Saturday 27 June 2020

Dennis Cassidy - Promotor / Collaborator & Drummer with various artists including jazz/hip-hop collective Mixtapes From The Underground

What type of drum kit do you play?

I'm a bit of a vintage drum nerd so my main kits are a 60s Rogers Holiday in 20, 12, 14 and a 70s Japanese Badge Pearl in 22, 12, 16. I love that old-school dry studio sound, so both kits are set up with coated P4 heads on the toms and an Emad on each bass drum (with plenty of tea towels on standby) My main snare is a Pearl Sensitone Aluminium 14x6.5 that I use on pretty much everything as it has that lovely warm 70s era Acrolite tone and is incredibly versatile. If I'm doing more of a hip-hop/electronic thing I'll bring the Mapex Brass Master 13x3.5 which is essentially a modern, piccolo version of the Black Beauty. It's cranked pretty high with an O-Ring for extra dryness so is perfect for playing breaks and processed sounds. I'm proud to endorse Sabian Cymbals and Vater Drumsticks (huge thanks to all at Musicmaker) so I have a nice selection of Artisan, HH, HHX and AA models to choose from depending on the situation. My main live set up is a pair of 15" Artisan Light hats with 17" & 18" HHXtreme crashes in both brilliant and natural finishes. For a bigger sound I'll put those same hats with the 21" HHX Groove Ride and 19" & 20" HHXtreme crashes. I also have a really nice 22" Artisan light and 20" AA Raw ride with rivets that I use for quieter/jazzier stuff plus a couple of older model HH thin crashes that go together beautifully. Stick wise I go between the Vater 5B Sugar Maple and Jazz Ride models, as well as their Wire Tap brushes and T3 Mallets. 

Who are your favourite players?

There are so many! Style wise, I'm influenced by everything really. From straight up serving-the-song playing and stick-smashing heft, to unorthodox phrasing ideas and bold experimentation with sonics and textures. I started playing in the mid 90's so cut my teeth to all things grunge, punk and metal as well as some of the acid jazz and hip-hop around at the time. In the early 00's I got deeper into jazz and world music while studying in Newpark, which in turn expanded into free playing, minimalism, and electronica. Mid 00's to the early teens was a heavy diet of funk breaks and even more hip-hop, running the Mixtapes From The Underground project, and in the last few years I've been going down the less is more route, checking out a lot of early country, folk and Americana as well as tons of 60's & 70's Krautrock, psych, post punk and new wave. I've also been lucky enough to work at a record store the past seven years which has given me access to a wealth of sounds, so that's been a pretty big influence too. All of these different phases have informed the musician I am today and I'm always excited to keep exploring and listening as much as possible, with open ears and an open mind. In no particular order, drummers (and producers) such as Tony Allen, Stewart Copeland, Jimmy Cobb, DJ Shadow, Dave Grohl, Delia Derbyshire, Billy Martin, Mick Fleetwood, Jon Brion, MF Doom, Steve Reich, Four Tet, Edan, David Axelrod, Matt Chamberlain, Dave King, Questlove, Dosh, Squarepusher and Glenn Kotche (among many others) are all constant sources of inspiration. 

What are your favourite albums / songs?

Bob James - Angela (theme from Taxi) is a big one for me as it holds so many memories. I used to stay up way past my bedtime to watch that show and I always loved the combination of the opening flute line with the footage of the yellow checkered cab cruising across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. It still gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling all these years later! It's also the first time I heard the majesty of the Fender Rhodes which is pretty much my favourite instrument after the drums. More recently I've discovered the incredible Kentuckian singer/songwriter Joan Shelley, in particular her self-titled album from 2017 which was produced by Wilco main man Jeff Tweedy and features his son Spencer on drums. He's only in his early twenties but has the chops and sensibilities of Levon Helm, Jim Keltner and Ralph Molina combined. It's one of my favourite records of the last few years and is an absolute masterclass in song craft and understated playing. 

Other honourable mentions:

The Cardigans - Life
Joe Jackson - Look Sharp
Feist - Metals
ESG - Come Away With ESG 
Jaga Jazzist - A Livingroom Hush
Beastie Boys - Ill Communication

Can you tell us some of the artists that you have played / recorded with?

I've been very fortunate to work with some amazingly talented folk across various disciplines over the years, but definite highlights would have to be: Nina Hynes, Sean Og's Trihornophone, The Dead Flags, composer Garrett Sholdice, Tryst, Fehdah, Loah, AJ Croce (son of Jim Croce),The Holy Roman Army, Butter, Emma O’ Reilly,Shelley Bukspan, Lethal Dialect, Jamie Clarke (ex Ambience Affair) and my own improv jazz/hip-hop collective Mixtapes From The Underground. 

What advice would you give someone wanting to play drums?

Listen to as much music as you can and find out what moves you. Join a band and play shows. You learn more on stage than you ever can in a practice room. Find a good teacher that inspires you. If you can, learn to read music and work on your rudiments. If you want to be a working musician, learn to play with a click, be on time for rehearsals and gigs and do your homework before said rehearsals and gigs. Get a good physio (your body will thank you for years to come) and always, ALWAYS protect your ears. 
There's no right or wrong way to create, so try not to get hung up on criticism or what other people may think. Being a creative person can be hard and there can be a certain expectation to be switched on all the time, from yourself and from others. It's ok to have off days. This is normal so be kind to yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for help, be that talking to other artists, friends and family or to a counsellor. Playing music is such a privilege, so enjoy it and if you can make a living from it then even better. Most importantly, have fun! 

What upcoming projects are in the pipeline?

At the moment all gigs are off the table with the Covid pandemic, but I was lucky to get to record some great music before the lockdown happened. The main one being with my longtime friend and co-conspiritor A.Smyth on his debut album which we did with the brilliant Dara Nolan at his Astakalapa studio in Gorey. It's a really special record and I'm so proud to have played on it. Also did some nice neo-soul grooves and percussion for my pals, Sligo based La Gracia. My good buddy and local funkster Danny G is putting the final touches to his second album and there may be some new music from Paj and Selk too. I'm also working on a beat tape for my solo project Mother Tongues, which is all made using samplers and turntables (no drums allowed!) so I'm hoping to put that out over the coming months. 

Photo credit; Stephen Kiernan 

Sunday 21 June 2020

Brendan Doherty - drummer with Cloud Castle Lake

What type of drum kit do you use?
It's kind of a mix and match kit made up of '60s Rogers toms, an old Premier 20" kick drum from the '50s and a '70s metal shell premier snare. I use Istanbul Agop Cymbals.

Who are your favourite players?
Elvin Jones, Earl Palmer, Danny Richmond, Jim Keltner, Paul Motian, Ringo, John Bonham to name just a few.

What are your favourite albums / songs?
Stone Flower - Antonio Carlos Jobim
Good Old Boys - Randy Newman
Mingus Oh Yeah - Charles Mingus
Hosono House - Haruomi Hosono
Somewhere Else - Sun Ra
Swing Slow - Swing Slow

How did you get involved in Cloud Castle Lake?
Through a friend. They were looking for a new drummer and a mutual friend recommended me, so I went in and we played through some stuff and it just kind of clicked. It's been a great experience playing with them, and many of the other projects I'm now involved in came about through connections I made through CCL. So I'm forever thankful to the guys for having me on board.

What current plans do the group have? 
It's been a pretty quiet year for us. We're all involved with other projects outside CCL and were all pretty busy individually for the past year, so we didn't have much time as we'd like to focus on the band. Once this lockdown ends though, hopefully, we'll be back in the studio working on new music!

How are you spending your time during this COVID-19 lockdown?
I've been having a crack at learning Ableton, which I've been meaning to do for a long time. Doing a lot of cooking, walking, listening to music. It's been a good opportunity to get some practise done. I don't have a kit set up at home so I've just been doing some much-needed hand technique practise

Photo credits; Igor Kwasniak and Red Keane.