Saturday, 27 June 2020

What type of drum kit do you play?

I'm a bit of a vintage drum nerd so my main kits are a 60s Rogers Holiday in 20, 12, 14 and a 70s Japanese Badge Pearl in 22, 12, 16. I love that old-school dry studio sound, so both kits are set up with coated P4 heads on the toms and an Emad on each bass drum (with plenty of tea towels on standby) My main snare is a Pearl Sensitone Aluminium 14x6.5 that I use on pretty much everything as it has that lovely warm 70s era Acrolite tone and is incredibly versatile. If I'm doing more of a hip-hop/electronic thing I'll bring the Mapex Brass Master 13x3.5 which is essentially a modern, piccolo version of the Black Beauty. It's cranked pretty high with an O-Ring for extra dryness so is perfect for playing breaks and processed sounds. I'm proud to endorse Sabian Cymbals and Vater Drumsticks (huge thanks to all at Musicmaker) so I have a nice selection of Artisan, HH, HHX and AA models to choose from depending on the situation. My main live set up is a pair of 15" Artisan Light hats with 17" & 18" HHXtreme crashes in both brilliant and natural finishes. For a bigger sound I'll put those same hats with the 21" HHX Groove Ride and 19" & 20" HHXtreme crashes. I also have a really nice 22" Artisan light and 20" AA Raw ride with rivets that I use for quieter/jazzier stuff plus a couple of older model HH thin crashes that go together beautifully. Stick wise I go between the Vater 5B Sugar Maple and Jazz Ride models, as well as their Wire Tap brushes and T3 Mallets. 

Who are your favourite players?

There are so many! Style wise, I'm influenced by everything really. From straight up serving-the-song playing and stick-smashing heft, to unorthodox phrasing ideas and bold experimentation with sonics and textures. I started playing in the mid 90's so cut my teeth to all things grunge, punk and metal as well as some of the acid jazz and hip-hop around at the time. In the early 00's I got deeper into jazz and world music while studying in Newpark, which in turn expanded into free playing, minimalism, and electronica. Mid 00's to the early teens was a heavy diet of funk breaks and even more hip-hop, running the Mixtapes From The Underground project, and in the last few years I've been going down the less is more route, checking out a lot of early country, folk and Americana as well as tons of 60's & 70's Krautrock, psych, post punk and new wave. I've also been lucky enough to work at a record store the past seven years which has given me access to a wealth of sounds, so that's been a pretty big influence too. All of these different phases have informed the musician I am today and I'm always excited to keep exploring and listening as much as possible, with open ears and an open mind. In no particular order, drummers (and producers) such as Tony Allen, Stewart Copeland, Jimmy Cobb, DJ Shadow, Dave Grohl, Delia Derbyshire, Billy Martin, Mick Fleetwood, Jon Brion, MF Doom, Steve Reich, Four Tet, Edan, David Axelrod, Matt Chamberlain, Dave King, Questlove, Dosh, Squarepusher and Glenn Kotche (among many others) are all constant sources of inspiration. 

What are your favourite albums / songs?

Bob James - Angela (theme from Taxi) is a big one for me as it holds so many memories. I used to stay up way past my bedtime to watch that show and I always loved the combination of the opening flute line with the footage of the yellow checkered cab cruising across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. It still gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling all these years later! It's also the first time I heard the majesty of the Fender Rhodes which is pretty much my favourite instrument after the drums. More recently I've discovered the incredible Kentuckian singer/songwriter Joan Shelley, in particular her self-titled album from 2017 which was produced by Wilco main man Jeff Tweedy and features his son Spencer on drums. He's only in his early twenties but has the chops and sensibilities of Levon Helm, Jim Keltner and Ralph Molina combined. It's one of my favourite records of the last few years and is an absolute masterclass in song craft and understated playing. 

Other honourable mentions:

The Cardigans - Life
Joe Jackson - Look Sharp
Feist - Metals
ESG - Come Away With ESG 
Jaga Jazzist - A Livingroom Hush
Beastie Boys - Ill Communication

Can you tell us some of the artists that you have played / recorded with?

I've been very fortunate to work with some amazingly talented folk across various disciplines over the years, but definite highlights would have to be: Nina Hynes, Sean Og's Trihornophone, The Dead Flags, composer Garrett Sholdice, Tryst, Fehdah, Loah, AJ Croce (son of Jim Croce),The Holy Roman Army, Butter, Emma O’ Reilly,Shelley Bukspan, Lethal Dialect, Jamie Clarke (ex Ambience Affair) and my own improv jazz/hip-hop collective Mixtapes From The Underground. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to play drums?

Listen to as much music as you can and find out what moves you. Join a band and play shows. You learn more on stage than you ever can in a practice room. Find a good teacher that inspires you. If you can, learn to read music and work on your rudiments. If you want to be a working musician, learn to play with a click, be on time for rehearsals and gigs and do your homework before said rehearsals and gigs. Get a good physio (your body will thank you for years to come) and always, ALWAYS protect your ears. 
There's no right or wrong way to create, so try not to get hung up on criticism or what other people may think. Being a creative person can be hard and there can be a certain expectation to be switched on all the time, from yourself and from others. It's ok to have off days. This is normal so be kind to yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for help, be that talking to other artists, friends and family or to a counsellor. Playing music is such a privilege, so enjoy it and if you can make a living from it then even better. Most importantly, have fun! 

What upcoming projects are in the pipeline?

At the moment all gigs are off the table with the Covid pandemic, but I was lucky to get to record some great music before the lockdown happened. The main one being with my longtime friend and co-conspiritor A.Smyth on his debut album which we did with the brilliant Dara Nolan at his Astakalapa studio in Gorey. It's a really special record and I'm so proud to have played on it. Also did some nice neo-soul grooves and percussion for my pals, Sligo based La Gracia. My good buddy and local funkster Danny G is putting the final touches to his second album and there may be some new music from Paj and Selk too. I'm also working on a beat tape for my solo project Mother Tongues, which is all made using samplers and turntables (no drums allowed!) so I'm hoping to put that out over the coming months. 

Photo credit; Stephen Kiernan 

Sunday, 21 June 2020

What type of drum kit do you use?
It's kind of a mix and match kit made up of '60s Rogers toms, an old Premier 20" kick drum from the '50s and a '70s metal shell premier snare. I use Istanbul Agop Cymbals.

Who are your favourite players?
Elvin Jones, Earl Palmer, Danny Richmond, Jim Keltner, Paul Motian, Ringo, John Bonham to name just a few.

What are your favourite albums / songs?
Stone Flower - Antonio Carlos Jobim
Good Old Boys - Randy Newman
Mingus Oh Yeah - Charles Mingus
Hosono House - Haruomi Hosono
Somewhere Else - Sun Ra
Swing Slow - Swing Slow

How did you get involved in Cloud Castle Lake?
Through a friend. They were looking for a new drummer and a mutual friend recommended me, so I went in and we played through some stuff and it just kind of clicked. It's been a great experience playing with them, and many of the other projects I'm now involved in came about through connections I made through CCL. So I'm forever thankful to the guys for having me on board.

What current plans do the group have? 
It's been a pretty quiet year for us. We're all involved with other projects outside CCL and were all pretty busy individually for the past year, so we didn't have much time as we'd like to focus on the band. Once this lockdown ends though, hopefully, we'll be back in the studio working on new music!

How are you spending your time during this COVID-19 lockdown?
I've been having a crack at learning Ableton, which I've been meaning to do for a long time. Doing a lot of cooking, walking, listening to music. It's been a good opportunity to get some practise done. I don't have a kit set up at home so I've just been doing some much-needed hand technique practise

Photo credits; Igor Kwasniak and Red Keane.

Friday, 15 May 2020

What inspired you to take up drumming?

I guess what started it was listening to early U2 albums', mostly the War album. This was when I was around 10 or 11 and I wanted to start playing. A cousin of mine was throwing out an old drum kit and I started on that for the first few months.

What type of drum kit do you use?

I'm playing a C&C Player Date 2 kit with a walnut veneer finish. I adore this kit! Sizes are (22/10/13/16) and a 14 x 6.5 snare. 
Cymbal wise: Mainly Istanbul Agop - 18" Traditional medium crash, 20" dark crash 21" signature ride with 14" Traditional hats.  For some songs I use a 20" Meinl Byzance flat ride, a really lovely cymbal, have had it for years. I'm also using Roland SPD-SX sampling pads live with BHP.

Who are your favourite players?

To name a few - Chris Bear (Grizzly Bear), Matt Barrick (The Walkmen), Chris Talbot (Wild Beasts), Bryan Devendorf (The National)

What are your favourite albums / songs?

Some of my all time favourite albums would have to be: Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest, Sigur Rós - Agaetis Byrjún, Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden, Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest. 

Recent favourites I've been listening to: Stereolab - Dots and Loops (Have become a bit obsessed with Stereolab in recent months)
Yves Tumor - Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Big Thief - Two Hands, Destroyer - Have We Met.

How are you spending your time during this COVID-19 lockdown?  

Been trying to keep positive and stay productive. I have been reading a good bit more of late, (Kevin Barry - City of Bohane, John Connell - The Cow Book) trying new recipes in the kitchen, getting in a cycle, when I can too. Also organising album promo bits with the guys, over zoom calls, I have some of my kit set up in my sitting room at the moment also, so it’s not too bad!

Bleeding Heart Pigeons have a new album 'Stir' coming out this month. Can you tell us what to expect?

We do, we're self releasing it on May 22nd. It's our first release since our debut 'Is' in 2016 and was written and recorded in our small farm shed converted studio, throughout 2017. We took more of a 'song writing' approach this time, I think with the last album we just didn't know when to stop (lol). We wanted to write songs for a more accessible audience while still trying to keep our own sound. I am very proud of the finished product and can't wait to have it out.

Limerick, where you're from, has produced some great acts over the years. What is it about Limerick, in your opinion that creates such great music?

It sure has! There are some really great bands in Limerick at the moment and many of them are great friends of ours. DIY LK have a massive part to play in Limerick’s music scene, from hosting gigs in Pharmacia by really great bands from around the country to their annual festival - Feile na Greine (which sadly is cancelled this year due to Covid-19) it’s an amazing group and am proud to be a part of it. It’s great to have something like it in Limerick. We were never really part of a community as such around the time of the first album, so it’s very nice.

Photo credit: Piquant Media

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Dan, can you tell us about Fixity and some of the projects you’re involved in? 

Fixity is a home for my compositions and ideas around repetition, space, and textural exploration in song form through improvisation. It has existed since 2015 and since then has taken in the perspectives and skills of numerous musicians from Ireland and Sweden that are important parts of my musical life in different ways. There have been 10 releases in total so far since then, including two LPs released by Penske Recordings, 'The Things In The Room' [2016] and 'No Man Can Tell' [2019]. All available at . 

Other ongoing projects I am involved in as either drummer, producer or saxophonist include Senior Infants, The Bonk, Not Earth, The Great Balloon Race and The Council For the Dark Arts Orchestra. I also organise Cork Improvised Music Club, an independently promoted residency dedicated to the world of real-time music making at Plugd Records in Cork City since 2013. 

What type of drum kit do you use?

I play a Gretsch New Classic in bebop sizes (18/14/12) with a Sonor SClassix 14x4 Birch snare. Cymbalwise I use  a 20" Bosphorus master series unlathed ride and 22" Istanbul Custom Jazz ride with 14" hihats made up of a KCustom Dark top as the bottom and Meinl Thin crash on top. 

Who are your favourite players?

Mitch Mitchell, Brian Chase, Rashied Ali, Bob Moses, Jim Black, Paul Motian

What are your favourite albums / songs?

Cosmic Music - Alice and John Coltrane
Songs Of Experience - David Axelrod 
Kraftwerk 1 - Kraftwerk
Endtroducing - DJ Shadow
Dazzle Ships - OMD

For a long time my favourite song has been 'Naima' by John Coltrane, in particular the version recorded live in Stockholm in 1961 with Eric Dolphy. I think it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. 

You have played with a lot of musicians, is there anyone else you’d like to play with?

I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to play with some really beautiful people throughout the years and I would love to be able to keep on developing these relationships further and finding new possibilities. There are a few folks I would love to play with and learn from such as Matts Gustafsson, Tyshawn Sorey, Roscoe Mitchell, Lee Ronaldo, Marc Ribot... I could go on. 

How are you spending your time during this COVID-19 lockdown?

For the most part, my practice as an artist is built on interaction and collaboration in real time with people so this lockdown has put a significant hold on a lot of what I do. I don’t have a studio right now so it's a time where playing drums and being involved in collective improvisation are not possible. Given the circumstance, what I’m doing is composing, practicing saxophone and recording what I can for various projects in preparation for whenever we can return to our lives. It is not an easy time for musicians and dealing with an uncertain future is a terrifying thing, but we have to be sure to keep what fulfils us present in our lives, every day.  

Picture credit; Kieran Murphy

Saturday, 2 May 2020

R.S.A.G have a new album 'Chroma' coming out in May. Can you tell us what to expect?

'Chroma' is a mood driven album, with a much richer soundscape and heavy weight percussion. You'll hear songs that will connect to my earlier work and then some from a new more sensitive space. I am proud that my co-writer Jamie Walsh and I were able to merge our musical and lyrical ideas to produce songs of intensity and emotion.

You hail from Kilkenny, a city that has produced some great artists over the years. What is it about Kilkenny that inspires such creativity?

Kilkenny has a great advantage; being situated in the middle of Waterford, Dublin and Cork. As a result, over the years the city has hosted an array of music and arts festivals which attracts people from all over the world. This has created a sense of pride along with a lot of inspiration for the city. Kilkenny has always been a creative hub for artists, producing bands like Crawl Babies, Engine Alley, Kerbdog, Jerusalem Taxi's, My Little Funhouse, Headspin, Surfin' Dead, Blue Ghost, Gout and The River Valley Band, to name but a few. They all in one way or another inspired each other. Kilkenny is also the home of Cartoon Saloon and Lighthouse Studios, who have had two Oscar nominations, for the last two animated features. Is there something in the water? Maybe, but for me it's the people. 

How do you feel you have progressed as a musician over the years?
I feel I've progressed from a lot of different aspects of what I do. My playing has progressed from performing live both as R.S.A.G. and with other bands and artists. With recording and producing music you have to approach performing in a different way. You have to think about the overall sound and how each performance will fit to suit the mood and narrative of each track. This too has been an interesting learning curve for me over the years. Each album brings with it these differences both in playing style and techniques. Technology has also helped my progression. Apart from playing, recording and producing, I also teach music. This too has helped develop and progress my craft. Apart from really enjoying the teaching process I feel I've learned so much from my students. I love hearing how they interpret what I'm teaching, hearing their own individuality and style developing as they grow in confidence.

What type of drum kit do you use?
I use an APK premier kit. It's from the mid 80's. I bought it from a guy about 15 years ago who still had it in its plastic wrapping. I particularly love how the toms sound.

Who are your favourite players?
There are so many but here are a few:

Buddy Rich
Gene Krupa
Tony Allen
Louis Bellson
Max Roach
Ringo Starr
Steve Shelley
John Bonham
Steve Gadd
Jimmy Cobb
Al Jackson
Levon Helm

What are your favourite albums?
In no particular order:

In A Silent Way - Miles Davis
Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
The White Album - The Beatles
Life's Rich Pageant - R.E.M.
Beethoven's 6th Symphony
Repeater - Fugazi
Entroducing - DJ Shadow

How are you spending your time during this COVID-19 lockdown?

I've been keeping busy during lockdown, trying to make the most of my time at home with my wife and two dogs. I'm recording new music, teaching and facilitating a very interesting new music project online with young people from Kilkenny for Ossory Youth. It's aptly called 'Lockdown Session'

You can order the new R.S.A.G album below

Photo Credit;
Colour photo - Ruth Medjber
B & W photo - Unknown

Sunday, 19 April 2020

When did you start drumming?

I started drumming when I was about seven years of age. My Dad played a lot of traditional sessions and I joined them on Bodhran pretty early on. I had poor technique back then but I did have a knack for rhythm alright.
Progressing from there to a full drum kit I joined a rock covers band in school, you know the usual story, Guns N’ Roses, The Beatles, things of that ilk,
After studying for a year in London I came back home to Cork.

Now my primary instrument is a Cajon and I play as much as I can in any musical style that I can get my grubby hands on.

‘The Shruggs’ is my main band in terms of regular gigs, but I also work with: ‘No Direction’ and most recently: ‘THE COVID COLLECTIVE’ (a musical collaboration in self-isolation) where we get together some of our most talented musical pals and record some videos for online.

Who are your favourite players?

For drum-kit: Buddy Rich is KING!
I Love Steve Gadd, he was a big influence early on. Then you have the absolute groove merchants like: Zigaboo Modeliste and Manu Katché, Bonham too,
I have to give a mention to Brian Downey, who is probably one of the most under-rated drummers of all time. It’s really tricky to play-along to his stuff, (bit like it is to play-along to Ringo as well),
it’s all about the feel (check out Nate Smith too).
I also love to watch Richie Dittrich, he is a super player and an even nicer guy, recently discovered Dylan McCormick Moran too. The drumming future in Ireland is very bright.

For Cajon: I love the flamenco Players:
Pirana, Jose Montana, Paquito Gonzalez and many more real virtuosos, they are a real inspiration.

Paul Jennings, Ross McCallum and Heidi Joubert have some excellent free tutorials online so I owe them a massive debt of gratitude on the hand percussion side of things.

What are your favourite songs or albums?

At the moment, I’m listening to a lot of Nick Drake,
I really enjoy: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis,
anything by The Rolling Stones,
Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’ is always on heavy rotation…
it’s difficult to pick just a few, (I could go on for ages).
If I had to bring only one album to a desert island I would bring: ‘The Beatles 1’ compilation.   

What’s your current gear setup?

My Drum Kit is a purple standard Pearl Export, with my Powershifter eliminator Single Bass drum pedal (which I’m so enamoured with that it’s nearly dangerous).

As I said, I play Cajon mostly now, and do most of my Live gigs and Recording sessions with a:
Sela Pro Cajon. (it’s got a lovely high-end ‘snap’ and a great low end BOOM with excellent zone definition).
For home use and Practice I sometimes use a Cruz Cajon or a Duende .both lovely bits of kit altogether. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to take up drums?

Do it, have fun.. Music is flippingGreat and it will give you opportunities that you would never get otherwise.

In terms of learning the instrument, I would say spend as much time as you can on correct technique, it’s not a race,
oh, and
the best advice I ever got from a tutor remains:
“Don’t practice when you play and don’t play when you practice”.  

How are you coping during the current Covid19 shutdown?

I’m really trying to keep positive, I miss my band mates so much, I miss the buzz of live gigs and I miss weekly rehearsals. It’s really driven it home how important music is in a number of ways.
Luckily, with ‘THE COVID COLLECTIVE’ at least I’m kept busy online, the first song we covered was ‘Stand By Me’ which seems to be going down really well. I’ve just recorded a part for another one, so keeping things ticking over, it’s a new way of working and will hopefully keep our musicianship sharp and makes us more rounded players when we come out the other side. My aim is to keep improving and stay connected


Friday, 6 March 2020

When did you start drumming?

I think I was around 4 or 5 years old. My older brother Darren who is also a drummer showed me basic beats and coordination, I don’t have a clear memory of it really being so young but that’s how the story goes. I just messed about for a few years after that when he’d let me on his kit until aged 12 when I really started taking it seriously and really getting into music... largely due to my brother moving out of the family home and leaving his kit to me on the promise that I’d practice every day. He also introduced me to the majority of my favourite drummers and music so really I owe my entire drumming career to him. I’ve been blessed to have grown up 
in a house that always had a dedicated “Music Room” thanks to my dad being a guitarist in bands all my life. I still have a kit there to this day and rehearse with my bands there. Very very lucky and grateful for that!

Who are your favourite players?

In no particular order;

Jimmy Chamberlin - Smashing Pumpkins 
Danny Carey - Tool 
Abe Cunningham - Deftones 
Thomas Haake - Meshuggah 
Dan Foord - Sikth 
José Pasillas - Incubus 
Brian Downey - Thin Lizzy 
Stewart Copeland. 
Also of late, I’ve really gotten in to Pete Ray Biggin who’s currently playing for Level 42. There’s a host of Irish drummers I’ve huge admiration for too! The likes of Dan Lang, Fiachra Kinder, Ben Wanders, Robbie Barrett, Rob Kennedy, Ronan Nolan, David Dockery, Johnny Boyle... could go on and on!  
What are your favourite songs or albums?

This is so changeable.. I can never really pick any sort of Top 5 or 10 songs or albums when asked so I generally answer with what I’m obsessed with currently... favourite album of all time is easy though! “White Pony” by Deftones...but then I think about “Siamese Dream” Smashing pumpkins, “Lateralus” Tool, “Morning View” Incubus... this question is too hard haha. I’m really enjoying Dermot Kennedy’s album at the moment, incredible Irish artist doing incredible things on a global scale which is so great to see. Favourite songs.. “Nutshell” Alice in Chains gives me chills on every listen. I’d have to give “Stand Inside Your Love” by Smashing Pumpkins a mention seeing as I have lyrics tattooed on me. Come back to me tomorrow I’ll give a completely different answer! 

What’s your current drum gear setup?

I have a couple of kits I’m using currently. I play a Pearl Masters maple with a wedding band I play with. 20” kick 10 and 14” toms 14” snare, I find those sizes work perfectly for that gig. My main kit is a custom kit I had built by Mayfish custom drums based in Belgium back in 2010. It’s all birch shells 22, 10, 12, 16. It’s a tad road worn at this stage but still sounds massive. My cymbal set up at the moment is an array of Meinl, Sabian and Murat Diril cymbals. I’ve certainly started to favour the darker, trashier cymbals in the past few years. Depending on the gig I could have a simple Hats, Crash and ride set up or a big set up of splashes, Chinas and stacks etc. I’m constantly experimenting with it and never really settle on a cymbal set up. I also use a Yamaha DTX12 sample pad and Vater Drumsticks because their durability and feel is second to none in my opinion. 

What gigs / projects are you currently involved in? 

I’m currently playing with The City and Us which is my main project. We’ve just released a new single and have been writing, recording, touring as much as possible over the past 12 months with a view to releasing lots more material throughout 2020. So that takes up most of my time these days outside of a busy cover gigs diary. Outside of that, I also play with Hero In Error when I have the time and will be playing with Tool tribute act “The Grudge” for some gigs this year too.. So lots on my plate! It can be hectic to keep everything going but it’s all good stuff and each gig requires something different which keeps me on my toes and out of trouble as my mammy would say! 

What advice would you give someone wanting to take up drums?

First and foremost..As cliche as it is... just bloody enjoy yourself! That’s ultimately why we play. And don’t get too bogged down comparing yourself to other drummers, it’s not a competition and no two players are the same so concentrate on developing your own playing style at your own pace. Always be open to learning, there’s always something to be learned from others, listen to and play a variety of music and did I mention to enjoy yourself!! Life will throw enough stress and pressures at you, music should never be one of them! Quite the opposite actually! 

Photo credit; Nevill Bedford Photography