Friday 19 April 2019

Who inspired you to take up drums?
I think initially it was listening to Mitch Mitchell on the Hendrix albums. I was a huge fan of Jimi growing up and it was because of him (and my brother) that I started playing the guitar initially. More and more I just fell in love with what Mitch did to those songs and how he made them move. There was almost this jazz flow introduced in to the songs and then when it came to those fills and that machine-gun snare, I was drawn more and more to the drums but it was always on the cards I think. I just didn't start to really think about playing actual drums until my early teens. I would've always been driving my family crazy tapping on everything, using chopsticks or cutlery as "sticks" on any surface possible in the house, constant foot tapping etc. It wasn't until my mate's brother got a drumkit when I was, I think around 12 or something,that I fell in love with playing drums. From the first time he let me have a go on them, I realised straight away that this was probably all I wanted to do. I kept playing guitar but my eyes and ears were now on drums and I started hopping on to other people's kits as much as possible. I don't think I got my own kit till I was somewhere between 15 and 17. I was a serial drumkit adulterer in the early days and it's only because of the generosity of friends and acquaintances like Daragh Coen, John McPhilips and Keith Brogan that I was able to develop as a drummer without drums. 

Who are your favourite players?
This has developed over the years as it has for everyone. Obviously Mitch Mitchell got it all going for me. I'm a big rock fan, always have been so this is probably going to lean heavier on the big players from that genre. Joey Castillo is a huge one. I could pick his playing out of an aural lineup any day of the week because of the way he plays his hi-hats. He's my favourite QOTSA drummer for sure although it's hard to argue with Dave Grohl's mastery on Songs For The Deaf. There's a lot of beats on that album that are basically the Stairway riff for drummers so obviously Dave Grohl is a fave for that and Nirvana. 

There is no doubt that Matt Cameron has had an enormous influence on the way that I play and for wanting to play drums also. I think he is one of those players that doesn't get enough credit by the magazines and polls every year. What he did with Soundgarden was profoundly different to how anyone else played in Rock/Grunge at the time.

Abe Cunningham has to get a mention after his snare blasting out of my speakers for so long now. I'm a huge Deftones fan!

Nick Yacyshyn is an absolute beast and I regularly find myself looking over that drumcam everyone has watched from that Rain City Baptists gig. 

Loving Adam Betts work with Three Trapped Tigers too and he is a truly unique drummer. He dropped my jaw in The Village years ago when I just walked in to a gig I knew nothing about and watched him shred!

Oisin Trench, formerly of Enemies, was a huge influence on me around ten years ago. A solid, inventive player that has the sauciest left hand in the whole country. 

Jazz has started to become something I listen to more and more often which is providing some exciting new insight in to the drums. Apart from your obvious ones like Buddy Rich and Tony Williams, Mark Guiliana is a big favourite and I think everyone can agree that what he did on Blackstar was a defining moment in rock music.

Richard Spaven's last album has been breaking all sort of personal Spotify records for me and I was lucky enough to finally see him perform in the flesh for the first time this year at the Galway Drum Show. 

Locally, I am constantly inspired and in awe of fellow Westerners Cian Hanley, David Dockery and Richie Diitrich. Some more obvious legends in Micheál Quinn, Johnny Quinn, Smiley, Dennis Cassidy, Dan Lang....I could get keep going here. We have such an amazing collection of drummers in Ireland that is growing year on year and I am constantly turning to them more than anyone for inspiration and guidance as I try to figure out this instrument.

Your favourite songs or albums?

Nirvana....Unplugged: Probably not the first Nirvana pick you'd expect but you have to give serious props to Dave Grohl for pulling that one off. I probably listen to this album more than any other Nirvana album and that says a lot about the quality of songwriting from that band. They were not just a few lads lashing out the riffs. These were good songs that held up well when all the noise and chaos were taken away from them. Not every band can do that.

A Perfect Circle - Mer De Noms: When I bought this, I listened to to it, on repeat, for 17 hours in the room of my first rental in a rank student gaff in Arbutus Avenue, Renmore, Galway. It was the best sounding rock album I'd ever heard and the drum sounds were outrageously good. Still a reference I use to this day when trying to find drum sounds for recording.

Jimi Hendrix - Bold As Love: So many classic bangers. Drummers will air guitar, guitarists will air drum. Everyone will sing and hum the solos. I love it and probably doesn't listen to it enough anymore.

Refused - The Shape of Punk To Come: A huge record! This started pushing my tastes from rock more in to hardcore, post-hardcore and more genres of metal for some reason.

Soulwax - Much Against Everyones Advice: There isn't a single thing wrong with this album. 

The Frames - Dance The Devil: Big part of my teens this one.Dave Hingerty's beat on Lay Me Down is a classic!

What’s your current drum gear setup?
I have been playing a 22,16,12 DW Collectors for about 10 years now. It's sounds absolutely massive.This is only my second kit so going from a 90's Pearl Export (which I still have) to that was a huge jump and was a major deal for me at the time.  

I recently switched from a 14x5.5 Ludwig Supraphonic to a DW Thin Aluminium 14x6.5 and am loving it! I found the drums to be similar in what they can do but the throw off and hardware on the DW to be far superior. I have a first edition Gretsch Cherry Stave as well that is going to make it on to gigs by the end of the year as an aux. An absolute beast of a drum they initially only brought out in a run of 200 I think but it was so popular they made it a production model and released it with a new badge. I've been asked to sell this more than any other bit of gear I own but I don't think I can ever let go. 

Cymbal wise i am playing all Sabian - 15" HHX Groove Hats, 20 Legacy O-Zone as the left crash, 21" Legacy on the right and a 22" Legacy Heavy as the ride. Listening to Oisin Trench play most or all of these cymbals in his setup years ago made me want to get them.

On sticks it's either a Vater Los Angeles 5A Wood or the new Extended Play 5A. The Vater EP's are unreal! They come with a kevlar wrap in the rim-shot area and a coating on the bow to stop the stick chipping away. I am getting about 6 times more plays out of these than a conventional stick at the moment. Normally I'd break a pair every practice or 1.5 at a gig and now i'd say I could get up to 8 practices and 3 gigs out of every pair. Recently I started playing the 5A Stretch and this has made fills and fast 16th notes on the hi-hat a lot easier for me so this could be my new standard stick going forward.

Thrones are often over-looked in a set-up but if you're sitting behind your kit for hours every day, you need to be comfortable and properly supported. My current throne may have stopped me giving up drums entirely believe it or not. Regularly I walked away from gigs not knowing how it went, whether my performance was good enough and I was having lots of trouble with my kick in particular. My confidence was eroding with every show. It was only after talking to a customer of mine about the Porter & Davies BC2 that I decided to give it a go. I developed a connection with drums that I never had in almost 20 years as I could finally hear and feel my kick drum every time I played. I also run the snare and toms through there too so every time i play, I feel every part of my kit. My confidence has soared and my performances have improved as a result. 

I have two pairs of Ultimate Ears Custom IEM's; The UE6 and the UE18+. For a long time I had thought about moving to IEM's but was very nervous about it but the switch couldn't be easier. I cannot take them out of my ears now and love playing with an IEM and would strongly advise everyone to drop the wedge. I have a very basic setup in the studio with a cheap Alto ZMX862 mixer, an Audix condenser hanging from the roof to catch the kit, the kick mic'd with a D6, an ATM650 on the guitar cab and a DI from the bass. I can hear everything perfectly so now I have incredible levels of detail while we're writing. Previously in a loud environment like that, I would be playing to things I thought I heard but then when you would go in to pre-production you would often discover that you were hearing something entirely different and would have to re-write drum parts.This doesn't happen anymore! It's also a welcome relief not to be walking out of practice or a gig with my ears ringing.
You work with Musicmaker, an incredible store and in the basement is ‘The Drumgeon’, what can people expect when they visit?

Firstly I would expect that you would be warmly welcomed no matter what part of the store you go in to. We have an amazing bunch of sound, knowledgeable people working there that love what they do and I think that comes across. The Drumgeon is a very special place and is home to a drummer that probably everyone in the country knows at this stage, Ronan O'Reilly. There isn't a bit of gear out there that Ronan hasn't played and he knows everything about everything. You couldn't meet a nicer, funnier gent of a man and the chap can play! If anyone hasn't met Ro then make it your business to seek him out the next time your passing the shop in Exchequer St and ask for his advice.
You will also run in to Oisin Trench, a beast of a drummer who will fascinate you with the tiniest, forgotten details about any piece of gear and is a great guy to talk to about Sticks in particular I think. He's helped me a lot with sticks over the years and of course, massively influenced the cymbals I play. As well as kits, sticks, hardware and all the usual stuff you'd expect in a drum department, we put on a lot of clinics and events with amazing drummers and after performing a cleansing ritual with a drum shaman, we even let some guitarists in there to perform some times. Of course, as a result of having a space like the Drumgeon it is by proxy responsible for 21 Drums which is what we believe is the best drum camp in the world. Now in our 5th year, we will welcome back Keith Carlock, Mike Johnston, Ash Soan and Mark Guiliana for a week of drums in Grouse Lodge and then a public clinic in Dublin. I have had the privilege to be involved in the production for this since it's inception and I can honestly say that any drummer who takes part leaves a different person (and better drummer). Where else in the world can you spend 8 hours a day learning from 4 of the best out there and then spend your evenings swapping stories with them over a creamy pint of G?! I could talk all day about the place but there isn't another shop like it anywhere in the world and that is 99.9% down to the people who work there and constantly breathe life in to the place.

Your band Bitch Falcon is described as one of the most captivating acts around. What can fans expect throughout 2019?
We're definitely just about to embark on our busiest year yet. We've mostly been trying to hold back the gigs in the first half of the year but we did a quick stint around Scotland and Ireland with US band, Sleeping With Sirens in February. Apart from that we've been working hard on finishing the album and that's going to be recorded by May so glad to finally put that out. This will be all new songs written during the current lineup with Lizzie and Barry. In the middle of that, we're going out with an amazing band called Thumper on a few dates around Ireland in April and once we clear May we're in to festival season. There's lot of new places we haven't played before and we were really stoked be be invited by Anti-Flag to play two dates of their Anti-Fest in Antwerp and Amersfoort in particular. TLDR; Lots of gigs, lots of new songs and lots of broken sticks!

At the inaugural Galway Drum Show in the Clayton Hotel, you were involved as part of a panel discussing endorsements, which we enjoyed immensely! Can you share some of the advice you gave to drummers on the day?
Thanks for coming out and supporting the Galway Drum Show and glad you enjoyed the talk. I suppose the main point in that conversation that re-surfaced a lot was to play what you love and not to be influenced by chasing deals. When looking for some kind of relationship with a brand you love using, it will be obvious to the people reading the application whether you're genuine or not and it will have an impact. Complete some self-analysis on your social media because the first thing anyone will do if your application generates interest is check your Instagram etc. First impressions are always the ones that last. Build a quality Electronic Press Kit that includes a bio, some good quality photos of you doing your thing, links to key performances/songs, discography and your scheduled shows for the rest of the year including any tv appearances. Some questions you could ask yourself before applying: Do you have an engaged audience online? Do you have a lot of influence in your local market? Are you a teacher with a lot of students? Is your band on the rise and achieving good billing at festivals and getting booked? If you tick any of those boxes then maybe now is a good time to look for a deal. Before sending your EPK, go to the brands website and found out how they like to receive endorsement applications, you'll usually find it in the Contact Us or FAQ section. Read it carefully and follow the instructions to the letter.

And finally Nigel, what advice would you give someone wanting to take up drumming?
Find a good teacher and practice (smart) every day. I didn't do that and it makes things difficult for me everytime I sit behind a kit. I finally took my first lessons about 3 years ago from Robbie Barret (St Laurence O'Toole) and it made a huge difference. Don't skip the basics and learn your rudiments! It's way harder to undo years of bad habits and much easier to take your time and do things right from the beginning

Credit for images is AFGHANISCAN