Sunday 19 March 2017

Kevin Malone - Drummer & Recording Artist

Irish Drummers;  Kevin, when did you start drumming?

I took a keen interest in drumming at the young age of 7, where I played in the garden shed to old records from my music collection, which ranged from The Rolling Stones to Little Feat.

Irish Drummers; Who were your influences growing up?

Growing up, I was influenced greatly by Charlie Watts, drummer with The Rolling Stones. Other influences include Jim Keltner, Steve Jordan and Andy Newmark, all great players. Steve Gadd, who I feel is the most musical drummer, has been a significant influence on my career.

Irish Drummers; Any Irish Influences?

Irish influences would include Noel Bridgeman, Robbie Brennan, Fran Breen and many others.

Irish Drummers; Did you take any drumming lessons?

At 17, I found a great teacher named Jimmy Doyle. He introduced me to great players like Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Art Blakey and many other brilliant jazz players.

Irish Drummers; What artists have you worked with?

I have been recording a lot in the studio with Los Paradiso, Bree Harris, Pete Cummins, EdMcGinley, Paul Doran, Sinead O’Connor, Don Baker and Cathy Davey.

Irish Drummers; What is your current project?

I am currently working with Los Paradiso on the ‘Lady Sings The Blues’.

Irish Drummers; What drum gear do you use?

I use a mixture of Yamaha, Ludwig and Pearl. Cymbals are Sabian and Ufip.

Photo credit; Lexa Harpell

Thursday 16 March 2017

Gar Byrne - Drummer with The Riptide Movement and Photographer

Irish Drummers; Gar, when did you start drumming?

I started playing drums pretty late actually. My whole life, I was banging on tables, my legs, and anything that made noise but it wasn't until I was 20 that my Dad gave me £800 and told me to go get a set of skins! I was messing around with a guitar and a bass for a few years but as soon as I sat down at a kit, I knew guitars and anything with strings weren't for me. I bought my first kit from Aidan in Music Maker, a Black PDP with Sabian B8's!! The lads in Music Maker are absolute heroes!

Irish Drummers; Did you take drumming lessons?

I taught myself to play by playing along to AC/DC, Queen and old Motown records, basically anything with a nice groove! Perhaps I should've started lessons earlier as I'm not a choppy drummer. I'm not into blazing fast sticks, while I do appreciate and admire the ability of choppy players, I just love sitting on a thick fat groove. My go to fill is the pat boon debbie boon, or a six stroke pick up and that's what works in the studio. My strengths are metronome, I can lock onto that without a second thought! My weakness is my noggin! I get way too far into my head sometimes!!

Irish Drummers; Who are your drumming influences?

Mick Fleetwood, Ringo Star, Charlie Hall (The war on drugs) and "song" drummers are the players I look up to. All the old Motown pick ups are my favourite, William Benny Benjamin and Richard Pistol Allen, them dudes had the best feel.

Irish Drummers; Any Irish Drummers you care to mention?

A few favourite Irish Drummers of mine are.... Rory Doyle, Ronan O'Reilly, Robbie Barrett, John Gray and Graham Hopkins. There's so many whopper drummers on this little island, and everyone is so supportive of each other, which I love!

Irish Drummers; What drum gear do you use?

I play a DW Collectors series 24" Kick, 13" Rack and 18" floor. I'd love an old Rogers or a Luddy, and something a bit smaller!! We recorded our latest album "Ghosts" in Sonic Ranch, El Paso and I recorded the drums on a BEAUTIFUL 1979 Rogers Butchers Block and I wish I could've brought that bad boy home with me! I play all Sabian Cymbals,14" HHX legacy hats, a 16" HHX Ozone, 16" AAX Crash with a sizzler and an 20" AAX Ride.

Irish Drummers; What is your favourite piece of kit?

My pride and joy is my Ludwig Black Beauty snare. My spare snare is a Pearl aluminum sensitone, and I had a Brady spotted gum but a bass amp fell on top of it and bust the rim! (Lesson learned, always leave your drums in hard cases, away from bass players!!)  ;)

Irish Drummers; What are your favourite venues?

My favourite venues are; Vicar Street, Whelans, The Olympia, The Set Theatre, Dolans and De Barras.

Irish Drummers; What are your career highlights to date?

A career highlight has to be playing the main stage at Electric Picnic before Future Islands in front of about 30,000 people!
That and recording in America, with legendary producer Ted Hutt. (Gaslight Anthem, Dropkick Murphys, Old Crow Medicine Show)
Also having a number 1, Gold selling album is pretty sweet! :)

Irish Drummers; Apart from drumming, any other interests?

One thing I might mention is I'm REALLY into photography, I've shot loads of our posters and the photography for our new album! If anyone is interested in seeing my shots you can follow me here 

Photo credit Moat Hill Photography (B&W side profile)
Photo credit Dublin Daily Photography (live photo).

Thursday 9 March 2017

Graham Hopkins - Drummer and Coffee Lover - Part 4 of Interview

Irish Drummers; Graham you mentioned before about playing for the song.

That's what we are doing, that is always what we are trying to say at BIMM. You have the students, who are sitting there all the time and they are just like, “what are we playing, what kind of playing will we do next”. You are constantly trying to say to them to tune in and overly tune in to the song, what everyone is doing, so you can support the whole thing. It's not a hard graft, you know. It's only going to come to them after a long spell and I suppose a lot of that comes from being introduced at a young age.

Irish Drummers; Graham, when did you start writing your own material?

I was playing guitar and keyboards, whilst playing with My Little Funhouse and with Therapy? I was always at home playing guitar, always doing that and throughout bands even before My Little Funhouse. I was talking about Joe, my best friend Joe, who is now in The Frames. He joined The Frames around the same time I joined Therapy? Joe and I were always in bands when we were about thirteen or fourteen. We always were recording demos and I was always playing guitar and everything, so I started even doing demos at a young age myself, playing everything. So just when the whole Therapy? thing finished,  Gemma Hayes asked me to go away and tour with her for a year, that was around the time of the Mercury prize thing so I was busy out.

Irish Drummers: Was that like the, Night on My Side, album? 

Yeah, so we were really busy touring that year and we were really busy demoing as well, so I kind of left Gemma's thing. It was the same reason I left Therapy? because musically I kind of wanted that release, it's kind of like what I was saying, about the drum thing I never got into that stuff of being a rock star. I always wanted a musical release and that's the f****n truth. I have to have a musical release, to be f****n happy. I got out of Therapy?  because I wasn't getting that. I went to play with Gemma and I was really good friends with Karl Odlum. We were having a laugh and I was demoing all the time. I just said I have to go and do this, so myself and Karl went and recorded the album and it was brilliant and Warners said yeah, we will release it for you. I was doing it and all of a sudden I was doing it full time. It was f****n weird.

Irish Drummers; Was that part of the grand plan?

I never planned it that way. It just fell into me having a band that I had to name and it just happened that way. It was called Hopper originally, because that was my nickname. Halite is a hopper crystal and it's all called the Halite which is the band name, which is f****n stupid. Halite, Halite yeah what are we calling the band? It's just madness so then I asked Binzer (Brennan), Ollie and Gav. Keith Farrell is just brilliant and then Derren, who did the Wilt album with Darragh, who you spoke with

Irish Drummers; Yeah, that's right. We really enjoyed doing that interview with Darragh Butler.

The lads came along and did gigs. We did a second album and as good as it was, I was the chairman of band politics, so that was starting to drag me down. I knew we were all busy. I was drumming on peoples' albums and The Frames albums and drumming with people like Joe Chester and The Cake Sale and doing other stuff at the same time so I just put this on hold. It's probably, ten years later now and I still haven't done anything else, even though I'm demoing and stuff. I'm still writing stuff all the time.

Irish Drummers; So, will there be another version of Halite coming out at some stage?

Well, I will release something when I feel like it, but I'm not in any rush to do it. I have recorded songs since, but I'm not in any rush to do anything.

Irish Drummers; There was a band you were with, you haven't mentioned them yet, but Boss Volenti, there was a lot of buzz around you at the time. It was always one of the great mysteries, at Irishdrummers HQ as to how the band never became huge

It’s a mystery to me, it's the whole reason I don't mention Boss Volenti. Boss Volenti is like heartbreak to all four of us, because musically, it's the happiest the four of us have ever been.

Irish Drummers; That was definitely one of the great Irish bands

Thanks very much. You know we are all still really good mates. We have had those hypothetical talks about jamming and stuff like that. Just a few weeks ago, when I was back home and before I went out on tour we did and every year for the last couple of years we have done, ah I think I was talking to you about that on the phone, the Led Zeppelin thing.

Irish Drummers; That's right, yeah.

So it was the four of us on stage, along with nine other people and we did “Houses of the Holy” tribute this year and Johnny was doing it as well so there were three drummers on stage, myself, Johnny and Simon Freedman and he organises the whole thing every year and we did 'Houses of the Holy' from start to finish and so in a few songs there were a few drummers like at the end of the night we had Kashmir. So it’s Boss Volenti on stage with a few other people and it's such a joy playing with Boss Volenti because musically it's just all of us having that unity that we had for so many years and it's great, I loved playing with that band so much.

Irish Drummers; What is your favourite Led Zeppelin album?
Yeah, see that is another hard one, maybe Physical Graffiti but then it is a bit too long

Irish Drummers; You were also playing with the likes of Snow Patrol and Dolores O'Riordan?

Graham: Yeah, Snow Patrol, Johnny just broke his arm. The Snow Patrol lads are friends, like the whole music thing being so incestuous and everybody knows everybody. I have been friends with them for years and then Johnny just called me when he broke his arm and said “will you cover for me”, so I went out touring with them. Two weeks turned into six months and that was great. I still go out with them and play percussion for the laugh and that is good fun. They have been doing great and then Dolores. I recorded a solo album with Dolores and then went out touring with her for about a year or so and that was great.

Irish Drummers; Graham, you were saying, about giving one hundred and twenty percent. How do you keep yourself fit?

I am pathetic that way, I walk a bit. I go on websites, look at vintage drums with my fingers that keeps my fingers fit. Walking is the only thing I can do. I am no good at jogging or anything like that. I got a new heart rate app on my phone which was pretty good. It made me feel really good because my heart rate average is around forty eight, fifty, fifty two when I checked and that made me feel proud as punch because it was kind of like the things I have gone through with the BIMM students. Like do you know, Clem Burke?

Irish Drummers; Yeah, especially his work with “Blondie”

Yeah, exactly, being as fit as a premiership footballer and then Jeremy from Kilkenny did it in Trinity College. He did it as the Irish representative for being as fit as a premiership footballer. So he played a kit for whatever, they checked all his heart rate and blood pressure. So after checking all of that, he was pretty fit.

Irish Drummers; So Graham do you suffer from any injuries in relation to playing drums?

I don't know, there is nothing I have apart from the usual blisters. You can see there on my fingers, the usual cuts. I always get them you know, I have gone through gloves. 

Irish Drummers; What songs / albums are you most proud of and feel best represent your drumming C.V.?

My first Halite album, because it has nothing to do with drumming.  I purposely went anti drumming at that stage.  It could be a lot better but there are moments on it I just like. It was me growing from something to someone.

Irish Drummers;  Graham, studio or live, what is your preference?

I love both of them. I won't say for exactly opposite reasons but I do love both of them. I get a buzz out of both of them I really do. I find myself in the studio going yeah I f****n love it with headphones in and really getting into something and want to do it again or it could be just building up to something and then even singing to something you know, I love it. Building an empire is what I always say and then live. Jesus I love it, I love being in a small circle on stage with everybody looking at each other seeing everybody. I dig it, I really dig it.

Irish Drummers; What is your favourite rudiment?

My favourite rudiment, it's the paradiddle, because I always think of my Dad and him writing it on my garage door. It's as simple as that and as simple as throwing it round the kit, rather than playing it on one snare playing it round the kit and making it in to a flam paradiddle or a flamadiddle. I don't get too busy around that, playing at a different tempo and stuff, accents and different parts of the paradiddle.

Irish Drummers; How often do you practice Graham?

I don't , because I am kind of gigging so I am terrible at practicing. I just love gigging and when I’m gigging I just love long sound checks, jamming at long sound checks and the like. I love during those jams, trying different styles and techniques. Doing BIMM for the last year and doing techniques with students and doing jams.  Looking into techniques, it's brought so much to my own playing. It has really brought so much to my own playing every night you know, I love it!

Irish Drummers; Finally Graham, what's the five year plan?

I suppose I just take the Eckhart Tolle  approach. I just take everyday as it comes!

Sunday 5 March 2017

Kevin Brady - Jazz Drummer & Recording Artist, Drum Interview Part 2

Irish Drummers; Are you influenced by different styles of music?

You can be influenced by listening to different styles of music and that will come out through your playing. A lot of my music has quite a classical tinge to it, its where music came from. You listen to something and then it just comes through in what you write. If I’m writing music that way I’ll categorise what styles I have, tempos and keys. Then sometimes when I need to fill in the gaps ,I’ll play something more old style and I’ll write something in that vain. The way I see it, when you write and perform music, it’s done, it’s finished. When you record music, it's going to be different each time you play it. When you’re writing something, I think it should be a snapshot of where you are, musically at the time. This record, entitled ‘ ensam’, I am really happy with and really proud of. When you put a record out there and you send stuff all around the world, you hope that people will like it. Fortunately, it has been receiving great reviews, the trio has been playing for 10 years

Irish Drummers; Any plans to celebrate?

I’m going to celebrate that milestone and put a tour on at the end of the year and bring Bill Carrothers over from the United States and also the great Tenor Saxophonist Seamus Blake has agreed to perform as well with us.

Irish Drummers; As a drummer, do you look back at what you’ve recorded and critique it?

Oh Yeah! There was one group I mentioned earlier called Organics. That group comprised a hand organ, guitar and drums and when we got together back in 1998, I kind of cut my cloth really with that group, we just really wanted to get together and constantly get better and better. We would play many different styles of music and I’ll often go back to the recordings we did and look back on how I played then. It’s funny, there is still certain stuff that I did then and I still do now but I’m more relaxed now. Even when I’m on a tour with my own group, I’ll try and video as much stuff as I can, so I can look back on it because it’s a great way to learn and critique yourself. I just finished my Masters last year from CIT in Cork and part of the process of that included performing 3 of our pieces as part of our thesis. We also had to film and record them to make sure they were really high quality. It was part of the portfolio, so even doing that I was very critical about the tunes we had to play and the style and the tempo. I certainly learned a lot from that.

Irish Drummers; Do you find that you’re a better artist now in relation to how you record in the studio?

Yeah, I do. Because over the years, I’ve been in so many studios. When I’m playing, I’m playing but when I’m listening,  I take in the overall effect of what the music is trying to convey, I want to be a better producer. I try to think of the overall picture and what the tune is supposed to be about. It’s important to listen to the direction of the music, where it’s going and what it needs to say.

Irish Drummers; How does playing live compare to recording?

That’s the drug I suppose. I love playing live, especially since the majority of music I play is jazz. Of late, I am performing with a lot of songwriters. The goal is to stay the same and when you’re in the studio to try and play more naturally, so when I’m playing live, ‘Its Home Sweet Home”.

Irish Drummers; Playing live, what’s your favourite venue?

My favourite venue so far, well for piano or jazz gigs, would have to be Ronnie Scott’s or Pizza Express Jazz Club in London; Pizza Express more so, because it’s a really nice room to play in, and the piano and drum kit are really nice and in good shape. I’d say those 2 places, but I love all gigs and venues. One of my favourite venues to play in Ireland, was the old room in the Arts Centre in Cork. I love the venue at the Triskel, even now that they have the large cathedral as a venue but the other venue was more intimate.

Irish Drummers; You’ve done a lot of travelling. Is the aim to continue travelling?

Yes, very much so! Last year, I was so busy with teaching and the Masters Degree that I was doing and stuff like that, that I didn’t get as much of an opportunity as I wanted. This year, I’m going over to Scandinavia because there’s a very healthy jazz scene there, particularly in Denmark and Sweden. I was there only last month and the audiences are very knowledgeable and they know what they’re listening to and I hope I am adding to it.
I just think the music of the groups that I am playing with would go down well in Norway, Denmark and Sweden and those audiences. My group has been invited to play in Russia as well this year so hopefully that goes ahead. We were supposed to go last year but unfortunately Bill’s father passed away and we had to cancel the tour. Life is life as well!!! I really want to get back to Japan because it was a really great place to play and the audiences there are amazing.

Irish Drummers; What music projects have you lined up for 2017?

I have quite a few recording projects as a sideman. I’m also planning on writing some more and I’d like to have another record in the bag by the end of the year. Definitely more touring and performing.

Irish Drummers; What advice would you give to someone starting out in music?

I’d say to know and expect times where you’re not going to be busy. I think it’s important, both financially and musically to be quite open with regards to playing different music styles. If that’s not for you, then play with as many people as you can from the genre/ direction you have chosen. In Ireland,  its a great place to live , but opportunities are limited because the jazz scene is quite small here, but you can make something happen and if you have the conviction to do so, you will. I think being open to new styles and influences is a really important trait to have.

Irish Drummers; Drumming wise what’s your advice to someone taking up drums for the first time?

I believe that they should follow their goals, stick to them and try and improve their technique as well, whether that’s through going to a teacher or studying on their own. Learning how to read is an important thing to do as well.

Irish drummers; What artists, that you performed with, stand out as being very memorable?

Oh that’s a hard one. I’d say Seamus Blake, who is a tenor player, Norma Winstone and even though he is in my group, Bill Carrothers, he’s amazing.

Irish Drummers; What inspiration do you take from seeing other musicians perform?

I remember when I saw other drummers playing. I used to stand there and listen and critique. I have to say I don’t really do that anymore. The most important thing for me is that the drummer takes care of business and they lock in timewise with the other musicians.

Irish Drummers; Who would be your favourite, most inspirational Irish Drummers?

 There are some amazing drummers in this country. I really like Shane O’ Donovan, he’s a great drummer. Matthew Jacobson is a fantastic drummer and  I love Conor Guilfoyle’s playing. He is a Master of Afro-Cuban Music. Sean Carpio, he’s a really talented player and there are a lot of new guys coming up, like Dominic Mullen who has got a wicked time feel. So yeah, those guys, but there are many more….

Irish Drummers; What makes Irish Drummers different to other Drummers?

I think we have an innate musical tradition in our country. We’ve got a great tradition of music in our culture. I think Irish Drummers have a great appreciation of the approach and history of the music, [concerning the genre that I mainly perform in]. The drummers that I really appreciate and listen to are very open to different styles of music, the pool of players here that I admire is vast. But they’re clever in the sense that they can play a rock gig and then go into a pop gig, so they are very adaptable. I think that’s one of the major advantages that we have over other musicians, I could be wrong, so don’t hold me to it.

Irish Drummers; What are your 3 Favourite songs?

 Well that’s a hard question. It would definitely be something from Miles Davis, from the 1960’s, because of Tony Williams. There would definitely be something from Glenn Gould, maybe something by The Police. I love Stewart Copeland’s playing, I really love his high-hat technique and Manu Katche and the way he has such a percussive approach to playing with a groove. I was lucky to hang out with him in Australia while playing with Sting. I love their sound and approach and the way that they fill the gaps of a song with rudiments so well. Oh and recently Omar Hakim on the latest Kate Bush Gigs…

Photo credit; John Cronin at Dublin Jazz Photography