By Norm Richards, Drummer
I left home apprehensive. I thought it would be rinky-dink. Paid my dues in the business and now I’m going back to school? The forty dollar at the door felt expensive. I looked in the room and saw a lot of fathers and sons. Too bad my son can’t be with me, I thought, he’s a wicked drummer. He lives in another province and just can’t be with me, this time. But I wasn't sure what I was in for. Now, I should know better. I’ve been to many screenwriting workshops and one seminar or another and I’ve often been surprised at what I witnessed. Today was sure one of those days. I didn’t make the morning session so I arrived for the afternoon program. First up was a drummer from Quebec. Her name is Emmanuelle Caplette. Oh yes, a chick drummer. She wasted no time. She played an intro to music to demonstrate her play. She was smooth and convincing. She doesn’t need a big kit to show her stuff. Then, she spoke. It was neat because she excused herself for her accent. She’s French and obviously doesn’t function much in English. She proceeded. I think the room was amused. She grew on me. I’m a Manitoba French Métis and over time I’ve been reluctant to accept those French braggers from the east. Before long I found Emmanuelle’s presentation fun, interesting, professional and clearly spoken to me. I was taken through the basics of rudiment practise and form every drummer should know. It was a good refresher for me. On the language part, Emmanuelle was charming and very expressive, on the drum performance side she showed any doubters in the crowd just how good she was. I met her afterward and she heard me excuse myself for my English after greeting her in my Manitoba French.
The next drummer up was Daniel Glass who currently resides in New York City. He’s an acclaimed authority on classic American drumming says the press kit on him. He too, showed us he could play. Daniel got up and gave an extended talk on where he’s been. He told us he received a call one day out of the blue from Brian Setzer of Stay Cats fame and his Brian Setzer Orchestra. Anyone who’s watched the New Years shows would have seen Brian Setzer and his big band sound played to rockabilly style guitar playing and a hard paced blues shuffle on the drums. Well, Daniel Glass has been doing it for awhile with his “retro swing” group Royal Crown Revue. He told us about finding rehearsal space in New York. Can you imagine, in such a congested big city like New York how hard it must be finding a place to practise? Glass said he found a guy who owns a high rise building and every room is rented out by the hour for rehearsals twenty four hours a day. When he asked the guy what was available, he was told a slot from 6AM to 9PM is his if he wanted it. He took it. So now Daniel is preparing to play with the Brian Setzer Orchestra this coming April. He’s had six months to prepare and he warned, it will always take preparation for any gig you might want to do no matter how good you think you are. He’s the proof. I love what he does because he’s proficient on the blues shuffle and all it’s variations depending on the sound. Playing for Setzer is based on that upright bass slap and pull style which is very fast and so a hell of a workout for any drummer. I’ll be watching and listening next New Years for Daniel Glass and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
The final talk and performance came from Randy Black from Edmonton. Randy is a world leading Metal Rock drummer. He did his dues in Canada doing bars and as he got better, toured and met many other players. He moved to Berlin, Germany to be with his fiancée and teach drums at a local drum store. He played with several Berlin bands until he was recruited by Stuttgart based Metal group ‘Primal Fear’ during his performance at the 2003 Frankfurt Music Messe. He’s recorded and toured with them since that first invite. The minute Randy gets on the kit you know he’s there. He did sound check and everyone began to pay attention. I love drummers who have a solid left hand. This guy has both. He strikes the snare in performance with both left and right hands with equal ability. If anyone’s as close to Neil Peart, John Bonham or Carmine Appice this guys got it. He sits in the middle of a wall of drums and cymbals. He hits everyone of them with zeal and solid effort. He has a ride cymbal on each side and a high hat on both sides. The rest are accents and and finishes second to none. He goes for just what sound best no matter the brand, although he has his favourites. He surprised me a little. He played his intro performance and got off the kit to come down and talk to us. He began with a soft sell lecture on the need for hearing protection. For emphasis he pointed out on his computer big screen presentation other well know musicians how debilitating it is to have Tinnitus and other hearing damage from playing loud over many years. Having a constant ringing in your ears is not pleasant. He wrapped up his day with fine performances on his big kit. Drums today are amplified too. Every drum is hooked up to a separate microphone and the cymbals are too. It gives some control to the strength and aggression for the sound from a drummer. For Metal Rock it’s complete necessity. So Randy’s sound played back to us was loud but clear and in time with the music that he accompanied. He plays with ear plug monitors rather than having a big speaker set up beside him to blast the sound at him while he plays. This is duplicated in his real live performances on tour. That way volume is controlled and ones hearing is protected from open sound. He favours it and most drummers and musicians should too. Life is good!
PS. Thanks to David Schneider DrumTalk Organizer and Kent Hart for his photos.