Tuesday 23 January 2018

When did you start drumming?
I was 13! My younger brother had a drum kit and I just kind of took it from him. It was an awful sounding thing, but I loved it. The cymbals were made from the softest metal known to man, the bass drum was boomy and moved when you played it and the snare head was 90% duck tape.  It was Dan and Paul from Walking on Cars that asked me to join their band (Eire 51) at that time, we played Greenday, Offspring, Blink182 kinda stuff. I remember playing someone else’s kit with proper cymbals and realised how crap my drums were so I saved like crazy and went and upgraded it.

Who are your drumming influences?
Ben Johnston (Biffy Clyro)
Matt Cameron (Soundgarden/ Pearl Jam)
Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine/ Audioslave)
Tony Royster jr (AWOLNATION)
Igor Cavellera (Sepultura)
Tre Cool (Greenday)
Mike Portnoy (Dreamtheatre)
Dave Grohl (Nirvana/ Them Crooked Vultures/ QOTSA)
Thomas Lang
The Rev (Avenged sevenfold)
Zach Lind (Jimmy Eat World)
Glen Power (The Script)
Josh Freese (NIN/ A Perfect Circle)
Fyfe Ewing (Therapy?)
Graham Hopkins (The Frames)
Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy)
to name a few. I have probably learned something from all of these great drummers. They are all very influential and different from each other also. They have their own unique sound and I aspire to be like any one of them! Or if I could be like Buddy Rich that would be class too!

What is your drum gear setup?
It’s a bit of a mongrel setup! Most of the drums are Pearl Masters maple shells, 22 kick, 12 rack tom, 14 floor and a 16 Yamaha oak custom heavily dampened with a towel floor tom. I have two snares I use, a 14 x 6.5 Ludwig LM402 supra phonic which is like a black beauty but aluminium shell instead of brass and it’s not as aggressive as the black beauty, then there is a 14 x 6.5 Hessian walnut snare, which has a conical shell 12mm - 7mm, beautiful warm drum with cool tribal pattern, both very big sounding snares! I use Zildjian K Custom dark and A custom cymbals, Pearl, Tama and DW pedals depending on how I am feeling but would prefer iron cobra power glide, pearl hardware, Ultimate Ears, Vic firth extreme 5b and a Roland Spd sx for everything else. Oh and Evans drumheads obviously!

What are your favourite bands or songs?
I like a lot of music, mainly rock stuff. Biffy Clyro has to be one of my favourite bands and Puzzle, one my favourite albums. Audioslave was a big deal for me, Chris Cornell getting together with the band from Rage Against the Machine, that was definitely a moment in my life. I was big into punk rock or punk pop growing up. I liked the Offspring, Blink 182, Greenday, Jimmy Eat World and that sort of thing. I then got into liking Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Biohazard, Therapy, Sepultura, etc., mainly because the drumming was so cool. I'd listen to a lot of Moderat, X Ambassadors, Dave Matthews band, G Eazy or even Gregory Porter when on the road, to chill me out. So I can’t say I’m a full-on rocker because I listen to a little bit of everything. I am currently listening to Matt Cameron’s Cavedweller and Imagine Dragons new album, I’d love to see them live this year. Favourite songs :
(Therapy) Screamager, 
(Moderat)- Bad Kingdom, 
(Biffy Clyro) - Glitter and Trauma 
(Twenty one Pilots) - heavy dirty soul 
 (Sepultura)- Ratamahatta
(Avenged Sevenfold) - Almost Easy
(Tool) - Vicarious 
(Blink 182) - Bored to death
 (Jimmy Eat World) - Sweetness

You have a busy summer ahead for gigs, what's your preference live or in the studio?
I can’t wait to be back in a studio to do some proper recording, but I do prefer live gigs because of the atmosphere there. We’ve played our songs a thousand times over, but you can’t get sick of them when you hear a song sung back to you, and know the crowd is enjoying themselves. That goosebumps feeling is what it’s all about for me. When the crowd feeds off the band, and the band feeds off the crowd, it makes for an epic gig and I love that!

Can you tell us what upcoming projects are in the pipeline for Walking On Cars?
We are currently writing for our second album in our new rehearsal space. It’s really cool,  with a great natural reverb out of the place and fantastic views; very inspirational stuff! There has been tons of writing done over the past few months, now it’s time to compile it all and polish the songs to have them sounding as epic as possible. We hope to have something out later this year. 

In your opinion what makes Irish drummers different to other nationalities, mainly our UK and USA counterparts?
I think Trad music probably has a big influence on the Irish drummer and that makes us different from UK and US drummers. Every Irish drummer is familiar with those bodhran beats and lively session tunes from your local pub and that rhythm is in the heart and soul of every Irish drummer, I think! It’s a cool thing to have engraved into you, especially as a drummer. Trad music is full of odd times, triplets and unique sounds that are truly inspirational to any musician, even if they are unfamiliar with the mechanics of the music. I find Irish drummers to be all about the song also and classy about their use of chops as opposed to being flashy and in your face, they seem to be very passionate and intense in the way that they play. 
The Irish drummer is sound in my opinion. From my experience, I’ve found them to be very helpful if you ever need advice on anything or if you have just broken/ lost/ or forgotten a piece of gear like a snare or a pedal or even a drum stool. The Irish drummer would be like “yeah, no worries” and try to help because they have probably been in that exact same situation as you, possibly even at that same festival. The Irish are great craic and loved by everyone everywhere, so find it easy to get along in a gig situation especially when they are friendly, “Its nice to be nice!”  Maybe it’s because we come from a small island and everyone seems to know each other because you would cross paths from time to time at festivals and venues. So in my opinion, the Irish drummer is a breed of its own, a sound, Trad loving, triplet playing, emotional and forgetful animal that seems to get along with everyone!

Photos: Cillian Garvey

Saturday 13 January 2018

When did you start drumming?
I started drumming at a very young age, about 4 years old I think. My Grandad lived at our house at the time, and he was a drummer. My parents are both musicians and so we had a small recording studio on the end of our house, and Grandad had his kit set up in there. Some of my earliest memories are sitting at his drums, nobody forced me to sit at them but for some reason I just naturally picked it up and could keep a beat even then. When I was about 7 or 8 I used to go out to pub gigs with my Grandad with his Ceile band, and he would eventually always call me up to play while he went to the bar and chatted up the ladies haha. Beyond that, I really took the same route as most other drummers. Played in teenage bands etc. After School I went to the Ballyfermot Music College and once that had finished I joined my Parents country band, where I really started to get serious about all things music!

What drum gear do you use?
I’ve got a few kits:
Live, I use an early 80’s Yamaha Recording Custom in a really cool ‘Mellow Yellow’ colour. Sizes are 24x14, 14x10, 16x16. I absolutely love this kit. I bought it from a great UK based session player named Jamie Little. It’s quite scuffed up close, it’s no museum piece, but from a distance it looks great, and it sounds amazing.
I also have a 1965 Ludwig Superclassic in Red Sparkle, 22x14, 13x9, 16x16.
I love these drums too, they sound amazing in the studio. Though they don’t quite do the job for me live, if I’m honest, and besides they’re in amazing condition so I’m afraid to bring them on the road!
And I have a 70’s Premier Concert Tom Kit, The Phil Collins Job! My parents got me those for Christmas when I was about 11 or 12. My first kit, still have them.
Snare wise:
The one I use most is a beautiful Joyful Noise ‘Anchored’ copper 14x6.5. I had this drum custom made for me, with a personal engraving by John Aldridge in memory of my drumming Grandad. It truly lives up to its name, a joy to play! Very sensitive, responsive, and versatile. It’s quite dark sounding, and metallic obviously, but with a beautiful earthiness.
I’ve also got a 1962(ish) Pre-Serial Ludwig Super, the Chrome Over Brass version of the ‘Supraphonic’.
I’ve got a Pre-Serial Ludwig ‘Jazz Festival’, in a ‘Black Diamond Pearl’ finish.
And lastly a Tama Starclassic maple snare drum, given to me by a friend.
I LOVE all things Paiste, and I’ve got 2 different set ups.
I have a set of Paiste Signature Traditional’s. 14” Med/Light Hi Hats, 18” Extra Thin Crash, 20” Thin Crash, 22” Med/Light Ride.
And I have a set of Paiste Dark Energy’s. 15” Mark I Hi Hats, 17” Crash, 19” Crash, 21” Mark I Ride.
I use Evans Drum Heads, and ProMark sticks, mostly 5As and Hotrods.

Who are your drumming influences?
Growing up in a professional musician’s household I was influenced a lot by the people my parents worked with. My Mother is Sandy Kelly, and so she has had many good drummers come through her band. I’ve always had a great relationship with those guys and they taught me a lot. My Mum worked with Johnny Cash in the 90’s. I remember going to those gigs as a kid and sitting on the side of the stage glued to Cash’s drummer Fluke Holland, he’s amazing! And another Session Guy Mum worked with was Buddy Harman, an old school Nashville A List session head who recorded for everyone. He was amazing to watch too, I really learned a lot from him in so far as playing for the song, and keeping it simple.
I personally had the chance to work with Ken Coomer formerly of Wilco. I am also a singer songwriter, and I made a solo album in Nashville in 2007. Ken was the guy the producer hired to drum and what an eye opener that was. I loved the freedom and expression in his playing, and insane energy, but he never let it get in the way of the song. He also turned me onto the Paiste thing! I took a lot from working with Ken, in fact I’d say I somewhat tried to copy him a bit once I got back to the drums myself haha.
Beyond that, I just love drummers in general. I’m one of those guys that really get’s excited when I see and hear a good drummer. I watch tons of videos online of the usual suspects really, and mostly guys I could never even dream of getting close to! Like Jeff Porcaro, John Robinson, Steve Jordan, Abe Laboriel Jr. etc.
And a shout out for some newer guys like IIlan Rubin, Charlie Hall, Ethan Johns and Miles Miller.

What current projects are you and Rackhouse Pilfer involved in?
Rackhouse Pilfer released a new album in 2017 called ‘Solar Lunar’, which we are incredibly proud of. We put a ton of work into it, it took a couple of years to bring together. And we were fortunate to get to work with legendary producer Gareth Jones, most famed for his work with Depeche Mode and Erasure. Quite an interesting mix when you consider Rackhouse previously had been an acoustic bluegrass string band kind of set up. But we purposely set out for change with the new album, and sought out somebody in an entirely different world to us, just to see what might happen. Gareth really got the best out of us, and in such a natural organic way. He got us to set up our gigging PA in the studio (Attica Audio Ireland), so none of us were using cans. And we were very much going for takes, rather than layering the tracks up with overdubs etc. In fact, very few overdubs were done at all. We didn’t use click tracks or anything like that. Very organic! And he took it down a new road for us, where we ended up using electric guitars and electric bass etc. A lot more atmospheric, a lot rockier. Not a changing of the wheel in the big picture by no means, but a big change for Rackhouse and our followers!
Actually at the moment, Rackhouse is taking a break from live gigging. Most of us have young families, and we’ve been doing around 200 live gigs a year for the last 6 years, in IRE/UK/EU. Add to that, the fact that we’re an independent band, totally self-managed, we look after everything ourselves, so that’s a big job and it was time for a break really.
Personally, now I’m working for Sligo Live festival behind the scenes, and I am delighted to be working with another Irish band ‘Mongrel State’ in a management role. I would love to make more records in the future somehow, I really love the studio and creative aspect of all this. So, I would love to get into production eventually. And I love song-writing, that always has a huge part to play in anything I do. I am one of the main writers in Rackhouse Pilfer, of the singles we released I wrote ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Go Straight’.

What are your favourite songs/albums?
Songs? God there are so many. But as a songwriter there’s two guys I know had a huge influence on me. James Taylor, if I had to pick one song I’d take ‘Sweet Baby James’. And Noel Gallagher, again if I had to pick one I’d go with ‘Talk Tonight’. I always loved Jimmy Webb as a songwriter too, some of his classic country stuff is amazing, like ‘Wichita Lineman’ recorded by Glen Campbell. And I think Ryan Adams is such an undervalued contemporary country songwriter, a favourite from him would be ‘La Cienega Just Smiled’.

Albums in a classic sense, if I could just pick a few:
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Album
Oasis – What’s The Story Morning Glory
Ryan Adams – Gold
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Guns N Roses – Appetite
And a couple of more contemporary albums:
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
War On Drugs – Lost in a Dream
Jason Isbell – Southeastern

In your opinion what makes Irish drummers unique to other drummers?
As Francie Conway, one of my teachers at Ballyfermot used to say…. “You’ve got to lick the ashtrays”. Meaning get out there in the pubs and clubs, and just do it, harden yourself up and bring that experience with you no matter how far you go in this crazy business. In Ireland we have this amazing circuit of hard ass pub and club gigs. These are not for the faint hearted, you’ll be found out quick, and you’ve got to keep the Irish dancing! Most of us Irish Drummers are from that kind of background I would imagine. It gives you a great grounding I feel in preparation for what drumming should almost always be about, get them dancing!

Thanks very much Irish Drummers, good luck and happy skinning to all your readers, Willie.