Sunday 19 July 2020

What type of drum kit do you use?

I have a few drum kits: a Yamaha, a Canopus and I practice on a '67 Ludwig white pearl marine in sizes 22 x 18, 12x9, 13x9, 16x16 with a Ludwig supraphonic snare 5x14 that I bought in New York with Zildjian A's cymbals, 14" hi-hats and 18" and 21".

Who are your favourite players?

When I started out on drums my favourite players were from the bands I was listening to, like Dennis Davis (Bowie), Michael Shrieve (Santana), Ginger Baker (Cream), Phil Thompson (Roxy Music), James Gadson (Bill Withers), Phil Collins (Genesis), and Chris Frantz (Talking Heads). Growing up some of the Irish players I listened to were Fran Breen, John Wadham, Jerry Fehily and Darren Beckett. 

Then, when I started to really study drums and take playing more seriously, I learned so much from drummers like Kenny Clarke, Papa Joe Jones, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams to name a few innovators on the drum kit who continue to inspire me. My first teacher in New York was Eddie Locke, a phenomenal player and mentor, who taught me as much about the tradition of Jazz as playing the instrument itself. Of course, there are some incredible current drummers--Billy Hart, Marcus Gilmore, Dan Weiss and Tyshawn Sorey--who are doing really exciting things and exploring new boundaries on the drums.

What are your favourite albums / songs?

I remember stocking shelves in a supermarket as a kid and they would always play Paul Brady's "Nothing But The Same Old Story." I loved that song and the album Hard Station. Jimi Hendrix was a big inspiration, especially Band Of GypsysKind Of Blue was my gateway into the world of Jazz so of course Jimmy Cobb was a big influence. I got to see him and hear him play many times in NYC when I lived there, which was a dream come true. Any John Coltrane album; Elvin Jones was another huge inspiration. I got to hang out with him a couple of times, once at a drum workshop in Dublin before I moved to NYC. When he asked if I knew anyone there, and I said "not really," he turned to me and replied, "well, you do now." That gave me a lot of confidence to make the leap.

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

I left school when I was 16 with the life of a drummer in my mind and started playing with a local band in Cork called The Dancing Bastards from Hell, affectionately known as just "The Bastards." It was a conglomeration of well known musicians in Cork at the time. I only really got the gig because they had basically run off every other drummer in town with a lot of onstage slagging. That was as much a part of the Cork scene as it was how you played. It was a tough apprenticeship in those days but fun. I think they left me alone because there wasn't any other drummer left and I was so young. The band was banned from Trinity College and the entire town of Mitchelstown amongst many other claims to fame. 

Then, of course, I started to play with the Emperors Of Ice cream, Bass Odyssey and a host of other local bands at that time. Whenever the great Louis Stewart was in town we played together. He was another game changer for me as a young drummer. Here was this world class guitar player who encouraged me and was supportive of my playing. I also got to record with Bic Runga and Nick Seymour (Crowded House) before I decided to try playing in Berlin for a year and then NYC for 18 years. In New York I had an opportunity to play with Saul Rubin, Greg Glassman, Stacy Dillard, Asaf Yuria, Pasquale Grasso, Alexi David and Dida Pelled, among many other bands. I recently moved to Amsterdam and am enjoying getting to know the scene here.

How does it feel to have The Emperor of Ice cream back together again?
I'm really enjoying getting back together with The Emperors. Graham Finn--the Emperor's guitar player--is also in NYC and we'd try to play together whenever we could, and it's been great to get back working with Eddie Butt, Haggis and Eddie Kiely, our manager, again. It all happened very organically. Starting with a nostalgic newspaper article in the Irish Examiner; the interest in the band and enjoyment of the singles we've released so far has given us a wonderful opportunity to finish an album we started 25 years ago.

The long awaited debut album from Emperor of Ice cream is about to be released. Can you tell us what can we expect?

We're proud of this album and want it to cement our time together as a band--where we grew up, the time we shared--and also who we have become as musicians and people since then. It's been exciting to see our two singles, "Lambent Eyes" and "Everyone Looks So Fine," do so well in Ireland and it's been fun re-recording a number of these songs from our locations around the world. It's all pretty remarkable considering we popped up again after all these years and can't play live currently with COVID-19 to support the album.

Hopefully next year we'll have a chance to show the folks who have supported us that we can still play our asses off and give people a great night out, which we could all do with right now!!!

How did you cope during the COVID-19 lockdown?  

Obviously I miss playing live with other musicians but I try to be positive and use this time for personal practice on the drums. I have a ton of stuff I'm working on--like four-way coordination and melodic playing on the kit. And, of course, we're putting the Emperor's album together and promoting it online and with social media. 

Between the album, practice, listening to music and learning more on the piano there's no shortage of things to do during lockdown. But, you know, it's also important to take it easy on the expectations we have of ourselves right now and focus on finding the joy in drumming and music, however we can.