Q&A #24: Matthew David

 

 

 

Matthew shares his journey as a drummer, his preference of one (big!) screen rather than multiple monitors, and the realisation that focused practice could have improved his skills greatly.

 

 

 

Leigh Lim: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Matt. I noticed that there are a couple of vintage kits, is that a soft spot? (You’d pick, or even rescue an unloved, old-old-old kit, rather than purchase a new, or second hand one that was less than 5 years old)

 

Matthew David: I own 1 vintage kit yeah, and I had wanted to buy a vintage kit for as long as I could remember. Being able to restore one, well, that kind of makes it even more special. This kit was collecting dust and rusting away in a friend’s garage. When I dug it out and realised it was the exact sizes I wanted (20″ kick, with short 12 and 13 inch toms, plus a 16″ floor) I knew I had to have it. I took it home and spent an entire Easter weekend scrubbing, wiping, scraping, polishing, till the skin virtually came off my hands.

I smelled of polish and chemical and vinegar and detergent and whatever else I was using. But within a week, I had a fully functioning, totally restored kit (I also had to buy all new skins, plus snare wire and throw-off, plus a couple of hoops and some other bits and pieces). I use it in a 50’s/60’s band, and it’s great fun to play and sounds perfectly old-school.

 

LL: Did you have to wait long to find (and receive) the parts you needed for the restore?

MD: I just went to my previous place of employment (music shop) and bought the parts there. From memory I had to order something in but it only took a few days. I wasn’t up for trying to restore it with genuine parts, so I put generic parts on as no-one would be able to tell the difference anyway.

 

LL: Also! There are a number of Saluda Sound files! Was that a phase? (or you really like those Saluda Cymbals?)

MD: Saluda are great cymbals. I brought a whole bunch in from America to try myself and sell on to others, to get the name out there.

I don’t tend to use them much nowadays though, the ones I brought in were all within a certain kind of sound and I just don’t play the styles that suit the sounds. In saying that though, I use a Saluda Mist-X 16″ crash a lot, fantastic cymbal, it’s kind of like a Zildjian K Custom Hybrid.

 

 

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

 

MD: When I started playing, I had lessons privately for about the first 6 months from a guy that wasn’t trained himself. We used a book “Progressive Rock Drumming” by Andy Griffiths, and I just basically worked through the exercises.

I didn’t exactly learn rudiments properly, in fact I couldn’t do proper double stroke rolls till I’d been playing for over 10 years (I’d done a lot of press rolls up until that point!). I remember one exercise he gave me was to play the intro part to the Screaming Jets song “Better”. He came back a week later and I played him what I’d practiced. He had to correct me, as what I was playing was actually a more complicated version of the part (I think I had written it down wrong, or just learned it differently and got stuck on doing it that way instead). That basically gave me the confidence to attack just about anything, drum-wise.

From there, I started to delve into blues and funk… nothing tricky though. About 6 years later my tastes all changed, I got more into hard rock, including progressive music, starting with some odd time signatures by guys like Soundgarden, and moving into trickier stuff like Dream Theater.

This got me into even heavier music, mainly Pantera, where I started to write a fusion of heavy metal and progressive music, with solid heavy grooves that you might find in a Rage Against the Machine track.

Eventually I moved into hard rock, then fell in love with latin, which allowed me to experiment with new grooves using the kit plus timbales, bells and blocks, and is really tightening me as a player.

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

MD: I guess it would contain music by a variety of bands/artists, and chops from a variety of drummers. Even if you only like one style of music, check out a wide range of styles to see what people are doing.

Learn your rudiments, learn how to play to a click, but never forget how important groove is. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be a bit sloppy sometimes. Don’t be the player that sits comfortably in a song and just plays predictable safe grooves and fills. Be the player that does the crazy stuff, because even though sometimes you might screw up, I guarantee when you play that killer groove or smash that totally out there fill or solo part, you’ll feel amazing, and your crowd will love it (and you’ll be known as the drummer that landed it!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a drummer?

 

MD: Not entirely. I tended to just have a natural talent, that allowed me to not have to practice a lot in order to get better as a player. Problem was I became complacent and then years later realised I should be better than I actually was! I still feel like I don’t practice enough… I play a lot, but don’t tend to practice things too often.

 

 

LL: Where there times when you didn’t want to practice? (What did you do to keep going?)

 

MD: Quite often I don’t have the energy. Or if I do have the energy, I don’t have the patience, so I’ll tend to just jump on the kit or timbales and smash away for a while, as opposed to practicing technique etc.

 

LL: Any words of wisdom for drummers who are quite keen to find the energy and the patience, to practice?

 

MD: You really just have to make time to practice. And don’t let yourself plateau as a player. If you get stuck, change it up and learn a new style. If you’re a right handed player, start playing left handed instead. Flip everything around and it will keep you stimulated and interested.

 

 

 

 

LL: If you had a chance to redo things, what would you have wanted to practice on and work on?

MD: I just wish I had started to learn latin grooves years before I did. Not only does latin playing require a lot of discipline and feel, it’s also great to play a style where you can go between tight and robotic to crazy improvisation, all while people are dancing along and enjoying it.

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

 

MD: Heel up, both feet.

 

LL: Has that always been the case since you started drumming?

MD: Yeah always heel up.

 

 

LL: Favorite Shoes for Drumming?

MD: I don’t get a say, a lot of the time, because I play in bands that require me to wear more formal shoes. If I have to pick, I’d say light and grippy. Though I’ve had a lot of trouble with my feet and legs over the past 5 years (mostly unrelated to drumming) that have prevented me from wearing that kind of shoe (I have to wear something with a lot of rigidity and support).

 

LL: How would you describe your generic kit set-up?

MD: 5 piece, 2 up, 1 down, 2 crashes, ride, hats. This is my standard rock setup.

My setup for latin is usually the same plus add in an extra tom (when there’s room on stage!), an extra cymbal or 2, timbales, 3 cowbells, and a block.

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

MD: For drums, I have a Pearl VSX graffiti kit, 22, 10, 12, 14, 16, short stack toms, black hardware. I’ve also got a ’69 Pearl kit that I restored, oyster shell wrap, 20, 12, 13, 16. And a Sonor Force 3003, 22, 8, 10, 12, 14, with 10″ accent snare.*

Mainly running Remo heads – Pinstripes and Ambassadors (clear and coated). Tried Evans, Aquarians and Attacks for a while, went back to the trusty old Remos because they do what I want.

Pearl signature timbales. Meinl signature congas. LP, Meinl and Sonor bells.

Tama Iron Cobra double kick pedals.

I use a lot of different brands of cymbals, just whatever I’d collected over the years and I like the sound of. I’m mainly a Sabian man at heart though, they tend to make cymbals that really capture the sounds I’m wanting to use. Also have Zildjian, Paiste, Saluda and Stagg.

Sticks I tend to use Vater 7a in Sweet Ride or Manhattan. I never got the hang of heavy sticks and these ones are long and weighty, but also thin enough to fit in my hands comfortably. I also use a heavier timbale stick, at the moment it’s Pro Mark.

Snares I only have a few, a nice Yamaha Sensitive 13×6.5, a Sonor Force 3003 14×5.5 and a 70’s Ludwig Supraphonic 14×5.5.

 

* Editor’s Note: Since there has been significant time between Matthew answering this question and him reviewing the draft for publishing, Matthew mentions that he doesn’t play a sonor kit anymore. His main kit is a Pearl Masters MCX, 22, 10, 12, 16. Instead of a Sonor 3003 snare, he now has a Drum Craft Series 8 maple 14×6.5, and a Sonor Force 3007 12×5 maple. As he doesn’t play in a Beatles/Sixties band anymore, his vintage Pearl kit hasn’t had much use in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: That is definitely an array of gear! Do you usually go (clear) Pinstripes for the batter and (clear) Ambassadors for resonant (for toms)?

 

MD: Clear Ambassadors or Evans G1s for bottoms, and basically anything I like the feel of for the tops. It really comes down to the kit, and the style that I play on the kit. On my latin / funk kit, I have clear emperors on top, to give me a hardy and punchy sound, but still tonnes of resonance.

On my old-school kit, I have coated emperors, again for the hardy punchy sound, but with the old-school element associated with it. And on my rock kit, I have pinstripes, for massive punch. Emperors and Pinstripes are highly tunable, you can take the pitch up and down and they still sound awesome.

 

 

 

LL: With your double Pedals, why Tama (Iron Cobras)? (Is it because the footboards are quite heavy and chunky — as opposed to Pearl’s double pedals?)

 

MD: I bought them because I knew they were good. These days I mostly play single pedal though, simply because I found myself getting a bit lazy and using double pedal too often for things that I should be able to do with just the single pedal.

One time in the music shop I worked at I managed to get a cheap Pearl double pedal to feel as good as the more expensive Pearl pedals, and even setup a Dixon double pedal to feel just as good as well. So this led me to believe it was more about the setup than any other variable. In saying that, I’m happy with my Iron Cobra pedals, and can’t see any need to replace them any time soon.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

 

MD: I’ve always liked having at least 2 rack toms, and at least 1 floor. I like having a lot of stuff to hit! Also I avoid putting a ride cymbal where a tom might go, such as in a 1 up 2 down setup (even though it’s so trendy to do it!), because I prefer to have a nice flow between each tom, instead of a gap that a ride would create. Ultimately I think my ideal setup is 3 up, 2 down, with timbales, cable hats, and a whole bunch of cymbals.

 

LL: So having your ride a bit further from you isn’t an issue, as they would be (Comfortably) an arm’s reach, and you can spend a whole gig on the ride, and you wouldn’t have any muscle tension (as opposed to if you had to reach out a bit to get to the ride)?

 

MD: Usually don’t have any problems. I don’t find it’s “further away”, more like just positioned differently. I’ve spent 20 years with the ride in that position so I don’t tend to think too hard about it. When I play latin I also ride on an 18″ cymbal that sits over behind my hats / timbales. It really just comes down to what you get used to.

 

 

 

LL: Are cable hats for your auxiliary Hi-Hats? (Or are you using it as your main hi-hat stand?)

MD: Cable hats I only use when I play latin, as it allows me to place the hats closer to the first rack tom, meaning I can position the timbales closer in (so I don’t have to stretch out as far to the left in order to play the timbales). It beats me why more latin players don’t do this, to be honest I haven’t seen anyone else doing it like this.

 

 

LL: When tuning your kits, do you have a specific process?

MD: I just wind up the top and bottom till the key starts to feel a bit of tension, then I tweak with quarter turns top and bottom until I get the tone I want. I like to tension my top and bottom skins to be fairly close to each other, I think the drum resonates the best that way.

 

LL: Drum Maintenance and Storage?

MD: Not as much as I should do!

 

LL: How would you go about restoring hardware that has started to rust?

 

MD: A few pieces I abandoned entirely because they were too far gone. Most of it I was able to salvage by a combination of aluminium foil, steel wool, vinegar and polish. There was a lot of rust and corrosion but I was able to fix most of it no problem. The Ludwig snare is pretty rough but it doesn’t bother me in the grand scheme of things, I play it for the sound not for the look!

 

 

 

 

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk? (heads, Sticks)

 

MD: I’ve never done it so I wouldn’t know. Probably not a bad idea. I’ve bought sticks in 3 or 4 sets at a time before, but that’s as “bulk” as I’ve gotten. If I was going to tour, or was playing more than a couple of times a week, I would buy up more in bulk.

 

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

 

MD: If I’ve just started with a band I may keep a note of who starts each song, until I’ve done a few gigs with that band and then it just becomes habit.

When I first started playing latin, I took a lot of notes, writing down how each song started, the main grooves in each song, the way the songs finished, and the main lines that were sung (so that I could differentiate between tracks, because at the time, since I was only just starting out, a lot of the tracks sounded the same to my untrained ears!).

I try to avoid having any notes at gigs, I prefer to just memorise the songs and stay alert on stage.

 

LL: With the gigs you do, are there universal communication signs that you agree on beforehand?

 

MD: Depends on the band really. In some of my bands I end up doing a lot of the leading, and people watch me for the cues. Other bands, I just sit back and let other people manage it. You tend to work things out on the stage, more than agreeing on things beforehand.

 The trick is to just be flexible, watch other band members constantly and don’t get too absorbed in your own little world.

 

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LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

 

MD: It doesn’t really exist. I typically just jump on stage and play. Though I will take it easy and remain as relaxed as possible in the first instances, which helps me keep my energy up for the whole night.

 

LL: Are there times when you turn down gigs?

 

MD: Definitely. Although I tend to take most gigs as I earn a substantial amount of my dollars this way.

 

 

LL: Do you have a specific diet that you stick to and exercise regimen?

 

MD: I should, but I don’t. I was doing cardio at a gym for a while there, but then moved house and didn’t join up to another gym. Lately I’ve been really conscious of stretching, just making sure I’m fairly limber before I start bashing away.

 

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

 

MD: I try to keep pretty consistent grooves happening. Sometimes I’ll get bored and chuck in some silliness for the sake of it. I tend to overplay as opposed to under, and I’m quite aware that it’s something I do so I make an effort to avoid doing it in gigs (though I’m pretty sure I still overplay haha).

Ultimately I just attempt to be sensitive to what’s happening in the music at any point in time, I try to have fun, create some energy and put on a show. I’m a little sloppy, I’m not the tightest player around, but I can slot into pretty much any style and take the music to a new level, which keeps me employed and has a lot of bands always asking  me back to play with them. I’m also my biggest critic!

 

LL: When you overplay — is it just enough that it satisfies your need for silliness?

 

MD: Very rare that my overplaying annoys other musicians. Typically if I try something tricky and pull it off, other band members will smile because they’ve noticed it. Sometimes I do it just to see if they’re still awake!

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

MD: My next goal is to play for a Latin band where all the other musicians are miles better than me! I love a challenge and, providing they can be a bit patient with me, would love the chance to get to the next level with Latin music.

There are definitely plans to visit Miami (again) and Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia… 

I also have some connections with some solid Brazilian musicians so am keen to get back to Brazil to jam with them and see where it leads.

Technicality-wise, I spend a lot of time working on chops and jamming to Latin tracks, in an effort to just keep honing my skills. I don’t think I would ever reach a point where I wouldn’t want to be better, I’m always looking for that next level.

 

 

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

 

MD: Extremely mindful now that I’ve had the issue with my feet and legs for the past 5 years. The main thing I think about is my posture, and I have spent basically this year learning to sit more upright as I play. I also have to go easy on my feet so sometimes have to play softer so as to reduce the stress on my body.

Matched grip was just how I always played, and it feels right to me so I stick with it.

 

LL: What’s the average amount of takes per video?

MD: Depends on the video, and depends on the day! Some days I just crack it, other days I’m playing terribly. Or then the gear stuffs up and you only realise after you’ve done the perfect take that it only recorded the first 10 seconds then turned off!

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use? (in your Saluda test video – you use a mobile phone, and some mics — what software did you use? And what did you use to keep that LG phone still?)

MD: Typically I record in Adobe Audition. Simple, easy to use and does everything I need it to do. The LG phone would’ve just been propped up against something. No other clamping devices or anything were used. The second video you referenced was filmed on a Canon DSLR. I tend to do all my videos now on that setup, as I own a lot of lenses and it gives me the best visual quality.

 

 

LL: Was choosing a DSLR something specifically for video?

 

MD: I had a couple of DSLR’s before I bought my 600D, and the reason I bought the 600D was purely for the 1080p video (I had a 40D before that and it took great photos).

 

 

LL: Do you mix the audio for your videos?

MD: Yeah I do all my own mixing. When I have mic’d in anyway. Otherwise I’ll just pull the sound out of the phone/camera and do a quick tweak before uploading. But I try to do things properly, with good audio, when I can.

 

LL: Will we be seeing gig videos with sound from the main mixer soon?

MD: I attempted it earlier this year with one of my bands, and because I didn’t get the chance to sound check it, it wasn’t perfect. I ended up combining live audio in the camera with the mixer output, and it sounded OK.

I’ll probably do more down the track as I have a new mixer that allows me to quite easily record the full mix in stereo. Usually it’s just enough to get the gig sounding good, so I don’t have much time to do a proper recording.

 

 

 

LL: What are your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit?

MD: Typically I’ll roll off the mids in the kick, if there’s a way of doing a parametric on around 2.5khz I’ll do that. On toms I’ll do similar, just pull a bit of mid, and sometimes a bit of low if I’m getting too much rumble in them.

Snare I pull a little bit of mid. Ultimately if the gig is big enough to warrant doing a really nice mix of the kit, I won’t be in charge (it’ll be a sound guy running his own PA).

 

 

LL: Did you have to deal with latency issues when recording?

MD: Haven’t had to deal with latency too much. I’m usually running decent sound cards and don’t have the problem. If anything is slightly out of sync I’ll just jump in and match it by ear/eye.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos?

MD: Just whenever I get the urge, and have the spare time, to record one.

 

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

MD: Not entirely. Though I am a bit of a purist when it comes to latin grooves. Things like clave, you have to get that stuff right. And what instruments and sounds go towards creating different latin styles (for example, a lot of latin jazz / mambo gets passed off as salsa, when it’s clearly quite different.) Things like understanding why Colombian salsa is different to Cuban, Puerto Rican, USA styles of salsa.

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

MD: Just about all the latin artists I listen to are fairly unknown in Australia. With exception to guys like Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, and bands like Buena Vista Social Club.

My favourites would have to be Victor Manuelle, Timbalive, Gilberto Santarosa, Jose Alberto, Oscar De Leon, Grupo Gale, Fabian Torres, Huey Dunbar, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Luis Enrique, Andy Montanez, Moncho Rivera, Frankie Ruiz.

Non-latin bands like The Truth, Directions in Groove, Incognito, not too well known around here but fantastic bands.

 

 

LL: How about songs/albums that you cannot get enough of?

MD: Pretty much the guys above. Can listen all day and not get tired (and I do listen all day haha).

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new music?

MD: Yeah all the time. Because I also do latin DJ’ing, I’m constantly on the lookout for new material that no-one else is playing around these parts. It keeps my DJ’ing fresh and means that I always get rave reviews.

 

 

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration? What do you do when you need to come up with a musical idea?

MD: Usually ask my brother! He’s a mad crazy guitarist and just a freak of a musician. Or I just absorb all that above music and bounce off that.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

MD: Took me a while to get into it. I see the benefits of it, but I think there’s still way too much crap out there.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MD: Anything car related usually 🙂 Or just Youtube, checking out music / drum videos.

 

 

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

MD: Play the kit. Or the timbales. Or the congas. Or work on my cars.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

MD: Definitely. If they’re the same level as me and interested in doing the same types of music that I am, for sure.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

MD: I love audio plugins, I have a tonne of those. I like upgrading my computer every now and then, at the moment it’s a quad core beats with a fast graphics card, and my monitor is a 40″ Sony LCD. I’m definitely a tech head, though I don’t really have the income to be a very good one!

 

LL: A 40″ monitor!? Quite sizable! Did you choose that size because you needed more space when editing?

MD: Laptops bug me, I love screen real estate. the 40″ screen allows me to do audio and video with ease, opening multiple windows at once (like, a mix window and an FX window, for example), rather than running dual monitors. I’ll probably upgrade down the track but at the moment 1080p on a 40″ screen does me fine.

 

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

 

MD: I’d like to do some more guides, and also some more timbale covers. I’m probably due for uploading 1 or 2 more, now that I have a bit more free time that could be a possibility for the next couple of weeks.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

MD: Hard to tell. Really depends what I’m picking for. I like my timbale cover, since I like the song and I enjoy playing Latin. But I know it’s not my best playing. I don’t really have one that I feel highlights my playing properly.

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

MD: Well, it comes down to the video. If it’s my latin band, I want them to think “these guys aren’t too bad!” and then they book us for a gig! For my personal playing, I’m happy if it inspires people to make up their own stuff and get better as a player. After all, it’s not a competition. And I am of the mindset that if I’ve learned something, I just be gracious enough to pass that on to others.

 

 

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

MD: Playing with awesome musicians definitely does that. Or just jamming along to my favourite tracks.

 

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

MD: This is still something I struggle with. Audiences are fickle and sometimes you just can’t figure them out. Ultimately I just try to do things that I think audiences will enjoy. Keep people entertained and do things in a way that they haven’t seen/heard before. And it usually pays off.

 

 

 

 

 

* Matthew is a drummer based out of Queensland’s Gold Coast. You can find content on his Youtube channel where he shares groove ideas, covers, as well as gear reviews. See things through his eyes (as well as have a glimpse of the projects he’s working on) via his Instagram feed. He is open to teaching privately though he thinks he’d be better at doing instructional videos than getting students in and trying to teach them. As for gigs and recordings (in person or online), you can reach out to him to have an initial conversation to see if your project would be a fit for him.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August 2014 – September 2016) between Matthew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #22: Nigel Powell

 

Nigel shares his journey of being a drummer, the perils of being self taught, and how learning proper posture early on helped him with his playing.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Nigel, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! On your YouTube page, you use an alias, and from what I can notice, you don’t put your name in your videos. Is that something you just wanted to have a bit of play with?

Nigel Powell: Most of that is historical. My alias everywhere is sadsongco, which comes from The Sad Song Co., the ‘band name’ that I’ve so far released two solo albums under – my third is in the recording process right now.

I opted for that when I started working on solo stuff because I can’t see the name ‘Nigel’ as very rock and roll or credible! Probably a contextual thing. In my work with other people, especially Frank Turner, I go under my given name, but all of the social media accounts I set up used the project name.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

NP: The bulk of my learning was copying records I liked. I tried teaching for a little while, but it didn’t feel right to me. I just wanted to say to students “go and play along with your favourite album until it sounds right”, because the way you do things wrong is what makes drumming develop and be exciting, and creates original and new drummers with identifiable personalities.

When I was first out and gigging there was a famous drum school in London called Drumtech, and whenever you came across a player who’d learned there you could instantly tell – they were like little drumming clones. They could always play the arse off everyone around them technically, but it always seemed to be lacking soul.

 

I do practice though. I used to do it much more, working on rudiments (which some drumming friends had showed me), working things out at home. We play so much with Frank now that I don’t practice in quite the same way any more, I much prefer playing with people in front of an audience. It develops different skills – my technical level has perhaps declined a little, but in terms of vibe and making a band sound good (which is the top of my priorities anyway) I’m as good as I’ve ever been right now.

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

NP: I worked through the first half of Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin a few times, and will still occasionally revisit to see if I can break through to the second half.

From time to time I work on pages from Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, sometimes hands and sometimes feet. But as I say, I’m on the road so much that that ‘woodshed’ kind of approach to my playing has taken a back seat to actually playing shows.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

NP: Definitely wouldn’t want someone to go through the same journey that I did. If I had to give advice it would be to get into a band with your mates at school (or even more than one band), and learn your instrument in the context of how it makes music with other people, rather than from a technical perspective.

Take some advice from knowledgeable people about simple technical things – how to hold the sticks, letting them rebound, that kind of thing – otherwise you will find yourself hitting a wall later on and having to unlearn things. This is a problem I still come up against because of my self-taught approach.

But as to drumming as a philosophy, find your own, and invent yourself.

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

NP: Motivation is harder now than it was. But the biggest challenge is always working through something that you can’t do, starting it slowly and patiently making it work. Do what I say, not what I do – I get frustrated and I’m bad at being patient!

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a drummer? (That you were able to build up the knowledge and skill — and able to apply it)

NP: In terms of career success, I can only really put it down to always keeping going and staying positive, even when things were bad and I really should have given up pursuing it full time if I had any sense. It’s a boring answer, but I was very careful to plan myself financially and be careful with money so I could afford to ride out the bad times and keep going.

I had other jobs, responsible jobs, and things I was good at, but I always considered myself a drummer who was doing something else. You want to be in for the long haul as a drummer? Stop smoking and drinking, you’ll save yourself a rent’s worth of money every month so you’ll never be cornered into having to give it up!

 

 

LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to practice?

NP: There have been times when I didn’t practice. Depression and negativity visit most people at some time, and I would sit on a sofa and play video games rather than improving myself. I think anyone who says that never happens is probably not telling all of the truth. I’m sure even Gavin Harrison has occasional days when he thinks “bugger this, I’m going to the cinema”.

But luckily there’s always been a gig on the horizon, so eventually I need to get myself back in shape or risk making bad music, or not giving someone their money’s worth. That’s the thing that truly drives me – live, someone has chosen to take a percentage of the money that they earn, possibly doing something crappy that they hate, and they’re spending it on coming to see the show you’re contributing to. If you have any respect for that, you always do your best.

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

NP: The advice I picked up was all in bits and pieces. I never had a specific mentor, but gleaned little bits of information here and there. No-one was really invested in my learning except me.

If anyone deserves props it was my mum – my drums were in my bedroom above the kitchen, and I used to play for hours while she’d be cooking or something. If it was me I would have gone insane within a month!

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

NP: Ummm… hard to say. I try to think about whatever music I’m playing first.

I guess my personal preference is I don’t care it it’s simple or complex, but I’m looking for something original, even if it’s just a subtle twist that you wouldn’t necessarily consciously notice. Take the new Frank song ‘Get Better’. When we were arranging it straight away I wanted that relentless ‘four crotchets of snare drum’ feel. After shifting things around a little bit, it became that with the Sabian Chopper as well, which gives it the slightly unusual sound.

Then on the left foot for the second half of the first verse I’m playing hi hat tambourine, but it’s a three bar phrase, so it shifts across the pattern as the verse goes past. I don’t think anyone would notice unless you pointed it out, but it gives a subconscious texture. Then in the second verse the hi hat tambourine switches to the backbeat to give an injection of urgency, but the kick takes over on the shifting three bar phrase.

Something like that sums up how I think of my drumming style – trying to find ways to make it different, without it being obvious or self-consciously different, and it still rocking hard.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a drummer?

NP: I’m a fan of some prog rock, so a few people who’ve known that have assumed I’m going to be playing massive fills all over the place. But that’s not really me. I do, unequivocally, love Phil Collins, but I equally love the work of Rob Ellis on early PJ Harvey, and in my work I tend to take that approach – slightly weird patterns, generally repetitive to create an original groove – more than the prog.

 

 

LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished? (Idea, mental picture of how the end would look like, then chart it out? or are there people that note some input, then you go about finalising your work?)

NP: My concepts for things are all instinct, which I then use my right brain to realise. If it feels right when it’s done, it is right. I’ve never charted anything, except for occasionally in rehearsal where I’ve needed to remember something.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

NP: I’ve been practicing a bit more lately, trying to get my feet a bit more solid when playing double kick and getting through the glass ceiling of speed on my left hand. But that’s technique, not music. And everything that is ‘next’ for my playing is musical, not technical.

So it depends on what songs need their emotions refining and focusing as to what I need to do on the drums next.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

NP: I’ve always sat up straight. I saw a Dennis Chambers video ages ago where someone described his posture as “like he’s welded to a lamppost”, and I took that on board.

Thank goodness my idolisation of Phil Collins didn’t extend to mimicking his posture; now that his back problems have come to light, watching old videos of him just hurt to look at.

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down? (both feet?)

NP: Heel up for loud, heel down for quiet. Although my right foot has a weird thing it does on double, which is kind of a heel-toe thing, but not like I’ve seen anyone else do. The perils of being self-taught!

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

NP: I do half an hour of rudiments on a practice pad before we go on, to get the blood flowing through my hands.

 

 

LL: Favourite Shoes for Drumming?

NP: I’ve got a pair of Macbeth sneakers which seem to make playing easier. Totally psychosomatic I’m sure.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to play?

NP: When there’s other people to play with. Other than that, no preference.

 

LL: What’s your default gear set-up? (You did a walk through on your kit in this video — do the details still hold true currently? or have there been minor changes in your set-up since filming that?)

NP: That video is pretty much up to date. Little bits and pieces change from time to time, but that’s the basis.

 

 

LL: Do you keep track of your kit bits?

NP: I’m a bit of a hoarder, and I know where it all is.

I run a backline hire company with the bassist of The Sleeping Souls, so I own a few more kits that we hire out, but I love them all dearly. I still use my older drums for various things depending on what I’m doing. I recorded my third solo album recently and used my old Premier Genista concert tom kit and loved it.

The Dive Dive album we recorded recently used one of the hire kits with a 24” kick.

 

LL: Are you a bit of ‘gear-head’?

NP: Not really a gear head. If it works and sounds good then I’m happy and I’ll hang onto things forever.

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

NP: I’ve changed hoops from time to time, but no, not really.

 

 

LL: Do you vary your kit tuning?

NP: More once it’s right, I stick with it. Snares go up and down a bit in the studio, and there was one song on the new Frank Turner record where I tuned the floor tom to a note for a specific purpose.

 

LL: Drum Maintenance and Storage?

NP: I look after all my stuff, clean it regularly (I polish most cymbals as well, except for hi hats). My Frank Turner kits are in big flight cases, and they live there between tours. I have an identical kit in the states, which also sits all quiet and lonely in it’s road cases when we’re not there.

 

 

LL: Do you have a certain process when you get ready for gigs?

NP: Not really. I try and look after myself the whole time.

 

LL: When recording, are you pretty much hands on when mixing your kit?

NP: Depends on the project, but usually I make my drums sound the best they possibly can, and then trust producers and engineers to do their thing with it. I’ll throw my opinion in, but the best results usually come out of collaboration.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos on your YouTube channel?

NP: No schedule. If something interesting comes up then I’ll share it.

 

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

NP: I’m not mentoring anyone in the drumming sense of the word, but I have two children of my own so maybe there’s a bit of mentoring involved in that.

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

NP: Not that much annoys me, but unless it’s directly affecting me or someone I care about I try to let it go. There’s quite enough conflict in the world without trying to kick off because someone posted a YouTube comment you don’t like.

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

NP: I geek out about movies a lot. I love watching films for enjoyment, and then again looking at screenplay structure, editing, shot choice and other stuff. I’m totally an amateur about it, but they are excitingly complex things to analyse.

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

NP: I’m sadly not that big a listener. I’m going to blame that on age – I think at a certain point everything begins to sound like something else that you’ve heard, and it’s harder to just go “that sounds COOOL!!!” at things. I’m too analytical.

Occasionally though things do have an impact. A few years back the first two The Streets albums blew me away; recently Mew and Honningbarna (a Norwegian punk band) have really been exciting me. I tend to fall back on familiar things too much though. It’s not healthy, but it is what it is.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

NP: ‘The Hydrogen Sonata’ by Iain M Banks. One of the Culture novels. Only ever feel like I understand about 50% of what happens, but I really enjoy them anyway. Planning on re-reading ‘God Bless The NHS’ afterwards.

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

NP: As above, not really. It’s got better recently, because my girlfriend is a music journalist, so there’s a constant flow of new releases knocking around.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you?)

NP: They are definitely intertwined. I find inspiration usually comes from doing something, and once you’ve got a kernel of inspiration it motivates me to chase it down and finish it.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

NP: Obvious answer, but comedy. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my Norwegian girlfriend to loads of UK comedy she hadn’t seen, and getting to revisit it. The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge, Father Ted. All awesome!

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

NP: I have a very private personal Facebook which I really enjoy as a way of keeping up with friends, and I’m very selective about who I’m in contact with on there. Otherwise it’s excellent being able to have communication with people who appreciate your music through my more public FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I think it’s fabulous – face to face can be a bit threatening sometimes, but the technology allows a non-threatening way of having good two-way communication.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

NP: I visit Ain’t It Cool News most days. I used to visit Global Warming News daily, but it reading the comments was bad for my blood pressure, so not any more. Other than that, BBC News keeps me in touch from the road, and I click on The Hunger Site religiously.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

NP: I don’t, no. It’s not really my personality to be trying to foist my opinions on others.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

NP: Kids. Comedy. Cooking.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists online?

NP: I haven’t done it, but I would love to. I don’t know if people assume I’m too busy with Frank, but I don’t get many offers. I’m always up for anything!

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

NP: I’m competent at it, and I’ve programmed the back end to a few quite complex websites using PHP / MySQL. And from a professional point of view I keep up with what’s happening and where things are going, definitely.

 

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

NP: I upload things I think will interest people. So if the stuff I’m interested in shifts, then I guess my uploads will change too.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

NP: I think I am. But I’m always cautious about making any pronouncements about what kind of person I may or may not be. That’s a question for someone who knows me!

 

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time (or attending one of your gigs), what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

NP: It depends on the video. A bit of entertainment, some info they might be interested in, something to briefly raise a smile. Whatever it happens to be.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

NP: My kids.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

NP: Twitter and my public Facebook. Or just chatting after a show.

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

NP: I’ve always felt like a sole agent. I bounce around and am happy in a lot of people’s company (although usually I vastly prefer one-to-one over big group interaction), but I don’t really feel like I belong in a particular ‘tribe’, as you put it.

 

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

NP: I’m looking forward to getting the Dive Dive and Sad Song Co. albums out this year. Otherwise, I like to be surprised. Opportunities present themselves, I just have to be open to go “yeah, ok!”

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

NP: I taught on a BND Music for a long while, and I enjoyed trying to inspire kids through that kind of course. Other than that I try to make my default position to be ‘generous’, but again that’s something to ask a third party, rather than me pompously talk about how great I am.

 

 

 

* Nigel Powell is a drummer based out of Abingdon. You can check out more of his videos here and learn more about him on his Wiki Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (April-June 2015) between Nigel and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Nigel that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Nigel the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one?
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock Leigh in to be involved creating your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact her or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

The Quote Jar: Seven

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Dean during his Q&A.

“You have to play awhile to figure out exactly what is most comfortable, for you..” – Buddy Rich (Downbeat)

“I’m tuning those drums like a timpani player” – Manu Katche (NPR)

 

“…for me exercise is just as important as practising and I think it helps if I’m not playing, it helps when I do pick up the sticks and go back to work.” – Steve Gadd (Mike Dolbear)

“…as musicians we’re all trying to create good music, to have fun playing, to communicate within ourselves as a group, to communicate to the audience, to give something positive.” – Dave Weckl (Tomajazz)

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

 

 

🙂

 

Q&A #8: Dean Wuksta

 

 

“Dean shares his drumming journey, being on YouTube, and his approach to mastering.”

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

DW: I started on ice cream containers and bamboo sticks. I’d sit in front of the TV and watch the morning music shows and play along. Got a drum kit for xmas which was snare, kick, one cymbal (no hi hat) and began playing real drums at age 8. Six months later got my first gig playing at my school dance, and a family friend gave me a hi hat. I’m left handed, but my friend told me to play right handed so it will be easier in my career if I need to play other kits, which it definitely was.

I played to vinyl records for many years and just tried to copy what I heard, no lessons. I began lessons to read drum music at 15, and also learnt about rudiments, mainly the double stroke and the standard paradiddle. I used ‘Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer’ and ‘Syncopation’ by Ted Reed.

I also had some books by Frank Corniola and several others, mainly concentrated on funk styles, lots of left hand ghosting patterns. I also went to live clinics, watched videos, hung out and watched other drummers all the time. I have always spent most of my practise time playing to music, and use it as a metronome while I go thru stuff i wanna work on, like fill combinations, rudiment applications etc. And even more so lately, I love to get lost on youtube and watch other drummers, its an incredible resource…taught me loads since 2006.

Seeing Buddy Rich on TV as a child blew my mind, I didn’t know it was even possible to play like that, and he’s the reason why I investigated rudiments, particularly the double stroke roll.

Then while still at school, I heard of Vinnie Colaiuta through some Frank Zappa recordings, Steve Gadd, Toto’s drummer Jeff Porcaro (particularly the stuff he did with Bozz Scaggs and Steely Dan). Later it was Dave Weckl, Manu Katche, Virgil Donati (which inspired me to play double kick in the late 80s, but I have since lost interest).

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

DW: I’m ‘heel up’ on kick and hats, but sometimes my heel is also down on hats, depending on what style I’m playing, I often go heel down on jazz type stuff, or lighter funky stuff, but I’m not really conscious of it, I just find myself doing it naturally.

 

LL: Drumming Shoes?

DW: When i was a kid (like 12-16) I would do gigs at weddings and have to wear a suit and good shoes, I tended to slip my shoes off during sets. My dad (who drove me to every gig) said it looked unprofessional, so I got used to leaving them on. Now, I always wear shoes, thin rubber soles are my preferred shoe, but I will play in whatever…it’s very easy to get used to, and you def get more power wearing shoes.

 

LL: How would you describe your generic kit set-up?

DW: My generic set up is a basic 4 or 5 piece kit, 2 crashes, one ride. less to set up, the better. I’m using a Pearl Session series maple 10, 12, 14, 20, 14” by 7” Evetts blackwood snare.

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

DW: I have a good selection of Zildjians, Paistes, and Sabians. My normal set up is Sabian 17” thin Crash, Sabian 16” thin crash, and 20” Rude ride, or 20”Paiste Big Beat as a ride and Zildjian 14” new beat hats. I use Vic Firth 5A wooden tip sticks, I have a Pearl World Series 14” chrome snare, Mapex maple piccolo 13” snare and the Evetts 14” X 7”

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

DW: Not really, I find it a bit laughable when drummers are so particular about their set-up, I spent so many years playing other peoples kits on stages, and sometimes i barely got a chance to adjust anything, there was no time.

I’m def much happier with my own kit, but I will play whatever, preferably with some time to adjust heights etc to my liking. I’m sure drummers in famous bands get fairly spoiled and have everything within a millimetre of perfection, but no, I’ve never experienced that kinda luxury.

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

DW: No, I will take notes to practise if it’s a particularly hard arrangement, but I generally prefer to commit it to memory.

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

DW: I’ve never really done it, I like what Buddy Rich says, he reckons his warm up routine was to take his hands out of his pockets, I concur.

 

LL: In your videos, you seem to be light-handed — as opposed to other drummers who seem to really lay it into the kit and cymbals. Would you describe your playing style as ‘drumming with a light touch’?

DW: I do use a lot of force with my wrist but at a low level, but I also play differently depending on the gig, but I do prefer a lighter touch.

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: On your CD Baby page, there is a note that you played all the instruments yourself. Can you touch on your journey with the different instruments you play, and routines to ensure you don’t get ‘rusty’ in any of the instruments?

DW: In high school there was no drum teacher, and no drums, so I learnt guitar. I had already been playing drums semi pro for years, so I thought another instrument would good to learn.

Over the years I’ve taught myself bass and keyboards, but I don’t consider myself anything but a drummer, I know enough on those other instruments to write songs and communicate ideas…so it’s come in handy having a basic understanding of every instrument.

LL: How did you build up your bass and keyboard playing? (Were you going for being able to play a particular song?

DW: With bass guitar, I kinda got thrown in the deep end because of a school production. We had 2 drummers for the school production in year 9, I had always played drums so I decided to give bass a go, the student that had taken on the bass had problems learning the songs.

Being a drummer I already had a sense of what the bass guitar does in terms of following the kick drum, and I had already learnt guitar and could read music, so I didn’t find it that difficult. Once I learnt a few songs I began to really enjoy it, so kept practising.

I do not consider myself a great bass player, but I can figure out most songs and copy them by ear. With keyboards, I also never had any lessons, I have an understanding of basic music theory so I can work out where to put my fingers to make basic chords, but only well enough to add simple parts to my original songs.

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: YouTube has a very interesting approach to copyright — how do you find it? I ask because I came across one of your videos (Custard Pie) and noticed that the audio has been muted. Was it a case of not having the words: “Led Zeppelin cover” in the video title? Because you’re other video (linear 16th triplet) had the ‘guide track’ details in the ‘about’ section of the video, and the audio of that wasn’t blocked.

DW: Yes, that was annoying, and not the first time that has happened. I generally take a chance and hope for the best. If it becomes blocked, that’s okay, I’m not really that bothered, just a small waste of my time.

I have posted covers of loads of songs, but I don’t monetize them, just my original music. I’ve been a youtube partner for a few years.

LL: What monetising options are you going with (with YouTube)? The information page mentions there are three options. Can you comment on your experience with being a YouTube partner?

I applied to be a partner and got accepted a few years ago. I do not know what the deal is, I just monetize the videos that contain just my music or drumming, and youtube places ads on them. They used to send me a cheque from google but now it is deposited directly.

LL: Before putting your original music up on YouTube and CD Baby, what things did you do first?

DW: No, I never really put any research into where to place my songs on the net, like YouTube etc. I realize the chances of people using my songs without permission is quite high, as has happened in the past. Or people write to me and ask for permission.

But as far as making money these days on the net, it is very difficult, even for big stars, so much music is being downloaded for free. This is the reason why bands tour so much now, the income from recording sales is not what it was.

LL: Is there a specific reason you decided to go with CD Baby rather than itunes to carry your music?

DW: Not really, I use iTunes and CD baby, I think CD baby offers a better deal, and it seems to be popular with indie type artists. I have my music on other sites also.

LL: Did you have to jump through a few hoops to get your music on iTunes?

DW: I actually uploaded a track to CD baby (I think) and it automatically appeared on iTunes. I don’t know how that happened, maybe I accidentally ticked a box or sumthing when I was uploading, I have not ever specifically uploaded to iTunes.

LL: What’s the average amount of takes per video?

DW: That varies, sometimes it’s done by the first take after I practise it. But then sometimes it will take 5 or 6. Not usually because of major mistakes, but usually because it just sucked a little. I don’t think I have ever uploaded a perfect video to YouTube, I tend to play better when the camera isn’t rolling…I dont mind recording the audio, but the filming thing puts me off.

I’m not an extroverted person, quite the opposite. The fastest I could do a video, 5 mins for recording (if I got the first take) then mixing it on the movie software takes about 30 mins…so yeh, about 40 mins from start to finish.

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

DW: I use Pro Tools 7.4 software with a 002 Digidesign rack recording at 24bit/44.1 using about 10 mics on the kit. I have a sony HD camera which I set to highest resolution. I import video and pre-mixed audio into Magix movie software, bounce down to quicktime for upload.

My studio PC is very old, single core PC, 4 Gigs of ram with XP. My video editing is done on my Aspire laptop, windows 7.

LL: Have you previously used another recording/mixing software?

DW: Yes, I had a Fostex 4 track recorder, then I got an Akai DPS12i which was a 12 channel all in one digital recorder. Then I moved into Pro Tools.

LL: What are your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit?

DW: I have a template set up in pro tools. My go to settings are eq on everything, compression on kick and snare (I might use a slow attack and release on bottom snare mic, adds an interesting fatness) I sub the whole kit to an auxiliary channel, more eq and compression.

I don’t eq heavily, and often it’s more destructive than additive, trying to control low mid frequencies and spill without using gates. I believe the kit should sound pretty decent without any eq or effects, otherwise, I look at tuning and mic placement. I also add a little reverb, which I like the Waves Renaissance Reverb.

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: Can you walk me through your mastering process?

DW: Once again, I believe to master properly you really need to out source. But when I make ‘fake’ masters, I use waves eq, L2 limiter, and Izotope. I mainly use destructive eq, pulling out the low mids, I use the exciter in Izotope and a little of the maximizer, and then I add the L2.

I go for an RMS level of around –10, I feel trying to compete with commercial loudness levels is dangerous, but my mixes aren’t too far off. I still retain dynamics, and most of what I do is usually streamed on the net, so no need to try and push loudness.

LL: Would you say you spend more time editing or mastering a track?

DW: I spend a lot of time mixing and editing my music, a song may take me half a day, but for YouTube, I spend very little usually. Often it’s just a pre-mixed playalong song that I might drum to and ake a video, and my drum template is set up, so there is very little to do. If I’m mastering my music, I will spend days and keep doing listening tests…but for YouTube, I just chuck an L2 Limiter on the master fader, mastering done!

I have done multiple camera videos and spent a lot of time editing, but my movie software isn’t very reliable, freezes up all the time, wont play etc…so I keep everything very simple. I may look at changing the way I do things in the near future because I do enjoy film editing, just don’t have the gear to do it reliably.

 

LL: Also, I’d like to link to one of your videos. Which one would you say is either your favorite, or the one you’d regularly send if you were asked for a video?

DW: ‘practising linear 16th triplet phrasing‘ — my favs change regularly, but this is the one I have featured on my channel at the moment.

 

LL: Thanks for your time Dean, to close our Q&A session, are there any particular people who you’d like to reach out to you?

DW: Yeh sure, I have done cover suggestions before, and I have also done collaborations in the past too. I welcome questions or even just chatting about drums in general.

I also have some subscribers who send me videos for advice, and i have also made specific videos explaining fills etc that have remained private, just for the benefit of the one particular subscriber.

 

 

 

Dean Wuksta is a drummer based in Rockingham. You can find his videos here and some of his collaborations here. and can reach him through the form below

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

 Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-August 2014) between Dean and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Dean that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to put up your message with the option of getting Dean to answer).
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  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
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  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

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Q&A #6: Brinley Hall

 

 

Brinley talks about his journey as a drummer, how he got into the habit of wearing socks during rehearsals, and why he chooses to ‘over-mix’ the snare when recording.”

 

LL: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Brinley. When you joined YouTube, did you do so intending to create content?

BH: No problem! Yeah, when I first made my account it was to upload my first video, which was The Final Countdown, which now, inexplicably, has over 130,000 views!

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

BH: I started playing drums when I was 11 in school. I had lessons until I was 13 learning the Trinity Guildhall Syllabus of grades, I learned a lot of the rudiments during these lessons. I got to grade 6 by the time I stopped. That’s where I learned the basics. I’ve never really had any books that I’ve learned from. I listen to a lot of music though so I developed from my style from my favourite drummers.

When I first started playing drums I was really into Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin so I tried really hard to emulate Mitch Mitchell and Bonham, those guys are still my ultimate heroes. When I started doing covers I was massively into The Who and Muse so that was where most of my videos were based from. Towards the end of school I did my grade 8 exam and that was a nice bit of discipline which really helped to calm down my playing.

Now I’ve been playing in an originals folk act for a while my playing has calmed down even more and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m happy with the level of my playing at the moment. If I had to name one drummer that got me to where I am, I would say it would be between John Bonham, Jeff Pocaro and Mitch Mitchell.

 

LL: You mentioned you did two years of lessons from the ‘Trinity Guildhall Syllabus of grades’. Being where you are now with your playing, would you still want to go through that route?

 

BH: Yes! I believe that you have to have at least 6 months of lessons when you first start playing. Things like learning to grip your sticks properly, basic rudiments and limb independence are probably the most important. If you don’t learn this early you’ll end up with a lot of bad habits that will be harder to get rid of later.

 

 

LL: Can you give some examples?

BH: Stick grip is the main one. You see some people who have been playing for a long time still holding their index finger on the top of the stick and pushing down – who thought that was a good idea?! Lessons do help with a lot. I learnt to tune my kit and how to set things up so they are easy to play, and so I don’t break anything. You see a lot of drummers with their cymbals horizontal and 3 feet above them – that’s how you crack a cymbal!

 

 

LL: How do you think doing the grade 8 exam calmed down your playing?

BH: Before I did the grade 8 qualification, I had been teaching myself playing along to tracks for 5 years with no one telling me I was doing anything wrong (apart from the occasional hurtful comment on YouTube, which were mostly about my appearance rather than my playing).

When I started getting lessons for the grade 8 stuff, it was nice to have someone to say “no”. My teacher would stop me if I’d get distracted and make me play it again right. I think that helped me think a lot more about what I was playing.

Now when I play with my main band, I’ve actually got fills which I’ve written and use every time. Constant improvisation is only workable until it goes wrong somewhere important!

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

BH: I play heel up with both feet when I’m playing most music. If the setting is particularly quiet I will play heel down. It does depend on style. It often varies on the drum I’m playing too. If the kick is small and has a long sustain, I will avoid keeping the beater against the head after the strike has been made – this is easier to achieve with your heel down.

 

 

LL: Feet location on pedals: Would you have your feet closer to the edge of the foot-board (away from you) or not? Or maybe you’d go middle ground?

BH: I’m pretty sure I’m a middle ground player. You can see from that Wattershed cover where my foot lies. The faster the linear speed of the playing, the further back your foot comes is the rule, which is why some players use longboards (Gavin Harrison and Chris Adler both talk about this in interviews).

 

LL: In one of your videos it seems like you are playing with only socks for your feet. Has that always been a preference?

BH: My parents have always insisted on me taking my shoes off when I walk through the door. This meant I always was shoeless when I was rehearsing and it’s a habit that’s stuck. I play gigs with my shoes on, so it’s not an essential for me, just something I’ve got used to at home.

 

 

LL: With footwear (shoes during gigs, and none at home), do you think that influenced your choice of pedals?

BH: Not at all! I have a set if Iron Cobra doubles here which I use with just socks and you barely notice the texture on the pedals. I have a Sonor JoJo Mayer single pedal as well, which is completely smooth brushed aluminium. I find this pedal is easier to use with shoes as it can be a bit slippery with socks.

My choice of footwear is based on whether I can drum in them however. I always choose snug sneakers with grippy soles. I used to wear Addidas Low Riders but then the discontinued them – I was heartbroken. Now I wear Onitsuka Tiger’s and I love them!

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment to augment your drumming?

 

BH: At this very moment in time, I don’t have a lot of time to practise my own drumming. We (Tom James) are rehearsing, writing and recording getting ready for a summer of shows and festivals every day. If I’m behind the kit (which I am at least 2 hours a day) it’s with a band!

Having just finished university (I couldn’t have a kit there) I’m hoping to get some more lessons on general technique as I feel I’ve become rather lazy with my playing recently. I also aim to work heavily on my music theory, which I am appalling at, and my bassist/guitarist/keyboardist/good friend Ed and I are planning on working through the electric guitar grades together too.

 

LL: Did you have to go out of your way to find musicians to collaborate with?

BH: I’m lucky enough to have been good friends and band mates with Tom since we

Photo: Brinley Hall   (Self-Portrait with Ed Sirl)  Editing: Leigh Lim

Photo: Brinley Hall
(Self-Portrait with Ed Sirl)
Editing: Leigh Lim

were 12. When he decided he would like to have a drum kit in his set up I was the first person he came to, which is nice. Another very good friend of mine, Ed Sirl,

also happens to be a great musician. He plays with Tom too, and me and Ed have played together for a very long time. His YouTube username is ThymeFlies42. On

that channel you can see a few full band covers me and him have done of our favourite bands.

Aside from my close friends, I have found it very difficult to find other musicians I connect with. At University I had a shortlived band which I really liked. See “Start Again” on my SoundCloud (www.soundcloud.com/longstandingdead). Unfortunately, time constraints meant none of us could commit to rehearsal so the band never got off the ground.

 

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you think working on music theory could make you a better musician?

BH: It will give me a better understanding of the way music works. It’s healthy to understand everything you are doing on a musical level, rather than just recognising things by ear, like I do.I’d like to get to a point that I can sit in with other musicians (whether in the studio or live).

Most of the time you’re given sheet music and would need to learn how to ‘sight read’ — and for me, I still need a lot of practice before I can say I can.

 

LL: How would you describe your generic kit set-up?

BH: The kit that I would ideally play all the time is a one up, two down set up. My set up is often very much like Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He’s another big influence on me I didn’t mention before! Two Crashes, a china/ozone and a splash is fairly essential.

 

LL: With drum tuning, do you get pretty fussy?

BH: I tune by ear. I am fussy though. I like my drums to sing. I like a 3 or 4 second pure note decay so it takes a while to get to that tuning. For me, it’s a trial and error process as even though I’ve been doing it for 10 years now, I’ve had so many kits that I can’t remember what works for each kit!

Some live engineers hate ringy drums too, so sometime I have to tune a couple of lugs down to get a bit of pitch bed, which these guys tend to love!

 

LL: Did you only keep one kit at a time? (Can you talk about the kits you’ve owned in the past? The reason you bought each one, and when you decided that it is time to let go and find a new one?)

BH: Up until 2012 I only kept 1 kit at a time. I had my first starter kit – an Arbiter CB kit. Then I had a Gretsch Blackhawk, which I bought from my local music shop on recommendation of the owner. It was a great kit for the money and I loved it until I decided to make a big upgrade. I chose a Mapex Saturn because the reviews were so good. It was a lot of money for me at the time and it took 3 months to arrive. I loved that kit, it looked and sounded brilliant and went perfectly with my Blue Bell Ride. The kick was 24×20 however which was too big when I started playing with Tom. So I bought a Mapex Orion, which was great, and sold the Saturn. This only had two toms though, so I decided I should have two kits; a rockier kit and a Tom kit.

The Orion was my Tom kit and I bought a Highwood Custom Lite with 4 toms as my rockier kit. I had those to kits together for a year and I loved how different the kits were for different stuff. But I then fell in love with my Ultraviolet Sparkle Tama Starclassic so had to sell the Orions. Then I fell in love with my Birch Customs and had to sell the Highwoods. Now I have two kits which I love, and they are both great for different things. The Yamaha has a lovey 20×16 kick which is great for folky stuff and the Tama has a 22×18 which is great for rock covers which I do a lot.

I’ve also owned a lot of snares. I have 4 at the moment and I couldn’t get rid of any because they all sound great for different stuff. My Tama Warlord Masai is my favourite though!

 

LL: What are your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit?

BH: Now I have Pro Tools, I generally just use the EQ and reverb presets which come with the package. On the kick, I scoop out a lot of the low end and add a lot of upper mid frequencies for the click. On Snare, I cut the low end and add a tiny bit of upper mid.

On the toms it’s a similar setting to the kick. Overheads get a complete high pass treatment and lower mid cut, and a slight boost in the top end. I add some snare plate when I’m recording full tracks. I instinctively over mix the snare in terms of volume. That’s something I’ve grown up with. If you listen to Toto tracks, the hats and snare are terrifically over-mixed. It sounds right to me!

 

 

LL: With your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit. Were those a result of trial and error?

BH: They were trial and error. When I got my first mixer (and started using more than one mic) I didn’t know a lot about kit EQ settings so I googled “Drum Kit EQ Settings”. One website had a great table of different sized drums and which frequencies to boost and that really help me work it all out.

With Pro Tools you get a lot of EQ options post recording, so now I record everything pretty much dry and then sort out the EQ after when I can listen to it properly and sort out what sounds good. A real recording engineer would never do that, but in order to get a decent pre-record EQ you need a separate recording control room and someone to hit the drums for you!

 

LL: What did you use before Pro-Tools?

BH: When I was first doing covers, I used some free software called Audacity, which was great considering it was free. Then in about 2007/8 I bought Adobe Audition, which I loved, but then it was discontinued and Adobe switched off the servers which allowed me to switch the licence between my laptop and PC. At this point I decided it was time to update so I bought Pro Tools 11 on the day it came out in a student deal and I haven’t looked back, the quality increase was dramatic!

 

LL: Do you have advice to those still preferring to use Audacity?

BH: I haven’t used it since 2007 so I can’t remember a thing about it! I would say don’t use G-Verb!! You’ll be surprised with the increase in quality when you move to a bit of software like Pro Tools/Cubase/Ableton/Sonar.

 

LL: Adding snare plate? Do you do that digitally? Or just listen to the track and decide which parts you needed added, then just make a separate snare plate track?

BH: On every track I’ve recorded recently I’ve used a bronze snare 14×5.5 snare tuned low so it sounds like someone is getting punched. This snare sounds a whole lot more epic with a nice plate on it so I’ve just put the reverb Plug-in on for the entire snare mic track. I never used to put any snare plate on – as I said before I always over mix the snare so I always felt the plate stuck out too much. Now my mixing is improving I’m more confident with putting the snare right in the mix so the plate fits a lot better.

 

 

LL: When recording (no matter the software), how do you deal with latency issues?

BH: I’ve never had bad latency issues. When I first get a new bit of software or hardware I just work on the settings until the latency isn’t an issue anymore. I have the advantage of having very quick computers so there is virtually no lag when I’m recording. Firewire desks like the one I have the moment have no latency at all as the data transfer is so fast.

 

LL: Do you do much video editing?

BH: The videos which have been posted on Thymeflies42 (http://www.youtube.com/user/ThymeFlies42/videos) have all been heavily edited and there’s multiple camera angles. Ed has been in charge of the video on those and I’ve done the audio so I haven’t been involved with that. In terms of my own videos, my expertise extends as far as getting the video and audio to sync up, and sometimes I can’t even do that!

 

LL: Have you been using the same video editor since posting your first YouTube video?

BH: I have. I’ve used the windows XP version of Movie Maker since the start. It’s very easy to use and has so few functions I can’t get confused. I would like to make my videos more visually stimulating but I only own one camera so there’s not much point really!

 

LL: It was interesting to read in your message when you said: “I didn’t know anyone was still a fan on YouTube” — Do you mean that all YouTube users have generated their own content and that would mean they are no longer ‘fans’?

BH: I meant that I haven’t uploaded many videos on YouTube in quite a long time, so I wasn’t aware that people were still following me enough to want a Q&A session! It’s flattering!

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

BH: YES! I am intensely into Arcane Roots, Vulfpeck, Theo Katzman, Natalie Duncan, Brother & Bones the olllam. Those are small bands though so I’m not surprised not many have heard of them. I’m in to Alter Bridge, and they’re not as popular as I thought they’d be.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new music?

BH: I try my best to buy a new album a week. When the BBC series Later with Jools Holland is on I pick my favourite artist and buy their album. I discovered Natalie Duncan, Drive By Truckers and Ellie Goulding (before she was huge) though that show.

I read Rhythm Magazine too, which has album reviews. If something catches my eye in there I’ll try that too. I discovered Killer Be Killed and Messenger through Rhythm, and I’m big fans of them too. Otherwise I get recommendations from friends.

 

LL: Do you have a go-to site for new music?

BH: I download my music through iTunes for the convenience and I know that the money is going to the artists. I’d say YouTube is good for it. Because I watch so much music on YouTube I often get some suggested videos which lead me on to a new favourite band! That’s how I discovered Vulfpeck (great band) and UZEB (80’s legends). I have a lot of musicians on Facebook too, so a lot of good music is shared on there.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration? What do you do when you need to come up with a musical idea?

BH: I used to go out and sit on a bench on the coast when I loved in town, but I now live 2 minutes from the bench and I have the same view from my house (I am very lucky) so I don’t need to leave my drum room!

I’m not a great writer. I am good at matching my parts with other peoples, which is why I love playing in bands.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

BH: I’m in the middle of exams in my final year of Uni at the moment so I haven’t had time to spend discovering new sites. I spend a lot of time on Facebook. The only site I can think of is Tickd.com, which is a meme site. I’m into it big style.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

BH: I love it. I’m on most sites and I use them every day. Facebook is good for communicating with my friends and making plans, and there are loads of groups for buying and selling music gear. I have bought a lot of gear through Facebook. I’ve never been nervous about using social media, as long as you know your privacy settings, I haven’t found there’s anything to worry about.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

BH: I’m only semi interested! I’m not a big software guy. Music technology interests me greatly and I try to keep up to date with new innovations in that field. I’ve never been a computer guy past knowing about general information – I’ve never changed my RAM for example!

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

BH: Not really, I’m not as big a web surfer as I may look! My bands website is nice and clean – tomjamesmusic.co.uk

 

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up?

BH: Tickld it has to be for this one too!

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

BH: As I said earlier, I’ve recently just been doing full band covers with my friend Ed. I think these have a bit more value than just straight forward drum covers because you’re doing so much more. Having said that, I just uploaded a new drum cover! It’s of a Bruno Mars track where there were no drums originally, and I played bass, so I feel there is more value here as well.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

BH: My cover of Anastacia – Left Outside Alone. I think it’s the tightest video I have up!

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

BH: Since last year I’ve been hoping that people seeing my videos for the first time think “Wow, he’s really tight”. I also always hope my playing comes across as musical. I try to listen to parts and play something that fits rather than play all over it. I also like to think people will be impressed by the audio quality on some of my videos.

If anyone was inspired to take up drums or start producing their own content because of one of my videos, I would be very proud.

 

 

 

 

Brinley Hall is a drummer based in Cornwall. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. He currently performs with Tom James and also collaborates with his long-time mate Ed as a duo (Ed and Brin). Brin welcomes jam invitations, recording inquiries (remote session work), and gear recommendations (or questions!).

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Brin and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Brin that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). And I’ll aim to get Brin to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Five) including quotes from the names Jim mentions.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.