Sunday 5 March 2017

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