are unfamiliar with the mechanics of the music. I find Irish drummers to be all about the song also and classy about their use of chops as opposed to being flashy and in your face, they seem to be very passionate and intense in the way that they play. 
The Irish drummer is sound in my opinion. From my experience, I’ve found them to be very helpful if you ever need advice on anything or if you have just broken/ lost/ or forgotten a piece of gear like a snare or a pedal or even a drum stool. The Irish drummer would be like “yeah, no worries” and try to help because they have probably been in that exact same situation as you, possibly even at that same festival. The Irish are great craic and loved by everyone everywhere, so find it easy to get along in a gig situation especially when they are friendly, “Its nice to be nice!”  Maybe it’s because we come from a small island and everyone seems to know each other because you would cross paths from time to time at festivals and venues. So in my opinion, the Irish drummer is a breed of its own, a sound, Trad loving, triplet playing, emotional and forgetful animal that seems to get along with everyone!

Photos: Cillian Garvey

Saturday, 13 January 2018

When did you start drumming?
I started drumming at a very young age, about 4 years old I think. My Grandad lived at our house at the time, and he was a drummer. My parents are both musicians and so we had a small recording studio on the end of our house, and Grandad had his kit set up in there. Some of my earliest memories are sitting at his drums, nobody forced me to sit at them but for some reason I just naturally picked it up and could keep a beat even then. When I was about 7 or 8 I used to go out to pub gigs with my Grandad with his Ceile band, and he would eventually always call me up to play while he went to the bar and chatted up the ladies haha. Beyond that, I really took the same route as most other drummers. Played in teenage bands etc. After School I went to the Ballyfermot Music College and once that had finished I joined my Parents country band, where I really started to get serious about all things music!

What drum gear do you use?
I’ve got a few kits:
Live, I use an early 80’s Yamaha Recording Custom in a really cool ‘Mellow Yellow’ colour. Sizes are 24x14, 14x10, 16x16. I absolutely love this kit. I bought it from a great UK based session player named Jamie Little. It’s quite scuffed up close, it’s no museum piece, but from a distance it looks great, and it sounds amazing.
I also have a 1965 Ludwig Superclassic in Red Sparkle, 22x14, 13x9, 16x16.
I love these drums too, they sound amazing in the studio. Though they don’t quite do the job for me live, if I’m honest, and besides they’re in amazing condition so I’m afraid to bring them on the road!
And I have a 70’s Premier Concert Tom Kit, The Phil Collins Job! My parents got me those for Christmas when I was about 11 or 12. My first kit, still have them.
Snare wise:
The one I use most is a beautiful Joyful Noise ‘Anchored’ copper 14x6.5. I had this drum custom made for me, with a personal engraving by John Aldridge in memory of my drumming Grandad. It truly lives up to its name, a joy to play! Very sensitive, responsive, and versatile. It’s quite dark sounding, and metallic obviously, but with a beautiful earthiness.
I’ve also got a 1962(ish) Pre-Serial Ludwig Super, the Chrome Over Brass version of the ‘Supraphonic’.
I’ve got a Pre-Serial Ludwig ‘Jazz Festival’, in a ‘Black Diamond Pearl’ finish.
And lastly a Tama Starclassic maple snare drum, given to me by a friend.
I LOVE all things Paiste, and I’ve got 2 different set ups.
I have a set of Paiste Signature Traditional’s. 14” Med/Light Hi Hats, 18” Extra Thin Crash, 20” Thin Crash, 22” Med/Light Ride.
And I have a set of Paiste Dark Energy’s. 15” Mark I Hi Hats, 17” Crash, 19” Crash, 21” Mark I Ride.
I use Evans Drum Heads, and ProMark sticks, mostly 5As and Hotrods.

Who are your drumming influences?
Growing up in a professional musician’s household I was influenced a lot by the people my parents worked with. My Mother is Sandy Kelly, and so she has had many good drummers come through her band. I’ve always had a great relationship with those guys and they taught me a lot. My Mum worked with Johnny Cash in the 90’s. I remember going to those gigs as a kid and sitting on the side of the stage glued to Cash’s drummer Fluke Holland, he’s amazing! And another Session Guy Mum worked with was Buddy Harman, an old school Nashville A List session head who recorded for everyone. He was amazing to watch too, I really learned a lot from him in so far as playing for the song, and keeping it simple.
I personally had the chance to work with Ken Coomer formerly of Wilco. I am also a singer songwriter, and I made a solo album in Nashville in 2007. Ken was the guy the producer hired to drum and what an eye opener that was. I loved the freedom and expression in his playing, and insane energy, but he never let it get in the way of the song. He also turned me onto the Paiste thing! I took a lot from working with Ken, in fact I’d say I somewhat tried to copy him a bit once I got back to the drums myself haha.
Beyond that, I just love drummers in general. I’m one of those guys that really get’s excited when I see and hear a good drummer. I watch tons of videos online of the usual suspects really, and mostly guys I could never even dream of getting close to! Like Jeff Porcaro, John Robinson, Steve Jordan, Abe Laboriel Jr. etc.
And a shout out for some newer guys like IIlan Rubin, Charlie Hall, Ethan Johns and Miles Miller.

What current projects are you and Rackhouse Pilfer involved in?
Rackhouse Pilfer released a new album in 2017 called ‘Solar Lunar’, which we are incredibly proud of. We put a ton of work into it, it took a couple of years to bring together. And we were fortunate to get to work with legendary producer Gareth Jones, most famed for his work with Depeche Mode and Erasure. Quite an interesting mix when you consider Rackhouse previously had been an acoustic bluegrass string band kind of set up. But we purposely set out for change with the new album, and sought out somebody in an entirely different world to us, just to see what might happen. Gareth really got the best out of us, and in such a natural organic way. He got us to set up our gigging PA in the studio (Attica Audio Ireland), so none of us were using cans. And we were very much going for takes, rather than layering the tracks up with overdubs etc. In fact, very few overdubs were done at all. We didn’t use click tracks or anything like that. Very organic! And he took it down a new road for us, where we ended up using electric guitars and electric bass etc. A lot more atmospheric, a lot rockier. Not a changing of the wheel in the big picture by no means, but a big change for Rackhouse and our followers!
Actually at the moment, Rackhouse is taking a break from live gigging. Most of us have young families, and we’ve been doing around 200 live gigs a year for the last 6 years, in IRE/UK/EU. Add to that, the fact that we’re an independent band, totally self-managed, we look after everything ourselves, so that’s a big job and it was time for a break really.
Personally, now I’m working for Sligo Live festival behind the scenes, and I am delighted to be working with another Irish band ‘Mongrel State’ in a management role. I would love to make more records in the future somehow, I really love the studio and creative aspect of all this. So, I would love to get into production eventually. And I love song-writing, that always has a huge part to play in anything I do. I am one of the main writers in Rackhouse Pilfer, of the singles we released I wrote ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Go Straight’.

What are your favourite songs/albums?
Songs? God there are so many. But as a songwriter there’s two guys I know had a huge influence on me. James Taylor, if I had to pick one song I’d take ‘Sweet Baby James’. And Noel Gallagher, again if I had to pick one I’d go with ‘Talk Tonight’. I always loved Jimmy Webb as a songwriter too, some of his classic country stuff is amazing, like ‘Wichita Lineman’ recorded by Glen Campbell. And I think Ryan Adams is such an undervalued contemporary country songwriter, a favourite from him would be ‘La Cienega Just Smiled’.

Albums in a classic sense, if I could just pick a few:
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Album
Oasis – What’s The Story Morning Glory
Ryan Adams – Gold
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Guns N Roses – Appetite
And a couple of more contemporary albums:
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
War On Drugs – Lost in a Dream
Jason Isbell – Southeastern

In your opinion what makes Irish drummers unique to other drummers?
As Francie Conway, one of my teachers at Ballyfermot used to say…. “You’ve got to lick the ashtrays”. Meaning get out there in the pubs and clubs, and just do it, harden yourself up and bring that experience with you no matter how far you go in this crazy business. In Ireland we have this amazing circuit of hard ass pub and club gigs. These are not for the faint hearted, you’ll be found out quick, and you’ve got to keep the Irish dancing! Most of us Irish Drummers are from that kind of background I would imagine. It gives you a great grounding I feel in preparation for what drumming should almost always be about, get them dancing!

Thanks very much Irish Drummers, good luck and happy skinning to all your readers, Willie. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Irish Drummers: The big news surrounding you at the moment is that Picturehouse has gotten back together after 21 years.

Johnny: Yeah, 21 years. It’s funny because it takes you back and reminds you of the person you once were and the experience you had playing with those musicians and the place you were at, that time of your life. It’s a great time in your life to be young and not have any responsibilities and just be free to roam the planet, go on tour and play lots of concerts. It’s a very privileged kind of life. I feel very lucky to have been able to do it and sadly with bands in a lot of situations you have to leave for a variety of different reasons and for me when I left in 2001 I’d fulfilled everything I’d wanted to do with the band and I wanted to do other things with my life. It was time to move on.

Irish Drummers: You go back to those songs after a certain period, are you tempted to play them differently now compared to how they were recorded?

Johnny: Absolutely, I have to give credit to Aidan Pierce. He played drums on the first album ‘Shinebox’ and I played drums on the second album. He was in the band at that time and he did a great job with those songs. I would have toured those songs for many years and put my own spin on them so definitely coming back to those songs was a different experience.
I grew up in the grunge era and I wouldn't have taken things like dynamics into account because when you’re playing bigger stages you can play a lot louder and give it a lot more, whereas now I have to consider that’s it’s the Concert Hall and I have to play to the room and consider how we gel sonically.

Irish Drummers: Any problems gelling together?

Johnny: We were very much on the same page, regarding tempos, dynamics and really laying back on the songs and being a bit more relaxed. It was such a pleasure to play with those guys and a lot of memories came flooding back at that first rehearsal. It was certainly emotional.

Irish Drummers: Any tears?

Johnny: Thankfully I didn't cry in front of the lads..HA!!!

Irish Drummers: Have you adopted a different approach to playing now as opposed to years ago?

Johnny: When you’re a bit younger, you’re full of all this nervous energy where as when you’re a bit older you start to take many more things into consideration such as dynamics and how you sound in relation to everyone around you. Not that I didn't do that in the past but we've all developed as players over the years.
So I guess I’d have a more mature approach and the rehearsal process for the Picturehouse gig was a very pleasurable experience in itself from start to finish.
Everyone was very professional, in good form and showed up on time. Everyone had done their homework but there were some songs I don’t recall ever playing so that was like starting from scratch.

Irish Drummers: How has your technique developed over the years?

Johnny; I've tried to work hard on my technique over the years and BIMM has really helped open my eyes as I'm very much self taught. It’s a constant learning process and I am always keen to learn new things.

Irish Drummers: Are there any plans to go back in and record another album?

Johnny: I don’t know. I think there’s a certain point in your life when you’re creatively in tune with one another and I think when you get a bit older your time is limited. For example, Aongus, the bass player, he’s out with The Waterboys now. I have my commitments to BIMM and I'm doing various things. I’ll be doing gigs with Andrew Strong over the summer.
We've always got a lot of other things going on and what’s great is that we are very musically active which is brilliant to see.  
I am going into the studio to put drums on a potential single called ‘Riptide’ which we may release in 2018. I've heard the basic tracks and it’s got great potential, so let’s see what happens.

Irish Drummers: You mentioned BIMM; you’re heavily and actively involved in that. What stage is BIMM at now in Dublin? How has it progressed over the years?

Johnny: We've just had our third year graduation and I think we've become this great hub that’s quickly become the nucleus of the music scene in Dublin. All the tutors are very active in the industry and now many of our students have progressed onto touring, making records, progressing into their own careers. As a system I think it really works and it’s a great environment for young musicians. It’s a great opportunity for young people to get an education as well as network.
I'm very, very happy with the progress we've made and take a lot of pride in being involved with such great people.

Irish Drummers: Johnny you mentioned another couple of bands that you worked with recently. Apart from Andrew Strong, you've played with Pugwash and Neil Hannon. What’s it like putting yourself into that space and really soaking up and trying to work with their ideas? Are you still able to bring your own style to the table?

Johnny:  When people hire you in the studio it’s usually because they know you can help realise their vision or at least bring something to their songs. If you’re trying to force an idea, that’s not a good thing. I've played on many Pugwash records and Thomas Walsh is an excellent writer. Neil Hannon is easily one of Ireland’s greatest ever songwriters. We did The Duckworth Lewis Method album which was nominated for the Ivor Novello.
During the recording process I was just there with Keith Farrell who was producing. We put a few drum tracks down when the guys weren't even there but there was one time I had to come back and redo the track but that’s just part of the process. Neil was a little unsure of my style as a drummer for his songs which is understandable but we did a track called ‘The Nighwatchman’ and I'm very proud of that one as I know he liked what I did on it.
I'm a firm believer that if a song is really well written, it practically plays itself. If it’s well arranged and all the parts are there, generally you’re talking 2 or 3 takes and it’s done. In a lot of cases drummers are very much under pressure because of budgets, to lay down their drum takes quickly. I don't mind as I really enjoy the process. Being creative with people you like, playing music you like is wonderful. It doesn't get much better than that.

Irish Drummers: What other projects have you recently been involved in?

Johnny: I was working recently on a record for a band called SlumberJet with Duncan Maitland producing. He was in Picturehouse for the 1st 2 albums and we got 5 songs done in a day so on many recording sessions you are expected to come in, get a good take down and work effectively and quickly. I actually really enjoy the challenge. I also did 4 songs on Duncan’s album as a result of doing the Slumberjet album which was nice.

Irish Drummers: There’s so much technology now, is it easier to come up with the drum parts or are you still working with an acoustic kit? Are you involved with sampling and electronic pads?

Johnny: No, I really just love the acoustic drums; I do play electronic drums with 80's cover band, Springbreak. I wouldn't be a huge fan but I absolutely understand the necessity and I understand the validity of them. If you’re doing a wedding you need to be able to control the volume and some rooms aren't suitable for acoustic drums. Obviously, if you're playing in an 80's band, you need to be able to create those sounds to add to the authenticity.
I much prefer acoustic drums because you don't get the dynamic effects with the electronic drums.
I think it's important for bands in studio to go for a vibey performance because nowadays they're editing drums and manipulating everything . There's no life to it, everything's quantised and I like imperfection to some degree. I like it if a song speeds up and I like if it slows down. Some songs need to do this but I play to a click a lot these days and that’s important too.
I got a Roland SPS sampler recently so I’ve been trying to see if I can incorporate it into my set up. Session drummers now are required to be able to mix electronic and acoustic sounds and that’s very much the way things are going now, so you gotta move with the times.

Irish Drummers: How has your drum gear evolved over the years?

Johnny: For the last 20 years I've been using Sabian cymbals. They are a great company and through Musicmaker they support a huge amount of Irish drummers.
I use Vater sticks, 5Bs. I find them great. At the moment I've been using 14” AAX accelerator Hi-Hats which are great and a mix of 20” crashes. I have an Artisan 22 inch ride which is great and use a Yamaha Mable Custom kit or Ludwig Classic Maple. I pretty much like the 20 inch kick drum, 12” rack and the 14” floor. My snares are generally 14" by 6.5".
In terms of a snare I really like the Ludwig Supraphonic 402. It’s really versatile. It’s the most recorded snare in the world and I know a lot of drummers favour the Black Beauty but having used the Black Beauty snare a few times I much prefer the Supraphonic, there’s a lovely response off it. Listen to all those Zeppelin albums. That snare sings.
When you actually look at some of these Ludwig snares, they don’t look like they’re made up of expensive components even though they can be quite expensive to buy but they just do what a drum is supposed to do. The Yamaha gear is excellent too. It’s made in China now but I managed to get 2 kits that were made in Japan. The Japanese kits are regarded as being superior and I really like them.
If it’s good enough for Matt Cameron from Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, then it’s good enough for me. I think the toms on the Yamaha kit are just fantastic, really well made drums. So I think between those 2 kits and my Sabians I'm very happy.

Irish Drummers: Who are you listening to at the moment, I know you mentioned Matt Cameron. Who else is coming up on your radar from a drumming point of view?

Johnny: There’s actually a cross over jazz band that I went to see in New York called KneeBody and their drummer is a guy called Nate Wood. He’s just insane. He’s a huge influence on guys like Mark Guiliana. Guiliana just played on Matt Cameron’s latest record and on Bowie’s last record and he’s known as this jazz wonder kid and he is an incredible talent.
I find Kneebody really interesting because they’re actually quite melodic but can go off on these mad jazz jams but always come back to a strong sense of melody. The drummer can go off and do something unbelievably technical and balance it with something really simple. I just think that they're a really exciting band and they've been around a really long time. I would recommend any drummer or other musicians to listen to these guys. The line up is drums, bass, saxophone, and trumpet. They are awesome.
The new Beck and Foo Fighters records are great, as well as Robert Plant and I went to see Living Colour recently in Glasgow. They were fantastic. I've tried to get them to play in Dublin on 2 occasions but sadly couldn't make it happen. I'll keep on trying though.

Irish Drummers: Thanks Johnny, anyone else?
Johnny; Another drummer I saw this year was Nate Smith, the only way I can describe him is that he is like a turbo charged Steve Jordan. He’s just a phenomenal jazz player and a phenomenal funk player. He’s very unique and he’s got amazing feel. His right handed 16th note playing is just outrageous. My wife and I went to see him in New York and I was lucky enough to be able to sit behind him for the whole gig.
I just enjoyed watching him play and I’d recommend any drummer to go and watch him or buy anything he’s played on. He strikes that balance between being incredibly musical and also doing mind blowing things on the kit.
Other drummers I really like are Ash Soan, David Garibaldi,  Jimmy Chamberlin and Chad Smith but my taste in music is very diverse. I’ve been listening to a lot of David Crosby lately but can go from listening to a John Carpenter, Lalo Schiffrin or John Williams soundtrack to blasting out some Metallica or The Beatles of course. My taste is very diverse. I think that goes for most musicians. You have to soak it all up and be open minded.
There’s a lot of chops guys out there posting stuff online but many of the guys that do that are in a room for hours every day and they’re playing and practising lots of stuff but I doubt if they are making records. Drum solos are really impressive but playing with other musicians is a totally different mindset. A songwriter is not going to be impressed by some guy blasting out a load of chops and in most cases he or she won’t get you hired. Playing for the music is what gets people hired so it’s important to be creative and play with people that can help you showcase that.

Irish Drummers: Who influenced you earlier on in your career?

Johnny: I got into drums when I was 12 and was listening to things like The Beatles' ‘Abbey Road’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ so I’ve always wanted to be Ringo Starr or Nick Mason. I wanted to be that guy at the back who plays for the music and makes the other guys in the band look and sound good.
At the same time I’ll go and watch a drummer do a 20 minute drum solo and it will absolutely blow my mind. I love all aspects of music and I love all aspects of drumming but my area of specialism and my goal was always just to play on the best songs with the best musicians I could find and that’s still what I try to do today.
I’m lucky at BIMM because I get to hang out with a lot of world class drummers when they visit the college and myself and the students get some excellent advice. With all their skill they always reiterate the importance of playing for the music.

Irish Drummers: Has the music industry changed much over the years?

Johnny: The drumming world is such a vast universe these days with so many diverse areas drummers can move into. Some guys make great teachers, others move into the YouTube channel drum cover vibe and then there’s band players or just great session guys. It’s very broad.
Benny Greb said a great thing that really resonated with me. When he started out he said he wanted to be the best drummer in the world and as a result he was miserable. So he decided he was going to be the best version of Benny Greb he could be and he’s much happier doing that, so if you strive to be the best version of yourself then you’ll be satisfied. 
Part of being a drummer is that you’re never really fully satisfied with the level you’re at. You are always looking for the next challenge and once you stop thinking about those things, you plateau a little bit. I’m 43 years old now and I still have a curious nature about drums and I still strive to get better.
I went through a period in my 30s where I lost my motivation for a couple of years but BIMM was the kick up the ass I needed and that job needs to be earned. I’m very grateful to be there and it has been a great opportunity.

Irish Drummers: Johnny, being so busy, how do you manage to get time to practice?

Johnny: With regards to practising drums, time management is a huge factor. As you get older and if you’re raising a family you don’t have much free time.
Young people need to tell themselves, “You’ve got the time now so practise as much as you can because when you’re older you won’t have that freedom”.
Social media is a huge distraction. Thomas Lang said a lot of drummers get distracted easily when they’re practising, when they should be focusing on what they’re doing. It’s important to focus and set out a practice planner with short term achievable goals. I spend so much time gigging, teaching and raising my kids that a practice session is a luxury. However, if I have to learn a new set I will put as much time as possible into preparation.
This summer I did some festivals with Andrew Strong, the concert hall with Picturehouse and the annual Led Zeppelin gig with Whole Lotta Zep in the Sugar Club. That meant learning about 50 songs and getting a few solos together for the Zep gig. I practised my butt off this summer and spent at least 3 days a week practising on my own. And I loved every minute of it as it was a luxury to have the time.
I took time at the end of every session to just jam random ideas and work on my improvisational skills. That was my little reward at the end of each session. I can use the drum room at BIMM over the summer when there are no classes which is brilliant. I had a drum room I could use recently but it’s gone now so I’m on the lookout for a new one. If I can do 2 practice sessions in a week, I’m a happy man.

Irish Drummers: We have so much access to social media that I think some people spend more time watching as oppose to actually practising and playing. Would you agree with that?

Johnny: Yeah, especially with YouTube. You can get bogged down with too much watching and not enough practising. It’s all baby steps but you need a plan and specific things to practice.

Irish Drummers: Do you find that students, not just drummers, are struggling with that concept?

Johnny: It’s important to focus. Time is limited and time management is important. Get a diary and write in the days and times that you are going to practise. By doing this you are committing to it. Focus on addressing any weaknesses and listen to how you sound. The iPhone is great for doing videos so you can check your posture and how you sound.
I spent a lot of time on backbeat exercises over the summer which is just playing a variety of hi-hat ostinatos and incorporating my left foot, playing quarter notes, eighth notes and off beats. Really useful material.
They’re just back beats but it’s stuff I use every day and I enjoy playing it but you have to play it well.
Sight reading is really important. A lot of people don’t learn this skill and don’t think it’s important. It’s just like rudiments, the more time you put into it the more efficient you will become in this area.

Irish Drummers: Drummers like Clem Burke have always emphasised the importance to physical fitness in relation to drumming etc. Is that really important?

Johnny: Well when you’re 20 years of age, you’ve got a lot of energy. I quit smoking a year ago. Best thing I ever did.
I try to go swimming at least 3 times a week because I find swimming easier on the body. I’ll go to the gym, jog and lift weights and stuff like that and then I’ll fall out of it for a few months depending on how busy I am.
Because I go to the gym I don’t feel as tired when I’m gigging and I can concentrate more. So I do think it’s good to maintain some level of physical fitness.
I went for a walk around the park this morning and I may go for a swim later on this afternoon and then go to my gig tonight. You don’t have to be doing triathlons or anything like that, just some level of fitness is very beneficial.
This also ties into mental health, and the body and mind need to be in sync. I only realised this as I got older. I drank a lot and smoked a lot of dope when I was younger and well into my 30s and that didn’t help in any way. I didn’t feel comfortable revealing this in the past but I’m happy to speak about it now.
Smoking weed killed my motivation and created a lot of anxiety. It also made me quite introverted and less sociable for a time so I had to make a choice. As musicians, we get exposed to drugs and alcohol so we need to check ourselves. I think kids nowadays are much more clued in and are more aware of all these pitfalls but I do know that if I stayed on the path I was on I could have ended up in a bad way mentally, physically and professionally. That’s a huge confession for me but I think we learn from our good and bad experiences.
It’s all about trying to maintain a sense of balance in life which can be difficult as there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. But you have to make time to clear your head and step back from things.

Irish Drummers: The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you were drumming with Marianne Faithfull. Do you still keep in contact?

Johnny: She played in Dublin a few years ago and I went to see her. I brought my wife and hung out with herself and her manager Francois too. She doesn’t tour that much anymore and she changes her band almost every year but I had an amazing time with her and the guys in the band. We all still keep in touch.
The bassist Garry John has been playing with The Proclaimers for the past few years so I meet all those guys from time to time. You make a lot of friends over time and I’m very grateful for all the experiences I’ve had up to this point.

Irish Drummers: You also mentioned last time we spoke that you don’t like flying. Is that still the case?

Johnny: I don’t mind it so much. I think because I did so much of it over a long period of time that I’d had enough of travelling at that point. My second daughter was born and I just wanted to be at home a little bit more and I was a nervous flyer. I still get nervous but it wouldn’t stop me from going anywhere.

Irish Drummers: How has Irish music changed over the last few years?

Johnny:  Live music is thriving but you have to be creative from a business perspective and a lot of bands need to sell merchandise to survive because record sales have plummeted.
Everyone is listening on spotify now which is terrible as it doesn’t help bands from a financial perspective. If you like a band go to their gig and buy a t-shirt, buy a mug, buy a badge or buy something because that goes into their pockets. If you like a band, you want them to make another record so you have to show your support. Listening to them on Spotify is not showing your support, that’s just taking their music at a knock down price so what I would say is go out and support Irish music.
We have a huge live music scene here but we do have a responsibility to support it and it’s the same for incoming bands from America or wherever they’re coming from. Irish promoters have a lot to answer for. The Electric Picnic has a load of Irish bands playing for free. Why????
Pay these kids and give them something. They’re out there working and performing. They deserve it. They have no problem paying a band that comes in from America or England so why not pay Irish bands.

Irish Drummers: Daytime radio stations are really good at playing Irish music but there are other stations out there that could really do a better job at promoting Irish music.

Johnny: Radio stations are all about advertising so what Irish bands can you hear on the radio, The Coronas, Kodaline? There are great people out there that champion Irish bands such as Dan Hegarty and John Creedon who are fantastic. Paul McLoone is great  and also Fiachna O Brianain. He’s on RTE radio 1’s Late Date and he’ll play a lot of Irish acts. I really like his show.
When I was in Picturehouse, one of the reasons we had a career was thanks to Irish radio. FM104 and radio stations like Cork FM played all our singles and as a result we were able to play the Olympia and Cork Opera House but it’s increasingly more difficult to gather a following if you don’t get radio plays.
One thing I’ll say about BIMM is that we strive to equip students with the necessary skills to do it all themselves.
You can come out of our college and you’ll know how to put your record out, you’ll have a guy in your band that can record your music and you can do your own artwork and promotional work.
Bands are becoming more self sufficient and need to do so out of necessity.

Irish Drummers: Johnny, I can tell that you’re still passionate about the music

Johnny: I just feel very lucky to still be playing and that I’m still employable. I say to lots of young people that it is a very privileged career but you have to earn it. When you get to your 40s you do start to look back and reflect on your achievements. I’m lucky to have played with the musicians I’ve played with. If you can have a positive impact on younger people, then it’s great and I’m all for that. I’ve certainly experienced the high and lows in the industry and at this stage in my life I’m happy to share.
Being a musician is a lifestyle choice so you have to take the good with the bad but look after yourself while you’re doing it.