Monday 20 February 2017

Irish Drummers; Graham your drumming C.V. is incredibly impressive. Can you just tell us some of the artists that you have played with over the last number of years?

Well, at the moment I am touring with Glen Hansard for his solo album that he's just released. If I work backwards. I suppose for the last five years or so we have been pretty busy touring as the Swell Season since Glen and Marketa won the Oscar from the film Once. For a couple of years before that, I was touring with Dolores O'Riordan for her solo album after The Cranberries. then there was some time with Snow Patrol when Johnny broke his arm, then I tried out my own solo album and for a couple of years I enjoyed that. Then I was out touring with David Kitt and Gemma Hayes. I was in Therapy? for about six or seven years, then there was a band called My Little Funhouse. All the time through that and now, I am always kind of playing on folks albums, which I very much love and I will never stop doing that and if I start getting in to those albums I won't know where to stop.

Irish Drummers; You are certainly putting together an impressive body of work

It's just I love playing music with everybody and anybody and if I am stuck in a rut playing with one particular band for the rest of time I literally will be stuck in a musical rut, do you know what I mean? I won't know what to do; I will just be the grumpiest fecker on the planet. I have to broaden my horizons, in a musical sense, as it helps one's musical capability in so many ways,being as eclectic and versatile as possible.

Irish Drummers; Graham you come from a musical family, your dad is a jazz drummer, is that where the interest in drumming began? 

Yeah, it most definitely was. He is actually out gigging tonight, he has just been away in England for the last week and he with my grandfather before him was a jazz drummer, along with my grandmother being a pianist. I was brought up all the time around a musical family, never thought how to play drums, I was just always surrounded by it and I grew up with a passion just wanting to play drums because there always was music being played in the background. In our house, always drums and music lying around everywhere, eh I couldn't help but get into it. I started, I suppose picking up the sticks and playing when I was around six or seven years old, I just took it on and I think things snowballed and I fell into it.

Irish Drummers; Who were your influences when you started, apart from your father, of course? 

It was definitely at that young age, I mean seven, eight, nine, ten, it was definitely my dad and ridiculous things like listening to things that were on the radio. I can honestly say, even at that young age, I do remember things like Live Aid and stuff being fantastically influential to me. I judge everything at this age of my life being pre and post Live Aid you know, I do remember that being a hugely seminal moment in my youth. It was when I was around probably eleven, twelve, thirteen and Modern Drummer and Rhythm Magazine were a big influence on my musical existence and drumming because they brought me to so many bands, like reading about people like Jeff Porcaro and John Bonham and people going on about them so much I went out and bought albums that they might have appeared on and people going on about Steve Gadd so much. I would go out and buy albums by some band called Steely Dan. It brought me in to that whole world, so I have so much to thank those magazines for. I hung all of these posters, of all of these drummers up on my wall, in my bedroom you know but honest to God I never had any desire to be a rock star. I had a desire to be this big session musician that just wanted to play drums for a living. That's what I wanted. That's what I desired to be and that's what I wanted to be even at a young teenage age, which just grew and grew and grew, until I got into my older teenage years.

Irish Drummers; When you were listening to drummers like Jeff Porcaro and Steve Gadd, did you get it straight away? A lot of people might listen to Steve Gadd and perhaps not realise how bloody great he is!

Well I have to be honest, there was always a mix and a match for me, because I was brought up just the same listening to music as I was driven by it, it wasn't always drums. I was as much listening to The Beatles as I was listening to Jazz music, artists like Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, Glen Miller, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, all of these incredible seminal Jazz artists.

Irish Drummers; Who were your favourite band?

The Beatles were always my favourite band, even when I was young. I was listening to The White Album, which to this day is probably my favourite album of all time. 

Irish drummers; Did you take music lessons?

I did take piano lessons from the age of about eight or nine up until the age of when I left school about sixteen or seventeen. I did up until about grade five or grade six in piano as well as guitar lessons all the time and that was through no, honest to God, through no bossiness or bullying from my family. It was just something that I took to and very much enjoyed. My father never gave me drum lessons, something that I always got in to and I remember to this day on the garage wall/door where my kit was set up the only thing that he wrote up and I still see it in my eyes is the paradiddle, right, left, right, right, left, right, left, left and he said 'there you go son','there you go' and he wrote it and I learned it and I did it and the paradiddle sticks with me for that reason. 
Dad introduced me to Johnny Wadham and I went to him for a couple of years. I did learn a lot and then I would go to JJ's to see him play with whoever you know, with Dave Fleming on bass and Jim Doherty on piano so I did get a lot out of The Wad.

Irish Drummers; Were you playing with any band at this time?

I did it for a while, for about a year, with The Lucan Concert band and The Lucan Concert band turned quiet strange because the percussion section was myself and Paul Noonan who is now BellX1’s lead singer/drummer and also Bryan McMahon. Bryan was the drummer in Future Kings of Spain so we were three drummers, who went on to become professional musicians. My mother even has pictures of the three of us at about thirteen years old, wearing tuxedos in the National Concert Hall and the three of us played the National Concert Hall.

Irish Drummers; That's amazing! Also an interesting point you mentioned about being professional, when did you make the decision to do this as a career?

I think I didn't know anything else. like I was doing Honours English you know but at the same time I never had any keen interest in school. My other interests were more on the artistic side. I had a very keen interest in Art as a subject it was another honours subject I was doing, other subjects didn't really bowl me over at all. The thing that was on my mind was making music, it was all that was on my mind, going to gigs with my Dad was fantastic and I got to meet up with people through going to gigs with him. That just means so much to me. That's why I hold my Dad in such high regard yet again saying that he introduced me to so many people, like guys like Tom Skerritt and Bob O'Brien who went on to work for bands and do backline for bands and Tom does backline now for like, Kila. Bob O'Brien works in Grouse Lodge and works for so many bands. The lads were out with My Little Funhouse at the time and they knew this young guy from Kildare who they thought might work out. So, they rang me on a Friday and said, Graham would you be interested in touring with this band, My Little Funhouse so I actually kind of had to ask my parents' permission on a band who were called My Little Funhouse who are signed to Geffen Records. My parents, being on holiday, flew home that weekend and the manager came up from Kilkenny. They came to the house and there were lots of talks going on about being signed to Geffen records and literally on the Monday I flew out to Amsterdam and joined this band, so the Friday I was in school and the following Monday I was in the band. The polar opposite of the life I was living three days ago, so I left the school and I was living the life I wanted to live. I just had to acclimatise to it so I flew out to Europe and joined this band.

Irish Drummers; That was brilliant, it was great to get that break and then you had the confidence to do it, which was incredible.

I suppose I just learned so much over the years, through having that rearing you know, it was fantastic, it was brilliant and then I was still green in so many ways of the world of being in the world of rock & roll. It took me a while to come round to that. It was great and even musically in a lot of ways I was ready for action.

Irish Drummers; Excellent, so you joined My Little Funhouse on a Monday and obviously you had to learn the set. I think it was the album 'Stand Under' that they were touring?

That's right yeah. I had to stand in then. The drummer was still leaving and there was a bit of political stuff going on and I had to learn to play the set and everything worked out. I joined the band and everything worked out cool. I joined and then I was gigging with the band. We were doing festivals and playing Feile and all this mad stuff that I literally had dreamed about, a couple of months beforehand - very surreal, totally surreal but I was lapping it up you know.

Irish Drummers; So Graham, I suppose you really felt part of the music scene then?

Yeah I completely was you know and absolutely loving it and then we moved to LA. Then about three or maybe four months later because the band wanted to get over there and it was just beyond surreal. Then, because I went over there and I was in the way of drums which was the front and foremost of my mind really not being a rock star although rewind back a while the thing that took me over aged sixteen musically was we all got swamped in by the whole grunge scene like me and all my friends with bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains you know. All those bands came in so a lot of that was at the forefront of our minds musically because we were all into that scene but still drumming was always a big thing on my mind, understandably so. When we moved to LA a few months later with My Little Funhouse, I got an endorsement with Zildjian and an endorsement with Pearl and an endorsement with Zildjian sticks. So more than anything, to do with me joining the band this was the biggest thing that I'd dealt with you know that literally kind of, I can't remember if I did cry, or if I wanted but this was the biggest thing that gave me f****n chills everywhere and that I had done it.

Irish Drummers; That you had arrived!

That I had arrived you know and then around the end of that year, I had an ad for Pearl drums in Modern Drummer and that was something I framed in my house at home and it was like what the f**k, I have got an ad in Modern Drummer for Pearl Drums and that was it, I had arrived. I could have happily retired then you know. There was nothing else.

Irish Drummers; But thankfully Graham you didn't!

Yeah, I kept going!