My Native AdMission Statement: I am a jazz rock drummer originally from the UK and I am now living in Los Angeles. I began playing the drums at the age of 5 after being introduced to the instrument by my father who is also a drummer. My career spans almost three decades and I’ve played and recorded with legendary artists such as Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Luis Conte, Mitch Forman, John Patitucci and many others. In addition to performing around the world, I am the founder of the online drum school PlayBetterDrums.com. With more than 250 lesson videos, PlayBetterDrums.com is utilized by thousands of professional and aspiring musicians from around the world to improve their ability on the drums.
How did you get into the industry?
I started playing the drums around age 5 after an introduction to music from my father, who's also a drummer. There were always drums around the house and I was just drawn to them. After hassling him to let me play, he set up one of his small sets for me and the rest is history. 28 years later and a move to the US, I’m still doing it.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
With the music business being so different these days, this is always an interesting debate amongst musicians. Some see the challenges and complain about the decline or extinction of record sales, record shops and recording studios. Some think the old ‘model’ is all but gone while others only see the new opportunities. In this new era, you no longer need a middle man because Instagram is the new record deal, it’s how you get your content out in the world. Now you have a direct relationship with your customers/fanbase. I can see both sides. It is tough now for musicians, particularly if you’re a sideman/hired-gun, because the business we knew is now almost completely gone. You have to be flexible and versatile. If you can diversify and learn new skills (videography, web design, etc), you can build your own empire and run everything yourself which can yield great results. In the long run it’s better to be self-sufficient and allow yourself to earn money while you sleep, which is actually a lot better than the gruelling world of touring.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
The most difficult thing was moving to a new country. I moved from the UK to the US in 2013 and while I did know a few people here in Los Angeles, it was still a giant leap of faith. It doesn’t matter how good you are, when you move to a new city or country, you have to start from scratch. This means building an entirely new network and doing everything you can to secure work. As tough as it was in the beginning, it did force me to look at things from a different perspective, broaden my horizons, and push me outside of my comfort zone. This is what lead to me to finally starting my online drum school, PlayBetterDrums.com. It had always been a dream of mine to create a community and source for the drum community so while I was getting settled in Los Angeles, I knew there was no better time to start my website.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
If a drummer benefits from my school and their playing improves then that’s a win. It’s great getting positive feedback from drummers around the world, of all abilities, and hearing that they can see their playing improving and get enjoyment from the process. When I was younger I was lucky to have great instruction from some of the best drummers in the world and I remember that feeling of seeing yourself improve and feeling that you’re unlocking your potential; I love being able to pass that info on and help other drummers get the best information to help them get better. The school now has over 250 video lessons with accompanying worksheets, is suitable for all ability levels and has really turned into an amazing encyclopedia for drummers.
Career advice to those in your industry?
I would give two bits of advice. The first is to have other hobbies. I am lucky that I was given music by my father but also tennis by my mother. Tennis is my other passion in life and it keeps me healthy and gives me a whole other world to be inspired by. It’s important to have time away from work, mentally, and to keep yourself fit and healthy.
The other is to have a backup plan or some other area(s) of expertise. I never subscribed to this train of thought when I was younger. I always thought if you have a backup plan, you’ll end up doing it. I was stubborn. I was committed to the cause. But, I didn’t know how much the music business would drastically change and how it would be helpful to either have something totally different that I could dip into if I needed to, or just have other skills within the business that could help me. As a musician these days, you need to be well versed in websites, social media, videography, lighting, recording, publicity, etc. Having more skills outside your main area of expertise is never a bad thing and you never know when you’ll need them.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Self discipline. I can be lazy at times but when I want to do something or achieve something I have a lot of self discipline. I’ve been doing music for so long now that sometimes I don’t quite have the piercing levels of enthusiasm I once did. At times it may not be as exciting but I know I can be very productive when I put my mind to something so I have to remind myself of that from time to time!
My Biggest Success?
Shortly after moving to the US, I had the opportunity to play with my favourite musician on the planet, Mike Stern. I grew up listening to all of Mike’s records and saw him live countless times with some of my drum idols occupying the drum chair. To travel to NYC and play his music with him at the historic 55 Bar was one of the best moments of my life. As a kid I used to read magazine articles about my favourite drummers and how they got to play with all the musical heroes they grew up listening to, so for me to do the same was such a rewarding feeling.
Work hard and be humble. There will always be someone better than you. There’s no place for ego. Just concentrate on working hard and being the best that you can be.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
I have a lot of role models in and out of the music world. One person I can mention that everyone will know is Jerry Seinfeld. I just love the way he looks at the world and the way his mind works; it obviously influences his comedy but if you hear him talk about life and his work process, it makes him hugely inspiring.
What should everyone try at least once?
Live in another country. Although the UK and US have a lot in common and there wasn’t a language change or a massive culture change, it’s still be very eye-opening and a great learning experience. It was a big leap of faith and a big financial commitment but no matter how things work out and whether I stay or not, I’ll never regret making the move.