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Matt Ingram - You're Not Welcome, Richard

You’re Not Welcome Richard.

I’m a big fan of the podcast. It’s a medium that can turn the dullest of commutes into an enlightening journey. When I’m touring, podcasts are the perfect tonic to the nevitable physical inactivity and boredom of travel. They become a treat, like chocolate only with the benefit of being fat free. Such a fan am I (and let’s start with a shameless plug) that I’ve started my own, it’s available here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/urchin-studios-podcast/id946239723?mt=2.

Moving on from such audacious self publicising…

After a brief road break in 2014, this year I’m back touring and have therefore been binging on podcasts in a big way. My interests are usually pretty varied but in the last few months I’ve been listening almost exclusively to drum related interviews. As well as the excellent mikedolbear.com podcasts (you’re welcome gentlemen) I would also recommend the US based “I’d Hit That” and also the very interesting “Give The Drummer Some” podcast.

This recent listening spree of back to back drum chat has been a very enriching education. What has struck me most is that with every kind of drummer of every stature, there are fundamental themes that unite us all. If I had to encapsulate the motif that spoke the loudest throughout all of these conversations, the single unifying factor in all successful drummers lives is this: if you want to get ahead, don’t be a dick.

As I have discussed in previous articles, drumming is almost exclusively a collaborative pursuit. If you disagree with this statement I wish you well in the many hours of solitary playing you have ahead of you. If you wish to play with others and to ultimately play professionally it doesn''t matter how technically proficient you may be, as drummers we must have the ability to sensitively immerse ourselves both personally and artistically into varying situations and if you’re being a douche, this will be impossible.

In the aforementioned podcasts, there are some in-depth interviews with giants such as Hal Blaine, James Gadson and Steve Gadd. These are legends of the drum fraternity, musicians that have reached the pinnacle of their craft and exemplify what it is to be a drummer. Even though their styles may be fairly disparate it’s interesting that they all share the same qualities of open-mindedness, musical curiosity, the willingness learn and considering their stature, the ability not to take themselves too seriously. They also all have extraordinarily affable natures, which really comes across when they speak. No matter how deep their individual musicality (which in each case is quite remarkable) the question is this, would they have soared as high in their careers if they didn’t display such genial human qualities? Or to put it more simply, would a producer have rebooked them if they acted like complete tools during a session? The answer is no.

There no getting round it, our job is as much about being around people as it is being behind a drum kit. As I mentioned previously, I am now back out on the road. I’m not in the Rolling Stones so I travel in close proximity to other members of my touring party. Everyday I spend an hour or so on stage, the rest of the time is spent hanging out with my bandmates and the crew. Given this scenario (which is true of almost any touring scenario) individual idiocy simply can’t be tolerated and is ruthlessly policed.

Next to musical chemistry, it’s functional intimacy both on the road and in the studio that makes musical bands work. This is the ever-present unsaid, unwritten rule of a musician’s selection, for when an artist is selecting members they will be thinking, “Can I be on a tour bus with this guy for the next six months?” Again, acting like a knob will ensure the answer to this question is a resounding no.

So as well as working on our chops, to become truly great drummers we also need to work on our awareness as people. Or simply put, just don’t be dick.

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