I enjoy music on both an active and a passive level (i.e. performing and listening to music).
As a child, I initially had piano lessons for some time and sang in a church choir. My intention from an early age was to play the church organ, but my father quite rightly insisted that I learn to play the piano first before attempting to play the organ.
In the event, I was a poor piano student, didn't really enjoy my lessons - even as a child, the music I was playing felt too childish and when I was offered the opportunity to stop piano lessons on condition that I started drum lessons (my school at the time wanted a drummer), I jumped at it. So, aged ten in 1981 I started drum lessons.
Unfortunately, as with the piano, I didn't fully commit to practice and consequently I never fully mastered some of the fundamental snare drum rudiments properly. To this day, I can't play a proper double stroke roll on a snare, developing the roll from slow double strokes to a fast roll and back again.
Nevertheless, I played in various school bands and a rock'n'roll band ('50s style) with a couple of school mates which used to play local gigs.
I didn't touch drums for a year when I worked abroad after leaving school, but when I returned to England in 1990 to study at Coventry University, I joined the Band Society, and quickly formed a band which went from a five to a three piece fairly rapidly. In the end, named Scapegoat, we played several local gigs. Scapegoat stopped when I went to study in Germany and France during my third year at university.
Returning to Coventry for my final year in 1994, I formed a new band with Scapegoat's singer/guitarist, Dan Hall. Known initially as Citizen Kane, then Citizen K, and finally Kid Gloves, we continued to play in Coventry, Birmingham, and the surrounding area. Kid Gloves continued to gig until 1996, playing its last gig at my wedding in July 1996.
See my separate BAiT page for more information on the most enduring original band for which I've played.
See my separate Ministry Of Beaver page for more information on the most enduring exclusively covers band for which I played.
I've always been a bit self-effacing about my drumming prowess (due to my lack of a solid and well-developed technique).
However, in the context of trying to find a replacement for me in my covers band, Ministry Of Beaver, when it looked like my family would be moving out of the area, I found that although many drummers have the chops, they often have little feel or understanding of dynamics in a song.
I found it bizarre to sit in on the auditions, watching people play some warm-up chops which I couldn't play, only for them to completely murder the drum part of the song they had supposedly learned accurately.
Consequently, after playing drums since 1981, I'm finally feeling really good about my playing. Yes, I'm no Neil Peart, Bill Bruford, Phil Collins, or Buddy Rich (and nor will I ever be), but I don't need to be. So long as I can listen to songs and learn the drum parts solely by listening to the track, and then go into a band rehearsal and recreate the drum part pretty faithful to the original, I'm a happy drummer boy!
In terms of writing original drum parts, that comes pretty naturally and always has done. Once you've established a song feel, it pretty much narrows down the possibilities of what you can do with a drum line in order to keep it appropriate - particularly when considering what the bass guitar is going to be doing.
Having studied piano originally, sung in choirs, and latterly had further piano and classical guitar lessons, I have an all round appreciation of music, both melodically and rhythmically, even if my theory and my playing isn't that great on tuned instruments.
In essence, I'm a drummer who knows his place. I'm not belittling the role drums at all, but I know that a dummer shouldn't strive to dominate a band. The drum and bass guitar are the rhythm section or 'engine room' of a band. They are critical to its sound and to the raw feel of the music, but they aren't paramount.
In recent years, I took classical guitar lessons and was sad when my teacher moved away and I had to discontinue them. I have played mandolin on various BAiT songs, but tend to write using a keyboard, since it's the melodic instrument which I 'understand' most of all.
I have written extensively within a band context with BAiT, which is my preferred way to write (with other people). Having other musicians around whom you respect gives great opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, melodically, rhythmically, and in terms of lyrical content. To date, I think the most personally satisfying music on which I have played was written in that context.
Naturally, it's satisfying to wholly write songs and lyrics on your own, but I find myself being most critical of such material in hindsight, whereas group efforts have critical analysis of the music almost built in to the composition process; it's much easier to reject bad ideas when someone else tells you honestly that they're bad, and correspondingly, an idea you had rejected can be saved or further developed when working with others.
So, in terms of what I like listening to, it's pretty varied really. I'd say that a prerequisite for me when listening to music is that I have to appreciate the skills of the musicians involved. It is probably fair to say that the more technically proficient a musician or group, the more I will like it, so long as the music retains a semblance of melody and tunefulness - in essence a good song or tune - I'm not into technical prowess for the sake of it.
Predominently, I like Progressive Rock (although some of the more experimental stuff leaves me cold).
Beyond that, I like a lot of music of my formative years (late 1970s / early 1980s stuff) - even though I wasn't that keen at the time (I was more into the Beatles at the time - probably the worst time to be a Beatles fan); folk; classical music; 1920s/1930s jazz/swing/ragtime; Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave); some modern industrial/marshall music; film soundtrack music.
I have an instinctive dislike of Soul/Motown/new R'n'B - most MoBO unfortunately, although I really like reggae. In general, I don't get on with the Gospel style of singing which has played a big part in this stuff and pervades pretty much the whole of pop music in recent years, thanks to the talent shows, which really get off on that style of singer.
I dislike rap because it's extremely old-hat now, I can't even begin to appreciate the talent involved or the appeal of somebody talking over a beat, and I just don't culturally identify with the ghettos and tough 'hoods' of Harlem and 'New Yoik'. I don't see anything cool about it and find it particularly amusing when anyone from England adopts that style of dress and the 'gangsta' way of talking - throw in some shape-throwing, posturing, and groin-grabbing, and it's pure comedy. To me, there is very little difference between Ali G and Tim Westwood - except that Westwood isn't supposed to be a parody, 'innit'!
I've listed my favourite musicians on a separate page.
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