Sunday, 3 September 2017

Irish Drummers; John, when did you start drumming?

I was 15 actually. I come from a musical background because my dad is a traditional musician so we always had music in the house. 
I’m one of a family of 10, but I’m the only musician, but everyone loves music. I actually took it up and made it a full time thing although it wasn’t a full time thing originally. I finished my Junior Certificate and then went on to be an apprentice electrician but I broke my hand and I didn’t get the job so I ended up working somewhere else. I worked 8 to 5 for about 12 years then decided that I had enough. 

Irish Drummers; At the start, did you take lessons?

My first lessons were with a guy who would become a great friend and mentor called Peter Di Benedetto, who unfortunately passed away about 5 years ago. He came from a place in Canada called Prince George. Limerick at the time only had 1 or 2 drum teachers but this guy brought a lot of new ideas and apart from drums played piano and guitar. So he was a hugh influence in my early years which was so important at that stage and that's how I started. 

Irish Drummers;  John, you studied at Berklee College of Music

I went to Berklee College, in 1979 for a summer course. It was fairly full on. I got there in June and came home in August and was a fairly intense programme which benefited me greatly. I did get the option to stay on but obviously with a family of 10 it was a commitment I couldn't afford. I got to play with some great musicians and that was an enjoyable experience.

Irish drummers; Who were your drumming influences around that time?

There was an incredible drummer in Berklee at that time called Alan Dawson. He was one of the teachers, an amazing guy, superb musician and such a humble man. I never got to study with other guys. I heard him playing and I loved his playing. He was one of the major guys but I suppose my favourite drummer going back was Joe Morello who played with Dave Brubeck. To me this guy had everything, just incredible technique. He was a classical violin player before he started drums but he had such a beautiful feel on the kit, some great ideas, different time signatures which kind of got me into all of that stuff. Of course there were the great big band guys like Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson and later Steve Gadd came along and he was such a big influence. I love all the drummers. Art Blakey, Max Roach, Ed Thigpen, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes and Tony Williams who were so great, I like listening to more recent guys like Eric Harland and Mark Giuliana, there are so many great drummers playing now and we can access that.

Irish Drummers; Do younger drummers have an advantage now due to so much access to technology and social media?

Definitely and in the academic side also. There’s a lot more people now going to college and they’re very educated when they come out of that system. Years ago, you learned by  going and listening to jazz musicians and listening to recordings over and over, where as today it’s all at your fingertips and everything is broken down, technology is a huge advantage.

Irish Drummers; John, someone starting out on a career in music, what advice do you give them?

What I’d normally say to the kids is, you have so much information available to you now so you have to know how to use it. There’s so many different distractions now as opposed to back in the 70’s when you’re learning it was your main focus because you didn’t have internet, all you had was TV. In Ireland, we couldn’t see all the great musicians because we didn’t have that stuff on the TV. Today all you have to do is go on YouTube. It doesn’t help a lot if you don’t know how to handle the information. Filtering information and taking it bit by bit is the only way you’re going to learn something like this. It does take dedication and it does take practice, lots of practice, there are no shortcuts. I certainly don’t believe there are any shortcuts. There are very talented people out there who learn things much quicker than others, but there are no short cuts. Technology has made us more impatient I believe and I see it in young students who don't want to practice but want to sound like a pro in a short space of time. That's when they get bored and either switch to another instrument or give it up altogether and regretting it later.

Irish Drummers; John, your synonymous with the Limerick Jazz festival, how did the festival come about?

Well, jazz has always been going on in Limerick. I’m going back to the showband guys who had always been playing jazz in their spare time, they learned to read and do the stuff that was out there and the music they had access too, like the Big Band stuff. A good friend of mine did all that stuff and he did a Berklee correspondence course which was available back in the 70’s. Limerick has always had jazz as far back as I can remember. I got involved in the late 70’s and then in 1981 the Limerick Jazz Society was formed and I was just on the committee at the time. I was helping out but eventually time moved on and then I became the chairperson.

Irish Drummers; What was it like at that time?

There was very little funding available at the time from anywhere. We had Louis Stewart, Noel Kelehan, Jim Doherty, Johnny Wadham and the Buckley family. There were so many great players and they all came down and we got to know them on a personal basis which was very important to us and the support grew and that was the start of the Jazz Society. We are 36 years old this year (2017) which I think is an amazing achievement. This is the longest running Jazz Society in the country and I don’t even know if there is another Jazz Society in the country at this stage. The Limerick Jazz Festival is 6 years old which was a dream of mine to take it a step further. It had gone really well for us and this year is the 1st year we’ve had a sponsor as well, which is really difficult to get so we’re really happy about that.Doing the administration work was always the hardest. People only see the finished product, they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. 

Irish Drummers;  Can you tell us some of the main acts coming to Limerick Jazz festival 2017?

Some of the artists coming are Soweto Kinch, he does the crossover thing, he does hip-pop,rock and jazz, so he’s bringing his band. We have the James Taylor Quartet. James Taylor really communicates with the audience and he’s a very hard working guy. He has the real hard funk, blues kind of thing, which I think will go down really well.  We also have the Booka Brass Band, 5 young guys who are doing arrangements with popular music. We also have the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra coming. They have been here 3 times before and they’re very popular and this year they have 2 vocalists, Pia Dunne and Keith McDonald. I don’t know Pia Dunne that well but I know Keith McDonald, I played with him before and he’s a very fine singer. They’re doing songs from a 100 years ago (1917) and rearranging them for big band which will be very interesting. We have formed a Limerick Jazz workshop called Little Big Band which is a 10 piece band and they will be doing their own arrangements of big band numbers. Electric Freeplay featuring Joe O' Callaghan, another great musician.  We have different things going on like free workshops, music on the street, a jazz trail on the 21st and the festival is on the 22nd 23rd and 24th of September.

Irish Drummers; You’ve recently been touring the country...

Yes with a very good friend of mine, Tony Miceli, a great vibraphone player. We formed a band called the Modern Irish Jazz Quartet back in 2012 and our first project was a tribute to the Modern Jazz Quartet. It featured, Phil Ware, Dave Redmond , Tony, Phil, Dave and myself. We did an album which is available here.. After that we picked and rearranged some Irish tunes which featured saxophonist Richie Buckley and this year Michael Buckley played with us. It was lovely tour and it was really nice to get to play with these guys. 

Irish Drummers; What’s your drum gear set up?

I have different setups. My jazz setup is a small Premier kit, Birch shells 18 x 14 bass drum, 12 x 8 rack tom and 14 x 14 floor tom. I also have two old snares, a Premier wooden 5in with parallel snares 1958 and a metal Gretsch 5in 1972. My cymbal setups are varied depending on the gig. I have seven rides, Zildjian A's and K's, Jack DeJohnette Sabian flat ride, Mel Lewis Istanbul, all 20in. For Hi-Hats I use 13in Turkish, Zildjian Constantinople or A Custom and some Zildjian crashes 14/ 15/ 16. So I reckon I'm for all occasions. My bigger setup is a Mapex Orion 20 x 16 BD, 10/ 12/ 14/ 16 toms, 6in Ayotte wooden snare, 14in K HHats, 20in Rock Ride, A Zildjian, 16in crashes A Zildjian and Meinl Byzance 10in Splash A Zildjian, 18in China A Zildjian.

Irish Drummers; And what sticks are you using?

The sticks I’m using are Vater Manhattan 7A, they’re my preference. I like the weight of them. I like the tips, wooden tips, I don’t like nylon tips. I like the sound of the stick on the cymbal. There are so many different cymbals and there’s so many sounds on a cymbal.

Irish Drummers; John your involved in so many projects, what is the main focus over the next few years?

Well I suppose different things come up. The whole music scene has changed especially with the recession, that was tough for me and I had to re-invent myself, taking on different projects. You have to think outside the box and diversify. As a professional musician you never know what’s coming. You have to be prepared for change and prepare to do what needs to be done. You’re always trying to think of new ideas and that’s always in my head like where do I go from here. Running the jazz festival is great because it gives me contact with musicians from all around the world and I think that’s a great thing because I get a chance to play with some of the musicians and I think that’s fantastic. You get to know these people and they get to know you and when you bring these people over hopefully they’ll reciprocate and you’ll get to play with them and I think that’s what a lot of musicians do in this case, you bring them over and do the gig. You get a call back and they bring you somewhere. I’m hoping to go to Philadelphia soon to play with Tony Miceli. I’ve been there before and I hope to be back there soon. Where I am at the moment, I’m kind of wearing 2 coats, one as a promoter and one as a musician, so I get to see both sides.

Irish Drummers; I’ve talked to a lot of drummers and they’ve encouraged musicians to go abroad, study abroad, play abroad. You would obviously agree with that.

Definitely, there are a lot of musicians here, l went to Berklee (Music College) in Boston in 1979 and that was a real eye-opener. It was a very condensed 3 month course and I learned a lot from that experience and got to meet and play with some great musicians. It didn't happen that often back then, I can remember Brian Dunning, the Flautist going there before me and Mike Nielsen after me, so it was something that didn't occur on a regular basis. Now we hear of these young musicians from Ireland travelling to Berklee etc. I think that is a great thing and they learn a lot and gain great experience. 

Irish Drummers;  John, what makes Irish drummers unique?

That is a tough question to answer and I'm sure that everyone you ask will have a different reply.  For me it was a lack of information and literature on drums and drumming which made me more eager to perfect and hone my particular skill set. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have internet and You Tube so I did it the hard way by listening to vinyls and cassettes and replaying them over and over until I mastered what was to be played. It took many hours and I developed good ears in the process and that is a major factor in how I perform. I hear lots of Irish drummers and see how they have progressed over the years and this is just great. They write and arrange their own music which was rare back in the 70's and 80's.

Irish Drummers; Outside of drumming what interests do you have?

Well I took up the vibes about 10 years ago when I met Tony Micelli and that has been very enjoyable. We run improvisation classes every year from September to May under the banner of Limerick Jazz Workshop where I play mostly vibes but if we don't have a drummer then I step in. Outside of music, I swim all the time. I did a lot of running when I was younger and played soccer and football. But I swim 3 times a week and that keeps me in good shape and as a drummer you need to be in good shape

Irish Drummers; Is there anything you would like to ad?

In Limerick we have Dolan's and we’re very lucky to have such a great venue and passionate people willing to support live music. Jazz is alive and well here but only because there are some great individuals willing to give their time voluntarily and I thank them most sincerely for that. Also Louis Stewart’s first anniversary was last week (deceased since 20/8/16, RIP) it’s very sad that he passed away. I had the pleasure of playing with Louis and he was such a great musician and a real nice and humble man. We have so many great musicians here in Ireland and would like to see them supported as much as possible. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Irish Drummers; John, when did you start drumming?

I started drumming when I was about 15/16 years of age and had just seen Tommy McManus, who was probably the same age as me, play with Mamas Boys in Ashbourne Community Centre. Everything about that first gig turned me into a drummer. The three brothers, Pat, John and Tommy walked out for a sound check and went straight into ‘Needle In The Groove’ and that was that, my Eureka moment. I had to drum.

Irish Drummers; What was your first drum-kit?

My parents, Eamon and Rita, were hugely supportive of my noisy obsession and bought me my first Pearl kit in Dempseys Music Shop, Parnell Street, which is now sadly closed, another Dublin music institution which is unfortunately now long gone.

Irish Drummers; What is your drum gear/set-up?

I'm lucky to be endorsed by an amazing British Drum Company called Liberty Drums U.K.
They're based in Shildon, County Durham, in the United Kingdom and I travelled over to their factory last December and Andrew Street, who owns the company, built a kit to my specifications.

It's the show kit for the VISIONS OF FLOYD concerts;


Bass drums-(22"×20")×2


All constructed with Elm Burr/ Cluster wood and they sound amazing. Definitely the best drums I've ever played.

I use Sabian cymbals, rototoms, a bell Alesis samplepad for triggering, our original videos and animations and a gong for our live shows. No cowbell!

Irish Drummers; Who are your influences?

Early influences include;Tommy McManus, Brian Downey, Ian Paice, Carl Palmer and Neil Peart. Drummers like Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham, Vinny Colaiuta, Dave Weckl and Buddy Rich were people I realised you had to watch because they were the drummers pushing the limits all the time.

My current musical influences include Steven Wilson, Mike Portnoy, Craig Blundell, Virgil Donati, Gregg Bissonette and Gavin Harrison. There are so many amazing drummers out there it constantly reminds you of how limited your own playing is, haha!

Irish Drummers; What projects are VISIONS OF FLOYD involved with?

We've sold out twice in the National Concert Hall and played the Olympia Theatre on Saturday, 17th June which has gotten amazing reviews/ feedback and attracted a lot of new followers and Facebook/ social media interest.
We've huge plans for the band and are currently developing our stage show with production manager, Paul Hunt. The visual element of our show is uniquely ours and is being developed on an ongoing basis, so future concerts will be distinctly Pink Floyd but have instantly identifiable VISIONS OF FLOYD elements. 2018 is going to be busy.

Irish Drummers;  What are you’re favourite venues?

I've been lucky enough to gig in brilliant venues around the country like Monroes in Galway, Spirit Store in Dundalk, Button Factory, Grand Social,etc. but walking on stage with VISIONS OF FLOYD in the National Concert Hall and the Olympia is hard to far!

Irish Drummers; What makes Irish Drummers unique?

Irish people love music, we've long musical traditions and for the country's size we punch way above our weight musically and I think that motivates a lot of us.There's some incredible Irish drummers out there gigging every weekend and any of my drummer friends will help out with gear or deputise at the drop of a hat if needed and then spend six months reminding you constantly what a legend they are, so I've always found the community really friendly, haha!

Irish Drummers; What are your favourite songs?

My three favourite drum-breaks/songs are:

1.Honor Thy Father-(intro) Dream Theater.
2.The Mule-Deep Purple
3.Shyboy-Steve Vai

Irish Drummers; Thanks John, anything else you'd like to add?

Just to say the very best of luck to everyone at Keep up the good work and continued success.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Irish Drummers; Conor, how did you get started?

I started playing when I was 14 years of age. I grew up in a house of jazz and classical music. My brother Ronan started to play guitar which later became bass so I had to pick an instrument and I picked the drums. It was really that simple.
Irish Drummers; Did you get any lessons?
I didn’t initially, but after a few years I studied with John Wadham. John was a modern jazz guy which was unusual for Dublin in the 70s to say the least. He had many students and was an important figure on the scene. There were a few of us aspiring jazz drummers that studied with him at that time. Stephen Keogh was one, a very good drummer who now lives in Spain. We were his jazz guys, so to speak. John’s lessons weren’t about technique and rudiments; it was more of a music lesson rather than a specific drum lesson. Later on in my 20s, I went out to Drummers Collective in New York to study, that’s really where I learned how to read and get my technique together.
Irish Drummers; What was the first band that you were in when you started drumming professionally?
 Well using the word professionally loosely as money never really came into it, Ronan and I along with our brother in law Ray had a band called Spectroscope when we were teenagers. We played what was called jazz rock,which is now fusion I guess. We did our own thing as a band, played around, did some festivals and even appeared on the telly, which was a big deal back then, especially being 16/ 17 years of age.
Irish Drummers; What was the driving force behind it and what kept you motivated?
We were so into the music, thought about nothing else, did nothing else. After my Leaving Certificate, I worked jobs for a few years but music was everything and in many ways it still is.
Irish Drummers; Who are your influences?
There are so many, it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ve always loved the classic jazz guys, I don’t have a favourite drummer per say but If I had to pick it would be one of the Joneses, Philly Joe or Elvin, Of course I also love Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Billy Higgins, Billy Hart, Al Foster, Victor Lewis and on and on. I’ve been heavily into Latin music for a long time and that has also influenced me hugely. I have had various salsa bands over the years and wrote a book called “odd meter clave for drum set” which was a mix of my two worlds of jazz and Latin.
 Irish Drummers; Conor, can you describe your role at Newpark?
Right now I’m one of the drum teachers but I would’ve been there from the very beginning, when we started out our first jazz classes in the late 80s. That evolved into a full time course, which 10 years ago became the first Jazz BA programme here. Ronan, who has always been at the helm, is now taking it to DCU this year so that’s a huge move for all of us and a big step for the development of the school.
Irish Drummers; What advice would you give to someone that wants to take up drumming as a career?
Things are very different now than what they used to be, the post internet generation are much more technically advanced on their instruments and you have to be too. It’s just taken for granted. You have to know various styles and be able to read well etc. People say you have to have connections to get a break and it’s often true, but you also need to be prepared if it happens.
Irish Drummers; Is it more difficult for drummers nowadays?
It’s always been difficult.  Nowadays those difficulties are just different. I’d say there’s more opportunity to learn and it’s much easier to be technically better. Years ago it was harder to get the information, if it wasn’t for certain people you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on in the world.
Now it’s just the click of a mouse and it’s all there, which is great but in many ways you can feel like you’re competing with the world, something I didn’t have to contend with.
Irish Drummers; Do you find that it’s easier to teach students nowadays because they have much more access to information?
Yes and no, remember, information and knowledge are not the same thing. Playing well and appropriately for the given musical situation is still something you have to do on the gig, regardless of how many videos you’ve watched. As I said it’s great that the access to information is there but it doesn’t make it any easier really, you still have to do the work yourself. Things are still the same in that way. I sometimes wonder if I had a computer in my room would I have done the same amount of practice. Who knows?
Irish Drummers; What are some of your own favourite recordings?
I did an album with saxophonist David Liebman back in 1989 that really started me off. It set a standard to which I tried to aspire for many years.  I also like the recording of my Cuban band called ‘Saoco’. That was the first time salsa, as it’s known now, was recorded in Ireland. Later on I recorded with another of my groups called “Havana Son”, which I like too.
I’m proud of a trio recording with Ronan and Michael Nielsen,where we took standard tunes and played them in odd meters. This was back in the early 90s and was actually pretty ground-breaking for its time, and in many ways still is. It was never released, but I managed to digitise it and you can download it free on my website.
 Irish Drummers; Describe to us your drum gear?
I play Zildjian cymbals and Pearl drums. I have endorsements from both companies. I have two kits both from the Masterworks series. Beautiful drums. One of them is jazz sizes with maple shells, the other is bigger with maple/mahogany shells. I’ve had them both for 15 years and no plans to change. Unlike me they are sounding better with the years (laughs).
I have many cymbals, Zildjian have been very supportive. My favourites are the KCon models which I honestly believe to be the best cymbals in the world and I’m not just saying that because of my endorsement.
Irish Drummers; What type of drum sticks are you using?
I like Vater 8D or 7A depending on the situation; mind you the Vic Firth models are nice too.
Irish Drummers; What kind of instruments are you using for percussion?
I play timbales and bongos when I’m playing Latin music, again both made by Pearl.
Irish Drummers; In your opinion, what makes Irish drummers unique?
That’s a hard question to answer because the world has shrunk and your country of origin has less to do with how you sound than it used to. I don’t mean that as a criticism, it’s just a fact and often an advantage. Pre-internet, we had a much closer relationship musically with America, that and the fact that traditional Irish music is based on triplets helped us to relate to Afro American music in a way that was unique to us. Maybe that gave us something that was ours, I don’t know.
Irish Drummers; Apart from drumming, what other interests have you got?
I love sport actually, though more from the armchair these days. I used to do a lot of competitive running and I still like to run for fitness. I also love to read and spend too much time in the garden, but to be honest music has been, is and always will be my hobby
Irish Drummers; What projects are you involved in at the moment?
Music education has been my direction over the last 10 years and I’m working on a new book, but I always need to keep creative musical projects going on too. There are a few things at the moment. I’m playing in an organ trio with Julian Colarossi who is an Italian guitarist living here. I’m really enjoying that. I also have a Latin jazz quintet called Conclave where we mix jazz and Latin in a unique way.  I’m playing in a trio with saxophonist Michael Buckley this week, so there’s lots of things going on at the same time. I’ve just finished an album with a singer/songwriter called David Rooney, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I believe sounds very good, but it’s the move with Newpark to DCU that is the big thing at the moment.
Irish Drummers; What’s your preference, recording or performing live?
Live, without a doubt, I mean I enjoy the studio, but I prefer performing live, particularly smaller gigs rather than concert venues, I want to be able to see the people I’m playing to, I want to be close to them and them close to me. I’m not talking pubs but rather music club venues where people come to see the band and they are in close to the musicians. That way you get that whole feedback from them. I do enjoy the recording process but there’s nothing like playing live gigs.
Irish Drummers; What are your favourite venues?
I was playing in this place called Arthurs recently, it’s a new club that opened in Dublin and there’s a lot of music going on in it. As for the bigger venues, I like playing in Vicar Street as it still has a club atmosphere. JJ’ Smyth’s which has now closed, was always great; you could almost smell the crowd never mind seeing them (laughs)
Irish Drummers; What are your favourite venues internationally?
That’s a difficult one to answer. In the type of music I play we don’t tend to play big venues, though I have. Every city in Europe has nice theatre venues and clubs and I have had the good fortune to play in many.
Irish Drummers; I recently saw Ronan, are there any plans for the family to play together?
We play together all the time depending on the various situations. Ronan’s son Chris is a fine guitarist and we do a trio thing called 3g. Ronan is seriously busy at the moment with the move to DCU, but we’ll be playing again soon. I’m sure of it!

Main photo credit; John Cronin, Dublin Jazz Photography

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Montauk Hotel, a 4 piece band based in Dublin, have been garnering a lot of attention, particularly after the release of their debut single 'Black Dress' back in January. We decided to ask their drummer Karima Dillon EI-Toukhy some questions. 

Irish Drummers;  Karima, how did you get started?

I took a term of lessons when I was about 17 years old. I learnt the basis of a few different time signatures and a few simple fills. I didn't have my own kit to practice on, nor access to one, so I didn't continue with the lessons, even though I enjoyed them. It was too frustrating not being able to put what I was learning into practice! Fast-forward 12 years and I'm studying music production. We were encouraged to record each other for class assignments, and the odd time a drummer was needed I stepped in. When I was invited to play with Montauk Hotel last year I didn't know what to expect! But happily for all, my style of drumming seemed to fit the style of the band and that’s where I'm at now!

Irish Drummers; Who are your drumming influences?

Mike Joyce and Larry Mullen Jr– straight-up, down-to-earth, honest drumming.

I would also take some influence from the drumming of Keith Moon (The Who), Gordy Knudston (The Steve Miller Band), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Phil Rudd (AC/DC), Frank Beard (ZZ Top), Ron Hurst (Steppenwolf) and Jim McCarty (The Yardbirds).

There are some local drummers such as Kenny Doran who have been a personal influence on my drumming. Also to mention that Ronan and Oisin from Music Maker have been really helpful and supportive of my trying to get my drum bits together and sprucing up my kit!

Irish Drummers; What is your drum gear setup?

I have a standard kit with 2 rack toms, although I use the floor tom the most. It’s a Pearl kit, a Gretsch snare, Paiste crash cymbals (16 and 14 inch) and a ride, with a great tone. I also have a pair of Zildjian hihats with holes in them, which give a clean sound.

Irish Drummers; What are your favourite venues?

There are some fantastic venues that we have played in but if I had to pick a favourite it would have to be the Whelans stages. Great overall sound and we've had the best monitor mixes there – which is always helpful when playing live!

Irish Drummers; Can you tell us your favourite songs?

There are so many to pick from but when I joined Montauk Hotel they gave me their influences of The Smiths, The Cure, Roxy Music and The Pretenders. Listening to these helped to develop my style of drumming to suit the sound of the band. 

Irish Drummers; What upcoming projects are Montauk Hotel involved in?

Montauk Hotel released our debut E.P. in March with a sell out gig in Whelans. So the next few months we are focused on promoting the E.P. with gigs in The Grand Social and Sin E, as well as the festivals this summer. Our E.P. is streaming on Spotify and Soundcloud and available for download from our Bandcamp too!

Photo credits; Mark O'Connor & Tiberio Ventura

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Irish Drummers; Callum, when did you start drumming?
I started drumming when I was 15, which was later than I would have liked to pick up a pair of drum sticks, especially when you see these rhythm ninjas on YouTube, upending their kits and they're only 7&8. Fecking x-men drumming but I knew from the moment I saw one of my best mates gigging in a local GAA club that I needed to be a drummer...not to mention, the amount of attention he was receiving from all the girls made me even more curious.

Irish Drummers; Who are your drumming influences?

The older you get and the more music that comes into your life, the more you evolve as a drummer. I started playing drums because one of my best mates, Eoghan O'Brien (No Monster Club) hypnotized me when I was back in school. After a few weeks of sitting out in Eoghan's shed, learning 'The Pixies - Where Is My Mind' I was ready to play live. This was at a school assembly we had one morning where Eoghan played electric and I played the kit while trying not to murder 'The Strokes - Last Night' . After that, I held onto MUSE for many a year and Dom Howard became my main influence. 

Irish Drummers; What is your drum gear setup?

My kit is f**king nuts looking. Haha it's originally a Pearl Masters Custom which evolved into a blue hybrid MadaFaka. Jack Maximus* With the help and creative genius of Burnt Custom Drums / Overdrive, Bobby Vickers turned my kit into a fractal equation. I'm still trying to explain what the hell that means but I haven't nailed it yet. The artwork on the wrap is inspired by H.R. Giger, the creative mind behind the artwork for the Alien movies. The rims have been powder coated blue which is being chipped away at but f**k me, when the light hits it live, it's pretty cool. GO ON BOBBY V!!! 

Shell Sizes are : Kick 20x22
12×10 rack, 14x14 & 16x16 floors. 

Using a Tama Superstar snare at the minute as I felt 'Wild Youth' needed a poppier wooden snare rather than the brass sensitone I've been using for over half my drumming career. 

Cymbals ... are in f**king shite condition at the moment but you just have to get on with it.

Hi-Hats  13" HHX groove hats.
18" AAX Ozone
18" AA Thin Crash (f**king demolished)
21" AA raw bell, dry ride
I'm itching to get my hands on the Roland SPD-SX but that'll be down the line after I've robbed a bank (only kidding).

Irish Drummers; Callum, what are your favourite songs or albums?

Ahhh Jaaasus come on now. There is no answer for that wan... eeehhhh... it's all very mood based. I believe as a drummer you can't be biased towards different types of music and genres because you draw influence from absolutely EVERYTHING. Even if you don't think you're properly listening, the brain is listening all the time. One day I can blast Aphex Twin for the day and then the next I'm on a Sigur Ros buzz. You need to be listening to everything to constantly be learning, adapting to different styles and arrangements around the kit. There is SO MUCH music out there from all corners of the globe. It's ALL inspiration and motivation. 

Irish Drummers; What are your favourite venues?

I've been lucky enough to play most venues in Ireland because of the previous band I was in called 'Bipolar Empire'. Most gigs we played were high energy and I always found the gigs that were most fun and memorable were the Whelan's and Button Factory gigs. Such great rooms and you can pick people out in the crowd to bounce off and it makes the shows more personal but the sound system in The Academy and The Olympia gets me excited every sound check. The minute you hit the kick drum for the first time, you get this tickly feeling at the top of your japseye like when you were a toddler and your ma went too far ahead of you in a shopping centre hahaha... just Me??? Right! Cool, I'll let myself out... thanks for having me...

Irish Drummers; What current drumming projects are you involved in?

Current project, passion, love, is mah boys, WILD YOUTH. It's been a few years of hiding, writing every day. Writing around 150 songs, maybe only 5-10 (at a push) of them are any use but if you're not consistently writing, you're never going to progress. You will have days when you wanna throw yourself out of the highest window in the house (bit much?) But I'm being honest here. You write from 10 in the morning until 7 in the evening for five days a week. Trying to find your sound, trying to play to each persons strengths in the band, creating this unity, an unstoppable force and all the while making music you are proud of and excited to share with people you've never met before. This is the world we get ourselves into for love and passion of our instruments, our skills, our music. It's not easy but you should NEVER give up...or at the very least until you feel you have nothing left to give but those days come and go. You gotta stay strong and keep, keeping on ;) 
I haven't released anything with my drumming on it in years and 'Wild Youth' are just about to start a new journey together and I’m super excited but also quite nervous. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be human. 

Irish Drummers; What advise would you give to someone interested in drumming?

If you feel you have rhythm and a buried passion for hitting wood with two sticks of wood, get on that shit NOW! Don't wait!! It's such a powerful instrument. Great for the mind. Great fitness, helps with your breathing. Fantastic de-stresser, which makes for a healthy soul and all the while you're getting to put your mark on the drumming world. Coming up with fun grooves to play for the rest of your life is the most fun part for me. I still have sooooo much to learn but I’m excited for those years. I just want to create drums that I will always enjoy playing and hopefully other people will enjoy playing along as well.
Once you get over the first 6 months of cursing at your hands and feet for not being synchronized, then the fun really begins. Learning Bonham triplets, studying the insane drumming of Keith Moon and trying to fill in the pocket, like the fantastic Mitch Mitchell. 
One thing I would definitely encourage is while you're learning, keep a metronome going in your ears. Very important for vibes of a song, being able to play on or around the click....f**k me that was a lot... if you made it this far... well done you! Looking forward to getting on the live circuit and seeing all my favourite Irish drummers again.

Thanks for having me.

Cal x

WILD YOUTH's debut single ALL OR NOTHING is out at the end of May 2017.

Photo credit; Hamish Kay 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Irish Drummers; When did you start drumming?

I started drumming when I was 12. I went to my local music shop called The Sound Factory to look at my options and I decided on a Peavey kit. My brother played guitar and bass at the time. He helped me out by paying for half the kit to get me started. I still have most of that kit knocking around back home. After a couple years of playing, my Dad built us a small studio with a nice sound proofed room for me to play all day long. I got so many hours of practice in that room.  

Irish Drummers; Jason who are your drumming influences?

Over time my influences have changed, but early on I got a lot from Tre Cool, Patrick Wilson, Zac Farro, Dave Grohl and John Bonham. Some of my favourite drummers right now are; Steve Jordan, Ash Soan, Carter McLean and Aaron Sterling. I can’t get enough of their groove. 

Irish Drummers; What drum gear do you use?

I have a Gretsch USA Custom and a 70’s Ludwig. It’s great having two types of kits to cover a modern sound and that classic vintage sound. The Gretsch is the kit I use most of the time but when I’m recording I love to take the Ludwig out. I’ve been using Meinl Cymbals for the last seven years or so. I’m a big fan of the Traditional Byzance line of cymbals. I have a handful of snares at the moment. I see a collection building up over the next number of years. Here’s a full list. 

Gretsch USA Custom

22 x 18
10 x 7
12 x 8
14 x 14

70’s Ludwig Classic Maple

22 x 14
13 x 9
16 x 16


13” Byzance Trad Hats
14” Byzance Extra Dry Hats
18” Byzance Trad Crash
20” Byzance Trad Crash
22” Byzance Tradition Ride
22” Byzance Dual Crash Ride


Ludwig Copperphonic 
60’s Ludwig Supraphonic 
80’s Ludwig “Rock Concert” 
70’s Ludwig Vistalite 
Gretsch New Classic 
Pearl Aluminum Sensitone 
Mapex Pro M 

Irish Drummers; What are your favourite albums / songs?

One of my favourite albums is “Vivarium” by a Scottish band, Twin Atlantic. I was hooked on this when I was about 18. Some other favourites would be Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin, Born and Raised – John Mayer and The Olllam (self titled) 

Irish Drummers; Jason, what current projects are you involved in?

I’ve been in a band called We Were Giants for the last 5 years and we recently just changed our name to KARMS. We recorded an album up in Donegal last year and just released our first single “We Always Lose” which has been getting a great response from Radio and Spotify plays. We will be in Whelans on the 13th of May. You need to come to a KARMS gig!
I also play with Jake Carter who is a modern pop/country artist who’s doing really well over here. I like to be involved in a few projects, to have some outlets for the different styles that I enjoy playing, rather than trying to force ideas into the wrong band.  

Irish Drummers; Any advice to aspiring drummers?

It sounds obvious but listen carefully, like really listen. Learn to listen to what the other musicians are playing. It’s so important to get the vibe right. You have so much colour to play with behind a kit and choosing the right groove, dynamics and sounds are going to really change everything. A lot of the time it’s the lyrics and melody that guide what I’m going to play. Playing with the guys in KARMS and recording with engineers like Tony Doogan and Stuart Gray really helped me to understand that less is nearly always more. 
I think it’s important for drummers to be able to get a good sound and learn how their gear works. It’s amazing how happy your band and engineer will be if you can take that weird wobble out of your floor tom quickly and move on.

Irish Drummers;  In your opinion, what makes Irish drummers unique to other drummers?

I’ve had nothing but good experiences with drummers here. I studied with about twenty drummers for four years in BIMM. I made great friends there and learned a lot from all of them and the tutors. Everyone’s approach is so unique and interesting. I see so many great drummers in original bands that are so creative and dedicated to playing for their love of it. Likewise, I have huge respect to the drummers out every weekend, travelling up and down the country, playing music for other people to enjoy, in both cover and wedding bands. The level of talent in this country is phenomenal. There is a unique quality to the network we have here. We have professional players encouraging younger drummers online and the interaction is great. The variety is so important. You can see some world-class players every weekend and no more than a couple of hours away

Photo Credits; Dara Munnis / Shauna Kenny