I remember being extremely eager about drums lessons being available at secondary school, and going to the music office on my first day and asking to be signed-up. So, I started drums lessons with the drums teacher, Sean Kane, who taught me from then, right through until the end of college in 2011. During that time, he entertained me with stories about recent gigs with his various bands, including the Three Blind Mice, and his weird and wonderful 'drummer-buddies', as well as teaching me a vast range of drum beats, rudiments, time signatures, styles of music, etc. He also made me aware of tinnitus, which he got at around the age of 20, and advised me to use earplugs any time I am practicing or playing. For those that don't know, tinnitus is caused by exposure to loud noises over a long period of time, i.e. if you play loud music or attend gigs regularly without using earplugs, or listen to your iPod/MP3 player too loud, you are likely to develop it. The result is having a constant high pitched noise ringing in your ear...forever. There is no cure for tinnitus, so it is important that you look after your ears.
For the next few years, I practiced what I could on my drum kit, but kept asking my mum for a full-sized one. The answer was, of course, "no," because I didn't have space for one in my bedroom. This asking went on for a few years, until one day at school, when Sean asked me if I still needed a kit, as he had a little practice kit that he was getting rid of. It took a little persuasion, but my mum eventually said yes and let me have it! Soon after, I gradually began to expand the kit, buying items such as my first 'proper' bass drum pedal — a DW 5000 Delta III single pedal from Eric Lindsey in Catford and a DW5000 hi-hat stand from Professional Music Technology (PMT) in Southend, as well as a set of Zildjian Re-Mix hi-hats and an Istanbul ride cymbal from Sean. It was clear that Sean had a tendency to buy drum gear on impulse, and it was beginning to rub off on me! One thing I should mention it that over the course of my learning time with Sean, we became more like friends than teacher/student, which meant that we started to engage in 'trades', where we would temporarily swap drums pedals and what not. This turned out to be great, as I was able to properly try out a range of gear.
In July 2008, much to the disapproval of probably everyone else in the school, the music department decided to host a sponsored 'Drumathon' to raise money for some new drum equipment. This involved many of the drummer students taking shifts throughout the day to keep a constant drum sound going. We loved it, and even attracted some local press coverage!
In July 2009, I 'graduated' from Thomas Tallis School with an A* GCSE in music, amongst other mandatory qualifications, and decided that I wanted to stay on and study BTEC music at Sixth Form College (equivalent to A-Level). GCSE classes were a combination of students who wanted to study specific subjects, and students who were either placed with no alternative, or opted to study over worse alternatives, so naturally, lessons weren't always as productive as everyone might have hoped. I was, therefore, excited to be moving onto A-Level studies, where my classes would contain only those who really wanted to further their learning in each subject area, and therefore be more rewarding.
In March 2010, I joined my first independent band — a Thrash Metal band called Makavalien, once again, thanks to Sean. At the beginning of that academic year, he began teaching at another local schools, Crown Woods, as well as at mine and was approached by Jasper Osborn - my soon-to-be co-member, who was looking for a drummer for a thrash metal band. After recommending me, I received a text from Jasper asking if I was interested, and after a weekend of auditioning and playing, I joined the band.
From a personal perspective, joining Makavalien was very beneficial to me, as while I was at school, I was generally quite shy and quiet, and would quite happily stick to hanging around with my close friends and playing drums. The fact that I was now in and band meant that I would have the opportunity to meet new people and gain some confidence behind the drums, because playing to your peers in assemblies isn't the same as playing to complete strangers in random places around London! Being in a band would also allow me to develop as a player because I didn't have much experience playing with other musicians, besides playing along to songs on my iPod.
Now that I was in a band, I needed a gigging kit. The Pulse kit could possibly have done the job, but I needed something with a little more oomph...something that could be miked up and sound great! In the end, I made another one of my 'trades', this time with one of my friends from school, Sebastien Wallis. He temporarily loaned me his TAMA Swingstar kit, in case I had any gigs that required me to bring my own drums.
Somehow (I'm still not sure how), we managed to blag our way into headlining our first ever gig, at The Bridgehouse 2 (no idea what happened to the Bridgehouse 1!) in Canning Town, East London. It wasn't the greatest of places (far from it, in fact), but it was our first gig and we were raring to go. We invited everyone we could think of — friends, family, teachers, co-workers, you name it, and the response and support we received was phenomenal. I was literally buzzing after our set and couldn't wait to play more gigs. We played another gig at the Bridgehouse, before branching out to The Water Rats Theatre in Kings Cross, London. Eventually, it all came crashing down and we returned to normality. The problem was that where we had received such strong support from the word go, we thought we were the next big thing and that we had a fan base, but in reality, all we had was a group of family and friends that were tiring of following a group of young metalheads around to the most obscure corners of London. This became very apparent when we played our fourth gig at The Purple Turtle in Mornington Crescent (Camden), North London. Camden is well known as an area that is very accommodating to metal music, and has a good selection of music venues that cater to it, so we turned up expecting to put on another killer show. What actually happened was a real eye opener. The only people we knew there were my dad and my older brother, Joe. Feeling a bit down, we set up and sound check. Everything is good to go, we strike the first chord of the set and BOOM! My foldback monitor cuts out. I'd never played a 'proper' gig without foldback before, so it hit quite hard. I managed to get through the first song relatively untroubled, and after the song, I got the others to relay the problem to the sound guy, who in return, just shrugged and said something along the lines of "try wiggling the wires. No? Oh well, you'll just have to play through." Perfect. By now, I was starting to get a little nervous, and with the nerves, came mistakes, gradually worsening as the set progressed. I distinctly remember completely messing up the intro to one of the last songs and the other three turning in unison and staring at me. After what seemed like forever, the set finally ended, we packed up and pretty much left straight away. The others weren't annoyed with me because they knew about the problem, but it was without a doubt, the worst gig I have ever played. Another few gigs at the Bridgehouse soon turned things around, though.
Before I knew it, a year had passed with Makavalien, and we had written enough songs to begin recording our first demo. Fortunately for us, Sean knew a really good guy that could record us in his home studio for £250 per day, with free mixing and mastering. Having heard an album that Sean had played on and produced with him — Good Grief - 3 Blind Mice, we jumped at the offer and booked a day with him. It turns out, this 'guy' was none other than Lyndon Connah, ex. keyboard player and backing vocalist for Level 42! We managed to record 2 songs with him in a single day; 'Crawl' and 'The Debt.' The tracks were only intended to be used as demos, but they turned out so great, that we would have been happy enough to release them in some form of single or EP!
While the tracks did turn out great, I did learn a valuable lesson during this recording process, and that was the importance of recording to a click track. We used a click track for the first song we recorded (Crawl), and managed to get a decent drum track down after just a few takes, but for some reason that I can't remember, we opted not to use the click track on the second song (The Debt - ironically, the simpler of the two songs!) Perhaps it was because there are a couple of tempo changes? Anyway, as a result, when it came to recording the other instruments later in the day, we flew through Crawl but struggled a little with The Debt, due to the natural drift in timing that can occur when recording without any sort of guide track. That's not to say that it was drastically out of time, but it could have been tighter, and the recording process would certainly have been smoother, had we used a click track on both songs. After that day, I made it a 'goal' of mine, that in future, all studio recordings I took part in would be done to a click track.
In other news, my 18th birthday was now on the horizon, and my dad had begun asking me what I wanted. For my brother's 18th, my dad bought him a Mark Knopfler Signature Edition Fender Stratocaster, and he said that he wanted to buy me something that I could have forever, too, so after some thought, I decided that I wanted a drum kit. I asked Sean which kind of kit I should get, and he recommended DW - a brand that I have always loved. Why? Because occasionally, Sean used to bring his kits into school, most of which were DW kits. He used to let me play on them, so I got a feel of what they were like pretty much from the word go. There were two that I really liked — his blue glass DW kit, and his blue diamond DW kit with gold hardware. By luck, Sean still had the blue diamond kit and said he was planning to sell it anyway, so I ended up getting that exact one for my birthday. It turned out that I never actually needed to take my own drums to a gig, and now that I had my new kit, I could swap back with Sebastien.
Time passed and we began to explore more and more of London, including Nambucca in North London, Camden Rocks and The Underworld in Camden, London and the iconic 12 Bar Club in London's Tin Pan Alley (Denmark Street.) Tragically, many of these venues no longer exist today, due to extortionate rents on premises in London, or in the case of The 12 Bar Club, redevelopment (in the form of Crossrail.) Sure, progress is always a good thing in the long run, and Crossrail will certainly help to improve travel in London, but it's never nice to se a grassroots music venue go under.
It should be noted here, that my dad and my older brother (as I mentioned earlier), made a superb effort in trying and attend every single one of our gigs, and I think they only missed a few between them, so thanks for that! Of course, being in a band isn't all fun and games, and it is fair to say that we had our fair share of disagreements within Makavalien, one of which spelled the end of Makavalien as it was known. In May 2012, I ended my time with Makavalien, following a disagreement with the other members. While at first, I was devastated at he fact that I was no longer in a band, I soon decided that it was time to explore new routes within music, for example, my ambition to start producing music for YouTube. Within a few weeks, Jasper, the bassist for Makavalien, also decided to leave to explore other avenues. Makvalien continued on with a new drummer, and front man, Jorel, switching from rhythm guitar to bass. Jasper and I stayed in touch, having created a musical bond and being local to each other, and soon began discussing future plans. This eventually resulted in the birth of Palladium Jazz, a jazz fusion band comprising of myself, Jasper and a friend of his, Enoch Mukasa.
Our first performance took place at a street party that was held in Jasper’s road, playing songs that we had written half an hour before going on-stage, as well as some completely improvised ones! Nevertheless, the tunes went down well and we carried on writing until we had enough material to fill a proper setlist. Combined with covers of songs from the likes of Seal, Grover Washington Jr., and Stevie Wonder, we had a very strong set of songs at our disposal. Then, through searching for local rehearsal spaces, we met a guy named Paul Douglas, who ended up being a great help to us, in terms of having rehearsal space available and getting us gigs a new places. Over the course of around a year, we managed to play at some quite high profile venues and met some really cool people along the way. We even managed to get a singer on board — another of Jasper’s friends, Mike Nahimana, which in turn, landed us a gig at The Islington in north London. The problem was that other commitments began to take over, in the form of work, university and church, which eventually spelled the end of the road. We occasionally toyed with the idea of regrouping but something always came up, just like before. Still, we all had a blast and we definitely ended on a high note!
Find out about my post-school years here.